Peeling Paradigms - with John Brodix Merryman Jr.

The term paradigm shift has been overused to the point of linguistic exhaustion in our modern culture. 

Things change - we get it. 

We've come to accept that things aren't necessarily as they seem and that, every so often, we have to deconstruct how we perceive certain principles of our world.

Heliocentrism is perhaps the most powerful and often-referenced example, though we see such instances occurring on a daily basis depending on which area of study we choose to examine.

The occurrence of these shifts in our perspective, as well as our co-existence with certain paradigms, is something that tends to fly under the radars of our conscious examination of the world around us and of our places within it - until the change happens. 

Think about that for a moment. 

The way we understand the world, at its very core, is something we don't often think about outside of ontological discussions or psychedelic seminars.

It makes sense - to uproot our established foundations of perception is quite the undertaking. To detach ourselves from the baggage that we don't even know we carry with us as we enter various realms of understanding certain ideas is exhausting, if not impossible for some. 

It's extremely difficult. But equally important, it's extremely rewarding.

And every now and again, the right kind of generational mind will come along that will prompt us to see things in ways that we previously thought impossible. Galileo. De Vinci. Heisenberg. Newton. Dirac.

And so we feast on their revelations, consuming the fresh perspective and employing it in euphoric reverence for wisdom itself. 

And then we cascade back to reality, back to our baggage, back to our lenses.

Now, what if there was a way to persistently and relentlessly employ some measure of perception that is not rooted in established perspective. A way to examine issues by disentangling them from the conceptions that have structured our inherent understanding of them? A way to see that we unwittingly inject a bias into everything we observe?

That would be a gem of an intellectual tool, wouldn't it?

This is where a man by the name of John Brodix Merryman Jr. comes in.

You can find his commentary kicking about throughout numerous intellectual discussions on the internet - ranging from space to time to thermodynamics - or read some of his direct work on Medium (it's something I would implore anyone and everyone to do at once). 

John has a way of looking at the world that's indescribably, well, indescribable. 

His perspective seems to be set on ultra-hyperdrive, as he employs an understanding of certain concepts and theories that no one person, individually, ought to be able to employ. 

In other words, it's as though his opinions are constructed upon multiple foundations of understanding reality for what it is, filtered through several frames of reference that, in effect, work to cross-reference one another. 

Think of how a biologist were to view the world, one who also dabbled in physics and politics, space and finance. In consequence, the analogies brought forth - say, a comparison of our circulatory system to the economy - are exceptionally potent. 

The application of thermodynamic principles to political issues; the viewing of cultural affairs through lenses of astrophysics. 

More than an interesting way to contextualize some rather critical quirks and questions about our society, it makes for an exceptionally convincing viewpoint that will leave a reader re-thinking everything they assumed to have known from the ground up. 

Sort of like shining a light through a prism to see the numerous perspectives come through the other side, all of which reveal more questions than answers in a way that isn't at all dissatisfying as much as it is inspiring. 

The problem, if it can be called a problem, is that John's way of thinking is tremendously difficult to grasp because it scratches at the very essence of every topic that it touches in ways that one can't immediately comprehend. It's completely untied from all kinds of established perspective, pulling the ground out from underneath any pillar of thought. 

Throughout my correspondence with John, I had sought to understand how his mind works so that I could possibly reverse-engineer some model that can be applied to various paradigms in the same kind of way he would analyze them.

After countless reiterations and attempts at creating such a theorem, I'm still hashing things out. It's not easy and, as I've accepted, it's likely not possible to fully emulate his line of thinking.

But my expectations had been pretty realistic from the get go; even if I could assemble something that is fractionally as effective as John's own mind, it would be worthwhile. 

Because it's not about finding answers; it's about realizing that we've been asking the wrong kinds of questions. 

And so I present a working prototype below, one that will undoubtedly see variable revisions along the way. For the time being, it is what it is, while I still continue to try and understand the world through the same critical lens that John does.

The Peeler

I've split the Paradigm Peeler, as I'm currently choosing to call it (inspired by John's own title for his work - links at the bottom of the piece), into two phases. 

The first is meant to deconstruct a way of thinking whilst the second, even less polished, is meant to reconstruct.

