Tag Archives: Nature

More than the Stone

 
 
Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure. Leo Tolstoy, an author that gained fame and fortune in addition to having a magnificent family and good health sank into a profound state of anhedonia. He had it all but not only could not enjoy it. He began suffering from a shrinking sense of purpose. It seemed as if everything he accomplished was going to be ultimately meaningless. He became so depressed that he was on the brink of suicide. In an attempt to cope with his profound sadness and despair, he began to try to trick himself to stay alive while he tried to figure out what was driving this. During this dark period in his life he wrote this:
 
“As presented by the learned and the wise, rational knowledge denies the meaning of life, but the huge masses of people acknowledge meaning through an irrational knowledge. And this irrational knowledge is faith, the one thing that I could not accept. This involves the God who is both one and three, the creation in six days, devils, angels and everything else that I could not accept without taking leave of my senses. My position was terrible. I knew that I could find nothing in the way of rational knowledge except a denial of life; and in faith I could find nothing except a denial of reason, and this was even more impossible than a denial of life. According to rational knowledge, it followed that life is evil, and people know it. They do not have to live, yet they have lived and they do live, just as I myself had lived, even though I had known for a long time that life is meaningless and evil. According to faith, it followed that in order to understand the meaning of life I would have to turn away from reason, the very thing for which meaning was necessary.”
 
To contend with the fact that nature is the fire that both breathes us into existence and will ultimately consume us is not an easy proposition to face squarely. We could easily wither under this terrifying proposition if we were to boldly stare at its face. The realization that the best we can muster in the context of our brief time as torch-bearers is to take solace in the planting of trees, whose shade will be enjoyed by our descendants, as we fearfully await our inevitable fate or despair that all we build will someday crumble. We might try to avoid the topic altogether by fiercely burying ourselves in mundane routines elevated to sacred ritual status, not because they are important, but because they keep the persistent and inevitable monster that looms closer every day and rages whenever we dare look at a greater slice of the temporal landscape and we see our lack of presence there, when we peer past the boundaries of our own lifetime with the keen awareness that all things will end, including us.
 
We could attempt to avoid our mortality by never living at all. We can endlessly distract ourselves with trivia. Perhaps we will mind-numbingly inflate the importance of ultimately meaningless things in a frantic attempt to distract – even delude – ourselves… to believe for brief moments that we have meaning – that we have a purpose. For those of us who brave the naked cosmic fires that breathed life into us and find the wherewithal to navigate without being consumed along the way – we may find ourselves refined by those same fires that birth us and ever threaten to consume. If we endure we may come to understand that our existence is in the context of a larger body of life, of which we are part, and from which we cannot be separated. We may find that we get to have a voice, to craft meaning out of the stone – to breathe meaning into the object, and indeed into the larger body of life – to leave an indelible mark as we burn but are not yet consumed, passing through this thing from which we came, to which we will return, and paradoxically, from which we can never leave. If we cultivate lasting meaning, something that helps contribute to the integrity of the body of life – that is what will be cherished and treasured because of its value in stitching the bonds of integrity that stem the tides of chaos, rather than wither from the challenges that face us, it is only then in that cultivation of meaning from the stone that our life will have had meaning, that we will have become more than the object – more than just the stone.

The Essence of Being

There is an essential property of the various biological rituals we express from heartbeats and breathing to the search for food, ingesting, and transforming it into useful service with respect to our biological form. We also hunger for the right environment and fitting in socially in the context of the broader human community – this obit of rituals is built around a central theme: to nourish and protect coherence in the context of the environment. This is the principle axiom for all objective forms in nature. Otherwise less defined concentrations of energy condense into objects and spacetime. This is the defining principle of the body of relationships we call nature.

As humans we are situated as a node in one of many networked branches of this broader relationship economy that defines all things – sometimes called the cosmos or the universe. This matrix of relational bonds that has defined elements of structure that dance their way forward through time, culminating in the tapestry of forms that define nature’s current state of being. Our particular branch of the journey from the nuclear ash that formed in stellar wombs giving birth to the raw elements and the canvas of spacetime on which these forms are painted – to our current state as biological organisms, like all things, we too are a network of relationships between energetic forms. The selection process based on what is possible in local environments of space and time spawned coherent forms in an ever-changing environmental pool of influences.

