Thursday, November 06, 2008

What is Vision?

This question has been on my mind since reading Daniel Quinn's Beyond Civilization almost a decade ago. I know there are visions in mission statements and personal visions and so on, but I don't think I've fully grasped what vision means. Here is the excerpt out of BC that I keep going back to when I think about vision:

Vision is like Gravity

Vision is to culture what gravity is to matter. When you see a ball roll off a table and fall to the floor, you should think, "Gravity is at work here." When you see a culture make its appearance and spread outward in all directions until it takes over the entire world, you should think, "Vision is at work here."
When you see a small group of people begin behaving in a special way that subsequently spreads across an entire continent, you should think, "Vision is at work here." If I tell you that the small group I have in mind were followers of a first-century preacher named Paul and that the continent was Europe, you'll know the vision was Christianity.
Dozens or perhaps even hundreds of books have investigated the reasons for Christianity's success, but not one of them was written before the nineteenth century. Before that nineteenth century it seemed to everyone that Christianity no more needed reasons to succeed than gravity does. It was bound to succeed. Its success was sponsored by destiny.
For exactly the same reason, no one has ever written a book investigating the reasons for the success of the Industrial Revolution. It's perfectly obvious to us that the Industrial Revolution was bound to succeed. It could no more have failed than a ball rolling off a table could fall toward the ceiling.
That's the power of vision.


I'm looking for personal definitions of vision or what other authors have said about vision. Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you.

13 comments:

Filip T. said...

In my mind when I hear the word "vision" I think of the Vision Quest.

My understanding is the Vision is a complex thing, and very personal.

The way I understand vision is in one of several ways:

- A personal life-purpose
- A piece of the story you bring into the world of your fellow human beings for the betterment of all
- A communication with, from, through nature about one's unique place and purpose in the greater fabric and mystery of the universe
- All of the above

Vision is an idea, story or purpose so personal and powerful that it can change a person and the world around them. When I think of people who really lived and saw their visions through, I think of Gandhi, Martin Lurther King Jr., and other human beings who put their personal visions into practice.

Your quote from Daniel Quinn captures the potential power of vision. But to me, a true vision is one in which the personal virtue/personal "medicine" of the individual bringing the vision to the people is for the betterment of all. Such visions are rather rare these days.

Considering the pain and suffering that the forceful spread of Christianity caused throughout Europe, I do not see that as a true vision. But, since I do not have another equally appropriate name for it, I am not sure what to call it.

My definition of the word "vision" is more akin to the definition used by tribal peoples. And that is a sacred and very personal thing that we carry as individuals into the world. The Chinese word te (pronounced de) as defined in TE OF PIGLET, is close to capturing part of that definition. I discuss it at length in my latest blog post.

http://weaveyourdream.blogspot.com/

What I mean is the de, or that personal virtue or personal/individual gift is inseparable from one's vision. And so, in understanding it you gain a better understanding of what vision is...

Another way of talking about vision, is describing it as a dream. A collective dream.

By dream, I mean the creative and inclusive realm and process in which we all manifest our lives through our focus, energy and thoughts. This is not a process of fantasizing or indulging in reverie, but rather in creating a particular path in the possibilities within the dynamic of cause and effect.

______________

I am worried that my reply will only muddled things up more for you. I am sorry, if that is the case.

The way Daniel Quinn defines vision, it sounds more like a kind of meme. Perhaps this definition is broader and more appropriate in understanding idea transference in our modern culture from the more hard, intellectual perspective.

Whatever works for you.

Hope this helped some,

Fil

Curt said...

Hi Filip,

As always, you've given me a lot to think about. I really appreciate you taking the time to write out your response.

Today I'm headed to the library to order THE TAO OF POOH and TE OF PIGLET through interlibrary loan.

Filip T. said...

I hope that thoughts my comment inspired in your mind help you make more sense of what you seek to understand.

Looking forward to your thoughts and feedback on THE TAO OF POOH and TE OF PIGLET. Hopefully, you get the books in sequential order. :D

Cheers,

Fil

Curt said...

Hi Filip,

You wrote:"Looking forward to your thoughts and feedback on THE TAO OF POOH and TE OF PIGLET."

It's 7am. I've been up since 4am tending fire and reading the TAO OF POOH.

I really like it so far. What I'm hearing Hoff say really resonates with me.

