240 – As Everything in Nature, We are Autopoietic Systems …

There is nothing that empirically proves how interrelated we are with everything in Nature than a verified scientific theory, and Humberto Maturana and Francisco Valera’s Autopoiesis does that for me.

The word Autopoiesis comes from the Greek ‘auto’ meaning ‘self’, and ‘poiesis’ meaning ‘creation: Self-creation.

Autopoiesis is a property of naturally evolving systems – molecules, cells, planets, galaxies – that allows them to recreate themselves by generating their own components and by conserving their own boundaries    while developing into the fundamental configuration of the species to which they belong.

Like any other evolving system in Nature – like a cell, like a galaxy, like our own Earth – human beings are autopoietic systems. We recreate ourselves by generating our own components and by conserving the skin that enfolds us and exchanges information with environments so we can adapt with a degree of flexibility, while at the same time developing into the fundamental configuration shared by everyone in our species.

The theory of Autopoietic Systems proves how the universal power of self-creation profoundly interrelates us with everything in Nature. And I believe we will be more rational and tender in our relationship with Nature when we understand this about us.

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239 – How can we? …

How can we, the lucky ones, the people with ‘residual incomes’, who know full well now that what we are doing to the environment can be the end of us – all of us – continue doing it as if we are untouchable?

How can we?

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238 – As Everything in Nature, We are Dissipative Structures …

There is nothing that proves our interrelatedness with everything in Nature than a proven scientific theory, and Ilya Prigogine’s Dissipative Structures does that for me.

Dissipative Structures are systems that interact openly with environments and are powered by a continuous consumption and release of energy sources (dissipation). This continuous dissipation renders the system vulnerable to environmental fluctuations (i.e. changes in energy sources), which may force the system to restructure oftentimes into greater levels of complexity. But greater complexity demands greater consumption of energy sources, which then makes the system more vulnerable to internal and external fluctuations. Amazingly enough, this increased vulnerability is a source for the constant transformation of Nature.

Like everything in Nature – molecules, cells, planets, galaxies – we are dissipative structures; we power our selves, our self-generation, our adaptation, by consuming and releasing energy sources (dissipation).

From the moment we are conceived, we ignite the primal dissipation process, consuming energy sources (foods, air), and releasing them as motion, action, force. And even though the process makes us totally dependent for our sustenance on the environment, that we do it on our own, on our own power, is an amazing accomplishment. But that we turn this dependency, this vulnerability, into growing more resilient, more adaptable, more ingenious, more insightful, more self-reflective, more open to possibilities, is truly amazing.

This primal dissipation process is one of the foundations of the evolution of Nature. It is embodied in everything – molecules, cells, human beings, planets, galaxies – and it is how, even if we are dependent on environmental laws, everything we do is a possibility not only for our transformation but for the transformation of our world. We are catalysts for Transformation.

The theory of Dissipative Structures proves how profoundly interrelated everything in Nature is – we survive and develop through the same process as everything in Nature – and accepting this fact will catapult us into a more rational understanding of ourselves and our relationship with Nature.

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237 – Guidelines for the Education of Every Child on Earth …

“If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going”. Maya Angelou

When a parent comes to regret the outcome of hurtful personality traits in a child under their guidance, the natural excuse we give is “I did my best”, “I didn’t have a manual”.

It is true. Most parents try their best, but in our cultures we do not give them guidelines for the critical job of raising a child, especially in their early years when children are more vulnerable, impressionable, and totally dependent on adults.

And even though we have some guidelines that have been passed on from generation to generation (Tolerance, Honesty, Compassion, the understanding of the difference between Right and Wrong,), there are critical guidelines that are not even considered.

And even though the “Golden Rule” (Treat others as you would like others to treat you) is the foundation at the core of most teaching, I believe we have nothing like a universal set of guidelines for Education’. And the lack of something like this is at the roots of our chaotic, selfish, aggressive, greedy, destructive world.

