All is Process

There is no such thing as “you.” There are no things—only processes.

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

What we think of as things— are actually our mental snapshots of processes that are continuously unfolding in time.

A rock seems to be a thing because it seems unchanging—it’s actually “rocking” along very slowly through its own life-cycle as a small sub process within larger geological processes.

Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic philosopher, is most often cited for his maxim, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” It’s probably one of the Ur-philosophical memes of western civilization. You’ve read it or heard it from philosophers, gurus, and your stoner friends. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself.

Heraclitus used “river” to illustrate the primacy of process—ever-changing process. That “man” stepping into the river is a process too. The next time that “man” steps in that “river” neither will be the same. Process—“everything”— is always irreversibly changing—subject to “time’s one-way arrow.” All is change and motion.

You are a process. As Buckminster Fuller famously said, “I seem to be a verb.” We are all verbs.

You are a single instance of a human being— a process with an approximate cycle time of 80 years —from conception through death. Like every process, “you” are always changing—are not the same physical or mental human being that began reading this post. You change, in countless ways, on every level of your being, every moment. Being human is the most complex process in the known cosmos—worthy of profound awe and respect.

There is one primary parent process in our reality—the cosmos itself. It emerged from a single point as a big bang that’s banging still and will be through its own cosmic life cycle, which physicists are still trying to figure out.

Every phenomeno within this universe—space, time, matter, gravity, galaxies, suns, planets, life, you— is a sub-process that has emerged from and within that ongoing explosion. Sub processes emerge and unfold within parent processes. They are nested like Russian dolls.

You are nested within your family process, which is nested within human processes—political, socio-economic, and cultural—that are nested within myriad levels of Earth process—and so it goes up to the cosmos—the BIG DOLL. It’s not neat and hierarchical—nature loves networks. Processes interact and overlap in complex webs of relationship. A process may have many parents, siblings, and relationships, and likely has sub processes nested within it—just like you do.

Yeah, this is “deep stuff,” worthy of reflection and it’s all been said before, one-way or another. So, what’s my point here? What’s your take away as a human being, a systems analyst, engineer, manager—or whatever?

Process is primary; systems are not.

Process antecedes, precedes and supersedes any system we impose upon it.  A guru once observed that, “All systems are foolish.” In the sense that we think systems can actually control process that may be true.

Every thing is a sub-process and unfolds within a network of related processes.

This is—or should be— one of your primary axioms as you try to understand any process—anything. Nothing, no process, exists in a vacuum.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can understand any process in isolation—yourself or any person, any “thing”, any situation, any natural process or any human system.

You hear much lately about how “Content is king.” I would argue that, “Context is king.”

How many people are dysfunctional because their personal and interpersonal processes are askew or not synching?

How many relationships have you seen fail because one or both parties failed to comprehend the family, social, or cultural processes within which they emerged? Those parent processes shaped them and—like it or not—still operate within them.

How many business ventures fail because entrepreneurs fail to understand the community, market, or legal system within which the venture must operate?

How many political campaigns fail for the same reasons?

Throughout my IT career, I saw numerous software projects fail because they were developed without due consideration, understanding, and integration of the project’s process context. The software process used in development, the business process being automated, a parent application to be integrated, an operating system, a network, the sponsor, the regulatory, social, and economic systems in which it must operate—all need to be considered in a successful software project—or software venture.

This may seem like common sense and, in my experience, it’s anything but. What’s your take? Leave a comment . . .