Bare Bones Biology 253 – Answer the Question

We have come to an age in my country, where almost everyone we talk to is afraid of questions. It astonishes me when someone responds to my questions by bursting into tears, becoming stiff and defensive or, worse, angry over I know not what.

150310-Bitsy-ASC_5542RLSsBut wait. Come to think of it, people also ask ME questions, and yes there are times I get just a wee bit huffy about it. It does depend what kind of mood I’m in, and how I feel about the other person, and also how many times they have asked me the same question. And most of all it depends on whether I think it’s a real question or just something meant to fill the empty space between us.

Sometimes I ask dumb questions for smart reasons or sometimes smart questions for dumb reasons, and most often I ask questions that nobody knows the answers to, but different people have different answers, and if we got them all together some really exciting answers might come out of it.

I am a naturally curious person, and perhaps entering my second childhood, and I like questions because I like to understand more and more about how the world works. So I ask my questions, and what do I get?

Too often, shunned, attacked, shocked responses – too often answers that are not useful, and more importantly the person on the other end of this exchange also gets nothing useful. Or maybe it is that people will only answer the right questions, or questions that are asked correctly or appropriately.

Then you may say, as most people do say about corposystem rituals: “You are doing it the wrong way.” They don’t say the ritual is negative and causes harm to both the asker and the answerer; they say it would all turn out OK if I would do the ritual correctly – that the ritual is the ultimate right and I am wrong. And then they offer to kindly teach me how to do it right — without asking whether or not I had considered and discarded their method before they were even born.

Teeny-boppers!!!!

My answer is: “So what do I care about the corposystem rituals? The corposystem loves to tell us that we are not OK unless we can become perfect at one thing or another. It’s a great technique because nobody can do it, and at the same time these rituals keep we the people occupied and focus our attention away from serious problems we are not supposed to talk about, such as overpopulation, for example, or the corposystem take-over of our political and educational systems.

Imagine raising children and they can’t ask questions. None of us ever stop learning, and in this age of incredibly rapid change, we need answers. If we can’t ask or answer questions – well then – we are stuck in our own history, and doomed to recycle that history. And that’s a really big problem that will not be solved by anyone being perfect or not perfect.

150409-Bitsy-ASC_6264RLSsSo, as for the questions, my goal is to find answers – not to practice someone else’s proscribed format until my performance is “perfect.” And in the long run, I will end up knowing more, and knowing more is both fun and useful.

We all are stuck with each other, so maybe it would be a good time to make do, swallow our fear or pride or that little tickle in the stomach that says: “I’m not good enough; I can’t handle this,” and just answer the questions. Or tell them it’s something you don’t want to talk about. Or ask a good, relevant question back. Because in any normal social situation, questions are not really a threat to anyone. And they can be incredibly useful to us all.

And anyhow, why this need to prove that you are better than everyone else? Questions are nothing more than children learning how the world really does work, and learning the answers is not an onerous task – it’s FUN! Not only fun, but good information increases your personal power in the world.

So why the angst?

Just answer the question.

This is bare bones biology, a production of FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM in Bryan, Texas. A copy of the podcast can be downloaded here:

Much better than starting wars or excluding others from important information. Or wasting our time on line trying to prove the un-provable — when we could be contributing information and attitudes that can benefit the future welfare of our communities.

Bare Bones Biology 245 – Dancing Inside of Life

As stated in my blog last week, I’m beginning a series of opinion pieces (my opinions) in response to the opinion pieces of others. This week I respond to Paul Kingsworth, writing at http://www.tricycle.com/special-section/witness. I had so much to say that it was impossible to put in the KEOS podcast version. Below is the full version, with the parts in green indicating what was omitted from the podcast.

Much of our confusion about climate change is caused by our current cultural rejection of science in favor of human emotional solutions to nonhuman non-emotional realities. However, the realities are not so complicated, and if we are truly looking for answers, reality-based answers are not hard to understand.