There is a desperate need for a universal Dictum that encompasses ancient and new guidelines, like the ones below, that are based on facts we all know to be true:

  • Make the child aware that Life is the primal source from which we are engendered and into which we return.
  • Teach the child the value of organized religions to bring people together to help others, but because the core beliefs of organized religions are based on dogma, they inhibit freedom of thought. Therefore, with this in mind, give children the freedom to follow, or not, a religious belief.
  • Challenge them to create a vision of what they want to be in the future; a vision perhaps of becoming someone whose actions transform the future, like those of Aristotle, Mandela, Einstein, Mozart.
  • Teach the children that we are a part of Nature, and as such, totally dependent for sustenance on the environments we inhabit, yet we also are, like no other creature we know of, conscious of being alive with a degree of freedom to transform ourselves and our world.
  • Teach children that being alive is the most beautiful phenomenon in Nature and that we are one of its luckiest manifestations – one that is evolving amid incredible challenges into a supple, intelligent, self-conscious human being with the capacity to see and feel our own beauty.
  • Teach the children that they have the power to make the world as happy and kind as they want it to be, and set them free.

I believe that with guidelines like the ones above, children can grow not only greatly aware of the significance of their presence in the world, but also well prepared to face the world their ancestors have created, and transform it with gentleness and care.

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236 – A Cell, a Human Being, the Earth, the Galaxy …

At first look, it may be difficult to see a relationship between a cell, us, the Earth, the Milky Way, other than we are all in the same Universe. We obviously have different structural organizations, exist in different magnitudes, adapt according to the different environments in which we exist.

But without disregarding our differences, we are in fact more closely related than we think we are. Cells, human beings, the Earth, the Milky Way, everything in Nature, come into existence imprinted with the same set of properties – a universal blueprint – that links us together by mapping the steps we all must follow in order to survive.

We all come into existence by becoming 1 – a component of a larger system that not only regulates us, but that we can transform, and 2 – a congregation of smaller systems that we not only regulate but that can transform us.

We all develop a preordained yet supple form of existence through a constant counterbalance between the energy we consume and the energy we exert to adapt and survive.

We are all created with the innate power to self-organize, self-generate, self-regulate, self-direct, self-perpetuate, while transforming ourselves and our world.

But of all these universal properties, it is the power for transformation which is the harbinger inducing Life to know itself.

Can we ever acknowledge this about us – that although imprinted with the same universal properties as everything in Nature, we are one of those beautiful creatures in which those properties have begun to induce Life to wonder about the wonder of itself?

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235 – A Dream …

I was somewhere out in deep space observing from afar a desolate Mars-like planet. My position, as if I was standing on the Moon looking at Earth, was stationary, but I was much closer to the planet than the Moon is to Earth; so close in fact that I could hear the tremendous roar of the planet as it revolved around its axis.

Like the Earth, the planet revolved from West to East, but an entire revolution lasted only an hour. This means that from my position I got to see the same topography every hour. As the planet rotated with symmetrical precision, I was also able to discern fading patterns, barely visible signs on its surface left by eons of gravitational and evolutionary processes. But there was nothing else. No telling signs of activity.

Hour after hour, I witnessed the same unchanged surfaces appear and disappear as the planet rotated in front of me. But suddenly I noticed something different, something entirely new. A little dark spot had appeared on the equatorial belt of the planet in the West. I noticed it immediately because it stood out from the dullness and monotony of its surroundings. At first, I could not believe my eyes and thought it was my imagination. But then the little spot continued to move towards the East with the rotation of the planet until it disappeared behind the horizon in the East. I sat there, flabbergasted, hardly able to wait and see if it was going to reappear again in the West. And lo and behold, exactly half an hour later, there it was again. Without any doubt now, the little spot was a feature of the planet.

After a few more rotations, I noticed that the spot was not only a bit bigger, but it was also changing into the shape of a teardrop. I realized that the reason for the change in shape was that it was beginning to move towards the West, and because its direction was counter to the rotation of the planet, a comet-like tail was beginning to trail behind it.

Now, used to its presence, I noticed that its color was a brilliant emerald-green, and that the tail was fanning out covering more and more surface. The spot was strikingly beautiful in contrast to the barren background of the planet.

In several more rotations, it grew into a continent-sized triangle, intensely green in its westward arrowhead, and faintly lighter in its fan-like tail. It was now clear that what started as an insignificant spot was transforming the entire planet.

As it continued to expand, covering now more than half the surface of the planet, it reached a point where the arrowhead touched its tail. Then something incredible happened: The emerald-green triangle covered the entire planet; and its counterforce towards the West, grown greatly, began to slow down the rotation of the planet towards the East. Within a few more rotations, the planet came to a standstill. And then, slowly, very slowly, it began to rotate towards the West.

