Circulate Me! A Guide to Manifest the Next Best Version of Us
Maybe it’s something a little more capitalist: Money I exchange for a good product or idea.
And let’s face it. Circulation of genetic material (how’s that for a euphemism?) has played a pretty critical role in helping our species survive.
Circulation is also critical for the survival of natural systems as well as living beings. The cleanest and most biologically diverse rivers are the ones that flow unimpeded, without the obstacles of dams or the rigidity of bulkheads. Air is healthiest when our atmosphere has a chance to cycle through the elements we add to it.
People Need Social Spaces To Thrive
Sure, online interaction can replace some of this need to physically circulate, but it’ll probably never take the place of face time.
For example, a 1998 study at the University of Michigan asked two different groups of people to play a game together. One group met electronically, the other in person. The in-person group earned more money and cooperated better in the game, even though they only met for 10 minutes while the onliners met for 30.
There’s also been a lot of investigation into the neurochemistry of social circulation. Essentially, positive face-to-face meetings spark production of oxytocin, a hormone that engenders feelings of cooperation and understanding. We might roughly translate this to experiencing “the warm fuzzies.”
That’s part of why I hope Cleveland, Ohio (where I live) and other American cities keep working on becoming places that encourage walking over driving.
For a long time in the U.S., we decided circulating cars was more important than circulating people.
Elena Rocco, “Trust Breaks Down in Electronic Contexts but Can Be Repaired by Some Initial Face-to-Face Contact,” 1998. Collaboratory on Research on Electronic Work (CREW), The School of Information, University of Michigan. PDF
Conference: Proceeding of the CHI '98 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Los Angeles, California, USA, April 18-23, 1998. Source: DBLP
ABSTRACT Trust is the prerequisite for success when a collaborative task involves risk of individualistic or deceitful behaviors of others. Can trust emerge in electronic contexts? This issue is explored in an experiment in which trust emergence is measured in both face-to-face (l-t-F) and electronic contexts. In this experiment trust is revealed by the degree of cooperation the group is able to reach in solving a social dilemma, i.e. a situation in which advantages for individualistic behavior make group cooperation highly vulnerable. The experiment consists of two stages. The first stage analyzes the effects of F-t-F and electronic communication on trust Trust succeeds only with F-t-F communication. The second stage investigates whether a pre-meeting F-t-F can promote trust in electronic contexts- Results are positive. Examination of how people converse in these two contexts sheds some light on the effects of technical characteristics and social circumstances on the emergence of trust.
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Observe and Notice
Restoring circulation to body, breath and mind also forms the philosophical basis of all eight limbs of classical yoga. These eight limbs include the physical practice (asana), which restores blood and energy circulation, but also purposeful breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana), which restores circulation of thought. Moral practices called the yamas and niyamas promote what you might call a circulation of compassion.
Meditation is a pretty scary idea to a lot of us because we think it means sitting still and emptying out our minds -- becoming a kind of human stone. Who the heck can, let alone wants, to become a stone? But the great contemporary meditation teachers, including Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron, tell us that’s not what meditation is about at all. It’s about watching our thoughts come and go, without obsessing or ruminating over any one of them, as is so often our human tendency. Not trying to stop them -- just watching them come and go.
Easier said than done, of course.
At first, I thought of meditation in “human stone” terms. But then one day at lunch, I walked to the southern edge of Central Park. I lay on a big boulder and closed my eyes. Instead of trying to block everything out, as I’d been doing when I tried meditating, I started letting everything in. The sounds of the traffic, people talking, the smells, the feel of the wind. I felt relieved, because for 20 minutes or however long I lay on that boulder, I let in new information rather than actively thinking my own thoughts really hard.
I realized this was the essence of what my teachers had been saying all along: that a friendlier way to think of meditation is as a method to restore circulation to the mind, just as physical exercise is a way to restore circulation to the body and the breath. (Of course, body, breath and mind are all interconnected, like three legs of a tripod chair. By encouraging circulation to one leg, we can also loosen the others.)
Circulation Catalyzes Identity
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Masatoshi Murase teaches at Kyoto University, Institute for Economic Research and is a member of the Science Steering Committee for the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter.
Video: 2007/10/21 (Tuesday) 09:10 - 9:50
What is Creativity?-Emergent Phenomena in Complex Adaptive Systems presented by Masatoshi Murase (Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics, Kyoto University)
“It is such reconstructive dynamics that can give rise to an identity of the living organism.” ~ Masatoshi Murase
These small moments of both difference and unity help us along the hard, exhilarating, neverending journey of defining who we are and what we have to contribute.
- Justin Glanville
Justin Glanville is a writer, urban planner and teacher based in Cleveland, Ohio. He loves exploring new places and their people. He's the author of a bunch of stuff, including
Find Justin online at http://www.justinglanville.com
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