Tag Archives: civilization

Can’t Touch This – Part 2 of 3

Posted by David 
Wealth equals relationship diagram

Wealth equals relationship diagram

Part 1Part 3

The interesting similarity between ecosystems and economic systems is that nothing owns energy. There is no true wealth gained by the parts of any system. Energy (or value) is always transforming and changing places. It never stops. It might slow by becoming stored in a slow process. But if it is to actually stop, it would no longer be energy. It would be dead. And energy can’t die. It can only transform or change state. Nothing in ecological systems is actually dead. It is always being used for something. There is never really a loss of energy. Nothing is wasted.

On the other hand, people tend to see economic systems as systems based on accumulation of wealth, whether that be money, stocks, gold, cars, homes, land, businesses, etc. But just like in ecological systems, the parts are not valuable. The flow of energy between structures is the only thing of value. So, wealth is not the accumulation of things. It can’t be. If its value stops and is stored, it dies. Value only happens at the moment the energy is transformed. Money is only worth something at the untouchable moment when it passes from one hand to another in exchange for something. When money or assets stop doing something (transforming), they are not valuable. It’s not even worth anything if someone thinks it’s worth something, as some may wish you to believe. It’s only worth at the moment of transaction or transformation.

Human individuals can never truly know economic wealth. It’s always just beyond our reach, which is why the people who are obsessed with wealth are always unsatisfied. They can’t touch it.

True wealth can only be known outside of an individual parts of the system. No part can have wealth or energy. Energy is in the relationship, not the parts. Even the Universe does not know its ‘glory’. Only God who is outside the natural system can claim to be wealthy. One may argue that, within my body there are innumerable relationships and stored processes that are continually transforming and transferring energy. True, however, we can’t know that wealth. We can’t understand that value, because it is still outside my point of reference.

Pride and power work the same way as wealth. They are ever-desired, but always out of reach. Power is something that cannot be contained by an individual, because it only becomes power when it is being transformed between two systems. Neither of the systems can claim ownership of the wealth.

However, certain systems can become greater conduits of the flow of energy. As more energy is transformed within a system, that system can begin to grow. This is the process of succession (or evolution) as discussed above. That’s not to say that they are any more important than the other parts of the system—but that they transfer and transform the energy in greater amounts. We see this in a forest when a tree becomes a conduit for transferring oxygen into the atmosphere. Just due to its great size it provides a greater flow of energy than say the fern below. A river is a good example also. As water flows through cracks and fissures, the more water that flows, the greater the erosion of those cracks and the more water tends to flow through those systems.

Once again we also see this in our economic systems. Certain companies and individuals which have spent enormous amounts of money in innovative interests become conduits for greater wealth. They are not actually wealthy, but they are conduits for it. And in fact, if they start wasting their wealth, or stockpiling it, the innovation begins to decline, the flow of wealth diminishes and so does their company. Again innovation is key here. Depending on their size, they must be more and more innovative to sustain the flow of wealth. Within human systems as they hit their climax, they tend to find innovation through more and more questionable and ruthless means, ultimately to their destruction. We see that rampant type of business today in our world. It is a harbinger to what is to come. They make me realize that, yes, we have peaked. Innovation is dieing. Our lightning bolt is coming soon.

I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

Luke 16:4-7

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Economic Succession – Part 1 of 3

Posted by David
Ecological/Economic Succession

Ecological/Economic Succession

Part 2, Part3

Ecologists speak of succession in terms of how a particular plant community evolves over time toward a climax system. All ecosystems grow under this process and I expect the same is true for economics and for civilization in general.

To see how this works, let’s first look at a forest ecosystem for example. The process of succession usually begins after a particular catastrophic event that clears the landscape. This might just be a local event such as a blowdown or an avalanche, or it might be broad in scope such as a fire, volcanic event, or emerging from a period of glaciation.

Initially, pioneer species populate the landscape helping to build up important nutrients such as nitrates, or structures, such as soil and habitat building blocks. This is the time of ‘innovation’. Diverse groups of plants, trees, animals and biota expand over the new landscape.

