Questions and Chaos

Life in the 21st Century

How Can I File Life?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

In our information society everything needs to fit into a category. I find myself resistant to creating categories for my writing. Life is all inter-related. Our biology runs the thoughts we think and the philosophy we create. How can you file life?

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been a mother for twenty-two years that I have trouble thinking in categories. As a parent I have been involved in all the activities that are necessary to make a human being grow up healthy and happy.  I have not spent my life focused on one task, topic, specialization or career.  There is no specialization; there is only life.  When you live with children you teach spelling while peeling potatoes and conduct conflict resolution while driving down the freeway.  You wash the floor when the baby is sleeping and stop half finished when she wakes up.  As parents we don’t have the option of saying, “That’s not my job,” or “I’ll feed you tomorrow when my project is done.”

Our lives are affected by events on a global scale.  The fruit we have for breakfast is affected by the weather in Chile.  Economic conditions in China affect my life in ways that I am not even aware of. Like weather and other natural phenomena, life is a chaotic system where all the variables are interacting.  Life does not fit neatly in a file cabinet. 

Prior to the industrial revolution one person could build a whole carriage. A carriage builder could innovate, create and improve his work as time went on. A factory worker does not have that control over his product. He builds the same pieces every day and he does his work the way someone else tells him to do it. The mechanization of the industrial revolution has predominated the workplace to the point where we take it for granted. Everyone has an assigned job description and those are the tasks that are demanded and performed. We spend our days of gainful employment functioning like a machine.

The defining characteristic of living things is that they grow and adapt by responding to changes in their environment. This is a characteristic most of the modern workplace does not allow. We’re not allowed to stay home to get more sleep or come in a day later because it’s cold out.  A single celled amoeba can move away from noxious stimuli but, as an employee, we are not allowed to go home when the boss yells at us. Perhaps much of modern stress and depression is due to the fact that we are not permitted to function like living organisms.

As we constantly force ourselves into the mechanical model, we have lost touch with our biological nature. We forget that we need to breathe, drink and eat like every other living organism. As we have lost respect for our physiology we have lost respect for the rest of life on earth as well. We’ve forgotten that we are part of  the earth and dependent on the wind, the sun and the rain for our life.  We are not separate like the parts of a car or television. We constantly cycle the earth’s substance through our bodies.

Donella Meadows writes: “Between me and not-me there is surely a line, a clear distinction, or so it seems. But now look, where is that line? This fresh apple, still cold and crisp from the morning dew, is not-me only until I eat it. When I eat it, I eat the soil that nourished the apple. When I drink, the waters of the earth become me. With every breath I take in I draw in not-me and make it me. With every breath out I exhale not-me.” 

Life is complex and interactive with everything flowing together. The categories we create are only an invention of the mind to keep things separate.


1 Comment »


Comment by Stephanie

August 13, 2007 @ 4:47 am

When I saw the title I started thinking about organizing and how hard it is. From something as simple as trying to put papers away I often get a sense of life being too complex to sort through and categorize — every time I clean my room I need a new system that suits the way I look at the world and the way things are arranged in my mind. It usually ends up in chaos anyways, because that’s what happens in life — it doesn’t fit neatly into boxes.

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