Friday, March 23, 2007

my childhood journey into an Earth centered Cosmological mythology

So N. says that her communist Bulgarian upbringing told her that we are just accidents of evolution. but in meditation, in sitting under the stars at night she FELT this was not so...

she asks why the traditional 400 year old science paradigm told her this. why did she grow up feeling disconnected from the natural world that science described.

so i say it's not science or ....

i DID grow up connected to the natural world. my dad took me to the museum of natural history, he took me to the park, he took us out to the country the lake the woods on weekends, wher he showed me how to look under every log and stone for the little creatures growing there, he showed me the plants and the trees.. we lived in the trailer on weekends, we always had cats giving birth to kittens, i always had jars of guppies and snails and algae birthing and dying and growin, i was always under the bushes digging up plants and rocks and bugs, i was always drawing coral reefs learning about fossils i always knew that i was molecules, that i was in ecosystems, that i had a long history going back to abraham and back further to a dual inheritence of some god story and some story back through stone age people back through apes back all the way long history back to trilobytes and eurypterids back to elegant magnificent single celled critters who's delicate amazing glass models i saw at the museum that i could relate to the critters i watched staring into pond water with my friend mossimo, back to chemistry itself, i played with my chemistry set, i felt sodium thiosulfate get cold when added to water, i felt ferric ferric ammonium sulfate get warm when added to water, i watched sulfer go through its mysterious phase transitions as it was heated. i looked at stars through my telescope and learned their distances and ages and ...

this was before i ever read Stuart kauffman and brian swimm.

so how old is this tradition? at one point at stony brook i wanted to track it down. i never did. i never asked my dad where he got it.

is it a product of my autistic mind? that whenever the complex tangled human shit got to intense i would go immerse myself in finite
simple details of the natural world?

so where did i get that connection and why did N. not get it? so i claim i got it from science, from a tradition... not science, some hodge podge of european naturalists, american mountain men, american native peoples.

when i was in middle school i read McIlvain's 1001 american fungi. here was an american man riding around the country on his horse at the turn of the century (earlier?), setting up camp wherever he found a new patch of mushrooms and proceeding to dispell old european ideas about their edibility/danger and get to know them on their own. he lived off the land, he practiced science: well what WILL this mushroom do to me, let me try a tiny morsel, no that's not bad, let me try a bigger one... he communicated with the academic botanists getting the names straight, getting the classifications straight.

i partook in this with him. i tried my own mushrooms, i looked them up in his book, and keyed them out. this connected me to the land, to the mysterious mushrooms, to the tradition of naturalists, to science.

ditto i identified with Lutz, and his experiences with the insects around him in his field guide to insects. that grown men would just sit on the ground and watch the details of lives of insects not to learn how best to poison them to grow better crops (though of course many are motivated by that or more to the point, take advantage of governments that are motivated by that to fund their own scientific fascination) but merely because they were fascinating little lives in their own right.

i got to know around 150 different insects in my childhood, that i still carry the experiences of today.

i had sometimes up to 4 fishtanks in my room chock full of mini ecosystems, every conceivible group of critters in the water, i read Buchbaum's "animals without backbones", a survey of all those disparate critters. i kept frogs with me in the room as companions, i used to pet my banjo catfish, i used to play tug of war with the crayfish down the pond.

where was the science? my dad and i would repair the family car, troubleshooting, knowing which fractions of an inch corresponded to which number of millimeters to find the right socket wrench. math was something you got you hands dirty on.

i had a telescope, i went to the planetarium, i would take home little science toys, like magnets... when i was REALLY young i had a record that i would listen to explaining how molecules worked, that the properties of heat and the sound in seashells and steam was the work of molecules in the air water... rushing around... i listened to these along with my tom and jerry records.

was i told that we were evolutionary accidents?

i remember in highschool thinking that the argument about probabilities was stupid, that at each stage the complexity of the stage before it tightens the probabilities.

i think that having heard the evolutionary story so much from my earliest memories that i took it for GRANTED? maybe i grew up in a more optimistic time than N. did.

i think that i autistically, no but i was in good company on this, i found so much comfort in NONHUMAN nature that whether the grand story of evolving life came up with humans or not wasn't a BIG issue, the other critters were just as entitled to it.

did i feel lost in a vast cosmos? at what age are we talking? i think she is talking about later teens! hell, by then i had read tons of science fiction had created my own vast mythologies about life and the universe. hell, remember planetology?

so, steeped in tora, science fiction, evolution, cosmology, native american mythology... i had no trouble finding mythic stuctures to place me in this cosmos. in 7th grade while contemplating the essentially metabolic nature of grasshopper lives, i cooked up this idea of planetology: that molecules had the desire to enter into more complex relationships, wider ranges of mixing... i saw the whole evolution of life on Earth and up to man with his earth mixing technologies and one day travel to other planets to spread life, as a property of the very particles of the universe, physics. my ideas, i later found out were not in line with modern physics, yet they carried me. and to this day, following those ideas of why do molecular systems, planetary systems lead to more complex order, i learned about far from equilibrium dissapative systems, that yes order does come from the laws of physics and mathematics.

don't forget all the math and computer science and cellular automata i studied. i was doing math puzzles forever. already even without a universe, mathematics itself, geometry itself, gives order for free. i knew this.

so there you had it. by seventh grade i had created my own mythology which i believed joined me to history, Earth, science, Cosmology... i never had trouble feeling connected with the universe. science never got a chance to alienate me.

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