Unfortunately, he practiced phenomenological philosophy (PPP! whew!) instead.
Unfortunately, he practiced phenomenological philosophy (PPP! whew!) instead.
Unfortunately, he practiced phenomenological philosophy (PPP! whew!) instead.
Let me show you something beautiful. Call it bunchgrass if you like.
The form of these is a balance between all the forces acting upon them. Their spacing, for example, is a function of rain fall, slope pitch and root system extension. These are not so much at individual grass plants of great age but multiple instances of force and balance, all related to a central set of energy flow patterns. In effect, this is the world, deep in time and space, where time, space and identity are one. That that appears different from the ponderosa pine needles below, part of the same community …
… means only that together they make a more complete picture of the totality of presence in this place. Creation is a glimpse of unity, not of difference and not of a technique for generating difference so it can be removed. It is not in the head. It is not a game. Here, let me show you:
That’s a view looking Northwest into the Coldstream Valley from the north shore of the Commonage above Kalamalka Lake, if you like. It also shows a continuous grassland, in which one slope catches the sun and another catches the clouds. There’s a hidden dimension here. Here’s a clue:
The young ponderosa pine above, far more ancient than the grasses in the foreground, has hollow, grass-like needles. Look how it catches the wind that catches the lake. It is water, wind and grass in one. And just look up onto Turtle Point, right in the sun’s path:
The ponderosas and Douglas firs are vanishing into the sun, just as the lake is, and the trees are as broken up into waves as the waves themselves. It would be easy to say these are just illusions given by the inadequacy of cameras and the human eye, but that would be to miss the creativity in the scene: it is the biological bias of human perception and cognition that creates the narrative of connection that binds the scene together. That is the same balance that the form of the grass expresses, or the differences in sun capture in the interlinked slopes below.
That moment is the complex living organism called Earth. We (and I include deer, porcupines, bunchgrass, pines and other people in this) are not part of this organism. We are this organism. Any creativity that does not come from such unity comes from the stripping away of self-imposed barriers to reveal it. The unity was already there.
The earth — the unity — does the stripping away, through unity. These are bodily responses. Contemporary science, art and religion, which were created out of an old unity of thought and to express an identical individualizing impulse can not speak of this response. It is what we bring to art. In that space, there is no creativity, because it is everywhere. Tomorrow I will talk about the possibility of staying there.
Like the grass on the Big Bar Esker below, I don’t live in the straight beams of light. I live at the continuity of points of intersection with them, which bend in the wind.
The flows of water and time create the same effect. The image below shows them in action, at the old Secwepemc village site along the Bonaparte River, alienated by the Hudson’s Bay Company long ago.
The forms of the land intersect with water and light over the seasons here, to create patterns which lead game animals down to the river, and to the people who live at that intersection. Those of us, all of us, who live on this earth live right there: humans, deer, bears, porcupines, eagles, whoever we are. I’ve provided a second image below, for a closer look. When looking at it, I suggest a close look at the ridge line, the boundary between snow drift and sun drift. Note the game trails that follow those crests, and the meltwater trails that break down the faces of this volcanic ash.
In that dance with water and light, I live too. There are many other patterns here. Here are just a few…
Green Water Zone (Low Gravity): plants move water so slowly across the slope that it, and the gravity that intersects with it, essentially pool, like lakes; as the sun mixes with them, they are also lakes of the sun. The esker grasses I showed you express this zone well.
Vertical River: Douglas fir trees take excess water up out of the energy field, as transitional gravity engines.
Gravity Brakes: Douglas fir trees catch the water at the base of high volume flow catchments, and are, essentially, a continuation of the flow into life. In effect, life concentrated in high energy systems takes on secondary living forms (such as Douglas fir trees)
Movement Zone (High Gravity): in this zone, water, earth, sun, wind and time move water rapidly from the pooling of the low gravity green water zone to the pooling of gravity, movement, and all other boundaries in the …
Horizontal River (Boundary Gathering): low pressure zone. Here, where all forces (and game) come together, humans, the boundary-dwellers, naturally collect.
Cold Pole/Heat Pole: the high gravity Movement Zone is powered by the alteration of the earth across seasons (time), across hot and cold faces, an effect extended between the cold and hot seasons of the year by the storage of snow on the cold faces by the wind, which is then released throughout the hot season, not as wind but as water and cold. This pumping action creates the details of the topography of this zone, which is an expression of life (ie boundary) energy.
