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‘Open Systems,’ chemical threat, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and sunshine

July 12, 2013

When I was a high school student in chemistry class, our teacher told us the difference between an open and a closed system. When we performed an experiment in a sealed container, it was a closed system. When it was exposed to the atmosphere, it was an open system. I knew instinctively and immediately that the scientific mindset had a serious problem, because what it was trying to say to us was that if our chemical experiment escaped into the atmosphere it was no longer to be considered as part of the experiment; the data no longer counts, the findings are lost… forget it and start again. But what about the chemicals, i wondered? Isn’t the earth itself a closed system? This was before i’d read Silent Spring and learnt about how exactly such things do matter. I recognised in my naive but accurate way that we are responsible for what we do, what things we mix together, what we spill and dismiss.

Likewise, then, what goes on in the ‘closed system’ remains problematic. Goodness knows what horrible experiments are being undertaken right now in the name of profit and the twin utopian dream of the dominant paradigm for immortal youth and eternal power. Once some of that stuff is released, we certainly do find out about the mechanics of an ‘open system,’ as the new chemicals infect all manner of life forms with their poisons, as well as bringing benefits. So often we deal in Frankenstinean forces, which are initially designed to ‘pour a torrent of light into this dark world’ (Shelley) but thereafter hold us in thrall to their power, evolving quickly from being a ‘slave’ designed to serve us into becoming a master of the situation, as we chase our tails to fix the many problems we have created.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice comes to mind, shattering each broomstick in an attempt to stop the demonic power only to see a new set of two appear out of the split. Ironic that this is exactly the kind of dark, watery feminine monster Hercules tortured into submission in the swamps of Lerna; the Hydra too sprang a new head out of each wound, until the ‘hero’ cheated with the aid of his companion in order to guillotine the central, immortal head and cauterise the wound so that nothing new could grow there. It should be remembered that the deathless power of the sacred feminine, feared as monstrous by the Olympian/Hellenic corporation, is held in place in its shallow grave by a mere rock. It takes a very powerful story to maintain this kind of murderous brutality as a norm; and we’ve got one, with patriarchal profiteering.

From another end of the spectrum, the earth as a closed system, which must deal with every new molecule and chemical and weapon we invent upon it and spread within its atmosphere, is also an open system when it comes to the forces of the galaxy. Solar energy enters the planetary atmosphere and fosters growth, enables our home to resist the entropy that sees all life eventually fade back into the cosmos out of which it arose. Light does create life, in combination with certain chemical processes and base line ingredients. All of which were provided by bursting stars, originally. Shine on.

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