To Build Beauty

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In my first article I wrote about the movement of the human body. The means of moving limbs, articulating postures, and motor learning. Now I write about movements that grip humans. The all-encompassing ideologies that they devote themselves too. One in particular, Global Warming. Ahem, ‘Climate Change’.

In the not-so-distant past, the topic was global warming. Now the topic is not warming, but change—a more apt description as no one can state what they think is going on—but something bad is happening and you need to act! Now! Otherwise, we are all doomed! Or at least that’s what the news says, and they’re interviewing scientists.

Whether global warming is true or not, I don’t have the scientific background to discern. I can look at the statistics. I see how they are twisted to obscure reality. I know and understand that much, but that gets us nowhere closer to the truth of the matter. What is happening? More importantly, what is happening that I can control?

Climate change is a concept that is beyond any one man. And yet, if true, it is entirely within the control of every man. It is an emergent behavior, like a school of fish, darting and weaving among the ocean coral. No one fish has decided the direction the school should take, and yet, they all move together.

Each fish is reacting to the water and fish immediately around it, following a process to create an ‘emergent pattern’. The fish did not host a meeting governed by parliamentary procedure to decide on what pattern to hold, or even if they should operate in a pattern at all. The pattern, a marvel of nature, emerged from a multitude of individual decisions. Decisions that evaluated one at a time, are meaningless. Fish #2812 turned right and swam for 0.32 seconds, then immediately turned left and swam for 2.44 seconds. This is meaningless on its own. However, a video of 4,238 fish turning in unison, weaving in and out of the brilliant coral, flashing this way and that as the sun glints off their sides—one can only marvel.

The same is true of global concepts such as climate change. What is any one individual to do? They cannot solve it. They can become obsessed and worry about it. They can devote their lives to a cause that will do nothing but take from them. It can gain you notoriety, devoted followers, a cult of sorts, but none of it will bring happiness. It is a pedestal built out of fear and despair.
Some will point to 78% of carbon emissions or something of that nature that come from 100 companies and say, “what can I do?” Herein is at at first seems a lie. The individual is both less important and more important. The individual actions you think will matter, will change nothing on a grand scale. The actions you think don’t matter, do.

The actions said to ‘do our part’, are often pomp and circumstance, and do not matter much at all—recycling for instance. Recyclers operate on market prices, and when the price is too low, they take their load to the landfill. The dutiful suburbanites, that painstakingly separated the cardboard, plastic, and glass from the rest of the garbage, have paid their indulgence so they can continue consuming.

The actions that do matter, are both the big and small that that determine the trajectory of your life. Walking to work. But that presupposes that you live where you work, and your town is built in a manner that is conducive to walking. Where do you work? Are you selling your soul or doing something that provides value? All big decisions. But small matters too. That 78% does not come from companies producing things for each other. It comes from producing things for consumers. Things that no one used to need, but now everyone needs. Perhaps the word need is more flexible than it seems.

These decisions represent an emergent pattern. Individual daily decisions made en masse have created a monster of sorts. But how to slay this monster?

Live a Life of Beauty

Beauty is neglected. Numbers and concepts reign supreme. Replacing nature with contrivance has become ugly and commonplace. A grassy field is turned, leveled, and covered in a layer of calcium, silicon, aluminium and more that have been melded together to create an impenetrable layer of concrete. That, I can see with my own eyes. A place where I once wandered the hillsides or admired the streams, has become replete with cement, a wormhole of sorts for cars to be transported. Water no longer meanders but is told where to go. An individual is seldom one who lives with nature—in understanding it and growing with the seasons, but one who ignores it, seeks to supplant it, and make all the seasons the same.

An individual is seldom one who lives with nature—in understanding it and growing with the seasons, but one who ignores it, seeks to supplant it, and make all the seasons the same.

That may seem quite a leap. But genuine beauty is healthy. Grass waving to and fro in the breeze as animals slowly saunter through it, reaching, grabbing, chewing, and allowing for more regrowth. A view from a mountain vista. A neighbor pulling fresh vegetables from the ground. An ocean sunset. These are beautiful. These are pristine, uninterrupted by scars of poor building, failed enterprises, or goods consumed. These are the act of growing something with time.

Balanced Rock, Utah

The only thing constant about nature is the inevitability of change. Nothing is static, things are constantly either growing or dragged down towards, ironically, a state of sameness. Erosion takes from the high places and gives to the low via wind, water, and animals. Breaking down the things people have fastidiously built. Houses decay, roads develop potholes and cars rust. This is what makes things like Balanced Rock in Utah so special—and why things of old are so highly prized. They have withstood the test of time. They have held up when everything around them has attempted to tear them down. They are a connection to a past; a past people who built with vision for today. They, more than anyone else at their time, understood what time can do and how to build to outlast time.

What then is the path forward? How to look to the past to combat this modern-day behemoth?

The answer lies in not listening. Nothing will appease those who seek outrage. They can always dismiss a statistic. There will always be one new undiscovered aspect that spells certain doom.

The answer lies in looking back and seeing what lasts. Building to outlast time. The answer lies in building for beauty, not “Building Back Better”. Building for tomorrow from what we have today. Building and growing a family that will outlast you. Building a house for your family. Growing and nurturing a life. For in a world where nature is growth or decay, it’s a necessity that we grow.