Organics Arrogance

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Just opened some Nature’s Path Organic granola. Was greeted by this quote from the founder’s farmer father, “Always leave the Earth a better place than you found it.” Seems like a thing to live by, and many environmentally-conscious people do. But I’m here to say: fuck. that.

Why do you think we’re in the mess we’re in? Much of human history has been the story of our “improvements” to the world around us. “Man, this land doesn’t have enough almonds. It would be so much better if I could eat everything that grows within a square mile.” Now that section of land grows nothing but almonds. “Man, these almonds are thirsty, this land would be so much better if it had all the water.” And now a river has been diverted here and not where it was originally destined, leaving some thirsty critters in its dry wake.

This is what makes man man, his attempts to change his surroundings to suit his needs. The “better” world is better for man and man alone. Mosquitoes are nasty creatures, let’s eradicate them. Every bird mentioned by Shakespeare should be in America too, let’s introduce Starlings. We have a new medicine that may save a few human lives a year, let’s test it on Chimps.

Even our attempts at stewardship backfired. “Oh no! A wildfire! Put it out! Put it out! Put it…what? you’re telling me that all these years we’ve been putting out wildfires, we’ve been disrupting the natural order of these ecosystems which rely upon wildfires for renewal and adaptation? Oops…”

Even the very things that organics as an industry reacts against–pesticides, herbicides, GMOs–are themselves attempts to improve the food-producing capacity of our “natural” environments so that people around the world don’t starve. And guess how those scientists and farmers would defend their actions: “We’re making the world a better place.”

To which I again say: fuck that. Leave your improvements on the drawing board. You want a better world? Let nature reclaim it from our goddamned arrogance.

Culture, Part III or: Who Tends the Untendable?

To recap: I am not merely a single organism. Instead, I am composed of trillions of single-celled organisms in intricate partnership. But I am greater than the sum of my parts—these single-cells have an emergent culture that is the “self.” And this culture of the self is similarly-fashioned to societal cultures.

Now to the exciting conclusion!

Despite all I’ve written, no doubt we are all still biased to look upon ourselves as single organisms. A human being. And science would agree. Seems the culture of our single-cells is enough to qualify as an organism in its own right.

So why not other, higher-order cultures? The one’s built from multi-cellular organisms (us)? Let’s run through the seven characteristics of life once again (using business cultures once more as an example):

  • Responsiveness to the environment: ✓ New technologies available? Increased consumer emphasis on sustainability? Of course the business culture adapts.
  • Growth and change: ✓ Does this even need defending? Of course business cultures grow and change over time.
  • Ability to reproduce: ✓ Ever heard of sub-brands? Or new regional or international branches? How about companies splitting off from a parent company and making a go of it on their own? That is a culture reproducing.
  • Passing traits onto offspring: ✓ That new corporate branch or company that split off? Of course it carries the legacy of its parent culture with it.
  • Homeostasis: ✓ Businesses strive, and have processes in place, to keep internal workings running smoothly and to restore order following disturbances.
  • Breath and metabolism: ✓ Requires a change in definition, but arguable. What makes a business culture continue to function? An influx of resources—raw production materials, energy, labor, dollars—which are converted into an outflux of finished products/services and waste which are in turn used to keep the influx of resources and internal processes humming. That is breath and metabolism to my eyes.
  • Made of cells: ✓ Cells are involved, us multi-cellular beings, so you could make the argument the culture is made of cells. Also, have you ever seen a cubicle? Looks like a cell to me.

My god, it seems all the cultures that permeate human society are themselves organisms. Not a new idea this. Still, very cool.

But there is one final piece to this puzzle, which starts with the etymology of “culture,” from the Latin cultura—to grow, to tend, to cultivate. As in: farmers “culture” their fields. (If this seems unfamiliar it’s because we’ve noun-ed the word in common parlance, we now tend bacteria cultures instead of culturing bacteria.)

