Amerika

Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Scientists Supporting “Nurture” Theories Are Less Likely To Believe in The Scientific Method

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

We are told that scientists are our new overlords because they are “objective,” which means a combination of lacking self-interest, not having one team over the other to root for, and being free from the normal superstitions and neuroses that make people unreliable narrators. And yet, none of this is true.

The first thing to know about scientists is that they are employees, but for them, the profit motive is direct. In academia and independent research, those who make the headlines are those who get promoted and eventually get to positions of high salary and high stability.

That in turn means that scientists are dependent on audience. Like politicians, they have constituents, but in this case, the constituents are those who buy the media products that enable those headlines to occur. If there is public interest in some topic, they want scientific heroes, and there is big money in being the next Craig Venter or P.J. Meyers.

What that tells us is that scientists are far from unbiased or lacking in self-interest. On top of that, we are now seeing that their ideological biases — part of finding constituents — are also just as “subjective” as those of anyone else, as a recent study finds that scientists who support theories of nurture over nature tend to disbelieve the scientific method itself:

For instance, on the topic of gender identity, an evolutionary social sciences scholar said: “I believe gender identity reflects a mixture of genetic and culture inputs, with the genetic being somewhat more important”, while a literary studies scholar said: “I agree that biological characteristics play a role in gender-identity formation but I suppose I absolutely disagree that they do so ‘predominantly’”.

Perhaps most worrying, in the sense of undermining hopes of any future consensus on understanding human behaviour and culture, is that the scholars who favoured environmental and cultural explanations for behaviour also tended to doubt the scientific method:

“Human behaviour is not subject to immutable laws, and, therefore, can’t be studied scientifically,” said a religious studies scholar. “Scientific knowledge has something to tell us about material artefacts and their production, but ‘human nature’, ‘human experience’ and ‘human behaviour’ are not empirically stable,” said a literary studies scholar.

The scientific method, a general procedure for verifying the empirical basis for any observation, is the core of science itself. To disbelieve it is like being a Pope who is an atheist, although at this point, we probably have one of those too.

Those who favor “nurture” are the ones who believe that education, training, self-help books, government films and social pressures are more important than genetic ability. That is: they are “magic dirt” believers who think you can take anyone, regardless of genetics, and make him into an ideal citizen.

Naturally, this is a denial of Darwinism, since the theory of natural selection finds that general inclinations toward behaviors are genetically-coded, as are abilities. Nurture plays some role, mostly in that it is possible to damage potential in a child, for example, but nature determines the raw material with which nurture works.

Specifically, intelligence is heritable, and since we now know that many genes contribute to intelligence, it is not possible for a random mutation to make someone a genius. They might have a few of these genes tweaked, but will not get the whole intelligence package, which is why hereditary caste systems are more functional than “meritocracies.”

In the meantime, we can stop worshiping scientists and science because they are clearly just as fallible as any other human effort.

A Modest Proposal To Reverse Ecocide

Friday, September 16th, 2016

rewilding_the_city

So our last edition of Outliers included a depressing factoid. According to an article published in Current Biology we have lost 10% of our planet’s remaining wilderness area in the last 20 years. Here’s the takeaway.

We discovered that a total of 30.1 million km2 (or 23.2% of terrestrial areas) of the world’s land area now remains as wilderness, with the majority located in North America, North Asia, North Africa, and the Australian continent. An estimated 3.3 million km2 has been lost since the early 1990s (approximately a 9.6% loss in two decades; Figure 2), with the most loss occurring in South America (experiencing 29.6% loss) and Africa (experiencing 14% loss).

This would suggest that a lot more human activity is intruding into areas that were once free of primate subjugation. Yet, simultaneously, humans are increasingly abandoning many of our failed cities to the maximum extent they can afford to. So that brings up a question: if humans remove wilderness areas when we spread, why not let wilderness take back over place we decide are undesireable? It’s a good question. Would tree squirrels manage Flint, Michigan much worse than the current state and local governments? I jest, but only to a degree.

When human society decides an area is no longer economically viable for use, why not put it to a God-worthy purpose? Are we not the stewards of all creation? If so, shouldn’t we replace what we no longer find viable? Replenishing that which we exhaust could come in rather handy fifty years hence. I see no reason to believe we won’t burn over the next few patches of turf we inhabit as well. The track record doesn’t guaruntee future performance, but it does give you the best set of probabilites to guide your next wager.

