The Nature of True Freedom III: Creating A Shared Image of the Future
The Future as Strange Attractor
Whether or not Jung is correct in linking the Third Reich and ultimately the Holocaust to the threat of numinous experiences, we certainly can acknowledge and respect the power of anything identified as the Other (such as Polak portrays the Future). We can recognize that the Future has many properties associated with all attractor basins. They are powerful, compelling and self-organizing. As Morgan (2006, p. 254) notes, some of these compelling attractors “pull a system into states of equilibrium or near equilibrium, [while] other attractors have a tendency to flip a system into completely new configurations.” We might find that some images of the future similarly are reconfirming of current directions (thus establishing continuity and equilibrium) while other images are “revolutionary” in nature and compel a “flipping” of the future into a whole new dynamic and structural realm—much as Malcolm Gladwell (2002) identifies in his description of “tipping points” and Argyris and Schon (1974) identify as “second order” change.
Polak (1973, p. 4) seems to be saying something similar to what Jung and the chaos theorists have said when he suggests how human encounter the Future:
The domain of the future . . . . is without boundaries. Yet it is only by drawing boundaries in the thought-realm that man can produce a problem that can be grasped and worked with, and it is only by redrawing the boundaries of the unknown that man can increase his knowledge. No problem so persistently defies our skill at drawing boundaries as the problem of the future, and no problem presses quite so hard on our intellectual horizons. In the act of searching out the future, Homo sapiens crosses the frontiers of the unknown and is transformed from the man of action, who responds to the moment, to the man of thought, who takes account of the consequences of his actions. He leaves behind the familiar universe of sight and sound and surveys the universe of the unseen and unheard, continually bringing small fragments of the unknown back with him out of the darkness and adding them to the known. Who can say whether this building up of the known diminishes the unknown?
Like Jung and the Chaos theorists, Polak describes a future that is unfamiliar and without clear boundaries. Polak’s future seems to be a variety of attractor that disrupts rather than reinforces societal equilibrium. It should be noted, however, that Polak’s (1973, p. 4) account of how human beings actually address the challenge inherent in this challenging encounter differs from that offered by Jung and the chaos theorists:
Man is not easily discouraged, however. Everything drives him to accept the challenge of the unknown. The instincts of preservation and reproduction demand it. All economic activity is an answer to this challenge; the primitive nomad gathering fruits and nuts and the modem industrial magnate are alike answering the call of the unborn tomorrow; so are the men who chart the seas and those who chart the heavens. No man, not even the suicide, can leave tomorrow alone. The suicide but hastens tomorrow in his impatience.
It is at this point in his exceptional study of world cultures that Polak (1973) offers an important statement about the relationship between compelling images of the future and the future of societies who hold or do not hold such an image. He describes the way in which the Other is confiscated and brought into societal reality.