We are a product of the successful negotiation of a journey through space and time. Our nature, like nature itself, is one of the expressions of coherence based on consistently nourishing and defending our form along the varied way. This penchant to nourish and defend ourselves in the context of a variable environment is the defining fire current forms are forged and future forms depend. As a consequence of this unfolding journey, we are not a static form, but a dynamic dancers in a cosmic mist, obligated to either bow to the light that defines us, or be extinguished into an incoherent dark. We are fated to continuously negotiate an ever-changing environment, attending to our form. This attendance to coherence in the context of the environment is the grammar on which structures are born. As a result of the development of this “language of being”, over time we have stratified into multiple layers. At the center is a vital core of adaptive capacities. This is surrounded by increasingly less vital but still useful and variable capacities such as arms and hands that help us negotiate the knowns and unknowns that unfold in and around us. Along the way, we have accumulated this nested architecture of traits oriented around nature’s supreme currency of value – to devote ourselves to the necessities of being, defined by our local environment, that are required to continue forward in time.

We are players in nature’s defining story, part of a broader pageantry of the necessities of being sometimes called survival. We exist as a massive collection of chemical and behavioral rituals that are obligated to pay sufficient homage to these necessities of being. This relationship between our local sense of being and the inseparable defining womb that spawns us is what we experience as life. Each of us is a perception and response engine nudged by environmental necessities to act proportionally in service of the nourishment and defense of our form.

Our role in nature’s broader journey of the search for greater coherence currently fates us to consume morsels of other biological matter, absorb things like light, air, and water and stitch all of these into the metabolic maintenance of our structure. We have both short-term hungers like that of air and water as well as other longer-form cyclic waves of hunger-seeking satisfaction in our arc of being that are also oriented toward coherence. The drive to reproduce is one of these longer-form cyclic waves – we must successfully plant our seeds to carry our form forward into the future. This can be in the form of children or something of value toward coherence that we bring to the community we live in and depend on – this larger body of life that services its own coherence continuing on beyond our individual lives.

A blend of self-sacrifice and reward spiced with enough penchant to adapt to the variables of a changing environmental womb is what we pass on, or find our form transformed back to the ashes from which it came waiting again to discover its place in the unfolding journey toward greater coherence. This is the context in which each of our journeys unfolds. Our inherent story is to find the signal in the noise and to refine the noise into an increasingly coherent signal.

The Origin and Consequence of False Beliefs

In the Summer of 1947, behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner discovered that pigeons could develop what he came to call “superstitions”. When the birds under his care were hungry they began performing random behaviors in an attempt to satisfy that hunger. He found that he was able to draw out certain behaviors by controlling when the food was dispensed. Through this, he was able to make birds dance and even learn to play ping pong.

There is a connection between B. F. Skinner’s pigeon experiments with classical conditioning and the way the pollution of false assumptions that begin to reside in our individual and cultural maps affects our behaviors. Pigeons develop ritual behaviors that are not directly connected to the satisfaction of native biological drives but have been connected because of their expression during the drive’s presence. Biological drives such as hunger for food or social connection can become fused with whatever behaviors or properties are present while these hunger drives are engaged.

Because of our dependence on acting out specific behavioral rituals in order to satisfy native biological drives, these drives (hungers) make us more susceptible to looking for patterns. In aroused states where we become interested in satisfying drives, we are also more tuned to forge connections between environmental artifacts and that particular drive. These correlated events become erroneously perceived as causal. This “noise in the signal” becomes part of the basis of how our individual and cultural maps of the world are formed.

The connection between ritual and biological drive is like a map legend when comes to understanding animal psychology, including our own. This same effect has been shown to occur in human psychology. For instance, if a person becomes ill from a previously unknown infection right after visiting a particular restaurant, the type of food they ate can become connected to the experience of getting sick. This bond between illness and food will affect future behaviors. It can tune what the organism is attracted to and or repulsed by.

