Monthly Archives: March 2013

Demonstration is the True Measure of Communication

Map of the Republic of the Congo.

Map of the Republic of the Congo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone with the ability to stitch words together into coherent sentences could claim to be able to play Rachmaninoff’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” on a classical guitar, but we all know claims are not proof positive. We might have a certain trust relationship with the speaker and infer that what is being said reflects a genuine capability, but real evidence emerges from a demonstration that agrees with a claim.

In 2010, Nicholas D. Kristof wrote an op-ed in the NY Times about poverty. In it he identified a particular family in the Congo Republic where the father spent more money on alcohol, cell phones, tobacco and the like in a month than it would have cost to get mosquito nets for his children despite the fact that he two of his daughters had already died from malaria. In fact his priorities were putting his family home in jeopardy as well. At the same time these behaviors clearly communicated his real values, he had other, superficial reasoning to explain his actions. When asked, he said that he couldn’t afford mosquito nets because he didn’t have enough money.[1]

Before we get too worked up in a puffy chested self-righteous flit, most of us would have to own the fact that we too are occupied with behaviors aligned around such nonsense as building social status, obtaining optional and frivolous possessions, tending lawns, or working more hours to be on the grid of monthly payments for various gadgets. At the same time we do these things, family members and the larger community, including these children, suffer from various forms of relational squalor outside our view, or if we use demonstrated behaviors as the axiom of real communication, outside our value system. In other words; there’s no avoiding the fact that we communicate what is important and unimportant by what we do and what we do not do.

As humans we can and do easily slip into a visual shell game where we feverishly pitch convenient platitudes to the forefront of our lives. We adorn them with garish clown attributes to call attention to their importance at the same time we diminish and distance these other things that would clarify an honest communication of our real values. While this Congolese father missed his own communication of values toward his family made through his behaviors, he was by no means unique. This jiggling tinsel of words we dangle in front of ourselves seems to be an effective distractor from reality.

One of the most important things we can do to forge an intentional life is to recognize what we say is delivered through our behaviors, not our words. If our words agree with our behaviors then we speak the truth, if not, then we are mistaken or lying. If we do not see the language of behaviors as the real means by which we communicate our values, then we’re missing ourselves. It is only from a behavioral demonstration lens that we can see our true selves and ferret out any broken connections between our words and deeds. Demonstration is the true measure of communication.

[1] Nicholas D. Kristof New York Times article: “Moonshine or the Kids?” May 22, 2010

Who Is Mother Nature Really?

English: A freshwater aquatic and terrestrial ...

English: A freshwater aquatic and terrestrial food-web. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A biological food chain[1] is an abstract model used to look at the relationships between biological life forms. The food chain outlines the nutritional relationships between biological organisms in linear form from “primary producer” to the “top” of the food chain. Primary producers organize specific atoms, molecules and energy sources like sunlight or heat into what we know as biology. Photosynthetic organisms like plants algae and phytoplankton are examples of primary producers in a food chain.[2] These primary life forms then support many other species in the “food chain” either directly or indirectly through a series of feeding relationships.[3] Food chains are constructed with links from primary producers through primary consumers secondary consumers and so on to what is called the “top” of the food chain. At the top of the chain is a species that has no other species that feeds on it.[4] Terms like “King of the Jungle” are used to describe such a top feeder on the food chain. In a lake environment, a fish might take the top tier of the food chain.

Like most models, the “food chain” is useful, but it has limitations at illustrating the whole image of the relationships that define biology. Even though primary producers act as a clear bridge from non-biological processes to biological ones,[5] the total biological economy can be more accurately represented using a nonlinear web as the model rather than a linear chain. This is because there are many tangled and cross referenced relationships in a food web.[6] A web could have more than one primary producer and these can be cross linked in numerous ways throughout the interdependent system. Even with a sole primary producer, interdependent biological systems (called a biomes or ecosystems) are not a strict linear route from bottom to top as a “food chain” model implies.

So let’s listen to what this web of biological relationships says; a primary producer species is an umbilical cord that feeds on the broader womb of non-biological reality. It translates a non-biological system into a biological one. The same way the letters and phrases that compose this communication are based on a certain order of relationships to each other that gives rise to meaning, primary producers channel matter and energy into the complex organized interdependent relationship systems we know as biology. The term organism is fitting for biological systems of all types because of this fact.

While there are so many things communicated through the fantastic relationship dynamic that gives rise to biology, one statement that stands out is the fact that reality is the womb from which we are formed and draw our nourishment. Have you hugged your Reality today?

[1] The idea was introduced by the African-Arab scientist and philosopher Al-Jahiz in the 9th century ACE.

