The Teachings of Water

When I look into the water I see blurred shapes. Or do I?

Are they not, rather, revealed ones?

Is this not a message from my body?
Is it not the intersection between opening through movement and movement through opening?

Is it not the lesson of the water that they are the same? Is this not the blood speaking?

Is it not saying that life and the body each have their languages? and that they touch?

and that this is the mystery?

Becoming the Earth

Scientific culture tells us there is no relationship between this energy …
P1190283 … and this energy …
P1190460 … or this one …


… but it does propose a series of material causes and effects. They’re quite powerful. Science, however, lacks tools to view the patterns of connection between the above series with this …

P1190746 … or this …P1220635

… except to say that they form a part of an interlocking ecosystem based on competition (randomness creating pattern over time.) This viewpoint is cultural. To that culture, the pattern is inconsequential. The particular skill of this conception is its ability to become blind to pattern as a wholeness.


For that, it gains narratives of cause. That’s what it’s looking for. Not the non-cause of this photograph of a frog…


That the changes between energy states that lie within this world of chance are changes in manifestations of energy is not something its culture has the tools to measure, or cares to (it is looking for narrative, after all, which is a way of creating time out of unified space) so it ignores that image.


Materiality doesn’t draw on these questions, because it can’t prove them (Ironically, it can’t prove them because it doesn’t consider them.) Poetry and art have the ability to embrace this material, but poetry grew to be ignored as a tool of making these measurements after it went through the romantic period as an expression of wordlessness (emotion.) That was a valuable role, but it was easily circumvented with more materiality. At that point, poets chose to become aesthetic, hoping that would be an antidote to the commodification or materialization of language through its proximity to materiality. Unfortunately, its emotions were too easily manipulated, even by poetry itself, and in the end it couldn’t compete with machine gun fire in Northern France. Modern ways of thinking, that grew up in the time of machine gun emplacements and trench warfare, looked for pan-cultural universality, at the expense of intimacy. Essentially, it was an attempt to stop war by finding universal human commonality. That was found — in more war. Post-modern modalities suggested that the way to re-balance these poetic failures was to use pursuits such as poetry in a self-aware way. Poetry would thereby become a kind of scientific measurement device, to replace the ones that miss these manifestations. It would measure measurement. The world, however, went on wordlessly, as more than a plane of random intersections. It was obviously neither a measurement device nor a measurement method nor human.


The current fashion is to reformulate this failed solution by eschewing words completely and speaking of the non-space between words, where they are not (as if they were the things they named). This game insists that the space not be named or divided into forces, only honoured a new region of discovery called “vagueness.” Life (animation, energy) comes from it. Naming it kills its life.


This is a profound return to ancient Judeo-Christian (and earth religion) principles. Like Judeo-Christian principles, it is based upon a source of energy that can never be viewed (if it can be seen, or spoken of, it is not the right one) — a conception that dives within itself and opens up to infinity in every moment, not as the end of a process of development (as science would have it, with its bias towards points of observation).


Where’s the science that can match that dive into the moment? Where are the words that can unite its unity and disunity in one term, as science did nearly a century ago with the invention of quantum theory? Saying that poetry is social, which is poetry’s Big Idea today, and that even views of the earth are social product, is not an answer. I mean, look at this blown mustard.


That’s not social, except as an escaped weed, but that’s pretty aestheticized. The romantic mode is still an option: it can be a part of contemporary poetry through emotion, for example, including address (‘O weed, I feel your branching’… that kind of thing — very big in eco-poetry circles.) Nonetheless, this mustard is an integral part of an ecosystem which includes human bodies, both physical and social. Furthermore, it includes the ability of humans to cast up two sides to unified questions, so humans can debate them and bring them back together. Humans love that. They also love taking things apart. They put words to this stuff, for example…


… and it’s never unified again. Photography has proven more adept at that than words. What the Judeo-Christian tradition (which started with dividing the waters above from the waters below, in Genesis), and its science, and its poetry, have not done is to include the earth and its creatures within the social group, as non-human persons. This wasp hunter (below), for example, always moving for a better view right where I wanted to put my hand to get through this gate…


… or this wetland morning.


They look like poetry to Western eyes, I’m sure, just as I’m sure this entire conception does, and they’re certainly photography (although in its vagueness it lacks the vital bridging qualities of language.) Nonetheless, the work remains incomplete. Until we get past the idea that human-hood is person-hood or (its romantic-virtual incarnation) self-hood, or that being social is being human, we’re also stuck in such out-dated conceptions as male (or female) superiority, humans-as-language-monopolists, humans-as-the-rational-ones, and so on. We took the world apart, as part of a game, and for powerful reasons, most of them life-affirming. The other side of that game is to put it back together. Until then, we’re not fully human, because this…


… or this …P1180232

… will be not us. It will be other. Humans don’t do particularly well with ‘other’s. Furthermore, may I add, this raven and this rock…


… will continue to be seen as moments of the materialization of practical potentialities, rather than manifestations of unified energy that is, despite their difference, still unified.  Both are powerful modes. Neither precludes the other, except by force. Raven and rock are one. The word ‘habitat’ doesn’t really cover that, either, as it excludes the earth from the community of respect accorded to life. As a result, it loses the rights accorded to that respect, even so far as to be called “nature” (a human conception.) One consequence of failing to make this bridge is that men (culturally the holders of active force) will continue to be seen as road blockers to women (culturally the holders of receptive or attractive power), rather than being seen for what they are: together with women (and people of other genders and people of other species, including the earth) manifestations of a third, unified way. This cottonwood in wind at dusk, for example.


All that stands between us is fear of losing ourselves, although that’s precisely what we need to do. Poets are well suited to participate in this work of self-making. They have given it over to fiction (narrative) for too long. It’s been fun, but it’s time to tell our children our family stories now. Our big family. It’s time to enter space and become time.


The physicists and other cultural workers and beauticians will follow with their mathematics. They always have. Let’s welcome them heartfully and with full presence of mind.

The Mystery of Surfaces

Do surfaces have edges? Or do edges have surfaces? Is an edge the limit to a surface? Is a surface the space between two edges, that is given substance because the edges separate it from the nothing around it?P1180691

Cat Tails

And that nothing around it, that is called “air” or “space”, what is that stuff? Is it a surface or an edge or, as our ancestors put it, a room? Is that why we say “children need room to grow?” Is the lack of such a room an edge? If so, does that make a room a surface? Is a three-dimensional surface a room? Is a two-dimensional room a surface? Is a one dimensional surface an edge? And what about the surface of water? What’s with that? 