Neuroscience and biological behaviorism professor Robert Sapolsky describes a situation where a couple of students unattracted to each other decide to walk together to their dorm after classes. They stop for coffee and decide to get decaffeinated because it’s the end of the day. Due to an error, the female accidentally gets caffeinated coffee. She begins to feel the stimulation but is unaware of the source. She assumes she must have feelings for the male she was previously unattracted to because she conflates the stimulating effects of caffeine with the current social situation.

Other experiments reveal that we can be influenced by people planted in experimental conditions (called confederates) who ask a passerby to hold a warm cup of liquid vs. a cold cup while they pick up some “accidentally” dropped items. When these people are later questioned about the person they encountered, they will describe them in warm or cold terms depending on the temperature of the liquid they were asked to hold. In other words, disassociated items are mapped as patterns in our minds and these become the roots of what comes to shape how we behave. Our behavior quirks, preferences, beliefs, and so on are powerfully shaped by corresponding events that are not necessarily causal. This happens even if we never frame the influences in words and even if we are unaware of the origins of our perception. Local experiences and what we come to believe is forged when our biological drives are aroused and other events just so happen to be in that environmental context.

Marketers and propagandists use this arousal-connection technique to manufacture the thoughts and behaviors of people who consume mass media information. These bonds are literally forged by delivering high-test emotional content and connecting it to specific persons, groups, nation-states, words, brands, and so on.

https://www.psychologistworld.com/superstition

The Nature of a Thing

As of late 2022, Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary had 9 definition categories, almost all of which with subcategories, to define the various conditions in which we use the word “thing”. A word with so many uses might be considered versatile but versatility comes at the risk of being vague and easy to misunderstand. Words with such wide ranges of meaning can become tokens of confusion, not clarity. Context is one of the ways we fortify the meaning of ambiguous words but even this has limited reach. Verbal language only has so much carrying capacity even in the best of conditions.

It’s important to understand what our abstract tokens refer to as precisely as possible if the goal is to effectively communicate and or understand concepts. This is especially critical because we use these abstract maps to render and navigate various environments from physical to social. Merriam-Webster’s first definition of a thing is “an object or entity not precisely designated or capable of being designated. So we use “thing” to refer to something ill-defined but also something well-defined. As in; “Is this a thing?”, “What’s that thing?” and “Use this thing”. We use it to refer to objective forms that we classify as inanimate objects, to distinguish these things from what we call living things.1 Ironically we use the word for the reverse too. We call biological organisms living things to distinguish them from what we classify as non-living things. As in; “Not a living thing in sight.”

Thing is also used to refer to separate and distinct individual qualities, facts, ideas, or entities. As in; “The essence of the thing.”, ”Love is a thing.” It can be used to refer to a concrete entity as distinguished from its appearances. “The substance of the thing.” Spatial entities are also referred to as things. “Space is a thing.” It can refer to a quality like; “The most important thing.” It can be requirements as in “Things to do.”, the state of affairs, as in; “How are things?” or “Things are improving.” and “This thing can be looked at another way.” A thing can refer to an event. It can be possessions, articles of clothing, equipment, utensils, or associated items like; “Bring things for the party.” It can be actions, a reference to purpose, or entire sets of behaviors. “Doing your own thing.” It can refer to an emphasis, a personality quirk, or the object of the quirk. “It’s his thing.” It can be a detail, a material, a substance, an idea, a bit of information, and the proper or fashionable way of behaving, talking, or dressing.

Things are complicated.

The Deepest Secrets of Nature Hide in Plain Sight

Two young fish are swimming together when an older fish swims by, nods, and says; “Good morning. How’s the water?” The two fish nod back and swim on for a while when one looks at the other and says; “What’s water?” Deeper truths about nature’s architecture and the profound value hidden inside these truths are easily missed when the gateway to explore these domains is heavily disguised in plain sight. The following is an attempt to uncover some of these treasures hidden in plain sight and unlock the value waiting there to be discovered.