Game Trail (cold-heat ridge): At the high altitude boundary zone between heat and cold effects, where sight is possible and wind created by the boundary zones, and by larger ones in the mountains and valleys around, animals, which are the expression of crossed boundaries, flow.
Stream (cold-heat sink): At the low altitude boundary zone between heat and cold effects, water and mud not animals flow. This effect is the concentration of the…
Sloughing (Moving Boundary): At this boundary, the energy of the cold-heat ridge is transferred down to the cold-heat sink, in the same manner as gravity brakes. This energy will flow, eventually, to the Horizontal River, which is an expression of all these forces concentrated together, quickened, and alive in the most complex form. In that web of boundaries, the boundary dwellers, are alive.
Together these energy transfer points add up to a living landscape, as complicated as the photosynthesis in a leaf or the flow of blood through a body.
A “human” body? An “earth” body? An “ecosystem” body? No. A “human-earth-ecosystem” body, or, better put, a community, living, together. They can be separated, but separation will diminish them. Separation will, in other words, also diminish humans. Taken together, its body forms are not human, but human body forms are linked to them. The Big Bar Esker, for example.
The big heads of the Okanogan, for example …
Chopaka Mountain and Hurley Ridge, in the Lower Similkameen…
The power forms of the Snake River …
… which take many forms…
The story-telling cliff faces of the ancestral Nimiípu villages along the Kooskoosie River ..
… or above the Snake, where cloud colours the hills …
… and so many more. Humans can live in any boundary zone, even artificially created ones, and can extend those boundaries into yet further boundaries. The spiritual boundary pools of Buffalo Eddy, on the Snake, for example…
The transportation boundaries of North American cities, such as Vernon below …
Industrial farms, such as this one in Okanagan Landing …
… and many more.
Nonetheless, the richest possible boundary zones bring the richest possible life. At the mouth of the Yakima River (below), for example, where its water meets that of my lake and most of the Northwest, flowing on its way to the sea…
…or here at the sacred Peshastin Pinnacles, above the Pisquouse (Washaptum or Wenatchee) River …
The alternative is a war against life, within monocultures. Its romantic, sure, with gas masks and capital risk and male sacrifice and courage but that stuff coming out of that sprayer is poison. It kills life. We can talk about the ethics of that, weighing risks and benefits, for a hundred years, but the end of it will be just these simple things: it kills life and it creates only the simplest of boundaries, manipulable by those boundary-dwellers, humans, into harnessing the planet to feed them alone. Note the fence to keep out deer.
Industrial Apple Orchard in Bloom, Okanagan Landing
Where do you live? Here?
Moose at the foot of a Big Head on McLaughlin Canyon Road.
Spraying a Cherry Orchard Above Swan Lake
These are not just lifestyle choices.
Next: the self-identity boundary.
Beautiful, isn’t it.
Note the patterning in this kind of thing.
Sure, it was carefully framed, but oh so many frames were possible.
They all have pattern.
They’re all beautiful.
The patterning is the gift of human observation. In order for there to be thought separate from the world, the kind of sensory connectivity shown in the images above must be separated from the world. It must have an observer and a thing observed. It’s a game, designed for certain ends. To achieve them, the actual connections between the two, that unite them into presence, must be given a name, separate from the moment of presence, or the separation cannot take place. This word is ‘beauty’. Just up from the water, for instance, separated from it by the frame of contemplation, is a rich community of water plants that have adapted to living in air …
… and just up from them, a bearberry plant that is living in the heat gathered by a boulder left by glaciers, like the ones in the pond above.
It is the same moment. It can be studied, contemplated and used to further many ends, including human security and culture. The great discovery of scientific thought, a form of book culture, is that this unity can be divided into pages, which can be studied one at a time, as if they were words, discrete and without connection to others, yet look how the carpet on the soil adapts to minute changes in circumstance and light, such as in the image below, beneath a fire pine taken down by beetles.
