Natural Inclusion How To Evolve Good Neighbourhood
by Alan Rayner


This book offers a way out of the fearful addiction to conflict that has become deeply ingrained in human culture through viewing life as a struggle for existence. It describes a radical transformation of our understanding of evolution in which space, far from keeping everything separate, is a vital inclusion in the fluid dynamic geometry of nature. This opens up a new way of appreciating our natural human identities as complex, dynamically relating flow forms rather than isolated individuals. Hence it may be possible to live in a truly loving, creative and sustainable way within rather than at odds with our natural dynamic neighbourhood.


How are the attitudes that we may bring to the appreciation and management of natural form and beauty - including ourselves - influenced by our perceptions of reality? This question has been nagging at me for many years as I have sought to open up a way of understanding our natural human neighbourhood, which offers hope of living more loving, respectful, sustainable and creative lives together. Throughout these years I have felt that something is getting profoundly in the way of my own and others' well being, in spite of all the scientific and technological advances of the twentieth century that might seem to make for a more comfortable life. I have also wondered whether this something could explain the disconcerting mismatch that I have encountered between my personal love of the natural world and the way that I have been trained to work and think as a biological scientist.

Slowly, the realization has dawned on me that for millennia our attitudes have been biased through believing that nature can be defined into discrete material bodies that are separated by rather than pooled dynamically together in space. This belief is deeply embedded in the abstract logic of the 'excluded middle', where one thing cannot be other than itself, which underpins orthodox mathematical and scientific method and theory but is not supported by contemporary scientific evidence. It leads to the alienation from our natural human neighbourhood that underlies environmentally and socially unfriendly behaviour associated with damaging depictions of life as a 'struggle for existence'. It drives us to race frantically against the clock and view one another as rivals in the relentless pursuit of the power and money that we may imagine can fulfil our incompatible desires for absolute freedom and security. It traps us in an addiction to conflict that forces us to sacrifice our loving and creative human nature to all kinds of spurious idols and ideals in our homes, workplaces, learning institutions and other fields of battle.

This realization has led me and a few others to develop a radically different form of reasoning based on what we have called 'inclusionality' - awareness of space as a vital inclusion of natural dynamic geometry. Here, all organic forms of life on Earth, including ourselves, can be viewed as dynamically bounded, relational systems - in other words as 'embodied water flows'. We both combine and distinguish inner and outer spaces through our dynamic, permeable bodily boundaries. Far from being spatially isolated individuals, separated by absolutely fixed and sealed dividing lines, we inhabit a dynamic evolutionary neighbourhood where the logic of the 'included middle' applies, i.e. where 'one' is inescapably a dynamic inclusion of 'other'.

For the last six years, I have been striving to incorporate this form of reasoning into a final year undergraduate course that I present on 'Life, Environment and People' to biology, natural sciences, psychology and management students at the University of Bath. The idea for writing this book emerged from the learning experience I have gained from this effort.

I developed the course early in 2001, because as a biological scientist I was very aware by then of the difficulties and opportunities that are involved in applying ideas and findings from my academic discipline to a 'real-world' social and environmental context. I recognized that with the growing modern emphasis on molecular mechanisms, biology students and researchers are being given little chance to appreciate these difficulties and opportunities. Correspondingly, the development of new technologies like genetic modification and cloning are running into deeply troubled waters. And the discourse in social, economic and environmental fields - indeed the very idea that 'social' and 'economic' can be distinguished from 'environmental' - is benefiting little, if at all, from our scientific understanding of living systems and their natural ecology.

My intention in the course was therefore to provide an opportunity both for myself and for students studying diverse disciplines to reflect critically and creatively on a single, pivotal question. How may we use, develop and communicate scientific and biological findings in a way that can both enhance and deepen understanding of our human relationships with the living world, including ourselves? In other words, how can scientific and biological knowledge and understanding be made relevant to the social and environmental issues that concern us today?

Asking this question immediately draws attention not only to what I think are very serious limitations in current methods of scientific enquiry, perception and communication, but also to the possibility for opening up more natural and imaginative approaches. For there is no doubt in my mind that much of what is currently called 'natural science' is actually very far from 'natural' in its practice and theory. In fact, despite what it sets out to challenge, and its own findings in relativity, quantum mechanics and non-linear theory, I might go so far as to describe it as 'supernatural' or even 'superstitious'. This is because of its foundation in the belief I mentioned earlier that an absolute line can be drawn between 'something', as discrete visible or tangible form, and 'nothing', as formless, void space. Nature is thereby regarded as consisting of independent material 'bodies', 'particles' or 'objects', whose movements depend on the application of external force and take place within a fixed reference frame of space and time. There is no modern evidence in support of this 'picture' of discretely bounded objects acting and reacting in discretely bounded space, and indeed much evidence that it is an illusion arising from our human binocular vision. Nonetheless it continues to be the basis for much scientific argument and explanation of natural phenomena, including so-called 'natural selection', to the detriment of understanding all kinds of evolutionary processes. And the logical paradoxes and inconsistencies it produces are at the heart of all kinds of human conflict that arise from the alienation of 'one thing' from 'another thing'.

From the outset of my course, I was therefore aware that the answer to my question of how to apply scientific knowledge and understanding in a real-world context lay, ironically, in a radical transformation of the logical premise upon which our modern scientific worldview has been based. I was also aware that this premise is by no means confined to science, but has become taken for granted as a cornerstone in our systems of human governance, economics, education and all kinds of research enquiry in which we regard 'individuals' as competitive 'performing objects'. It is a mind trap to which we all too readily can become accustomed and defend with the utmost zeal. We do so because it makes our lives seem more secure, predictable and controllable in the face of the fearful uncertainty of the outside world. But in the process we can become 'trap happy' - content with the confinement that we impose on our own and others' lives at the expense of living lovingly and creatively together. To escape the trap requires a transformation in our view of the world and our selves.

As I have already implied, the nature of this needed transformation is simple enough. All that it entails is a shift from a form of logic based on abstracting space from matter, to a form of logic in which matter (or, more technically, 'electromagnetic information') is a dynamic inclusion of space (or, more technically, 'gravitational field'). But the implications of this shift to inclusional forms of reasoning are both enormous and deeply disturbing. They comprehensively and in my view comprehensibly change our understanding of everything, everywhere and the fundamental nature of uncertainty and evolutionary processes. They offer hope of learning to live more peaceful, loving and sustainable lives together in a spirit of natural neighbourhood. But they also can seem to threaten our security and liberty.

So my difficult challenge was and is how to admit such radical thinking within a community so deeply committed - indeed 'addicted' - to fixed and thereby alienating views of human and non-human nature. And, not least of my difficulties was and is how to cover such an enormous and potentially revolutionary field of enquiry, given my own inevitable limitations of knowledge, understanding and experience.

The approach that I continue to evolve will become apparent in the way I have written this book. It has four key elements.

Firstly, there is a clear focus for enquiry around the question of real world scientific relevance. This focus helps to dispel the external perception, from which I am prone to suffer, that I am somehow misleading students and preaching 'anti-science' and 'free-fall philosophy'. Apart from perhaps revealing something about the rigidity with which many scientists defend and impose their discipline, this perception could not be further removed from my actual intention. I am not attacking science at all, but rather seeking to liberate its potential to contribute creatively to social and environmental understanding, through questioning what currently constrains this potential. Nonetheless, I recognize that questioning what provides people with a sense of security, especially a false sense of security, is always liable to provoke a backlash unless approached with great sensitivity. I have found it to be like trying to help someone out of an addiction from which I cannot myself claim to be entirely free.

Secondly, I try to keep the enquiry as 'invitational' and as 'participatory' as possible. That is, I try to work as a guide or facilitator with personal experience of the territory, rather than as an authoritative instructor who imposes his own and/or his discipline's expertise as the one and only correct source of wisdom. I make no assumptions about what others may or may not be thinking or feeling, and I make no attempt to persuade others to adopt my viewpoint. Correspondingly, I initiate a series of conversations about a variety of themes concerning life, environment and people, in which I encourage students both to express their personal views and be receptive and responsive to one another's views alongside my own contributions. Hence it is possible to develop a 'holographic' imagery in which diverse individual perspectives are brought together in a way that reveals both their distinctiveness and complementarity in contributing to a richer, deeper understanding of human and non-human nature. In other words I use the neighbourhood of the students and myself to enhance our individual and collective understanding of complex relationships and identities.