I ask, not because I want to unravel the mysteries of the world (I love them just fine) but because these are really questions about the human mind and how it sorts the world, which is a unified whole and, I suppose, not a room. Look how complicated edges and surfaces can get.


Mustard in Her Finery

And yet we can read them perfectly. Why not. We are looking at ourselves. What the world  looks like, well, that’s the wrong way to approach it. It doesn’t look like anything.

Of Cashews and Creativity

This is a cashew.

Staghorn Sumac

This is a cashew.

Cashew_applesReally. Source.

This is a cashew:

P2230163Poison Ivy

There are many other cashews in the world. Mangos …


… and pistachios …


… for instance. In reaction to various environments, these plants transformed themselves in new shapes, with new characteristics. Then there was this…

1165_00029000017115.jpg … and this …christmas-biscotti-1

Here’s another cashew, native to my grassland:


Smooth Sumac in Autumn

Six of the above images are outpourings of the creative potential of the earth. For some reason that defies all respect for the earth and living things only three of the images above are named creative products. I guess it’s because it’s a technological culture that gets to make these definitions, for some reason. These three:

They are grown, harvested, roasted, flavoured, dyed (gad), marketed, shipped, sold and consumed, yet the true creative energy here, cashew herself, goes uncredited. In this context, creativity is a use to which the things of the earth, which evolved in what is termed a random process, are put.



Hardly. These Oregon grapes live in a complex set of relationships, but it’s not random. It’s just complex and organic. It’s how life does things.

The randomness is an echo of a scientific method that pulls things apart to study them separately before putting them back together again, which leaves a human mark. That’s technology for you. Another echo of the method is that under its effects plants, and their evolution, are considered separately from their environments, although they did evolve in certain specific environments. Can that rightfully be called random? Did not the environment find its balance together?


Three Minutes After the Image Above the Sun Went Behind a Cloud

Red leaves, which turned colour in response to the fall sun, help with that. They create heat. Like the rock wall they grow against, it brings spring more quickly. That’s not precisely random. It is balance.

The only way the environment can be separate from its parts is if plants are invasive, independent actors, but, here’s the thing: after four years writing a book about the history of my grassland in the context of the American colonial invasion from 1835 to 1893 and the Canadian one that followed immediately in the north and continues to this day, that looks an awful lot like a description of a particular kind of unrooted colonial human behaviour. Now it’s enshrined in a contemporary definition of creativity, which, just like a concept of independent nature made out of separate structures and forces does not include the earth. It’s all about a certain concept of humans. It doesn’t include this:


Waterfall, Coyote Bluffs, Kalamalka Lake

Old concepts of human nature do. Indigenous ones do. Sufic and many Christian ones do. Nordic ones do. Many others, no doubt, do as well. But here in North America, the so-called male colonizing principle, that rides into the virgin wilderness and plants a stake into it, is enshrined, even though most of the men who did that kind of thing were murderous vigilante sociopathic, psychopathic bastards. Nonetheless, researchers who try to get at some other way of talking about creativity are constrained by the limitations of contemporary definitions of creativity, in ways little different than the ones that constrained Methodist and Presbyterian women who settled this West around 1855, isolated from the genocide that was making their honest, gentle, nurturing lives possible and turning their sisters, the Indigenous women of the Northwest, into sex slaves and corpses. I’m sorry, but it happened to often to set aside, and it’s still not safe to be a brown woman in Canadian society. We all know that. Luckily, there are healthier forms of creativity, such as the ones which conclude this essay:


Here are some of Gabora and Holmes’ conclusions:


I applaud their work, but I’m going to do so without challenge. This part, I believe, needs challenge, because it’s culturally specific, not universal. Why, for example, is creativity about a choice of life or death? Isn’t that a human characteristic? Isn’t that about gothic novels? The rest of the earth chooses life:


Wild Clematis

Yes, gothic, have a look:

You see, when American, Canadian and British settlers came to this country they took it from its Indigenous people, who knew better than this. Settlers employed the philosophy that people who did not create the fences of private ownership (actually, Indigenous ownership rules were complex but invisible to settlers) actually had no right to the land they had lived with for 8,000, 12,000 or even 16,000 years. What’s more, settlers brought spiritual philosophies that were really quite beautiful, about humility, grace and subjection to order, but they were then used to culturally dispossess the region’s people. Gabora and Holmes’ conclusions are equally beautiful, but there is a context to them which isn’t, and needs to be foregrounded as a caul for caution. This colonial drive for order and obedience is also a ghost in the quote below about a bimodal human intelligence, one able to switch between two functioning methods depending upon circumstance — a beautiful conception:

two ways

It’s the authors’ intent, if I read the essay correctly, to propose that training “creative” people to switch between modes in different circumstances, will prevent them from the negative consequences of creativity, which in their argument include “dangling by a thread”, or inability to integrate with regular society, and a statistically-high rate of mental illness. Well, it’s like this: for “creative” people, this might be the case. I don’t know. There are other people, however, doing work that is called by some “creative” but isn’t, to whom this doesn’t apply. That suggests to me that the argument (and the notion of creativity itself) are grossly incomplete. Many of these “non-creative” creators I know actually feel that society is the one dangling. That’s not the only troubling gap, though. These arguments of separation, incomprehension and even madness are very similar to ones that were once thrown against the Cayuse, Palouse, Umatilla, Wanapum, Sinkiuse, Kittitas, Nez Perce, Yakama, Methow, Washaptams, Syilx, Synixt, Secwepemc, Nlaka’pamux and all the other peoples of my country. The solution is much the same as the one offered then, too: to transform minds tuned to creation, which view connections, into ones which view those connections as merely being “apparent”, being “myths”, while the “real” connections are analytical and are built around method, whether it is scientific or spiritual. A secondary colonial solution is also at play here: the development of a form of biological nature: instead of nature, or God, or spirit, or the Earth being actualized within a person, with each person being the world walking, that world was now outside, behind a boundary of consciousness, as an expression of randomness and time, and people were given, in its place, an actualized self, sometimes a miniature Christ, sometimes a stand-in called analytical thought, embodying hierarchies and methods of will and the ability to apply them. Powerful stuff, for sure.


Nature Welling Up

The red bark of these dogwoods is a natural product of photosynthesis, which allows these wetland plants to survive in relatively dry and extremely hot climates, by dispelling excess sunlight as heat. It’s not intentional. It’s a natural flow. It was human once. It still is.

