zenpundit.com » nature

Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

Good karma, or paying it forward — piggy-back

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — a frog, a snail, a praying mantis, yes — but not a piggy in sight! ]

See also: At a snail’s pace

Hat-tip: Faizah.



  • Snail rides frog, photocredit: Lessy Sebastian / Solent News
  • Mantis rides snail, photocredit: Nordin Seruyan / Barcroft Media
  • At a snail’s pace

    Sunday, December 29th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — leap frog in very slow motion, and leap razor too ]

    As a poet, I don’t much like that old saw about a picture being worth a thousand words — but there’s a density of information in each of the images below that’s worth considering:


    Two very striking images, in parallel, juxtaposed. What can we read into them, or out of them?

  • That a snail’s pace is always the same, no matter what obstacles it encounters?
  • That slow and steady wins the race?
  • That you can take the easy way, or you can take the hard way?
  • That you [Chinese Buddhists] can go for gradual or sudden enlightenment?
  • That the snail in the upper panel (in an artwork by Nancy Fouts) is enacting and or paying hommage to Colonel Kurtz‘s celebrated line from Apocalypse Now?

    I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor… and surviving.

  • What else? What do you see?
  • There’s power in images, and even more in juxtapositions.



    If one picture is worth
    a thousand words,
    what’s a bunch of Wordsworth?


    Here the actor Jeremy Irons gives a refreshingly fresh reading of Wordsworth‘s poem:

    Cricket news — the Pakistani Taliban umpire speaks out

    Friday, December 6th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — terror and games — an odd couple methinks, but one that’s not infrequently encountered ]

    Pakistan Taliban umpire Shahidullah Shahid, left, speaks on Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, right


    As you may know, I’m not too keen on sports — far too physical for sedentary me, even at a young age — but if there ever was a sport I could enjoy, it would be cricket. In fact I used to spend hours as a boy “playing cricket” in the outfield, singing quietly to myself and spotting caterpillars in the hawthorn hedges that edged my side of the field.

    Imagine my delight, then, to find the Pakistani Taliban has also developed a love for the game. From the Friday Times, today:

    Taliban have threatened media organizations for “quoting out of context” their spokesman’s video statement in which he had likened those who praise the US and criticize the Taliban to those who praise Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and criticise Pakistan’s cricket captain Misbahul Haq.

    The 17-minute video recording was released to present the Taliban’s outlook on the future of talks with the government, Pakistan and its politics, and the role of the armed forces. But what grabbed media attention was a two minute portion in which their spokesman used a cricket analogy to defend the controversial statement of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Munawar Hassan that Pakistani soldiers who died fighting the Taliban were not martyrs.

    “There is this Indian player called Tendulkar. He is being exceedingly praised by the Pakistani media and people. At the same time the media showed disapproval of Misbahul Haq. Even though Tendulkar is a great sportsman, you should not praise him because that is unpatriotic. Instead, you should praise Misbah despite the fact that he is a bad player, because he is ultimately a Pakistani,” said Shahidullah Shahid, the spokesman of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). “Those who praise the soldiers fighting for America, secularism, democracy and British-made laws are like those who lauded Tendulkar instead of Misbah.”

    All in all, I suppose it was an inevitable development — Imran Khan had supported a position that the TTP favored, and it’s hard to “like” Imran Khan without also “liking” cricket. The report continues:

    In the same video, he praised Tehrik-e-Insaaf leader Imran Khan for blocking NATO supplies to Afghanistan because the move was hurting US interests, adding that the Taliban had developed a soft corner for Khan because of the move.

    Of course, the Indians like cricket quite a bit, too.


    What matters to me about caterpillars, aside for the intriguing “looping” movement some of them have down to a fine art, is the fact that they turn into butterflies — and if I may transcend the material world into pure metaphor for a moment, that butterflies in turn symbolize psyche.

    Me? I’m still in the outfield, still on the lookout for caterpillars, still playing my own highly contemplative form of cricket.

    A wildlife DoubleQuote in the Wild, hat-tip Dan Trombly

    Sunday, September 1st, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — carrier pigeons, guilty, 1914, okay — dolphins, jury still out — but these storks and hawks, innocent I do believe ]


  • Sky News, Stork Held In Egypt On Suspicion Of Spying, 31 August, 2013
  • National Turk, Turks introduced hawks under suspicion of espionage, 27 July, 2013
  • **

    I can claim no responsibility for this DoubleQuote, which I would never have “caught” without Dan Trombly‘s keen eye as manifest in his tweet today:

    For extra bite:

    The stork story concludes with this delicious tid-bit:

    In 2010, a series of shark attacks along Egypt’s Mediterranean coast were blamed on “GPS-controlled sharks” allegedly sent by Israeli security services into Sinai waters.