Thirdly, I encourage a spirit of continual questioning of assumptions that underlie what we think and believe. What, I ask myself as well as the students, do you believe? Why do you believe it? What have you been told? Do you believe what you have been told? If not, why not? In this way I hope to allow fresh possibilities to emerge.

Fourthly, I encourage diverse modes of enquiry and communication in order to open up new possibilities for expression and comprehension. Correspondingly, I allow artistic and metaphorical as well as conventionally scientific methods, in order to bring a full range of human intellectual and emotional experience and sentience to bear. Here, I recognize that verbal language with its 'thing words' and 'doing words' is itself an abstraction from nature that cannot encompass nature but can, if taken literally, reinforce alienating definitions and create paradox. Similarly, I recognize that discrete, space-excluding assumptions lie deep in the foundations of mathematical expression. Some relaxation of these definitions is necessary if a fuller, more natural meaning is to be given space to emerge.

I would like to thank my family and co-learners who are unnamed co-authors of this book.

Alan Rayner



Epilogue 1 - Ten Characteristics of Inclusional Enquiry

  1. It seeks understanding of nature and human nature and does not attempt to set these apart.
  2. It is unprejudiced and hence in a sense un-objective, based on considering all available evidence from all available perspectives.
  3. It recognizes the restrictive nature of any fixed, uniquely situated perspective in which an observer is distanced from the observed.
  4. It does not isolate reason from emotion or give precedence to one over the other.
  5. It corresponds with and is therefore not set in opposition to natural dynamic processes and geometry, thereby obviating conflict and paradox.
  6. It does not, except as an analytical tool, impose an artificial rectilinear frame upon nature or regard linearity as precursive to non-linearity.
  7. It does not, except as an analytical tool, deliberately exclude or ignore some vital aspect of nature for the sake of convenience.
  8. It recognises that all form is a dynamic inclusion of space - not an occupier of space - and so is not definable in absolute (axiomatic) terms in an unfrozen world.
  9. It recognizes that all is included in and influenced by all - content is inseparable from context at any scale.
  10. It includes love.

Epilogue 2. Ten questions and answers about my understanding of 'inclusionality'

Alan, you've developed what many people might regard as a revolutionary way of understanding nature and human nature, especially considering where you're coming from as a biological scientist. What on Earth has possessed you to think like this?

Well, I suppose that at the very heart of my soul is a feeling that I am indeed possessed, not by some evil demon, but by the Life and Love of Nature, which I can regard both as Divine Creativity and as Evolution, Everywhere, without contradiction. Creativity is amongst us, not beyond us.

I therefore feel myself to be not apart from Nature but a fluid expression OF Nature, a flow of creative possibility - at least on a good day! This feeling brings with it an extraordinary sense of empathy for all life. I love to use and communicate this empathy in my work as a biological scientist, artist and educator as I imagine myself inside the variably extensible, permeable and transient skin of the life forms I study in order to appreciate the world from their viewpoint. I commonly ask students to 'imagine you're a fungus, like I often do' and they giggle delightfully. But my request is serious as well as humorous - because I think that only through this kind of empathy is it possible to gain real depth of understanding of our natural human neighbourhood. I have found it to open up huge vistas of opportunity for new kinds of research enquiry, which, amongst other things have led me to depart radically from orthodox Darwinian explanations of biological evolution.

This feeling of possession BY Nature is very different, of course, from the desire for ownership of and dominion over Nature that has been characteristic of much human thought and ambition for thousands of years, perhaps traceable to an original Fall from Grace. Even today, as we face the potentially catastrophic implications of this desire in environmental, social and psychological crisis, we tend to ask not 'How can we help the World to Save Us?' but 'How can we help ourselves to save the World?' We, by which I mean many of us, still imagine that somehow we're high performance automatons fully in charge of and therefore fully responsible for our own destiny, as if we're each independently driven by some internal command centre, regardless of our dynamic situation. That, for me, is the kind of thinking that gets us into a global mess, not what gets us out of it.

How can what you call 'inclusionality' help us out of global crisis?

First I should perhaps emphasize that you really don't need to be incredibly clever or sophisticated academically to understand inclusionality. In fact, being too academic, as people often say that I am, can be a real obstacle to understanding and communication.

Inclusionality is in many ways a very obvious, very simple, common sense awareness, which corresponds with our everyday experience of life and our relationships with one another and the world about us. It is also consistent with modern scientific findings implicit in relativity, quantum mechanics and non-linear theory. All it amounts to in physical terms is envisaging all form as flow-form, a fluid dynamic inclusion - not an occupier - of space, which cannot be completely defined in an unfrozen world. In other words, life isn't permanently fixed in discrete boxes and neither is love.

What proves difficult is seeing this natural simplicity through all the clutter of abstract logic, detailed information, academic scholarship, technological wizardry, financial game-playing and environmentally unsustainable activity that many of us have come to take for granted as inescapable and even desirable ingredients of modern civilization. Even more difficult is to see how this simplicity lies at the heart of the complex and unpredictable manifestations of natural dynamic geometry. It involves seeing the implicit spaceyness or holeyness of the WOOD both through and via its explicit and diverse manifestations, the TREES. This spaceyness is what may be described in various cultures and belief systems as 'Holy Ghost', 'Tao', 'Brahman', 'Buddha Nature', 'Maasauu', 'Wankan-Tanka', 'Tirawa' and 'Kwoth'. It is the receptive Mother aspect of Nature, which provides possibility for creative transformation, communication and relationship. It is like the solvent, water, in a solution of salt. When the solvent is removed, the solute, salt, remains as a dry precipitate.

The rationalistic logic upon which modern civilization has largely been founded has had the effect of removing the solvent Spirit from the solution of Nature, by isolating matter from space and regarding the latter as 'nothing', an immaterial emptiness devoid of meaning. What is abstracted by this logic is the desiccated material objects that many of us imagine is 'all there is' to life and our individual, independent, free-willed selves, deprived of the receptive solvent that pools us together in co-creative relationship. No wonder we find ourselves leading deeply de-spirited, conflicted and paradoxical lives, utterly unable to understand or heal the damage that we inflict upon one another and our living space.

So, to put it very briefly, inclusionality can help by restoring loving receptive spirit to our lives. Hence we can dissolve and overturn the very basis for human hubris and enmity that resides in the either/or logic of opposition, and work empathically - receptively and responsively rather than actively and reactively - together on a programme of renewal, undistracted by the compulsion to conflict amongst ourselves. Just imagine the possibilities of investing the resources that we currently allocate to war and counter-terror, instead to the restoration of our natural neighbourhood!

Many people might think that your talk of empathy, shared responsibility and possession BY Nature is foolhardy talk, the kind of irrationally subjective, sentimental projection of human feelings onto Nature that objective reasoning and the Scientific Revolution helped us to escape from. Couldn't the acceptance of inclusionality make a drama out of a crisis and knock us back into the Stone Age, if not Oblivion?

Well, I have to say that what I think really is foolhardy is to delude ourselves into thinking that we have more control over our destiny and ability to predict the future than is realistic in a complex, ever-changing world without fixed boundaries. This delusion is a product of objectivity, not subjectivity. It comes from thinking that nature is divisible into fully definable material units that can be singled out from one another, measured and counted out of the context of their natural, fluid dynamic relationships. The naturalist poet, William Wordsworth, recognised this delusion when in challenge to Erasmus Darwin - Charles Darwin's grandfather - he said that 'in nature everything is distinct, yet nothing defined into absolute, independent singleness'. Sadly, however, the significance of this challenge seemingly went unrecognized. And so the delusion that 'life is a struggle for existence amongst absolute, independent singlenesses, in which winners and losers are discriminated through the external force of natural selection' became deeply entrenched in the modern mind. It was an easy concept for this mind to grasp, enthralled as it already was by Isaac Newton's mechanical Laws of Motion based on the logic of the excluded middle, rooted in Aristotle's philosophy, whereby everything either is or is not.