Those subtle changes and continuities are part of human presence. By people who have learned to inhabit a tool called the self, a kind of cognitive freeze-frame camera, they are beauty, an enjoyable aesthetic frame that pleasurably satisfies an ancestral, genetic self. Yet it is the world. Look how it changes, as recorded by the image below. Note that these are not discrete moments, as the photographs suggest. They are connected. They are a flow of energy. You know how to read them. This capacity is called beauty. It is a profound order, an inhabitation of order, a being, a being there, here:
A camera is a tool that can create the separation required to sever this human connection, so that the remaining physical or cognitive material can be used to create a secondary, virtual world more suitable for severed selves to inhabit. The camera can be used for other purposes, but it is a constant battle to do so. The machine freezes time and uses that moment of freezing to recreate ghosts of bodily presence. That’s what it’s for. Take a look at this sequence. It is three views from one kayak at one moment in September, looking to the north, to the east, and to the west, all within about a second or two.
Such descriptions of time are meaningless in the moment, but are of great use to the self that is a book. Just a moment away, the forces of energy and matter and time that those photographs render into images, look like this:
It is the same moment, but extended differently into spiritual space. This, too, up on the shore.
Presence would be better served by a term other than beauty, because that term does not differentiate between the book self and the human capacity to be present in a continuum. To the book self, the continuum is meaningless, and can only be intuited by yet more divided knowledge. To presence, the divided knowledge is a machine, a device, a tool, and not identity. The need for better differentiation is clear. The word that keeps getting in the way is “creativity.” This, for instance, is not a creative photograph:
Nor is this:
To be creative, it must serve the expansion of the virtual self and the replacement of the world of presence, and the infinitely gradated ability of the human body to read and extend that presence, through the combination of pre-existing elements. This would be creative:
Those are beautiful things. They represent the colonization of the world of the self by the world of presence, its humanization, shall we say. It is another representation of the ability of the human body to find spirit, wherever it may be found, and in whatever form its presence may take. We should be very clear about the differences and similarities between that and this eagle (below.)
The world, and other people within it, have become prey. It need not be so. Ah, here you are at last.
Here’s what I’m talking about.
Look how the sun and its shadows are interacting with the slopes of this ravine to create wet and dry, cold and warm zones (which alternate with seasons and time of day) to move water (and life) through the soil. If this irregular surface were flattened (the same as if DNA were flattened, or the hydrocarbons of leaves were flattened), the potentiality of such activity would be shifted to some other point of boundary between these forces, at the valley bottom, at the lake shore, at a stream bed, or some point fifty kilometres away, wherever the boundary was. Here’s also what I mean about the beautiful mathematics of soil:
Notice how the flat, packed surface is impervious to the sun, and retains its snow, while the grassy slopes lose snow quickly. It’s not just about slope. Here’s another reason, grass:
Each blade of the grass, adept at collecting light for photosynthesis in the summer, can also collect heat, transmit it downwards, concentrate it in the increasingly-dense mound of the grass, and not only melt the snow but deliver its water to the roots of the grass, which soak it up. The surface might be a boundary to visual creatures, like humans, but it is an exploited and manipulated space by the grass: infinitely malleable; a place that can gather sun and water. Here’s a grass that specializes in this surface manipulation more than most, blue bunch wheatgrass:
She knows the power of resonance effects well. Now, I know, I promised to talk about soil, so let’s not forget that this is not soil:
That is glacial clay laid down rapidly 10,000 years ago as the glaciers melted away. It has been bared to the air for a decade now, with not even the tiniest weed to show for itself. It’s just ground up mountain. Plants have no use for this stuff. This is soil:
Here all kinds of “life” have modified their mineral selves by self-replicating and climbing towers and conduits of water tension manipulated by surfaces and the sun, and have create new and far more complex surfaces in the process, concentrating water tension in the same way that the blue bunch wheat grass above concentrated the sun into resonance patterns within their mounds. We could talk for a long time about the complex biological processes involved in this work, and it would be a great pleasure, but it’s joyful to also celebrate the simplicity driving it all: surface. It not only creates this…
… which can be represented by this…
… which is grand stuff, or viewed as it is in the material universe (in the same level of beauty and complexity, but using different factors, as read by bodies not cognitive systems)…
And, let’s remember, that this story of surfaces continues deep underground and that if a cloud passes overhead …
… the bacteria that make up the soil, breathing the underground atmosphere and the life-giving breath of plant roots, react to it with a complexity equally or exceeding this:
(x2+y2)2 + (z2+w2)2 + 2b(xz-yw)2+2c(xw+yz)2 = 0
And remember that we all, all of us, have the words for this. There are many of them. Here are three: elk, sumac, and pond.
