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A Question Of Balance

by Rajgopal Nidamboor(more info)

listed in psychospiritual, originally published in issue 288 - August 2023

 

Originally Published in madrascourier.com

https://madrascourier.com/books-and-films/a-question-of-balance/

 

“Blessings upon Cadmus, the Phoenicians, or whoever it was that invented books,” wrote philosopher Thomas Carlyle. Carlyle, for all practical purposes, hadn’t foreseen the advent of electronic publishing, or the possibility of something as smart as the electronic book – in his wildest of dreams – the jazzy cultural, or philosophical, touchstone. The printed word, on paper, was too sacred a proposition for someone like him, like most of us – especially, committed book lovers. It still is – no matter the changing graph in one’s perceptions today, thanks to our singular love for the magical chip and all its wondrous uses.

Whatever one’s understanding of high-tech publishing, it goes without saying that all of it originated from the humblest of beginnings – a pioneer called Johannes Gutenberg, and his first printing press. A simple, but profound process – one that is now too deeply entrenched in our psyche. Of the smell of paper, the ink, and that great, elemental feeling of a published work in hand. It still holds magic – one that enraptures us, even if we don’t really read books as much as we did before. Blame it too on our own overwhelmingly well-orchestrated preoccupations, the pressures of modern living, or the supremacy of television and the Internet – and, you have a plethora of abstractions as to why the reading habit is increasingly being undermined by sleek intrusions.

 

A Question of Balance

https://madrascourier.com/books-and-films/a-question-of-balance/

 

Not Hype. Reality

In reality, however, things are not as bad as you’d think. Printed books are being published – in millions. People still read them for a host of reasons. And, what’s more, you’ve bestsellers, not in their dozens, but in any number, rolling out of the press practically every day, interspersed with several awards and honours – including the Nobel, or Booker, among others. They are all books in a profusion of genres—from fiction, non-fiction etc., to the so-called ‘barometer’ that measures your pristine intellect and acumen. It is something that you ought to have in your résumé New-Age wisdom, or the back-to-the-future sort of conscious feeling and the web of life itself. It’s a pre-requisite for success – a celebration of a whole, new world of spiritual materialism.

Not that the human brain is in trouble; but, the big e-invasion is fully agog. Of machines, or products of human engineering and intelligence, geared to take over the world. You may believe it, or you may also think that all this is illogical alarm, artificial hype, or hoopla. It all depends on your school of thought. Yet, one fact remains. We are dwarfed by our own technological advance. More importantly, we have yielded our psyche to integrated ‘circuits’ and their mechanical offspring – not simple, harmonious, or abundant living.

You’d think of the whole expanse as a cutting-edge theme too: where is human technology going next? Yet, its voyage is philosophically receptive, with emphasis on the narrative: of the exploration of new computer innovations for human life and the eventual victory of the virtual over the real itself. You’d also think of new-fangled, enormously interactive, ‘you-can-feel,’ electronic books as our futuristic theme song.

This is nothing short of an intellectual exercise, all right. Not only that. It conceives its main mantle on independent robot-run industries of the future: of industries where one could transfer wealth, along with eventual replacement of organic human beings by mechanistic progeny, or ‘mind children.’ Its spectrum of vision is Artificial Intelligence(AI) – the great evolutionary stride.

The inference is obvious – the spectacular idea bids fair to the fact that once such intelligence is created by ‘natural’ selection, it’s just a matter of time before higher intelligence outdoes its creators and displaces them to some, if not the whole, extent. What this outcome may augur is anybody’s guess– especially for life, also environment, on the living planet.

Now, the crux of the matter…

For traditional, vernacular folks, life and ecology were something distinctive – to feel part of, respect, love and cherish, not exploit. Their deep respect for the biosphere, and the source of life, water, was based on simple, pure logic; not dogma. Most significantly, all vernacular societies aimed their energies at maintaining this delicate, decisive order of the cosmos.

The Big Question

Daniel B Botkin PhD, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, at the University of California, US, observes that ecological deterioration, a troublesome question in our troubled world, has been a “result of a persistent misconception about the natural world—that under normal circumstances it exists in a steady state, its equilibrium (being) disturbed only when people interfere.”