Re-Wilding has recently achieved some success as smarter, more enlightened defenders of nature have made common cause with a variety of philanthropists, outdoorsmen, and corporations looking for public goodwill merged with state and Federal tax breaks. The Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust is one example that gives me an opportunity to brag about people close to home. Ultimately, all the strategizing comes down to one issue. Wilderness that is privately held; by beneficent patrons, that strongly prefer that it remain wild, can best remain perserved.

To make up for De-Wilding, there needs to be a concerted movement in favor of Re-Wilding. Outdooralabama.com^15 maybe. It would have to work something like this.

  1. Potential sites of failed human habitation are evaluated for their ecological potential as recoverable wilderness. The most potentially valuable for species, biome and contribution to global ecological cycles (carbon, The General Circulation, Hydrological Cycle, et al.) are prioritized.

  2. Remaining hold-out humans are incentivized to vacate.

  3. The land is acquired and decontaminated.

  4. Human structures and artificial elements are removed.

  5. The land is then left patiently alone for 25 years until it reverts to its dominant biome.

  6. Ongoing maintenance is supported through low impact, ecologically inexpensive use at a fee.

The Tragedy of The Commons doesn’t occur on private property with robust and enforcable rights. People who care about saving the planet should put their money where their mouth is. Anyone who has read Ecocide In The USSR knows that the CCCP had much stronger governmental environmental laws in force than the US would ever willingly pass. Almost by definition, wilderness will never economically benefit the state unless someone is charged taxes on the land. The more powerful and expensive the state, the worse it will be penalized when land remains uninhabited wilderness.

If we want land to be wild, we will increasingly have to take that land and recreate it into such a state. That is the increasing cost of heading off the ecological form of soft apocalypse.

At The End Of The Day, You Must Choose Beauty Or Randomness

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

dog_nose

All people who wish to find reality should venture toward a forest.

There, they will look out over a vista of the chaotic… and yet sensible. Everything here has a place, and these places incorporate chance, rather than assuming it does not exist.

At this point, logically, we have a choice in analyzing our perception. Either this vast abundant nature is the result of materiality itself, and randomness, or it is the presence of a Will, a force which leads not just toward life but toward Good.

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that mathematically, randomness does not exist — every effect must have a cause — we can look at this as a complex question. Something created all of this, either itself or a divine force, or both. Could a divine force choose to sleep so that it might dream something like this?

In the last hours of the day, nature is either animate or inanimate. The animate includes some sense of Will or purpose; the inanimate supposes that matter was created — and we know not the means — and just ended up this way.

And yet, there are hummingbirds and eagles in addition to sparrows. There are flowers more beautiful than what is merely required to attract bees. This is the opposite of corporate, or doing the minimum to achieve the bottom line, and more resembles the art and architecture of the past that sought to exalt life.

Here a choice must be made.

Does God exist? Or is all simply random, despite randomness not existing in nature?

We can presuppose it is all arbitrary, of course, and nothing will contradict us. One cannot prove a negative. And all of this could have occurred via a computer loop intensively cycling out of control, and yet…

And yet… it seems to have aimed for the best. For the most beautiful, good and true. That implies a will, or at least a mathematical tendency toward the good, which we cannot quantify.

The greatest in history have taken their stand. Chaos is a servant of the Will, and the Will tends toward making greatness where emptiness previously resided.

At this point, it becomes impossible to accede to atheism, and while no force pushes us inexorably toward theism, there is a lingering sense that something animates all of this.

Animate or inanimate. It distills to that question.

When one is young, and the many factors that go into decisions of this nature remain unknown, randomness seems possible. It Just Is. And yet, as time passes, and one sees how much human intentions go awry, and how nothing is random…

When night falls
she cloaks the world
in impenetrable darkness.
A chill rises
from the soil
and contaminates the air
suddenly…
life has new meaning.

We live in a world of mystery and magic, invisible to our material means.

In it, some force of unknown dimension pursues a greater level of organization, or a greater beauty.

Perhaps we call it nature, or God, or logic…

But it is there, and we are fools if we deny it.

Is God Both Friend And Enemy?

