Tag Archives: Nature

Generally True Patterns #22

Waterfall, Wheeler Wilderness, New Mexico

Waterfall, Wheeler Wilderness, New Mexico

Generally True Patterns: A New Natural History of Recognizing Ourselves as a Part of Nature

 

 

 

 

Part 22 of 22

 

Generally True Patterns by Chapter (what it all comes to)

 

I am aware of the complexity of my argument, and of the shortcomings inherent in its formal presentation as a philosophical thought problem. John Muir, Ernest Thompson Seton, Aldo Leopold, and Loren Eisley (more examples might be given) have made exactly the same points with an eloquence of beauty I can more admire than emulate. In my defense, I can only claim that each of must contribute what we can under the dire circumstances in which we find ourselves.

As I know from my studies of art history, the greatest and most original artists, no matter how radical their innovations, have built their accomplishments on what they learned from those preceding them. In this final section I offer first a restating in one place of the generally true patterns I have identified, followed by a glossary of terms I have introduced (I hope in the name of clarity), and a list of some of the more influential authors (but by no means all the authors) whose works I have called upon to support my structuring of the three realm examples that forms the model for generally true patterns.

1) Nature is characterized by generally true patterns: things, events, and processes that work in the same way across physical, biological, and social systems. An overriding pattern is that all actions have consequences. This implies that what we do in the world matters, yet too often our behavior is contrary to this pattern.

2) Nature in its three realms is about relationships. Nothing is one thing alone. Relationships evolve over time. All things, events and processes arise in our perceptions from somewhere. A thing becomes a thing following its move from an abstraction to a concrete reality or actual process of something. Realized outcomes of things, events, and processes are both deterministic and unpredictable. All things, events, and processes of the entirety change and evolve; the processes of reality are always in motion, regardless of time scale.

3) In any situation, as energy dissipates, the very occurrence of that dissipation creates disruptions. Energy moves through all systems. Instability within a system leads to change.

4) Everywhere we look in nature, we find a primacy of change. All situations of things, events, processes, and organizations exhibit motion and change. There is no situation of unchanging condition.

5) In trying to find meaning, we must look at relationships and the entirety. Change compounds change. Each emergent state includes the properties of the previous stages. As things, events, and processes evolve, so also all the relationships among them.

6) Patterns describe potential, generally rather than precisely. All agents within all systems operate with some degree of imprecision. All systems change and evolve over time. All systems of the three realms are ultimately, even if distantly, connected to all other systems. A functional system is one in which the inflow of energy is sufficient to maintain its operations. The vitality of any system depends on the free flow of information. As organizations (social, biological, physical) increase in size and complexity, differentiation occurs. Information (or energy) does not move in a vacuum but through an already occupied space. Information exhibits the quality of continuance over time. All production is associated with certain costs.

Major changes in a system can come suddenly. A change in the environment of an area will be accompanied by a change in the population of that environment. Reciprocity is inevitable. Systems must be built through the necessary developmental stages. Evolution is a constant in nature. Longevity is subject to limitations. Agents, acting separately or collectively, claim a portion of physical space as their own. The closer a system gets to equilibrium, the less resilient it becomes to any changes in the environment; All systems are dynamic and evolving or in stasis and dying. Change compounds.

Systems follow natural processes of renewal to maintain themselves, including the ability to evolve into a different form. Aspects of existence are a collection of malleable properties rather than a set singularity. Energy moves through all systems. Structures of organization are systems of signals expressed in the form of energy, matter, and information in physical and cognitive systems. Organizational structures adapt to fit needs (or events or situations) as need arises.

An alteration or change in an agent or entity can send permutations through a system. Systems develop where movement of energy pushes the system to the edge of chaos, the place where creativity and adaptation to changing conditions takes place. Diminishment of energy into a system leads the organizational structure to resemble a closed system. A net gain of energy input is needed to maintain any system over time without running down.

7) Wild-nature pattern lessons are about transformation, including loss. Systems follow natural processes of change to maintain or transform into a different form. Aspects of existence are a collection of malleable properties rather than a set singularity.

8) We and everything are connected.

Glossary of Terms and Concepts Related to Generally True Patterns

Basic: parts of the entirety showing less inclusion of other parts of the entirety, e.g. atoms are more basic than molecules; the more basic parts are more independent of other parts.

Conscious loss: the policy to diminish, extirpate, or eliminate something.

