On Perturbations (Transformations)

Maturana-Varela - co-relations

I learned today that I am an “operationally closed system.”

Essentially – a living multicellular organism with no “inside” or “outside” (as far as that system or the environment is concerned) – a set of dynamically and reciprocally interconnected cells with remarkably complex, diverse, and plastic (transformable, adaptable) abilities interacting continually to fluctuations, pressures (or lack thereof), movements (perturbations) of a molecular milieu.  That what you interpret (are “perturbed” by) as my “behavior” (you observers, you) is “a view of the dance of my internal relations” – part of “the dynamics of interactions of this organism in its environment” (and vice-versa).

Each of us, adapting, CONSTANTLY, “modified by every experience” in our efforts to maintain “effective correlation, compatibility” between our “selves” (organismic structural possibilities) and our environment (that which we are structurally coupled to…momentarily).  Always effecting, always effected by.  A thoroughfare of thorough-going perturbations/ transformations…i.e., ALIVE.

I’m sorry if “I” offend and/or disturb (as I am bound to) in my attempts and efforts to maintain compatibility (to SURVIVE!) with/IN my environment – I realize that every action, vibration, movement I express or perform = a perturbance for you, which will (sometimes) resonate, but unfailingly structurally couple us, if we are to live-on… yes, I’m talking to you – squirrel, leaf, fly, spouse, air particle, plant, piano, atmosphere…  Down to our electrons and quarks we effect.  And that effect is on entire systems, without observable (or measurable) end.

In other words – respons-ability.

This began to dawn on me as I was considering (perhaps unwarranted) my hopes, desires, expectations.  As realities (perceived/ interpreted) perturbed these (my situational, contextual constraints and affordances)…I “thought/felt” (who knows which – synapses) that many of my most (felt/thought) agitating (interpreted) perturbances (transformations) are ANTICIPATED more than encountered/lived-through.  In other words – I’m experiencing my anticipations – my internal dynamics – as perturbations – NOT my organisms’ “environment.”

In other words – my “operationally closed system” anticipates change as potential threat or danger – when actually I would (most likely) – am operationally equipped to – maintain my structural inter-relations compatibly with the ongoing interactivities / relations of my environment.

Our kind of being is fantastically diverse and adaptable (with unimaginable flexibility and complexity) to vast fluctuations / perturbations / transformations – we are plastic to our cells.  It takes a LOT to “disintegrate” us, in our “ongoing structural drift” (that which transforms and develops and differentiates us moment-to-moment as the organism we are).

Our cellular behavior:  a sensory surface, a motor surface and a system of coordination dynamically related in never-ending change (until disintegration).  And ALL in co-relation.  No movement, sensation, quiver, thought, emotion, pulse or charge that is not CO-RELATION with activities and molecules making up our “milieu” (the middle, the surround – BOTH/AND).

Maturana-Varela - co-relations

The swirling circle is me with my organismic operational closure always moving and changing in relation to its components – equally effecting and effected by – you / air / “matter” / “energy” (the wavy line) as reciprocal “perturbations.”

it’s complicated…



Reality (for the likes of moi): “I” might be much  more “naturally” compatible with an enormous diversity of environments and situations (others) than I internally coordinate myself to be (at least biologically, operationally, cognitively speaking).  Ahem.  Alas.  My organismic systemic co-relations often get the best of me.

apologies nearest and dearest…

Maturana-Varela - Realitydiagrams and conceptual perturbations compliments of:


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About N Filbert

"Arrange whatever pieces come your way" - Virginia Woolf "Thinking about language, while thinking IN language, leads to puzzles and paradoxes" -James Gleick "a word is a bridge thrown between myself and another...a territory shared" - V.N. Volosinov "How words are understood is not told by words alone" - Ludwig Wittgenstein View all posts by N Filbert

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