An Unexpected Visitor Sheds New Light on My View of Nature
A Book Review by Jon Daniels
In the wacky world of a pandemic I have seen my job responsibilities as Controller at the Center for Humans and Nature grow to include a biweekly visit to pickup mail at the Center’s new home in Libertyville, Illinois. Once back home in Chicago, I carefully review and sort the mail for eventually distribution to the Center’s staff. Occasionally, I receive mail that is addressed not to staff but instead to one the Center’s network of contributors who have provided input to programs, such as Minding Nature journal, City Creatures blog and the Questions series. An encounter with a piece of this misdirected mail is where my journey to new heights of understanding Nature begins.
In March, I received an envelope addressed to a contributor and opened it for purposes of repackaging and sending on its way. I discovered the contents of the package was a book by Daniel Lake entitled Reconnect. Being a rather serious bibliophile of over 3,000 nonfiction books, I take the entrance of a book into my home very seriously and therefore was compelled to learn more about this orphan tome before directing it to a permanent home.
My foray into any new book starts with looking at the acknowledgments. A book without the support and help of others can be the recount of an isolated and rudderless story. I was pleased to read the author had received support and help from his family and colleagues. I then look for a bibliography and footnotes. As I perused the footnotes, I noticed the mention of Alan Turing, British mathematician and computer scientist who cracked the code on intercepted German messages during the World War II. I have always been impressed by Mr. Turing’s under-appreciated accomplishments and tragic life. This iota of information was all I needed to realize this book would be staying with me until I had done further exploring into its contents.
My educational background in Nature consists of Chemistry in high school and Geology in college with a dash of Philosophy for good measure. My work at Openlands and Center for Humans and Nature has added to my knowledge of Nature through osmosis by contact with the learned staff of each organization. These experiences have led me to an intuitive sense of how Nature should work and rather how it was not working. Being an accountant I feel a need to have an orderly sense of what went wrong and why. Reconnect gave me a better read on Nature.
Reconnect is described on its back cover as a “new version of an old story”. The author’s background as a science teacher and a minister has lead him to view earth’s plight though several lenses. His story weaves threads of science, religion, philosophy and technology. As a novice to these details I needed a teacher’s approach of explaining over and over again with examples just at the point when things were get blurry. His background as a minister comes in handy in his approach of dystopian darkness culminating with a realistic ray of hope. I would be remiss to claim I understood everything in Reconnect. But my overall understanding gave me the curiosity to keep reading.
The book’s chapter topics include Information, Metra-Logic, Logical Patterns, Mind, Causality, Life, Truth, Feeling and Belonging in the context of Nature viewed in a broader context. In order to reinforce my understanding of the book’s topics I engaged in two tasks, creating an index of notable people and writing chapter summaries.
The index led me to side journeys of learning more about some very interesting people in all walks of life. By far my favorite personality was American mathematician Claude Shannon. I could not help but be impressed by his hobbies of unicycling and juggling; and avocational inventions, such as a Roman numerical computer and a flaming trumpet. The author Daniel Lake used the word “polymath” to describe many of these people. He overlooked describing one person as a polymath. That person was himself.
Rather than sharing details of the book and my summaries, I would like to express just some of my many personal outcomes from reading Reconnect. I had some intuitive ideas that needed refining. This book provided the push I needed to rethink these ideas.
I have viewed religion as the ineffable result of what we do not know. Reconnect describes God in terms of logic. Logic carries with it the sense of gathering, collecting, organizing thoughts in an orderly pattern to explain one’s self and world. Even with the power of a computer, a human’s capability to explain one’s self is quite limited, i.e. simple, linear, or standard logic. The logic horsepower humans don’t have about being is Meta-Logic. Meta-Logic or God is the ultimate causation and continued existence of the Universe and can only continue operating if done in a very singular and unified way (Monism). However, God is immanent and therefore not at the top of Logic but an inherent part of Logic. So God is not the manager but a member of the team that encompasses all of Nature.
I have always felt uncomfortable with the lack of Truth in my life. The book describes Truth as residing in Nature as a non-conscious process void of human thought. In context of Earth’s age, Man has spent little time here and the inexperience has shown in the lack of truth offered to Earth’s interrelationships. Humans have not been on earth long enough to fully develop Truth. From nature’s perspective, Truth is any input that maintains or enhances systemic integrity. A revelation of Truth by humans can be advanced by closer experiences with all forms of Nature. Where was this explanation of Truth when I needed it most, during matrimony?
I have always felt connected to nonhuman animals, plants, and even some inanimate objects, such as books i.e. Reconnect. Reconnect views life as existing in multi-forms logically determined over long periods of time by the forces of nature to fit within their environment for survival and reproduction. Life cannot exist in isolation and must be connected to its environment with a dynamic exchange of information and energy. Over time, life can be viewed as one system where all living things are integrated as one. Using a palimpsest metaphor, every living thing has emerged from the green canvas called Earth.
I have often thought about what form of government is needed for Earth to survive. Before the Pandemic, I thought that progress could only be made from the bottom up with local government being where the action is. I figured that a critical event such as the Pandemic would provide the wake-up call to get things moving. Well the past year proved that line of thinking wrong. The book poses the question “How is Nature Balance achieved in a world of so many different governments, cultures, religions, and ideologies?” In a world where everything affects everything else, a system that works on automatic pilot for Earth with no central decision maker is needed. This form of governance that encompasses all levels of government called a panarchy. Lower forms of government can exist but for decisions affecting the world panarchy is needed. Nature is brutally honest. Panarchy works because it is based on honesty and only knows the truth. Of course, getting to this governmental interrelationship is hard to imagine, but stranger things have happened.
So where do we go from here? What can an individual do in this environment? The weight of awareness is a heavy burden. Some solace can be found in the cathartic peace within our own slice of nature. However, healing begins with a longer view. Ultimately systems evolve to fit. Nature will find a way. The question then remains as to whether the evolution will be with or without mankind.