This 'to be or not to be', 'something or nothing' logic, which leads us 'to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them' is, I think, at the root of human conflict and human tragedy, as Shakespeare's Hamlet might testify. It makes us think more simplistically, not more simply, about natural dynamics - in effect to collapse the natural world of relational flow-form into a concrete world of fixed form securely contained within the 3-dimensional Box of Euclid's abstract geometry of widthless lines and depthless planes. This simplistically straightforward way of thinking cannot adequately represent what it means to inhabit, as we do, the ever-transforming curved surface of a more or less spherical Earth, which in turn inhabits the curved energy-space of the Universe. But we, many of us, continue to act as though it does, whilst using profoundly inadequate mathematical, scientific and philosophical tools of enquiry. And so, in many ways, we force ourselves to bear the suffering that comes from alienation, living out our lives within a concretely constructed reality that we impose brutally upon the fluid geometry of Nature. I think we can escape this alienation by allowing ourselves to develop and express a more empathic, inclusional understanding of our natural neighbourhood.

But here I must emphasize that the kind of empathy I am talking about is very different from the kind of subjective sentimentality and projection of human emotions that some may imagine. It is about imaginatively letting go of our individual and collective human agendas in order to experience how it feels to be in the place of another. Of course, what we imagine may be quite inappropriate, but as long as we're aware of and ready to experiment with this possibility, what opens up is a much greater receptivity to others. I see this receptivity or openness as what has been largely ignored or even rejected by objective logic. I see it as no more and no less than Love.

So, no, I don't think that the restoration of life and love to our forms of reasoning and enquiry will deliver us back to the Stone Age. I think it will liberate us from the Concrete Age. I think it is vital.

Is inclusionality your own idea and have you found that many people agree with you?

No and not yet.

It couldn't be my own idea, because proprietorship is the first notion to dissolve when we accept ourselves as expressions, not owners of Nature. I express inclusionality: she's not my baby - if anything I'm hers. Moreover, there are many mystics, shamans, sages and prophets, even a few philosophers and scientists, who I think have endeavoured to express something similar, although their efforts have generally been ignored, misunderstood, rejected or rationalized. And I didn't develop and couldn't have developed the idea of inclusionality in isolation - my form of expression of this awareness emerged in co-creative conversation with a small sharing circle of others, most notably my friend and regular correspondent, Ted Lumley. Where there is originality in my expression, this arises from my uniquely situated identity as a local inclusion of everywhere, what I call a 'complex self' with inner, outer and intermediary aspects, like a river system whose stream both shapes and is shaped by landscape through its shifting banks and valley sides. This originality includes the label - nothing more, nothing less - of 'inclusionality', which I made up with others' prompting and acceptance, as an indicator of departure from the division of nature into factions and fractions implicit in the word 'rationality'.

I have encountered much opposition to and incomprehension of my expression of inclusionality, which has obstructed my ability to communicate with a wide audience. Nonetheless there are some encouraging signs of a gathering momentum. In spite of several efforts to close me down, I have managed to run a final year undergraduate course about inclusionality, called 'Life, Environment and People', for six years, to growing numbers of biology, natural science, psychology and management students at the University of Bath. The course includes an invitation to use of artwork to express and challenge scientific ideas in a critical and creative way. With few exceptions, the students have loved and deeply understood it, finding it to have a transforming influence on their lives and career choices. I am beginning to get papers published in journals and books, and have written or almost written two books of my own, not yet properly published. Four PhD theses based on inclusionality have now been accepted in the University of Bath. I have found great receptivity for inclusional thinking in an international educational movement inspired by my colleague, Jack Whitehead's 'Living Action Research Theory'.

If you admit that inclusional thinkers are in a tiny minority at this time, an exception to the rule, isn't it too much, even rather arrogant, to expect people to follow you? Aren't you yourself too exceptional or eccentric a kind of person to make sense to the common man?

Actually, I am no exception to the rule that everyone's personal situation and life experience is exceptional because no one can inhabit exactly the same locality and so view the world in exactly the same way as any other. What seems to be unusual is my recognition that this exceptionality is not only what shapes the uniqueness of my individual view, but also what all of us have in common, the source of difference or distinct identity through which we can evolve together in a spirit of co-creative neighbourhood.

For many people these differences appear to be what gets in the way of our community feeling, making them feel obliged to conform with some single, objective view of truth that all can be led by and compete to express in spite of their subjectivity. But this pressure to conform can actually be a source of the great over-simplification that devalues our individual experiences and diminishes our ability to contribute to the common good. We miss out on the sense of belonging that comes with love and respect for our differences and in our distress strive instead to join one group or another in which we pretend to be all the same whilst discriminating between 'you' and 'me', 'us' and 'them' and 'here' and 'there'. We divide ourselves up into warring factions rather than loving partners cognizant of one another's unique and complementary perspectives.

What the way of thinking that I am expressing offers to the common man is the liberty to be uncommon, indeed exceptional, and through that exceptionality discover what we really have in common with one another and nature. At the very heart of inclusionality is an awareness of exceptionality and how by pooling exceptionalities together we make exceptional teams and communities, capable of highly innovative solutions to problems through our co-creative agreement to differ. Sooner or later, I feel this awareness has to catch on, so that we can become a majority of non-conformists working together through love and respect for what both distinguishes and unites us in both individual and collective enterprise.

As to the question of whether I expect people to follow me, the short answer is no, but I hope people may be inspired by and able to learn from my mistakes and accomplishments. I merely want to express my understanding as well as I can and offer this to others in a spirit of common passion.

But this question does allow me to make a distinction between rationalistic and inclusional ways of providing guidance to or for others. Rationalistic leadership is based on the imposition of powerful authority and is the predominant form of human governance that we see today, arising from the logic of opposition. It cannot provide true democracy in the sense of governance for all by all. Rule by elites, even elites elected by majorities, are forms of oppression, not democracy. Inclusional craftsmanship, by contrast, is about the acquisition and communication of skillful practice through learning and creativity within the context of natural neighbourhood as a true democracy, where every learner is simultaneously an educator and vice versa through shared experience. Such opening up of creative possibility for one another is what I like to participate in.

Is there anything unusual in your personal background or life experience that has led you to inclusionality?

I guess my story emerged from my early childhood in Africa. During this phase of my life, when I didn't go to school much and roamed a large semi-wild garden full of delights and dangers, I developed an intense love and respect for the natural world. And I saw my humanity as being OF this world, not apart from it.

When, back in Britain, I did eventually attend school and university, the disparity between what I found myself expected to learn and what I felt from my childhood experience could not have been more strident. I sensed a terrible collision between my compassionate feelings and the dogmatic views of human and non-human nature that I was being presented with in science, mathematics, history and religious education lessons. I remember coming home from school one day and writing, 'the world has cancer and the cancer cell is man', an indication of my dismay about the imperialistic thinking of what I sometimes call 'the Vampire Archetype', which declares independence from its host space whilst draining it of vitality.

This collision led to a deep internal conflict between my head, which wanted to excel intellectually and conform with the expectations of my family and peer group, and my heart, which wanted simply to live, love and be loved. Eventually it led to breakdown - or breakthrough - when at what many regard as the zenith of my academic career. I was diagnosed with the quality known as 'obsessive-compulsive disorder' (OCD), for which the standard treatment is 'anti-empathy' drugs like Prozac and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This lifelong quality - I refuse to call it a disorder, unless it be openly creative disorder - has led me to search desperately for a kind of understanding that would dissolve what I sometimes call 'the clot between head and heart' by including love in logic: in other words, inclusionality.

What would a world of inclusional thinkers look like - would there be less pain and nastiness - for you can't deny that Nature can be nastily violent as well as lovingly receptive, can you?