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

the_creation_of_adam

Nietzsche is famous for saying “God is dead” meaning “we” killed God. A different approach might have been to say that God could be either a friend “or” a foe (because being a foe we would have to kill Him). However, thinking that God is “both” friend and foe boggles the mind and would be a contradiction.

With this in mind, news in more recent times related to Senator McCain being asked by Senator Gohmert to “take a rest in Arizona” (referencing overdue retirement). This happened because of McCain’s support for unsafe American (global) policies. The contradiction exhibited by individuals such as Senator McCain, was described as:

“we owe them all a debt of gratitude…

…Yet that does not give any one person the right to do harm to our country from a legislative position nor to put others in peril around the world by ill-conceived policy.”

In some countries it is illegal to work past the retirement age although it is possible to do a different job after retiring. However, Sen McCain is seventy-nine years old and he persists in pushing for yet another election as if four prior elections were not good enough. But still, some politicians by virtue of their wisdom might feel obliged to serve (their) people in their late years.

The problem is that Senator McCain lost his wisdom, or maybe even never had it, since he was always the maverick (already in capture which apparently continued to the end of his career), ending up his working life serving something else. He was neither the first nor the last that will happen to. Not that change is wrong (to be honest) – but sometimes it is.

One other example (of changing your expert opinion) is the South African sports scientist Dr. Tim Noakes that became known for his 1985 book on the “Lore of Running” and then in his early retirement, made a controversial “u-turn on fat vs carbo-hydrates” . Basically he wants me to eat fat (now), despite advice to the contrary from my dietician.  Maybe for others he is not wrong, but for me, he is.

The common ground between McCain and Noakes is that in the beginning they were right for “some” while in their retirement they are right for “others.” Another point where they coincide is that they affect not just “their own” people, but everyone. They obviously think they are still the same person they always were and I would agree, but that is also where the catch is. On the one hand they are the friend while on the other they might have become the foe. (Same person, same guy).

In working life one could easily find the same with colleagues. For example, things will go smoothly when a colleague is in good spirits, but under stress the environment changes his/her temperament (either slowly or quickly), where it can happen that a complete (permanent) turnaround may occur. In other words, instead of working with you, he/she works for the competitor.

Little children show similar tendencies (on a daily basis). One example is that one kid would call another a “friend” to play with, subsequently changing completely by exclaiming that “you’re not my friend anymore” and “I’m not playing with you anymore.” They also extrapolate this to the old “let’s play house” game where they get “married, have kids while looking after grandparents,” but one week later they are not married anymore, because the girl picked another boy she wants to marry, and so the boy picks another girl –- right? That is permanent because neither of these two will ever play that game with each other again.

Are such contradictions possible in nature? Recently a century old tortoise started looking after a baby hippopotamus. This may be heart-warming, but nature is full of contradictions such as day/night and predator/prey. These contradictions are permanent and cannot be overcome, but the hippo is not going to eat the tortoise when it is fully grown. The point in nature is that some days are a lot darker than others and sometimes the predator becomes the prey.

So allow me to return to God and whether you believe in God is not the issue. One has to believe nature and if nature can change, then humans can change, and thus organizations can change. In fact the same nature, the same human, the same organization and the same God can change. God can save, but he can also punish, regardless of whether we understand it. Perhaps it would be better to accept and understand the change, rather than God. He might just become your foe despite being the same “you” and the same “God.”

The lesson for me is rather that change is not a step-function and therefore not binary either, because at least two things change simultaneously: the hippo and the tortoise and man and nature. In that sense God (and my nature) will always be my friend.

The Animal In Man And The Logic In Nature

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

Over at SoloPassion, Linz opines:

…I asked where Objectivism allowed for the animality in man, the “rational” animal.

Objectivism’s failure is its contention that any conflict between the two elements is illusory—a mere error in thinking; that they are fundamentally, metaphysically harmonious and the trick is to strip away the illusory barriers to their being in harmony. It’s a bit more difficult than that. It’s a matter of identifying and acknowledging without philosophical qualm that certain elements of our animality are vicious and destructive and just downright stupid … and given; while others, when informed by mindfulness, are not only joyous and intelligent but contain the seeds of our next evolutionary leap.

