Monday, November 10, 2008

Ecoforming, Symbism, and a heroic quest for a new future for mankind.

This long drawn out and scatterbrained post crammed full of ideas has its origin in a peculiar experience. . .

. . .Back in the days I was first getting involved in Seasteading on "RENEGADE" of course I had no idea what I was doing, and wasn't much of a sailor either. But, I was getting my wings and had made the step to the full on live-aboard lifestyle living on a mooring I had set in a mostly isolated bay in the South Sound. I was into fishing, but very very bad at it. I would sit as the boat would swing at the mooring and jig the bottom, only occasionally catching a miserable flat fish. I did this for weeks one summer, and had very little success, until, one day, I simply started catching fish like crazy.

While happy with my new found success, I was more than a little puzzled at the reason for it. I wasn't doing anything different at all, or at least that I could detect. Same jigs, same gear, same technique, but I simply couldn't miss--seriously, it was one fish a cast. Finally I thought I ought to put on the dive gear and head down there to find out what was going on with the fish and just how many there were as it seemed the population had simply exploded. In fact, so much so there was an osprey quite frequently in the rig in the morning(and I learned to keep the forward hatch closed after one really bad "fishshit" in the face experience, ha, had forgot about that!) and the occasional otter would climb aboard and chew something nasty in the cockpit. It seemed that karma had simply come to my little boat and my little anchorage. . .and I was surpised in a Hawaiian Hawk sort of way and a little mystified as my boat was the only one in the little anchorage of a dozen that recieved this sort of blessing.

Well, I went for a dive, and found the explanation. The explanation was the astounding level of growth of anenomes, barnacles, goose mussels, and kelp growing on the circular artifical reef of beer bottles that surrounded my mooring. I'm not kidding. . .

The thing to be learned from this is that there will come a day in which a man that calls himself a "fisherman" will be known not as one who hunts with hook and line or net but one who builds habitat for fish.

Two ideas for me were engendered in this experience. First is the idea of active Ecoforming. Ecoforming, as I define it, is the technology of creating, preserving and improving ecological systems. The second is a philosopical system I've been thinking on and off for a while, which I call, somewhat awkwardly, Symbism. Symbism is a philosophical framework of values and judgments assuming as a first principle that one's actions create both the moral and physical environment for the analysis of those actions. Philosophically Symbism is a means of looking at the relationship between oneself, one's society, and one's environment with the tacit and implicit assumption--in fact first principle, that while one lives within the given larger system, one also creates it. As such, it is a reflection at its core of the most modern scientific ideas and philosophical precepts. It finds itself very comfortable with Gaian climate theory, with particle physics, with analytical psychology, with reflexive economic theory and most other cutting edge thoretical research-- which has in common a very important central observation: There is no way to empirically separate the experimenter from the experiment. The failure to acknowledge--or emphasize the importance of--this reality has been a major failing of philosophical, religious, and ethical systems. It has been a major failure within "ecological" circles too, with a few notable exceptions. James Lovelock, certainly, would only reply "of course."

Would it not be marvelous to live in a world of such verdant plentitude that to exist and prosper one only needed to live as an enlightened hunter/gatherer? I would suggest rather than a "return" to an agrarian ideal--perhaps this is the return we need to make.

Here is a whole list of ramifications of this sort of thinking:

It is philosophically impossible to shake the responsibility of the inevitable chain of influences one's actions cause as they cascade through society and the environment. The sole defense against the burden one's personal responsibility is to simply not care about it. People have become very talented at maintaining this evasion, but it's more difficult all the time, and only really possible for those who I call the "deliberately ill-informed."

When one makes a judgment of a particular action, one does so form a perspective of incomplete information, and from a position created by a series of actions chosen from perspectives of incomplete information.

The self that forms the judgement is a self formed from the reinforcement, positive and negative, from such past actions, and carries with it a bias, which is necessarily more or less personally indeterminable to that self.

Suppose then this model, suggested by a Symbitic perspective: Rather than what agriculture, or permaculture, or architecture has done in the past--although there is much to learn there--what if the Ecoformer's goal was to create, in essence, a natural environment so bountiful and verdant that on could simply live within it, in the same manner that the birds live in the trees or the bison live on the prarie?

Birds create forests, and bison create prairies--there is no reason why humans cannot actively create ecosystems for themselves that are equally as bountiful and viable. At the moment we actively create bad ones. The issue is one of consciousness. Consciousness gave us the power to recognize and exploit, and now we will be forced to consciously strive with the even greater energy to preserve.