Our current generations seem often to image science as a destructive demon, rather than as a tool that we are using to understand the reality of natural law. This demonic image does not relate to the reality that basic science (defined as the effort to understand reality using the scientific method) is not technology (defined as the use of natural laws to serve the needs and desires of humans), and basic science is neither destructive nor constructive. It is the human hand that makes good or bad use of our knowledge; and the Biosystem simply accommodates itself to whatever happens.

We humans don’t like this. And so we throw our little tantrums trying, in effect, to blame Life for being what it is, and use our tools to force it to our will, rather than using science and technology to flourish within the limitations imposed by the nature of the Biosystem.

Many of us, including the author of the Tricycle article to which this post is a response (http://www.tricycle.com/special-section/witness, by Paul Kingsnorth), have learned that our human desire to dominate does not work, when applied to the Life System known as Earth. Therefore, many of us are trying to explain this in our different ways. Below is my response upon reading the above article. This is not a criticism; it is a conversational response from my perspective.

1) We cannot solve prob140825-sunrise-ASC_0993slems outside of or beyond ourselves by trying to control them. God and Nature are well beyond the levels of human control.

2) It is a misrepresentation to say that the nature of Nature changes. The nature of Nature does not change, and that is a good thing: first it means that Life is possible; second it means that we can understand what to expect from nature. The more we know about the unchangeable Laws of Life, the better we can plan our human cultures, actions, and other behaviors so that they nurture rather than damage the current manifestation of the Life of Earth.

However — and I am not nit-picking here, because it is very important that we understand the difference between the nature of nature, that is natural law, and the particular manifestation of natural Law that is Life. It is true that the most basic (and unchanging) Fact of Life is that it can and does constantly change in a responsive dance with and within its environment. Thus we can count on change and we can learn (that’s what basic science is good for) what the Biosystem requires of us, if we are to avoid generating life-threatening changes such as climate change or worse.

3) Life does change, to save itself from death, whenever that is possible. That is one definition of Life. And the unavoidable implication is that death is a necessary component of the nature of Life. That does not mean that extinctions are the endings of Life. On the contrary, they are an extreme form of the ongoing rebalancing of Life.

We cannot change the nature of Life, or the fact that Life requires death in order to continue balancing itself in changing environmental conditions. But we certainly could nurture the maintenance of a balanced environment, so as to reduce the need for changes in the Life of the Biosystem, as we do for individual human lives every day. And we absolutely should consider doing so in our efforts to understand the holistic meaning of compassion. If only because we are human and that’s what humans do.

4) As humans, we also must achieve a dynamic balance among the things we choose to do and believe. If we want to survive, save our communities, our species, then we must modify our behaviors. That is what living things do to avoid death. Indeed it is the most basic nature of Life. The idea that we can change how Life functions to stay alive (that is that we can change the nature of Life) is pure human ego. We cannot. Nor can we change our basic human makeup. What we can do, because humans can learn and understand, is learn to change our behaviors so as to avoid threatening the current manifestation of the Life of the Biosystem.

5) To maintain itself as a living entity, the Earth has “started over” several times to rebalance itself from the bottom up. We refer to these events as mass extinctions. Earth is an unimaginably complex system, but obviously is capable of reaching a dynamic balance that can sustain itself — because that is what it is doing when subunits of the Life system crash in the extinctions. However, given an environment that does not threaten its existence, it’s not usually necessary to crash the whole system in order to rebalance it; rebalancing is happening all the time. It’s what Life is. (An excellent background reference for this systems function of Life is The Great Courses, A New History of Life.)

6) All that above DOES NOT MEAN THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT OUR PLIGHT. The previous extinction events occurred at times when the creatures did not have human brains capable of studying the nature of Life and figuring out what behaviors we are doing that cause death or unbalance.

Because we DO KNOW, through the good basic science – if we are willing to study the known facts of Life and not only contemplate our own human navel – that we can change our destiny at any time, by changing our individual and communal behaviors that are specifically threatening to the Life of Earth.