Objectivism’s failure is that it is both total nonsense, and correct on many points. As a philosophy, Randian Objectivism is gibberish, but as a capitalist restatement of Nietzsche, it is wholly accurate — and often terrifyingly insightful about the nature of the Left. This is not surprising, since Ayn Rand was born Alyssa Rosenbaum in Russia and watched as the Bolsheviks stole and dismantled her family’s business and failed to replace it with a functional option. She knows the Left because she has seen them unleashed.

But let us ask: is there an animal in man, and is it a logical animal? This leads to the other question: is nature logical, or can man do better?

I suggest that here we are imposing a category of good/bad onto a situation that is best measured in degree and degree over time. Nature thrives because it works under any circumstances, and slowly builds itself to higher levels. This is what is meant by degree: natural methods always work, but have the ability to do better when we act according to the same type of barebones literalistic realism that nature employs.

For example, rats in cages will eat each other if not fed. Humans might avoid doing the same in the hope of escape, knowing that they might be just around the corner from escape and that if not, eating others to prolong their own survival for a few more days would not help anything. At the same time, this can become a “pretense” or social signal through moral posture of being above such acts, when sometimes they are the right thing to do.

People trapped in a cabin over winter might eat each other in order to survive until spring. If you have a malevolent sociopath (as opposed to a benevolent sociopath like myself) among you, killing and eating him is a good solution. In warfare we kill; we kill bad people; to achieve good ends, one must often be evil, which is the conservative ends-over-means calculus (the Leftist ends-over-means calculus is that no sacrifice is too great to advance the Glorious Egalitarian Ideology, comrade, and if this means you die in horrible ways, we thank you for your sacrifice).

If the animal in man is illogical, then nature too is illogical. And yet nature works better than all of our “rational” designs. Human civilizations tend to collapse at the height of their rationality, and so far, there are no survivors, just a long trail of civilization-corpses. Maybe rationalism is a dead end, and the order of animals is more logical? And that if we are going to surpass it, we need to first understand it, then construct our version of it, instead of simply insisting that our feelings are more real and we need to act according to social sensations like compassion, fear, affection and the like?

One commenter adds a significant rebuttal:

Objectivism, as is the case for all Classical Liberal derived philosophies, is a blank slate worldview. This is a big problem; the source of *all* the problems we’ve seen in its history. Blank slatism leads to views that are consistent with both social constructivism and environmental determinism; ie it leads to views that are the same as those held by the Left (and by that I mean both the Left and the Neo-Conservative Progressive Right).

Excellent point. The assumption of people being equal/identical/interchangeable or otherwise “the same inside” (we all bleed Red, etc.) is the foundation of demotism, and it is expressed in politics through democracy, in business through consumerism — often funded by the welfare state, in sexuality through female promiscuity, and in socializing by the “we must all get along” kindergarten-teacher school of management. All of these make the same error, one which nature — being more logical than rational — does not make.

Midwinter

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

midwinter

Another big storm engulfs Britain. The third – they say – in a month. Or engulfs America. Or any other place, either likely, or unlikely. Even middle eastern deserts are not immune. Why is this happening? What could be wrong? What can we do about it?

People cower in darkness, and shiver. Their convenient and comfortable homes instantly reduced to dank and dingy caves. No television. No radio. No internet. A turkey still to cook…
Calamity!

People fume, stacked rows-deep in airport chairs, designed specifically to deny any of them the chance to lie supine. Waiting, and becoming angrier by the minute. How dare whoever-is-to-blame! How DARE they!

Trains stop, and decline to keep to schedule. Buses are cancelled. Nothing moves over the slick, icy roads.
Don’t they KNOW it’s Christmas?

Not enough snowplows. Too little salt. Workers on strike for ever more of what they already have, and slowly, sporadically at first, people begin to die.

Birds sit huddled in frigid trees, doing what they have always done, since the dawn of time.
Animals too. To any remaining wild thing, it is business as usual, only somewhat tougher than usual. They too die sometimes. But this, to them, is absolutely normal, and only to be expected.

It’s called ‘winter’.

People once feared it, and worked their bodies to the bone to prepare for it. They knew of its coming, and knew, too, that unprepared, they would probably not survive it.
Funny that: lately nobody prepares for it. Almost nobody. Few even remember what it really is: the time of death.

Money doesn’t make it go away. Neither does bravado. Or anger. Or stupidity.
Nothing makes it go away. Only patience and fortitude ease its ponderous passage.

