Evolving Flexibility and Intelligence
Macy draws on science and spirituality to illustrate that the power of open systems - to evolve flexibility and intelligence not by closing off from the environment and erecting walls of defense, but by opening to currents of matter-energy and information - is not a property one can own but a process one opens to. She distinguishes between the patriarchal expression of power as power-over, and the power-with - what systems scientists call synergy - of open systems. This power-with is not something we own or can measure in quantity or size. We cannot increase it at our neighbors' expense. "Power is like a verb, it happens through us." We experience it when we engage in interactions that produce value. We recognize it by the extent by which it promotes conscious participation in life. Opening to an awareness of the web of life, we connect not only with the sufferings of others, but to their gifts and powers. Conditioned by patriarchy's notion of power, we tend to view the skills of others competitively, often taking them as indications of our own inadequacy or deprivation, but if we operate as synergistic open systems, we welcome them as a common resource.
As open systems dependent upon larger, evolving systems, we must be receptive to the wider flows of information, even when they do not seem to be in our self-interest. What we need is an expanded sense of self-interest, where the needs of the whole and the other beings within that whole, are seen as commensurate with our own.
We can no longer afford to pursue the American ideals of self-reliance and individualism. Madonna Kolbenschlag in Lost in the Land of Oz, writes of a perception of our radical inseparability and connectedness emerging as the next threshold of social evolution.
"The contemporary crisis will not be solved unless we can imagine a new relationship to creation and to those with whom we share the earth. We have inherited a consciousness and habits of heart that generate a cultural autism, a disability that leaves us unable to relate authentically to the other, and leaves us obsessed with things, with what is mine, and with our own notions of what constitutes right order."