In other words, in the time of colonization these “solutions” involved replacing a system of earth knowledge and mapping based upon spiritual union, story-telling and social and family hierarchies of respect, all cultivated by practical human activity, with one based upon a primordial nature that wells up into the world, that can be harnessed to forms and made to “work”. Today, this concept of nature has evolved and is portrayed as “genetic” and “evolutionary” history. The authors explain that like this:

two waysThese are two European modes of thought, beautiful ones, for sure. There are, however, more than this in European tradition, and that should be addressed, too, but just set that aside for a moment. What’s really missing here is Indigenous creativity and consciousness, from the peoples of this grassland, who grew up with it from the moment the glaciers left and the floods receded, and who in many cases made it into the “nature” that settlers saw, when in fact it was their stories and not “nature” at all, or at least a joint project between Earth and people (usually women). I expect that this story of the Middle Upper Paleolithic applies universally to all humans, yet just to dwell on that physical ground is cultural, which puts its universality into question. Indigenous modes of thought include tricksters and other forms of contextual focus, other than just the two mentioned in the essay, including visions and spirit songs, among others.

mrsLooking good, Mrs. Coyote!

There is, fortunately, much wisdom in Gabora and Holmes’ essay. This for example:sum1If I read them correctly, they are saying that humans are able to adapt modes of thoughts to situations. That’s like our friend Cashew, evolving in different ecosystems. It’s like Indigenous peoples, evolving land use strategies adapted to the land they live on, in its own forms. The thought, however, expresses only two dominant European modes — not even minor ones, or ones buried in history. Just two. It doesn’t bring in Indigenous ones, either, from this place in which the essay is written. Just the two European ones. Yet, despite that oversight, created more by the boundaries of the research tradition that gave rise to the paper than by any failing or intent, the paper’s argument allows for a recombination of modes, and hints at a mechanism by which it might take place:sum2

That’s the preamble to the idea, and I think it gets off on the wrong foot. As a person who is engaged in “making” daily, with twenty-eight books of my own, hundreds of thousands of photographs, over 70 books edited for writers and two degrees in create writing, I appreciate that I am not a creative person, as defined by the technological culture these scholars — my friends — live in, and appreciate that they might call that “dangling by a thread”, but that doesn’t mean that associative thought necessarily has a propensity to be “emotionally overwhelming”, or that analytical thought is more “even-keeled” or that associative work is “strange” or that analytical work is “more fine-grained”, or that one form of thought is light and another is dark. Those are cultural choices. They speak of a notion of creation that lives within a certain cultural matrix, one in which these choices are true because they express the skeletal framework of this matrix of embedded and realized selves. The thing is, though, as I have been demonstrating in this blog for three years, and as I have spoken of in this series of posts on creativity since late 2015, this is not universal human experience and not representative of the full breadth of the work of makers. There’s another troubling set of conclusions in this essay.


Involuntary, unpredictable nature of creativity? That’s the anti-Coyote message again. It looks like the continued positing of an “Other” instead of union with it. It’s really hard to see how union with the planet is going to be achieved across the gulf of such a myth. There’s more:


That’s fantastic: women’s voices and modes of thought get to be included and used as tools. Absolutely, the more the better. Please. Now. Forever. The “dangerous chasms and destructive breaking and crashing of old boxes,” though? That’s some kind of myth-making, again, because that metaphor is certainly not respectful of the breadth of male experience, if male experience is meant by it, or of pre-Marxist female experience, if that’s what’s being expressed. Human experience is richer and broader than that. We’re all doing the best we can. The thought, fortunately, continues positively:

Atwood 2

To take nothing away from the primacy of mothering, fathering and nurture, are, of course, complementary forces, no less positive and fertile. But this isn’t about gender, or I’d like it not to be. I think it’s about respect. Organic form belongs to all humans, and we all need women to bring new modes forward. We also all need men to do so. We also need rich discussions of human nature and of nature itself, often together, in more than standard modes. Gabora and Holmes have introduced many intriguing threads here. I hope they return to their essay soon and revise it to include the modes they missed — no doubt under the constraints of space —as well as the most important one: the earth. This is a vital ethical issue.


It’s not about us. It’s about Her. It’s about actualizing Her. What the self is, ah, that comes next.




Technologies of the Self

This is an experiment. I’ve taken an old post from deep in the archives of Okanagan Okanogan …


… and will attempt to polish it up to support some observations on identity and creativity.


and will now try to do what even the Goethe Museum in Weimar fails at splendidly, despite putting on a big show and charging something like 10 Euros to see it, which is like a zillion Canadian dollars. I will try to explain what Goethe meant about light in his “Lecture on Colour”, which he wrote to dispel Newtonian science once and for all, but didn’t. Just to whet your appetite for a visit to Weimar, try this on for size:

goethe-color-diagrams-01Goethe Explains His Theory of Colour With Pretty Pictures

Great minds have been broken by this for 200 years. Three German states have been built on this principle, which might have been a mistake. One in between was built to torture it until its spiritual death. A nasty business, that. Definitely a mistake.

One point of Goethe’s unconventional imagery was founded in his observation that a science built on splitting light with prisms, or with mathematical calculations, as were Newton’s, would observe only the worlds which resulted from those interventions. If you wanted to observe the world in its entirety you had use a subtler tool, the human eye.

Photo on 12-11-05 at 4.18 PM #2Rare Glimpse of Okanagan Okanogan Manifesting in Human Form

As this eye is guided by the human mind, that mind had to be trained. Machinery just wouldn’t do the trick.


To train the mind, tricky pictures were required, which almost no human trained by Newton’s science can make hide nor hair of.

The goal was not to explore the dissection of light into a spectrum …

Newton’s Rainbow

but to train an eye to perceive white light in its place, enriched by nuance. In Newton’s science, the white light that streams from the sun is actually an amalgam of seven colours, which are released from solution, so to speak, when they pass through a prism. It’s excellent science. Here’s Goethe’s science:

P1410398Male Staghorn Sumacs After Flowering

Notice the complicated interweaving of darkness and light. NO prisms. NO rainbow. In its place are moods of colour, representing moods of observation. In Goethe’s conception, they are all white light.

Confused by the ‘mood’ thing? Don’t worry! We’re used to reading words like that in regards to those particular explorers of light, artists, but not in terms of those others, their twins, scientists.