Somewhere, a man who has done all he could, and fearing it may not be enough, turns to his wife and whispers:
“I don’t know… I don’t know if we are going to make it…”
His wife raises a smile, filled with love and courage, and soothes his anxiety:
“You’ve done all you could, my dear. You’ve done your best. We will, or we won’t. Either way, where goest thou, there will I go, with thee.”

And winter falls, upon them, and upon the Earth, covering all with pure white snow.
Who but people could ever think they owned it?

Pariah

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

ancient_remains

It occurs to me that you cannot put a dollar value on truth. People pay for “information,” which is true knowledge, but not for a sense of truth itself, that is to say, an assessment on a situation that cannot be solved by raw information itself. What about a column of numbers can solve the questions of life, or invent where there was nothing before? Truth is not information, which means it must compete with news-entertainment. News-entertainment has no obligation to truth, as its goal is to interest people not educate them, thus truth is entirely cut out of our modern equation.

This is probably for the best. No one wants to be caught “selling” truth. Psst, buddy, wanna buy the secrets of life? Interestingly, this would probably be an optimum way to hide the best truths we have, as only those to whom no one would listen would buy truth from a streetvendor in a trenchcoat. Truth is effectively reduced to this level anyway, since spending time caring about truth instead of what sells puts you at a disadvantage. The only space our society has for truth-seeking is as a hobby. Yes, in your spare time, hunt down that truth. In the meantime, people want televisions with genital-activated remotes! This Is Important.

We don’t know what nature is. To some it means green ridges of trees outside the subdivision. To others it’s wide open spaces somewhere they still have such things, like in Africa or Appalachia or on the moon maybe. Still others use it scientifically to refer to “nature” as all those wild and wonderful chemical reactions that somehow result in things as varied as bacon for breakfast and the emotion we call “love” (note: love can also not be sold, only the symbols of it, in which a brisk trade has been flourishing since the dawn of humanity). Nature if you really think about it means the universe all together, as this big mysterious process that has somehow brought us into existence from the void.

Nature, as this big process, is better understood by us as “rules” or tendencies than as a physical thing. How do you fist fight the universe? It’s not going to come if you challenge it. It’s already there. Nature in this sense stops for no one, because all things are governed by its rules, much like we cannot help that we act sometimes like our parents, even if we drink until we slur our words. Fight nature is like challenging language to a debate. Nature stops for no one and will just as happily roll over us like a Sherman tank as it will bless us with long and happy lives.

What decides who lives, and who dies? Gruff scientific types bark out something about “Darwinism” and the Christians, holding their severed genitals in latex-gloved hands, sing in angelic voices that God decides everything and we can just go along with it, hum a favorite tune, think of England and enjoy it as best we can. What decides who lives or dies is how well that someone is adapted to nature, or the universe, or reality, or truth, if you want to get picky about language. Whatever it is – it is what is – and those who figure it out live and those who don’t die or have other bad consequences. Another way to put it is that if you smear bear pheremones on your ass and bend over in front of a grizzly, don’t be surprised if you get sodomized.

Each of us has a world in his head. This world is like our outside world, but it is our memory and perception of it, and like a photograph of a summer day it captures a certain angle of gist of reality but not reality itself. That world is the conduit through which we experience reality, because the instant that passes must be stored as knowledge, and all our knowledge comes from our senses as filtered through our judgment. So life becomes a process of having a more accurate world in one’s head (truth) or finding a world one prefers, whether drugs or television or religion or incoherent, neuter-positivist thinking (everything will work alright if I just get a Gold Card). Our internal worlds all have different degrees of truth to them.

When an internal world moves far away from rationality, the mind does not have a problem with it. Only later when the physical body has to deal with the negative consequences of an irrational approach to life does the mind get reminded that it was off-base. If someone neglects to prepare for winter, they cannot will their way past a lack of firewood or food. They die. Similarly depart people who try to find buried landmines with sledgehammers, feed bears raw steak, or smoke while filling up their tanker trucks. When people lament the inundation with functional morons that is a hallmark of modern society, it is too easy to point out that getting a job, credit card and apartment is much easier than surviving a night in the forest, and quality of humanity has declined inversely to the rise of technology.