What does this have to do with the definitions of culture we’ve been throwing around? As mentioned before, cultures are used as a perceptual and behavioral framework. In a way, the cultures of our lives “tend” to us, providing pattern and structure so we don’t flounder in the harsh and unguided world we live in. The same goes for the self, it tends the little cells that are its component parts, helping each and all survive and thrive. The general idea being: cultures grow, are alive and expansive, but have some manner of “higher power,” some higher culture, managing that growth.

So how high does the ladder go? I’m just going to say it outright: the biosphere, the collective culture of every living being on planet Earth. And what exactly does that culture like?


But not the God, omnipotent creator of myth. Just as you don’t create your cells, and cultures don’t create groups of people, this god did not create life. It arose from life. But we don’t need to throw out all of the old religious conception. And just we can perceive the culture of ourselves and our societies, we can perceive the culture of the biosphere. God is merely some more-difficult-to-conceive mega-organism. And god does pattern the lives of its constituent parts, as much determining your life and fate as the God of myth. Sometimes he is the cruel God that determines who lives and who dies. And other times, he is the omnibenevolent God of Love. For real.

Spring is upon us. Go for a walk. Smell the sweet and colorful blossoms of life. Feel the soft breath of wind brushing over you. Gaze up at the blue-vaulted sky. Experience the world around you, feel its breadth. I assure you, what you will feel swelling within your heart is love. And that love is the culture of our world.

Blue Marble

Culture, Part II or: It’s Your Birthday? Celebrate Your Culture, Man.

One lingering question from my last post: if we truly are composed of trillions of single-celled Homo sapiens sapiens, how is a single emergent mind, consciousness, and identity possible?

Don’t expect me to answer how the mind or consciousness really works: many scientists have devoted their lives to those questions and still have s*** to show for answers. But I am going to attempt a tangential answer.

Hint: there’s a reason I titled this three-part series “Culture.”

No doubt your mind has now leaped to whatever conception of culture is rattling around, ambiguously undefined, in your head—e.g. “good ole’ American culture” or “I am soo utterly cultured.” Defining ‘culture’ is a whole blog article in itself, and a boring one at that, so let’s trust your definitions for now.

I lied, we need some sort of definition for my purposes. Succinctly, culture is the collective whole of all a group experiences or creates, the whole of which is used as a perceptual and behavioral framework for both their lives and their children’s lives (to whom they pass on the culture.)

Business cultures are an excellent example in that they are often intentional. This is our mission, these our values, our products and services, our brand, our tone and voice, our promotional history, our place in the market, and on and on. The whole of that culture is carried to a degree by each individual employee and frames the way they perceive changes in their environment as well as how they react to those changes. And when a new employee joins the force, it’s time for everyone’s favorite activity: onboarding! But seriously, onboarding is absolutely essential for a business to be successful.

But the thing to remember is that culture is an emergent property of the business environment, which means, philosophically, that the culture is irreducible to its lower component parts. Simply, the entirety of a business culture cannot exist in any single employee, nor can it be fully captured or articulated in any written form. No, a business culture is only complete when you consider the collective contribution of each employee. And though there may be much of what began as intentional features, cultures exist beyond our control (e.g. why it is so difficult to change a bad culture.) Culture is a mutable entity, neither tangible nor eternal, hovering in our minds and, seemingly, in the air around us.

Now take all that I’ve just said about culture, and apply it to the cells of your body. The emergent culture—your collective experiences and creations used as a perceptual and behavioral framework, which may be passed on, through nature and nurture, to the next generation—would sound like the answer to, “Tell me about yourself. What makes you you?” Is the very foundation of every “I am […]” Is, well, the essence of life itself; what defines us and guides us in all that we do.

Now, culture exists only in part in each individual cell. And yet each cell is necessary. Taken together, they add up to something much much more, something truly beautiful and magnificent. And though your little cells have some control over the culture of you that emerges, that control is minimal.

Which is a hopeless note on which to end this blog post. So stay tuned for the exciting conclusion! “Culture, Part III or: Who Tends the Untendable?”!!!

Culture, Part I or: Why You Have Never Been, Nor Ever Will Be, Alone

We are Homo sapiens sapiens. And no, I’m not talking about you and me. I’m talking about me, me and the other 37.2 trillion me’s that make up me. That is, my individual cells.