He really drives home the point that to much thinking can really make everyday experience not fun. For the most part, I agree with him, but I do wonder about this to some degree. I think back to the beginning of "JOHN TRUDELL: THE MOVIE". Trudell is a native american poet and musician, not an "educated scholar" by any means. Anyway, he's sitting in a rocking chair telling the person interviewing him that there is just no clear and coherent thought out there addressing the problems we face. I agree with him. Looking back on my 34 year life experience, I haven't been a part of many conversations outside of the internet that addressed any of the major problems we are facing. So, if we don't think about them, we're not going to talk about them. And if we atleast don't talk about them, they're not going to go away.

This is what came to mind. So, I wrote it!

I hope you have a wonderful day.

Filip T. said...

I am very happy that you have the book! I have had an intuitive feeling for well over a year that this book would be a very good fit for you.

Nothing like late night of tending fire. :)

I think it is important when seeing the world from the Taoist perspective, that Taoism is never saying you should not think. Even Pooh, the bear of very little brain still thinks. The difference is that he thinks only when it is necessary.

We westerners think almost constantly, because we feel we have to or else. Don't take what B. Hoff is saying as running to an extreme.

I heard a Native elder talk about our intellectual mind as follows. He said something to the extent:"Intellect is very important. Use it when making arrowheads, visualizing the bow in the uncarved wood, figuring out a challenging animal track. But don't be obsessed with thinking so much beyond that. To much thinking creates separation."

Again, I want to be clear that I agree with you about using our minds to solve world problems is good. People don't seem to really talk about them. They don't want to. That is denial. Trouble is, you can't force them to talk.

When I interact with so many of my fellow human beings, I often see that even when they live in the biggest, most connected cities they live in a bubble. They are thinking constantly, but never about what is actually going on around them in the present.

Pooh does think sometimes, but if you notice when he is thinking it is always about present situations. And that makes him effective despite his very little brains.

Curt said...

Hi Filip T,

You wrote: "The way Daniel Quinn defines vision, it sounds more like a kind of meme. Perhaps this definition is broader and more appropriate in understanding idea transference in our modern culture from the more hard, intellectual perspective."

ME: I think you made a good point here. I think he is staying away from the mystical by using memetics in Beyond Civilization. It works for me.

ME: I ran across a line in THE TAO OF POOH that sent me searching through Quinn's THE BOOK OF THE DAMNED.

"One funny thing about Knowledge, that of the scholar, the scientist, or anyone else: it always wants to blame the mind of The Uncarved Block--what it calls ignorance--for problems that it causes itself, either directly or indirectly, through its own limitations, nearsightedness, or neglect." pg. 31

And out of TBOD: "[Homo Magister]doesn't want to look now at the first three million years of human life. He doesn't want to look at them, because they might mean something. They might mean that man wasn't born to rule the world--that he was born to do something else entirely.

"Somebody else is doing it anyway. One of his own.
Triply Damned Quinn.
He isn't playing fair.
He isn't talking to scholars.
He's talking to people.
Somebody hang him quick." pg.31

I have a great deal of respect for DQ and his work because he wasn't just talking to scholars. For someone like me who HATED school and never went to college, this is a big deal.

Anyway, that part in POOH made me think about this.

Hope all is well!

Curt

Filip T. said...

You shared,

>And out of TBOD: "[Homo Magister]doesn't want to look now at the first three million years of human life. He doesn't want to look at them, because they might mean something. They might mean that man wasn't born to rule the world--that he was born to do something else entirely.

"Somebody else is doing it anyway. One of his own.
Triply Damned Quinn.
He isn't playing fair.
He isn't talking to scholars.
He's talking to people.
Somebody hang him quick." pg.31<

Awesome quote.

DQ has his unifying theory, and Hoff has his own. But, they have a great deal of middle ground.

>I have a great deal of respect for DQ and his work because he wasn't just talking to scholars. For someone like me who HATED school and never went to college, this is a big deal.<

Interesting how we interpreted that differently. When Hoff says

"One funny thing about Knowledge, that of the scholar, the scientist, or anyone else: it always wants to blame the mind of The Uncarved Block--what it calls ignorance--for problems that it causes itself, either directly or indirectly, through its own limitations, nearsightedness, or neglect."

To me, he is speaking to everyone.

He even says in his quote:"...that of the scholar, the scientist, or anyone else..."

My interpretation was that he was speaking to anyone who goes seeking knowledge, which includes pretty much everyone at sometime.

