*****************************Gene or Expression?
Life is not a non-sequitor. Life is not something planted here. Life is not an intruder. It's indigenous, ingrained, innate, the inner psyche reverberating through all the Earth's living parts. If every creature on the face of the Earth--flora and fauna--were to suddenly and mysteriously vanish, the Earth would regenerate itself. It embodies life as a fundamental principle and characteristic of its restless and creative nature. The entire solar system operates as one grand nursery. The sun; the outer planets, protecting the Earth from falling debris; our place in the galaxy, everything works to bring about life growing through the Earth. And we are not separate from it even if we wanted to be. Our principle identity is that of something grown by the Earth, an earthling. We are not, therefore, a special creation. Humanity operates under the presumption that to plunder the Earth and devastate its other creatures, without knowing much about their roles, won't come back to bite us. There is no evidence to warrant that belief. We are disconnected from the Earth. We don't know our place, we don't know what we're supposed to be doing.
But one thing is for certain, the Earth presses towards symmetry, balance, and when things have gotten too far out of hand in the past, it's taken all the clay, rolled it up into a big ball, and started all over again; altering its expression, stripping away the old, setting the stage for a whole new order; same story, new characters; same symphony, different orchestra. The Earth has its own agenda. Asymmetry is the natural proclivity of evolution and the consequence of Earth's motility and dynamism. But symmetry is the aspiration, the energy siphoned from surroundings, channeled and organized, the counterpoint to entropy and asymmetry. Symmetries of wholes--ecosystems, hierarchies, natural orders--are continually being worked towards. And while such is sustained, we have the semblance of stability, equlibrium.
But Life exists on the edge of chaos, far from equilibrium. It resides in that irresistible asymmetric pulse; the balance achieved is in the realm of wholes. The asymmetric pulse breaks the symmetry, forging a new direction for the whole, a revised adaption to environmental pressures. Evolution, both of living things and the Earth-Solar system, is unstoppable and relentless; change inevitably occurs, a threshold crossed. Individual asymmetries within a system co-evolve. If this web of niches is healthy, the whole transforms in a mutually beneficial way, integrated functionality moving forward along interdependent trajectories in time and space.
Drastic change might come in the form of a one-time event, like an asteroid or volcanic eruption, that's equally devastating or a sudden shift as the result of a gradual build-up over eons, affecting tiny alterations here and there in a subtle, nonlinear, interdependent way. And between ecosystems, a tectonic arrangement demarks the disorder at the fault lines, the boundaries. But when ill health, decay, or overwhelming circumstances prevail, a system, regardless of scale, destabilizes, disintegrates, and implodes or locks-up and stagnates, resulting in terminal breakdown for each individual composing it. This finality is an extinction event.
It's how the Earth carries on, given the principles of nature for which it stands, and it does it well. The Earth is both source and conduit of life-force. And despite humanity's stubborn arrogance, it functions independently of our wishes and desires.
The Earth grew us, that's where our primary allegiance lies. We are obligated by ties that run deep. Caring about the Earth is what we're supposed to be doing; elsewise, it might stop caring about us. It might see us as a dangerous infestation that needs to be eradicated, for the good of the whole, or it might simply roll up the ball of clay and start all over again. That act of cleaning the slate may already be in the works, deceptively slow and randomly piecemeal, but we're too busy killing one another and trashing the planet to notice.
I was going to say the Earth corrects towards balance, but that's engineering terminology. It infers or connotes something mechanical going on. But the Earth doesn't react mechanically; its being lies in the act of continuous action. Hence, the energy--the mysterious life-force--needed as input, to be applied towards physical manifestation, as a sculptor would, from the tiniest molecules on up, to produce and maintain the vast complex of earthly biodiversity, the variety of dissipative systems we call living organisms.
A feedback loop inextricably links the biosphere with the rest of the Earth-Solar complex, negative feedback in counterpoint with positive amplification. Cyanobacteria generated enough oxygen to bed raw iron and thereafter allow for the emergence of animals. Were animal designs in the playbook from the very beginning? Preordained? Just because there was a higher percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere 600 million years ago, did that, combined with other conditions, mandate the rise of animals? Evolution is not blindly charging forward willy-nilly in all directions at once, hoping something will stick. Were beings capable of self-awareness purposefully grown by the Earth so it may know itself? Is that life's drive and direction? Conditions and circumstances set the stage, amplification homes in on its expression, a resonance in the bio-void traces a schematic, draws manifestation from available units, builds a hierarchy of regulation--a chord is struck whose origin predates its supporting circumstances.
What came first, the gene or its expression?