Energy we know. We feel energetic or flat. We feel warmth from a fire and relax, or the cold blast of a wind in winter and tense up. Many of us have felt small electric shocks by accident, and some have been sadly tortured by them. If we call out to someone in the distance, we know that we need to put more energy into voicing our thoughts. All of these, and many others, are different patterns of movement forming or transforming the phenomena that are somehow associated with those feelings of energy. Mind and matter connect somehow through…
It may be tempting here to say they connect “through energy”. But this is where synergy may helpfully begin to enter the human vocabulary instead. A good mental picture of synergy may help readers to choose when it is better to use the word synergy rather than energy to describe what they mean.
The key difference is that energy may be thought of as dynamic, as movement with a direction. Energy may have a source, and an impact that is noticeable, or even measurable by comparison with some other standard. The arrow thunks into a target’s bullseye. The time of its transit from the bow and archer is substantial. The timing of release, and its aim, is good. Satisfaction emotionally floods the mental and social space shared by audience and competitors, although competing archers show considerable diversity in their bodily responses and vocalisations that follow.
Let me add a second scene to this moving picture of energy and synergy. In a nearby part of the field is a football pitch, cleared of scrub by the local youth and flattened sufficiently to allow movements of the ball to be almost predictable when kicked. Players change at the touchline and run onto the pitch when ready, exercising and running and dodging to warm up. They are looking for what is called ‘second wind’. On moving from their everyday state of social activity, their internal body chemistry state must shift from ‘maintenance mode’ to ‘competitive mode’. On first running, they will experience breathlessness quite soon, which is a biochemical drive to gasp in more oxygen and supply it with increasing blood circulation to all their body’s cells. Those players who have attended training sessions will quickly notice how their whole body chemistry shifts through this confusing change to a new state of preparedness for action, second wind, where energy can be released with seemingly less effort.
And here is the key word.
There is a shift of state of the whole body chemistry and the internal communications needed to sustain that state. That dynamic state of inner physiological relatedness prepares the player also for external relational changes in the dynamic state of the social and natural environment, the playing field. Second wind states of body and brain physiology prime a person for rapid and energetic responsiveness to fellow players and opponents. States are dynamic in their turnover and feedback. They settle into a stative balance, which can be tipped out of balance by choice and observation. They are not static. They prime for further types of change.
Some people may be tempted to call this primed state ‘potential energy’. But I challenge anyone to say what potential energy is. That is because potential energy is a relational state of some wider system. Potential energy is the dynamic state of systemic relatedness from which movement might emerge when informational exchanges produce imbalance. A footballer in their second wind is better able to respond with a burst of appropriate energy cooperatively and competitively when a response is needed. Cooling down after vigorous exercise is another transitional ‘state’, involving internal turbulence as various body systems and brain states restore normal maintenance mode at different speeds. The archer in another part of the field is simultaneously tensing and calming their inner state as they relax into an aim and a choice when to release their tensioned state into the arrow’s energy.
Now, here synergy becomes a critically important part of the picture.
My medical training taught me how two biochemical processes can go in opposite directions at the same time, converting one thing to another, while another process converts the same thing back to the first. It may seem wasteful and pointless, but this mutuality creates a dynamic feedback cycle in which the pace of either directional process can be altered by remote informational influence. Synergic mutuality is a highly responsive balancing system in continuous stative motion, out of which active energies can be continuously created, and informationally tipped in various chosen directions.
This is a practical picture of the footballer’s second wind state. Remote information rapidly alters processes and responses. For example, this becomes noticeable when the ball is being passed seemingly pointlessly back and forth between attacking team members but then from this state of potential suddenly moves, whoosh, as the striker puts direction into their shot when a remote opening has appeared informationally in the game. Simultaneously internal human and external natural systems in that moment have coordinated synergically and released energy. Body, mind, and relational ecology have transitioned, from a synergic state of potential to a directional movement of energy.
“Goal!” the spectators shout, releasing their synergically supportive presence with the players into directional leaps of joy.
Synergy, let us be clear, is two directional movement that is mutually responsive. This mutuality primes the capacity for directional energetic movement to emerge in diversifying relatedness and roles (players, spectators, and referee). As two spectators grasp each other in their leaps of joy and glance briefly into each other’s eyes, their awareness of mutuality is a direct connection of their shared underlying synergy.
Without complicating the picture too much (at this early stage of relaxing into synergy):
- 3D shared space is one synergic wholeness.
- Wholeness – in which we mindfully participate as features of the ecology – is mutually synergic movement at any and every scale.
- Movement holds all together in a transforming unity, the synergy of which we feel in nature as gravity, and with other living forms in social interactions as restorative and enlivening love.
- Wholeness diversifies movements informationally. Synergic relatedness has changing patterns that prime the release and transmission of energetic changes. These transform nature and life without breaking synergic wholeness.
- Spatial wholeness – as synergic potential – is the ecology in which heat, light, and substance emerge (as in stars). These all have directional movements that in nature we feel as time changing things (or things changing in time), and in social settings as the warmth of responsive kindness.
In these ways, synergy in shared space may helpfully enter the human vocabulary.
In summary, synergy is the moving context for diversifying energies. These energies create the potential for life forms to emerge. Among life forms, mindful living knows some energies consciously, while aware also of being in deeper connection into a synergic ecology.