What follows is usually a succession of species that culminates in a fairly uniform, slow-growing community of species. At this point, innovation begins to collapse as the group of climax species become dominate and unchanging. This system is much less diverse than its initial pioneer stage. The species set stays the same until some catalyst returns the process back to the beginning state or climate or geography changes. In ecological succession, I argue that it’s actually the lack of diversity or the lack of innovation which is what ‘calls in’ the catalyst—maybe a fire—which returns the landscape to the beginning of the succession cycle.

Could civilization and economics be driven by the same process? I think so.

In society, initially innovation drives the changes and innovation creates the building blocks which allow the next stages of social and economic development. But finally, that innovation fades out, just like species diversity. Newness ends. It can’t go any further because all natural systems have limits. They hit their archetypal wall. They become what they were to become, or close to it. A Tsuga mensezii forest will only become a Tsuga mensezii forest unless the climate changes. That’s what it becomes. Cultures culminate into their archetype. The Maya, Astecs, Egyptians became a Pyramid building culture. This archetypal culture emerged out of man’s understanding of natural history and his development of math and the occult. It’s interesting to note that the pyramid describes perfectly the process of succession—more diverse at the base, less diverse at the zenith. Other cultures developed into their archetypes. Rome seems to be a special type that isn’t all that different than what we have today. Only ours is nested more firmly in advanced technology.

In our global industrial civilization we are walking along the same successionary process as forests follow. Innovation builds the society and lack of innovation will bring our decline. I argue that innovation has truly peaked in our global society. I remember seeing a boy with a shirt on in southern Argentina in 1998, which read in English, “Know no limits—Mountain Dew.”

Yes, there are still minor innovations in science and culture…but we’ve hit the wall. We will know our limit. And I think we’ve been at the peak for a number of years now. The question for me becomes how long can we last at this final climax stage? A Tsuga mensezii may last hundreds of years in the climax stage.

Fire triangle

Fire triangle

The succession process and growth of an ecological community is very much like a fire. It runs under the same process. Take fire triangle for example. For a fire to burn, it needs fuel, oxygen, and heat. Without either of the three, fire cannot happen. Likewise, for a civilization to grow it needs fuel, innovation, and desire. Without either of the three, it collapses. Could it be that they all three occur at once? Do they feedback on one another: Lack of fuel lowers desire which lowers innovation. Lack of innovation decreases desire, which limits the amount of available fuel. You get the idea. In our civilization, you might call it Peak Oil, Peak Innovation, or Peak Desire. Whether the chicken, the egg or the chicken pellets came first doesn’t matter. The peak occurs and then the civilization fades or collapses.

But what can we learn about the catalyst that initiates fire at the end of the forest succession process? As energy goes into a system if it’s not being put into innovation, it is being stored elsewhere, dry wood, fuel, lack of diversity, cranky people, etc. Eventually, that dry wood, those cranky people, become the fuel for the fire. I argue that it’s the accumulation of fuel that actually draws in the lightning, but how it happens isn’t important to this argument.

I mentioned “cranky people,” but I’m not really kidding. It’s those cranky people that help to dissolve society. They and their lack of innovation is the precursor to civil war or revolution.

The same is the case for our present society and economic reality. Energy is always entering the system, but when it stops flowing into innovation, it starts being stored up in the people, and even the products to some extent. The energy becomes ripe for the fire that causes its decline. The energy is what feeds the fire. When it builds up great enough, there will either be an event that is the spark that causes its destruction. Some people call these “black swan” events.

He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’

Luke 16:1-3

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The Joy of John

Posted by David

I recently read a comment on a blog referring partially to John of Patmos, the author of Revelation. See if you agree with him:  

“John of Patmos…was an old man…exiled to an island – powerless against the Roman empire. Between the heat, rotten fish sauce, moldy rye bread (LSD!) and longing to see the Romans grovel before John’s all-conquering God before John dies, you get some pretty wild images. Ah – how could I have been so foolish?”  

sunnnv, June 4, 2010  

She-wolf nurses Romulus and Remus

In 1471, Pope Sixtus IV ordered that an ancient sculpture which represented the wolf that nursed Romulus and Remus (the legendary founders of ancient Rome) be placed on Capitoline Hill. Twins added during the Renaissance.

I include that comment, because it captures a present-day perspective of the author of Revelation and of Christianity in general.   