Nature is a canvas of space, time, matter, and energy that forges the patterned dance between energies that we experience as objective forms. In addition, nature defines the relationships between these forms. This relational dance also tells a story that flows from conception through a developmental journey toward greater maturity over time. In this sense; nature is the archetypal mother of mothers – the environmental womb that not only conceives and gives birth to all objective forms but also guides their development through space and time to their fully realized state.

Every object born of nature’s defining matrix is the archetypal child. Concentrated patterns of relationship are forged from nature’s inherent grammatical forces that influence energy to condense into what we experience as objective forms. The structural membranes that form from this process are nature’s children. As children, objects depend on nourishment and protection from the environmental womb to continue forward through time. The necessary relationships objects must have with the environment to remain coherent is the mother’s milk of “being”. The archetypal mother and child begin to define each other as the process unfolds. Parent and child is the primal relationship type – it is the essence of “being”.

Nature tells a story. The unfolding arc of the story told by nature through objects in relationship with each other1 is a tale of the journey toward increasingly coherent expressions of form over time. The dynamic complex adaptive relationship patterns that define biology are part of this story of movement toward higher resolution expressions of coherence. The elements of structure begin forming a nested architecture of mutually nourishing and protective relationships that serve the purpose of remaining coherent in the context of the environment. This developmental process is an expression of increasingly refined forms of coherence. This blend of form and function is also the birthplace of meaning.

As a whole, the biological relationship economy produces expressions of the value of coherence. This collection of structures and activities we call biology communicates that there are certain “necessities of being” that are defined by nature. Specific structures and relationship behaviors must happen to nourish and protect coherence. These are “valued” for their contribution to coherence. Biology is built around this hunger for coherence theme. What emerges from this value proposition is an expression that separates constructive from destructive. Certain structures and relationship behaviors have value toward coherence and certain others do not. Nature states that it favors certain structures and behaviors that produce a coherence value. Objects that remain coherent over time are expressions of this value.

An object born in the defining specifics of an environmental womb begins to develop patterns of structure and behavior that facilitate its continuing existence in the context of that environment.2 These structures and behaviors that have value toward coherence are selected over those that do not. Nature defines which structures and behaviors, in which contexts, result in higher forms of coherence. Ultimately that which is useful toward coherence survives. That which does not produce coherence goes extinct. In this way, nature determines what relational forms will have greater permanence and which will pass away.

The objects born of the interplay of the selective values inherent in nature generate the emergent language of “being”. The statement made by way of nature as a process can be translated into meaningful statements like; “Nature is telling us what can and cannot exist. She tells us that what contributes to a sustained state of coherence over time is valuable, what does not, is not.”

The increasingly complex expressions of information that spring from the fundamental grammar of defining forces establish the patterns of relationships we experience as objects.3 This process also communicates a meaningful story of the journey toward increasing coherence. A journey that composes the symphony of relationships we experience as us. Nature speaks, and we are but one of the many expressions of thought. By nature we are defined, but also like nature, we can become definers. If we carefully listen and constructively apply these lessons spoken through the structures and behaviors expressed by nature we also become a more resonant and coherent voice in this choir of living fire.

1Objects in relationship with each other is the grammatical foundation of the communication of meaning – the origin of language.

2This natural relationship dynamic is the origin of the abstract map tokens we see as a global property of human cultural conceptualization in the form of notions such as good and evil – attraction and disgust as well as the more complex abstract architectures that stem from these more direct sources. Structural and behavioral activities that have adaptive value in the context of the environment are repeated are duplicated as a function of the hunger for and the refining of processes that lead to coherence. This natural expression of form is the source of abstract concepts like replication.

3Nature as a language situates objects as nouns and relationships between them as the verbs. This relationship economy tells a story with a developmental arc over time – from infancy to a point of maturity. A story of emergence that renders more than the sum of its parts.