To be a pariah, in this time, is to assert the kind of truth that can kill people who do not understand it. If you see a room full of people confronted with a new baffling object, many will pretend to understand it, others will pretend to be disinterested, and still others will actually investigate it. The last group is the smallest. These are the ones who act deliberately. Deliberate people are not surprisingly unthreatened by the idea of reality existing and themselves having the possibility of assessing it incorrectly and thus being penalized. Those who are not deliberate, and are not sure their vision of reality is accurate, are threatened and simultaneously invent fantasy worlds in which to mentally reside and become underconfident.

It is this conflict of worlds-within-worlds, or mental visions of the world at large, that humanity finds itself stranded, because with the enhanced capabilities of intelligent life comes great demands for accuracy in perceiving the world at large. It is a race for the intellectual ability to see life as it is, and while the winners do not get rewarded at the instant they complete it, they gain an endurance which far outstrips the ability of those who are in denial (fantasy worlds) or shirking the task (underconfidence, laziness, dishonesty). The winners become pariahs in the illusion-worlds of others because to have a winner present who can remind them of reality is offensive, and they see truth itself as intolerant, elitist, even hateful.

So for now society is upside down, because the winners are pariahs and the losers are kings. The people who live a lie find it easier to adapt to this upside down world because they don’t expect truth or logic in the first place, and are generally so negative and underconfident they gladly settle for a few basic things crowned with gaudy distractions. These pariahs are the ultimate realists, and they laugh at the losers. You think you’ve stolen my power? they say. You think your fantasy world somehow changes the fact that the world is out there, and for all the theory we can concoct about relativity or ideals, it is acting as it normally does? Reality is on my side.

I am the laughing amoralist, our pariah says. I am the one who not only understands reality but likes the way it operates, having looked far enough into the levels of its complexity to see why it does what it does, and to realize that in the long term that type of order is better than our human wishes. Morons would make the world out of dessert foods and gold, and then lapse into an entropy of ambition because their imagination ends with riches and sugar. Pariah-realists are glad for the coldness of winter, the difficult of valued tasks, the rarity of good things. I am the laughing amoralist, our pariah says. You think you’ve got me cornered in your illusion-world, but really, all you’re doing is digging your own grave.

The summation of this situation is a cascade of summations which add up to a great weakness: a species is born, becomes powerful, and drifts into illusion that lessening its power at the same time the forces it set into motion with its wealth become dangerous. It has exported its strength to its external mechanisms, where machines or learning written down or social constructions, and now what is inside has atrophied and become flabby. The force of will and self-discipline and confidence that is needed to create in this life is draining away, being replaced with a short-term-cycle of desires counterpointing fears leading to a will only toward escape, distraction and other activity that dissipates focused energy. It is a path to doom, for those who take this illusion as reality.

When all the lights are extinquished, and when there are no frontiers toward which one can run, the illusionists will have to face what the pariah has long kept inside, which is the nature of the beast which affirms the need for conflict in life and for predation and struggle. We accept reality and its adversity, us pariahs, because we know that the machines and mass media and popularity contests of society made it easier to pick illusion over reality. Our endurance builds and we grow stronger, while the illusionists become more dependent on the illusion. The illusionists see only their machines and social order, and beyond it, there is the monster and the beast within. Pariahs have the beast within and so do not fear the forest, whether outside or in our souls.

For those who uphold the illusion, time is running out as the impact of humanity’s changes on the planet and on itself are being seen. The illusion is flickering as if its projector was short of oil or dropping a bearing; the illusionists themselves are losing strength, and have no way to regain it, since the illusion was always untrue and waited only time to reveal its transparency. And the pariahs, long kicked around and denied because they saw a world outside that world on which others agreed, aka the social illusion, are gaining power as consciousness of reality comes back.

The pariah, the laughing amoralist, turns to the illusionist and says, Well, you’ve had your run, and it’s not coming back for awhile, because it’s now apparent that you’ve blown it. Just like George W. Bush had presidential power unchecked until he made a disaster out of that power, the illusionists have had their day, and through their own actions and not those of another have proved themselves incompetent and destructive. Reality has always been there and it gains strength, showing us that the laughing amoralist pariah was right the whole time. Seeing that, the pariah says offhandedly, “And you want to be nice to us, for we are the ones who will make your graves, now that winter has come.”

