Ah, the noble stag, majestically ruling its wild kingdom in parallel to the worlds of men. Here you can see a young mule deer buck framed against a hillside sculpted by humans into muck. If you are a human and not a Google Bot looking at this, do notice the exquisite metal sky put up to keep the stags from floating up off the earth into the pinot gris. Majestic! Romantic, too. Here’s a stag posing nobly beside a waterline that delivers water across the weed belt (Except for a couple sages, there are no native plants in this image.) into the gewürztraminir and pinot noir plots.
Again, if you’re a bot, this is probably lost on you, but if you’re a human the scene will likely give you a sense of complete satisfaction. After all, that bottle of plonk you had with dinner last night was romantically created out of just this romance. Here’s the big picture: two stags wandering through the wasteland. Nothing to eat for miles, except some bushes down in a ravine and, um, well, the predators hang out there, too, so you’d have to be a porcupine to feed on anything down there.
Locally, these are called problem deer. Here’s one of them 2 evenings ago, as the sun was going down, pulling the purple, red and orange colours out of the sage. As for the sage, yes, it’s native, but that amount of sage is a result of over-grazing and under-burning. Yup, you got it right: weeds, again. This is on the edge of that ravine no self-respecting deer would enter (you have to cross the freaking coyote trail just to get down into the deeps). You got it. Nothing to eat for miles.
The kings of the wild are living in a new wilderness: Weed Planet! That’s what we have made. It is an image of ourselves and an image of the poverty of our social and scientific understandings. One might think human kind has completely lost its mind. No. Look. I found it. Yesterday!
Grasses are the children of a warming earth, and this is their season. I’ve been talking of science lately, but a science based in poetry and in ancient earth knowledge, so I thought today, walking out in the grass, hey, why not show you the magic of the grass? Have a look!
What a beautiful one! It’s fair to say that what I, a human, observe as beauty is not necessarily aesthetic, yet is attractive, in the sense that it completes patterns and completes me as an observer. The ways in which it does so, through colour, shape, form or just presence, are gifted by Western culture to art. Don’t be fooled by that. Art and science are not distinct pursuits.
The human body is a measuring device. What does it measure? Why, that other thing that has been excluded from science: spirit. There is no way to define spirit. That’s kind of the point. Nonetheless, it can be measured, through artfulness and the aesthetic sense of humans, birds, insects, fish and much more.
Science is a cultural product, no less so than this:
Canadian Garden Decoration, Orchard Hill
Not only has the lion lain down with the lamb but it looks like one, too!
That it is taken to be an expression of a thing called “reality” is as much a cultural product as this:
Sometimes, this cultural reality looks like this:
In this case, it is called beauty, or at least “nature”, if it is expressed in a category called “Art” and “drought” (and “nature” too) if expressed in the cultural category called “science”. So it is, and so it will remain until the gap between these categories and experience becomes so great that people can’t bear the strain any longer. If you have been following me in this blog, I think you know that I am suggesting that this time is now.
The Strain (Apple Harvest), Bella Vista
Workers from the Caribbean are doing this work in Canada because Canadians…well, they don’t want to. When I was young, I looked at work like this as the pinnacle of human activities. I talked to the workers here. They look at it as better than sitting at home on the couch.
Over the last few days, I have been talking about phenomenological science, or the science of experience, the science in which the things of the earth are expressed in the language of the earth, and I promised to show you what has been done so far to make practical things out of this science. Here’s one. See these choke cherries, before their blossoms have opened in the spring?
Very green, huh! Well, take a look at them four months later!
See how the green has transform itself into concentrations of red. Those are fruitfulness. They are attractive, in the way magnets are. Now, take a look two months later yet (this evening, just before dark, in the rain)…
Now the green leaves are red, and the power of attraction attributed to the fruit has concentrated in the leaves. This is the science of the emotional effects of colour on humans. It has been well studied. Goethe’s studies of these effects led as well to the entire science of colour, and all of its artistic, health and industrial applications. This vast industry was created not because of Newtonian science and its ability to split light but because of a more poetic form of science, which used the observations of poetry to suggest completely alternate uses for colour, which traditional science, or at least the technologies rising from its methods, exploited. That is part of our inheritance. Now, take a look at this:
Asparagus, Bella Vista
The patterns of redness tell a story. Reading it accurately can lead to new applications. Traditional science would do a good job of this. It would observe the variation in the plant’s ripeness, and the contrast between the variably reddening fruits and the variably yellowing ferns, and would set up a series of tests to determine what is causing the variability. Phenomenological science would not rush into that procedure, but would spend more time observing the patterning, and would relate it to the other patterns of the plant. Different observers will make differing observations. Mine might be to see these effects as part of a story of water, which included the other plants surrounding this one, and the set up of a series of observations to explore the relationships inherent in that. Other observers would, no doubt, come up with other points, but they would all extend the boundaries of scientific exploration and understanding, and give it new material to work with, rather than merely the working out of already known patterns. Throughout history, these two tensions, the drive for codification and the drive for extension, have been in continually regenerating dynamic relationships. Tomorrow, I will show you some of those.