Biology’s Mission

Biology has the fantastic capacity to self assemble an intricate orchestra of structures that “dance” in concert by the trillions in such a way as to both nourish and protect the whole community of relationships as a coherent whole. It does this amazing feat in the context of an environment that is partially nourishing and partially antagonistic.

The implied mission set forth by nature is that each biological organism must adaptively recognize and dynamically negotiate the acquisition of nourishment, apply that nourishment to a continual rebuilding process through strategically choreographed activities involving the processing and distribution of modified parts, while proportionally avoiding and-or dealing with antagonistic agents in order to remain coherent. This complex negotiation process is continual and shifts dynamically according to the changing demands of the environment.

Collections of interdependent relationships assemble into a self-sustaining coherent whole based on an economy of adaptive value. This economy of values is based on things that contribute to nourishing and or defending continuing coherency. There are many expressions of this adaptive value that come in many forms, from perception faculties like eyes and ears to perceive the environment, to hands and feet to move within it – to the tiny cilia that wisp mucus and dust away from the lungs to protect them, find nourishment. Nested systems aligned around this theme of “perceive and respond” to “nourish and defend” the community can be seen on many scales.

Nested layers of relationship are seated within each and among others, like the many ripples in a pond – intersecting and influencing each other – also like turbulent circular patterns that emerge as coherent expressions in the wake of dynamic fluid flows under pressure. We express a coordinated sophistication that is centered on a singular goal: To nourish and protect the community of relationships in the context of an environment that would dissipate that coherence. This “nourish and protect” goal is meaningfully expressed through the many biological relationship chains and the corresponding behaviors that demonstrate a behavioral pull in this goal-oriented direction.

What we see as order and organization comes from the constellation of relationship behaviors that are born of an inherent value proposition embedded throughout the fabric of nature.

Nature in effect “calls” coherent structures into higher states of order by inherently “valuing” or “selecting” only those relationship behaviors that contribute to coherency over time. The more a behavior, or string of interconnected behaviors contributes to coherency, the more likely it will be incorporated and repeated in a renewal process. This is the essence of what we call natural selection.

Selection itself implies that nature values some things over others. The fact that one relationship structure exists over another one is an expression of this underlying value structure. Of all the things that exist, only those that serve the purpose of nourishing and defending coherency remain. Nature values coherency over decoherence but also demands specific behaviors in service of this coherency over time.

As our capacity for self-awareness awakens, we find ourselves living expressions of this adaptive wonder. When we make the effort to look into the sophisticated processes that conspire to keep us moving forward in time, the level of sophistication can appear astounding. If we transcend the many scales of self-similarity we begin to see themes. Repeating patterns in the process are expressed in many forms. We see the coordinated community of relationship bonds aligned around the utility of continuing existence. We see rhymes and a certain dissonance, a certain pattern infused with some novelty, that is both aligned around the goal. We must maintain the pattern but have enough novelty to deal with the unexpected, and this blend forms the adaptive range with which we negotiate the environment over time. If the environment overwhelms that combination of self-similar and novel adaptive capacities, we lose coherence and go extinct. We watch as biology pays the existential debt required to go forward in time through an environment that sometimes reluctantly provides fruit, or looks for weaknesses to devour the community that it also gave rise to.

The further we peer into the intricacies of this relationship landscape that is biology, and the environment in which it is continually baptized, the more profound and informed we see its capacity to stitch together responses that adaptively negotiate the chaos, continuously calling it to order and making the occasional discovery that adds to the adaptive repertoire. We see this capacity to dynamically call chaos to order expressed through the relational connections between the various organic structures that serve this ongoing concern – to nourish and protect, humming away in an orchestrated song emerging against a cacophony of chaos. Order from chaos. Awareness from sleep.

