Information and Noise: From Order Comes Chaos

“Pollution, like a neurotic symptom, is a form of communication. To ignore the symptom, to thrust it to the side of awareness and push it back into the collective unconscious, is to perform the same action that created the pollution, the dissonance, the neurotic symptom, in the first place. The end result of ignoring the communication is to stimulate it to the point that the dissonance becomes so loud that it drowns out all other signals. Ultimately, the ignored and unconscious precipitates itself as the ultimate shadow of civilization, annihilation. This is another way of expressing what I have noted before: If you do not create your destiny, you will have your fate inflicted upon you. The creation of destiny, then, depends on maintaining a more permeable membrane between noise and information, unconscious and conscious, nature and culture.

(Modern) Civilization, however, is not surrounded by a light, permeable membrane, but a wall. The salinization of the soil was not seen or heard. A local technology, defined by the city’s limits, created a problem area larger than its political area of control. Any cultural attempt to control an area rationally only seems to generate a shadow … the fascinating aspect of the cultural patterning of urban civilization is that the problem or crisis, the dissonance, can itself be read as the signal of emergence of the next level of historical order.

Like a shadow that does not permit us to jump over it, but moves with us to maintain its proper distance, pollution is nature’s answer to culture. When we have learned to recycle pollution into potent information, we will have passed over completely into the new cultural ecology.” -William Irwin Thompson (p. 82, Pacific Shift, 1987)

I found the above excerpt to be highly significant in relation to the discussions which have resulted from the z4 symposium on enactivism, integralism, and spirituality. Enactivism is calling into question the dominant metaphor of the brain as an “information-processor,” recontextualizing it by adopting what Thompson above describes as “a more permeable membrane between noise and information.” There is not a matter of fact about the world independent of our attempt to know it. What is a fact to us, no matter how important, is noise from another perspective. Unless we can come to recognize the unique worldspaces and ecosystems brought forth by each organism, we will remain as blind to their threatened survival as we are to our own as the result of our ignorance of pollution. We read pollution as “noise,” when really it is nature trying to tell us to awaken to the realities of our deep connection to the planet that birthed and sustains us. There is no “other” but that part of ourselves which has been repressed.

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