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Humberto Maturana: 18 Our possibility
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Biosphere, Homosphere, and Robosphere: what has that to do with Business?
Humberto Maturana Romesin and Pille Bunnell
Our possibility

When people are not satisfied with the way things are, they look for change. Some doctrines tell us that we can always only change ourselves, others talk about creating circumstances which will evoke change in the other. I think it is possible to change together congruently, if we have the appropriate emotioning. If we remain isolate -- well we remain isolated. If we want change through causing the other to do what we want them to do, then there is pressure, the dimensions of demand and the negation of the other appear.

However, if we open a space for co-inspiration, we open a space of conversation. If we open a space of conversation to last as long as it may last, sooner of later the dimensions of love will arise through the very fact that the other person will arise as a legitimate other in coexistence with you. This has to do with our biology -- we are not yet robots, we are loving animals. As soon as you let the other BE near you, the other begins to see you also as a person, and can listen to you. So here I am, an employee, and the manager comes to talk with me. As I speak I discover that he is speaking with ME - not with an idea, not with a demand, or an expectation. And then I begin to see this person, and as we see each other, our niches change together, and co-inspiration is possible, even if the co-inspiration results in us separating.

The interesting thing is that what appears as soon as we let the person appear is -- a person! An then we can begin a conspiracy of "this is what we would like" - and suddenly something appears in which all are involved as persons, with all the elements of knowledge, flexibility, imagination, etc. there, participating in this task that has arisen together.
To achieve this as a person in authority you will have to listen. If I am a worker, I will have to have the tranquillity and self confidence to bring whatever anomaly or unexpected thing I notice to the attention of someone else so that it is seen by all the members of this community that may be concerned such that a conversation can arise and something can be done. But if I am fearful, and I am rebuffed, then I shall not dare to reveal what I see, and it will remain hidden until the thing is kaput, or an explosion arises.

In social dynamics one can speak. For example, often one does not listen to children because they don't know. One does not listen to subordinates because one looses prestige. We have all kinds of arguments not to listen. But if we listen, then the person we listen to becomes a collaborator. The child can understand all sorts of things and become a collaborator with you about doing things together in the family. We can do this very well, because we are all equally intelligent. This is a very serious thing! Due to the nature of language as a phenomenon of consensuality, the plasticity for consensual behavior is so gigantic, that whatever one human being can do, others can learn and do. Learning is a transformation in living together. We tend to think of learning in terms of the acquisition of information, this is not what it is. It is a transformation in living together, it is a transformation of doings in a process of doing things together with others.

I think our fundamental resource is the biological background from which we human beings obtain the fundamental elements not only for creativity, but for the possibility of living a decent life. By a decent life I mean something we would recommend because it is accessible to everybody else around us. A decent life has to do with material, intellectual, aesthetic and spiritual well being. And well being means not a cage; but a possibility for reflection and for movement.

During the year before the military coup in Chile, during one of the strikes of transport, many people did voluntary work. I volunteered, and my task consisted in transporting bags of onions a hundred meters from the rail car to a truck. There I was, picking up a heavy bag, staggering along under it and carrying it to the truck, and doing this over and over and over again. And the fantastic thing was something you know happens: at the end of day I was exhausted, I could think about nothing. The only thing I wanted to do was to lie down and sleep. The country didn't matter, science didn't matter...politics, family - nothing matters when one is that exhausted. There is no space for reflection, for being a citizen, for being a responsible being, for being a caring companion - nothing! If we have to be like that it doesn't work. So I discovered that one should never do anything at a full 100 per cent effort, one should only work at 70 per cent. Otherwise one has no flexibility, and no space for reflection. Without space it is like being stuck on the ceiling, trying to keep afloat in a continuously filling cave, desperately trying to breathe.

As living beings living in language we can operate according to the open view we have in the understanding that we have. Understanding takes place in the moment one looks at a particular situation in the context in which it has meaning, and then one acts according to this double look. This applies to our relations with each other, and ultimately to our relation with our whole medium, our world. And ultimately our existence as living beings depends on how we live in the biosphere.

Thus we can operate with understanding with respect to the circumstances of our embededness in the biosphere. We can look at any particular situation, and while doing so maintain a view of the circumstances of our existence in a finite world. In so doing we can consider whether we wish to conserve the biosphere, and we can see whether our actions are congruent with this desire. If we wish to conserve the biosphere, we can do that. This does not mean that we do not touch it, it means a participation which allows a dynamic to be realized that does not rest on infinity. If we remain in this assumption we will destroy everything. If we do not wish to destroy everything, we will have to reconsider what it is that we desire. Maybe we will not want to continue growing. This is the position of understanding, an expansion of our view, grounded in the knowledge that everything is changing together. This changing together is unavoidable, it is happening whether we notice it or not, and whether we like it or not.

But this business of understanding in a continually changing world requires understanding that whatever we plan will fail. All our plans will fail, precisely because we are embedded in a domain which is much, much larger than the domain in which we have our understanding. So we must be open for failure as an opportunity. When we have a failure, we have an opportunity to think again! After all, the failure is only a failure with respect to our desires - the system was operating properly according to its coherences, whether or not we had been aware of that. The system itself didn't "fail". If we act knowing that we shall never have the perfect answer in absolute terms, we shall be able to proceed in a way that the biosphere is not destroyed, and the homosphere does not become a robosphere.

This is what I desire. I would like to keep both the homosphere and the biosphere. That requires freedom to change, and to change requires an understanding of what one wants to conserve. And it requires an acceptance of failure as an opportunity for reflection, for doing something different, not for guilt or despair.

Yet, our problem in the long run is our blindness concerning the finite nature of the system we are embedded in. As long as we remain in this blindness, our possibility for cooperation is constrained.

I think that in the end our fundamental resource is the fact that we are the kind of animal that we are. We are the kind of animal that can enjoy beauty, that can reflect on what we do, and act in accord to whether we like it or not. We are a loving animal for whom aesthetics and ethics are a fundament of our well-being.
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