EVERYTHING IS A RELATIONSHIP
All we humans do—ever—is practice relationships because the existence of everything in the universe is an expression of its relationship to everything else. Moreover, all relationships are forever dynamic and thus constantly changing, from the wear on your toothbrush from daily use to the rotting lettuce you forgot in your refrigerator. Herein lies one of the foremost paradoxes of life: the ongoing process of change is a universal constant that, much to our dismay, we have no control over.
Think, for example, what the difference is between a motion picture and a snapshot. Although a motion picture is composed of individual frames (instantaneous snapshots of the present moment), each frame is entrained in the continuum of time and thus cannot be held constant, as Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius observed: “Time is a river of passing events, and strong is its current. No sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.”1
Yet we, in our fear of uncertainty, are continually trying to hold the circumstances of our life in the arena of constancy as depicted in a snapshot—hence, the frequently used term preservation in regard to this or that ecosystem, this or that building. Yet jams and jellies are correctly referred to as “preserves,” because they are heated during their preparation in order to kill all living organisms and thereby prevent noticeable change in their consistency.
Insects in amber are an example of true preservation in Nature. Amberization, the process whereby fresh resin is transformed into amber, is so gentle that it forms the most complete type of fossilization known for small, delicate, soft-bodied organisms, such as insects. In fact, a small piece of amber found along the south coast of England in 2006 contained a 140-million-year old spider web constructed in the same orb configuration as that of today’s garden spiders. This is 30 million years older than a previous spider web found encased in Spanish amber. The web demonstrates that spiders have been ensnaring their prey since the time of the dinosaurs. And because amber is three-dimensional in form, it preserves color patterns and minute details of the organism’s exoskeleton, and so allows the study of micro-evolution, biogeography, mimicry, behavior, reconstruction of the environmental characteristics, the chronology of extinctions, paleo-symbiosis,2 and molecular phylogeny.3 But, the same dynamic cannot be employed outside of an airtight container, such as a drop of amber or canning jar. In other words, whether natural or artificial, all functional systems are open because they all require the input of a sustainable supply of energy in order to function; conversely, a totally closed, functional system is a physical impossibility.
Text © by Chris Maser 2010. All rights reserved.
This series of blogs is excerpted from my 2009 book, Social-Environmental Planning: The Design Interface Between Everyforest and Everycity, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. 321 pp.