Is it alive? LO16540

Richard C. Holloway (
Wed, 14 Jan 1998 07:10:52 -0800

Replying to LO16511 --

Hi, Winfried--good to hear from you again. I appreciate your comments on
this thread very much--and your apparent efforts to ameliorate or mediate
some common ground for continued dialog.

I will make two points here. The first is that it is important to me to
find the other person's metaphors and "reality perceptions." Those are
the ones that I will work with, in any attempt to help them hone or
improve their organizational culture, behavior--whatever. That's why I
enjoy using Open Space technology. I'm not particularly into preaching my
point of view, because I personalize my point of view. It's valid to me,
changes with time and learning, and it is not of great importance that I
impart it to others. I do enjoy the learning that comes through
conversation, though. It is through wrestling with ideas in conversation
with others that I learn the most. It is easy for me to understand the
shock that others feel at contemplating that complex organizations might
indeed be living systems. If it is easier to use sports analogies, (or
family or machines), then by all means, let's use those analogies.

I also think that it is not too bizarre to consider that complex
organizations are living systems. Please note--I did not say that they
are organisms, or biological systems, or human beings or elephants. I
simply said that they bear resemblence to living systems and might very
well be construed as such. Now, if I said that humans are living,
self-organizing systems, would that engender disbelief? Is this a
metaphor also? Well, as in the thread on "scale from truth to lies," it
might be that all of our language is simply metaphor for what we cannot
better describe. In this context, yes--adaptive, flexible, complex,
self-organizing organizations with dissipative structures are a metaphor
for living systems. A "type" of living systems.

I don't know why others should be so concerned that I consider the
universe a living system--or this world a living system. It's my
metaphor. It helps me organize my thoughts and behavior toward others and
to the world in general. It reminds me to respect the land, waters and
air by reducing the pollution I bring. It helps me consider reducing my
consumption of material goods. It helps me remember to give people the
benefit of a doubt. So, it is my personal mythos, perhaps more than it is
a metaphor. And, I can accept a world where some maintain a mythos of
clocks and clockmakers, while I rely on my mythos of this great living
system in which I am "being-becoming."

Well, there I go preaching again, just after I said I didn't do those
kinds of things! So much for the scale between lies and truth, eh? Thank
you again, Winfried. I also liked your bringing Morgan's metaphors and
images into this thread.


Doc Holloway

"And you will give yourself relief, if you perform every act of your life as if it
were your last."  - Marcus Aurelius

Thresholds--developing critical skills for living organizations Visit us at <> Or send your e-mail to me at <> P.O. Box 2361 Phone:01 360 786 0925 Olympia, WA 98507 USA Fax: 01 360 709 4361

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