Tag: organism

Adopting the living organism as a metaphor for a balanced lifestyle leads us to seek a natural harmony or equilibrium, so that a balanced environment becomes a space in which we can safely and comfortably dwell.

Dwelling in Balance

The various metaphors we might choose to represent balance and imbalance offer different perspectives on how we might achieve that illusive balance in life. The balance of the tightrope walker captures the experience of navigating our way forward through through time on a tight schedule. However the equilibrium of the living organism offers a richer perspective in relation to balancing objects within a space, or our lives within a living environment. This allows us to look beyond the physical stability of a single object and consider the balance of all of the interrelated components within a living system in the same way that you might think of a living cell, or the human body.

This broader view of balance offers a more complex scenario where the organism attempts to maintain equilibrium or homeostasis in the face of constantly changing conditions. Balance in this context is an attempt to maintain the overall stability of a wide range of factors in the face of constant change for the purpose of supporting life. Balance takes place across the whole system of interrelated parts, and while different aspects can be viewed independently, they dont exist in isolation. Unlike a single pointed balance, the balance of a complex system has an inbuilt ability to adapt and adjust, which means a wider range of conditions can be accommodated.

Quote form Dwelling in Balance Blog PostThis model of balance drawn from the natural world includes the concept of boundaries or membranes. The organism has a defined boundary or wall, like the cell wall or the outline of the human body, but it is permeable, allowing flows inwards and outwards. It also has internal structures and flows within the main boundary, like the organs and blood vessels within the body. These living systems depend on a healthy flow in, around and out, to survive. Some inflowing substances are life giving, others are toxic. Depending on what you take in, a little bit might cure you, but a lot might kill you. In the meantime the system strives to maintain balance across numerous variables.

There is enormous diversity in the natural world, and a wide variety of ways in which the challenges of life – such as finding food, shelter, successful reproduction and child rearing – are satisfied. What each organism has in common is the need to satisfy these challenges in a way that retains the basic integrity of their particular way of functioning.

We can extend this metaphor to how we organise our lives within our own homes. We can think of the walls of the home as the membrane or boundary that protects us from the outside. Within the home different functions are performed, just as the different structures of the body have different roles. The house provides shelter and within that framework there are objects that support our needs for eating, sleeping, clothing ourselves, reproducing, raising children and so on. The health of this system depends on objects entering, leaving, and being internally organised in a way that one element does not overwhelm other aspects and compromise the smooth operation of the whole. An excess of objects that is traditionally described as “clutter” can be viewed as a signal of imbalance where the volume entering the space is out of proportion to the volume leaving. Or there may be a lack of definition of roles and boundaries within the different spaces of the home.

In our homes too, there is a wide diversity of solutions to the challenges of living. The issue is not how much you own, but whether the whole system is working in such a way that it supports your needs. This allows us to think of creating harmony by constructing a congruent environment that works as a whole, rather than limiting us to any particular lifestyle or ideology about what to own an how to organise it.

If the balance we are seeking has the qualities of a natural harmony or equilibrium, a balanced environment becomes a space in which we can safely and comfortably dwell. Rather than adopting the do-or-die model of balance of the elite athlete or performer, there is the possibility of creating a harmonious way of living which is spacious and accommodating. This model of balance has within it the capacity to adapt and respond to changing circumstances. There is a sense of peace, calm and generosity in having room to move and the capacity to gently shift direction or graciously accommodate change. Perhaps this image brings us closer to the essence of the balanced lifestyle that so many of us are seeking.

Organise like an Organism

Have you noticed that “organise” shares its root with words like organism and organic? The Greek word “organon” refers to a tool, or instrument, particularly a musical instrument. So we have the organism, the pipe organ in a cathedral, organs in the body, and organic farming all drawing meaning from this same root word.

If we think about an organism, it refers to a living being consisting of interdependent parts which work together to support the whole. The internal organs each have a distinctive function, but also rely on each other. The purpose of organising is not to promote the parts, but to create a healthy living system. In a similar way, organic farming methods make use of the natural relationships between animals and plants to produce food, rather than artificial processes. This concept of a natural harmony ties in with musical instruments such as the pipe organ where the notes blend together to create beautiful music.

In modern times efficient organisation has become associated with factories where people and equipment produce a specific product using the most effective methods possible. However these artificial methods of organising, with their emphasis on output, lack the dynamic complexity of a living organism. Mechanised processes are focussed on doing specific activities well, but lack responsiveness to changing conditions. Repetitive routine tasks that maximise output can lead to a dehumanising experience for workers who become disengaged from the creative process.

In New Self New World Philip Shepherd observes that “we have organized our awareness of the body and the world according to metaphors borrowed from machinery.” This observation can be applied to the organising process itself when we equate organising with efficiency and try to force ourselves into rigid patterns and processes. “Efficiency” and “productivity” are seen as worthy goals, but there are costs associated with retrofitting the industrial view of organising to our own lives. When we organise according to artificial concepts of how we should be, we lose touch with our own nature and our health and well being suffer as a result.

The purpose of the organism is not output, or throughput, but life itself. The elegance of the organism is found in the interrelatedness of the parts and the ability to respond and adapt to support the whole as circumstances evolve. When we think about organising ourselves lets remember that we are living organisms, and that to organise is to create balance and harmony in order to enhance our lives.