It is generally agreed upon that life has its ups and downs. But what if life actually emerges out of the ups and downs? What if life is like a shimmering verb that doesn’t “have anything” let alone its ups and downs. What if life only emerges with respect to the ups and downs?
In science, ups and downs are referred to as gradients; parts that slope upwards or downwards. Gradients tell us the rate of change of one variable to another. A positive, or upward slope gradient, is when two things are positively related; if x increases so does y and if x decreases so does y. So if more basketball practice leads to more basketball skill, this is a positive gradient. If less sugar leads to less headaches this is also a positive gradient.
The negative slope would represent an inverse relationship, like the age of a car increasing as its value decreases, or the time spent driving the car decreasing as the speed increases.
Basically we are looking at relationships of relationships. It is out of this ‘dance’ that life emerges.
Geo has a friend whose dad flies airplanes. On the playground the other day, he was telling us what happens when a pilot is confronted with a sudden burst of clouds. He says that the average time it takes an untrained pilot to go straight into a nose-dive is about 30 seconds. This is because the untrained pilot doesn’t know the rule in these instances to trust the control signals and not his/her body. In these instances, the body lies. It convinces the pilot that he is falling when he is not. The pilot is trained to ignore the body’s experience and trust the instrument,
In a similar way, swinging on the swing can feel suddenly more dizzying when one fixes their gaze in one spot. The brain and the nervous system gets confused and the whirlpool of psychic ordering is felt on a very immediate level. The gradient has gone from one relationship of relationships to another, and a fervent organizing must ensue.
But what emerges from this is amazing.
For the child it is a laugh, for the pilot it is life or death.
The ordering of systems in response to shifting gradients leads to more life, be it survival, joy, or the agency of control.
Though we may not need to take up airplanes or roller coasters to generate more life, it may be in our best interest to cultivate some shifts of gradient. In other words, challenge our comfort zones a bit, or even just become aware of where our whirlpools become strong and swift (places where we are in ‘the zone’).
As always, happy nature pondering!
Leave a Reply