We can develop our intellectual brain. Instead of trying to be heroes, we can work humbly to learn how to better understand the factual needs of the Biosystem for its own healthy balance, sustainability and resilience.

At the same time, we can develop our compassionate brain/body. If we are to practice true compassion, we must, when there is a conflict between human life and the Life of Earth, we must find a way, or look for ways to nurture the Life of Earth, even over “human rights” and avoid knee-jerk responses that further threaten the balance of Life.

This is not a passive acceptance of reality. Not at all. It is learning as much as we possibly can about the reality of Life that contains the reality of humans. And learning how to participate positively, rather than negatively in our dance with Life.

7) We humans have been “gifted” with brains that are capable of figuring out what we could be doing to nurture ourselves, not by trying to change an unchangeable system but by fitting ourselves into the balancing act that is necessary to maintain our lives as part of the Life of Earth, because we cannot live without the Life of Earth, and it is our behaviors that are changing the environment, and the changing environment requires the Earth to change itself in order to keep itself alive. The bottom line is that the Life of Earth will not choose our welfare over its own. And it is bigger and more powerful, in a million ways, than we are.

The point here is – if we decide to educate ourselves sufficiently to understand the real problem – we can start thinking and talking together about real practical solutions rather than continue trying to dominate the unchangeable nature of nature. Which can’t be dominated.

And while sitting, we could wonder why we seem to have such a need to dominate;

2013-01-13 Cannon River2RFsand learn to recognize that “need” when we see it in ourselves and others.

8) We know and have known, at least during all of my long life, that what we are doing wrong is called overpopulation. Overpopulation is defined as generating more organisms of a species than there are resources available for its survival within the normal environment.

The resources are all those other species that we are destroying, and we are destroying them primarily by taking their food (and other things they need), because we are using all the earth to provide food (and other forms of energy) for ourselves, because there are not enough energy resources on earth to feed all of us humans, as well as the other species. I wrote that sentence as a cycle intentionally.

Overpopulation is normal and has been studied, and because we have the brain and the science and the technology we can do (or could be doing) what other species cannot. We ccould decide to save ourselves before the Earth saves itself by eliminating us. We could voluntarily change our normal behaviors in order to cut the cycle of overpopulation and live within our means.

Cycles can be changed, but we cannot avoid paying for our hubris, and nothing can change overnight. In other words, we can’t “win” any battle against the normal functions of the Biosystem, but we could cooperate in the rebalancing.

And while sitting we can wonder why we believe that it is our obligation to win?
And learn to recognize that compulsion when we feel it.

9) Communally we have chosen to use technologies for domination, rather than cooperation. We have many reasons/excuses for this, and they all make good sense humanly. But nature is not human and doesn’t care about our reasons, our egos, or our human emotions or aspirations or who is to blame for what — unless those traits threaten the Life of Earth. At that point, nature responds (and is now responding) by protecting its own life.

Instead of continuing this losing fight to the death, we can dedicate our genius to understand the fact-based, nonhuman needs of nature and helping to fulfill them. If you haven’t read Eaarth (Bill McKibben) you could start there, with the hard copy book so you can follow up on his references cited.

And while sitting we can wonder why we would rather fight than collaborate.

We are what we are; It is what It is.
Shed some tears.
Carry on working for the welfare of all sentient beings.
Intelligently, compassionately, and without regard for the outcome.

10) If we ever decide we care more about the community of humans within the Life of Earth, more than we care about our own egos, rationalizations, hopes, aspirations and emotions, then we can readily (though not easily) bring our behaviors under our own control, because we already know very precisely what the primary problem is. It is overpopulation, overgrowth, and a bushel-full of other sins that arise directly therefrom.

“When threatened
by fear and desire
let ego go.”
(A Joseph Campbell Companion, Diane Osbon, page 144)

To me, most of basic science (not technology used to dominate, but basic science that is used to understand) seems a recognition of natural law that has many parallels in Buddhist teachings, which are after all, in large part also based in natural law.
As is the Biosystem.
And human beings.

