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Saturday, July 2, 2011

What Acts but Cannot Think?

What records the action of every man, woman, child, the wingbeats of birds, tectonic events, solar flares, asteroids, etc., in short, reflects 'everything' . . . a kind of super-recorder of the All?

Something passive, receptive, flexible, and yielding. Not something hard, crystalline or rigid. We're looking for something that's the opposite of diamond. Something that's soft enough to notice tiny events, yet tough enough to notice giant interactions.

By asking what 'records' I mean something that registers the change. Something that allows itself to be altered by events around it.

Let's think carefully, admitting in theory that all creation 'notices' the rest of creation - at minimum all our gravitational fields interact - but within local boundaries, such as on earth some substances do so respond better than others, at least to human perception.

For a system to 'record' an outcome that has quadrillions of inputs, then it must be large. It must have quadrillions of memory cells, or elements that in some way are influenced by even the smallest event.

Here on earth I would say that ultimate 'recorder' is the weather. The theatre of the earth's atmosphere, rains, sunsets, sunrises, winds, hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, thunderstorms, is a mega event that never stops evolving. It's a complete history that cannot be de-evolved. It 'records' all that acts on it, from the earth below, and space above.

Yet it is always fluid and changing.

The earth itself, records what has happened to it. But solid matter may appear the same for hours, generations, or ages, nevertheless all is in flux and change, some substances offering the solidity of a lifetime, while others change every moment, like the weather.

What a change man has made to the surface of our planet! The earth is the one really big ceramic pot, the one that we're so busy glazing with incessant production of metals, and extirpation of other life forms.

Weather is a subtle system. large enough yet transparent enough for all of us to perceive truly huge pieces of it. At times it is as dense as solid water (vortexes of tornados), sometimes as nearly dense as pure sand (sandstorms), or as dark as Hades, yet on clear starlit nights, it lucidly allows us to see the universe around us.

Air and water take notice of the tiniest inputs, and record change that are irreversible, capable of the most subtle response.. The tiniest events contribute to this greatest of earthly dramas.

Here I speak about effects that small actions have upon huge systems that are more complex.

Now what of the opposite? We as complex creatures acting upon substances that are simple, or seem simple? Let us imagine for instance a sculptor that works with steel. He packs up for the night, but when he returns in the morning, even though a tiny imperceptible layer of his recent work may be starting to rust, to his eyes, there is no difference in the pieces he left out the night before.

We're not negating the effect that all systems have upon each other, we're noticing that certain simple systems seem rigid, and unable to record tiny changes, without an expenditure of energy above a certain threshold.

A diamond may be worked, with other diamonds, but essentially it is one of the most stable forms that exist. A diamond may transmit information, as light, but it does not record events, not in ways that we are able to notice.

If you work in stone, same thing. You hit the stone with the chisel, yes, you will notice a difference. But walk away from the work, it remains the same for days, weeks later, even years later.

If you leave it outside, it may change, due to the rain. Acid rain indeed has eroded much ancient sculpture!

Why am I making a point of all this?

I'm calling attention to a medium that is so simple, it takes into account all actions that occur to it, or near it or around it.

A lump of wet clay. So humble that it listens to everything.

A lump of clay will not, cannot be the same from one moment to the next. Breathe on it and it changes. It will dry differently. Weather affects it. Insects landing on wet clay leave marks or a residue which shows up when fired. Our fingertips? The effect can be barely noticeable, or huge.

Clay is a sort of ultimate recorder. This is because it is composed of billions of tiny particles, that are are plastic and in a temporary liquid relationship to one another, much like the weather above us.

Firing clay fixes those particles. They become more permanent. The fire may affect the fired outcome as much or more than the making of the object itself. The fire draws information from the weather, the air, the humidity, the wood that is used as fuel, etcetera, and the clay records all that happens to it.

Unless the pieces are melted to a pool of uniform glass, every action is recorded.

Lorenz's butterfly effect, [a butterfly's wings being able to influence weather on the other side of the world] is more true than any of us realize. Snow and rainfall are significantly heavier around airports, caused by condensation initiated by the fast moving aircraft through clouds above. All of our actions, even what we think, changes what is around us.

My reason for posting this bowl is the little face that appears in the ash on the side. Was that in anyway planned or designed?

Not in the slightest. The ash flying through the kiln made this irregular boundary that looks like a face.

What brings such events about?

All things do. My coming and going from the studio. The weather. The dirty wood boards that I make my work on that have traces of iron, varnish, vestiges of paint. Now the fire. Nearby pots. The pollen in the air the day the glazes were mixed. The pollen in the air the day they were fired. The fire, the trees that burned, the lives of those trees, and the trees that were their neighbors. I would have to use more words than atoms in the universe to describe what went into this, which makes even trying, ridiculous.

If one of the fire stokers had sneezed, this might not have been a face. Maybe it was me and I did sneeze, and that's why the face is sneezing too! ;)

Clay records all actions on a sub-atomic scale. Those actions become visible to the eye.

So when something like this happens, I wonder. What was I thinking? What was IT thinking?

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