Bare Bones Biology 169 – Patterns of Life

Life is a chaotic, yet impeccably regulated river of processes flowing through time and space. Life is about patterns. Interacting patterns of millions of processes, turning on and off and cooperating with other processes as they cycle and recycle; always perpetuating themselves; always the same yet never identical. Like the clouds; first the corrugated overcast of a morning that coagulates by afternoon into snow-capped billows floating in an azure sky and by evening has faded to topaz, turquoise and royal blue, guided by – what? It’s all a repeating pattern of weather that responds to the cycles of the sun and earth and moon, of temperature and wind and the layers of air, and the breathe of the living earth as she circulates water, carbon, oxygen in and out of the life forms.

130902-SimpleLife-ASC_5828RLSs copy 2Under the clouds outside my window a hummingbird moth hovers over a purple blossom, its delicate proboscis as long as its body probing deep into one tiny floret after another, looking for all the world like the hummingbirds themselves that probed these same florets earlier in the season.

And on the back of my hand, a rather small fly and a rather large mosquito, nearly side by side, equally gathering food to energize the processes of Life that are guided by – what? The information that informs the repeating cycles of life is stored in the genes that are carried in the core of every living cell. All of Life is patterns of processes turning on and off, interconnecting and contradictory, patterns of process perpetuating themselves, always the same but never identical. Millions of coordinating processes making egg and sperm, intricately dividing and maturing cells to create the moth, or the bird, or the bug or the purple flower – and us — that gathers the energy to make more eggs and sperm, and then dies to make room for forever.

And who are we to change the cycles of the moon and the processes of evolution that give us life? We can’t change the patterns of sun and earth; they are too infinitely remote from our own ability to understand and evaluate. We can’t change the way the evolution of genetic information directs the present and therefore the future of the whole of the living earth Biosystem. Infinity and evolution are not human and do not have human values or human emotions. There is no point bloodying our fists against the wall of their omnipotence.

130727-bugs-ASC_4957RLSs copy 2But there is one thing we could be doing because we have one source of information that is not available either to the physical laws of nature or to the evolutionary law of life, and that is the human brain, composed of human instincts, human emotions, human values and the ability to understand and communicate ideas. We cannot change how the system functions, but we can understand patterns. We cannot change how the system functions, but we could change what we do to the system. We could build a new kind of human culture based on re-integrating ourselves into the ongoing schema of the river of Life. We could change ourselves. I see groups of people trying to do this, but without exception those I have tried to understand are not so much interested in how WE fit into the overall scheme of patterns, but are trying to fit the scheme of things into their own human emotions and value systems. It won’t work. That must be why all the religions warn against misuse of the human ego. It’s probably been tried throughout human history.

But what we could do, if we care more about growing the future than about our own individual glory stories, is too change ourselves. We could learn to understand the patterns of Life and find a way to use our own human emotions to change our uniquely human value systems in a way that will benefit all.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS FM, 89.1, Bryan Texas.