Grief or Ecstasy? Nature’s Hidden Command
The story of nature and the story of life is not a tale of plants, animals, and humans living in harmony with their environment. It is not a tale of a blissful balance. It is not the story of a warm and loving equilibrium.
And it is not the story of a green paradise, a garden of Eden. A garden trashed by the monstrous activities of mankind. The real story of life is the very opposite. It’s the story of greening a planet of disruption, disaster, and strife.
It’s the tale of a toxic planet, a poison pill of stone. It’s the saga of how the first teaspoon of life and its children overcame 142 mass extinctions. It’s the story of the savagery of non-stop climate change. But it’s a story of more than a mere struggle for survival.
It’s the story of how life harnessed disaster. It’s the story of how life poisoned the atmosphere. Then how life invented a way to turn that poison into a power source: oxygen.
And it’s the story of a battle for flamboyance, excess and splendor. It’s the story of a race for innovation. A battle for self-upgrade. It’s the story of audacity. It’s the tale of how disrespectful macromolecules milked manna from Armageddon on this toxic ball of stone.
Which means that the immediate challenge of humanity is not the one that you’re being told. The story of life is not a warning to stop growth before it destroys us. It is the story of a challenge that dictates the very opposite: grow as much as you can. Grow as cleverly as you can. Grow as inventively as you can. Growth is the only way that you and the life around you can beat the odds. More important, growth is the only way to achieve what nature herself demands. Ingenuity, extravagance, flamboyance, and audacity.
Are you troubled by plastic waste? Turn it into a resource base. Are you disturbed by greenhouse gases? Harvest solar energy in space and end the burning of fossil fuels. And capture the carbon of greenhouse gases to make miracles like carbon fiber and graphene.
The real story of nature means that it’s time to abandon the end-of-the-world dictated by entropy. It’s time to toss out the dystopia of a universe constantly falling apart. It’s time to jettison the sugar cube whizzling apart in a cup of hot coffee. It’s time to abandon heat death.
And it’s time to accept the fact that this is a cosmos of what 19th century scientific synthesizer Herbert Spencer called progress.
Twentieth century experts like Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould did everything they could to prove the concept of progress wrong. But this is a universe that has progressed
· from a nothing to a big bang,
· from a big bang to the birth of quarks,
· from quarks to protons and neutrons,
· from protons and neutrons to atoms.
· from atoms to galaxies, planets, and molecules.
· And from molecules to you and me.
Nature’s obsession with progress is real.
This cosmos is a search engine constantly feeling out her potential, constantly reaching out for her next big step up. And you and I are the fingertips of that probe. We are the antennae of a universe feeling out her next moves in possibility space.
Nature will progress to higher levels with or without us. But I hope that we continue to be what nature demands—the biggest progress makers this cosmos has ever produced.
There is soul-lift in this truer tale of nature. Far more lift for the soul than in the false story of a nature that prizes an unchanging “harmony,” a nature that prizes standing still. Far more elevation than in the picture of a cosmos continually falling apart. Not to mention a cosmos parsimoniously insisting on the shortest path between two points, a cosmos obsessed with thrift.
There is a simple fact. Nature is a maw of darkness, death, and pain. She is a maw of manic mass production and manic mass destruction. A maw of materialism, consumerism and waste run amok. But she is also a maker of ecstasies, exhilarations, soaring new planes of reality, and celebrations of the impossible and the strange.
Nature is the mother of four great space programs:
· the upward lunge of the first bacteria to escape the sea and live on the land,
· the outrageous arrogance of the first plants to reach to the skies by erecting towers five inches high,
· the gumption of the first trees to defy gravity by pumping hundreds of gallons of water three stories high, generating up to 200,000 leaves apiece to hog the light from the heavens above, and
· the equally astonishing fuck yous to gravity of the insects and dinosaurs who left the ground and took to the skies.
But the real proof of nature’s audacity is in the longest-path-possible, most anti-entropic phenomenon this cosmos has ever invented—the wild excess we call sex.
Nature’s real nature implies that we have a job ahead of us.
We are not the only creatures to master research and development. Bacteria do that at a speed that constantly threatens to outpace us.
And bacteria know something we don’t. We are certain that we have run out of resources. But for every ounce of biomass on this planet there are 200 million ounces of dead molecules waiting to be kidnapped, seduced, and recruited into the grand enterprise of life.
We may be blind to that fact, but bacteria twelve miles beneath our feet are not. They are turning raw rock to food even as we speak. They are carrying out life’s mandate: kidnap, seduce, and recruit as many dead molecules as possible into the grand project of life.
Bacteria may sometimes be smarter than we are, but we are the only species capable of taking life beyond the gravity well. We are the only species capable of taking eco-systems to the heavens and beyond. Which means that nature has given us a job: to garden the solar system and green the galaxy.
Nature used materialism, consumerism, waste, vain display, and sex to invent you and me. Now what ingenuity will we give her in return? What outrageous audacity?
Howard Bloom has been called the Einstein, Newton, and Freud of the 21st century by Britain’s Channel 4 TV. One of his seven books–Global Brain—was the subject of a symposium thrown by the Office of the Secretary of Defense including representatives from the State Department, the Energy Department, DARPA, IBM, and MIT. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Psychology Today, and the Scientific American. He does news commentary at 1:06 am et every Wednesday night on 545 radio stations on Coast to Coast AM. For more, see http://howardbloom.institute.
This is the conclusion of Howard Bloom’s upcoming 2023 book The Case of the Sexual Cosmos: Everything You Know About Nature Is Wrong.