I have been drafting this or that post that intersects with what I have been thinking about the evolution aesthetic, but I haven’t been terribly satisfied with them. They end up going in directions that are just too technical for the bigger picture I am working toward.
I started to think about what I could do to counter that, and this is that. I am going to rattle out what I think to be some of the bigger picture consequences of an evolutionary aesthetic, with the apocalyptic and extinction aesthetics in the background.
First a list, then a brief elaboration.
(1) The flexibility of both form and function.
(2) Adjustment over progress.
(3) The centrality of temporal conditions.
The flexibility of form and function is an enormous one. It is clear that we can talk about the reasons for which something happens, whether that is the development of iron tools or of the claws of the tiger.
At the same time, we can talk about the ways in which once something comes into being, it acquires a horizon of potential functions, functions that are discovered and which can serve to motivate further changes.
When we get locked into a ‘form follows function’ mindset, we can miss all of the messy and productive experimentation in which a new form makes possible new functions. We can miss how the rich, messy, materiality of the world provides opportunities for that.
Adjustment fits into that messiness. In the flexibility between form and function, it becomes possible to discover new niches of functionality. As selective pressures operate, we can talk about how an evolutionary change opens into an evolutionary development, a series of changes that bring the form into better alignment with this niche of functionality.
That doesn’t carry the moral baggage of progress, because what looks clumsy from one functional niche is well-tuned from another. The claws meant to rend flesh aren’t the claws meant to dig through the earth.
Adjustment also brings in the dimension of time more richly than progress. While we can talk about a specific functional niches, we can also appreciate that these niches aren’t stable. They undergo change and transformation.
Adjustment, unlike progress, is a moving target. What is functional in one situation may not be so in another. The ‘best’ strategies are often not the ones with the tightest synchronization of form and function, but the ones that are only partially synchronized to make adjustments easier.
Okay, all of that is a little on the technical side and still flirting around the edges of the esoteric and occult dimensions of experience, which is really what this blog is about. So, where does the spiritual component manifest in this?
Once dissolved into temporally plastic relationship with function, it becomes difficult to assert the eternity of form, of any form. That makes me suspicious of any model of the spiritual world that relies on liberating spirit from matter, that deprecates the material for the sake of the spiritual freedom, even if every form of spiritual practice must begin by driving a wedge between matter and spirit.
Whatever transpires in the spiritual work, it transpires through the interpenetration of matter and spirit, and I suspect that a significant part of that has to do with some inchoate vitality gaining embodiment in order to participate in the plastic forces in order to grasp itself more clearly. The movement follows spirit into the waters of embodiment, into the waters of life, into the waters of suffering. Over the course of spiritual work, the vital forces caught in the water rise up, glimpse the sun above, dive down again, and again.
Dive down into the bodies of planets, into the unseen atomic rippling of the void, into the unquickened heart of an unborn child.
Diving in and rising, until eventually this block of holy and sacred vitality breaks free entirely and ripples into the other time above which sits the holy of holies. This world of bodies, though, remains and changes, welcoming new forces and changing, even if there are not the same bodies to welcome them.
Don’t hate the place because you’re leaving it.