Scientific Measurement Devices at Play (Well Daring Each Other, Anyway)

Unfortunately, the romantics got ahold of the technology and messed with it big time. The result is teenagers. I’m not kidding, by the way. Photo: Anassa Rhenisch

Goethe also wanted us to consider that darkness is a component of seeing, too, for humans, and that colour, as perceived by humans, occurs at the intersection of darkness and light. Fundamentally, he was saying that a science can be built out of human presence and its interaction with the world, in and of itself, because that presence is the world. Here are a couple images of Goethean presence to get you started on this journey …

butter3 Orange Mood

… and  …

clematisPurple Mood

Oh, what’s that?

Reader: Mood, mood, mood, you’re mad. What’s this mood? That’s a butterfly on mustard up the hill and a clematis on your backyard fence, you nut.

Harold: Only if you use the romantic version of your operating system. (I wasn’t kidding. The romantics really did start playing around with this individual consciousness thing. It was awfully fun for them. We are their heirs.)

Reader: My operating what? !!!$%%%**&(&*!!!$^%^!@@$***!##!!!!!

Ah, yes. Well. Ahem. Hmmm. The measurement device Goethe had in mind is twofold. First, it is spiritual. It is the presence of God in the world, without reservation, which brought Christ to Mary’s womb, Christ to the Cross, and ultimate resurrection and faith. Goethe had that faith, but even without it the observation remains as potent as it was to Goethe: Christ (or the manifestation of eternity and infinity within the bounds and bonds of  the world and, especially, in the human form) could be reborn in every civilized, or trained, individual, through their training (the artistry they made of their identities), so that when men and women acted in grace with it, they saw not white light but the infinite beauty of creation (and the world.)


John Day River Valley, Oregon

Secondly, Goethe lived at the end of the aristocratic age and the beginning of the democratic one. In the aristocratic age, a prince or king or duke or queen embodied the union of state, land and Christ. To effect this, a lot of training in poetry was required. Goethe’s plan was to adapt this conception, politically on its way out, with new concepts of individual freedom, and place a different image of Christ within each democratic individual. His models were complex, but the final one was the individual consciousness, which was created by his friend, the philosopher Gottlieb Fichte in 1793, as a reference point on which a science could be built. Without a reference point, all things would be relative to all things and nothing could be measured, at least in Newtonian terms. Goethe wanted to use this measurement device, individual consciousness, to measure unity instead— exactly that thing which Newtonian scientists wanted a reference point (individual consciousness) to dispel! You can probably tell that Goethe hated Newton. The details of their spat are unimportant. The important issue is that Newtonian scientists wanted to use this Fichtian consciousness to create devices that could break apart unity, then to measure the effects of that breakage, and then to assemble them again into a logical system, all from a distance. That is what we call science today.

FichteProfessor Fichte

The wide eyes are, no doubt, symbolic.

To be absolutely clear: this little Christ in every man (and woman — let’s be more generous than Goethe) was not a metaphor, but the actual presence of Christ. The form it took was irrelevant to the power of the manifestation (one can’t, after all, direct or limit the llimitless), but essential to the results that would come out of the human mind so trained and so inhabited by its training. Every human so conceived was a lens, focussing the world (or God). This was Goethe’s conception. It mattered little if a person so trained was a Christian or believed in God or not. He (or she) had been made into a poem and would then filter the world in the same way a trained reader would filter a poem (or a poem would filter the reader — kind of a two way street). This training of little Christs to live in and focus eternity (and the mind of God, or the universe) is what is today called schooling and education.


Goethe’s Bust and his Death Mask

Filtering away.

Fichte’s conception was not so poetic. He argued that in order to say that one had a self, one had simultaneously to say that there was a non-self (and vice versa.) Consequently, he argued (brilliantly), the self and the not-self are one, but can be considered separately. Wherever one trained the perception or mind of the self, accordingly, would reveal the not self. To put that into plain language, if a human, such as Fichte, looked at a hawthorn tree …


… the observed tree was the not-self; everything else could be considered the self. This was a mighty handy and extremely portable observational tool. Just walk around, look at stuff, and you would perceive the objective world, clear of your own subjectivity, which would probably be all tangled up with notions of Christ, God, eternity and what not.

Goethe: Hey!

Harold: Hey, yourself.

Goethe found nothing in Fichte’s system incompatible with his attempts to train the self as a spiritual artwork (or technology), because to him the true self was not Fichte’s too, or the artwork, but the energy it channeled. To him, if there was to be a logical system that could support independent, democratic men and women it must operate from within the unified world, which means it must perceive white light, must perceive it with rigour, and must build logic up without first breaking the unity of the world. Otherwise, it would be outside that world and have no access to it, and that was exactly what the individual liberty of the time was attempting to do away with.


Vive La France!

That state of being outside of the world, however, is exactly where human beings are today after 223 years of Fichtian human technology applied to Newtonian science. In this respect, the important thing is Goethe’s observation that the system one chooses determines the world we get.


Vernon, Okanagan Illahie


Camas Prairie (now reduced to wheatfields), Nimíipuu Illahie


Puddinhead Screes, Smlqmx Illahie

By choosing Newtonian science without any exploration of the Goethian system, the Western World has lost touch with white light and unity, in all its moods …

P1390603 Harold Above Kalamalka Lake

… and pursues (as Goethe warns) a fragmented world observable through technical measurement, that does not come together again, because unity was never the design of the Fichtean self. It was designed, from the start, to create and measure difference, not unity.

derrida,0Jacques Derrida, Contemporary Philosopher of Difference

The Fichtean-Newtonian self in one of its purest manifestations. Note the dead tree.

The applications of this process of difference and the products of Newtonian measurement, are what is now called technological civilization. It has progressed so far that contemporary discussions include reengineering of biological life to create slave creatures capable of producing any possible industrial chemical, and reengineering human bodies, without regard to their links to unity. In this conception, those links, being outside of the Newtonian frame, are what is called emotion, and are considered negligible effects. Only an inhuman system would look upon life that way. Unfortunately, all of this activity (which calls itself humanism) was  built upon error and will lead only to greater error. It has already begun.


Secwepemc Horses, Wallhachin.

There is nothing to eat in this field of weeds.


Next, I’ll be looking at creativity, and how these human technologies (or selves) affect the world, society, art, technology, environments and the future. I hope you’ll tune in. The results for creativity are really quite profound and, I think, surprising.

Photography and Human Survival

Pretty sumac leaves, huh.P2090736

Look again below. Culturally, in Canada, people have the right to cut sumacs down like this and stack them up beside the street so they look like this the whole winter through, to be hauled away in the spring time and chipped up into a kind of sawdust called “mulch,” which is mixed with sewage waste, fermented, and sold back to gardeners and landscapers. This is called “green thinking” and “dealing with weeds” and, look, it is green, isn’t it!