You could say that with their webs they are creating artificial gravity. It can be quite complex.
These cottonwood catkins are harvesting pollen from the air. They are using gravity as part of the process.
You could say they are using gravity to harvest the air. The apple tree below is a creature of gravity. It uses gravity to transform vertical branches into productive horizontal ones, and to deliver its fruits to the ground.
Its fruits are creatures of the earth, born in the air. The tree is a creature of the air, anchored to earth. Gravity is also expressed through these cottonwood leaves, even in their colour, even in their twigs.
Can all this be explained by genetics? Yes. Can it all be portrayed equally as gravity? Yes. There are many examples of how to live within gravity and how to harvest it. Weightlessness is not the point.
I promised I would talk about practical applications for science based on observing the world in its own language. (This is commonly called phenomenological science, but I’m trying to find a simpler expression for that.) Better just to jump right in! OK, so here’s my wasp and her grub.
1. We could talk about the wasp laying her eggs in the living grub, so it can incubate her eggs and then provide food for her larvae. This is an evolutionary strategy. Discussions of this kind of science have so far lead to methods of using wasps for pest control.
2. We could talk about how the wasp is doing on a multicellular level what cancer does on a cellular level. This is an ecological strategy. It means a couple things. First, that the wasp has randomly found a successful approach that allows it to survive across generations by using surrogates. Second, that it is even possible to consider higher orders of life operating as cancers. Discussions of the latter kind of science will lead to technologies that use living hosts to transmit genetic material across boundaries that would otherwise destroy it. For the wasp it is winter. For humans, it is what we can imagine. Travel to Mars, perhaps. Deep sea travel. Who knows. Currently, such technology is most prevalent in cancer treatment and in computer virus transmission. Pretty aggressive military stuff. Note that the wasp does not have a military strategy. There are alternate technologies within that.
3. We could talk about the wasp as a wasp. It lifts this grub, with intent, and moves it through gargantuan expenditures of energy. To the wasp, this is not a grub. It is a reproductive chamber. It is its self and all its future. A human mother might look at a house in much the same way. The existence of a creature with this degree of intent, with, as well, a tiny nervous system and brain, should be enough to challenge human notions of identity and superiority. If the wasp can do all this with a tiny nervous system, what is our huge nervous system for? Variability? Potentiality? Is each of us all the wasps in the world?
And here I should stop, because it’s obvious what’s going on: in each case, technological application are easily applicable, yet they are always on the order of observing a behaviour, abstracting principles from it, and applying them to new circumstances, in machine-type ways. However, the wasp is just a wasp. The technology should be applicable in a wasp-fashion, or even in a human fashion, without resorting to technology. That’s just a language (and a powerful one at that.) What if there were a different language? What if we stopped thinking about the wasp and evolution and all that jazz? What if we looked at where she lives?
The forest boundary berry of the Northwest. (Here, it’s growing on a lakeshore.)
Now we have three players: wasp, grub and kinnikinnic. Might as well throw in the stump, too. And the carpenter ants (no doubt) within it. And the grubs tunnelling (no doubt) under its bark. And the bear who comes by every few years, maybe, to shred the stump looking for them. If we think of them all together, then there is no evolutionary strategy, on behalf of the wasp, but, rather, a balance strategy. There are threads of energy in this environment. Evolutionary science reads them as competitive pressures, leading to temporary balances. What if they were balances, which led to temporary competitive pressures? Such an approach to science would lead to different medical technologies, one which included the artistry of its practioners. What if there were no individual species present here, but, rather, a constellation of species, that might be differently constituted elsewhere? Would not balance provide the stories, then, rather than evolution? Might it not lead to technologies which included points of balance? Usually, such technologies are called religions, but what if devices could be made that, in accordance with human input, could deliver individual results, depending on what a person needed? Would this technology be a kind of amulet? Yes, I think so, and I think this would, again, commonly be defined as a religion. Might it, not, however, be a form of psychology? Might the way forward for psychological science be not ESP and other measurable (or not) effects on matter, but on its ability to change the observer, so that he or she observed different material and thus had before himself or herself a different set of possibilities? Why not. Just a metre away from our wasp and her grub are the tiny fish among these stones, and the algae growing on them.
Yes, there are fish. Look again, if you missed them.
Lake and shore. Two different environments… or is that just a human bias? What if they are one, and the force that creates the wasp creates these young trout? What is their balance point? What is their surrogate, if they have one? The technology that comes out of such questions will lead to a healthy planet. We really do have to choose. Technology can be a set of mechanical tools. It can also be a set of energies. Those energies are not limited to the exchange of electrons to transfer electrical signals to effect certain results. What if the earth were your brain? What if its most important work were to stop action rather than to create it? That’s not a suggestion to stop action, by the way, but to transfer it into balance. This is why the scientist-poet Goethe said we should stop listening to Newton. That was 200 years ago. I think it’s about time. What are the technologies? I don’t know, but I promise, they are as large as the set created by Newtonian science. Some already exist. I’ll walk about some of those in my next post. Thanks for swimming with the fish with me!
