What are emergent properties?

Emergent properties are characteristics of living systems—the ability to grow and change with time. We can build a car and send it off the assembly line but it will never grow, repair itself or improve. Living systems do that—grow and change. We go through puberty; infants become toddlers; pelvic bones fuse. We get better at doing things such as sports, manual skills. Living systems can acquire new properties, not expected or predicted by the properties of those parts. I looked for emergent properties in BF so they made more sense to me. Its deceptively simple sequences made me dig deep to see more; what was going on that I couldn’t see—the “more” than meets the eye?

Let’s look at Heel Rock. On the surface, Heel Rock is a simple one-joint action of the ankle, dorsi- and plantar flexion. But there’s more. Its tiny ROM produces movement of the whole—an efficient, non-fragmented, global response; a sequential wave action. Minimal effort produced by a slight anchoring of the heels against the floor, links head-tail-heel through the midline; directs the forces toward equilibrium—a kind of internal order; oscillatory action of a heart-beat rhythm moves lymph and hydration. The sensation of sliding inside the skin reveals inert places in the fascia of the vertical axis and elsewhere. As we lie on the floor we are in a suspended, not collapsed state—the tonus is slightly relaxed when we lie on the floor. Noticing emergent properties raises awareness of the intrinsic value of the sequence, its purpose, beyond expectations. It helps us move from the biomechanical to the biotensegral body.