Evolutionary pressure at this moment seems to be less concerned with our physical form as our ideas. And rightly so, because humanity, once we gained the level of consciousness of modern man, is far more a concept than a species--in that the knowledge we hold is vastly more powerful and energetic and creative than our DNA.

In order to ask whether or not an idea is important we need to ask: Important to whom? An idea is important not it what it suggests but in what it effects. There are plenty of potentially important ideas in the world, but it is important to focus on those that are immediately effectual.

Obviously, from the symbitic point of view, it is impossible to separate man from nature. When man builds a city or a nuclear plant, it is every bit as much a natural event as the evolution of an orchid in a tropical rain forest. Both are responses to primal urges toward growth and responses to environmental pressures. The sole difference is that the building of a city has some conscious influence to it. Both may be short lived and ill-fated responses due to erroneous interpretations of sensory input--both may be beautiful. Beauty and falsehood are certainly not mutually exclusive. Many of the most beautiful things ever crafted by the hand of man were the products of delusion.

Especially cute and fuzzy species are far less likely to face extinction. This is because they have evolved to fill symbitic niches.

And so we see the influence of consciousness of man in his creation of his religions and gods from the proto religions. Man who is symbiotic with nature creates god in his image--and declares god IS nature. God IS the cosmos. Conscious man who creates ideals through consciousness that himself apart from nature, erroneously, declares--God Created the World, God is Above and Rules the Cosmos.

To suggest that "All is One" or to refer to a "Great Connectedness" is no article of faith: is is a mere self-evident matter of fact. Religion and spirituality are wholly accessory to this fact, and some might go so far as to say irrelevant in light of it.

Sometimes this connectedness is a source of joy--sometimes it is a source of abject terror. The fact, of course, and its repercussions, when pondered upon with due deliberation, cannot help but be awe inspiring.

Symbism is manifest in efficiency and simplicity.

Thoughts? Critiques?


3brainer said...

Great post! I believe you have touched the source. Though I ask that you take care not to lump spirituality in with religion. You have clearly delineated the distinction: religion (which is is a function of governing/law) places god outside (the judge on the cloud--or his minions) and spirituality places god within (conscience). Of course, I realize that these terms can be debated endlessly, but for the sake of response I draw the distinction. Mystical traditions state this, as do Native American religions. We are all one; this is the recognition of spirit, the recognition of the individual as inseparable from the whole. Scientists go on seeking a Unified Theory which mystics have always known. It is a shame that the words spirit and soul have been degraded by religion to the point that we are embarrassed to admit we are spiritual beings for fear of seeming religious and therefore ignorant by association.

I like where you are going in your recent posts. I believe consciousness is in fact a (if not THE) key. But how can we become more conscious? How can we wake from our slumber to see what we are doing and be able to choose consciously? And when we do wake for a moment, we have a responsibility to try to awaken others as well. Good job!

RadioRay said...

I find the core of this to be both hilarious and perhaps a model of the uncertainty principle.

Jay, by 'looking' for fish, unbeknownst to himself MODIFIED the environment to provide him with more fish. This flies in the face of those who decry man's ability to modify the 'natural world' (whatever that is...) as being inherently evil.

---- AND ----

More importantly, it flies in the face of those who believe that drinking anything alcoholic is bad for health. Here - it was a profound and sustained intake of beer & booze that made a better home for the little fishies and filled Jay's belly with wholesome food - straight from nature's bounty.

Har! To make an addendum to Ben Franklin:

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." God being God, he knows how to make this work on many levels. ;^)

RadioRay ..._ ._
s/v Milenka

Ps. I gained this ancient wisdom because I used to be married to a 'native America'. My ex-was born in San Diego...

jaywfitz said...

Along the roads to all that--here is the most basic method of ecoforming, related of course to booze too.

Bob Hall said...

Oh my god Jay, you were LITTERING your beer bottles instead of RECYCLING them?

The uppity progressive Seattle crowd disapproves :)

Gary said...

If you can afford big stuff and you choose small stuff (house, car, stuff etc). If you know a throw away coffee cup or plastic shopping bag is the same thing as having a dump on your living room rug... then you get it.

Here's hoping...seems to be about 99% of what is left.

I live on a boat.

Good stuff Jay

Abu said...

Could it be that the difference between LITTERING and RECYCLING is merely INTENT?

Nice post Jay,the anecdote made me smile.

Zach said...


Great story!