Imagine a single-celled bacterium. Now imagine a single cell of your body. Compare them. Are they much different? Both are matter in an organized, cellular form; both respond and adapt to their environment; both grow and asexually reproduce; and both use energy to survive—seven of the seven criteria of life. In fact, most evolutionary theories of multicellularity argue m.c. began with the aggregation of multiple single-celled organisms into a larger entity termed a grex (which is an absolutely delightful term.) Hell, some organisms even hover on the border between uni- and multicellularity, which is, well, it doesn’t support my point, it’s just weird and I thought you’d be interested. What I’m hinting at is: every single cell of our body is technically a life-form of its own.

“Yeah, but…”

Yeah but what? Individual human cells can and do exist apart (see: Henrietta Lacks’ immortal cell line.) We are biased to see ourselves as a single entity, a single consciousness (partly due to the Gestalt principle of emergence,) but we are in fact trillions of single-celled organisms working in concert to create a huge multi-cellular automaton. And no, those cells are not identical—irradiation, age, decay of genetic material, specialization, location, and more result in enough differentiation between cells that we do have to consider the cells as individuals. Certainly they’re as varied as a few generations of asexually-reproducing bacteria. Perceiving them as such even explains those times your body exists in fundamental disagreement:


Bladder: “We need to pee!”

Eyes: “Ughh, no.”

Limbs: “Second that.”

Brain: “Well, I’m awake now. Do de do de do. Let’s worry about things!”

Eyes: “Go back to bed, brain.”

Bladder: “Don’t listen to those idiots, brain! Concentrate on how ready-to-burst I am. Think of flowing water. Think of pisstastic relief.”

Brain: “Waterfalls, rivers, rain, puddles, this is fun!”

Limbs: “Fine! If it’ll make you shut up.”

Eyes: “Well I’m not opening, go ahead and stub your toe.”

Toes: “Hey…”

Our body is a bustling city of tiny Homo sapiens sapiens, each working its little specialized biological profession, striving to keep the city humming. And industrious little beings that we are, we have built one marvelous city capable of utterly remarkable feats of brains and brawn.

Actually, more accurately, we are an ocean in miniature. For though we see ourselves as land animals—and we do live on land—in a way, we merely took the salty ocean with us when we clawed our way onto the shore (see: the human body is 65% water.) We are a waterskin filled with the microbial soup of “us.” And, as with any ocean, these soup-sacks are chockablack with other tiny organisms. One study indicates that, within our own body, our cells are outnumbered 10 to 1 by the cells of other organisms (mostly single-celled, but “heyyy there Demodex mites.”) And those little critters, especially the ones in your gut, have an enormous impact on your life.

So yeah… I find this delightful, and you should too. Because it means you have never been and will never be alone. The true ‘you’ is the plural form of ‘you.’ So use the royal we. It’s more accurate, and you don’t want to alienate your old friends.

As for how to make sense of the self with this new-found plurality in mind, check out the follow-up, “Culture Part II or: It’s Your Birthday? Celebrate Your Culture, Man.”

How to Prepare a Terrible Pitch (And Be a Horrible Human Being): Part 1 of 2

Was doing research on how to pitch a new idea (for work, not how I spend my free time.) Stumbled upon this wikiHow: “How to Deliver a Good Sales Pitch.” Guess you could say the images caught my fancy. So here is my take on its antithesis (p.s. this is a fun way to exercise your creativity, especially with regards to imagining characters.) Enjoy.


Pretend to be researching for the pitch. Have someone else do the real work. Lie your way out of some meetings. Forget the rest.

Listen to your coworkers’ ideas. And steal all the credit. (2)Ignore your coworkers’ stories. Tell plenty of your own.Brag about how big an asshole you are.Live your assholery. Abuse your coworkers.Abuse strangers.Where abuse fails, threaten.Take lots of bathroom breaks.Despite your behavior, brag about how much more money you make.And, god forbid youMomentary regret happens to us all.