Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Orchid and the Wasp

Old Darwin awoke a new world. His book, Origin of Species, is a thing of beauty -- he paid attention to finches and tortoises, all manner of life; he endeavoured to listen, to hear that “roar on the other side of silence” which George Eliot talked of. And a roar it was, an earth shattering roar, toppling many an artifice. He attended to creation, not authorities, and, in turn, he created, he formed thoughts which themselves evolved into an idea which transformed the world.

And yet there were some things he left out of his listening and his creating. But maybe these things were left out because things are always left out, they must be left out. These overlooked things awaited other ears, other creators.

Watch the dandelion in its momentary joining with the butterfly. The dandelion and the butterfly both evolved for just such a moment. Flowering plants and flying insects evolved together. Neither is able to survive without the other, and neither existed prior to the other. They evolved not just cooperatively, but they evolved to require each other, to desire each other in a way that is akin to the sexual. In fact, for the flower, this moment is a sexual act, for it is through the butterfly that the plant is able to be pollinated. The touch of sex for the plant is the connection with the body of the insect. And it is this act, this moment, which insures a continuation of genetic flows through generations.

Darwin seemed to overlook this evolution through attractions. For Darwin it was mostly about competition, survival of the fittest, tooth and fang. However, Gregory Bateson understood this process. He saw many levels of communication not only between like-organisms, but between species. He discussed the relation between the horse’s hooves and the development of the prairie sod – neither can exist without the other. And, Deleuze also saw such a movement through time, only he decried Darwin’s non-evocative “theory” in favour of a “becoming”, something akin to a love-affair, something imbued with poetics. He talked of the orchid and the wasp. He mentioned how every orchid contains within it the shape of a wasp, a form which is inclusive of the flying insect. And the same with the wasp -- the orchid’s form is a very real part of the wasp. Deleuze called these “becomings”, rather than evolution, suggesting a process that necessitates a mutuality, a communal dance of sorts, and it is this shared dance which invites change, movement, rather than simply a force, such as evolution.

The dance becomes complicated, utterly abundant... for, because of such becomings between flower and flying insect, orchid and wasp, most everything we as humans require for nutrition (with the exception of those things which come from the sea) is dependent upon this relation. The relation between insect and the flowering plant ensures that we are able to have grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, green vegetables, root vegetables, tubers. And not just us, but most terrestrial animals are dependent upon this relationship --even the meat we eat requires it, for animal protein forms as a result of consuming the products of such flowering plants.

Evolution is not simply a process of survival of the fittest, of competition. Much of life, terrestrial life, is dependent upon the becomings of something akin to a love-affair between insect and flower. This mutuality between insect and flower created a basis from which birds and mammals were able to enter into the flows of life.

And I ask, is our work with people any different? We certainly don’t become/change/evolve on our own. No, we create spaces within ourselves for the Other, for a multitude of Others. We create room within our lives and our words for the gifts which others bring, and they also do such for us. We repeatedly honour the gifts of the Other by allowing our own lives to be formed to the contours of such gifts. Is it not through such processes whereby we all shift and move? And, while we can certainly experience the movements of life amidst our day-to-day interactions, those most significant changes, do they not also, as in the evolution of flower and insect, occur through generations, many generations?

It appears to me that the becomings of life might often bear much similarity whether the relation is between insect and flower or between person and person, people and people. We always become together. Dare I say -- there is no other way to become.

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