Dr. M. Lynn Lamoreux

A copy of the podcast can be obtained at:

References:

http://www.tricycle.com/special-section/witness
The Great Courses, A New History of Life
Eaarth by Bill McKibben
A Joseph Campbell Companion, Diane Osbon

Photographs

Winter Picture courtesy of: vairochanafarm.wordpress.com/
Mountain Picture – © Photos by Lynn

140922 – Diary – Climate March

140920-ClimateMarch-ASC_1781RLSs copySometimes I wonder. Actually most of the time I wonder why we-the-people try so hard to get someone else to take care of the problem that we haven’t tried to understand the cause of so we can take care of it ourselves. What is the point of begging our leaders to deal with climate change when we at the same time require our leaders to give us everything else that we want, and the other things we want always involve growth of the human “imprint” on the earth that unbalances the miracle of the Life that is our Earth.

140920-ClimateMarch-ASC_1790RLSsThe Law of Life is not only the Law of Life on Earth – it is also the real bottom line of human existence. Life must stay in balance to stay alive. If it can’t stay the way we like it — it will change so that it can stay in a different balance. It does this by several mechanisms that are biological. By flowing energy through the living system; by recycling the materials of which it is made, and by interacting with the environmental conditions of now. To do this job of staying alive, the Living Earth changes in response to WHAT WE DO TO IT NOW.

Fracking, for example, is largely illegal, and we do have laws of humans that were meant to protect us from ourselves, and we could be out there enforcing them, in addition to marching. And teaching ourselves how the laws of nature REALLY do function to maintain Life. How they really do function, not the fairy stories about cornucopias or survival of the fittest.

140920-ClimateMarch-ASC_1824RLSs copyAnd devising new ways to make laws for humans that will support the Law of Life.

Most of our leaders are a good bit more clueless than we are, so getting their attention may not help.

Oh, yes. That’s why we try so hard to get their attention.

Well, I would say the Climate March was a good try, and I wish it good luck.

140920-ClimateMarch-ASC_1857RLSsMuch rather I would like to see the people actually learn to understand the reality of the miracle that is the Biosystem so we can participate in it with love and joy, rather than duking it out with our leaders AND WITH THE BIOSYSTEM, trying to force them both to give us whatever we want without regard to the consequences to the Biosystem and therefore to ourselves.

140920-ClimateMarch-ASC_1860RLSsMuch rather I would like to see these marches also accessible to the poor people, many of whom may have no computers and no iThings and therefore don’t even hear about the march or can’t get there or are more worried about their own children than about ours. I wonder how many of the young people who participated in this march can even imagine such a thing as poor. The poor are after all in the trenches of the corposystem war against the Biosystem. Without them there would not be the success stories of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
that we try to emulate.

140920-ClimateMarch-ASC_1858RLSsThere are more poor on earth today than ever in the history of human kind and the only way to reverse that trend is to ALL cooperate with, rather than WAGE WAR against the efforts of our living earth as she tries to keep all her living parts functional and balanced in the way that WE want them to be balanced. We do not care to learn about her real need for balance, what Life on Earth requires to stay alive — and then we complain to our leaders for not giving us what we want, which mostly is more of everything.

More is not balance.

And I was very, very tired.

And I cannot stay in motels any more because they are using more and more of cleaning products and pesticides and chemicals that kill you sense of smell so you don’t realize you are being poisoned, as you sleep, by the cleaning products and pesticides. So I started on home, but about by the time I got to Abiquiu I was too tired to drive, and so I stopped at the Abiquiu Inn.

140920-ABQInn-ASC_1668RLSsI have told you about the Abiquiu Inn before, and I will tell you again because it is an oasis in a sea of toxic motels. It is a) quite lovely, b) clean, but cleaned with non-toxic products, c) pet friendly, d) people friendly, e) not over priced, on the low end, for an occasional treat, f) environmentally friendly, as best they can, which of course is not perfect, but I love that all the big beautiful old trees are helping to clean the air. Imagine all the motels in this country how many trees they wiped out in favor of ugly concrete. How much more sickness among the people who stay in toxic motels, and especially the people who work in those places, many of whom do not speak English. How much water and pesticides and toxic air and toxic cleaning compounds they altogether produce and imagine how much less they could be producing. Especially the chain motels that dictate the conditions according to their bottom line and without regard to the natural Law of Balance.