It might not LOOK very different from what we see today, although I suspect there would be less intrusive architecture, agriculture and industry and fewer centres of over-population. But I'm sure it would FEEL different - far more supportive, forgiving, companionable, encouraging and above all, FAR MORE RELAXED, pleasurable and joyful.

That is not to say that there would be no suffering, but rather a far greater resilience in our ability both individually and collectively to withstand and grow in creative depth of understanding through suffering. Suffering is altogether much harder to bear in an uncompassionate society, intent on competitive performance and finding, blaming, punishing and eliminating whatever it views as not good enough, regardless of the fact that no form or behaviour can be independent of the cultural context in which it is expressed. Also, to be empathic and aware of one's frailties in such a society is liable to be deeply painful and unsettling. It's sure to have us rushing for whatever anti-empathy device or pretence we can find by way of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, positive thinking, behavioural therapy and a multitude of addictions, obsessions and compulsions.

Undoubtedly there are violent, destructive and aggressive aspects of Nature, but to view these as a sea of troubles that opposes us and must be defeated rather than navigated or calmed can only aggravate nastiness. We end up in vicious cycles, fighting fear with fear, anger with anger, rather than finding creative ways to transform our situation, recognizing that what we perceive as fearful may also be vital to evolutionary process and loving receptivity. Loving receptive-responsiveness does not defy or deny nastiness; it transforms it through understanding where it comes from.

What's stopping us from accepting our inclusional nature and how can this be remedied?

Most fundamentally, I suspect it's the fear of darkness. I liken this to the fear of the unseen, mysterious solvent that a solute might feel as the solid certainty of its boundaries are loosened and seemingly threatened with annihilation.

Faced with the uncertain certainty of expiration from our bodily boundaries, we, many of us, can become profoundly attached to whatever barriers we can build or imagine that will ensure our absolute independence as free agencies and/or collective security. We encapsulate our egos in survival structures and confuse this suspended animation or dormancy with real life, resenting and opposing whatever appears to threaten our solid façades. We become obsessed with the need for completeness and closure, and reinforce this obsession with the objective logic of the excluded middle that defies connection between inside and out.

We cannot see beyond or through the false dichotomy of 'either you are with me or you are against me'. We devize a paradoxical mathematics, which treats matter as 'something', which counts, and space as 'nothing', which counts as zero. We regard 'positive' as 'good' and 'negative' as 'bad', through confusing the receptivity of spatial solvent with a subtractivity that removes rather than vitalizes solid solute, and in this way create the paradoxical 'double negative' of false positivism. We fail to see the symbolism of the 'plus' or 'cross' sign as 'I', 'ego', transfigured with the space of loving receptivity and so made responsive to its natural neighbourhood as a vital aspect of itself. Hence 'positive' could be regarded as a dynamic inclusion of, not an abstraction from space.

We continue to treat 'light' and 'darkness', as discrete electromagnetic and gravitational fields rather than vital inclusions of one another in the dynamical oneness or bothness of energy-space. And we try to lock life and love outside of our dislocated individual bodily selves.

How can all this be remedied? Perhaps by accepting and learning to love darkness, what Carl Jung called our Shadow Archetype, recognizing that its receptivity is vital to life, love and evolutionary creativity. Only by mentally alienating ourselves from darkness and regarding it as fearful void do we imagine it to be evil and in this way terrorize ourselves.

Are you calling for a revolution?

Yes, but not in the mechanical sense of the turning of a wheel or the overturning and replacement of one form of governance or understanding by another. I am calling for a revolution in the sense of a re-evolution, an evolution that includes loving receptivity in its thinking and framing of reality. I am calling for a transformation from the solid fixtures and oppositions of the logic of the excluded middle, to the fluid dynamic receptive-responsiveness of the logic of the included middle, with space incorporated. I feel this transformation is vital if we are to bring our sense of human place in Nature back into more realistic proportion and navigate the psychological, social and environmental troubles that we have made for ourselves through fearfully disregarding the enormity of our immaterial aspect.

Where can the re-evolution begin?

Here and now! In fact I might question whether a revolution really can have a beginning, for that idea is itself based on a linear view of history referenced to an abstract time frame. But perhaps, for now, that's another story to be explored in far more depth than is possible here.

Meanwhile, let's liberate our minds from the mechanistic, confrontational and competitive thinking that binds us in old patterns of being, thinking and acting. Let's transform our scientific, mathematical, artistic, philosophical, governmental, social, religious and educational practices so as to be more attuned with one another and the re-cycling processes of Nature. Let's recall what Leonardo Da Vinci once said: 'Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does Nature, because in her inventions, nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.'

Let's accept our transient no thingness and work imaginatively, common-spiritedly and respectfully together within our natural neighbourhood as our flow-forms emerge and subside!

We might just transform global crisis into a story with a happy non-ending!


Chapter 9

Managing Life and Environment

'Ultimately, it is land -- and a people's relationship to land -- that is at issue in "indigenous sovereignty" struggles. To know that "sovereignty" is a legal-theological concept allows us to understand these struggles as spiritual projects, involving questions about who "we" are as beings among beings, peoples among peoples. Sovereignty arises from within a people as their unique expression of themselves as a people. It is not produced by court decrees or government grants, but by the actual ability of a people to sustain themselves in a place. This is self-determination' - Peter d'Errico

'It is inconceivable, that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon, and affect other matter without mutual contact; as it must do, if gravitation, in the sense of Epicurus, be essential and inherent in it. And this is one reason, why I desired you would not ascribe innate gravity to me. That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another, at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it' - Isaac Newton

'This dream of domination has henceforth lost all legitimacy and persists for no other reason than our 'mental inertia'. An historical epoch has come to an end and we struggle to conjecture what is going to succeed it. Isn't the need truly well overdue for us to draw on the lessons of the past and recognize where we now are? I would say that a problem is posed to us by allowing ourselves to remain within the framework fixed by this work: to understand the findings of 20th century science. By 'to understand' I intend this; not to constrain our understanding to the step-by-step reasoning of physics, but to be able to put these findings into the context of an interpretation of the world. From this point of view, it is necessary to recognize, in my opinion, that we have not understood (Not 'we', the specialists, but 'we' the educated public). 'Chaos' and also 'relativity' and 'quantum mechanics', for example, remain for all practical purposes impenetrable to the educated view. It is necessary, I believe, to acknowledge with Emmanuel Levinas that we are participating in the end of a certain way of understanding. Will we know how recognize this? Will we know how to discern the characteristics of another way of understanding, larger and less constraining? Therein lies another story that is in the process of unfolding'
- François Lurçat,

Inclusional Implications of the Boundless 'Fifth' Dimension: Curing Cosmic Cancer

Perhaps it was unwise of Mother Space, in her everywhere-Divine Wisdom, to enable any of her diverse local expressions to become aware of its awareness of itself. But if there is to be creativity at all, any possibility of life and evolution, maybe such possibilities must also be entertained. The trouble is that such a form of expression could develop a Mind of its Own to declare itself an independent entity and so make an enemy of its neighbourhood, setting the scene for invasion of its birthplace, determined to take over vacant possession.

Maybe it was this declaration of independence, through an ever-hardening belief in its own free will or purely internal purpose as 'first cause' of its own actions, associated with its ability to make absolute judgemental choices, that brought about the Fall of One such a form from Merciful Grace. The difficulty lay in its declaration, as an abstraction of its Mind alone, not the actuality of its inescapable inclusion in interdependent relationship by and of All, space included. For, by no stretch of imagination is this form truly able to act or be acted upon as a superior or inferior object independent from its dynamic situation. It cannot be an absolute, independent singleness. Every man like every form is no more and no less than a transient island of flow, connected through and undersea with every other, a distinct identity but never a discrete entity.

