Yes, we have no nirvana (we have no nirvana, today).

On the one hand “blind natural selection”.

On the other “life governs itself”

How do we derive the first from the second?

That is to say “If it is correct that life governs itself, what is necessary for part of life to declare that rest of life ‘blind’ and in dire need of the vision of the elect?”

Of course, in the present modern Western life-formation, the first statement appears to be self-evident while the second is viewed as virtually heretical.

There are fantastic pyramid schemes involving all manner of symbolic life-investments constructed around beliefs that some special people are required to make good the apparent ‘inability’ of life to govern itself.

The long practice of horticulture, agriculture, animal husbandry and the more recent ‘advances’ in micro-management of life provide clear evidence of the plasticity of life, and of the ability of some of our species (and some others) to manipulate it.

Darwin borrowed his ‘natural selection’ from the world in which artificial selection made perfect sense.

But that world is but one of many – not something preordained to reside at the cutting edge of creation.

It is/was a highly transformed world – and categories such as ‘animal’ and ‘human’ took their place in a highly elaborated cluster – an arrangement by life’s temporary ‘victors’ which resulted from many past struggles. 

It may be possible to understand a large part of known human history as an attempt by one part of life to convince other parts that life requires a special human agency to realise itself and be subject to ‘proper’ forms of regulation and control.

Alternative perspectives are also possible.

In a well-tempered cosmos, in which life governs itself, life may be seen as a form of endlessly recycled living-soul energy.

There is neither a future salvation nor escape from ‘suffering’.

Life is a process of transformation within a context of eternal cycles.

It is not ‘natural selection’ which fashions unending creation. What is inscribed upon life as it re-enters can be described as the sum total of existential factors. The Big-Everything is relevant to how new forms of life are formed. (How do we regard ‘mutations’ within such a framework – as every bit as necessary as that which is not a mutation?) 

There is far more to it than competition between individuals of the same species.

Life is a text generated by a cosmic context.

Our higher duties are to direct our surplus energy towards the care for our eternal soul – not as a drudge, but as a celebration.

The emphasis , therefore, is not on governing but on maintaining relationships in good repair: in keeping – as far as is possible and using an ‘object’ language – ‘things’ in their ‘proper’ place.

And in not engaging in reckless experiments requiring our world – and all forms of life within it – to be treated without respect.

To retain the gifts of life (in this life) we must take care of our eternal soul. For life is endlessly transformed – there is no stopping or arresting that.

Just as surely as planet earth rolls along its time-space valley,  life is endlessly spun out  (as Darwin said at the conclusion of the Origin of Species)

What new patterns it forms is not to be taken for granted.

The question is “How will life be transformed?”

At the present time, and looking at the evidence from the attempts of some part of life to substitute their own narrowly conceived interests in the name of governing, those experiments can be recognised as costly failures.

An emerging form of life – which insists that human attempts to govern are disguised control trips which cost us our true inheritance – is not a matter of natural selection based on competition between individuals. Far from it.

What is inscribed into our freshly recreated Being is not something which can be located on genes, patented and bundled up as the private property of corporations.

And here we are – not buying the previous control trip – and coming, ready or  not.

 

(Read attached comment for a question regarding ‘nirvana’ and a condition of Being which is part of the Ways of Australia’s First Peoples.)

From natural selection to masters of the universe (or bust)!

Some quotes from Tim Flannery “Now or Never – a sustainable future fro Australia.” Quarterly Essay Issue 31 2009 pp 6-7.

“Evolution through natural selection is a blind process whose only tools are variation (within populations) and death (of the less well-adapted). That is why Richard Dawkins likened its workings to that of a “blind watchmaker’. But now, after 4 billion years, the evolutionary process has thrown up a potentially powerful and swiftly responsive command-and-control system that may serve Gaia as a whole. That system is our own human intelligence and self-awareness. It is my belief that we humans are poised to become, from now on, the means by which Gaia will regulate at least some of its essential processes.”

“Gaia’s potential for intelligent control is exceedingly recent; it arose abruptly towards the end of the twentieth century, after humans had plumbed the depths of the oceans, revealed Earth’s internal structure an her history, and photographed her from outer space.”

“By the twenty-first century the achievements of these pioneers had opened the way to a limited understanding of how Earth works.”

“Within the lifetimes of many people reading this essay, Gaia will pass from an unconscious to a conscious means of control after 4 billion years of self-regulation. Either that or we will fail to achieve sustainability, and Gaia’s newly attainted consciousness – which is made possible by our global civilisation – will vanish, perhaps to be lost forever.”