140921-ABQInn-asc_1862RsWell, so I thought I would tell you that again, because I don’t suppose the Abiquiu Inn was at the march, but they are nevertheless contributing every day to a better way of doing what they do. Continue reading

Bare Bones Biology 220 – Healthy Living

Last evening, I was puttering around, thinking about healthy living. You know, the three of us have started a healthy living project (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/). The phone rang. It was my nearest neighbor. Her car stopped working, someone gave her a ride to the top of the canyon, and there she was, stuck and alone, three and a half miles away. Walking home for three miles in the deep, dark bottom of the canyon, with only half a moon rising and no defense bigger than a stick. It may not be unhealthy, but it feels like it. Being eaten by a bear, is that really what the word means? Unhealthy? Or is it just bad luck?

1408113-canyon_gardenASC_0821RLss copyThe Oxford American dictionary gives the definition of healthy as: “Having or showing or producing good health.” The thesaurus on my computer is a little more specific, and answers the necessary next question: “What is health?” by saying: “The general condition of something in terms of soundness, vitality and proper functioning.”

I like functional definitions, because they can usually be tested. For example, if your kidney is not functioning properly, that very fact suggests a method to determine the cause of the problem. But that would be unhealthy. You might know you are unhealthy because you feel bad. It’s not so easy to recognize how good a healthy person can feel, and use that good feeling to maintain vital, living health. Some people “feel bad” and don’t even know it. They think it is normal.

The problem of how to stay healthy has increased enormously in the past 20 or 30 years. The culture I was born into studied biology in hopes of improving the human condition. The so-called “greatest generation” genuinely cared about human welfare. On the contrary, the prime directive of the newly evolved corposystem is the bottom line, and so it uses the word healthy primarily to get us to buy stuff. Or to believe whatever it wants us to believe. So the words no longer mean what they mean. That’s why I’m taking all this time to define the words healthy and health before we continue with our Healthy Living project.

Health is the general condition of something in terms of soundness, vitality and proper functioning. Healthy refers to something that is sound, vital and functioning properly.

140904-canyon-ASC_1128RLSss copyIs that you? Is it me? Is it my sunflower that I planted earlier this year? The community that provides our sewage disposal and clean water and food? Is it the trees on the side of our mountain? Is it perhaps the entire mountain ecosystem? Is it the whole living earth? Is the earth functioning properly? Proper for what? For whom? Who says what is proper? Surely not the drug companies.

The dictionary says that healthy is lacking disease. Is that just me, living with the bears so that I can avoid the bad-air sickness that now covers most of our country, causing “epidemics” of asthma, alzheimers, cancers of various kinds? Does healthy only apply to humans? Or also to horses and dogs and cats and bears and trees and corn, and even kidneys and ecosystems and cells? I guess so. I guess anything that can die can be unhealthy. And we all know that disease is not the only cause of disease. For example, goiter can be caused by a mineral deficiency, and obesity is a proven cause of ill health because it unbalances so many interactions within our physiology that must function properly to continually balance our physiology at the point of health, as we meet the physical and emotional challenges of our environment.

So it’s not so simple to maintain health, is it? But I think we can agree about the definition, and I think we can use the definition, in coming weeks, to define the questions we need to think about if we want to be healthy. Healthy for whom, and why, and how?

This is Bare Bones Biology a product of FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com and KEOS radio 89.1 FM in Bryan, Texas.

A podcast of this blog can be downloaded at:

Predators

Predator insect eats grasshopper
Predator reptile tries to decide if I am too big for him.

