Sulfur Cinquefoil, leaf margin rhythms & texture. . . (Potentilla recta—a member of the Rose family)
Introduced from Europe to North America.
April Forest Beauty,
Shadebush . . .
Simple to Complex (Al Gore & the Sulfur Cinquefoil)
The image here is of a single leaflet of a spring Sulfur Cinquefoil, made very
close to the ground,very much enlarged and unfolding in late afternoon sunlight.
The leaf is a complex composite, composed of seven leaflets, with the three
largest pointing up at about 45% angles, and two pointing slightly below the
horizontal axis, and finally two much smaller leaflets pointing sharply down
from the center which joins the stem of the leaf. A rough sketch might look
So we have a wonderfully proportioned 3 + 2 + 2 rhythm of the leaf as a whole.
Notice also the sawtooth rhythm of leaflet margins. Striking, is that they
are so sharply articulated and that they all fit into the same hierarchical level,
like percussive 16th notes played not in groups of 2, 3 or 4, but all equally loud
and equally accented.
The leaf as a whole is what botanists call a complex leaf, that is, built up out
of simpler parts—the leaflets.
This back and forth of part and whole in complex structures is a vital and all-
pervasive feature of natural designs. We all know this intuitively. And we all,
I feel, to some degree admire and seek to emulate it. But what is not obvious,
however, is why our own designs, that is, the artifacts of our own thought
processes, so frequently fail to achieve this rich, organic complex harmony
of part and whole. What we get instead is what I think of as complicatedness,
or things, structures, procedures or thoughts that are unnecessarily convoluted
So we have introduced here a new difference or concept: the difference between
real complexity, which in my view is, like species diversity, always good; and mere
complicatedness or unnecessary difficulty, which is always bad.
Think of the legislation governments anywhere in the world pass to free politics from
the influence of money, for example.
Keeping money out of politics—which basically means one man, one woman,
one vote—by prohibiting monetary contributions of any kind, whether by trade
unions or corporations, farmers or meat packers or media conglomerates—in my
view would be an essential and necessary first step to any meaningful, fundamental
greening of a society's relationship to the land. But instead of clear laws, however,
which, like rules of the road say to all equally and without exception, "drive here"
and "stop there", we are given a barbed-wire tangle of obfuscation.
And yet, one has to admit: but of course this is what we get. Who would want to
change anything voluntarily when it is not in their own self-interest to do so?
So only the much larger eco-system of society + politicians can bring about
One of the more salient features of the tragedy of having public policy dictated by
money is that it means that politics is necessarily the worst place to look for leadership.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore is a case in point.
While in office, or running as a presidential candidate, he never really won my trust.
But as an independent spokesperson for the Climate Crisis, I feel he has profoundly
found his voice, and is now leading the discussion in new, exciting, and creative ways.
But unfortunately, with 'money still in office,' so to speak, if Al Gore were back in the
White House—this time as President, I fear that much of this fresh new leadership drive
and energy would vanish as quickly as clear mountain water in a dammed up reservoir
evaporates under the Arizona sun.
In my view, this is necessarily so. (Meaning that it cannot be otherwise.) This is important,
because necessity shows us clearly what must be done first, like first having to turn off
all the lights in Los Vegas before anyone would believe you about the existence of stars.
It is true that this says less about Mr. Gore than about how profoundly flawed by design
the governing system itself is. A sad tale, indeed. And yet, one so easily corrected, with a
single stroke of a legislative pen. Like I tell my music students: The simplest of all possible
tests is the test of doing without. Take away the money, all of it, and see what happens.
Freedom means not just freedom to, but equally freedom from. Not just freedom from
speeding cars driving down the wrong side of the road, but also freedom from the self-
destructive corruption which money, by its very nature, so easily buys.
As George Washington (first U.S. President 1732-1799) warned, "Government is
not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a
fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."
Outside government, Mr. Gore is his own man. Once inside, however, it would be
extremely difficult for him not to once again be sequestered in what George Lakoff aptly
calls the conceptual frames of an opposition that is backed to the hilt with oil money,
pseudoreligious End Time ideology (more money), and what Eisenhower wanted
to call the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex which must have continuous
war in order to sustain itself. That's a tight frame, indeed.
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