Post number 32 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Stagnation is something we are wise to understand and be on the lookout for. Stagnating systems are entropic; the less something is enabled and allowed to change, the less relevance and responsiveness it can have. I’ve said many times that “the action of the Force is Change”, and that’s true here. The opposite of that action is stagnation; concreteness, rigidity, inflexibility. Trying to hold back the river will generally not work, and will never work forever. The river flows where it must.

Stagnation is a topic I rarely see tackled here at the Temple and my post yesterday spoke largely of a frustration with the stagnation inherent here – hierarchically, procedurally, personally in those at the top of our “tree of learning”. I’ve spoken many times about the danger of feeling one has “got there”. There is no “there” in the journey of our lives, of our continued existence in the Force. We have nothing but our path, onwards, ever onwards. Our path strips us of our possessions (but furnishes us with more), of our relationships (but allows us others), and eventually of our memories (though we are allowed our experiences still) and even the flesh on our bones (although this, too, is deliberately and necessarily impermanent).

We trust the action of the Force when we allow things to change. We overcome our fears, the “what if”s and the “but”s, allowing our unknowing to take priority over the known. I’m resisting the urge to bring in great swathes of text from Krishnamurti’s Freedom From The Known here, but the whole text speaks to this same flexibility, openness and potential for change, and is rightly required reading for Seminarians wishing to increase their understanding of and connection with the ways of the Force.

Instead of retreading that ground, I’ll discuss a different model. Last night I went to a talk on the Cynefin Framework, by its creator Dave Snowden. He provided the following graph, showing the four types of systems and how we can find our place within them:


Dave described the “Obvious” segment as “where ideas go to die”, and for me that is inherent in their stagnation. Things which are set in stone, unchanging and monolithic (word of the week) are inflexible, and therefore simple in nature. They have few moving parts and they don’t grow. They are “known”, they are the “givens”. They are rigid, fixed, and that is why they become outdated, no longer the best possible values. They stagnate.

He also mentioned the idea that if a new apex predator is introduced to an ecosystem, they have a stabilising influence, however incompetent their behaviour becomes after that initial success. A new big name will always resettle the marketplace, but that stabilisation, that lack of chaos and complexity, the movement from unknown to known, will always create entropy and, eventually, decay – stagnation.

Dave gave examples of major IT firms who stagnated and mentioned IBM in the 80’s, Microsoft in the 90’s. These were the “big players”, but they allowed what they did to become too fixed, too stagnant. Now they both seem fairly incompetent and are fighting an uphill battle for relevance. Another issue he touched on was the current state of Silicon Valley, where everyone wants the 18 month start up business which can then be sold off at a profit to the Googles, Apples and Samsungs of this world. No-one is interested in becoming the next Google, the next Apple. So what happens when the relevance of these “big firms” crumbles, as time suggests it must? The scene is stagnating.

We can relate this to our understanding of the vastly chaotic system of the Force. Its beauty is in its unpredictability, not just in its patterns (although these are incredibly beautiful too). There is simply too much going on for us to meaningfully comprehend and follow it all. That unpredictability, that openness and understanding that even our best guess will sometimes (often) fall short, is a great reason to limit stagnation, to get stagnant things moving. To shift things up and allow the changes which could make things better to happen. To take the risk.

Stagnation is the opposite of what Jedi put their faith in, what does this mean in practice? Does it mean we must challenge everything, nihilistically breaking down whatever we see, enabling the dissolution and reformation of all things? Certainly not. All things have their time, and stagnation is a necessary element of the cycle of change. Think of it like an engine. A certain amount of pressure must build to fire a piston, and so stagnation can serve as a waveform, a “drawing back” before a release. However it is sensible to be mindful of these drawings-back, in order that we can adequately prepare for the firing ahead.

The good archer draws back, too – but whilst he does so, he keeps his eye on the target ahead.