Forms of conversion: processes whereby the movement of energy restructures a system into a new form.

Generally true patterns: things, events, and processes that work in the same way across physical, biological, and social systems.

Increasing inclusion: the idea of changing, compounding relationship over time.

Person/nature split: the misconception of human separateness from nature, based on a perception of loss or exclusion. Contrast with person/nature connection, perception of relationship with nature based on inclusion.

Potential: the enfolded form of a generally true pattern that exists across the three realms.

Principal: parts of the entirety that are more inclusive of other parts, e.g., consciousness; the more principal parts are more dependent on other parts.

Process integration: nature explained in terms of nonlinear and emergent properties arising from the actions of many agents—the means of connection of aggregates is usually more important than any one individual or individual event, although an aggregate is composed of individual events. The operations of process integration have been explored in complexity science and systems theories.

Realized: the unfolded form of a pattern manifested as a specific thing, process, or event in just one realm which, connected to related instances in other realms, comprises a generally true pattern; an individuality may also be termed an example of specific separateness.

Static constancy: a belief holding that things, events, and processes exist largely outside of time and are for all practical purposes, changeless.

Three realms: Our universe consists of three realms accessible by sensory means: the physical realm represented by the reductive sciences of physics and chemistry that includes classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and relativity. The second is the biological realm of all living things organized on an ecological model. The third is a special case of the second, basically, us, called by various names, but summarized as the social realm.

Further Reading

A conventional bibliography is not useful here since the literature on subjects covered is overwhelmingly vast. I will limit source citing to authors specifically mentioned in the text.

Bateson, Gregory. A Sacred Unity, Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind.New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991.

Bohm, David. Wholeness and the Implicate Order.New York: Routledge, 1980.

Cleary, Thomas (trans. And ed.). The Essential Tao: An Initiation into the Heart of Taoism Through the Authentic Tao Te Ching and the Inner Teachings of Chuang-tzu.Edison: Castle Books, 1998.

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Last of the Mohicans, (1826) in The Leatherstocking Tales, Vol. I. New York: Library of America.

Davenport, Guy. Herakleitos and Diogenes.San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1976.

Evernden, Neil. The Natural Alien: Humankind and Environment.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985.

Gould, Stephen Jay and Niles Eldredge. “Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phylogenetic gradualism” inModels of Paleobiology. San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper, 1972.

Lovejoy, Arthur O. The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea.Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936, 1964.

Orff, Carl. Carmina Burana.RCA Victor album, 1992.

Pirsig, Robert. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.New York: Bantam Books, 1974.

Prigogine, Ilya. The End of Certainty, Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature.New York: The Free Press, 1996.

Roszak, Theodore. The Voice of the Earth, An Exploration of Ecopsychology.New York: Touchstone, 1992

Tennyson, Lord Alfred. Idylls of the King1859.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality (Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927-28).New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979.

von Bertalanffy, Ludwig. General Systems Theory.New York: George Braziller, 1968.

Wilber, Ken. Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, The Spirit of Evolution. Boston: Shambhala, 1995.

This ends the 22 part series on Generally True Patterns

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Generally True Patterns #3

 

Alpine Avens, Mt. Wheeler, New Mexico

Alpine Avens, Mt. Wheeler, New Mexico

Generally True Patterns: A New Natural History of Recognizing Ourselves as Part of Nature

Part 3 of 22

 

 

Chapter 1 Patterns Part II: Above All Else, Nature Is Characterized by Movement

My role is to act as a natural historian of pattern recognition. Patterns are essentially limitless in number, like the synaptic connections of neurons, a multitude of pathways without an apparent center. There are no identifiable entries or exits; all parts are larger or smaller aspects of all other parts. Generally true patterns of underlying order may describe a degree of connection and control from higher to lower (or lower to higher) levels explaining some part of our relationship to nature and one another.

Understanding the nature of change and motion through the things, events, and processes repeating through many forms in apparently unrelated circumstances is daunting, but denying the existence of change (such as the clean atmosphere of 1700 becoming the contaminated one of today) or of responsibility (such as “off budget” foreign wars creating deficits) shows that some among us deny the possibility that what we do has an impact on the world. For example, the diversity of the biosphere is being irretrievably destroyed without hope of recovery. Once a species or a region is gone, it’s gone. Our actions suggest that extinction doesn’t matter or can’t be helped, even for those of us who believe the destruction to be a crime against the earth. Either way the carnage does not stop. The simultaneous ability by our other-wise civilization to hold both apathy and moral outrage at the same time stems from a reluctance to search for meaning in nature.

