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        flows in living well by design

gary e. davis
June 14, 2007 /
(updated links: 6/13/17)
Obviously (to me), the notion of flow can be pop vague, thus philosophically specious, because it easily associates to undifferentiating energetics. But there’s a literature which is quite articulate about what flow can engagingly mean. Here, I’ll just be briefly suggestive.

  • focused action. So-called “flow states” are integral to high efficacy in action—highly-skilled “being in The Zone,” as it’s said in sports. This is not a state as much as it’s peak processing or a telic efficiency of activity or enactivenesss (or enactivity), which can be detailed in its generalizable psychological character of highly effective expertise.
  • thinking together. Also, persons in inspired conversation who are luckily “in sync,” thinking as One, are in a dialogal flow. This can be elaborated in terms of a dramaturgy of communicative solidarity, kindredness, and intimacy.
  • creativity. A high productivity of free association depends on one’s capability for crystallizing rich fluidity of imaginative memory and perception. Flow here can be delightfully creative (and might be essential to originality). The well-known psychologist of creativity, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has theorized flow in detail. The crystallizing efficacy of fluid intelligence in “MacArthur” educational psychologist Howard Gardner’s theory of creativity as “fruitful asymmetry” builds importantly on Csikszentmihalyi’s views, elaborated in Gardner’s Creating Minds and other work.
  • well-being. The movement in professional psychology, “positive psychology” (deriving from the legacy of humanism in “human potential” psychology) focuses on flow.
  • good society. Interpersonal life at its best resembles an emergent singularity of communicative flow. Understanding the well-being of a life going well, of lives going well together, contributing constructively to emergent social trends of interfacing civility, solidarities, kinships, and intimacies altogether may express a flourishing of humanity, first conceptualized, perhaps, in Aristotle’s sense of eudaemonia, recently integral to Nobel economomist Amartya Sens’ sense of “development as freedom” and colleague Martha Nussbaum’s philosophical interest in capability formation, which is also integral to Sens’ work. (Both worked together in the 1980s on “quality of life” research for United Nations development programs). A healthy (“Good”) society is at least congruent with notions of healthy human flourishing that is analyzable into levels and modes of healthy flows of capability in constructive lives.

Macrologically speaking, when a society is flowing well, its economic indicators show good productivity. Also, the non-economistic “health” of a nation is measurable. So, the lifeworldly or existential sense of flow meshes, in principle, with statistically generalizable or objectivated levels of population characteristics or trends. Not to connote a reducibility of flow to what’s quantifiable (mismapping macrological discernment into lifeworld dynamics!), a society can be specifically healthy (or not: tending toward “depression”) in terms of its constructive flows (or congestions), analogously with characteristics of lives.

Micrologically, a mind is just what a brain bioenergetically “does,” which we now vaguely gauge (“image”) with brain scanning; and model crudely in terms of neural field dynamics. Not to connote feasible reducibility of individual phenomenology to neurology, somehow “the mind” is just what the brain does, which is why psychiatry is partly neuropsychology and partly neuropharmacology, as well as behavioral interpretion and therapeutic activity. Education changes the brain, say some cognitive neuroscientists.

Vague it is to say, but we do live in the phenomenological level of an ultimate continuity of flows, micro to macro, and it’s some sense of this holism of process that educes mythical notions of “Being” in which we’re living. This is intuited in the meditative sense of communion we may feel in woods and fields, beholding mountains or the sea: The “feeling of what happens” can so resonate with a sense of flow in Time all tolled that some ecopsychologicalbiophilia” may overwhelm us with our Belonging in nature.

Topographies of water through wooded streams are like topographies of winds through fields of trees are like emergent topographies of meaning we inhabit. Fielding senses can holistically feel like signs, again, of some embracing “Being” (which is ultimately self-mirroring), as if there is intentionality in nature concordant with our deep-seated feeling of having a nature in familial bonding from which the intentionality of our idealized self-efficacy naturally flowed to grow and flower.

So, wherever we go, there we are, in the flow as best we do, at best beyond thriving in the music, being the music, in love of what we’re doing. The psychic inflation of loving what we do easily flows to any other aspect of our lives that concords with doing what we love. From there, we’re always motivation enough, energy enough to make a life that goes well, concordant with a “good” “world” our lives can exemplify, living by design with energy enough to do so well.

One can be motivated by appeals of high quality learning, of career lucidity (as producer), of market lucidity (as consumer), of citizen lucidity, and of so-called “discursive vitality,” discussed recently—all integral to turning inspired ideality into democratic reality.




    Be fair. © 2017, g. e. davis