[2] In addition to photosynthetic organisms there are also chemosynthetic primary producer organisms that use heat and chemicals as the basis of conversion of inorganic to organic biomass.

[3] Non-feeding relationships also exist between biological organisms. These can be broadly categorized as cooperative and/or competitive.

[4] Predators can be infected with such things as parasites and destructive viruses, so the notion that the top is undisputed top is a bit of a misnomer.

[5] Non-biological sometimes called abiotic and biological called biotic structure in ecosystems.

[6] There are three feeding type relationships typically defined in biology. These are the food chain, the food web, and trophic levels.

Nature Calls, but do we Listen?

Sodium Chloride Crystals (NASA, International ...

Salt crystals. Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

We can learn a lot from nature if we tune our ear to the frequencies through which the language of nature is spoken.

The element chlorine is very hungry for relationship. It’s rarely found unattached. It typically is in relationship with other elements but in some cases it is in a free form state. In this unattached state, chlorine in high concentrations is very poisonous to biological organisms.

Sodium is a soft, silvery-white, and highly reactive metal that, like chlorine, is a very relationship hungry element. If a chunk of sodium comes in contact with water it reacts violently as it binds to the oxygen in the water and releases the hydrogen. If the water and sodium sources are large enough the heat can also ignite the hydrogen ejected from the reaction and cause an even more violent reaction spewing molten bits of sodium. In high concentrations sodium in its unattached form is damaging to biological organisms.

Both of these elements alone are harmful to us, but together in relationship sodium chloride forms salt, an essential ingredient for biology. Sodium helps us regulate our blood volume, blood pressure, hydration of cells and a host of other tasks that are essential for the proper functioning of our biological systems. If we understand this message pouring through the relationships that define nature, each of us is like a bit of sodium or chlorine; destructive or harmful by ourselves, but essential and valuable when we work together in relationship with the right partners. Finding our place in the context of the larger community is of high value, even essential, and being isolated from our place in the natural order is as damaging as sodium and chlorine are in isolation to biology.

Powerful messages actively pour out what we often consider mundane and obvious events. To properly unlock the value of this communication we must understand that communication is part of everything there is, but decoding that communication as it is intended is a matter of recognizing how the language works. Nature communicates through behaviors. If we fail to recognize what is being spoken or if we ignore nature as our guide we are also blind and powerless to both our limitations and our full potential.

The Mother of all Invention is Broken


In order to experience our life we must dismember and rearrange minuscule bits of biology and other morsels of matter, energy, space and time to compose them into this nebulous cloud that we call “I”. Using a wide angle lens to gaze upon our collective state of being, we see a compulsion on the part of biological creatures great and small… Indeed a mandatory obligation, to selectively suckle from the breast of this larger reality we are simultaneously baptized in and contributors to.

By this same token we must break apart and rearrange specific forms of structured energies to sustain ourselves, eternity itself must be dismembered for us to experience even the tiniest moment in time, the slightest of registration of awareness, passion or agency… Without brokenness we cannot yearn for intimacy, nor experience it if it comes. It is both a grand and monstrous truth that our experience of life is a product of brokenness. Our deepest pleasures and most exalted experiences flow from shattered rays of brokenness in one form or another. The same is true for the deepest depths of our sorrows or the slightest response to the most mundane snapshot of experiential paint conjured by our mind – conjured out of broken symmetry.

Not a single moment of our lives can be experienced, much less cherished, unless it also passes. It is in brokenness that we can find the means to re-member the fragments of joy and through which we can cherish those moments as they echo, ever paler with the passing of time. Just as night gives rise to our capacity to recognize the day, forgetting builds the foundation for the value of remembering. Without brokenness we would be unable to distinguish anything from the monotone singularity that is the only alternative to this brokenness which we share. Meaning itself stems from membranes of abstraction that differentiate one thing from another – yet another chorus of brokenness emerging from the crucible of contrasted unions that shape our wonderfully splintered reality.

When we see from this distance we might appreciate the shattered womb of brokenness we are and share because it is the mother of all that is. It is our mother and without her, there would be no relationships, and no experience at all. By understanding the simultaneous unity and separateness of that which we are – in relationship, and that from which we come to relationship, brokenness, we can also understand that if it were not for this division, there would be no discovery, no unity of being, nothing to share with each other, because it is out of this boiling sea of shattered divisions that “being” itself is born.

The gift of brokenness compels us to travel on this journey on which we find ourselves, ever hungering for balance and intimacy – and when we see the depths from which we come with clarity, we realize the paradox that we cannot be separate at the same time we are broken, for we are children of the cosmos, stardust – secure in our mother’s womb, for all eternity and basking in the greatest gift that brokenness has to offer – this garden of living fire that is us and always has been.

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP” – Leonard Nimoy