Patterns of LifeA SELECTION FROM THIS CHAPTER.
Living SystemsGiven its dynamics, mixing is essential for life. There must be a constant mingling and bringing together to ensure the necessary exchanges and sustenance of the open exchanging systems of life. The essential mixing fluids of life are air (as a fast flowing fluid above the ground) and water (as a slower fluid flowing on and in the ground). These fluids bring the necessary nutrients and minerals to the primary producers of life, the plants and their associated microbial life in the soil.
The engine of Life runs to a pulsating rhythm, which depends on light and heat, the movement of atmospheric gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide, and the water borne flows of nutrients and minerals. Through plant photosynthesis, the interaction of plants and microbes and the attachment and release properties of clays, life sustains itself through inter-dependent exchanges. There are pulses of day-night respiration and sap movement, of aerobic and anaerobic activities in the soil, of organic and inorganic forms of elements, of soil/microbe/plant exchanges. The metabolisms of life have a complex rhythm, but to a repeated template, as life mimics itself at all levels and in every development.
One example of this repeating pattern is the ubiquity of the ‘golden mean’ proportion in nature. This proportion arises from the only division where the larger and the smaller parts are in the same ratio as the larger part to the whole. It is the basic growth ratio of nature and the ‘ideal proportion’ of aesthetics. It is not a simple fraction, though, but an indefinable irrational number 1.618.... A proportion of dynamic balance – of unbalanced balance! It is the ideal proportion of oscillating flows where spirals reverse, as when water flows around the bends of a waterway, and the spirals of flow oscillate from side to side, with a clockwise spiral predominating around a left-hand bend and an anti-clockwise spiral around a right-hand bend.
The golden mean ratio is generated more and more closely by the ratios of pairs of numbers in the Fibonnaci series, where the next member of the series is the sum of the two previous members – 0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 etc. The small number proportions (of 3/5, 5/8, 8/13) then approximate the golden mean, and sets in nature, of seeds or petals in a flower head, leaves around a stem etc, are arranged or packed in interwoven spirals of these number ratios. That is, with spirals one way (steeper) and the other way (flatter) in these proportions, of 5 one way and 8 the other, or 8 one way and 13 the other, etc.
These spirals are hyperbolic spirals, generated by the repeated application of the golden mean proportion, and they appear everywhere in nature from galaxies, to whirlpools to election energy fields, from the arrangement of our muscles and the shape of our bones to the horns of animals and the shells of sea creatures. It is the spiral form of flowing fluids, and the dynamic of nature is displayed in the flow of fluids – as one is derived from and reflected in the other. The converging and diverging spirals of flows form cells, of currents, vortices and eddies, that give diffuse entities along with a pulsating interplay. Observing nature teaches us to think in spirals, and thinking in spirals assists our observations of nature.