A critical mass was reached. A barren world had been transformed. And a beautiful emerald-green planet reigned brilliantly in the immensity of space.


As I pondered the significance of my dream, our capacity to transform ourselves and our world came to mind; a capacity that, for instance, prompted our exponential growth with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, and with it, the waste with which we have polluted the environment that has supported our evolution for millions of years. We have thrown out of balance the chemical equilibrium of the environment, and, as a result, we are now facing a crisis that, although it was created unintentionally at the beginning, is now threatening our survival.

Scientific warnings have been loud and clear for decades on the dire impact of our actions on the environment, but for the sake of greed and selfishness, we have paid no heed. Even now, when the signs of environmental upheaval are bearing upon us, a great number of us, especially in the industrialized nations, seem incapable to accept the fact that We Are The Culprit.

We have reached a point in our evolution when there is no other choice but to face the consequences of what we have created.

In the evolutionary history of the Earth, catastrophic events have thrown the planet out of equilibrium, demanding long periods of time to adjust or change. The planet always did. But will we?

My hope is that, if we can find no solution to our crisis, those who may survive the aftermath of Nature’s response to our onslaught, come together, globally, with a vision of a new paradigm based not on the greed, deceit, conflict, and destruction of our current one, but on Knowing that in the scheme of Nature, we are nothing more than another one of its myriad manifestations. But because we have had the chance and the challenge to evolve amid one of Earth’s relatively stable periods, we have developed into the beautiful, ingenious and intelligent organism able to envision paradigm shifts with the power to transform our world – we did it with the Industrial Revolution, unfortunately initiating the changes that ultimately polluted our environment, or when we first saw the picture of Earth taken from space, awakening to the beauty and fragility of our planet, and courageously initiating the environmental movements transforming the way we understand Nature  – just as the ‘spot’ in my dream transformed its world.

It is just a dream. But dreams do come true.

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234 – Perspective …

The following, current facts, help me get a sense of perspective on the significance of my presence in, and interrelatedness with the world in which I exist:

The 1.5 centimeter-long pro-biotic capsule I take every day to assist digestion, contains two billion cells – Imagine! two billion cells packed in a little capsule. And so it is no wonder that there are some 37 trillion cells in an average human body,[1] each cell containing some 42 million molecules. This is the world inside of me; this is what I am made out of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NASA picture below shows the location of Voyager 1 and 2 after 42 years of travel since their deployment in 1977 (click on the picture to expand). The picture also shows the oval shape of our solar system as it travels through space in one of the arms of the Milky Way.[2] This is the world from which humankind emerged into existence.

 

 

 

 

The image below, captured by the Infrared Astronomy Satellite, shows the oval shape of the Milky Way – the collection of as much as a trillion stars embedded in the Virgo Cluster, which is the collection of about 1200-2000 galaxies embedded in the Virgo Supercluster, which is one of millions of superclusters embedded across the Universe. This is the world from which our Solar System emerged into existence.

 

 

 

 

I exist in the midst of all these worlds, a part of a Continuum of systems within systems that seems infinite in all directions: I cannot fathom its beginning, nor its end, nor the extent of its immensity, nor of its minuteness. But I do fathom, not just within me but all around me, a willful continuity that links every part together with a degree of freedom to ride the moving, transforming, self-determined Continuum, either quietly – without intrusion, without making waves – or shaking it up with such a force that it transforms it, like when the Earth became Life’s’ playground; or when Life becomes conscious of itself … and decides; or when we realize that we are a part of an ancient and expanding Continuum, and that as its past is living in us, so we may live in its future … but measured by the force of our significance.

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[1] The picture of a cell is from the International Human Cell Atlas Initiative

[2] Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

233 – “Life Feels Itself” …

I do not remember exactly where I first read that “Life feels itself”, but I do remember how those three words seemed to carry more meaning than an entire philosophic theory. So I looked into Wikipedia trying to locate the source. What I found was information about a man, the French philosopher Michel Henry (10 January 1922 – 3 July 2002), whose phenomenology had the soundest understanding of Life I have ever encountered. Michel Henry was not only able to see beyond the walls of pre-conceived notions, but affirmed the capacity of the human mind to feel, to love, to experience itself as one of Life’s manifestations.

What follows are selected portions from Wikipedia’s information on Michel Henry’s phenomenology (link to entire information below).

