The Oxford Dictionary of English informs us among other things that an organism is “a whole with interdependent parts compared to a living being.’’ It claims that to organize is “to give an orderly structure to.” Under organization we find, ‘‘systemic arrangement.” Other dictionaries, as well as the Oxford, contain a variety of similar declarations and variations. All entries in all lexicons is an attempt to bring precision to a word. Language, by its very nature, is fraught with ambiguity. Every word, to a greater or lessor degree, is ambiguous. All entries in all dictionaries are attempts to bring precision to ambiguity by the use of other words which are infected with the same disease. The word, organ, is basic to organization. The Oxford tells us (leaving out all references to musical instruments) that an organ is “a self-contained part of an organism having a special, vital function”
Is it possible the most concise definition of organization is simply “agreement”? Wherever there is need for agreement, there has to be either ambiguity, or differing points of view, else there is nothing to agree about. There also has to be desire for clarity, and reconciliation of the differing views. When two people engage in such a process and agree, is that the essence of organization, however small in scale and transitory in time?
Agreement contains the essence of both difference and commonality. If there is no difference, there is nothing about which to agree. With agreement, comes at least some degree of commonality. If two individuals meet and agree, the agreement contains the essence of organization. They are, no matter how briefly or for what purpose, organized. The agreement also contains the essence of self-governance, for each must rely on the self-induced behavior of the other to act in accordance with the understanding.
Agreement is always dynamic, imperfect and malleable. Language, with all its vagaries and nuances, is the primary tool with which to reach agreement. Its use is complicated by the fact that every word uttered or written is conditioned in the mind of the originator by one set of beliefs, emotions, expectations and experiences, and conditioned in the mind of the recipient by quite another. Reaching and sustaining agreement is a continual process, as alive as the people involved. It does not admit of certainty or perpetuity, especially in the particulars. Relationships between even two people who live or work together is far too complex to allow agreement much beyond intent, sense of direction and principles of conduct.
This reveals other essential elements of agreement such as tolerance, trust and mutual caring. One must accept that the behavior of another can never be reduced to the kind of specificity that science proposes and contracts attempt to provide, or that the behavior of another can ever conform entirely to any single understanding of words, sentences and paragraphs. No agreement can provide for all particulars, and particulars will never conform to any agreement. Yet, certainty and conformity are what present institutions, in fact, the whole of society, have been organized to try to create.
In the constructive sense of the word, organizations, and governance of organizations, should be based on clarity of shared intent and trust in expected behavior, heavily seasoned with common sense tolerance and caring for others as a fellow human beings. This is not to say that contracts, laws and regulations do not serve a purpose. Rather, it is to point out that they can never achieve the mechanistic certainty and control we crave. Rules and regulations, laws and contracts, can never replace clarity of shared purpose and clear, deeply held principles about conduct in pursuit of that purpose.
Principles are never capable of ultimate achievement, for they presume constant evolution and change. "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," is a true principle, for it says nothing about how it must be done. It presumes unlimited ability of people to evolve in accordance with their values, experience and relations with others.
True governance is based on understanding that even simple societies are far too complex to expect that there can be agreement in the particular. Systems of self-governance, in the individual and at every scale beyond, are based on understanding that ordinances, orders and enforcement deal with an absence of true governance. They are an attempt to compel the kind of behavior that organizations fail to educe.
Ordinances, orders and enforcement are simply different words for control, command, and tyranny. Force is the ultimate tool of tyranny. Those who rise in a tyrannical world are those least capable of self-governance, whether of themselves, or inducement of it in others, else they would not engage in tyranny. When they rise, it is axiomatic that self-governance will decline and government will gradually be for the benefit of the few and subjugation of the many. It will inexorably become destructive. Ultimately, there will be no limit to that destruction, for there appears to be no limit to the ability of science and the rational mind to create devices to alter or destroy all life forms and all aspects of the physical world.
There is no way to give people purpose and principles, yet there can be no self organizing, self governance without them. The only possibility is to evoke a gift of self-governance from the people themselves. It is there that a true leader may be useful, perhaps even essential. There is a choice to be made. We now live in a world of such complexity, diversity and multiplicity of scales that there is little possibility of achieving constructive, sustained governance with existing concepts of organization.
People everywhere are growing desperate for renewed sense of community. Deeply held, commonly shared purpose and principles leading to new Chaordic concepts of self organization and governance scaled from the individual to the global that restore and enhance the sense of community are essential of there is to be a livable world in future.