P2090729 I think the cause of such behaviour is just the inherent gap between clear thought and the kind of populist thinking that passes these days for science. Here are some other sumacs, male like the ones above, up higher on the hill, and like them gone feral.P2090711

The first step of populist scientific thinking is a kind of triage: value assessment. It could, perhaps, be put like this: “What can I do with those things?” Most of the effort in considering sumacs these days goes into research into spraying chicken breasts with sumac juice in slaughterhouses and butcher shops, and measuring how much longer the things stay fresh (i.e. don’t smell baaaaad) on a supermarket shelf. Important, for sure, but, please, don’t tell your chicken friends about it, ‘kay?


The first step of true scientific thinking, however, is observation. Notice how some of the leaves below are one colour in the early Autumn and some are another. The second step should be asking if there is a pattern. Perhaps you could compare the colour differences to the patterns of shade that the leaves produce, and then compare that to the patterns of shade over the years that these bushes have been growing? A painter would, so we know it can be done. You are now, I trust, ready to move to the third step of scientific thinking: asking an answerable question. It might be this: is there a relationship between the two? (Well, yeah, there is, sure. Anyone who has observed trees over time knows that. The female stag horn sumac around the corner knows that.) See?P2090310 Look at her, with her multiple years of branches and fruiting structures. Last year, the dead twigs here at her crown were sprouting leaves, but time marches on, wood ages, and, look, that’s a spider web way up there, isn’t it. Why, yes it is. All of these relations gets expressed in the leaves (well, maybe not the spider; she’s not there very long), and look at them!  They’re very fine.P2090308

But the scientific game is a little different than just experience and observation: it wants to be able to demonstrate, in a yes-no question, one step of that process, and then another single step, and then another single step, and so on, so that, eventually, all the steps can be put together, and a process, or flow, can be known: not observed, because observations would then have to be proven, but known, textually or figuratively or in tables and graphs and data, and a simple statement that says precisely under what conditions, at what time, chemicals are laid down, or stripped out of, leaves to produce these effects, under which other specific conditions. A tall order. Now, a tree person might just say,

yeah, look, dude, I know that already, eh,

but that’s not the point. Those are different forms of knowing. The point, though, is that “science” is just a word. It stands in for “a process of rigorous, ordered thinking”, but it is a little different than that. Here’s it’s pedigree:

science (n.) mid-14c., “what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;” also “assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty,” from Old French science “knowledge, learning, application; corpus of human knowledge” (12c.), from Latin scientia “knowledge, a knowing; expertness,” from sciens(genitive scientis) “intelligent, skilled,” present participle of scire “to know,” probably originally “to separate one thing from another, to distinguish,” related to scindere “to cut, divide,” from PIE root *skei- “to cut, to split” (cognates: Greek skhizein “to split, rend, cleave,” Gothic skaidan, Old Englishsceadan “to divide, separate;” see shed (v.)).

In other words, it is a process that began with shedding information deemed excess, like cutting apart a corpse to see how it was put together. At heart, science today is just what it’s popular image takes it to be: “a process of determining the use of things and practical applications of materials in the world,” with the caveat that “practical applications” means “technological or material applications” or, in a more modern sense, also “psychological applications.” The selection process, the cutting away, has cut away everything but “usefulness,” however that is defined. That’s cultural. That’s not the other side of what is taken to be science, which is: “life, the universe and everything, as it really is, not how people see it to be.” In this popular conception, this is science:


No, it’s a moose in the sagebrush. To science, the art of shedding personal information, how a sumac makes Harold feel in the fall can be psychologically measured, and then put to use to help Harold feel better or worse or make him buy a camera, maybe, eh: planting more sumacs, perhaps, or having a sumac festival or something like going down to London Drugs and plunking down some cash. Cheating is allowed. In fact, it is encouraged, because, let’s face it, there’s no way that all of the trillions of connections between those leaves, space, light, gravity, water, air, insects and times are going to be worked out into a complete system, especially when Harold is involved, sheesh! You have to let some things go. For example, in the images of sumac (and a sagebrush moose) above, the bias is, well, contained in the apparatus that made the image. Here it is:


Here’s the cheating: instead of measuring all of the different light and chemical values, displayed by the colour differences in leaves, to work out a pattern of a tree’s life and how it interacts with the person holding the camera, that discussion is temporarily set to the side, the camera takes an “image” of the tree, which can then be passed around as if it were the tree or as if it were all the trillions of connections contained with the colour patterns of the tree and even with the observing human, looking through the lens, like this…


Ape Up to No Good

The photographic process exists because it has a “use”. Sumac trees have traditional human uses, too, such as (depending on species): tanning leather, making sumac tea, flavouring and preserving food, making medicinal teas and smoke (yes, medicinal smoke…that’s why it’s called a “smoke bush”), decorating gardens, making wax, creating ultraviolet light (fun for kids and 1970s black velvet painting aficionados) and so on, but a sumac tree? In and of itself? We don’t know, because our science doesn’t look at that. That has been sorted out and “shed” before we even began. Instead, that data set is what is called an “existential” question, a question of “being” or “is-ness” or, if you like, “identity” or “self” and is left to philosophy, religion and, especially, to art, which are, in and of themselves, also processes of rigorous, ordered thinking. Well, except in the romantic conception of science, which sees all of this hard thinking as “the world” when it’s in science and “personal values” when it shows up anywhere else, with the caveat that “personal values” have only personal uses. Poets aren’t even as romantic as all that, but that’s the world we live in in 2015. Now, hey, maybe, you might think that all of these kinds of thinking might easily fit together, into a system in which an artist (let’s say) could look at this sumac…


… note the colour patterns and, because of observation and experience (the first steps in science), and skill at “reading” colour and pattern, (the second steps), make an image of the tree’s “being”, or the totality of its presence. There’s even a word for this, as you probably know, a German word, because, well, Germans worked all this out first: “Gestalt”. An artist will claim the completeness of the pattern (its gestalt) as proof of its authenticity … and then pop culture science steps in, and instead of working out a system of questions and experiments, integrating, perhaps, some of the artist’s patterning processes, asks a few questions to sort out the worth of this investigation: does it have a “use”, can I get funding to study it, and how is that not just an emotional response, and since the mythology of science says that “emotional responses” must be shed, to get at the true, underlying forms of things, that’s that. The thing is, this “use” thing is a cultural bias. If “science” really does have to shed information, to make itself possible, and to build up a body of knowledge, that’s not necessarily the shedding that has to be done. In fact, it biases what follows in terms of technological processes, and that’s all fine and good, but an earth that can support humans well is dying, which is to say, that a conception of the earth that doesn’t include non-technical values is dying, and making it difficult for humans to survive.