It’s not that mathematics can be rendered in presence and dance but that there is presence, and there is dance. They are all extensions of soil.
“Light travels in straight lines.” Yes, if observed from a science that measures straight lines. No, if observed from within light, within the world, within gravity or within perception. The statement is meant to be a universal truth, against which all other truths are subjective. It is, however, also subjective. You cannot see light. You see seeing. It lights you. That is not a straight line. That is all at once. A science built from this would be a science of presence.
Reeds Reflecting in Big Bar Lake at Dawn
Earth is fire: not just her core, but all of her. The steam, the wetland sedges and reeds, the cloud, the exposed clay, the volcanic rock beneath the pines, and the pine themselves are here all fire. That the pines can burn later, in a more open fire, doesn’t take away the fire they are now. That Earth has dense gravity at her core, doesn’t mean that at her surface it’s not fire. Look what happens when this fire is expressed as height and pressure. One moment, water is cupped between two mountains …. … and another moment, a mountain draws it from the air.
And look at it: it’s not fire, or gravity, or altitude or pressure. It is a grove of pines, and cloud on a morning mountain in Yellowstone after night snow and freezing rain which still gloves all the grass. That is Earth’s way. Her creatures speak like this as well. Only humans have the choice to speak differently. It is a profoundly bad idea. What there is this:
Explain her away by deep psychology if you want, give her alienness and separateness, call her “Cistern Spring”, do whatever you will do, it makes no difference at all, because there is only one thing, this thing: her, now, here. Rilke said this in 1923 in the Valais, scarcely differently. After a lifetime of chasing symbols and angels and sensitivity and women and love, he found the high clear air of the Rhone, and became a poet at last: this tree, he said, right here, right now.
Photography: writing with light. A more anglo-saxon suggestion is sun print. There’s more to them than prints on paper.
See that? That snow buckwheat is light written or (im)printed on metamorphic bedrock, or, actually, drawn out of it. You could also view it as a drift of light, much like a snowdrift. That view might be clearer in the image of moss on Turtle Mountain below.
Snowdrifts, of course, form on the lee side of objects. They are physical shadows. In that sense, the image of an ingrown grassland in Ellison Provincial Park shows tree drifts.
Those shadows are virtual trees. They are tree graphs. They are also grass writing, because they are holes in the sun that have drifted in with reflected light from the grass and bushes around them. Like this:
In the above case, the holes have been filled with grass, but following the logic, that grass is a shadow, a hole in the sun, a photograph drawn out of the earth. They are spirit prints. The image below shows an entirely different kind of writing:
Dust graphs! This earth here is swirling, invisibly, in the air, like a solar corona. It’s an earth corona. The dust storms we see, the ones that are thick in the air, are earth flares. Everywhere, this earth is blowing through the sky. It takes little to stop it. You could say, its will is to stop.
Its will is to write, to solidify, to print, and to form, out of the swirl, drifts, not of light, but of earth. Look at the footprint left by a human who walked right through this magic, above on the right. That’s charming and mysterious, too. Down the centre of the image below are what look like coyote tracks, passing through the art work, too.
For the earth, this is not a linear event. It is not a walk, but to humans, and no doubt coyotes, it appears as one. It imprints as one. Humans ‘read’ it as one. That’s who human are. And coyotes. We are the ones who see this unbroken series of writing as linear stories created by our walking through them. Humans call that fate. They call it god. What does the earth call it? Nothing, but it thinks, like this:
And like this:
And like this:
These are stories of gravity, the heart of the earth, working its way through matter into the light, and then, with the light, creating life. You could call that life a sun print.
You could call it an earth print.
Montana, Looking West
It’s not a footprint. Life is not just contained in biological entities. What are they but a series of earth prints and light prints and water prints and sky prints?
Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump
Thought is not just a product of humans. Or coyotes. (Always include the coyotes.) This is all thought. This is all thinking. The robins below, gathering at Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, getting ready to migrate, are thinking, and they are also the thinking, as is the stone, the orange lichen, the wind, and Harold who made this light print, but didn’t have a camera that could take all these other images.
The earth is that camera. She focusses the sun. You can see her doing it in the three images from Yellowstone below.
And she does it everywhere at once.
Science is a powerful tool. It’s built on a couple of foundational principles:
1. there is someone watching,
2. only what that person sees can be studied, and
3. only what is analyzed in a structured way is real.
