Friday, August 21, 2015

On green beans and models

The world, the one outside anyway, is incomprehensible. We nibble on models as we nibble on green beans, mindlessly consuming them as useful without grasping the wholeness they represent. In school we reward students for "mastering" the abstract without a thought to whether they grasp the real.

The students who cling to the earth learn their roles quickly. There is little place for dirt and dreams in the school to college to career pipeline. Middle school launders the few who still stare at puddles.

The same green beans we nibble on for dinner leave us like ghosts as we sleep, zing their way through our veins, our lungs, escaping as tiny particles, breath by breath, as we dream our limited human dreams. That's not a model. That's the reality.

The essence of animal life requires breaking things down back to the ghost of carbon dioxide, releasing tiny particles back outside where dandelions and such knit stuff back together, using the energy of sunlight to push particles together that would otherwise stay as they are.

I watched a spider on its web this morning, as she wrapped up her prey in a fresh silken shroud, then dragged it back into the corner of the eave. She will eat most of it, and she will breathe much of it out, tiny particles that mingle with the tiny particles I breathed as I watch her, some of which will end up in the beans, again.

You can get a degree in biology without ever having slaughtered an animal, without ever having grown a flower, without ever even caring to ponder your place in this living world.

You don't need to ponder any of that to be useful in most fields that require a biology degree--degrees today are used as certificates of successful completion of the abstract, so that more abstract can be done, usually in the service of abstracting money.

I teach biology in high school. I also helped start our school garden, which has fed me a couple of times already this summer. In a couple of weeks, I'll munch on a green bean or two as our students tour our garden, and get, once again, "you can eat something that comes from the ground?"

And I'll smile and say of course not, I eat things that mostly come out of thin air....

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