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messy is beautiful

December 27, 2010

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about disturbed areas (in the ecology sense) because they seem to me to be a metaphor for other situations I keep encountering in my life. Areas that experience occasional disturbance have higher diversity than either areas that are constantly being disturbed, or areas that have reached successional climax.

I feel a lot of external pressure to convince me that reaching a succession climax is always a good thing, and should be celebrated by everybody. But in a specific habitat, the pioneer species that characterize disturbance are driven to localized extinction (extirpation) as succession progresses towards climax. So if one identifies with pioneer species, as I absolutely do, one is exhorted by others to celebrate conditions that make one irrelevant at best.

Successional climax is stable, orderly, and more or less predictable. All things I do my utmost to avoid. But also conditions that seem scarcer than ever in the world we live in now. And constantly pining for stability, order, and predictability seems to me to be nostalgia for a world that never was. Which also gets in the way of solving problems today. If we consider merely how we can return to a mythical past, we miss out on a chance to reimagine our present and future, co-creating something that (perhaps) has never existed before. And creation is capricious, chaotic, and complex. Creation is disorganized, it meanders and takes detours. There are fitful starts and dead ends. But creation is also exuberant, vital, and alive. Stability has no use for possibility, but creation celebrates it.

I’m creating a new life for myself, out of the ashes of my old life. And I’m embracing the uncertainties, ambiguities, and chaos that allow me to imagine being a beacon for a new present.

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