Everything else is emotion (this discussion is punctuated with images from Yellowstone, for you to respond to emotionally and contemplate as we go along)…
By “understood” is meant that the emotion is explained away, the weakness of bodily experience is dispelled as an error, and the observer is reunited with his or her true self, a kind of mathematical intelligence, or God. It’s a beautiful conception.
Those are the foundations. Scientists today are often a very secular group, of course, with little interest in God, working to find practical applications of natural processes, which can be used industrially. Sometimes, they work to expand the body of their type of knowledge.
The rules of the process, however, remain, secular or not. There is, however, a bit of a glitch in this system. It is the act of observation.
Simply, what is observed is not necessarily emotional, and the observer is not necessarily separate from what is being observed. Those are just basic foundational blocks for this system, but, truthfully, this system can say nothing about those things, because they have been removed from it right from the beginning.
Here’s one example. Yellowstone’s Back Norris Geyser Basin (below) can be viewed emotionally by this system, but can only be understood once it is analyzed.
There are some difficulties with this approach. First, watching is participatory. I am the tree I observe above. This puts a bit of a snag into the first rule, that there is someone watching. There is someone ‘being’ present, that’s for sure, but not separate from what’s observed. It follows that the observer is also the observed object — not in the measurable technical ways demanded by scientific knowledge, for sure, but in a real enough way, in which the measurable technical ways are actually merely the expression of the separation of the observer and the observed. That’s a foundational bias. It’s based on the assumption that humans, the observer, and the world are separate, and that tool making is a higher order of intelligence than body imaging. It’s militarily true, certainly, but it’s not entirely true. If you doubt it, please look at the image below.
Look, Ma! No Tree!
A little rough-and-ready fun with Photoshop, sure, but that’s not my point. The absence of the tree changes the scene. That difference in balance, and even in presence, is a reading of the your self, the observer in this instance. If the tree had not been here I would have made a different image, as I scanned the basin, waiting for my mind to come to focus within it, as it did with the tree.
This effect is definitely what scientific thought wants to dispel. The problem is that by dispelling this effect, the subtlety of the viewer, and the connection between viewer and earth, are broken. This is marginally OK if you’re hoping to survive this Vale of Tears in order to have a better life in Heaven, but otherwise it leads to illness. Another weakness of the scientific method is that understanding is not the only goal. If understanding blocks other goals, it is not, actually, understanding. For example, a portable, disassociated intelligence such as most people are trained in in the West today, can view this scene in the Norris Back Basin …
… but the actual experience of observation can’t be observed with this tool. Does that matter? Yes, because in the scientific paradigm only what is analyzed an “understood” is real, which is to say that a response to the above scene as a moment of beauty is going to be read as an emotional response, leading to other emotional responses, leading, eventually to a vast network of social responses, and the contemporary state of affairs, in which the world is viewed as a human social construct, in direct opposition to the state goals of science for objective, non-humanized knowledge.
Don’t get me wrong. Those are all good things. It’s just that this system has forgotten that it is embedded in context, and immediate consequences are not necessarily the same as long-term ones, on the same principle that subatomic physical processes are not the same as ones at the level of peanut butter sandwiches. On a day to day level, I heard many people at the Mammoth Hot Springs and at the Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone explain the colours in hot springs …
… as the result of various communities of microorganisms living in matted communities in the hot, mineral rich water. “Look at the mats!” they kept saying, already separating their bodily and emotional responses from learned ones from the biological sciences right at the beginning of their explanations— already separating them from the scene, even though it was their bodies, and how they were reading them in the landscape, that was the actual attraction.
This continual sacrifice of bodies and what bodies know and how, in the natural world, they unite with the mind (which is a bodily organ as well), is unhealthy. It leaves bodies with nothing to do, except to keep moving, in the hope that something observable will turn up, even though the refinements to identity created by the biases within scientific thinking pretty much ensure that nothing is going to show up. Here is a selection of a crowd of many hundreds of people at the Grand Prismatic Spring, the eye of the earth herself, walking, walking, walking right past because they did not do the single most important thing.
It is “being present”.
It is being there. It is “being there.”
Our ancestors called us “human beings” not “human thinkings” for a reason.
Understanding that intellectually, however, would only be an initial, first step. This science would have to go further than understanding. Without dispelling it, because understanding is important. It would go further, though.
And the earth at the same time.
Next: expanding the social group to include non-humans.