Free enterprise: big brother, keep your distance

Following is an excerpt from the upcoming 4th printing of the Third Edition of Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less. It has to do with the systems mindset and the miracle of the world’s workings.-sc

Who Is in Charge of All This?

Exhausted yet exhilarated, I lay in bed floating above it all, looking down on my world, savoring the delicious new vision. It was borderline mystical, a sort of near-death experience but without the tunnel and bright light. For the first time in my life, it was clear that my perception of reality had been murky and undefined. How does the saying go? “One thing I know: once I was blind but now I see.”

From depths beyond my physical and mental despair, more questions surfaced, questions I had never considered before: “Who is in charge of all this?” and “How does this world continue to function day after day, year after year, millennium after millennium?” The answers came fast and hard.

I was startled to grasp that there is no human King of Everything who directs the goings-on of the world. On its own and no matter what, this earth keeps turning, and life carries on in an overall structured and organized pattern, and . . . no one is in charge! The indomitable laws of nature ensure systems work perfectly according to their construction. On this earth, gravity works all the time, everywhere. Over here, one plus one equals two, and over there, one plus one also equals two! The laws of nature cause the mechanics of the world to be dependable and predictable, and the gift with which we humans have been blessed is the ability to get in the middle of it all, to manipulate it, to direct our lives to be what we want them to be, to use the laws of nature to our advantage. And no single human, or group of humans, is in charge!

I floated in my thoughts and wondered at the silent and invisible background organizational strength that keeps this earth chugging ahead like a train despite our human race’s best attempts to derail the process. Cyclically, methodically, and for whatever reason, this complex world moves along on its own, adjusting, balancing, and counterbalancing. And at the root of it all, and in the middle of it all, uncountable separate linear systems are at work.

Overall, the systems of this world work absurdly well: 99.9 percent of everything works just fine, and even the parts we consider imperfect are that way only because we think those parts should be different from what they are. (In truth, this world is 100 percent perfect if we discount what we want. However, for our purposes let’s not discount what we want. Being pragmatic, let’s characterize it as 99.9 percent perfect.)

I lay in bed in wired stupor, thinking about how life insistently plunges ahead, all within a framework of countless efficient processes. And, I thought, since there is no human King of Everything there has to be an underlying cosmologic propensity toward efficiency and order. Some incredibly powerful force out there prefers events to go smoothly and, in fact, has inserted itself everywhere. It’s holding the world together. It’s making it work . . . God?

This new understanding was the reverse of my previous vision of existence in which I saw my world as a place of barely controlled mayhem, tenuously held together by its human masters. The colossal misperception of my life was that I had visualized perfection as an occasional harmonious chord in a universe more comfortable in its cacophony.

Oh yes, I thought. Indeed, there is a God.

Photo by Egor Gribanov via flickr used under a creative Commons License.

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