“The work of Michel Henry is based on Phenomenology, which is the study of the phenomenon. The English/German/Latinate word “phenomenon” comes from the Greek “phainomenon” which means “that which shows itself by coming into the light”.

“The object of phenomenology is not however something that appears, such as a particular thing or phenomena, but the act of appearing itself.

“Henry defines life from a phenomenological point of view as what possesses the faculty and the power “to feel and to experience oneself in each point of its being”. For Henry, life is essentially force and affect; it is essentially invisible; it consists in a pure experience of itself which perpetually oscillates between suffering and joy – “Suffering and joy belong to the essence of life, and they are the two fundamental affective tonalities of its manifestation and – self-revelation.

“Thought is for him only a mode of life, because it is not thought which gives access to life, but life that allows thought to reach itself.

Life feels itself and experiences itself in its invisible interiority and in its radical immanence.[1]

“Two modes of manifestation of phenomena exist, according to Henry, which are two ways of appearing: “exteriority”, which is the mode of manifestation of the visible world, and phenomenological “interiority”, which is the mode of manifestation of invisible life. Our bodies, for instance, are in life given to us from the inside, which allows us, for example, to move our hands, and it also appears to us from the outside like any other object that we can see in the world.

“The “invisible”, here, does not correspond to that which is too small to be seen with the naked eye, or to radiation to which the eye is not sensitive, but rather to life, which is forever invisible – No-one has ever seen a force, a thought or a feeling appear in the world in their inner reality.

“Western philosophy as a whole since its Greek origins recognizes only the visible world and exteriority as the sole form of manifestation.

“Henry rejects materialism, which admits only matter as reality – “He equally rejects idealism, which reduces being to thought and is in principle incapable of grasping the reality of being which it reduces to an unreal image, to a simple representation. For Michel Henry, the revelation of the absolute resides in affectivity and is constituted by it.

“The deep originality of Michel Henry’s thought and its radical novelty in relation to all preceding philosophy explains its fairly limited reception. It is however a philosophy that is admired for its “rigor” and its “depth”. But his thought is both “difficult” and “demanding”, despite the simplicity and immediacy of its central and unique theme of phenomenological life, the experience of which it tries to communicate. It is the immediacy and absolute transparency of life which explains the difficulty of grasping it as a thought: it is much easier to speak of what we see than of this invisible life, which fundamentally avoids being seen from the outside.

“Life loves itself with an infinite love and never ceases to engender itself.

“Life is nothing but this absolute love that religion calls God.”

Yet science, enslaved by a methodology that demands a measurable proof to endorse a theory, fails to see that we are the immensurable proof of Henry’s phenomenology: We love, feel, and experience ourselves; we are Life trying to understand itself.

WE ARE LIFE TRYING TO UNDERSTAND ITSELF.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Henry

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[1] The doctrine or theory of Immanence holds that the divine (the living Cosmos) encompasses or is manifested in the material world. (parenthesis is mine)

232 – Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? …

 

Update on my ongoing quest to find answers to a set of questions I believe are the most profound challenge posed to the human mind. The questions are the title of the above painting by Paul Gauguin.

Where do we come from?

We emerge out of a primordial, self-generating, self-regulating, self-transcending, living Source; a phenomenon whose onward movement we call Evolution. But Evolution is just the progression through which the primordial Source unfolds into higher and higher orders of complexity and order. And since its progression is measurable, its creativity discernible, its self-generation evident, its power immensurable, some of us call it God, but we tend to call God what we cannot understand. And since its evolution manipulates us and it can be manipulated, some of us call it Nature, but Nature is just its manifestation into diverse, myriad forms. And since we can only imagine its beginning as an explosion out of nowhere, some of us call it the Big Bang, but that was merely the emergence of one of its myriad manifestations.

And since the Source thrives in us – in our desires, in our fears, in the pulse of primal blood in our veins, in the rhythmic beat of our hearts, in our inborn urge to bond and re-generate, in our compelling instincts to adapt and survive, in our boundless ingenuity and creativity, in our constant creation and regeneration of the organic systems with which we share our existence, in our self-reflective contemplation of self-reflection – some of us call it Life, but although we emerge from Life, thrive in Life, are changed by being alive, Life remains beyond our comprehension; perhaps it always will.

What are we?

Infinitesimally small when perceived from the dimension of the stars and immense when perceived from the dimension of the atoms, we are manifestations of a primal Source that imprints us from the moment of Becoming with the mandate to bond, self-organize, re-generate, self-regulate, adapt, survive, transform, thus ensuring our participation in the renewal and perpetuation of its onward movement.

