The Healing Potential of Metadesign

Dr. Otto van Nieuwenhuijze

The way the living body works is relevant to design

  • I will show that the effectiveness of design depends on how well it interfaces, or is embedded within, its context.
  • This is a complex and elusive idea. How might we formalise, or model it in a way that enables us to grasp it better?
  • One excellent example is your body because it represents a good working example of interface and context.
  • As individual human beings we experience this process of integration at first hand but it is sometimes elusive.
  • One reason for this is that classical Western science tended to depict the body as an inert mechanical object.
  • Today, I will not apply the received anatomical model of the body as 'walking cadaver'. It is a living system.
  • Using Cartesian, dualistic language we might say that the body interfaces between information and matter.
  • Some might prefer to say that wholeness is an integration of Body, Mind, Soul and Spirit. We can use either.

The importance of Action within Context

  • I was trained an engineer before I became a doctor so I am familiar with both ways to describe it.
  • Actually, there is not a great deal of difference between the way doctors and engineers see it.
  • Traditionally speaking, both are trained, primarily, to intervene at the physical, material level.
  • Speaking personally, this is the reason why I prefer to identify myself, and to practise as, a healer.
  • Doctors are trained to intervene after illness emerges, and - in a sense - to mend what has broken.
  • This seems a rather ineffective approach, compared with caring for the body so that it remains whole.
  • The idea of wholeness is important to the notion of metadesign. It is related to the word for 'healing'.
  • But 'healing' is a strange word to apply to designing. Surely, designers do not heal, they improve or create?
  • It may be self-evident, or truistic, to say that, in design, the designer's involvement plays a crucial role.
  • But when we speak of someone's involvement in the task (within its context) we describe their integration.

The Importance of Integrity

  • As I have implied, both design, and involvement entails integrating oneself within both the task, and its context.
  • It is not really possible to do this unless there is also an adequate degree of integration (wholeness) within oneself.
  • The relationship between the designer's internal integration and her integration with the external world is vital.
  • The complexity of involvement within the design task (in context) shows how unhelpful the dualistic model is.
  • Although though we may not we notice it, involvement is something that is always experienced in one's body.
  • But here, it is important to emphasize that I am not referring to a dead body, but to a living body.
  • In a living body, directionality is important. What happens from 'outside-in' is not what happens 'inside-out'.
  • This is a transactional process that must regulate itself in order to maintain balance across the system.
  • Unless the internal state is properly attuned to the outside state there will be lack of integrity.
  • Lack of integrity at this level is to say that there is illness. In extreme cases this will result in death.
  • This is true for every living system, whether it is a single-celled bacteria, or a large corporation.

What Metadesigners Can Learn from the Living Body

  • To recap: the matching of the organism's internal identity to its external identity is essential to its survival.
  • The survival of all living organisms depends on how well they interface with, or are embedded within their context.
  • Again, it is important to develop a language that will inform the different levels on which metadesign might work.
  • Classical Western medicine saw the heart merely as a pump that circulates blood and redistributes it over the body.
  • Today we might think of it at the process level. Just like the brain, it re-distributes information appropriately.
  • Indeed, all organs of the body are multi-functional agents that exist as both information and matter, etc.
  • This is why it makes sense to identify different levels or orders of being, and functionality. For example:
  1. The level of anatomy
  2. The level of physiology
  3. The regulatory system
  4. The information system

The Discourse of Levels

  • In our body these levels are manifest in physical, chemical, electromagnetic form and in the form of informatics.
  • How can we describe them? Using scientific terms, for example, we may need to draw upon the following:
  1. Classical
  2. Relativistic
  3. Quantum
  4. Unified
  • Apart from the objective descriptive aspect they also have a subjective experiential content.
  • This is known as our conscious, subconscious, unconscious and our-of-consciousness involvement.
  • In short, living systems maintain themselves only by synergizing their experience/s within a whole context.

A Snapshot of the Whole Process

  • One's body maintains itself by regulating the discourse among its many (similar and different) body cells.
  • This process is orchestrated by four distinct regulatory systems that manage the process of integration:
  1. The brain
  2. The blood circulation system
  3. The abdomen and nervous system
  4. The bone marrow cells
  • Indeed, the heart gives the blood an electromagnetic pulse and redistributes it around the body.
  • The abdomen consists of a mass of distributed 'brain' cells which provide a sampling function.
  • This is very similar to the way tongue acts as an integrator.
  • Another example is the immune system.
  • None of these systems operate on basis of energy, but of synergy.

Synergy is an Important Aspect of Metadesign

  • The relationship between the cells is decisive for the functioning of the body as a whole.
  • The unfoldment of the body from the zygote, and the development of our body as part of all l ife forms, are interrelated.
  • From the perspective of the species, our body contains aspects of the mineral, plant, animal and human forms.
  • From the perspective of development, our body operates as cells, organs, body and humanity (as a whole).
  • Design - if it is to be healthy - likewise needs to be based in the same principles, in the same manner.
  • The essence is that our body shows our interfacing at work: how each participant is an active part of the whole.
  • The way information and matter are integrated in an individual's being is self-similar to the way s/he relates to the world.
  • The body may therefore manifest all relevant aspects of creation. It is a useful template for metadesign.
  • Designers also work with information and matter.
  • On the one hand they interact with mind, in the social context. On the other hand they interact with materials, borrowed from Earth.
  • Ideally, metadesign integrates both aspects. It therefore operates by the principles of healing
  • For this it helps to use the laws of creation as seen, and experienced, in our body.

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