Friday, August 12, 2011


I've written several posts on Permaculture. (Permaculture, 7/22/08, and Permaculture Principles, 12/24/09, and one entitled Attitude, 8/31/10.) The word Permaculture is a combination of the words Permanent and Agriculture, or sometimes Permanent and Culture. I think the intent of the word 'permanent' is to imply sustainable.

But the definition I found online for permanent (from Merriam-Webster) was: "continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change". The trick is that nothing continues without at least some marked change.

I've blogged also on impermanence. (See Impermanence, 7/9/10, and Death, Decay, and Impermanence, 11/1/10.) While this is a basic Buddhist concept, the truth of it quickly becomes apparent to anyone who pays attention. Everything changes, everything is in flux, very little endures without changing.

Everything is also connected, also in relationship to everything else, and also changing everything else. It's all a grand and glorious dance.

To me this all relates to systems thinking. I think of Permaculture as just another way of looking at systems theory--in the same way I think of complexity science, ecology, ecofeminism, etc, as other ways of looking at systems theory. (See my post on Systems, 12/14/09, for more on this.)

The problem with talking about systems is that systems is a noun (a plural noun) and nouns seem static, fixed. Nouns are usually "used to name a person, animal, place, thing," or an "abstract idea." (From an online definition provided by the University of Ottawa.) To me a noun is a snapshot of something--an instant picture that doesn't change in our minds.

I have a snapshot in my room of myself carrying a four year old girl on my shoulders. It's a cute picture--the problem is that neither of us look like that anymore. She's now a twenty-one year old woman and my hair has fallen out since and my beard is now snow white. Everything changes. Everything changes and systems are always changing, always in flux. As I said, it's a dance.

Buckminister Fuller said, "I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process..." As far as I'm concerned, systems are definitely verbs, changing, evolving, processing, unfolding, systeming. Everything is connected, everything is in relationship, everything is moving, everything is unfolding, everything is changing, and nothing is permanent. The trick is to relax and enjoy the ride.

Quote of the Day: "The process nature of reality became clear--its continual flow, the radical impermanence of all things, with no element or entity aloof from change. ... All the factors of our lives subsist, therefore, in a web of mutual causality. ...things do not produce each other or make each other happen, as in a linear causality; they help each other by providing occasion or locus or context, and in doing so, they in turn are affected. There is a mutuality here, a reciprocal dynamic. Power inheres not in any entity, but in the relationship between entities." - Joanna Macy

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