The declaration of independence was the product of a partial and idealistic vision, which led this one such form mentally to Box reality securely and paradoxically in a finite, three-dimensional Euclidean frame stretched to infinity, whilst vaunting its own free agency. By the end of the second millennium CE, life in this frame was painfully overheating. Was there no escape from the pressure cooker? What could this form do about it? Could this form, for so long the World's plunderer now save the World from depredation? What kind of transformation would such a noble act of rescue take? Would it be some wondrous new technology and/or legislation, of the kind that this form was so good at inventing, again and again, in the nick of time, as crisis loomed? Then there could be some great collective sigh of relief, followed by a return to die-hard habits to await the next crisis of exploitation. Or, perhaps, as one of Man's star mathematical performers suggested, it was already too late: it was now time, through the ultimate technological fix of space travel, to move on like a virus to other host planets, leaving the wasteland of His own vacant possession behind.

But there always was, is and evermore shall be a loophole: a window into and out of the solid confinements of the 'Adverse Square Law', through which the unbounded presence of space everywhere melts all into coherent, fluid dynamic relationship. An eye of the needle through which to ask not how to shift the world from a disastrous course, but how to help the world transform our sense of individual, active-reactive self-identity into receptive-responsive neighbourhood. A loophole at the intersection of Vertical ('I') with Horizontal ('-') outwardly recurving planes, to form an electrogravitational centre of inference: a centre of dynamic balance in the core and spread through the surfaces of all tangible, primarily non-linear form, a zero-point source and receiver of all through all, distributed everywhere. A core of pure spatial relationship, continually reconfiguring, and hence utterly different from the fixed-point control centre of Euclidean geometry upon whose illusory existence so many principles of human governance have been founded. One place and many where apparently opposing sides are conjoined and transformed into complementary dynamic partners via the inclusion of light in darkness and darkness in light, in vastly unequal proportion. One place and many corresponding with the notion of 'space' as the '5th element' in Hindu philosophy, which both includes and is included in the 'melted elemental forms' of 'Earth, Air, Fire and Water': a boundless 'fifth' dimension transcending the three-dimensional singularity of frozen space and extraneous time.

Once 'seen with gravitational feeling', this boundless dimension utterly transforms and revitalizes understanding of how we may manage our lives and living space in a loving and sustainable way. Here boundaries are understood as co-creative, co-created zones of differentiation, mutual respect and complementarity, not severing divides between conflicting sides in opposition. It is the implications of this transformational understanding of our natural, dynamic human neighbourhood for the way we may live in harmonious, respectful, co-creative evolutionary relationship that I wish now to consider in this opening ending chapter.

The Vitality of Imperfection - From Abstract Concrete Blocks to Natural Evolutionary Neighbourhood

As may be apparent from previous chapters, I think that the notion of evolution by natural selection is an oxymoron, a paradoxical 'concrete block evolution'. When we accept and work with this notion, we assume the role of obstructive 'concrete blockheads' intellectually out of touch with our feeling, receptive-responsive hearts. It is a truly compassion-killing notion, Hell-bent on replacing natural, fluid-dynamic diversity with concrete monoculture. It is a model of cancerous degeneration, not co-creative innovation. Set within an abstract, 3-dimensional Euclidean frame, a cubical cubicle filled to completion with independent cubical singularities, it leads inexorably to the notion of an ideal form of individual 'unit of selection' - the 'fittest' competitor within a rigidly walled niche. This in turn gives rise to the idea of perfecting individuals by selecting out those traits that don't conform to a prescriptive set of standards - an idea that has become deeply entrenched in human educational and regulatory systems. It comes inevitably with an intolerance of those who in one way or another are judged by fixed standards to be 'not good enough' - 'imperfect' in some way. Such intolerance can lead to great cruelty and great distress as we impose rationalistic notions of perfection and imperfection upon others and ourselves in a conflict-ridden anti-culture of discontent, as I described in Chapter 1. We actively seek out, punish and attempt to eliminate whatever we find fault with, whilst glorifying what we perceive to be flawless in a culture of blame, shame, claim and gain.

Not only is this concrete block view of evolutionary perfectionism deeply distressing to those judged not good enough, but its rigidity results in the exclusion of the enormous creative possibility of bringing diverse, complementary relationships to bear as we navigate the ever-transforming world of our natural, fluid dynamic neighbourhood. It is radically counter-evolutionary; a bastion set against change other than its own proliferation and concomitant destruction of diversity. It makes no sense in an ever-reconfiguring, non-linear, space-including context where the evolution of one cannot be dislocated from the evolution of all, and vice versa.

There is therefore very good intellectual reason for feeling compassionately that what we might deem in a perfectionist framework to be a design fault in human nature, our vulnerability and proneness to 'error', which comes through the inclusion of space - darkness - in our make-up, is actually vital. It is an aspect of our nature that enables us to love and feel love and so work co-creatively in dynamic relational neighbourhood, celebrating and respecting rather than decrying our diversity of competencies and appearances.

Correspondingly I think there is a need for us to grow beyond the obsessive perfectionism that is evident in our present educational and administrative systems, governed by fixed, objective, rules, regulations and standards. There is a need to recognise that there can be no such thing as an ideal, fixed, individual form that all can aspire towards. Evolutionary perfection can only be a property of all in dynamic relationship, not one in isolation. The exception that seeks to rule can only create turbulence, not perfection. Our educational and administrative systems need to help us learn how to flow, by including and loving the very source of irregularity that makes us imperfect as independently performing objects but perfect as dynamic relational - receptive and responsive flow-forms. The standards that we tend to encase ourselves in need to be allowed to come alive: to flex and transform as ever-reconfiguring guide-linings in our ongoing evolution. In this way we can be naturally intelligent neighbourhoods, not artificially intelligent, concrete blockheads.

So, how can such ever-reconfiguring guide-linings be formulated and communicated through our educational and administrative systems? What kind of leadership is required? Is the very idea of leadership one of the die-hard habits that keep us stuck in concrete?

Powerboat Leadership and Sailboat Craftsmanship

There is a form of leadership that does not call for a careful, creative and reflective consideration of possibilities viewed from all angles by all concerned. Rather, it demands conformity with its own vision and specification of destination. In the absence of others' agreement, it carries on regardless with whatever action it has planned, convinced in its own mindset that this is the 'right thing to do'. Any leader of this ilk, whether elected by a supposedly democratic majority or not, considers him or herself to have a prerogative to do what they know to be best for the world, regardless of context. Moreover, by exercising their moral imperialism in the face of opposition they demonstrate the strength of their authority, a resolve that historical narrative will, they imagine, in due course affirm and celebrate. But events often don't exactly turn out as predicted. The real life and death situation on the ground is far more complex and non-linear than envisaged. The effects of intervention in complex situations aren't so certain in the long run. The ensuing tragedies are never more heart-rending than when a leader decides to declare war upon his neighbourhood.

This is a style that I think is all too commonly the sole form of leadership recognized in human organizations: a product of prescriptively definitive (rationalistic) thinking and action that places deterministic power at control centres or hubs. It amounts to what might be called authoritarian, dictatorial, proprietorial or, as my friend Ted Lumley puts it, powerboat leadership. It entails leadership towards a set destination of a fleet of individuals that have declared themselves independent of their natural situation by dint of strapping an outboard motor of technology on their backsides, which creates one Hell of a wash of collateral damage for those caught up in their turbulence. It is the kind of leadership provided by some so-called experts, gurus, presidents and ministers whose actions primarily serve individual self-interest, whereby an individual or elite lays down the law or 'codes of conduct' for others to follow, regardless of circumstances.

Personally, I would hate to provide, or be accused of providing this kind of leadership, even though I have found it to be expected of me as a professional academic responsible for initiating students and non-academics into 'good theory and practice'. There is another style of leadership, or perhaps more aptly, craftsmanship, that I do, however, feel more comfortable with and indeed aspire to, as a cultivator of creative space for myself and others to air our views and benefit from shared experience. This is what might be called Arthurian (after King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table), co-educational, non-proprietorial or, as my friend Ted Lumley puts it, sailboat leadership. Such craftsmanship is based on learning through experience how to attune with natural processes, in a way that others can learn from. This is what I try to bring to my role as a University educator. I have found through experience that all students except those relatively few most fearful for their qualifications and future prospects come to love and greatly appreciate this approach as a source of guidance for their creative and critical development.