The person/nature split is about our distance from wild-nature, not just its poetic aspect, but from reluctance to admit the primacy of physical and biological laws. The disastrous weight of this belief is compounded by our idea that we live in a static universe where movement, flow, and the irreversibility of time do not occur. The outcome, based on our actual behavior, not what we say, is a belief that our actions have no consequences, or at least few important enough to change our behavior. We may decry war, human rights injustices, or species extinction, but the historical record tells a different story. The study of generally true patterns considers the disconnect of stated belief from actual behavior as a loss of meaning that occurs because of the nature/person split. Acknowledging inherent connections between nature and society, and between time and our actions, becomes essential in understanding a world we are rapidly destroying.

Naturalists traditionally made observations of wild-nature and interpreted the meaning of those observations. They found that nature is characterized by complexity of process and form, yet at the same time brings an economy of organization to its seemingly infinite variety across all scales of size such as the similar spiral forms of nautilus shells and galaxies. The generally true patterns in this book, however, are more about principles than the visual appearance of forms.

Statements of the generally true are somewhat radical within the context of Western heritage that more often looks for the absolutely true. Here is a centrally important pattern that provides thematic context for this work as a whole:

All actions have consequences.

 This may be the most problematic because it is a statement that we often claim to believe but that our behavior contradicts. The outcome of accepting or ignoring consequences will unfold in the following pages. (This pattern is of course a basic tenet of Buddhism; my perspective is based on Western science.)

Actions are actions regardless of the originating source of the event. In the physical realm gravitational forces hold together aggregations of planets to a star. Radioactive decay changes uranium into lead. Within living systems, the action of introducing an exotic species like salt cedar into a new habitat extirpates native grasses and wildflowers. In the social realm, the assassination of a president in an African country leads to a war of genocide between Hutus and Tutsis. In each case, a certain action has led to a particular result, the details of which in living systems are largely unpredictable, but in all cases display the same underlying pattern of actions having consequences. Actions may be termed disturbances. Within this pattern disturbances can take physical form, but also collect conceptually. Massive ideas distort our space-time more than less massive ideas, a pattern similar to the gravitational effects of more massive on less massive astral bodies.

This pattern is not a truism, because in destroying the biosphere of the planet (pollution and species extermination) and taking actions against other humans (murder, rape, torture on a small or large scale), and willingly taking actions against ourselves (knowingly eating unhealthy foods when nutritious alternatives are available), we act as if actions do not have consequences. Until we understand on a deep level that we are nature, that our actions constitute an outcome of natural processes, we cannot solve the chronic crises facing us. Accepting ourselves as a part of nature rather than separate from it may be the most difficult challenge we face. Until we do so, we actually deny that actions have consequences in a fundamental way.

As a result of this denial of our actual behavior in relation to the rest of nature, the usefulness of this book is less to prescribe how to live than it is to acknowledge recognition of our being a part of nature. Until this fundamental shift in our philosophy and our psychology takes place we will not be ready to admit the existence of motion and change. Pattern recognition can be a part of this process of increasing our receptivity for change. When we truly accept and understand ourselves as a part of nature, we may become open to solutions needed to assure our survival along with that of our fellow creatures.

The issue I wish to address is the fallacious belief that the significance of our behavior is trivial and irrelevant to anything outside of itself. The natural history of pattern recognition recognizes the existence of broad organizing structures explaining the person/nature connection within a non-static universe. The behavior we exhibit always leads to outcomes—for good or ill. Meaningful chance requires the acceptance of individual responsibility for the self and for others, because the reality in which we exist unalterably consists of interacting things, events, and processes. The opposing view, closed-system silliness such as “Objectivism” anchors the political ideology of the person/nature split in which we are exempt from the laws of nature.