The more I study the Book of Revelation, the more it makes sense to me. But my view of the world is not as materialistic as is today’s modern worldview. This gives me a distinct advantage in comprehension. I believe dreams and visions to be integral aspects of reality. The things that dwell in our minds are not only reflections of reality, but reality itself may actually be manifest due to the reflections within our minds (See the K-Bomb series). In John of Patmos’ vision, John was witnessing the reality of the past, present and future. His writing was the reflection of reality. Reading Revelation and understanding it is more similar to dream interpretation than it is to reading a history book.  

I by no means fully understand John’s Revelation, but only very dimly, nor do I think it is possible to fully understand it. The symbols of his vision are very archetypal and do have clear meaning, yet some symbols have been obscured by the decay and  metamorphosis of language and culture over time and will be irresolvable until the end of history.  

Mostly John’s Revelation is a book of hope. It shows that the earth’s abominations will not deceive us cyclically or eternally, nor will it crush joy forever. The message is as clear as it is in the gospels: Goodness will prevail in Christ Jesus.  

Even with this message, it’s tempting to seek understanding of the hidden meanings within the book. This is where so many have gone astray and ended up looking very silly. Many have acted on that temptation due to fear or desire for power and attributed all kinds of worldly powers, past and present, to the various evil characters within the book.  

“Look! Obama is the first beast!”
“No, George W. was the first beast and Obama is the second beast..”
“Be careful not to get it wrong! America is the Great Prostitute and Israel is…”
“Watch out for Bert and Ernie. They are actually Gog and Magog!”  

We end up building our interpretations based on our political, philosophical, cultural or nationalistic bias. How many people will this book lead to pointing fingers at the other guy?  

In my study of the book have I really been any different from the finger-pointers described above? Not really. I’ve fallen into the same trap. Only now, the difference is that I’m pointing back at myself, not really me specifically as a person, but toward the greater civilization in which I am a cog: the post-Renaissance West. By this I mean the dominating global civilization that exists worldwide today. I think much of the prophecy in the book discusses the fall of ancient Rome, its rebirth in the West, and the final removal of evil from the places of power when history ends. But then again, my bias might be leading me astray.  

I’ll provide an example, which was initiated by my ponderings of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of all things. In my mind, I’ve never been able to let go of the common idea that ancient Babylon, Ancient Rome, and the present-day Modern Civilization are of the same ilk. The oil spill has encouraged a gut feeling that says, “The things that we (our present civilization) has  done to the people and planet are not right. The things we do for profit and greed and lust are wrong. Neither technology, nor education, nor military, nor law will not resolve the matter.” I feel the same way that John does but instead of Rome, I feel it about our global civilization. We have been an abomination for a great variety of reasons. I am and have been a part of that machine. In John’s Apocalypse he didn’t have the nicest things to say about the great civilization of his day either:  

 “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” Revelation 17:5  

Now he might have been talking about ancient Babylon or some other future civilization, but I tend to think that he was talking about the Rome of his day and in Revelation 18 he may have been describing what was to be the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The rejoicing in heaven of Revelation 19 seems to be due directly to the fall of the Rome.  

If I take this interpretation to be true, then it leads me to think that the Millennial Period—which people make such a fuss over—has already occurred and was simply the period of time from the 5th Century AD to the 15th Century AD, the so-called Middle Ages. This was a time when the great civilizations of the West, i.e. Babylon/Rome, were stifled by the Church. The flourishing of civilization was put on hold for one millennia. Satan could not deceive all the nations without the glory of a great modern civilization. The unleashing of the worst was yet to come.  

“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the  nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the  sand of the sea”  

Revelation 20: 7-8  

And curiously just about a thousand years after the decline of the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, a rebirth of Rome occurred. The Catholic Church became entrenched with irreconcilable problems. The Church was ruptured into the hundreds of splinter groups in the Protestant Reformation. The ancient serpent was set free. Rome was rebuilt and expanded worldwide to create the industrial, technological, post-modern travesty I see today.  

And could it be that we are living today in Revelation 20:8 or 20:9? I can’t say for certain. But if you’re looking for a solid interpretation of the symbolic imagery of Revelation, be sure to read Saint Augustine’s view of the new heaven and new earth in the City of God.   

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!  

Revelations 22:20  

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