The First World War

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

open_skies

Before we become depressed by the horrors of our time, let us imagine it — from the perspective of the natural world…

Of all the birds, Rock Dove remains a mystery. His spirit is elusive, and any time a rock dove is seen, you can feel that he is winking, sharing a mystery. And here is his story.

Long before the dominion of humans, birds ruled the earth because of their powers of flight. The first birds took advantage of this and were fierce, giant predators that descended at screaming speeds to carry off their crying victims, as all knew that once in the air even escape meant death by falling.

Over time, some of these vicious predators started wanting the easy life, and living off fruit and nuts like the infinite tiny mammals they plundered, and these grew numerous because it is far easier to find seeds and berries than it is to hunt all day for several moments of howling pursuit in which the small creature chased is often blessed by a nearby hole in the earth.

From these birds came the pigeons, and from a particularly freewilled tribe of otherwise cowlike pigeons came the spirit that became Rock Dove. Like his pigeon cousins, Rock Dove liked the easy life, but as if recalling some lost ancestor, his spirit loved the thrill of pursuit. As rock doves are smaller than hawks, however, this time the thrill was in evasion.

Rock Dove was a powerful spirit, and engendered many birds, but at first they were far from inspiring: black, bold pigeons with broader wings. Rock Dove, when he dreamed, dreamt of more powerful wings and faster flight, and over time all the new rock doves in the world had these bigger wings. This started the first world war, as we know it today, because this made them bigger and more visible targets for eagles.

From his roost in the darkness of the aether, Rock Dove saw the daily fight when eagles dropped from above on silent wings and carried off another bird with plaintive creel. The others huddled closer on their branches, but Rock Dove went deeply into his dream. In his dream he saw thinner bodies with the same proportion of wing, and as the new generations of rock doves were born, this came about.

Now faster than most birds, rock doves could dive under the eagles in pursuit and make it to earth where eagles were loathe to dive (you try rushing at a small target among spiny cacti or sharp dry twigs; your own weight becomes an enemy if you so much as touch a splinter at that speed). In his timeless sleep, Rock Dove grinned. On flat rocks and empty limbs across earth, rock doves sent forth their humming song.

Far above, the Eagles also dreamed, and the war went from a sitting combat to active. “We’ll take them at their roosts,” voiced the Eagle-spirit. “They’re sitting ducks, if you pardon my pun.” The next morning rock doves everywhere pecked at food and were taken — from the leafy twigs of trees, from their resting places on the rocks and amidst the pebbles. Rock Dove frowned in sleep.

The losses were massive — or magnificent, if you were an eagle. Blood stained the flat rocks and vacant limbs of the prairies. In darkness Rock Dove grimaced. He had lost a generation, at least, of his best, sent to their deaths against something they could not have expected. His claws tensed on the branches of earth. While his heart was sick, his spirit was not, and Rock Dove dreamed again — a dream of fighting.

Thus was the first race for military technology born. The few remaining rock doves huddled in safe places, hatching eggs that brought forth brown and then tan and then light grey-tan offspring. These were thinner, faster and lighter than their parents, and best of all, they were hard to see.

Rock Dove knew in his dream that our eyes — any ideas — must be designed to grasp the gist of a situation without getting enmired in detail quickly, or they are useless in a world of fast-moving prey and predator alike. When an eye looks at the mottled surface of rocks, or the speckled skin of trees, it sees the pattern and not every detail. And now, as he dreamed it, rock doves fit into that pattern.

Above eagles crowed in victory. “We have obliterated the enemy,” said one triumphantly. But their celebration ended early when they found rock doves no longer easy to catch, and had to move on to other birds and tiny mammals. These in turned dreamed in fathomless sleep and began to change from their bright colors into the dusky spectrum of earth. It was no longer easy to be an eagle.

Rock Dove remains in his sleep, watchful but aware there are some things he can only outlast but not directly fight. So it is with war. But in the first world war, he had triumphed despite defeat, because his spirit did not give in where his heart was weak. So it is with all wars: your losses will be sorrowful but if you stay on the path of your dream, your victory — even despite defeat — will be eternal.

