Friday, April 11, 2008


Last week, in the expanse of a desert, we were reminded of the beauty of Matter. This week, thanks to another reader, we can contemplate the beauty of living things. Dick Bayerl has had a long fascination with lilies and sent us these photos.

It's easy to get lost in the simple elegance of Lilium canadense, a wild variety found in eastern Canada. Design unfolds, but so does spontaneity. Is the combination a metaphor for all creation, for the cosmos itself?

According to the fossil record, flowers appeared out of nowhere about 125 million years ago. Chemical evidence in the record hints at an earlier date: 250 million years.

Flowers appeared as a way of attracting i
nsects that would spread a plant's genes. It was a feat of co-evolution. This is Lilium henryi from China, and it "remembers" how to attract, over and over again.

Long after flowers emerged, humans came on the scene. They created hybrids--a feat of conscious design. This one is derived from Lilium henryi above. Now beauty exists not for the sake of genes, but for its own sake.

Be silent now an
d drink the beauty in. This flower lasts but a day.

How did the cosmos get around to growing lilies? Natural selection explains why these flowers look the way they do. It explains why I have the eyes to see them. But things are going on here that natural selection cannot reach.

Beauty is going on. The idea of it. The experience of it. The spirit of it. Not the kind of Idea that Plato had in mind, but close to it. In the New Story, beauty is an emergent. It depends on what came before--on genes and eyes and natural selection. But it cannot be reduced to them. When beauty becomes an Idea, something new starts to happen, something more, something "higher." Something causal. A reality is born.

Moments ago, in cosmic time, beauty emerged and began to circle an ordinary star in a remote region of the universe. Producing flowers was strange, but producing an idea was the oddest thing a universe could do. You just had one.




1 comment:

Mark A. Thomas said...

But design, beauty is just far away enough from creation that it is still an attribute of it. It is just far away enough from the primal fire that yes it is an emergence, an engineering has taken place. I look at gardens of flowers, someone has designed the garden and has used the beauty of flowering plants in a quantity where the garden has been created (or emerged). You could say someone's creativity is involved. Again, I look at gardens of flowers and lots of them seem to beckon to ancient times; where today's garden is not much different than that of an ancient Roman garden. The garden concept is transplantable through time and would not be out of place anywhere. Gardens state that creation is nearby and you would be right to say that the gardens are not the exact point of the creation. Gardens like the single flower are emergent and they are direct mythologies of creation. So we look at beauty, design as an attractor but maybe we lost the answer when it is right in front of us all along. The honeybee is attracted to the flower (for the comfort of food and well being of the hive). Is the honeybee not close to creation but held to design? Is not every point of space endowed with the beginning of creation. The emergence covers the points of space in a friendlier environment and veils the creation very well. The attractor for consciousness and action is design and not sensory depriving chaos.