Comment:

There seems to be a tremendous arrogance in this view – both a Eurocentric cultural arrogance which is dismissive of what other peoples may have already achieved over long times and a professional deformation which expropriates the strategic heights to members of a cult of ‘science’ – seeking, indeed, the elevate them from their present limited privileged positions of a secular priestly class  into some kind of new global saviours and governors.

There is another very different view of the role of people and cultures in life.

And that is the view that life regulates itself – life governs itself.

The role of people is to serve merely as a means by which messages, which originate ‘outside’ of humanity, are relayed back into the rest of life.

In this different view the emphasis is not on a human-centred control trip (doomed to fail) but on being able to relate our Being to our Cosmos.

What is required for these messages to flow are the metaphors which make up an enabling culture.

And for a better understanding of that, we do not look to modern scientists, but to the Ways of Australia’s First Peoples.

These Ways groomed living country for eternity.

These First Ways achieved a sustainable present and future for Australia long before Europeans arrived, proclaiming – oh what a surprise – the country on this side of the planet was really a part of the mismanaged kingdom of George III of England.

Suppression of First Peoples Ways by ‘civilised’ new masters has been accompanied by life running amok – while gentlemen farmers ‘governed’ in Westminster cult houses.

We can no longer afford to humour these pretences – nor to sacrifice that which is of real value.

As for modern Western masters – given the condition of Australian life and other parts of their world – apologies,  resignations and reparations are more in order than self-promotion to key positions in life.

 

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Talking of fires – “The Embers and the Stars”

Some recommended reading (from a friend).

The Embers and the Stars
By Erazim Kohak

With catastrophic bushfires lying somewhere between the ‘properly’ domestic hearth and the fusion furnaces of suns, I  am told that the work of Erazin Kohak explores the idea that morality is not some add on extra but inherent in cosmos itself.

Such an idea would appear to be central to the Ways of Australia’s First Peoples, where a ‘well-tempered’ cosmos appears to have been the aim of so much of their higher level activities.

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=GvI0xlwoMesC&dq=Embers+in+stars&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=7a6NsMOPh8&sig=4tX1wOZ0dizHMNCp3zSdCXGqQ4E&hl=en&ei=pkyaSYzIEpiq6wPElL22Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result#PPP11,M1

 

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Darwin, Hooker, Huxley, and Wallace – new book.

Darwin’s Armada: How Four Voyagers to Australasia Won the Battle

Author:  Iain McCalman

Publisher’s blurb:

"Darwin’s Armanda is both a gripping adventure story and a brilliantly enlightening work of history, for the first time portraying the Darwinian revolution as a collective enterprise forged in Australasia.  These four remarkable men did what one alone could not – combed the world for evidence of evolution by natural selection, and then fought tirelessly in the social and intellectual battle that followed its famous publication 150 years ago.

Together they changed the world."

Charles Darwin, HMS Beagle, 1831-36
Joseph Hooker, HMS Erebus, 1839-43
Thomas Huxley, HMS Rattlesnake, 1846-50
Alfred Wallace, the Amazon and South-East Asia, 1848-66

Details
http://www.penguin.com.au/lookinside/spotlight.cfm?SBN=9780670071586&Page=Details

Extract of book
http://www.penguin.com.au/lookinside/spotlight.cfm?SBN=9780670071586&Page=Extract

 

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Darwin, landscape, bushfire – and “mythic nature”.

The tragic loss of life in the Victorian bushfires, which many attribute to ‘natural’ causes, demands that our attention is turned to the challenge of dealing with the great myth of nature.

European concepts of ‘nature’ serve all manner of cultural purposes, not the least of which is as a justification for expropriating the lands of other Peoples.

It is in Australia where the myth of nature fits seamlessly with the doctrine of terra nullius.

By contrast, the challenge is to fashion a new understanding using means which go beyond the ‘nature-culture’ opposition. That it, to find ways which acknowledge culture and cultural practices as part of ecosystems, not something separate which can be removed when inconvenient.

Looking at the role of fire in an Australian cosmos provides one means of teasing out some of the issues as to why the concept of ‘nature’ falls short of what is required for us to relate well with our surroundings.

Teasing this out will take some time, and several postings.