At the smallest of scales examples like; motor proteins, which are molecular motors inside cells that are able to carry protein cargo along a tubular highway network called microtubules and deliver them to their appropriate destination, or, in the case of a particular variety called myosin, these motor proteins can work in concert with millions of other like motor proteins to do things like contract muscles. Here’s a video detailing in story form, a small glimpse into the fantastic world that is biology. Enjoy!:

Cell Organelles 2 Cytoskeleton

A Day in the Life of a Motor Protein

Image

A Garden of Living Fire

Embedded in our physical structure as well as our nature is the necessity to consume in order to sustain our coherence – we hunger and grow our presence as long as the environment sustains the process. This fire aspect of being is embedded in our myths as well with consuming food and things like hell, suffering and so as important parts of how we map our concept of the world. We also act out this primal pattern in many ways, both constructively and destructively; sometimes consuming each other for the sake of some elevated stature, sometimes sacrificing ourselves for the sake of the larger body we live in and depend on. We are a community of living fire. The question of our future prospects depends on whether we tend the necessities to continue to nourish the fire that sustains and strengthens us or do we consume that necessity to the point of our own consumption?

Bacteria, Like All Organisms, Form Social Networks

Interestingly, bacterial communities’ (called biofilms) and the communication networks that coordinate their actions as a group body (called quorum sensing) have a human social analog. The form and function we know of as human sociality have roots deep within the relationship economy of biology itself. The deeper we dig, the more it appears that what we experience as life is built on a nested architecture of self-similar communication networks.

Bacterial communication and group behavior

“…The past decade has seen the emergence of a new field in basic microbiology… Scientists had long held the view that bacterial cells behaved as self-sufficient individuals, unable to organize themselves into groups or communicate… The idea that bacteria could function as groups and that individuals within the group could respond to the group as a whole seemed almost ludicrous… [It is] now… generally accepted that bacteria produce, and respond as groups… This phenomenon has become known as quorum sensing.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC228476/

The Biological Relationship Economy: An Overview

Looking at biological systems as collections of organisms that work together is a far more useful and revealing lens than is assuming organisms are defined by nucleic DNA and the epigenetic relationships that orbit that core. For instance, our microbiome is a collection of organisms that live in and on us. They are a necessary part of what we need to function. Some of these specialize in acting as part of an immune response, destroying or keeping in check pathogens that might disrupt the community of relationships we depend on. With this larger “biological relationship economy” lens in mind, we can see that viral and bacterial organisms can act as part of our metabolism process, bringing nourishment, and as part of an immune response.

If this wider relationship economy lens is unpacked further, we can see that some forms of cancer may be the result of another collection of organisms that is attempting to defend its integrity. To illustrate, certain strains of the flu are caused by a virus that naturally grows in duck’s throats and is part of their microbiome. This virus attacks us by way of those who butcher ducks getting infected. This may be a type of cross-species immune response where the bacteria is attempting to act as a defender of the biological ecosystem system that it is part of.

Ecosystems can be thought of as biological bodies that extend beyond species and include groups of species and the environment they interact with. There are plenty of these cross-species integrated systems that are collectively aligned around the principle of both establishing mutual coherent integrity and the defense of that integrity by various means.
This “nourish and or defend coherence in the context of the environment” behavioral economy is the axiom on which every coherent organism within and entire ecosystems are based. The behavioral tax that must be paid toward defense is part of the process of coherent biological systems and happens on many levels. When humans are at the receiving end of defensive acts we experience it as a disease.

The array of behaviors in cancer, when taken as a whole, looks like something is deliberately trying to destroy our biological systems in a number of ways with a certain “understanding” or behavioral inclinations aimed at how to make that destruction happen. This principle is no different than when our natural killer cells, which are part of our native immune system, seek out harmful cells in our body and destroy them.

In other words; cancer may be due to our biological system being perceived as a pathogen in relation to another biological system – a collection of organisms that forms a collective body of nourishment and defense – that has sent out destructive agents the same way we produce various defensive immune response agents. Perhaps these defense vectors are in the form of transposons or viral packets, or bacteria suited with certain mechanisms, etc. which turn our native systems against themselves in order to protect the integrity of the system in which those defensive vectors (organisms, viruses, etc.) natively participate.