We can do better. Let’s.

Photo on 15-10-06 at 9.36 AM

You Thought I Was Angry Before?

This is a post about this:



Just an old building in its last days.  Sure. Look more closely at the foreground with me.


OK, so now the nitty gritty.


I do get it, though, you know. The philosophy of John Locke can be used to justify the death of 200,000,000 people in North America, the theft of their land, and its virtual obliteration, in favour of this:


That’s right: sterile wood chip sewer sludge compost. It’s considered “healthy garden soil”. I don’t know what on earth was so wrong with the deep, rich, fertile wetland soil in front of it that it had to be sprayed with poisons so nothing grew on it all the summer long in the most productive spot in the most productive region of Canada. And that takes me to John Locke. Sorry, John. You were a good man. Who’s John Locke? This is John Locke.



You can read about him here. John was a champion of liberalism. Forget that, though. Really, though, for North America the thing to remember is that according to Locke’s philosophy, not Locke’s fault, the Indigenous people of this land were considered to be non-residents, because they just used the land; they didn’t add to it. That was wrong, but that was the understanding of the 18th and 19th centuries. The principle was that there was no universal attribute of humans that could tie them to land, hence there was no aristocracy, hence all civilized attributes were learned, and could be learned. It also meant that the land could be civilized, and by the addition of “improvements” it would be a private product, rather than a product belonging to all men on earth equally. The principle was that no man can be separated from either his labour or the fruits of his labour (unless that labour was indigenous, then it was invisible), because that is slavery. On this principle, if a man pounded a post into a piece of land, or planted a flag, or put up a shack, it was his, and he could shoot any man or woman who wandered onto it, even if their ancestors had been there for 10,000 years, caring for it. Yeah? Look at it.



This is “labour”? A 2-4-D poisoned dandelion? What about this one?



Do two poisoned dandelions, or 10,000, make it labour? What about the poisoning of alfalfa with Roundup? Is that labour?



Is that an improvement? Or the killing of an edible spring crop of lambs quarters? How about that? More labour?



Come on. It’s sociopathic, and it contravenes even Locke’s misapplied principle. It’s not improving the land. It forfeits any right to it whatsoever.



It negates the privatization of land. If you’re going to treat it like this, that’s it. You’re done. It goes back to the people. Instantly. And as for the bigger picture, sure, come on. The people’s water is used to subsidize the production of pretty but rather stale-tasting controlled-atmosphere stored Granny Smith apples that no one wants. Two bites and it’s time to hurl. Funny that death finds death so quickly.



What? They couldn’t have got a horse? What about letting the owls and hawks hunt here? Or the coyote on the hill behind? No, they had to do an Othello on it.



A culture that allows this is a culture of death. Let’s not make excuses. The whole point of privatization under the aegis of Locke was to create the concentration for a capital economy that could grow urban and military infrastructure. The land in the image above is not an economy at all. It’s not even a desert. It’s a sickness. May the man who sowed this death be brought to find life out of his darkness, but, first, may the land be removed from his abuse and brought back to life. We could argue the relative ethics of human and property rights till we were blue in the faces. It doesn’t matter. The activity above is just outside of any moral code.



That is why it is called tragedy.


To Understand the World, Understand Prague

A people that lives in the natural world channels the natural world through the patterns of the will and in the image of human consciousness and perception (and divine will). A people that lives in a world of artifice reshapes the natural world with machines and in the image of machines.


A people that defines artfulness as the grace by which one integrates the natural world into the industrial processes as a living contributor is a spiritual people living in the earth as a sacred body. A people that defines artfulness and the patterns by which the natural world, including humans, bends to the will of machinery as creativity is not a human people. Such a people are like the no-longer-employed fire-warning pigeons of Prague, seen gone feral above, still living in cities once built to the glory of God. They are free, but existentially bound to emptiness.

The Language of Science, Part 1

Look around. Earth in a bit of distress? Not quite looking up to her old self?


Attention, Tractor Drivers! Snakes are Sacred, You Guys!

(Poor little baby bull snake meets the Seasonal Foreign Worker Program at the exact point at which it meets a vineyard road wider than most highways in most countries. Such freedom of movement! So seductive! So deadly.)

Words made it so.


Words Did This

Vineyard wasteland after a rain.

Is the patch of earth above a dry landscape or a wet one? A hot one or a cold one? The questions are absurd. Only a long process of unattached abstraction hiding behind a veil of calm could create even the possibility of such a question. Here’s a small example of what it looked like before its transformation (note: this is a transformed landscape as well):



aka Lichen on Dead Stalks of Big Sage.

I’m working towards an environmental idea. Just to be clear, I’m not advocating Christianity here (or arguing against it). I’m merely pointing out that there used to be a word for unity: God. For a lot of well-known historical and political reasons, most of which revolve around attempts to escape a history of people killing each other in the name of forms of prayer to this unity, this unity was put aside. The whole concept was awfully explosive 200 or 300 years ago in Europe, just as it is in Syria, Iraq and the Gaza Strip today. Sadly, though, the idea of interconnectivity was shelved with the personification of this force, as was the aristocracy that shared that personification. In all that, my words just above,

“unattached abstraction hiding behind a veil of calm”

are one definition of God that survived the collapse of the unity of faith and politics in the West. It survived because it was taken up by the new technicians of the sacred: physical and theoretical scientists and their technicians. Out of it, given enough time, they have made stuff like this:


Vineyard at the Rise, Vernon

People believe in the romance. They pay big bucks for it. The reality is that of a near mono-cultural assembly line. Or a laboratory.

Well, no surprise that it worked out like this, I guess. It never really was a definition of God, anyway, or an honest one of unity, for that matter, just a mirror image of the monks and nuns who worked it up in the first place — an idea made in their own image, too, to top things off.


The Monastery of Maulbronn

Self portrait by monks, or Unattached abstraction hiding behind a veil of calm.

God himself? He can’t be defined. You can just point and make some kind of physical noise or gesture. Here, I’ll show you:



No, not the grasshopper, and not even the entire scene of grasses, stalks, stones and clay. Not even the air around them. Not even the bonds of energy that are holding all this together. You can’t make an image of God, that’s the thing. There he is, yet not what you are looking at or what you can describe. He is nothing and everything, whether you ‘believe’ in him or not.

