I know that my last post, Culture as Ecosystem 2 was unclear to many readers. This idea that our arts culture is a living, breathing ecosystem is very difficult to pin down. And even though I have pondered this possibility for a decade or more, I have no template or road map from the musings of others to follow. In some ways I believe I was guided to this point by two books: Gary Snyder’s The Real Work: Interviews and Text 1964-1979, and Edward O. Wilson’s Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. (We can get into specifics of these texts later if required).
As I earlier stated, I began thinking of our aesthetic culture as being a living system with quasi-biological functions. The water gets clouded because it goes both ways: Our socio-ecological universe also gets expressed aesthetically (for better or worse – Ecosystem as Culture). The older I get and the deeper I penetrate these ideas, the more the boundaries dissolve into each other. The other day I visualized it as an ocean tide that ebbs and flows. At a minus low tide, we can get out and tide pool among the barnacles, starfish and nudibranchs. The high tide washes up and leaves a debris field a the high water mark for us to pick over for shells, rocks and other detritus.
Where I often get into trouble is where I try to fence these ideas in and corral them to be still enough to examine or measure. The boundaries are too often overly synthetic and omit aberrations. It is like the difference between a guitar and a violin. A guitar has frets and you can only get a note by playing between the frets which has limitations. A violin has no frets and therefore, there is no note that cannot be found. This does not account for the notes that only a dog can hear.
That is my dilemma and my difficulty in trying to associate and correlate these thoughts. The boundaries are dissolving. I will however try to move on and explore another tributary in the current of my emergent ideas.
I made an obscure discovery in a new favorite book. The book is John Valient’s Tiger: A True Story of Vengance and Survival. The book itself is not unrelated to the discussion of non-human will and intent. It is the account of of intelligence and malice in Amur Tigers of the Primorye region of Southeast Siberia. There is astonishing and suspenseful first person accounts of survivors of tiger attacks.
The obscure discovery I found in a passage of this book was a reference to the Estonian Biologist, Jakob von Uexkull and his contribution to the idea of Umwelt and Biosemiotics. His interest was in how organisms or “beings subjectively perceive their environment” and called the “subjective spacio-temporal worlds Umwelt.” Much of his idea is premised on “carriers of significance.”
It seems as though one of his most powerful arguments for this idea is found in the tick. A tick has very specialized and specific conditions for survival (presence of butyric acid, 37 degrees celsius, and hairy typology of mammals) and it is only interested in these carriers of significance.
Uexkull also identified other elements that seem useful in my thinking about Socio-ecology and aesthetics. He includes the elements of , Perceived World, Impulse, Exchange, and Intersections of Significance (In my notes I can’t tell if this one is Uexkull or me. I had a friend sit down and help translate the german). My take away from Uexkull (and my stretch) is that all organisms inhabit and intersect with carriers of significance, exchange and react according to their interest.
This idea is very interesting and helpful. Yet, it seems to omit chance, luck and aberration. Many scientists can get touchy about ideas that are not measurable and repeatable. It exposes the hazard of corralling an idea to get it to hold still for a picture. However when I meditate on Ginkgo Trees, Rhinoceros in Southern France, Oak Restoration, or a Leonardo Drawing of water dynamics, the idea of Kinesthetic Memory ebbs and flows.
Our culture is an ecosystem. And it has a life cycle.
I am not sure I helped clarify things. I may have only clouded the water. But we are out in open ocean.