Victor MacGill Chaos and Complexity
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My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, Myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

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My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

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Articles by Victor

Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
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Mandelbrot Set  Complexity
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My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

Line

My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

Mandelbrot Set

Articles by Victor

Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
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Mandelbrot Set  Complexity
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Mandelbrot Set  Spirituality
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Living in the Now

from a talk given to the Dunedin Spiritualist Church

The Maori pattern of the koru depicts the relationship of the past and the future. One spiral comes up from the past, coiling in to a central point, which is the present moment, before changing direction and spiralling up into the future. The magic point, the only point where change can occur is the centre point, the point where the certainty of the past touches the uncertainty of the future.

We see the spiral all about us in nature, in shells, in sheep tracks up a hill, the unfurling fern leaf. The Maori people are by no means the only people to recognise the significance of the spiral and use it in their art forms.
One type of spiral is a vortex, which my dictionary tells me is a mass of swirling fluid. Examples of a vortex we may be familiar with are whirlpools, tornadoes, cyclones, water spouts and even water going down a plug hole. 

Tonight I will talk about the energy of the vortex and how we can use it in our lives.

First of all, we will look at the properties of  vortices in nature and then we will see how they work within us.

A vortex only occurs under certain conditions. A tornado requires very particular wind and air currents that start the air swirling around in a spiral that reaches down from the clouds to the earth. In a hand basin the force of gravity pulls the water down, but the restriction of the small hole the water must get through results in the water swirling round and round forming a small whirlpool. All the atoms in the water or air interact in very complex and unpredictable ways, but somehow combine to from a constantly moving and yet stable shape.
 
 When all the conditions are right, as though from nowhere, a vortex will appear. It may remain for a long time or a short time, but eventually the balance of forces will change the vortex can no longer sustain itself and it dies away as quickly as it came.

A vortex requires a flow of fluid or energy, which is drawn in from outside. It then swirls around within the vortex and then leaves. A whirlpool draws in water from outside it, which swirls it around and around until it is spun back off again. Water is always moving through the vortex. New water constantly replaces the old. In spite of constant change, the whirlpool maintains a stable shape a bit like an ice cream cone. That stable shape may itself, however, change as the whirlpool gains and loses strength. 
If you look at a flowing stream with whirlpools forming as the water flows by, you will often see whirlpools within whirlpools and the small ones are a part of sustaining the bigger ones they sit within.

Our body operates like a vortex. New cells are always being created, old cells are dying, but we continue to live. It is said that every seven years we have a completely different set of cells and yet we have a body that lives on. The body that was mine at 5 years old has been replaced many times over and yet I continue to exist. The day will come when my body can no longer move energy through it self efficiently enough to sustain the vortex and I will die. 

Even though the Victor MacGill that survives is recognisable as the same person over my whole life, I am nevertheless always changing. I have grown from a new born baby, maybe as long as my present forearm, into child, to an adolescent, to an adult  to the balding middle age person you see before you and probably on to become an entirely bald, toothless old coot. 

As well as a constantly changing, there is a part of us that does not change. This is our higher self, and what some people will call the still centre. A vortex also has a still centre, right in the middle unaffected by the swirling mass of energy around it. In a cyclone we call it the eye of the storm. If a cyclone passes directly overhead, first the wind increases to a peak blowing in one direction. Then follows the eye of the storm, where all is quiet and calm. Following that the winds begin in the other direction reaching a peak and then gradually passing away as the cyclone leaves.
 
As well as physical vortices, there are some we cannot see. Our sense of identity is formed as a vortex. All our memories, emotions, thoughts, desires, fears; all our cultural, religious and educational influences, all the influences from our families and friends, the words that we use, the television programmes we watch, the web pages we look at, the magazines and books we read are all a part of the mass of swirling images and energy that interact with each other forming a vortex; It creates an identity that is stable enough to be recognised over time, but which also alters and changes as we experience new situations and events. Without this stability of identitiy, we could not know who we are from day to day and could not make consistent decisions about how to act in the world around us. Our world would become chaos. Mental illnesses can result when our identity changes too quickly or dramatically than we can cope with. In this case the forces propelling the vortex become too strong and it collapses in on itself.

Life most usually changes at a speed we can cope with and enables us to learn and grow and cope with life and operate more effectively in the world.

I mentioned previously that we often find whirlpools within whirlpools. This Spiritualist Centre is a vortex. People, ideas, and influences move through the centre. The centre has an ongoing identity that is recognisable over time, but the centre is also changing. Within the vortex of this centre are the vortices of the individual people and each of us have physical vortices, emotional, intellectual and spiritual vortices within us. All the vortices help to sustain each other. The church supports me, I support the church.

When talking about the koru, I described time as a vortex. We see time as moving from the past to the present and to the future. The past and the future swirl around continuously changing, creating a present moment that is always different. Even though the present moment is always changing, it also remains the same just as the whirlpool is always changing, but retains a stable shape. We live in an ever changing present moment.

When we see time in this way, we realise that we do not move through time from yesterday to today to tomorrow, but rather we stand in the present moment while time moves through us.

Everything from our past has happened is certain and cannot be changed. If we place our identity in the past, we live for what was, for our past achievements, for people and events which have gone, for things that are fixed and cannot be changed, then the present can have no meaning or power. 

Similalrly, if we place our identity in the future, we live for what will be, for our future achievements, for what people around us will be, then again, he present has no meaning or power.

In addition to that, the future is full of uncertainty, so, it is always possible, in fact, likely, that those thing in the future inwhich we invest our identity in will not come to pass and therefore we again place our identity in something that has no reality. 

Pam’s terminal cancer is teaching us to not put our identity in the future, because it is unlikely that there will be a long term future
When I was asked recently about how I felt about not having years to spend with Pam, I found myself saying it didn’t really matter, because what matters is what we do with now. Now is the only time we really have, the only time we when we can make a difference. 

The present moment is balanced on the edge between the certain past and the uncertain future. Sitting right in the edge of certainty and uncertainty is the present moment; not restricted by the past and free to create the future. If we place our consciousness in the past or the future, we place it in the turbulent swirling winds of the vortex, where we are buffeted about and have little control over our lives. If, instead, we place ourselves at the still centre of the present moment, there is a calmness we find within ourselves. It doesn’t mean we avoid the difficulties of the world. It doesn’t mean we ignore the past or future, but we see them from the still point and remain calm. We are actually at the only place where true change can be made, certain enough to allow stability, uncertain enough to allow growth.

The vortex is something we see in nature appearing out of nowhere and mysteriously disappearing again. They exist as obvious forms as a tornado or whirlpool, but also in more subtle forms such as human beings and human identity. By learning to ride the edge of the interactions at the still point, we open ourselves to the full richness of what it is to be a person and a full child of the universe. 

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