To be inconsistent is to be organic

I am so inconsistent it is reliable. I can be self-
disciplined when I want to be, but not at all if it isn’t my idea. I guess that makes sense. If it isn’t my idea, it isn’t self-discipline. Still, sometimes I just can’t depend on myself. Isn’t that what wives are for?

However, with age, wisdom and greater skill in self-
justification, I have decided that I am not a flake. I’m just organic. Organic, contrary to popular opinion, doesn’t mean raised naturally or without chemicals. That’s just marketing talk. Everything is raised with chemicals.

The difference between organic and nonorganic is merely a matter of where the chemicals come from. Do you like your nitrogen from mines, petroleum or manure? If you prefer manure, you are organic. 

In science the word “organic” refers to things made of carbon. Carbon is a cool atom because it is relatively abundant and can bond to other atoms in multiple ways. This allows it to form long chains and complex shapes such as rings and spirals. I have fresh appreciation for organic when I realize that my good-looking wife is mostly just carbon and water tension.

Carbon may not sound very exciting. But it gives organic things, like me, a great deal of flexibility and strength which inorganic substances sometimes lack. Most organic, living things can seem contradictory or inconsistent at times. Except my wife, of course.

For example, trees can be strong and flexible. That’s why wood makes such a good medium for musical instruments. It can be strong enough to withstand high string tension yet pliant enough to vibrate with the strings. Sponges are soft but have rigid spicules within. That’s why natural sponges are good for cleaning surfaces. The tiny, hard spicules imbedded in the tissue make good abrasives. 

Man-made objects have very different characteristics. I think this is because humans tend to focus, when they aren’t being inconsistent, on a specific characteristic required for a task. Because humans are inconsistent, we go to great pains to consistently concentrate, design and build things for specific and narrow purposes. 

We make one kind of steel that is strong and inflexible, and another kind that is flexible but not as strong. We do the same thing when we design homes or communities. We design neat places in which to work, but design other places to live in that are usually far away from our work. We have living rooms that are seldom lived in because we live in the family room. The living room isn’t for the family. 

Humans have an extended learning period in order to function in the world. So we place them in unnatural worlds far from their homes, for most of every day, to learn. Humans have stores to buy food, but we put our farms often thousands of miles away. 

Humans create drainage districts to promote water runoff. Then they spend money on equipment and management practices to improve water-holding capacity of the soil. Interestingly, good top soil promotes both drainage and water-holding capacity. I suspect the average American rarely thinks about top soil. 

I have discovered the value of inconsistency. It encourages one to discover that things can be done other ways.

Does our world really have to be the way it is? Could people live in small communities scattered across the land where they could live close by and educate their own children? Does food have to be shipped, on average, 1,500 miles to be consumed? Could I be both rich and good-looking? Wouldn’t you know, the thing I am consistently good at is neither.

Sometimes, when I am particularly organic, I discover I like the new ways better and try to become consistent in those new ways. It never works. I just move from one inconstancy to another. You’d think that, with 6,000 years of recorded history, humans would have learned the value of organic. 

Gary McCallister, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), is a professor of biology at Colorado Mesa University.


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