Enabling Space for Ourselves

Creating a space online—a home—where we can just be ourselves.

More generally, it seems that profound change needs a kind of space of “gratuité”: an “enabling space” which is in a first step – free of function, purposes, goals, etc. The approach of the U-theory provides one way that such a space could emerge.

Markus F. Peschl

While rereading once again the paper on Triple-loop learning as foundation for profound change, individual cultivation, and radical innovation by Markus F. Peschl, this quote near the end of it intuitively felt familiar and reminded me of Tiago Forte’s work on Building a Second Brain and what I’ve been struggling to accomplish with my own online journal for a couple of decades. That being creating a loosely structured online space where a person’s identity can naturally unfold and be discovered simply based upon what they focus their attention upon.

The creative process of this simply starts with “seeing the patterns”, which is easy, and then moving on to “seeing the relationships between the patterns”, which becomes monumentally more complex.

If you were doing this with a web platform, you’d be posting article links you found interesting, along with a few quotes from each that held meaning, and then creating a category for each pattern that emerges when you post another one in the future that feels like it aligns with it.

As time progresses and you’ve collected a lot of patterns, one naturally moves into seeing the relationships between the patterns whereby one realizes that a handful of these patterns actually relate to one another, clustering into a structured narrative of some kind that starts to provide some clarity of what is emerging.

Again one doesn’t try to force the patterns into a structure and order but instead just tries to let things emerge on their own, as noted in another quote from the paper on triple-loop learning.

This process of letting-come is the other side of the process of letting-go. In other words, one shifts the focus from surrendering to looking at what wants to emerge and what is new. This is an epistemologically fragile process in which new ideas and changes emerge and converge (“crystallize”) towards a specific vision, concept, idea, etc.

And if one researches the process of crystallization, one realizes that clustering is an integral step within it as well, whereby the “clusters need to reach a critical size” before they become stable. With our online journal, it works the same way. You need to have enough patterns clustered and converging into a greater hierarchical category, relating to what’s emerging, before you can clearly see with some stability what is emerging.

The further beauty of this approach is the loose structure of it, in that the categories as patterns can be fluidly renamed and regrouped hierarchically until you feel they are right. This is essential because one needs the ability to play with these structures, mixing and matching them in different ways, trying them out, until they fit naturally on their own (rather than being forced to fit).

To understand what this might feel like to experience, I think Tiago Forte’s article on What It Feels Like to Have a Second Brain comes very close, as noted below.

The experience I have as I work with my Second Brain is that we have a relationship. It is almost as complex as a person, with its own wants, needs, goals, and history. It is like a child – a being of pure potential, of endless curiosity and open-mindedness as it encounters each new morsel of insight. It communicates with me, sometimes aligning with my interests so we can run together, but also sometimes demanding maintenance, attention, or software updates. I know that every investment in this organism will return 10-fold, 100-fold, 1,000-fold. And not in some far off hypothetical future, but in a matter of hours, days, or weeks. Such a sure investment makes the superficial pleasures of social media lose all their color in comparison. I am on my devices as much as anyone, consuming as much information as anyone else. But I am not doing what everyone else is doing with it. I am preserving the very best of everything I am exposed to, like a patient gardener squirreling away seeds and cuttings from every garden in the world, to plant in his own magnificent creation. 

And furthermore he indicates how this alters his existing perceived and conventionally constructed sense of self, letting a larger, truer Self emerge on its own.

My Second Brain constantly deepens my understanding of myself. It reflects back to me my assumptions, my stories, and the evidence I use to justify my beliefs. It reflects back to me the identity I’ve constructed, which in the light of a backlit computer screen I can see is full of holes, and gaps, and makeshift patches. But I also have more evidence, more options, more borrowed beliefs from others to fill in those gaps. I evolve faster, on more levels, a flurry of swapping modules in and out in such a way that the system of my Self works better, but at the same time, I see that I am not the modules. I am something more, something greater than the sum of its parts. This gives me the courage to detach from that Self, to let go of my need for any one idea or theory to be right or true. I can try more of them on for size, see how more of them feel, decide which of them serve me best.

All said and done, we often don’t realize how so much of our identity is so predefined by what society expects us to be. Yet if we can just let go of these expectations (and accompanying judgements, if we don’t follow them), we have the opportunity to create an open space where our True Self can emerge and come into being, if we give it the space to play.

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