A test subject - concerning Simulation Theory - will be illustrated in a forthcoming article. Throughout the content below, I've used simulation sporadically (as well as communism) as a short example. 

Phase 1: Deconstruction

I. Intuition versus Intellect 
II. Participant versus Observer  
III. Constituent versus Whole 

Phase 2: Reconstruction

I. Unification
II. Naturalization
III. Delinearization 

Phase 1: Deconstruction

Step I: Intuition versus Intellect

Under the first stage of the first phase, a discernment must be made between intuition and intellect, one that offers a contrasting reduction of any paradigm.

The reason for this is because we in the West have made it a habit to view the world through a scientific lens (intellect), applying the scientific method, relying on experimentation and evidence and validation. Under this intellectual approach, we don't believe what we don't see and we sweep anything which doesn't jive with our current models of understanding (say, dark energy) under a proverbial rug. We view things mechanistically in a way that prioritizes sense and rationalization over instinctive speculation. While this sounds like the most efficient and useful way, it has to be understood that we shouldn't be pursuing efficiency and utility as the end-all, be-all goals of our ambition to understand the world along with ourselves. 

Our intuitions, which have been unfortunately relegated to relative uselessness in our modern culture, should account for more than they currently do. While intuitional wisdom is quick to be grouped in with the more peculiar approaches to understanding reality (say, spirituality), it becomes undermined when consumed by the above-mentioned intellectual realm of knowledge acquisition. In reality, both make poor bed fellows despite being able to provide ample insight when being used to deconstruct rather than formulate insight.

Our intellect has gotten us to where we are today and there's no denying that our intellect has progressed our civilization to heights of prosperous sophistication. 

Likewise, our intuition has played a crucial role in numerous matters relating to our sophisticated understandings. While tending to muddle the waters of our advancement, it has guided us rather effectively throughout our development. 

Accordingly, the first part of the first phase should allow for a comparison of how a paradigm can be viewed from both competing perspectives, one no less than the other. 

Step II: Participant versus Observer

The second stage of the first phase is one I've had trouble deciding upon, though I'm sure further application will refine things. It is perhaps the most difficult of all because it demands a fine conscious effort to unequip the way we currently perceive certain paradigms. 

We may look upon a certain concept from afar but never employ a perception from the middle of that concept. Take, for instance, communism. While it is easy to judge from afar, most of us haven't existed under a communist regime and lack the subjective experience of it's real effect. 

Likewise, to perceive something from too-subjective a view is to obscure a proper understanding of it just as well.

And so a great effort must be made to eliminate all pre-conceived angles of perspective in order to achieve the greatest sense of equanimity possible.

Are we understanding something as a participant or as an observer?

On the one hand, we must envision being the participant in a system; on the other hand, we must embrace the role of a mere observer. 

If we seek to understand something without having had experienced it in some way, how can we truly understand it? Unless we've studied it, experimented with it, tested it, lived with it, triumphed over it.  An interaction with the paradigm is needed.

And likewise, a lack of interaction is also needed as we ought to employ mere observation without influence, understanding without pre-conceived presumption.

In such a way, both approaches offset and counter balance, achieving a sense of equilibrium and equanimity that affords as pure a glimpse possible through a particular paradigm. 

Step III: Constituent versus Whole 

Under the third step of the deconstruction phase, we must examine how a theory presents itself to us alongside the vast array of similar (or contrasting) methods of interpreting it.

For instance, in the case of simulation theory, we must also consider the many-world theory, string theory, big bang theory, religion, atheism, spirituality, existentialism. 

We must zoom out and look at how a particular paradigm is part of a larger patchwork; we must likewise zoom in and consider how it functions in isolation. 

Everything is, to one extent or another, inter-dependent, despite how ostensibly unlikely this fact may seem. 

How new is a theory? How does it disrupt other competing understandings? How does it interact with the landscape of current belief on a subject?

An understanding of how a theory is stitched into the collective fabric of our knowledge - of how it is interrelated and interdependent - as well as how a paradigm is independent of everything else and how it stands alone to emphasize its own particular spectacle of insight. 

Simply put, it's critical that a theory be examined from the most microscopic and macroscopic points of reference, with as broad a horizon and as specific a vision as dualistically possible. 