Next essay: Chapter 2 Part I: Historical Connections of the Anthropocene

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Generally True Patterns

 

Albino Marmot, Mount Wheeler, New Mexico

Albino Marmot, Mount Wheeler, New Mexico

Generally True Patterns: A New Natural History of Recognizing Ourselves as a Part of Nature

raison d’être 

Part 1 of 22

This series on generally true patterns in nature is offered at what may be the concluding moments of our civilization, the “Anthropocene” era. This new geologic and biologic era created by us is marked by the certainty of coming catastrophe unless our behavior changes. Massive oceanic and terrestrial habitat destruction, a nearly unprecedented rate of species extinction, and intentional alternations in the atmospheric and hydrologic forms that nurtured our civilization (and wild nature) are leading to a shift in air composition, water distribution, and a reduction in overall bio-carrying capacity of the living earth (“Gaia”) even as our population spirals out of control. (For more on this check out the Help Nature section of my web site and authors including Naomi Klein.)

The belief that we are separate from nature and thus immune to the laws of physics and biology is demonstratively wrong. Those of us who have identified these issues have a moral obligation to accept the dictum of Socrates that the only life worth living is the examined one. The dictum of the naturalist is that it is not just the individual life, but the life of the planet that we must examine and fight to preserve in whatever way we can.

There is a widely held belief that we are exempt from the laws of nature. And further, that we can treat the living earth without regard to consequences. Our species may endure, but our purposeful environmental destruction threatens the survival of wild nature and the civilization we have built. We need to examine what might remedy or mitigate the situation and address the underlying cause.

Look elsewhere for stories about “solutions” such as solar energy and recycling, reduced meat consumption, anti-corruption efforts, etc. Such fixes are vital outcomes of what I have in mind, but utterly incapable of saving us unless we look deeper.

Understanding nature is of vital, ultimate importance. The sense of unease that many of us feel in our personal, societal and environmental lives comes out of a disconnection from nature. This disconnection can be addressed through identification of what can be summarized as generally true patterns, a recognition that the physical, biological and social realms operate according to common underlying principles.

Deeper into Patterns

Patterns demonstrate the endless complexity of nature, but are based on relatively simple rules and once recognized can be applied to the way we live, think and act. Generally true patterns are a model of nature’s architecture. Neither mass nor energy, they encompass both. Building skills in pattern recognition will be of importance to any of us who wish to become more conscious of our place in the world.

Pattern recognition is deep immersion into how the things, events and processes of the entirety are connected. Patterns represent the dynamical spirit of nature in its forms of chance and creativity pushed forward by instability. My purpose is to identify patterns that demonstrate our connection to the natural world, to replace the person/nature split with a person/nature connection. It is for those of us who have decided to take responsibility for decisions made in our personal and public lives. It is for anyone seeking a mutually healing relationship with nature.

This deep level of understanding is essential if the needed technological, ethical, and moral fixes can be put in place in time to make a difference to our survival.

Works on corporate and government corruption, carbon pollution and climate instability, biodiversity and habitat loss have refuted the belief that the laws of laissez faire prevail over the laws of nature, but not everyone has accepted this message. The poisoning of the environment and our bodies has been noted but without appreciable change in the way we actually live. Our disregard of the natural world has not changed.

Warning signs are coming from wild nature. Within a relatively short time major predators such as snow leopards, African lions, and polar bears will likely be gone from the wild. The integrity and carbon sequestering capacity of the Amazonian forests will be compromised beyond repair. Fresh water will become more fought over than oil. The polar air conditioners, required for planetary cooling will wind down dramatically releasing methane deposits currently resident in the frozen tundra, creating a positive feedback loop of climate warming.

Scientific documentation of our bleak future has had no political effect whatsoever, at least not so much as to make much difference in the outcome of our current path. My purpose is to suggest why this might be so. My observation is that our world civilization (its leaders, its individuals) has not been reconciled to nature and has failed to take its actual processes into account. Unless there is a revolution in our thinking (and consciousness) the predicted disasters may well come about. Pattern recognition could convince us that we are a part of and not separate from the rest of nature. Finding accommodation with the natural world will lead to a better future for all living beings.

Generally True Patterns is based on my lifetime study of natural history and is informed by academic and professional work in political science, systems philosophy, and history. In slightly different form it has been published as an eBook. Additional radical natural history essays may be accessed at www.davidlwitt.com.

This series of essays, published twice per week, will explore the structure of nature’s patterns. Each begins with a series of observations concluding with the meanings I draw from those observations, illustrated by the patterns themselves. Acknowledging that we are a part of nature could yet save us from ourselves.

Next essay: Chapter 1 Patterns Part I: Above All Else, Nature Is Characterized by Movement

 

 

 

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