This drove early scientists bonkers. Responses varied. Some said there was no God at all. Others saw God everywhere, as a presence (never as that pesky nothingness and not-there-ness noted above.) The first group held that the earth was a collection of blind, mechanistic physical processes, combined by chance. The second group held that, well, that grasshopper is God, really, but along with everything else. Then that bunch went off to see how he put everything together as a collection of blind, mechanistic physical processes, combined by chance. There was a lot of truth in what they found along this path, but, still, nobody asked the grasshoppers what they thought about all this.


That’s probably because grasshoppers don’t think. They are fully present instead. To think, you have to stop being present. You need a bit of distance. Either that, or you have to be continually present, as these aspen leaves are, glowing in the sun.


Not with Sun, In the Sun.

Sometimes the old words are best.

The net result of all of this struggle against a God that didn’t exist was a concept almost universally taught in schools in the West. I’m pretty sure that you have had it drilled into you wherever and whenever talk got around to poetry or writing. It’s called metaphor. It says that things (including God and the sun) aren’t what they seem. I know, I know, Wikipedia begs to differ and, in fact, here she goes, differing away:

metaphor is a figure of speech that describes a subject by asserting that it is, on some point of comparison, the same as another otherwise unrelated object.


Of course Wiki’s right, the electronic dear, and a darned useful logical tool this metaphor thing of hers is, too. It allows concepts to be created out of thin air, and after that one can argue about them until the cows come home.


Rodeo Performer Relaxing at Home After a Season on the Road, 150 Mile House 

How such a power tool is used, however, is vital. On this, I’m afraid Wiki gets thrown off her horse, to whit:

One of the most prominent examples of a metaphor in English literature is the All the world’s a stage monologue from As You Like It:


All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
William ShakespeareAs You Like It, 2/7[1]


This quotation contains a metaphor because the world is not literally a stage. By figuratively asserting that the world is a stage, Shakespeare uses the points of comparison between the world and a stage to convey an understanding about the mechanics of the world and the lives of the people within it.



Yes, (the bad writing of the passage aside), the rhetorical tool it describes is commonly agreed upon. In case you haven’t seen it in its raw form, here it is:


The Western Mind, Ready for Work

It’s awfully handy. The passage, too. It displays a mighty fine bit of Shakespeare, and that carries a lot of cultural weight, but, well, you see, if the world were a stage, in God’s mind or even in the minds of men, women and children (Shakespeare had all of those in mind by the way), or in the mind, presence or being of this fellow …


 California Quail in the Sagebrush, Okanagan Landing

Pit pit paKAh! pit pit, he says. PAH! PAH! Listen.

… then that metaphor would be less a way of cutting open a window into the world than of closing windows and screwing them tight. It would be directing its readers away from unity to a universe of secrets by means of a bit of sleight of hand (brazenly changing one thing for another and then using the simplified changeling in the place of a dynamically unified original.) Well, that’s an old philosopher’s trick for confusing opponents and getting them to concede, whether they’re right or wrong. It’s called “The Straw Man” and it was a favourite of my grandfather’s friends at the University of Freiburg in 1928, when they used to go out and fight on the streets and then come back to their friend the medical student and get bandaged up and sewn back together. I really don’t have much stomach for it. Here, let me try again. The following image shows what I think of this sleight of hand business…


Bird1, as dissected by Bird2, on the Grey Canal Trail: a play in one act.

The pile of feathers represents what is commonly termed “Survival of the Fittest. The idea is that the force driving the differentiation of species into new species is the survival of those individuals with traits best fitted to circumstances, while others die out. Of course, it’s true. It’s just incomplete, that’s all. Thousands of species are going extinct today due to activities of what is not the fittest species on the planet, just the deadliest. The frame of mind that might see these (self-defined rational) humans as the most fit is the same that might render birds into abstractions in the first place.


Three Red-Tailed Hawks Hunting Together Above the Vineyards

Not abstractions. Not Buteo jamaicensis.

 It’s a strange kind of fitness, after all, that sees a species destroy not only its own habitat but that of most other species at the same time, and all at while it translates living birds into sets of classified ideas. What arrogance made men believe that birds had anything to do with them, separate from the unity they share? Well, the idea of a non-physical, non-present God, for one thing, a God of thought and will, who made them in his own image, and so on. Well, crumb, but they missed something in the long trains of thought that led them to that handy conclusion, this:


Red Dogwoods Just Beginning to Turn Colour

The delayed reddening is the result of receiving water and fertilization from a choke cherry tree, and shade as well. Here’s one growing in full sun, with far less water or shade, just a couple hundred metres away:


Red Dogwood In the Sun

One species, delicately registering subtle environmental changes. That is a profound unity. Any concept of natural history or biological science, and any struggle for environmental protection, that doesn’t see that is, like most things in a human-centric world, centred around human struggles for social power. (Which is how the unity was smashed apart in the first place.) In the Shakespearean passage quoted by Wikipedia above, for example  (repeated below for your reading pleasure)…

stage… the important thing is not the passage’s playful mask of fiction and truth (although Shakespeare so loved to play with those) but that word “stage.” There is a particular attitude which reads “stage” as “theatrical stage.” A reading like that makes the whole passage a delightful fiction. Little fooling confusions between physical reality and appearance were de rigeur in baroque Europe (out of which science sprang). In the Duchess of Baden’s pleasure palace in Kuppenheim, between Baden Baden and the Rhine, for instance, insects and dropped playing cards were painted into the flooring, in the hope of making someone squeal and provide the opportunity for laughter. I haven’t sat down today to fool with Shakespeare, like that, or with you. I’m only using Shakespeare as a rhetorical wedge, to open up a discussion on a word, metaphor, that seems so obvious as to brook no comment, and I’m doing that to make a statement about the social relationship between humans and the earth. One of my main points is that a dissecting rational consciousness is not the only way of seeing the world (although it is the one most of us have been schooled in). There is, for example, another form of consciousness that looks like this …

buckThe Neighbours Up on the Hill

… and another like this …


 Western Ground Squirrel, Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park

… and another which reads “stage” in terms of the world. In other words, to it the world is a stage and whatever a stage is, it is the world. This, for example, is a part of that stage…

crooked Abandoned Fenceline, Bella Vista

… as is this …

lines Weeds, Cut and Baled as Hay, Bella Vista

That’s an industrial apple factory in the foreground.

… and this …


“Red Hill”, John Day River, Oregon

The appropriate way to read this stage is to walk it, with the body, not with the mind, and to respond to it as a body, not as a mind. The new cultural study called “Walking” is an attempt to codify these responses, using the human body, rather than the Graeco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions, as ground zeros for Western readings of the world.


