Life’s Tenacity

1024px-Panda_Cub_from_Wolong,_Sichuan,_ChinaBeen watching a series of BBC nature shows over at Hulu.com (HuluPlus subscription required—and worth it). Also had a great time with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos series over the last three months. And yes, there’s a relationship. :)

Life is the relationship. Whether it’s known life here on planet Earth, or speculated life on, say, Jupiter’s moon Europa, life is extremely tenacious. It’s amazing to me that even when the environment seems quite hostile (volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean or high deserts in South America), some form of life seems to inevitably figure out a way to survive.

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Europa

People worry about the fragility of life, usually when they are talking about individual species that seem to be threatened by human activity, and an individual species (not to mention individuals within a species) can be very fragile indeed. But life as a whole is probably the most persistent self-replicating form of matter in the universe. In the Cosmos series, Tyson talked about several mass extinctions on the Earth, and one of them knocked out about 90 percent or maybe more of all species (not an asteroid hit, that one, but volcanism). And yet, and yet, each loss created opportunities for new life forms to develop.

This truth does not mean that I think we should disregard the plight of pandas or spotted owls or not care about the balance of wildlife and human life on Earth, but just think about the possibilities if life is so tenacious. Chances are good, then that some form of carbon-based life exists outside of Earth, in the oceans of Europa, or even in the thick methane atmosphere of Saturn’s moon, Titan. And those are just two examples from our solar system. Who knows what life forms exist beyond that?

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that life doesn’t have a particular attachment to any specific form, so if we humans want to continue on into future generations and also have access to both the utility and beauty created by the other life forms around us now, we will have to take the actions necessary to support the environment that supports us.

As always, our world is entirely up to us.

Cooperation—For the Win

pirogue à balancier, Vanuatu, Océanie. Outrigger canoe, Vanuatu, OceaniaI’ve been watching this great BBC program on the South Pacific over at Hulu.com (you need HuluPlus to watch, sorry). All about the islands and atolls sprinkled across this area, along with the deep blue sea.

This is what struck me as I watched an episode on human habitation across the islands: cooperation wins. The narrator (Benedict Cumberbatch—great voiceover dude, although this show does hide his visual fan-girl appeal) compares the human cultures in two of the islands with what happened in one of the most isolated, Easter Island.

These islands are small, and food and other basic resources are limited. Human groups seem to have different ways of dealing with this situation. In the two “cooperation” islands (can’t remember their names), all food caught or cultivated is shared in the group, and over-hunting or -farming seems to be avoided. There’s a sense of balance that naturally makes sure that resources will be available tomorrow and a hundred years from now for the humans to use. And it’s not like there’s a sense of sacrifice for the group; they’ve just chosen a sharing culture, and it seems to work well over generations.

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In contrast, on Easter Island, a culture of competition grew up a thousand years ago or so, and the people became focused on moving these large stone figures to the shore to have the best portrayal of the gods for their own benefit as individuals or factions within the group. The problem was that a whole lot of wood was necessary to move these statues, and the people depleted the original tropical forest that had grown on the island until the whole ecosystem it supported collapsed and there was no way to support humans or any other animals. The result was war among tribal factions and a dramatic drop in human population (which was aggravated even further by European discover and transmission of disease). Unfortunately, it takes a very, very long time to naturally create flora and fauna on these isolated islands, so Easter Island may not recover from this human competition for another few million years. A shame.

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Only the dead stones are left to mark this cemetery of human pride.

Friendly competition has its place in encouraging innovation, but in the day-to-day use of resources, cooperation wins over time. I think my American homeland’s focus on individualism and competition over cooperation does not bode well for the longevity of the democratic political experiment here. But we’ll see what the next generation decides to create. :)

How have cooperation and competition worked for you in your own life (not the bigger political picture, but your own career, relationships, etc.). I’d like to know.

 

Failure—The Path Out of the Box

463px-M_Faraday_Th_Phillips_oil_1842I was really impressed with this dude from the 19th century who was profiled on the new Cosmos program last week. I always thought the great lights of physics were two: Newton and Einstein. But in between, there was Michael Faraday. His experimental work on electromagnetism opened up the universe for Einstein’s theories of relativity.

The list of understandings and inventions we take for granted (electrical motors in particular) is very long (see more over at his Wikipedia article).

The most interesting part of his story for me, though, is how he worked given the challenges he faced (abject poverty, lack of formal education). Persistence through repeated failure seems to have been his modus operandi. And, eventually, it paid off, although he ended up using a leftover from a non-electrical experiment failure in glass lens manufacture to achieve one of his most critical successes (proof that magnetism affected rays of light by polarizing them) in showing the relationship of elemental forces.