In his book, Discordant Harmonies – which I happened to re-read, a few days ago; the best part is it continues to be as relevant as it was when first published thirty years ago – Botkin recaptures several incidents to demonstrate that concepts such as ecological climax and balance are based less on how the natural world functions than on obsolete expressions of eighteenth century Romantics, who conjured up images of emotion, untouched nature, and primitive man. Botkin’s touchstone is the industrial revolution, which shaped a new perspective – the ‘steady’ state of nature for natural historians.

Botkin agrees that the idea of a maximum sustainable yield does have a scientific basis, in sharp contrast to natural ecological climax. He highlights the equation that gave rise to Verhulst’s S-shaped logistic curve. The growth of a population under constant conditions, for example, starting with a small number of organisms and multiplying to a higher limit – the carrying capacity – is determined by ‘those very states’ themselves.

Botkin also recounts the paradoxical case of a ‘paradise lost, ’Tsavo National Park, Kenya, and the slipping fortunes of the Peruvian anchovy fishery, which is yet to rebound to its pre-crash levels, following human intervention. Questions such as, what do we hope to protect, or what is nature per se, Botkin avers, are but only ironies of human existence. His analogy, “No matter how green is man’s thumb, or technological advantage, the Homo sapiens cannot create life. All they can do is manage for the recurrence of desirable conditions.” He observes, “In terms of climate, the cycling of chemical elements, the distribution of species and ecological communities and the rate of extinction of species, we must reject the possibility of constancy in the biosphere.” An ecosystem is a complex, dynamic network, composed of a broad spectrum of interdependent organisms.  If one element alters its position even marginally, the whole system can change, even go kaput.

New Ecology

“Ecology,” Botkin contends, “should supplant outworn metaphors with images more appropriate to evolving organic systems in which chance plays a crucial role. A machine has no history. Life, of course, has, and it includes organisms, ecosystems, and the biosphere itself.” His inference: if nature resembles law, to inquire of nature is to question time, circumstance, and so on. There is no ‘original’ state in nature. What may have been natural, at one time, could be a figment of imagination later.

Botkin’s ‘new’ ecology contends that man lives in nature and culture, at the same time, but to say that nature is culture would be wrong. In his words, “Change is of little concern compared with the frequency, kind and degree of change. Animal populations should and need not be changed, or managed, to obtain a magical number, but merely (made) to be sizable enough to minimize the chance of extinction.” In other words, “To manage for the recurrence of desirable conditions.” The precondition to such an idea, as Botkin points out, depends on “nature’s generative capacity and human intervention in the natural world is discreet only to the degree that it maintains such ability.”  To highlight an exemplar. Trim, if you like, the ‘vertebrate’ branch of an evolutionary tree prior to the appearance of hominids. Result: nature, in full bloom.

When I finished reading the book anew, I admiringly acquiesced to Botkin’s perceptive analyses of ecology’s natural and opposite identities—one which we are subverting at our own peril.

Acknowledgement Citation

Originally Published in madrascourier.com

https://madrascourier.com/books-and-films/a-question-of-balance/

 

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About Rajgopal Nidamboor

Rajgopal Nidamboor PhD FCCP M-CAM is a Board-Certified wellness physician, Fellow of the College of Chest Physicians (FCCP), Member of the Center of Applied Medicine (M-CAM), writer-editor, commentator, critic, columnist, author, and publisher. His special interests include natural health and wellness, mind-body/integrative medicine, nutritional medicine, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. His focus areas also encompass contemporary research and dissemination of dependable information for people concerned about their health. He feels that it is increasingly gratifying to see most individuals, including physicians, thinking outside the box – especially in areas such as natural health, where the body knows best to heal itself from the inside out. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, Web articles, four books on natural health, two coffee-table books, a handful of E-books, a primer on therapeutics, and, most recently, Cricket Odyssey. He’s Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360, a mobile health application/platform, connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic, Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.  Rajgopal Nidamboor lives in Navi Mumbai, India. He may be contacted via raj@rajnidamboor.com 

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