Phase II: Reconstruction

Step I: Unification

To reconstruct a paradigm that has been deconstructed, we can first look to establish a sense of polar unity, leveraging opposite ends of understanding to create a suitable middle ground. 

These ends of understanding would depend upon the subject matter of course; in other words, a suitable opposite or some form of a comparative must be found. 

For the example of simulation theory, religion works to ideally draw similarities and differences in a way that evokes a deeper understanding of the hidden archetypes or nuances. For capitalism, communism is an ideal contrast. 

A further purpose of this step is to extract an objective and fluid sense of applicability - a common denominator that serves to validate a perspective either through similarity or through juxtaposition. 

In this instance, objectivity is more useful than subjectivity; an assembling of correlative specifics to create generalizations that can be used to build a greater understanding of a paradigm. 

Step II: Naturalization

While tremendously vague, this step is meant to look at a theory through as great of a scope as possible with respect to the laws of our natural world. It is, perhaps the most Merryman-esque of all steps involved in the Peeler and one that will have to be hashed out with further application. 

This step can be executed through countless means and along limitless avenues of knowledge (i.e. biological evolution; anthropological insights; chemistry or physics, mathematical interpretations, psychological considerations, cosmological postulations, etc.), the most consistent seems to be a physical, thermodynamic understanding - the laws that structure nature as far as we know them. 

The physical world around us governs us more than we like to think, and while this point can be interpreted as esoterically as much as it can be scientifically, it's crucial to overlay our actions and the intangible constructs of our existence (our ideas, our social movements, our understandings) onto the general structure and function of the physical world around us. 

How atoms move, how celestial processions unfold, how cells divide, how heat is transferred, how gravity pulls, how velocity builds, how magnetism works, how time and space are shaped. As unrelated as such topics may be to the validation of any particular theory, there will be a correlation to be found in almost any instance if we look in the right place.

Perhaps the most prevalent truth about our reality is the cycles of expansion and consolidation, the perpetual tug of war between dissolving energy and coalescing form. In the words of John Merryman:

“The larger reality is the cycles of expansion and consolidation. The seed becoming the flower, becoming the seed, etc. To infinity, creating the layers, with lots of dormant seeds sprinkled in, waiting their opportunities."

This step may prove to be more so one of unsolvable challenge than of coherent validation, but such is the purpose the Peeler in general; sometimes more questions are uncovered well before any semblance of an answer can be produced. 

Step III: Delinearization 

Whereas the previous step remains, at this time anyway, a bit vague in its application, this step is a little bit more straight forward. 

And while this step can be ostensibly grouped under phase 1 (deconstruction), the reconstructive element of this step (applying a cyclical perspective) is to be emphasized. 

We tend to view elements of our reality - time, social movements, our own progress, evolution - to move in a linear way despite the fact that we don't have much evidence to support this notion. 

In fact, we know that everything moves in somewhat of a cycle - that history repeats itself, that life itself swirls about in vortices of expansion and coalescence, repeating and revolving. Because we cannot see too far in time and space, forward or backward, outside or inside, we tend to take this point for granted. 

Weather patterns, distant solar systems, microbiological similarities around the world - they all work to signify a cyclical nature to the cogs that move our reality. 

In such a way, we ought to avoid applying a linear perspective to certain theories as a basic approach to their understanding their contextual framework. 

With simulation theory, for instance, we ought to view it as a reiteration (of, say, religion) rather than something that arose merely from nothing. With communism, we ought to view it as a response shaped from economic climates. 

It has to be assumed that things - theories or matter, ideas or postulations, organisms or ecosystems - always rise from a mix of prior ingredients that gave birth to it, as matter swirls around reconstituting itself into various shapes and forms. 

And it is this last point that serves to encapsulate one of the broader ideas of the peeler: a theory will always arise from something, never from nothing. 

I want to make it clear that this 'peeler' was not designed to try and encapsulate John's methodology or perspective - it was simply inspired by it. 

To be frank, I don't think there's any way to effectively model his way of thinking, as there shouldn't be. 

I implore anyone reading this to take the next step towards opening their own mind a crack further by taking in some of his work - some of which I've listed below.

John's Medium publications, perhaps the best starting point, can be found here.