In the Cosmos program, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the host/narrator, showed all the different substances that Faraday tried to get the polarizing effect that would show this magnetic influence on light. One after another, all the chemicals he tried failed. Then finally he looked around the lab and spied his failed lens material experiment (a block of glass). I can imagine him thinking in exasperation, “Why not?” and then being amazed at the result.

Faraday also suffered a bit from “do it by myself-itis.” His lack of advanced mathematical skills caused the scientific community to question his results since he couldn’t come up with the mathematical equations to prove them. Faraday wasn’t so good at asking for help directly, but he did publicize his experiments in speeches and demonstrations. Luckily for him, James Clerk Maxwell heard about his work and came up with the math to support it.

So, if you’re feeling frustrated that things aren’t coming out as you would wish, don’t forget to look around beyond the usual set of solutions (maybe even within a past failure in something unrelated) and ask “Why not?” You never know where or who your solution might come from.

I’d love to hear how you have persisted through failures to achieve success with out-of-the-box ideas or with a great partnership; we can all benefit from your own story, trust me. :)

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Growing? Take Your Time.

forest_greenery_002I was looking through some notes on blog ideas and saw a piece of an email from Chris Brogan (very valuable weekly emails, BTW, and you can sign up here—and no, he doesn’t pay me). So, he wrote:

“You don’t have to do everything well. Do one thing well. Pare and outsource the rest. You can grow later, but most people try growing too early.”

I can still feel the anxiety that creeps in when I think that I have to grow, to pay the bills, for example. Whenever I act on that anxiety, it turns out to be frustrating and pretty much a waste of energy.

Take plants. They’ve got all the parts and processes to grow. The only things they require to “take action” are water, organic matter and minerals (food), and sunshine, all in moderate amounts. Oh, yes, and time. Bearing fruit takes time. Rush it and you ruin it. And if those support elements are not available, what do seeds do? They stay focused on who they really are, and wait. More time. They also don’t worry; living in the moment, the season, and the millennium simultaneously. Wow.

I could learn from that. We could, too. Folks who anxiously promote themselves and their businesses all the time without stopping to nurture their community and themselves are seriously wasting good energy. Think how many more customers you’d keep, and retain, if you invested in actual cordial relationships. As the folks in a recent podcast I was listening to (Mitch Joel’s Twist Image Podcast) said, people do business with those they know, like, and trust. Period. First and foremost.

Plant some roots in your community (real and/or virtual), become the one we know, like, and trust, then wait. It does get better, and even profitable. Over time. :)

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Weekly Favs

Derek Coburn—Just ’cause he was interviewed on two of the three podcasts I actually listen to regularly (Brogan’s The Owner’s Mind, and Joel’s Twist Image Podcast), and for good reason (even besides the new book promo). Derek’s ideas on networking are well worth a listen.

Brogan and Joel!?! What a great synchronicity! As I was looking up links to the aforementioned gentlemen’s podcasts, I noted that Joel’s current interview (as of May 11, 2014) is with Chris Brogan! I know what I’ll be listening to when I go out on errands next time (I listen to both of these podcasts on Stitcher Radio on my phone).

Infinite Patience

infinity_greenThat’s right, infinite. Ever experienced that from someone? It’s a radical form of acceptance of who you are and trust that you know what works for you and how/when to get where you’re going or enjoy being still.

Some folks like to take in guidance and be inspired from the outside and pushed to fulfill their potential, and that’s a cool, communal way to go. Really. I’m an extrovert, and I get that. I love to have input from everyone and then make my own decision, and I benefit from being asked pointed questions and challenged.

But I’m noticing that there are these other kinds of folks, usually very, very smart in an unconventional way, who are easily stifled by advice and well-meaning pushing from others. They shut right down in the face of what seems to be other folks’ expectations for them. They’re the kids who didn’t respond to the parental approach of creating high academic expectations for children. Some folks thrive on that (me!), but some instinctively rebel.

I therefore offer infinite patience. Actually even better, infinite acceptance of who you are and where you want to be in your life at this  moment. If you want to be guided, I’ll be glad to share from my experience and wisdom. If you just want space to create at your own pace, to find your own rhythm of activity and rest, I will support you, unconditionally. Forever.

That’s infinity. Over in the sidebar there, you can contact me and we can have a chat. I will listen. I might give you a cosmic whisper once in a while, ask a cosmic question. But I will always give you the space to be your own star in your own time.

So, let me know if you’d like to share your dreams. I’ll be here.

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