Necessity of Death - Point 18
UNDER CONSTRUCTION, QUOTES ONLY
Meaning is different than ideals. It does not pretend either to purity nor to eternity. Holding the meaning of something is a cost of mental resources with which we maintain a relationship as an expectation of an expected outcome should we exercise it. Meaning exists by our continued effort. Without the beholder that portion of meaning disappears.
This Page, this Point:
"Plants put carbon dioxide into the soil, eroding crystalline rocks with chemical skill; they manufacture hydrocarbons, gels of silicic acid, nitrates, phosphates, and calcium ions. They rid the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, staving off the greenhouse effect. From the planetary point of view they are the only real good guys, heroes and patient employees of the living Gaia, beings without claws, teeth, or blood. They sit calmly, silently, filled with green optimism, enjoying their self-sacrifice.
"But I think that the only reason we cling to this bucolic view of plant life is that we've never been green plants and hence don't know what their everyday life is like. We don't know the real ways of these humble producers of oxygen, these quiet and diligent little pumps in the planetary thermostat. When I really look at a meadow, I'm not sure that it isn't filled with battle screams, piercing cries of hate, terror, and pain, individuals and tribes fighting for nutrition, for light, for space, for carbon dioxide, for bacteria, for fungi; that it doesn't echo with the howls of the winners and losers, the songs of the nascent and the hymns of the dying--non-audible, vegetable cries, I'm not sure that the tender velvety mesh of branches, roots, bulbs, and stems is not really an interminable wrestling hold; that there isn't perpetual chemical warfare going on among roots, among root-stocks, and among seeds; that there isn't some limitless hyena-ism of the stronger ones against the weaker ones, sick ones, humiliated ones--all of which is obscured in our delusion of a great symbiotic tranquility, hidden behind the veil of a harmonic biocenosis....
"As a struggling gardener I detest the combative and vicious activity of plants. But as a negligible human individuum I have great admiration for the brave behavior of couch grass and timothy and thistles, which carry on and proceed with a victorious song through abandoned, half-neglected, and senescent gardens, stomping over the decaying bodies of the feeble, intellectual, pleasing cultivars. I have a high regard for the perfect athletic training and fitness of dandelions, nettles, wall cress, and bindweed, and I recognize certain traits of sorrels and plantains as admirable virtues, even though I have to fight them in my lawn." Harper's Magazine, May 1993, p. 26. Excerpt from Symbiotic Tranquility, Miroslav Holub, translated by David Young.
"This we know. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected.
"Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
"But we will consider your offer to go to the reservation you have for my people. We will live apart, and in peace. It matters little where we spend the rest of our days. Our children have seen their fathers humbled in defeat. Our warriors have felt shame, and after defeat they turn their days in idleness and contaminate their bodies with sweet foods and strong drink. It matters little where we pass the rest of our days. They are not many. A few more hours, a few more winters, and none of the children of the great tribes that once lived on this earth or that roam now in small bands in the woods will be left to mourn the graves of a people once as powerful and hopeful as yours. But why should I mourn the passing of my people? Tribes are made of men, nothing more. Men come and go, like the waves of the sea.
"Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all; we shall see. One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover--our God is the same God. You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land, but you cannot. He is the God of man and His compassion is equal for the red man and white. This earth is precious to Him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.
"But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of the God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man. That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires.
"Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt. The end of living and the beginning of survival.
"So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we agree it will be to secure the reservation you have promised. There, perhaps, we may live out our brief days as we wish. When the last red man has vanished from this earth, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, these shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people. For they love this earth as the new born love its mother's heartbeat. So if we sell you our land, love it as we've loved it. Care for it as we've cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you take it. And with all your strength, with all your mind, with all your heart, preserve it for your children and love it...as God loves us all. From Speech of Chief Seattle, 1854.
“Neurons come in two flavors, excitatory and inhibitory,...” Edelman, Gerald and Tononi, Giulio. A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter becomes Imagination. Basic Books. 2000. p. 40.
“‘Exformation is perpendicular to information. Exformation is what is rejected en route, before expression. Exformation is about the mental work we do in order to make what we want to say sayable. Exformation is the discarded information, everything we do not actually say but have in our heads when or before we say anything at all. Information is the measurable, demonstrable utterances as we actually come out with it. The number of bits or characters in what is actually said.’
“Exformation, in other words, is what is let out as information is formed from noise. As such, exformation is not simply absent but is something like a penumbral field from which information is formed. Since information is constituted by what it excludes, it inevitably harbors traces of noise. Noise, we have noted, is always in-formation in at least two ways. First, noise is always forming into information and being formed by the processes of exclusion from information; and second, noise does not simply disappear but remains in information as a haunting specter. There is, undeniably, a certain destructive dimension to the processing of information. Computer scientist and inventor Ray Kurzweil goes so far as to insist that the ‘destruction of information’ is the ‘the key to intelligence.’ ‘The value of computation,’ he argues, ‘is precisely in its ability to destroy information selectively. For example, in a pattern-recognition task such as recognizing faces or speech sounds, preserving the information-bearing features of a pattern while ‘destroying’ the enormous flow of data in the original image or sound is essential to the process. Intelligence is precisely this process of selecting relevant information carefully so that it can skillfully and purposefully destroy the rest.’ Whether information is actually destroyed, as Kurzweil argues, or excluded but not necessarily destroyed, as I would insist, screening simultaneously filters noise and displays information by channeling it into the patterns that eventually constitute knowledge.” Taylor, Mark C. The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture. University of Chicago. 2001. p. 203-4. Subquote: Kurzweil, Ray. The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. Viking. 1999. P. 78.
“Stability of biological objects is maintained due to detection of defective objects with a lowered degree of organisation and their substitution for [=by] copies of normal objects retaining the initially high level of organisation. Normal objects must have time to produce their copies before they decay. The process of detection and elimination of decay objects requires energy and matter expenditures that are consumed by living beings from the environment. Thus, life can only exist on the basis of continuous metabolic processes of energy and matter exchange that take place within living objects. Detection of decay of the level of organisation of one biological object is ensured by competitive interaction of living objects. All these processes constitute the essence of stabilising selection. Any level of internal correlation of individuals in a population can be maintained over indefinitely long periods of time by stabilising selection.
“Individuals in a population are not correlated with each other. Competitive interaction between them is aggressive and occurs irrespective of abundance or shortage of resources. Each individual is characterized by a certain probability of losing the initial level of organisation (decay probability). A stationary population number is maintained due to reproduction of normal individuals retaining their competitiveness at the maximum level. In the absence of population and competitive interaction, any type of internal correlation of individuals decays and never arises again spontaneously. All the aforesaid refers equally to all types of biological correlation from molecular level up to ecological communities.” Gorshkov, Victor and Vadim Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva. Biotic Regulation of the Environment. Springer Verlag. 2000. pps. 49-50.
Leaving philosophies of the conceptscape with fixed values behind such as is implied here brings up the repressed ubiquity and necessity of death in that an acceptance of change and conflict is also an acceptance of loss. Choosing relations and thoughts reinforces some and tramples others. Selection and death operate constantly in our relational patterns. The rich relational field of multiple societies has all the risks of nature. A full accounting of death/loss must include not only human lives but also: the lives of other creatures, modified existing physical aspects of the world, cultural practices bypassed, choices not taken, potentials not realized, thoughts discarded, memories lost and our bodies’ changed. Our only choice is to steer where it happens (hence the interest in non-zero summed “games”) and to vary the growth/speed of death.
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Page updated 3/5/03