Now, as the supposedly 'United Nations' of humanity contemplates its 'next steps', in the face of seemingly global environmental crisis, the question of which, if either, of these forms of leadership is wiser seems very important. Here, it is not a question necessarily of 'which is better?' in an 'either/or' sense, but how can these styles best be balanced? I accept that pragmatically, given the current predominantly concrete mindset of our culture, there may need to be at least some 'powerboat' leadership by way of technology and legislation to help us on our way. But I would want to ensure that it doesn't become exclusive and is balanced by a good and perhaps increasing dose of 'sailboat' leadership.

How does anyone in this situation who seeks leadership or has leadership thrust upon them, see their role? Do they see themselves as co-cultivators of creative space for wise enquiry? Does they see themselves as Directors and Proprietors of organizations? Is wise leadership something definable that we can be instructed about via the 'right kind of training' in a real or virtual Institution? Is wisdom perhaps identifiable with love, some indefinable presence that we can open ourselves to and co-cultivate?

I want now to explore in general rather than specifically detailed terms how different perceptions of leadership, power and geometric influence affect approaches to three kinds of life management. These respectively set out to regulate, apply and mimic living processes.

Management of Living Processes

Here I am concerned with efforts to intervene directly within the boundaries of a living system to improve, regulate or remedy its operation. As in subsequent sections, I will focus on three main kinds of themes. Firstly I will consider whether the approach is one that imposes upon or brings out the potential of the system. Secondly I will examine whether it uses artificial contrivances or draws upon inherent pattern-generating capabilities. Thirdly I will reflect on the extent to which it seeks immediate solutions to problems without regard to possible repercussions.

Why Harness a Horse? Do we wish to impose control over the animal, to put its potentially erratic ways in check and make it do what we want? Or are we seeking a way to gain access to its horsepower, a means of communication that opens up the scope for many and varied partnerships? Our responses to these questions will hugely influence the design of any harness we might manufacture. They are worth thinking about because they indicate the attitudes we bring to any kind of management that seeks to draw power from or remedy a natural system. Ultimately putting on some kind of harness is the way that we influence the boundary properties of the system. But does this harness constrain or facilitate? Does it confine movement or does it allow freedom of movement? Does it make possible new kinds of movement? Does it impose or release pressure?

Artificial or Natural? To begin with, is the harness just referred to artificial or natural - and, indeed, what really distinguishes artificial from natural? Perhaps a good way of thinking about these questions is by reference to ourselves. Down the ages, there have been many ways in which we have sought to enhance what we can do by embellishing our basic bodies with varied forms of clothing, tools and housing. In so doing, we have greatly extended our phenotypic range. Moreover, some of us continue to entertain longings for immortality through reconstructing ourselves from a set of bionic replacement parts that dispense with the vulnerability of our flesh and blood. We might have artificial limbs, artificial hearts, artificial guts, artificial circulation fluids and digitized brains. But would we lose some vital aspect of ourselves in the process? Could there come a time when Human Being becomes pure Machine, alienated like Cybermen or Daleks from our natural context and inhabiting a world populated by biomachines of our own making? Personally I doubt whether such a time or such a world could ever be possible because of the intrinsic limitations of non-biological materials and processes. Time and again bioengineers attempting to design an artificial heart, or suchlike, experience the problems of assembling devices that no matter how precise or intricate fail to work in the long run because of their inability to keep in tune with a changeable context. Imprecision is a vital ingredient in the attunement of living systems with their context, and it is now widely recognized, for example, that an irregular and complex heartbeat is healthy, whereas a regular, predictable one is deadly. The best substitute for a living mechanism or process may ultimately be another living mechanism or process of the same kind. It may be better in the long run to grow than to make replacement parts.

Once again, the fundamental issue here is the kind of attitude that underlies the thinking that we bring to bear on the problem. This time the question of attitude concerns the light in which we view living substance. Do we see the latter as something that needs to be replaced with something more dependable? Do we idealize it as something with mystic powers that must be good in the long run and must remain pure, uncontaminated by the human quest for knowledge and control, if it is not to turn against us? Or do we try, in all humility, to understand it both from inside out and from outside in, finding ways to relate to and augment its possibilities by merging its boundaries with the human-made?

Human beings are, after all, expressions of nature and so any things we make are also, in a sense, expressions of nature, even though we might regard them as artefacts. Would we call a snail's shell, a beaver's dam or a bird's nest 'artificial'? No. Why treat what we might make as any different? In the end it is not the question of the distinction between natural and artificial that is at issue, but rather the relationship between what is within a natural system and what the system makes of the world through transformation. Is this relationship complementary or adverse, such that one gains at the expense of the other or both lose out? Do human beings become enslaved, liberated or rendered useless by their own constructions? Do other life forms gain or lose power through their interactions with human beings?

How about human institutions, organizations, industrial, agricultural, horticultural and arboricultural systems - how natural are they? Again, the question is not so much how natural they are, but how well attuned they are with natural fluid dynamic processes. Do they relate dynamically with the flow or do they stick out like a sore thumb or blot on the landscape? Clearly, most if not all fall into the latter category due to their walled in security, fixed point-centred design, formal structures and strictures, adversarial governance and majority-favouring bias. All in all they make splendid systems for the culture of dis-ease and energy-inefficiency.

Short term or Long Run? The idea of empowerment through fusion of the self with the self-made or indeed non-self-made is implicit in the concept of the 'cyborg' - that synthesis of the human and the machine that we have all become due to the now virtually seamless relationship between our selves and our accessories. It is also implicit in the very idea of interdependence between the insides and outsides of dynamically bounded systems and hence evolutionary creativity. So to attempt to ignore or prevent it is both unrealistic and to forestall our evolution. On the other hand, to think that its outcome can be fully circumscribed in advance, or that this outcome will necessarily prove to be beneficial is foolhardy in the extreme.

In an inherently unpredictable context, short-term gain may very possibly turn out to be long run pain, and vice versa. Like a marathon runner we may come to regret our initial unsustainable burst. For example, making cars, boats, trains and planes as high-powered extensions of our selves may well take us to exotic destinations, but it may also damage our environmental context and bring in its train all kinds of compulsive drives that disturb our peace and unsettle our relationships.

Faced with such uncertainty, perhaps the best we can do is to follow what has become known as 'the precautionary principle' and keep a weather eye open. We should neither assume that all will be fine nor indeed that all will be devastation, but rather tread carefully, continually alert to possibilities and prepared to question the outcome of our endeavours - whether we really are getting what we want or need. Do we, for example, really need to live longer and longer, thereby denying scope for rejuvenation? Do we want the things we make to last forever? What will we do with them when they have reached the end of their useful life? Is built-in obsolescence a sensible way of maintaining employment? Do we really need more food production to fill an ever-burgeoning number of mouths that increase in direct response to supply? Or, rather, do we need better quality and distribution of food to sustain the population we already have, whilst preventing those disparities that divide us into obese and malnourished? Do we need more roads to carry more vehicles over longer distances, or more effective local distribution programmes? Is it good to become locked in to the virtual reality of computer networks whilst losing sight of the real world in which we live? Are our relationships between 'self' and 'other' turning out as we might wish, or are they leading into unforeseen restrictions and misadventure?

Here, I have little personal doubt that the greatest threat to human and other quality of life comes not from attempting to manage our environment, which is quite 'natural' in its own way, but in the arrogance of 'assuming control'. Sadly, this is the arrogance that has become increasingly characteristic of a kind of science and technology that alienates itself from its context by not allowing for relationship and concerns itself, like an ephemeral life form, only with the short-term exploitation of plenty. This is the arrogance that preens itself as 'objective' and 'value-free' and 'pragmatic', whilst casting aspersions on any attempts to be more inclusional or long-sighted. This is the arrogance that assumes it will be fine to breed and plant monocultures, apply herbicides and pesticides, remove habitats, alter growth parameters, feed sheep's brains to cattle etc on an unprecedented scale, only to be found out by disease, malnutrition and environmental destruction. It is this arrogance that has finally, if belatedly, aroused public concern of the kind recently expressed in the adversarial debate about the development of genetically modified organisms in which DNA is transferred, 'unnaturally', across species boundaries. The public is right to be concerned, if not about the technique itself then about the context in which it is being applied in a state of wilful ignorance. But to allow the alienating approach of some scientists to be a reason to alienate science, to assume that the entire scientific endeavour is tainted and should therefore be thrown out, would be to discard the baby with the bath water. There is much that is good and creative in the baby if it is nurtured in a condition of questioning awareness. But for good nurture, it is vital to grow beyond our current obsession with time scales.