Suddenly it is clear not only how to dry our weary eyes, but what we must do in the future…

Nature is a Bug-Wrecking Factory

Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

the_green_hills_of_earth

In New York, they cannot imagine why someone would choose to live in heathen, dirty, uneducated, Republican Texas. It is simply so un-hip, unglamorous, and the shopping has nothing on fifth avenue. When, as good nihilists, we strip aside all the social pretense and morality and politics, we can see Texas as it actually is, which is a good-sized chunk of land that contains at least five distinct ecosystems, and infinite numbers of wonderfully bizarre bugs.

Specially adapted, these species occupy niches in the environment which are still unknown to science, and their shapes and colors reveal this position. Strange mandibles rise above serrated limbs, and wings come in innumerate shades of translucent color. You can wander through these woods in summer and see a new kind each day without even trying, although you will be trying to swat away the impressively bellicose mosquitoes. Each variety has its own form as inspired by what it eats and what it avoids.

There are moths that you cannot tell from tree bark until they move. Cicadas dwell underground for seventeen years, then emerge as gnarled warmachines with razorlike claws, worthy of an underground Japanese monster movie. Worms drop silently from silk enshrouded branches, and multitudinous ants move under a layer of leaves, invisible. Praying mantises like wrought iron stand immoble until their prey is exactly within striking range, and then they obliterate the present tense because suddenly their stillness is past, as is their strike; they dwell patiently in the future, eating or waiting, because their movements are too quick to be captured in current time.

There are giant beetles with pincers bigger than any limb, spiders brightly colored as if to warn enemies like children shouting into dark rooms, wasps that hover and paralyze their victims, carrying them off to become zombified food for imminent young. Not only is Texas home to millions of bugs that, once you see how their form mates to a function, are beautiful, it is also a gigantic mixed martial arts competition between bugs. Nature makes them, and out of the eggs they stream, violent and vigilant, ready for war. When they collide, one sees the strength of each design matched against an equally strong will, and that which has the advantage wins. Nature at these moments is an enormous bug-wrecking factory, as if searching through uncountable possible blueprints for the future of each type.

It is not only militant, but playful, because these bugs are without emotion when they grapple. They perform it as a function like eating, seeming to relish every moment of stalking their prey and then sucking out its innards or embalming it in strands, stabbing through its exoskeleton to inject parasitic larvae. It is a dance, when these bugs confront one another, through the detritus of the forest floor or high above on the lichen-speckled branches of ancient trees. They show no fear, or anger, but move toward it like any other fate that waits them, as if more curious to see what happens than concerned about their own mortality. They live, and die, without blinking in the stare of eternity.

This reminds me that whatever force created this universe is present in all things, as if each of us were a device driver or daemon running on a giant UNIX system, and that in its purest gaze, nature is not afraid of death because it does not die, even if its objects are destroyed and consumed. It is eternal, and whatever force engendered and sustains it grants consciousness to its bugs much as to its humans, aware that when they die, consciousness flows back into the whole and then out again to a new set of creatures. Life cannot die (barring ecocide by selfishly individualistic humans) but death is one of the colors of its palette, an unavoidable ochre to stain the canvas so that a watcher might feel an emotion in the contrast as the eye passes over form and vision, a story unfolding.

Like us, the bugs fight it out, neither creating or destroying, but preserving an eternal balance which affords consciousness avatara in which it can exist perpetually. Selfless and fearless, bugs engage in combat knowing that their deaths are meaningless, in that through the massive digital computer of nature their designs are slowly tested in architectonic millions of ways, bettering them at every increment. Through these better designs, the machine of life becomes more efficient, leaking less energy through inexact tradeoffs, and pumping life back into its origin so that life can return eternal. There is a massive spiritual peace in war and death as in a sunny day or the birth of a doe, and it is all as natural as our angers and fears and loves.

In the ancient religion of my forefathers, which some call Paganism and others Hinduism, there were many gods but all things came from the same godhead, which was like a great brooding consciousness not outside of the world but present in all of it; it does not exist outside of reality as we know it, but through its will, manifests that reality and thus comes into observable being. It does not judge, and while it makes flamboyantly specialized creatures and thrusts them into neverending war, it is creating while it destroys, and destroying in order to create. It alone is a perfect balance. When I walk in the woods and see nature’s bug-wrecking factory, I am looking into the parentage of the gods and man and nature alike, and it touches my heart with appreciation for the genius of life.

RESIST ECOCIDE

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