Civilization Bloom, Part II
When I speak of organic emergence, what I mean is the process of a thing coming into being out of its own nature, finding its course through existence through no obedience to external force or pressure, but being allowed to grow and form and change in harmony with its unique state of balance.
This part focuses on the organic emergence of relationships.
What are relationships?
First, relationships are everything.
You have a relationship to your friends, your lovers, your family. You have a relationship to your city, your job, your hobbies. You have a relationship to the ground, the buildings, the air, the ocean. You have a relationship to yourself, to your self-concept. You have a relationship to relationships.
Between every entity in the universe, and everything within that entity, there exists a relationship: two things put into conversation, interacting in harmony or in tension, bumping into each other literally or figuratively, moving away from each other.
Your feelings are the only interface you have with the world, whether those feelings are emotional or physical. Your feelings determine one side, your side, of your relationship to everything in existence.
And the funny thing about consciousness is: we can not only be aware of our relationships, we can not only act in our relationships, we can be aware of our ability to act. To put it simply, we can be aware of our ability to make choices, and those choices will determine our side of every relationship we have with everything.
But what, actually, is a relationship?
It is the way that two entities interact. That means, the way they act with regards to one another.
So, what does it mean to allow relationships to emerge organically?
As previously discussed with the self, the fundamental thing upon which our entire interface with existence rests is feeling. What we feel is the only tool we have to relate to the outside world, and thus, the only thing on which a relationship can be built.
We can only truly control our side of our relationships (and what is true control, when everything that we are is an amalgamation of everything outside of ourselves?). We can only know for certain what our own feelings are. This makes relationships, understandably, complicated.
The feelings I have towards, say, my neighbor, are something only I can know for certain. I can communicate them authentically, but it is always possible that something will get lost in translation: what I mean when I say something is not what the other person perceives me to mean, and even if I’m understood perfectly, that person can never know for certain what my feelings are.
Now, instead of your neighbor, let’s talk about your relationship to your dog, or your house, or your city. You will never be able to know what your dog feels about you, let alone an entity that may not have feelings of its own, like a building or a place. But you still have a relationship to it: you interact with it in some capacity, and your side of the relationship, the only side over which you have control, still hinges on your feelings towards it.
To keep matters simple, I’m going to focus on interpersonal relationships (for now).
Communication and Authenticity
Communication is the only tool we have for building relationships, and it is always an imperfect approximation. To allow communication to emerge organically means to allow it to arise naturally from feeling. It means communicating authentically, as authentically as you can, that which you feel and need.
A naturally arising relationship requires authentic and honest communication of feelings and needs. Any effort to lie, cover the truth, manipulate or save face is an effort to control, and stop the relationship from emerging organically.
How is lying an effort to control? Like this:
To control is to use your force in the world to keep something else from using its force in the world. When you lie, or even fudge the truth, you endeavor to remove someone else’s agency. You have not allowed their actions to emerge organically out of the truth of the situation. You have sought to use your communication (which is an action) as a tool to hinder them from responding naturally to what exists by misleading them about what exists (your feelings).
A genuine harmony of needs cannot arise without authentic communication about feelings.
Likewise, a genuine harmony of needs cannot arise when there is any effort to control another person.
Control and Hierarchy
Our world is built on control. Many aspects of our lives are rooted in control-based structures, where one entity endeavors to use its force to keep us from using our force. Think of the existence of police. Think of a parent telling their child not to touch something. All of this stems from an understanding of relationships where people seek to exercise control over one another, and limit the ability of others to allow their actions to arise organically out of their natural state of being.
Control is anathema to organic emergence. When it becomes rigid, codified or systematized into hierarchies, the very fabric of our culture seeks to limit our ability to emerge. Countless explanations have been given for the need to control one another, but every single one is rooted in one thing: fear.
We only seek to control when we fear. If we did not fear anyone else’s actions, we would have no need whatsoever to control those actions. Lying and inauthenticity, too, are rooted in fear: fear of what telling the truth might bring upon us, be it anything from violence to disappointing someone we care about.
This is not to say that we never should be afraid, or never have a legitimate reason to fear. There is no should; we feel what we feel. This is simply an exercise in awareness of feeling, so that conscious action can be taken according to those feelings in the direction of meeting our needs.