When, in order to impose control, we lose sight of their deeper, contextual, flow-form nature, we render all organisms, including ourselves, clockwork automatons, driven by the abstraction of time. Our lives become frantic - a mad rush to 'achieve' more and more in less and less time. In our haste to get better all the time, to become more efficient survival machines, we begin dispensing with what doesn't appear to fit with our abstract future projections. In attempting to cut costs, by excising or disregarding those needy aspects of ourselves that we deem too costly - requiring care and affection - we cost ourselves dear in the long run, forsaking what's vital to both our individual and collective quality of life. Our lives become arid, unsustainable wastelands as we forsake the connectivity and fluidity that enables us to attune with our ever-changing living space. That is the madness of being driven by abstraction - we end up getting nowhere fast, like the demented Red Queen of 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' and neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory.

It all has to do with how we regard what we call 'efficiency' and can confuse this with other measures of 'performance' such as efficacy and productivity. When we measure efficiency in terms of speed or productivity, what we and other organisms 'do' in a fixed time frame, we lose sight of the energy cost of increasing performance. Correspondingly, we lose our compassion both for ourselves and for our neighbourhood when we rank one another as 'clockwork machines', regardless of context. Taken to extremes, we can literally kill one another and ourselves in our pursuit of the savings that we envisage to be the basis of evolutionary fitness and social and commercial success. In the latter case we equate 'time' with that other great abstraction of space-excluding logic, 'money'. This is the essence of unsustainable life styles.

In nature, 'efficiency' is more about 'ergonomics' - conserving energy - than the 'economics' of human productivity in discrete intervals of abstract time. And conserving energy is about inner-outer attunement - correspondence of content with context. The distinction and relationship between 'time costs' and 'energy costs' is evident in the difference between a 100 m sprinter and a marathon runner. The former cuts time costs by disregarding energy costs, allowing a short high performance run, but consequently cannot sustain him or herself for the long run. The latter minimizes energy costs by attuning inner with outer context (unless you're collapsing in sweltering heat) and so has the stamina to keep going and go further and faster in the long run, which includes space.

So 'short-term' economic management, based on cutting 'time costs' at huge energy-cost, in a high performance dash spurred on by relentless competition is grotesquely wasteful and unsustainable. We might 'get there fast' but can't stay there. A homogeneous community selectively constituted in the short term solely of high performance dashers through the discarding of those judged 'not good enough' is dysfunctional in the long run. Yet that is what our focus on time management in modern human organizations is producing. By contrast a community where there is a place for all kinds, operating and communicating over diverse functional, spatial and temporal scales, guided by the relative (but not absolute) opening up and closing down of opportunity can keep going indefinitely. If it can keep going indefinitely, there is no absolute time frame to judge the collective or individual performance of its membership within. Such is the nature of the natural communities and ecosystems of Earth's Biosphere. Such could be the nature of sustainable human communities attuned with the natural economy of conserving energy rather than obsessed solely with saving time. They could be places for compassion, work, rest and play. Places for acknowledging one another's unique idiosyncratic contributions as complex flow-form selves with inner, outer and intermediary aspects, both in the short and in the long run that includes the space that is inseparable from time, which is inseparable from energy. Places where death feeds life rather than where we feed death with life to serve our obsession with perfecting ourselves as clockwork machines.

Managing With Nature - Putting Living Process into Practice

By their very nature, living systems can manage as well as be managed. Here, what can be done with, rather than to, living systems is contingent upon the kinds of special properties discussed in an earlier chapter regarding the example of bamboo, and how these properties are harnessed, as discussed above.

Biomaterials Depending on circumstances and type, biomaterials can have the advantages (or, from another perspective, disadvantages) of flexibility, heterogeneity, convertability, resilience, digestibility, degradability, renewability, aesthetic appeal and low environmental and economic cost of production. They are not uniformly reproducible or permanent. They are not suitable, therefore, for industries in which compatibility of components depends upon an exact match with prescriptive specifications that do not change. On the other hand biomaterials may be the appropriate wherever precision is not called for and may indeed be ineffective in the longer term, leading to inevitable deterioration of performance. In fact it might be appropriate to question how much longer precision engineering, with its attendant high production and maintenance costs and lack of margin for error, can continue to hold sway as understanding of and demand for dynamically responsive systems grows.

Bioproduction As I have said, the great thing about biological systems is that given adequate nurture, they grow. All we have to do is ensure that they get what they need and they will elaborate a wondrous array of physical and chemical forms. All that creative potential, all that sophisticated wizardry of molecular, cellular and community structure is at our fingertips, without us having to make or assemble any of it! All we have to do is learn how to apply this creative potential to our own needs. But there comes the rub! We have to understand the relationship between their needs and ours and between what they can do and what we can do. To begin with we need to know our selves and their selves from inside-out and from outside-in. Without such knowledge, without such understanding, our relationship is liable to be superficial, unproductive and abusive. Indeed, that is how our current relationship may stand - a long way short of fulfilling its potential.

The pharmaceuticals industry illustrates the issues at stake. Following upon the long tradition of herbal remedies for ailments, the discovery of penicillin triggered an enhanced appreciation of the biosynthetic power of organisms and how this power might be harnessed for mass production. Natural product discovery became the order of the day, and much effort was invested in devising the best methods for large-scale cultivation of producer microorganisms in particular, culminating in the design of complex, submerged liquid 'fermenters'. The latter are, in effect, large, stirred tanks containing growth medium in which conditions of aeration, nutrient supply, mineral ion content etc are precisely monitored and regulated in order to optimize production.

At first all seemed to be very well, with the success of the natural product discovery and production systems contributing in no small measure to the expansion of some pharmaceuticals companies into the multinational organizations that they are today. New products and new producer organisms were regularly discovered and cultivated.

Nowadays, however, the future for biological production of pharmaceuticals is seen by many as much more bleak and threatened by the quicker, more 'precise', more 'controllable' methods of 'recombinant chemistry' and purely chemical manufacture. Organisms, if they are valued at all, are used more as 'leads' in the discovery of biologically active compounds than as agencies for production of these compounds. Faced with the vagaries of biological production, required to be competitive in the short term, disinclined to innovate or replace old plant with new plant, lacking a deep understanding of why, when and where organisms produce compounds and what to do about it, the industry becomes conservative. It falls back on what it thinks it already knows about.

This situation may partly have arisen because the methods for discovery and production that at first were so successful are not suitable for the vast majority of potential producer organisms. In fact these methods of 'high throughput screening', whereby large numbers of candidates are tested over a short time scale, and submerged liquid fermentation, which favours rapid proliferation as dispersible units rather than interconnected systems, favours organisms with ephemeral traits. Little opportunity is allowed for a candidate organism to develop and display its full range and repertoire. As in human societies dominated by short-term economics, 'late developers' are rejected before they've had a chance. A huge potential like that below the exposed tip of an iceberg languishes untapped, beyond conscious apprehension. The importance of self-integrative processes and of dynamic contextual boundaries that both create and respond to heterogeneous conditions via a complex, free-radical chemistry dependent on the balance between oxygen and fuel supply, is overlooked.