A good place to begin is with the observations of Darwin on his trip from Sydney to Bathurst and back:

16 January 1836

I slept at night at a very comfortable Inn at Emu ferry, which is thirty-five miles from Sydney |684| & near the ascent of the Blue Mountains. — This line of road is the most frequented & has longest been inhabited of any in the Colony. — The whole land is enclosed with high railings, for the farmers have not been able to rear hedges. — There are many substantial houses & good cottages scattered about; but although considerable pieces of the land are under cultivation, the greater part yet remains as when first discovered. — Making allowances for the cleared parts, the country here resembles all that I saw during the ten succeeding days. — The extreme uniformity in the character of the Vegetation, is the most remarkable feature in the landscape of the greater part of New S. Wales. — Everywhere we have an open woodland, the ground being partially covered with a most thin pasture. The trees nearly all belong to one family;1 & have the surface of their leaves placed in a vertical instead of as in Europe a nearly horizontal position; This fact & their scantiness makes the woods light & shadowless; although under the scorching sun of the summer this is a loss of comfort, it is of importance to the farmer, as it allows grass to grow where it otherwise could not. — The greater number of the trees, with the exception of some of the Blue |685| Gums, do not attain a large size; but they grow tall & tolerably straight & stand well apart. It is singular that the bark of some kinds annually falls, or hangs dead in long shreds, which swing about with the wind; & hence the woods appear desolate & untidy. — Nowhere is there an appearance of verdure or fertility, but rather that of arid sterility:

19th Jan

The woodland is generally so open that a person on horseback can gallop through it; it is traversed by a few flat bottomed valleys, which are green & free from trees; in such spots the scenery was like that of a Park & pretty. — In the whole country I scarcely saw a place without the marks of fire; whether these had been more or less recent, whether the stumps were more or less black, was the greatest change which varied the monotony so wearisome to the traveller’s eye.

21st Jan – approaching Bathurst

This day we had an instance of the sirocco-like wind of Australia; which comes from the parched deserts of the interior. While riding, I was not fully aware, as always happens, how exceedingly high the temperature was. — Clouds of dust were travelling in every part, & the wind felt like that which has passed over a fire. — I afterwards heard the thermometer out of doors stood at 119° & in a room in a closed house 96°.—

23rd The next day we passed through large tracts of country in flames; volumes of smoke sweeping across the road.

And see: Australian authorities ‘arsonists’: Germaine Greer. SMH February 13, 2009

http://www.smh.com.au/national/australian-authorities-arsonists-germaine-greer-20090213-86h7.html?page=-1

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin – born 200 years ago today.

It is unlikely that there is anyone alive today who would have been alive when Darwin was.

The oldest living people seem to be in the 120 years range. Darwin died on 19 April, 1882 – so the “living connection” formed by such an overlap would have only recently passed the point of no return.

it shows just how recent (in terms of generations) are these major changes in our understanding of life a la Darwin.

Of course, it is the work which people do during their life time which lives on after them.

Our awareness of the ongoing creation we are part of – life has been called a process of realisation – is sharpened by Darwin’s efforts.

Charles Darwin’s work and reputation stand out on the social landscape in unmistakable relief.

Who can read the concluding words of the Origin of Species and not hear  his voice speaking out across seeming eons to Genesis?

“”There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

 

 

 

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Diachronic, panchronic, synchronic, achronic … eternal maybe?

Lyotard’s mention (see previous post) of the role of the diachronic axis in spreading out theoretic problems has an immediate relevance to considerations of the theory of evolution.

The recent invention of the notion of linear time (in the 1700 and 1800’s) provided an intellectual resource for geologists and biologists in order to construct new models of life.

The classic popular book by Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield “The Discovery of Time” provides a good account of this.

The diachronic axis, by being greatly extended into the past, provides a means of explanation of features of the world. Everyday secular events taking place over a long time account for what we now encounter.

This sharply contrasts with how First Peoples interpret experience. In Central Australia, for example, certain hills may have been formed in the Dreaming by a particular ancestor – and carrying messages relevant to life’s regulation.

And, of course, it sharply contrasts with the ‘special case’ provided by the myths relating to a small part of the planet in The Bible.

One of the problems for Christianity is the highly localised character of its sacred landscape – a Holy Land – in a part of the Middle East.

By contrast all of Australia appears to have contained sacred sites – Europeans find it easier to dismiss this from their minds and ambitions since it is truly inconvenient for those who seek to expropriate (as a fetish)  ‘the land’ while totally disowning the people so clearly part and parcel of it.