To allow a relationship to emerge organically requires trust. Trust is the opposite of fear. In trusting ourselves, and each other, we allow natural harmonies to arise rather than seek to determine what they will be.
In choosing to trust one another, we choose not to fear one another, and the need to control one another withers away. The need to dominate, enforce hierarchies, and dictate for each other falls away, and instead, we can found relationships on consent.
Consent and Non-Coercion
For anyone to consent to their relationship to anything, there must be a relative equality of power between the parties, and an active culture of respect between the parties for each other’s needs.
I began this series of essays, and this entire line of questioning, from a simple desire: to live a life I consent to. Consent, as I previously wrote, is a word I take to mean, “to choose to allow.” To use conscious action in the direction of allowing a thing to happen.
Consent requires freedom: freedom to act or not act in a particular way, freedom to make choices, and, at a deep level, freedom from fear.
Of course, there can be no absolutes; every action will elicit a reaction, freedom will always be constrained by natural law, and sometimes, there is very legitimate reason to fear.
What building a relationship on consent requires is an absence of power hierarchy, an absence of rigid systems of control and domination. Consent requires honesty on the part of all parties involved. It requires practicing non-coercion on the part of all parties involved. It requires checking one’s own impulse to control, dominate and determine for another, and allow that person to freely choose how to behave.
Authentic Responsibility for Others
So, what of responsibility? If we all simply allow each other to choose freely, what responsibility do we bear for one another?
Aye, here’s the rub. The thing about allowing interpersonal responsibility to emerge organically is that it has to, well, emerge organically.
I am not a firm believer in individual emotional responsibility, or the philosophy that your feelings are your problem and other people’s feelings are their problem, and that’s that. I think this paradigm is toxic, and leads to people treating each other without care, and is rooted on the fallacy that we’re independent rather than interdependent.
Rather, I take a “freedom approach” to taking responsibility for someone else: it is always your choice whether or not to do that, and only you can draw that line.
The line between when you do not take on responsibility for another’s feelings and when you do take on responsibility for their feelings can only emerge organically out of your own feelings. If you do feel responsible for someone else’s feelings, then act accordingly. If you don’t feel responsible for someone else’s feelings, then act accordingly.
Taking any rigid idea either way, “I am not responsible for you” or “I am responsible for you” is an effort to control the situation by imposing a rigid rule. Instead, organic emergence means allowing that responsibility to itself arise as a reaction to feelings.
Should you care for another as yourself? There is no should. What do you feel to do?
It is from this space of awareness of feelings and response to them, and only from this space, that organic harmonies of needs can emerge. These harmonies of needs can be embodied by the term mutual aid.
Everyone’s feelings are unique to them, even if feeling itself is universal. Therefore, everyone’s needs are unique. However, this does not mean that unique needs cannot be complementary. When me achieving my needs benefits you achieving your needs, we come to a space of mutual aid. That mutual aid is not dictated, proscribed or required of us — it arises out of our feelings and needs.
But what happens when our needs are not complementary, and mutual aid does not arise? We disassociate from that relationship.
The concept of free association means that we can associate with whomever we please, and disassociate from whomever we please, along the lines of consent. When we stop consenting to a relationship, we are free to disassociate from it.
Consent is the root of free association, and consent can be removed at any time for any reason. It is a feeling, a thing that is felt. When one does not authentically feel to choose to allow something, one does not consent to it.
To have any kind of relationship built on consent requires that the relationship be made up of freely associating individuals. If there is any coercion, servitude, hierarchy or domination involved, consent cannot be given, and the possibility of natural harmony crumbles.
The thing is, we cannot choose what other people will do. We can try to, but we ultimately can never make that choice for them, and our attempts to only bring us back to the fundamental problem of control. Many of us seek to change the way we are treated in a relationship, any relationship, rather than simply disassociating from that relationship.
However, free association is not as easy as simply choosing not to engage with someone. In many, many relationships in life, free disassociation is not possible. It is within these structures of control and domination that we find our relationships do not emerge organically, but rather are forced upon us and contrived by the systems that dictate how we can meet our needs.
This question of systems, or the things that condition our behavior that we may not consciously consent to, that I will get into in the next chapter, Part III: Organic Emergence of Political Systems.