Woman Meets Ancestor, Horsethief Butte, Washington

If you don’t walk, you won’t find her.

But there, I’ve gone on a bit much again, I fear. Maybe this will help: as humans, we have a tendency to read the play that is unfolding on this stage through the patterns of our own minds, which means that looking out through a couple trees over water and distant mountains automatically triggers thoughts of narrative, hunting, voyage, shelter, family, security and return. Perhaps, then, if my images above are just plain confusing, the one below will be more “framed” by the body, as a cognitive organ? (Yes, you read that right.)

charlotte3Charlotte Lake,  Chilcotin Illahie

Looking northwest over the Coast Mountains. How’s that looking to you? Like a stage? Like a good place to settle down and raise the kids for a few thousand years?

There’s yet another ready possibility for readings of the word “stage.” This one reads both stage and world as the same thing, plus it throws “theatrical stage” into the mix. In this way of thinking, Shakespeare’s theatrical stage is a rather wooden version of the one that, today, is called the Earth. It even includes the ecosystem of the actions of people upon it, their intentions, their readings, and their joys and sorrows, as part of a whole that is larger than they are.*

*This is one of the definitions of poetry, a method of merging body and mind that contemporary culture avoids at its peril.

P1480706The Stage

(aka Late Afternoon Boats on Okanagan Lake) Note: NO metaphor involved.

I don’t mean to put all the important stuff into captions, so let me say that again: there is no metaphor in this kind of consciousness. To it, metaphor is just a tool, and when expanded to a properly viewable scale that looks like this:


Metaphor, With Its Masks Off

I’m not just slicing and dicing words. I think this difference between modes of consciousness is vitally important. To explore a little further a mindset that breaks a unified world up into a cognitively observed play covering a hidden, practical reality viewable only by the initiated (i.e. educated), I offer this image of an oregon grape in early July …


 Kalamalka Lake Shore in Early Summer

Note how the so-called “Autumn Colours” have already begun. (Autumn: another word not really helping anybody out, is it.)

Now to get to the heart of the matter. A consciousness that sees Shakespeare’s words as less than literal is the one that created Western traditions of science and claims that the oregon grape in the image above represents something other than an oregon grape. What that ‘something’ is varies. If one were a poet caught up in such a mindset, it might represent, say, a stellar cluster in a cloud of gas. It would be something to admire, like a parlour trick, a little bit of a beautiful idea in a day, passed on and forgotten. If one were a scientist caught up in this mindset, it might represent Mahonia aquifolium. It might represent a key player in an ecosystem. It might represent Nature.


Celtic Nature

Growing on the approach to a Celtic Hill Fort above the Rhine. You can be darned sure that to the Celts, this wasn’t “nature”. Each of the plants you see here, and even the soil beneath them, had deep spiritual significance. This was a book. But that’s a discussion best left for another day. I just wanted to show you what nature looks like (when seen by conquerors) as opposed to what it looks like to people who are indigenous.

In neither the mind of the poet who accepts metaphor nor the mind of the scientist who utilizes standardized tools of comparison in the place of metaphor, however, is the thing just what it is, without being cognitively transformed into an argument and into the forms of an argument (and remember, they are spun out of thin air).

greeneyesThe Oregon Grape and the Fly Are One

Now, of course unity is a difficult thing. In the mindset that sees Shakespeare’s stage as a metaphor, for  anything to happen unity must be broken. Otherwise, we’d all be standing still. (Interestingly, photography, the art form that rose up with technological science, sees everything as still.) See?


Photography: Eternal Stillness

That is, perhaps, an illusion. It is easy to find movement and change within unity, as long as the cognitive point of view of a human observer is not at play. It could all be moving within movement, for instance, and together movement and movement are what the English language calls stillness; it could all be moving within the mind of God, and humans are all somewhere off in a corner with the other Great Apes, cracking nuts with their teeth; it could all be within the energy of the universe itself; and so on. Lots of ways of shaking it up. Intriguingly, images below were one of the class of ideas that led to the disparagement of God over the last couple of centuries (and the loss of a concept of unity with him):


The Energy of the Universe Turning Okanagan Lake into Wave Forms

See those waves? That’s the effect of wind on the water. The wind in this region comes largely from two sources: from the turning of the earth, which is a function of the formation of the planet out of a spinning disk of gas in the early solar system, and from localized heating and cooling caused by the sun on the hills (and opposing slopes of cool shade.) When early scientists discarded the idea that this is the mind of God moving over the water, by pointing out that it was just the wind, they missed the fact that wind or not, it was still part of a unity at least as large as the solar system, and 4,500,000,000 years long, at least in this present iteration.

Point of view is an important tool. Scientific understanding as we largely know it is predicated on an individual human rational point of view. It could, in other words, be best understood as the working out of the possibilities of this point of view, just as the medieval conception of God was a working out of the lives of the medieval monks who cooked it up in the first place. The gaps or limitations in the world view of this scientific understanding are, thus, as much the limitations of this chosen anchoring point (the observing self) as anything else. Thing is, though, it’s not just an observing consciousness but a dissecting and systematizing one, too. It is a bit of a problem. Here, let me show you one small way in which this works.

P1480854 They’re not called red osier dogwoods for nothing! Now, a peach from my garden…

P1480963 They’re not called “Red Haven Peaches” for nothing! Now, a young staghorn sumac from up the road…


On its way to full colour glory. Do you see how that works? No? Let’s try again. Tomatoes from my garden?

tomsYellow clover, maybe?

Well, a ridiculous name, really, but at this time of year it puts on some mighty fine colour in its stalks. Now, in scientific nomenclature, these are all varied plants, with varied latin names, classified according to patterns of leaf and stalk and seed, to place them in what are called “families” but which are, actually, lineages of genetic material. This classification system is a powerful and useful tool, but it is not neutral. If these plants were classified as one related energy, based on the colour red, for example (and this is just an example), like this…

redsstuff… the various points at which the colour red were manifested would take on significance, in the same way that genetic markers take on in the science of metaphor, and would be put to use and developed into technologies quite different than the ones that come out of the traditions of metaphorical science. Such forms of classification were also a part of the Christian and aristocratic traditions before they were thrown away, and were relegated to the territories of art and poetry, and even to spirituality. Well, that was a long time ago and those art forms are lost, or nearly so, and the world is dying for the lack of what men and women once knew.

Tomorrow: Part 2. Alternate spiritual traditions and alternate forms of classification.