Open systems LO19756

AM de Lange (
Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:16:11 +0200

Replying to LO19746 --

Dear Organlearners,

This subject was "Intro -- Mark Rolfson LO19467"

In it Bruce Jones <> write in reply to Mark Rolfson's own
stimulating questions:

>>At's description of an open system as one where "
>>'anything' can cross the boundary" stimulates questions
>>for me. If anything can cross a boundary, what makes it
>>a boundary? Is there some structure or meaning inside
>>the border that is discrete from what lies outside? Further,
>>if anything is welcome to add (or subtract) itself from
>>this structure, what is there inside the border that abides
>>with, and defines, the structure? I guess I am wondering
>>if or when complete openness can be a characteristic of
>>a system. I am struggling with how to define a system
>>which excludes nothing -- is this a silly conundrum, or
>>is this a way for a system to become the "grand system",
>>to use At's phrase?

>I agree. What is a truly open system and can it then be
>called a system? If it is truly open, is there order? Can
>you order an open system? Do not the boundaries then

Greetings Bruce, Mark and all others who had been following the topic
which I had to formalise above ONLY for archival purposes.

On the one hand I am sorry that I could not reply earlier to your previous
contributions. But the good of it is that this topic has emerged
spontaneously into the open.

I cannot answer all your questions by painting a rich picture as usual.
The reason is that my reason fails me to do so. It is because we are now
entering by dialogue a topic in systems thinking which is probably unique.

Not that it is unique in my "dialogues with myself". These questions which
you are now asking, I have been asking myself hunderds of times since I
have discovered the seventh essentiality of creativity in the middle
eighties, namely "openness". After more than ten years in this desert, I
am very happy to meet explorers like you two also.

I cannot offer much in the way of "rational explanations". I offer the
following three from the heart.

My first explanation is in terms of my own experiences in studying,
growing and selling desert plants.

Dessert organisms, especially the flora, are among the most difficult to
subject to "biological systematics". Biological systematics is the
identification and nomenclature of all biological specimens, present and
past, with a consistent and coherent theory and practice. Biological
systematics is thus a living art. Consequently it is not strange that one
of most reknown text books for many years on biological systematics was
written by a man who had to sharpen his teeth on desert flora, namely
Lyman Benson. I cannot even remember where I have read these words, but I
think he wrote it, something in the sense of
"Nature does not have divisions.
All borders are drawn by humans."
It is not his exact words because I cannot find them again. It is my
paraphrasing so that it is better to consider it as my words. It is sad
that I cannot say "amen" to my own words, but if anyone of you would have
written these words, I would have said "amen".

Whenever biological systematics underwent an upheavel, minor or major, it
was because somebody had to erase a border which somebody else had drawn
previously, but which since then has become too anomalous to be of future
value. In other words, no border "draw a mark which distinguishes" has
proved itself safe in the complete history of biological systematics. In
other words, what George Spencer-Brown requires of his "draw a mark which
distinguishes", namely "continence" (chasticy), eventually becomes
"promiscuity" in the case of biological systematics.

My second explanation will be one of the main themes of my book. The abyss
between the phsyical and spiritual world is one which has been made by
humans. But I do not want ta talk about here in order not to push my book.
(I will have to find the time to get it to the printer. I have to fnish
the indexes and just cannot find time to do it.)

My third explanation is in terms of my own religious experiences. So
please skip the rest of the contribution if you know that it will make you

In Genesis it is written that after God created Adam and Eve into humans,
they lived in Paradise where they had daily dialogues with God. Among the
many things which God invited them to do, is "biological systematics". But
then, one day, after they have tried to judge God in order to eat the
forbidden fruit, they became aware that they were naked so that they made
themselves some clothes, using leaves. By this they have "drawn a mark
which distinguishes".

The Chistians among you can now self trace the theme "draw a mark which
distinguishes" through the entire Old Testament. It is surely gratifying.

But let us get to the New Testament and the life of Jesus. Do the same
study. When we get to the moment when He died on the cross, an earthquake
came, shook even the temple so that the curtain hiding the Holiest of Holy
got ripped open from top to bottom.

A few months afterwards Peter had a strange dream -- a table-cloth coming
down from heaven filled with food forbidden to eat. God used it to teach
Peter a lesson. Soon afterwards Peter had a wierd call from a Roman
centurion begging Peter to come and visit him. Were it not for God's
lesson, Peter would never have set as a "good Jew" a foot in the house of
a Roman. Thus Peter helped the first Roman to become a Christian, thus
freeing the Good News from the boundaries of nationalism forever.

Near the end of that century, John, a very old man by then, was on the
island Patmos. There Jesus revealed to him the creative course of time
until the end of this dispensation of chaos and order. Please do the same
study again with the book Revelations, if not for the rest of the New
Testament. In the end, to enter the new dispensation of eternal life, God
will have removed all boundaries between Him and His children. They, on
the other hand, will have learnt fully how and why it had to be like that.

But in the mean time, we live now and not then, and thus we still have to
learn much more about open systems. Thus I will appreciate a dialogue on
open systems (and not closed=semi-open systems) very much.

Mark ends with

>>As a new person drawing his chair up to the fire,
>>I want to thank Rick Karash for creating and holding
>>this space for us, and to express my appreciation of
>>the dialogues happening here. I really enjoy reading
>>your contributions. I feel that I am in the company of
>>very interesting people possessing a broad range of
>>education and experience, and I am grateful for the
>>chance to learn from you.

to which Bruce ends with

>>I couldn't agree more. I too wish to thank At for his
>>gentle and thoughtful approach to the questions
>>brought to him.

to which I want to add in Spanish "de nada". May I remain your humble
servant in learning.

By the way, I am learning just as fast and much as all of you, even though
it is not the same things which you learn. No two people in a team, how
complex that team is, can learn as identical twins identically the same
thing. There is just tooooooo much diversity in the "grand system"
(reality) for that to happen in team learning.

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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