There are many kinds of cancer. Some may be a result of reversion theory, where our cells are thought to revert to unicellular forms when under prolonged attack but some other forms take on a far more sinister strategic approach to disrupting the systems we depend on for coherence that it makes me wonder if something is recognizing us as a pathogen and taking active defensive action to mitigate that destructive agency.

Of course, this is all speculation. I do know that biological systems are aligned around two foundational strategies, one, to establish coherence, and two, to defend that integrity against antagonists. If we were not blinded by looking at individual organisms and viral elements as separate biological entities, rather than parts of an integrated ecological network of interconnected organisms and environments that are collectively parts of the same body, we would be able to see the sources of disease. In other words, we may be the cause of our own disease because we fail to recognize how to play mutualistically in the broader social biological community.

Here’s an example of interspecies transmission of destructive agents that may be constructive in another biological relationship system context:

https://phys.org/news/2017-01-secret-weapon-insect-transmitted-viruses-exposed.html

History Repeats Itself

After the arrival of the printing press on the human cultural scene, ideas were much less able to be contained and controlled by what was, in effect, a priest class of idea manufacturers. Before this technology, ideas were printed as social currency from the central authority that consisted of the government and church. This set of ideas was consumed as the map of reality by the population at large. With the printing press ideas became far more distributed and less contained by the mandates and hegemony of a robust social institutional base. The institutions had a stranglehold on the narrative map with which the culture navigated and therefore largely defined the culture were now under threat.

A whole new economy of influencers entered the scene, unleashed by the technology. Turmoil followed as the former centers of influence saw their ecological niche threatened and fought to retain their relevancy. Enlightenment ideas such as deism, liberalism, toleration, and scientific progress eroded the supremacy of these former undisputed champions of culture. These new narratives were harshly crushed with physical and ideological warfare because they threatened the now weakened institutions.


After the printing press, it took some time to get the reins back from the effects that “ideas in the wild” had. A time of chaos ensued until a new equilibrium was forged – until these new ideas developed into cultural institutions themselves – until they became well entrenched in the culture with formal institutions of their own – complete with a priest class of “experts” and the attending flocks of faithful followers along with those who get caught in the currents of influence produced by whatever ideological coin of the realm happens to be popular at the time – the “zeitgeist du jour” The organs of influence that emerged in this new climate fitfully found a place of equilibrium among the traditional forces once the boundaries of influence were sufficiently defined. Books, newspapers and later, radio and television were the new centers of power that coexisted with government and church. They now controlled the narrative and defined the culture.

This newfound expansion of the narrative territory didn’t mean that society transformed into a place of justice or any other high virtue. In fact; exploitation, or what could be called social farming (where a small group that holds control of the narrative entices larger groups to act in unison under the banner of a set of ideas that serves the interests of that small group) reemerged after some time. The former concentrated seats of power were disrupted for a time but not the principles on which the human social economy operates. Grifters and those who ride on waves of authority rather than the much harder work of authentic contribution to the human condition dressed up in lofty ideas like freedom and justice while they reestablished the reins of influence. Once again the influence was leveraged to parasitic and predatory effect on the many to serve the few. In other words, the new boss was the same as the old boss.

This same period of chaos and fight for control of the narrative is happening again with the advent of the internet. Like the printing press, this technology unlocked the ability for one person to reach thousands and millions with a keyboard and a camera. This has once again disrupted the institutional layer of society – the few that control the narrative for the many. The same painful and bloody birthing process that happened in the wake of the printing press is once again unfolding. I suspect that a new equilibrium will form over time. I’m not sure we have the maturity as a species just yet to redefine the principles on which our new social contracts will operate. Will we generate the emergent fruits that result from a commitment to the realization of each other’s full potential, or will we reestablish the poverty inducing climate produced by the image so well defined in George Orwell’s book Animal farm, where the creatures used the ideas of freedom and equality to reestablish exactly what they claimed to be fighting against?


Freedom and justice cannot be expected to flow from untended soil, it has to be continuously and carefully cultivated by what we do for each other, not by what we can get from each other. I hope we can develop the insight and discipline to choose the former because the latter is a recipe to author our continued poverty.