    Jumping the shark?

    Thinking outside the cocoon…

    Thursday, May 16th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — on caterpillars, butterflies, psyche and the alephs of Georg Cantor, with a glance at the vertiginous idea it might be “boxes all the way up and down”… ]

    Let’s get the science — which is quite fascinating — taken care of first. Here’s our best current visualization of how a caterpillar, after crafting its cocoon, prepares to become a butterfly:


    Words can sometimes tell us some things that images can’t — or explain things to parts of us that simply cannot comprehend them visually — so here for parallel processing is an account of part of the same business from Scientific American:

    How does a caterpillar rearrange itself into a butterfly? What happens inside a chrysalis or cocoon?

    First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out. But the contents of the pupa are not entirely an amorphous mess. Certain highly organized groups of cells known as imaginal discs survive the digestive process. Before hatching, when a caterpillar is still developing inside its egg, it grows an imaginal disc for each of the adult body parts it will need as a mature butterfly or moth—discs for its eyes, for its wings, its legs and so on. In some species, these imaginal discs remain dormant throughout the caterpillar’s life; in other species, the discs begin to take the shape of adult body parts even before the caterpillar forms a chrysalis or cocoon. Some caterpillars walk around with tiny rudimentary wings tucked inside their bodies, though you would never know it by looking at them.

    Once a caterpillar has disintegrated all of its tissues except for the imaginal discs, those discs use the protein-rich soup all around them to fuel the rapid cell division required to form the wings, antennae, legs, eyes, genitals and all the other features of an adult butterfly or moth.


    It’s just possible that the bear’s ability to “die” in the winter and “be reborn” in spring gave use the original cirumpolar bear cult — and more generally, a propensity to believe that resurrection from the dead might be a physical, existential human possibility.

    Humans watch animals pretty diligently — my old friend and mentor Wallace Black Elk once told me:

    We watch the deer, and when they’re sick they know which plant is their aspirin: they eat that green medicine, and drink water. So we have deer medicine. We don’t need the mass-produced kind.

    I don’t have the exact quote, but he also observed somewhat wryly that scouts from pharmaceutical companies used to watch him and see what medicines he used, in much the same way…

    And if there’s any natural process that humans have watched with equivalent metaphysical interest to that which they may have shown in observing the bear’s pattern of hibernation and return, it would have been the process of metamorphosis in butterflies — whose name in Greek, psyche, is also the word for soul.


    WB Yeats had a sense of the butterfly transcending both day-to-day human logic and death itself, when he wrote in his poem Tom O’Roughley:

    ‘Though logic choppers rule the town,
    And every man and maid and boy
    Has marked a distant object down,
    An aimless joy is a pure joy,’
    Or so did Tom O’Roughley say
    That saw the surges running by,
    ‘And wisdom is a butterfly
    And not a gloomy bird of prey.

    adding just a few lines later:

    What’s dying but a second wind?


    What I’d like to do here is to take us from the plodding science of linear thought to which Yeats was (among other forms of linearity) objecting, towards the science — and poetry — of complexity, of nuance.

    And I’d like to do it by skipping a couple of thoughts like a stone across water, inviting you to watch the ripples…

    These are the leaps that connect the dots.. the creative leaps. And some leaps, it seems to me, are bigger and more demanding than others.


    Is the leap from cocoon to butterfly in Hutching‘s quote really quite a huge leap? It certainly keeps some of our best scientists busy uncovering its hidden secrets. And the leap from butterfly to tornado, that Lorenz made? That would appear to me to be a larger leap, requiring a different mode of perception. And skipping from Hutchings to Lorenz, can we skim our stone of thought even further?

    Putting two and two together is one thing: imagining “aleph null” for the first time, as Cantor did, that would be something else altogether. From two to four, I’m tempted to say, is a quantitative leap, while the imaginative leap from four, ten, or ten thousand to the alephs is qualitative.

    How should we recognize and connect widely separated — yet deeply entangled — dots? What would prove to be the richest and most profound of creative leaps? Is there a move that will take us not just out of this box into the box it came in — but out of a whole matrioshka nest of boxes?

    Those are the questions in my sandbox about now.


    When we next meet, I’ll try to tie them in with this diagram that Adam Elkus recently pointed us to —

    and with Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game for good measure.

    Switch to our mobile site