Shiva, rebirth, oak forests

We like Christmas more than Easter, babies more than dying people.  We like helping new things grow and develop.  Then, after they are grown, comes the hard part.

Anyone who has ever worked hard to build up a farm, a business, a career, a garden, or a family finds it hard to face one fact: all systems disintegrate.  To not recognize this fact is to ignore the adaptive cycles characteristics of all living systems. All systems go through stages of growth, maturity, disassembly and reassembly.  All too often, in our efforts to maintain the system, we sow the seeds of a more destructive disassembly.

The mature forest, watched over carefully to preserve it from fire, will eventually build up so much flammable material that a much hotter, more destructive fire results.  The landscape is stripped of protective cover, suffers erosion and can never again become a lush forest.

Semi-arid lands, if totally protected from animal grazing by well-meaning conservationists, will develop a crust on their soils leading to less penetration of moisture and exacerbation of desertification.

A company focused on buying or eliminating competitors to dominate a national market  doesn’t pay attention to changing market drivers, only to have a more innovative company come in from outside and destroy it.

A people are intent on maximizing pleasure because “you only have one life.”  Their society becomes increasingly dependent on immigrant workers, beset by crime, and dissolves.

The mature oak trees would probably maintain their forest as it is, if they could.  Their system, luckily for oak trees, allows disturbances to maintain the adaptive cycle of growth (r), maturation (K), disassembly (Ω) and reassembly (α).  Unluckily for our species, we are so adept at prolonging the K phase that we often destroy the capacity for reassembly.  The cradle of civilization in Turkey, Syria and Iraq attests to this fact with hundreds of dead cities in a man-made desert[1].  And more are in the making.

What will break us out of our seemingly uncontrollable need to stay in the K phase?  Especially this time of year, one would hope Christians would remember that “you must be born again” and embrace Ω and α.  We might then recognize when we are stultifying in a K phase and induce Ω so we can reassemble and jump to an enhanced r phase.

Or, like the transcendentalists[2], maybe Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu as destroyer, creator and preserver might be more to your liking. Though the Indians have had the Bhagavad Gita for 2500 years and they are still stuck trying to preserve a K phase and endure overpopulation as a result.

Or, we might pay attention to the Tao Te Ching and encompass both the creative (yang) and the destructive (yin) while not becoming too entranced with either.  Though the cradle of the Tao, China, is the most powerful modern example of perpetuation of the K phase until the foundations for resilience and transformation are destroyed.

Or, maybe we could be convinced by the Austrian school and the creative destruction of Schumpeter[3].  Though the big business types entranced by the Austrian school love to form the monopolies and oligopolies which undermine the diversity needed fore resilience.

More radically, we could just set aside all these theories and return to what stimulated them in the first place.  We might even see how natural systems manage to be resilient and transform themselves if the disturbance is strong enough.

We might learn of how complementary diversity, conservative flexibility, modular connectivity, and controlled redundancy are the four qualities which lead to increased potential for ecosystem resilience and transformation.[4]

If we continue in our communion with nature, we might even understand a little better how to scuttle the K phase before it gets too comfortable and move into an α phase which expands our potential even more.

We might see the reason for the season encompasses both Christmas and Easter, α and Ω.

More likely we will keep trying to maintain our somewhat satisfying pleasures in our K phase and never induce the Ω required to get to α.  Most likely we will fail to realize that devotion to the pleasures of the K phase just insures a more cataclysmic destruction.  In the midst of that destruction, we’ll cry out in anguish, wondering where we went wrong.

The adaptive cycles are indifferent to our anguish, to fairness, to our limited sense of right and wrong.  They just are.  Or, if asked what you should call them, they would say “I am.”

So you can learn more about r, K, Ω, α and the qualities which lead to resilience and transformation.  Or you can just let them buffet you around as they wish.  Ω will come.  The only question is whether you use it or it abuses you.

[1] Lowdermilk, 1953.Conquest of the Land

[2] Thoreau, 1839. A week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.Pp. 111, 116.

[3] Schumpeter, 1943. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.

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