Living Systems

What I’m posting below isn’t an academic argument.  It’s not well defended, and maybe not even well thought out.  And I know it needs more thorough consideration, and critique.  But it struck me as worth putting down in text.



If we want a new world, we must think a new way.


A category of thought that is Green from its very beginning, its foundation.


To recognize the whole of the world as alive.


Systems are alive.


Social systems.  Ecosystems.  The motions of the planets.  The little pressures of bureaucracy, in the politics of workday life.  The wind as it makes leaves dance, of vines climbing up over powerlines.  The group dynamics of dogs, cats, roaming the neighborhoods.  Of flocks of birds, and schools of fish.  The cityscape of streets and roads and paths.  The flow of traffic. Economic systems of trade and exchange.  The lightspeed flow of information.  The dialogues of art, with art.  The shape of the motion of tiny, virtually massless particles, with nothing more than a miniscule negative charge.  The organization of ideas, of histories of thought.  The shape of history itself.  The shapes of it, as it changes, and is changed behind us.


Everything is alive.  The patterns themselves are alive, that we trace out their forms recognizes that they are identifiable phenomena, but we forget that they are in motion.  What we describe moves, it changes.  And in so living, adapting, becoming, it thinks.  It is minded.  It has a telos of its own, an entelechy that shapes.  And all of these systems, moving of their own, are that which comprise other systems, even greater.  The motion is the boundedness, but is not a fundamental division between, but rather describes only unique patterns and outlines, as water in a current is not divisible from other water, but takes on shapes of intensities and momentums.  These systems overlap and interplay, the self-same components in different phases of motion and movement at one and the same time, influenced and informed by so many all at once.  All alive.  All thinking, intending.


This is why the study of Religion is important.  The study of Religion has the potential to be the new ground for a radical re-understanding of the world.  To know these systems as alive means that the study of relationships will be vital.


The practice of religion must come to be understood as the human, both social and individual, reaching beyond, within, and amongst itself to know the minds, bodies, selves, and beings of that which is not, or is only sometimes, human – and even composed of the human – where there is that which is not like the human, but all the same a person possessed of its own rights, its own agency.  The study of Religion has the potential to be at the forefront of this radical change in thinking.  Religion as understood new and wholly different than it has been before.


It is a new picture of the study of Religion.  No more just the study of particular cultural manifestations.  This, too, but much more.  To radically re-conceive the world as composed of living, minded systems all around us means that there must be a new way in which we approach the whole concept of knowing the world.  The study of Religion is uniquely situated to being that discipline which attempts to understand the extraordinary degree of complexity with which all affects all, all effects all, and in which everything is alive, changing, moving, dynamic, and willful.  A study that is inherently post-human, but nevertheless bound up inextricably with the human, and the perspective of the human, in terms of fields of investigation including linguistics, geography, politics, economics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, history, physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, and every other conceivable front of knowledge.


The study of religion has the potential to be the catalyst toward a change in perspective that begins to understand the agency of animals, plants, stones, places, but more, the agency of flocks, the agency of social groups, the agency of forests and ecosystems, moving out in stranger and more novel arrangements of beings at every level, not only in scales of greater and lesser degrees of composition, but moving tangentially, and in strange articulations of unexpected organizations and arrangements.  This place where the agency of an individual is contextualized by the agency of the group, of the systems of motion that describe and constrain the group, such that agency at every level of composition of uniquely mobile multiplicities informs but never obliterates the agency of any and every other level or mode of composition.


We must have a new, Green way of thinking.  To change the world the way in which it is necessary to be changed, in order to survive and become sustainable, we must think a whole new thought, a new Idea to reshape the world.  The Green must think itself in our very bodies and bones, such that we see ourselves within the myriad motions of a living world, everything around us active, intelligent, and in motion.  Every system of relationship and exchange, itself alive.


The study of religion has the potential to be where this new understanding of the world, and a radically new thought, begins.

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