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140816-Lizard-ASC_0879Sss copy

Down in the riverbottom where I was walking along until I sensed something that smelled very much like a predator mammal, or perhaps that angry elk, My various senses have been much improved in this lovely fine clear air, including my sense of smell. I realized this morning when I couldn’t find Bitsy in the house, that she must be near. At the moment she smells of skunk. And then this predator elk downin the riverbed that never has water but does make a nice path right next to my house. I went in the house.

Chama Days Parade

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Diary – 140804

Sackcloth and Ashes
©2014 Lynn Lamoreux, Photos by Lynn

140802-canyon-asc_0672RLSsOh my, it is difficult to know just who I am now, so many changes; when I look in the mirror I don’t recognize my essence anymore. I think it got lost somewhere around the year 2000 when I retired, and before we Americans started asking God to bless our bombs (ref. Fr. John Dear, “The Narrow Path”; “James Nachtway WarPhotographer”) and before we took on the Biosystem as one of our many enemies.
I remember once when visiting a foreign land how proud I was (this was long ago) that I could go anywhere on my American passport and be welcome and safe. Now there are very few places left for me to live safely. Well, you remember that’s what I predicted on this blog when we reacted like a passel of cowards to a few petty crooks who managed 911. It was obvious. What comes around goes around. We could have stopped the cycle. Now it reaches even to our lying mirrors, though it’s usually pretty peaceful up here in the boonies.

Last Tuesday morning Bitsy and I awoke early as usual in the crisp breathable mountain air, grabbed the can of bear spray, and headed for our morning walk, this day opting for the meadow. Down by the waterless creek, we found a bedding spot where some large animal had spent the night. This immediately activated Bitsy, me trying to keep up, puffing up the hill to the elk trail, where we found fresh scat – extremely fresh — and she took off. I wandered more slowly back toward our trailer when, of a sudden, the most awful uproarious sounds split the morning air – elk in rut sounds plus I didn’t know what. Dog? Two elk duking it out? Just one elk proclaiming his dominance?.

140802-SackclothAshes-asc_0643RLSsOK with me, he can have his dominance, and I guess Bitsy felt the same as she came timidly back and we jumped in our truck and zipped down to Santa Fe. In two hours we were enveloped in smog, cars, honking horns and nice people. Odd, that. Nice people, but the communal dream they inhabit is not at all nice, and it’s just — not real. Or is it? Was I once part of that dream? Am I me here, back in the trees? Or am I me there, sick with smog? Is there a me anymore?

140802-SackclothAshes-asc_0652RSLsThree nights in a motel with the back door wide open (to a balcony) and the fan on full, trying to eliminate the toxic fumes they now use in motel rooms to make you believe there are no toxic fumes in the motel room. My guess is they have finally discovered a chemical that kills your sense of smell – it also kills quite a few other parts of my body. I tend to wake up in the middle of the night, nauseous, and so I tried sleeping on the floor with my head out the back door; it wasn’t much help. Give me a mad elk any day, but the car must be fixed. Leaky gas tank. And the local guy upstate – well, his fix lasted less than a year. Talk about toxic fumes.

140802-SackclothAshes-asc_0656RLSsWe got it fixed, but gas fumes and toxic chemicals are not the only problems we citizens of the dominant nation must deal with if we take our responsibilities seriously, and this trip was timed so we could also attend Pax Christi Sackcloth and Ashes, with Fr. John Dear that commemorates the USA dropping atom bombs on Japan. (http://paceebene.org/event/sackcloth-and-ashes-peace-vigil-hiroshima-commemoration/)

A big conference and non-violent demonstration are planned for September 2015, but just for now, we made what peace we could, and you can read the recent announcement of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Desmond Tutu, with David Kreiger, on Truthout http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23803-we-must-end-the-madness-of-nuclear-weapons

References
James Nachtwey, warphotographer, a Film by Christian Frei Filmproductions & SwissTV
The Narrow Path, a film by Gerard Thomas Straub, http://www.sandamianfoundation.org
http://paceebene.org/event/sackcloth-and-ashes-peace-vigil-hiroshima-commemoration/
http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23803-we-must-end-the-madness-of-nuclear-weapons