Prof. Ilya Prigogine

Harrison Owen owenhh at
Thu Feb 1 13:37:24 PST 2001

At 02:06 PM 2/1/01 +0000, you wrote:
>My main question is the following: what are the special and different
>conditions that are at work durind OST? When we talk about
>"chaos" and "self-organization" as it happens in an OST meeting,
>is it the same sort of chaos and self-organization that, after all,
>are allways present?
>If it is a different type I would like to understand what are the differences.
>If it is the SAME type, I question: why are we still talking about
>OST or even using it?

For me, chaos and order are both abstractions and neither exist in a pure
sense. They are actually "pointers" to a polar (dialectical) framework
which might look something like the following:   chaos< --- life --->order.
The suggestion is that life in all its life forms comes into being, exists,
and passes away some where along a continuum represented by chaos on the
one side and order on the other. It is a dance, and when it stops, (finds
equilibrium) life stops. Or as a colleague once said -- when you reach and
equilibrium in Biology, you are dead. And by way of definition, chaos is
the absence of meaning and lack of predictability -- in short it is
absolutely nothing. Order on the other hand is filled with meaning and is
always predictable. Obviously, in our every day experience, neither truly
exist alone, but they both exist in relationship. In a word, we are never
with out chaos (or a tendency to chaos) and we are never without order (or
a tendency to order.

Every adventure, enterprise, institution that I know started out of nothing
-- an Open Space. There was a day when it wasn't there. And out of that
nothing -- something emerged. I would say through the process of
self-organization. And if that something persists we say it has a life --
or I would say it does the dance between chaos and order. Chaos clears the
way for the new to emerge. And order nails down the particulars so we can
get on with the business of making a life.

As near as I can see - this is exactly what happens in Open Space. We start
with nothing. No agenda, no pre-determined outcomes, no organizational
structure, no built in controls -- at least obvious ones. It is all Open
Space. And then something happens. The particulars vary, but I would call
it life, characterized by such things as Joy, community, celebration of
diversity, feeling of personal power and meaning -- a life. Or at least a
new experience of life.

So when you ask, " what are the special and different conditions that are
at work during OST?" I guess I have to say -- nothing new. Just life. What
may be new is the clearer perception/feeling/awareness of life... or what
it truly means to be alive. So it is not uncommon for folks to say -- Gee
that felt so good, why don't we do it again. Why don't we do it all the
time? And why not, indeed.

And of course, I will be delighted when it becomes clear to all that we are
actually running a great scam. In Open Space it's nothing but life -- or at
least life as it could be if we would stop pretending to be in charge.
Don't do Open Space. Just live.


Harrison Owen
7808 River Falls Drive
Potomac, MD 20854 USA
phone 301-469-9269
fax 301-983-9314
Open Space Training
Open Space Institute
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