Human consciousness is essentially a feedback loop, in a two-way relationship with its immediate environment. Any living organism is at its core a feedback loop attempting to avoid danger and move towards goodness. Our feedback loop became so complex, it is capable of looking back in upon itself and seeing its separateness. This act of witnessing is perhaps the key to all human experience, for the act of witnessing something creates our relationship to it, which in turn creates us.
The loop itself could be thought of as the sum of our experiences and relationships, which mostly consists of our subconscious patterns of thought and behavior. The loop is in a perpetual process in a given direction. The process is our innate capacity to gauge, learn from, and react to the environment in line with whatever our end or goal is. Each cycle, our loop is comparing our input of the present moment to our accumulated bank of experiences, tensions, and resolutions to determine how our organism should act in each cycle. Each cycle then is input, reference or reflection, action, and input once again. This process occurs mostly subconsciously. Thinking can be part of the process, but it is not the process itself. Oftentimes our thoughts merely get in the way. Try and think about how you walk, and suddenly walking becomes clunky and difficult.
This feedback loop is our human organism in action. It is perpetual movement, transcendence of state, and transformation. The movement of this loop is like the cylinders in a car, creating energy out of potential. This process is our life force. Our loop is our organism acting out its nature, or at least attempting to (including applying conscious thought). The more successful we are in harnessing and expressing our impulsions, and in doing so resolving the tensions of our existence, the more our loop revs up, as it were, increasing our potential output. This life-force in turn increases our self-knowledge, furthering our ability to act out our nature. Whether we move towards or away from knowledge and expression of self (two sides of the same phenomenon), it creates a meta-cycle of being that reinforces our connection or disconnection, respectively.
We also must not mistake the system or the process for a certain state of being or possession. Our feedback loop needs a direction to move towards, but the point isn’t to get there immediately or as soon as possible. Because as soon as we reach one destination, we transcend that goal and immediately need a new goal. However, in disregarding the process, we've lost the very thing that will transform us into who we want to be. Take language. Being fluent in a language is not an end-state. It is a process of living as a person who identifies as "Chinese" would. In creating this process for myself, I become the person for whom speaking Chinese is normal and natural. As another example, pursuit of money beyond a certain point is at its core about inner feelings of power and prestige. If there's no process to get us to that inner state, no amount of external achievement will slake our thirst. And we cannot force ourselves to feel a certain way. If we try and force a certain inner state, the best we can do is disconnect completely from our inner experience. We're essentially spinning down our loop, depriving us of our energy and our capacity to interact effectively with our context in the present moment. We lose our agility, as our loop is cycling less quickly than our situation is unfolding. We lose our process, and we lose our means, our energy stagnates, and we cease to grow, learn, and transcend. We “have” something, but in having that something we lose everything else, including connection to ourselves and to others.
Indeed, it takes an inordinate amount of our organism’s energy to override our natural process and force a certain state, rather than acting out the process we should be in. When we devote all of our energy to self-regulation, that is energy we could be using to interact more effectively with the world, to act or to create or to connect. But rather than turning that energy outward, it gets dispersed in an often-fruitless attempt to override our own organism. Indeed, a loop incapable of change or adaptation to changing circumstances is by definition a broken system. Yet we are the ones who refuse to let the system repair itself.
Of course, we also cannot mistake this process for movement alone, pure busyness for the sake of itself. The process must be paired with direction away from or, ideally, towards something. Otherwise there is no thrust of life and consciousness into the world, and we have no capacity to affect change upon the world. Yet in the context of each system’s ends, we can begin to understand a given loop’s generative instructions, that is the means or process, and whether or not the means and ends are in alignment. Oftentimes the means imply a transformation that is often at odds with the explicitly stated ends. E.g. our entire education industry, despite the rhetoric, actually creates mindless obedience and disconnection, and destroys creativity, initiative, self-determination and responsibility.
For whether we like it or not, each system, entity, or organism we come into contact with is spinning us in a certain direction, towards a certain end of its own. We are always relating, and those relationships define us, and form an emergent pattern that incorporates us and our environment into a greater whole. Reality is a maelstrom of emergent patterns formed of feedback loops at all levels of existence. These feedback loops are constantly synching up, disrupting, being disrupting, and moving together or apart. Each potential response of a feedback loop corresponds to a different mode of being: surrendering to synching up your feedback loop with that of a loop around you (around a charismatic or forceful personality, for example; or more benignly, someone you trust), imposing one’s feedback loop on another loop (when we take lead and those around us follow- or else, a battle of feedback loops occurs to determine which one becomes dominant), or have our feedback loop rattled and disrupted, slowing in down and allowing another feedback loop to “get inside” ours, predicting our behavior before we’re even aware of it and forcibly causing submission. On one level this conflict between wills and consciousnesses seems brutal and medieval, but only at the level of the conflict. At the level of the emergent pattern this conflict creates, it often gives rise to both the mundane and the mysterious human and natural phenomena that we take for granted in our existence. And letting someone lead us is a normal and healthy response in many if not most circumstances of life. Consuming any form of entertainment, for example, implies we have surrendered to that process. Using any designed object implies this as well.
Even so, we think that in the moments that matter the most, we need to actively try to be successful in them. We tense up, and each movement becomes measured but also clumsy, for our system is not working in unison. When this has happened, we have already been "looped"- we are out of sync with the context, which is unfolding faster than us. We are playing catch up, because our tension has frozen our organism in a stale, past moment rather than synching up to the unveiling of each new moment.
The fact is, by the time we are in a given moment, the outcome of that moment is more or less predetermined based on the factors that led up to it. Even speaking solely about the percipient's organism, the outcome is a function of their preparation leading up to the moment in question and their state and process going into that moment. The more we try to micromanage in each moment, the more tension we create the finer our awareness becomes, the more we get tunnel vision and lose our ability to see the whole picture at once. Free will has diminishing returns the more finely we try and use it. Instead, free will is most effective and only really relevant when we speak about broad strokes of affirmation or renunciation. What do we move towards or away from, generally and in specific situations in our life? Do we act out our nature and our impulsions, and in what way? Do we persevere in face of obstacles, or find another way? Do we renounce a given situation, a given context? Or do we embrace it, even tacitly or through inaction? These broad strokes of affirmation and renunciation, corresponding to our impulsions towards or away from phenomena, are the basis of how we apply our free will. It makes no sense to apply free will finely in a situation that our organism does not want to be in, for example.
We intuitively know what we need to do, on an embodied level, or at least we know how to learn what we need to do. The circuitry and programming is built into our organism. Knowledge is not true unless we can do it, apply it. We cannot think our way to right action. So counter-intuitively, it is by relaxing and getting out of our own way that we free ourselves to act most effectively. After all, the moment is already made. Free will, of course, can help fine tune and train our instincts. We can make time and space and energy for practice, or for prioritizing what we value as important. But when game time comes around, all we can do is let something deeper and truer than our thinking mind take over, and relax into being, which paradoxically makes us more likely to succeed. We relax into our feedback loop, allowing it to rev up, and freeing it to be aware of opportunities in the moment and act upon them while understanding the consequences of that action. Learning and mastery is essentially the fundamental transformation of a given feedback loop through felt (aesthetic) experience in such a way that other feedback loops synch up with it- we essentially “get inside” their loop, through a greater awareness of the underlying patterns at play in the context. We are aware of when to act, and when we act, we know precisely what the result will be. I hit the metal in precisely this way with the hammer, and the exact shape I am imagining emerges. I do or say this, and I can be almost certain this person will react this way. This requires we allow our awareness to step into its role as witness, and finally focus on the task at hand, the entirety of it.
...sees much and knows much