One small hand

Via Martin Buber. (Nahman/Nachman of Bratzlav/Bratslav was a 19th-century composer of mysterious, parable-like stories – a hasidic version of the sufi teaching stories – which probably constitute Kafka’s single greatest influence.)

“Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav has handed down to us these words of his great-grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov: ‘Alas! The world is full of enormous lights and mysteries, and man shuts them from himself with one small hand!'”

(Tales of the Hasidim: The Early Masters. Shocken, 1947. 74.)

The proper response

Conservation biologists Reed Noss and Allen Cooperrider:

“We must first define what we mean by natural. Though one of the most ambiguous in the conservation lexicon, the term natural persists because it signifies something of great esthetic and spiritual significance to many people. Naturalness may also have scientific values, not the least of which is that it provides a buffer for our ignorance. That is, natural forests have ecological qualities that we have barely begun to fathom and have no idea of how to replicate.”

(Saving Nature’s Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, 1994. 189.)

Elsewhere, Reed Noss and co-authors Michael O’Connell and Dennis Murphy write:

“ECOSYSTEMS ARE NOT ONLY MORE COMPLEX THAN WE THINK, BUT MORE COMPLEX THAN WE CAN THINK. This statement, attributed to ecologist Frank Egler, reflects the tremendous complexities scientists encounter when trying to understand the organisms and systems they study. Nature at all levels of biological organization – genes, populations, species, communities, ecosystems, landscapes – encompasses many phenomena that cannot be perceived, measured, or understood using the traditional methods of scientific inquiry. Hence, uncertainty is high for all results obtained. New developments in science are not likely to break down entirely the perceptual barriers. Even with the most sophisticated rational tools imaginable, reductionism and other rational approaches to understanding Nature have their limits.

“Although ecologists often have a good general understanding of natural ecosystems, there are always surprises. The proper response to lack of full knowledge about Nature is humility . . . ”

(The Science of Conservation Planning: Habitat Conservation Under the Endangered Species Act. Island Press, 1997. 76.)

Humanity knows nothing

From Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming (Rodale, 1978):

“Scientists think they can understand nature. That is the stand they take. Because they are convinced that they can understand nature, they are committed to investigating nature and putting it to use. But I think an understanding of nature lies beyond human intelligence.

“I often tell the young people in the huts on the mountain, who come here to help out and to learn about natural farming, that anyone can see the trees up on the mountain. They can see the green of the leaves; they can see the rice plants. They think they know what green is. In contact with nature morning and night, they sometimes come to think they know nature. But when they think they are beginning to know nature, they can be sure that they are on the wrong track.

“Why is it impossible to know nature? That which is conceived to be nature is only the idea of nature arising in each person’s mind. The ones who see true nature are infants. They see without thinking, straight and clear. If even the names of plants are known, a mandarin orange tree of the citrus family, a pine of the pine family, nature is not seen in its true form.

“An object seen in isolation from the whole is not the real thing.”


In the first place

X marks the spot. But what is x?
I am no expert. Certainly no existentialist!
Barely an exegete.
I like to get my feet wet.

This is not a blog. Nor is it not a blog.
It is not both-blog-and-non-blog,
nor is it neither-blog-nor-non-blog.
With apologies to Nagarjuna – actually, it’s just a bunch of words.

There will be more references to books (remember books?) than web links, though I don’t rule out the latter. (Link after link makes a chain. Who is the prisoner, who the keeper?)

At the heart of all this: endless strings of 1s and 0s.
You can say that one stands for something, and zero nothing, but that’s too simple. I prefer to think that the 1 is I, and the 0 Not-I. I + Not-I equal I-and-I (in the inimitable Rastafarian formula for communitas).

Alternatively, let 1 = x
so that it now stands for “unknown.”
0 becomes O: the open eye,
the open mouth: wonder.
The primal emotions.
Or simply: receptivity to X.
Now solve for 1.

Hugs and kisses, y’all.