Owl being the representation of knowledge not as purely his own character which we can judge and feel detached from but rather, like all the POOH characters, owl is a reflection of a characteristic found in every person. I can certainly find some owl-like patterns in my behavior from time to time. Like when I share knowledge for the sake of sounding smart, or when I catch myself using tons of scientific jargon words. Each person has their own version of owl somewhere inside them.

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging it is there. The point, I feel, is to focus on what is positive. In the first book, that is mainly focusing on the Pooh-ish aspect of the self.

That is just what came to mind when I read you comment. Keep 'em coming!

Curt said...

Hi Filip T,

After rereading that quote by Hoff, I agree. He was speaking to everyone, not just the scholar.

What comes to mind after a few readings of the quote is: Thought is limited. Thought is mechanical. Thought is reflexive. Thought depends only on the past. Thought can't get outside itself.

I also think Hoff is trying to dispel one of the myths that drive science: With enough knowledge we're going to get to the bottom of things.

Curt said...

Hi Filip T,

I had another thought while reading POOH. I'm done by the way. I loved it.

After reading about The Prisoner's Dilemna over at Anthropik, I can't help but think that a lot of people don't pracice the Pooh way because of the Prisoner's Dilemna.

http://anthropik.com/2005/10/thesis-12-civilization-must-always-grow/

What do you think?

Filip T. said...

>After rereading that quote by Hoff, I agree. He was speaking to everyone, not just the scholar. <

I was actually curious to hear why you saw it differently. But, agreement can help us understanding each other too. :)

>What comes to mind after a few readings of the quote is: Thought is limited. Thought is mechanical. Thought is reflexive. Thought depends only on the past. Thought can't get outside itself.<

Yes. Thoughts are largely worries about the future or regrets about the past. They rarely reflect the present.

>I also think Hoff is trying to dispel one of the myths that drive science: With enough knowledge we're going to get to the bottom of things.<

Yes, I agree. He reminds me so much of DQ in that respect.

>I had another thought while reading POOH. I'm done by the way. I loved it.<

Excellent! I knew you would enjoy it.

The second book has a bit of a different focus. The style is the same, though. This series was not meant to be a money maker and Hoff quit being an author shortly after the publishing of the 2nd book.

>After reading about The Prisoner's Dilemna over at Anthropik, I can't help but think that a lot of people don't pracice the Pooh way because of the Prisoner's Dilemna.<

I think your right. Though, this is the first time I have read or heard about the Prisoner's Dilemma. My limited understanding is that what your saying is people don't follow the Pooh Way because the are afraid of betrayal by other people to some extent.

Perhaps, you can elaborate a bit more on what you mean?

Curt said...

Hi Filip,

I've read the first chapter of THE TE OF PIGLET. So far I'm finding as interesting and enjoyable as POOH.

---

You wrote: "I think your right. Though, this is the first time I have read or heard about the Prisoner's Dilemma. My limited understanding is that what your saying is people don't follow the Pooh Way because the are afraid of betrayal by other people to some extent."

Me: No so much betrayal, but the attitude of "if I don't do it someone else is going to." The Pooh Way runs contrary to our attitude of: You can always be more than you are. It reminds me of the famous U.S Army slogan: "Be all you can be in Army!"

Does this make sense?

S said...

"Vision" is the recognition that the world has a Creator and learning how to work to make the Divine blueprint manifest.

Every person is animated by the same Spirit, which carries within it all the intelligence, Love, Wisdom and Empathy we each need to be fully hu-man. When we get wrapped up in the ego, we lose this inner Vision and become blind.

All the turmoil in the world is caused by selfish, greedy, egomaniacs, who have, because they have lost their vision, hijacked the concept of success and replaced it with self agrandisement.

The Vision that God has is alive and well and will come to fruition, despite the present situation, simply because many people are opening to the Divine Vision, and carrying it forward.

Vision, is Unity with the creative Spirit of life and anyone can experience it when they get themselves, their selfishness out of the way.

True Vision is a Powerful, unstoppable flow of energy that carries within it the assurance of its own fulfilment

Curt said...

Thank you for your input, S. I'm rereading Daniel Quinn's THE STORY OF B and he talks about how the evolutionary stable strategies that all species follow hasn't been imprinted by the divine. I just thought I would mention that since I read it this morning. I don't know what I think about it yet.