Last week, I was speaking about alternative science. This week I am going to be talking about some practical applications of it. But first, one final illustration, because I find it so beautiful, and I like sharing beautiful things.
Here’s the scene as transmitted by air.
Both are images of light. One is transmitted by water, and contains the energy flows within water. Life, of course, is carbon, water, and energy (or light). This is close:
It just needs some carbon, to hold it in place. Yes, there is life on earth. It is the earth. That’s the point. To find life on Mars, one must first understand Mars. What one finds will be totally alien. That’s the point. Life on other planets? Earth is another planet. That’s the point.
There are many ways to talk about the earth. One is to speak about it in its own terms. Take the word height, which means hill and head all at once. It’s related to the word stick, which means point, and gives us spear, tip, spike, spit, stalk, stake, and so on. All these “meanings” branch from the same root, which is a sense of rising up in a manner both physical and spiritual at the same time.
Height Attracts Height
American Gold Finch (with a head) on a Sunflower Head. Note that the goldfinch’s head has a head (tip, point, beak) of its own, as does its wings, as do its feet. It is all height. Is there any wonder it takes to the air?
These are ancient ways of seeing embedded in language, but still alive for all that and worth dwelling in for a moment. If, for instance, we add the word open to that height, we get a rowan tree, reaching for the light.
Note that it has reached past the light into the dark centre of the sky. This is an effect of a fall day (which places more light at the horizon than up high) and signifies the beginning of the tree’s new balance with light, with is commonly called Autumn or Fall. As the light falls to the earth, so do its representations on the Earth, the leaves.
It pays to state the obvious when speaking of the earth with the earth. Notice how the rowan above has leaves that open off of its tip (aka head, stick, stalk, prick or spike). They form about half of the volume of the stalk. They will be shed with the cold.
Most of the leaves are gone.
The next year, the buds at the bases of the leaves (which are the year they have condensed out of the year and which they pass on to the next which is the same year again), will open and branch into other stalks (They have, in effect, the same independent life as the previous stalk — just rising from the ones that came before, that’s all. This, by the way, is not the same as passing time. It is growing time).
Note how it expresses itself at different heights and intensities through the differing bodies of different species, such as the saskatoon bush here,the yellow balsam root flowers, and the blue-green big sage.
Note as well that the word branches signifies a spiritual force, not the physical object (branch). The physical object is the record of the spiritual event, as much as it is an event, or presence, in its own right.
Apples Hanging Off of Markers of Spiritual Events
This is what time looks like in the language of the earth.
This ancient conception, that trees branch independently of the endless, unbroken time in which they stand has long been superseded by clock time, as humans reckon these things. Nonetheless, we still use the words that identify trees with being itself: bough, branch, Baum (in German), and even bud are delineations of particular manifestations of the word being. Clock time or not, for any moment of being-with-a-plant on this earth, an experience of such time is invaluable.
Point, Branch and Bud Intersecting with Gravity and Light in a Cottonwood Tree
The point of balance (the opening bud, or the previous year’s stalk following the light again) in any tree will move outward into the growing (i.e. rising in intensity) light. This point of balance is commonly called spring, a term which signifies life force itself (a spiritual term, not a physical one, it’s worth remembering).
Staghorn Sumac Springing
Of course, the year is not all within its spring, and not all buds and branches drive upwards to a head. Others become lateral, and others hang down. This full expression of a tree’s being with light, gravity and memory (those branches) is driven by fruitfulness, in general, and the hormones laid down by gravity, specifically. You could thus call a rowan a plant that turns gravity into fruit.
Each berry is both sun and earth at once. This is not a metaphor.
The fruit in turn bends the branches, which then collect more hormones and become more fruitful. You could say that this is a plant that mines gravity to reproduce. Here’s one that reproduces by harnessing the lack of gravity (the wind).
The plant force that expresses itself in such patterned petals (the entire branching force rising from one point) eventually closes and then opens again. It opens in the same energy as before, but transformed by branching. This is the spiritual power of the flower. It is not be underestimated.
Salsify Ready to Catch the Wind
Soon there will be wind. Here are a couple of salsify stalks after its seeds have used the wind to escape gravity.
Salsify, After Its Seeds Have Flown
For this plant, branching takes place at the core of the flower. Accordingly, for it time is not laid down in branches. It is laid down as an expression of wind.
So, there you have it, a small journey through an alternate form of language, which allows for alternate sets of observations about plants and environment than those of conventional scientific thinking. To restate the obvious, if we are to have living relationships with a living earth, such living language, built out of the processes of the earth itself, must be one of our tools.