But there are more problems for the pharmaceuticals industry than those of understanding the potential and needs of producer organisms. These additional problems relate to our understanding of our selves, of our own needs, and what unexpected repercussions and 'side-effects' might arise from incautious use of biologically active compounds. Bitter experience has made us wise after the event, forcing us to recognize that the seemingly incisive 'magic bullet' of the chemically purified 'wonder drug' might not be as precisely targeted within the complex, fluid dynamic systems of our bodies as we might have expected. Moreover, the target can fight back through drug-resistance - in fact we encourage it to do so through the drug over-use that creates the space, the new context, for the innovative microorganism, virus or cancer cell to move in. In effect the agent of disease brings about its own evolution by eliciting a human response that changes the context. This kind of repercussion, or co-evolutionary resonance, is in fact relevant to any human attempt to control a living, responsive system by biological or other means, and so needs to be borne very clearly in mind. The way to counter it is through cautious integration of a multiplicity of complementary approaches. Consciously or unconsciously, this has been, and may yet increasingly once again become the way of many empirically based remedies.

Biodegradation As well as being productive, biological systems also have ways of being destructive, ultimately breaking down even the most elaborate physical and chemical structures into small molecules. This destructive power is often regarded as a problem when it affects materials of practical value to people. These materials include the food we eat, the fabrics we wear, the structures we house ourselves in, the glass we see through, the machinery that we equip ourselves with and the fuel and lubricants that power and service that machinery. They also include the cosmetics that we make ourselves up with and the medicines we treat ourselves with. In fact, given appropriate conditions of moisture, temperature, aeration and nutrient supply, just about anything we use can be rendered useless by other life forms, and the economic losses resulting from such 'biodeterioration' are enormous. The best way of minimizing this deterioration is by prevention, through understanding the needs of the causal organisms and not allowing these needs to be met: for example if we don't want timber to decay, we keep it dry or non-aerated.

This very same destructive power of living systems that can engender such losses when allowed to occur in an inappropriate context is, however, vital to the sustainability and rejuvenation of natural ecosystems and to our own efforts to dispose of, remedy or recycle waste or hazardous materials. Such beneficial application is termed 'biodegradation', and, having only recently developed much environmental concern, we are no doubt at the bottom of a very steep learning curve as to how to make best use of it beyond keeping a compost heap in our back yards. As ever, the aim should be to understand as much as possible about the context in which the needs and potential of the degrader systems can be met. Then it may be possible to develop new or improved approaches to fertilizing soils, reducing pollution damage, revitalizing water, producing foods and medicines etc.

Following Nature - Imitating Natural Process

Look carefully enough and it is generally possible to find a biological precedent for just about any human discovery or invention. Examples range from the sonar equipment of a bat or dolphin to the magnetic compass of a migrating bird or bacterium, the microscopic hearing aid of a parasitic fly and the genetic manipulation of its host by a crown gall bacterium. It doesn't take much wit to appreciate the likelihood that there could be a great many more innovative forms of engineering to be copied from the living world - this is the growing interest of the field known as 'biomimetics'. That is, there could be if only we knew how to look for them and recognise them when we see them. Perhaps a good place to begin is simply through being aware of the problem-solving, opportunity-finding capacity of living systems, and hence to look to those systems for insight whenever we encounter a problem or opportunity.

But first, a word of caution may be necessary. It is widely considered, as a by-product of neo-Darwinian thinking, that the solutions to problems found by living systems are 'optimal', i.e. the best possible product of cost-benefit analysis. If that were so, however, life would have stopped evolving significantly long ago. But it hasn't. Life continues to change and to be changed by its dynamic context. It works within the constraints and through the opportunities opened up by the dynamically bounded watery medium in which it is expressed. So, in looking to life for insights into how to do what's 'best', it's important to realize that this 'best' may only be 'best' in the context of a specific set of boundary properties that may change. If this context-dependence is not understood, there is a danger that our search may be limited to specific, 'right or wrong' applications closed off from the possibilities embedded in the indeterminacy of living systems. Indeed it may be that it is this indeterminacy and resultant capacity to bring about and cater for change that might be most opportune for us to emulate.

Design for Responsiveness and Resilience By emulating the capacity of life forms to vary their boundary properties of deformability, permeability and continuity according to circumstances it may be possible to increase our ability to design versatile, resilient systems that are not rendered dysfunctional or outmoded by changes in conditions.

Design for Innovation, Renovation and Efficiency By incorporating self-integrative processes, it may be possible to produce creative designs with capacities for learning, recall and efficient switchover from dissipative, assimilative structures to energy-conserving distributive and redistributive structures.

Design for Decommissioning By emulating the ways in which living systems degenerate and reconfigure we can design structures that don't become disposal problems.

Life-cycle review By taking account of all the energetic demands of a design throughout the dynamic trajectory from its inception to its decommissioning, rather than at a snapshot in time, a more inclusional picture of its environmental impact can emerge.

Further Reading?

Perhaps, for all that I may talk about my feeling and intellectual comprehension of belonging in the natural community of others I have always been more of a goat than a sheep. This is my paradoxical position in a conformist culture dominated by the view that we are all individuals. Like the non-conformist character at the back of the crowd in Monty Python's 'Life of Brian', I have to stand up and shout, 'no we're not!' For better or worse, and with all due respect, none of my work, not least this book, has ever been intended simply to provide another brick in the wall of academic knowledge, constructed upon the secure concrete foundations of others' enterprise and scholarly exposition and assumptions. I have never been able to work in that way. Rather, I have always felt more comfortable in trying to make sense of my personal observations and experience without placing too much initial reliance on others' findings or expectations. I find this is the only way that I can truly appreciate, both creatively and critically, what others express, through finding points in common and points in contrast with my personal experience and understanding. Perhaps it is the only way of true discovery and rediscovery, without getting bogged down in small print, or perhaps it is just my way. But I have also often found it a troublesome, difficult and lonely way, inviting accusations of arrogance, ignorance and re-inventing the wheel, especially when challenged to cite chapter and verse concerning my 'sources'. I prefer conversation to reading and don't readily recall who has said what, when and where, as I seek neither to find nor claim authority: besides the scholarly literature is stuffed with contradictions. I seek only to share my observations and sense-making in communion with others.

What this all means, of course, is that when it comes to providing bibliography or 'further reading', I generally find myself at a loss. Do I provide a great mountain of indigestible material or a resounding echo of emptiness? Do I, in citing any particular work, appear to support its authority, even though I may disagree with it profoundly?

So, here are just a few works that I have enjoyed or found challenging in one way or another, as I have worked with the ideas and information described in this book.

P. Ball (1999) H2O A Biography of Water. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

D. Boyle (2000). The Tyranny of Numbers - Why Counting Can't Make Us Happy. London: Harper Collins.

S. Kumar (2002) You Are Therefore I Am - A Declaration of Dependence. Green Books.

C. Landry (2000) The Creative City. Comedia, Earthscan.

W. Pryor (2003) The Survival of the Coolest. Bath: Clear Press

R. Spowers (2002) Rising Tides. Edinburgh: Canongate Books.

C. Spretnak (1999). The Resurgence of the Real: Body, Nature and Place in a Hypermodern World. New York: Routledge.

D. Suzuki with Amanda McConnell (1999) The Sacred Balance - Rediscovering Our Place in Nature. Bantam Books

S. Taylor (2005). The Fall. Winchester, UK, New York, USA: O Books

Alan Rayner

Alan Rayner was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1950. He obtained BA and PhD degrees in Natural Sciences at King's College, Cambridge and is currently a Reader in Biology at the University of Bath. He is an accomplished biological scientist, ecological philosopher, artist and writer. He has published around 140 scientific articles, 6 scientific books (including Degrees of Freedom - Living in Dynamic Boundaries, Imperial College Press, 1997) and a 3 volume e book (Inclusionality: The Science, Art and Spirituality of Space, Place and Evolution, 2004). He has contributed to a variety of science- and art-based TV and radio broadcasts and presented many seminars and conference papers as well as convening several international conferences and symposia. The latter include a pioneering Science-Art event, 'The Language of Water', which, in 2001, resulted in an acclaimed BBC Radio 4 series, 'Water Story', and in 2006 'Unhooked Thinking', a landmark in changing our perceptions of addiction. He was President of the British Mycological Society in 1998 and has been a BP Venture Research Fellow and a Miller Visiting Research Professor at the University of California, Berkeley.