Ode to Francisco Varela

Posted by on Sep 17, 2013 in Sustainability | 0 comments

Ode to Francisco Varela

I’ve got the hots for Francisco Varela.  The Chilean scientist introduced the concept of including mindfulness meditation into scientific inquiry.  He knew that we influence that which we study, and therefore we cannot be truly separate from the subject of our inquiry.  There is always an element of influence.  His big work was developing the concept of autopoiesis, the systems theory that an organism is always self-creating in relationship with its environment.  Thus, there is no solid, material self, but rather a self that is constantly emerging along with its environment.  He calls this the ‘virtual self deploying itself,’ which to me is so poetic and beautiful (in fact, autopoieses comes from the greek auto-self and poiesis-poetry or creation).

I understand the virtual self to be the self from which all movement and energy emerges.  The self that knows innately what is good and who spontaneously does it.  This is in contrast to the concrete self, who has established rules, habits and patterns with structured origins.  This concrete self has been constructed by the people, rules, and structures around it, and therefore does not participate in autopoiesis.  It is a historical self, and therefore does not interact or create the world in an authentic, alive, way.

The reason we praise the virtual self is because it is the self from whom ethics and being arises.  The virtual self is the one who intuitively knows, and who acts from that wisdom.  This knowledge is not concrete, rather, it is the wisdom we all have access to within ourselves.  It is the wisdom that connects humanity, “each of us is thirsty for a kind of return home-that funny non-home-and it is that thirst that I trust in our nature.  Human beings don’t have to be forced into realization, they yearn for it.” (An Interview with Francisco Varela, p. 5).  We all have the capacity to draw from the wisdom within the body.  Transformation and life never happens in the head, rather, it happens in the heart.

In my experience, the smartest and wisest and liveliest people admit that they know nothing.  From the seat of knowing nothing, the wisdom of everything arises.

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