And although driven by primal instincts while developing amid physical laws that regulate our internal and external environments, we are nonetheless endowed with a degree of freedom to choose, to see beyond immediacy, to transform ourselves and our world. We are sources of Transformation.

Where are we going?

Pregnant with the possibilities of a degree of freedom to transform ourselves and our world, yet limited by our internal and external environments, we forge ahead until we no longer can; we forge ahead until the inexorable moment when we must begin the disintegration of our physical body and the re-integration into the unfolding Source.

Like everything in Nature, human beings have evolved through the developmental steps taken in our evolution as a species. Each step building upon the ones taken before. Each step with its degree of significance. Some steps may affect immediate progeny, some may affect entire generations, some may affect not only the course of our evolution but Evolution itself. This is Transcendence, the reaching out beyond our lives, but its significance is measured by

what we imagine,

what we create,

what we destroy,

what we take,

what we give to the world.

And thus we transcend in equivalent measure to the significance of what we do with our lives. 

Think of Einstein – how his ideas live among us, opening new visions of the Universe and challenging our understanding of Reality; think of Darwin – how his theory of Evolution live among us, stimulating research in the origins of Life; think of Mandela and Gandhi – how their courage live among us, inspiring pacifist rebellion against the tyranny of unaccountable power; think of Socrates – how his method of inquiry live among us, stimulating discussion about ourselves and our world; think about motherhood – how its wonder live among us, recreating Life by gestating Life in the womb of mothers; think of Gauguin – how his haunting and profound questions live among us, daring us to search for answers. These individuals live among us in our progression towards complexity, in the greater reaches of our perception, in the heightened insights of conscious self-reflection; they live among us reminding us of our ancestry and the impact they made on every step we take; they live among us challenging and transforming our understanding of the unfolding phenomenon from which we emerge; they live among us helping us move forward in the transcendental process of Becoming, making us more daring in our visions of the future, more aware of what is right and what is wrong, more self-conscious about the struggles and wonders of existence. And as the significance of the lives of these individuals transcends into our lives, so we can transcend into the unfolding of the Future.

WHERE DO WE COME FROM? We emerge out of a primordial, self-generating, self-regulating, self-transcending, living Source.

WHAT ARE WE? We are sources of Transformation.

WHERE ARE WE GOING? Back to the living Source from which we emerged but in equal measure to the significance of our lives.

TRANSCENDENCE IS A MEASURE OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF EXISTENCE.

Last updated on September 14, 2018, Post 205

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231 – To Render the Invisible Visible

To increase the chances for survival, our early ancestors blunted the reach of their senses to focus on Immediacy – threats, nurture, self-perpetuation. And so we survived, but somehow enfeebled by lacking the awareness of an immense part of the world: the world of the molecules in the air we breathe and without which we could not live; the world of the waves that penetrate our ears and create the patterns of sound; the world of the atomic particles that transform into images in the retina of our eyes, the world of energy currents that entice the imagination through the labyrinths of the brain.

Although molecules, sound waves, and atomic particles are microscopic, the organized patterns they collectively create as they interact with our bodies are as real as we are, but they have become invisible to us. And so it is that we don’t see the connections they forge, nor the patterns they create, nor the transformations they go through; we don’t see how they interact with each other and with our immediate world, nor how they organize the world inside of us, nor how they fathom the world of our imagination.

There is nothing more present in our lives than the air we breathe. We feel its touch in the softness of an afternoon breeze or its power in the harshness of stormy weather; we feel it in its changes in temperature, in its humidity, in its dryness, yet it is invisible to us.

And so it is with the physical phenomenon of sound: How it modulates the waves that travel through a medium like air or water to create the intelligible information that assists us to understand and respond to our world, yet they are invisible to us.

Or the quite common phenomenon we experience when we focus our attention on a person and have that person sense us and look back at us. The force that is projected and sensed by the other person is a physical, measurable, detectable force, yet it is invisible to us.

By failing to recognize our limitations we are failing to understand that we are incomplete.

And so, by recognizing how far we have progressed in our evolution yet how incomplete we are by being unaware of our interconnectedness with the natural world, we may attain the capacity, if not to see the microscopic components, then to render the world of the connections they forge, the patterns they create, the transformations they go through,     visible.

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