It is clear from reading the account of his travels and observations in South America that the young Charles Darwin was already well versed in interpreting features of the world by these new means. It is a pleasure to read his account and to share this seeing the world through fresh eyes.

Darwin and Captain FitzRoy famously disagreed on such matters, with the Captain seeking explanations in “The Book” and the Deluge.

Similarly, the young Darwin’s musings on how the sheer cliffs of the Blue Mountains were formed display this ‘modern’ mind busily at work. Ditto for his explanation of how coral atolls formed. Time is available to account for such matters. Linear time, extending backwards.

An older Darwin also berated those who sought to interpret life in relation to cycles and not genealogy.

That is, there is a systematic privilege placed upon ‘the linear’ mode as the only true one. 

But, if we regard linear time as merely one mode of what is glossed as ‘non-linear’, what then of more eternal considerations?

In raising the question of the place of myths of eternal return (see previous posting) in relation to Lyotard’s reflection on the role of the diachronic axis (and totalitarian systems of legitimation) another curious feature emerges.

Ways of life, such as those of Australia’s First Peoples, which have systems which do not privilege a theoretical diachronic axis (one way – ‘upstream’ – or another = ‘downsteam’). They also lack life formations which cede and concentrate power in an imaginary centre elsewhere.

By contrast, the Roman Catholic Church, as a sort of shadowy Roman Empire Mark II, insists that all power in located in one man, The Pope, and in one privileged place – Rome. It does this in the name of a universal “Catholic” religion. A top-down structure with a single God on High, mediated by a single privileged person.

Is it not possible to imagine an alternative “Catholic” religion which acknowledged the true locus of divinity to reside everywhere – that is, in local relationships both between people and with their actual surroundings?

And this is very close to the Ways of Australia’s First Peoples – whose Being was signified in truly profound ways as part of a cosmic life order.

Newly returning life is fitted into its place in local arrangements formed as a result of global considerations and wide-spread alliances.  Local ‘chapters’ had certain cosmic maintenance duties bestowed upon them. In Central Australia, for example, one group may be responsible for rain, another for fire (with complementary opposite links and responsibilities between them).

The modern nation-state is a sort of secularised version of a church, with its Ministers, and its capital cities and law-making places based on a false notion of ‘centralisation’. That form of ‘centralisation’ is a concentration of power in one locality at the expense of others – it does not centre life, it inevitably decentres our Being.

With bushfires raging in Victoria, and floods in north Queensland, the ‘mythic’ poles of the burnt world and the drowned world take on a more immediate significance than is usually the case.

Life, in an orthodox indigenous Australian system, is endlessly recycled soul-energy.

There is no eventual redemption and nirvana. Looking after the world and living properly is not an option which can be put off since the live of an individual is short and, once over, the neglected task of no consequence.

Life always returns … but to what?

The answer appears to be that when our form of life ceases to perform our cosmic maintenance responsibilities, a well-tempered cosmos begins to run amok almost, as some have already noted, as though trying to rid itself of an imbalanced parasite.

Modes of Being – such as those necessary for the Ways of Australia’s First Peoples – place our form of life in a different position, vis-a-vis the rest of life, to that which characterise “modern man”.

Maintaining relationships (of all kind) in good condition is a key task.

How we relate is of greater importance than attempts to control and fashion life to satisfy our narrowly conceived best interests.

The dismissal, by modern minds,  of ‘animists’ as primitive savages fails to allow room for a truly profound relationship of intelligent life (of our kind) with a far greater form of intelligence – a living cosmos – in which we are part of a sort of meta-neural system for the flow of messages.

Considerations such as these are relevant to crafting new forms of representation.

Such considerations may not have been possible in Darwin’s day – when he arrived in King George Sound (so recently named compared to how First Peoples would have known it) he part sponsored a corroborree of White Cockatoo Men and others.

His mind already corrupted about the role in life of Australia’s First Peoples by the land and resource appetites and ambitions of British colonists (as well as prevailing imperial European stereotypes)  and more fascinated by the question of the margins of life at the inanimate/animate threshold, the great myth-maker failed to realise the great potential which existed for a genuine dialogue between peoples from opposite sides of our home planet.

It is partially due to the work of Charles Darwin that we, now, are in a far better position to partially rectify (if not ‘complete’) the shortcomings of modernity.

Neglected for far too long, this dialogue will not be realised in one blog posting.

For that task,  a host of self-others is required – and, in finding new voices, new songs, new cosmologies we abandon linear conventions governing how we should proceed.