Things aren’t things.
OK, that doesn’t make sense, does it? What I mean is that we tend to view the world as made up of objects, or entities. We do that by focusing our attention on parts of what we see, separating out the bits we want to collect together and name. This is one of our major ways of both making sense of, and managing, our world. A great model to help us to take a different view is that of a network or web. One of the most interesting books I’ve read in recent months is “Linked“, by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi.
Networks are made up of nodes and links. You can see anything you like that way. Let’s start with an object, like the chair you are probably sitting on right now. It’s made up of a number of materials which have been attached to each other……wood, or metal, or plastic, and maybe cloth, or leather or some other material. Take any one of these elements in your chair, say, one of the legs. It’s most likely made of wood, or metal (but maybe it’s plastic). Whatever substance it is, you’ll have the impression it’s pretty solid. Solid enough to stop you falling on the floor at least! But it’s made up of molecules which are connected to each other. And every single molecule is made from atoms which are connected to each other. And that was as far as we used to go. But since we smashed the atom open, we’ve discovered that even that is made from sub-atomic particles, like protons and electrons which are linked to each other. Does it stop there? Nope, even those tiniest of little particles are now known to be made of even smaller elements (quarks for example), all restlessly connected to each other. It seems no matter how far in we go, solid substance escapes us, and we find more and more networks of particles and links. Every particle being another network of particles and links.
Maybe it’s just my mind, but that’s where my thoughts went when I looked at this –
Then, a little further along the same embankment, I came across this –
Some of the seeds have already blown away and I thought about how each of these plants can’t be understood all by itself. They are all connected to other elements around them, and the wind comes and blows some of the seeds great distances, and the seeds fall on the ground, and if there is enough good soil, and water, and warmth, and sunlight, each seed bursts out through its capsule and becomes another of these plants. Vast, great, intricate ecosystems and biological networks.
But here’s another whole scale of connections too. Along comes me with my camera and I take this shot and I connect my camera up to my mac, and I upload it to flickr and copy the code into my wordpress blog and write these words and along comes YOU and you see it and now that seed has connected us to each other.
You know what? It blows my mind!
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