by Nala Walla



When tribal societies gather to create art together, they honor patterns fundamental to human health and experience. Recent developments in physics and wholistic sciences are teaching us that these patterns are not only important to human beings, but are in fact fundamental to the nature of Life itself.

Physicist and whole-systems theorist Fritjof Capra, examines the relationship between science and our social systems in his book The Hidden Connections: Integrating The Biological, Cognitive and Social Dimensions of Life Into a Science of Sustainability (Doubleday Press, 2002).

In Chapter 1, The Nature of Life, Capra explores the defining characteristics of life itself. He explains that “all cellular structures need to feed on continual flows of matter and energy from their environment to stay alive” (Capra, p. 13). Miraculously, Despite this unceasing whirlwind of change in which structures are restored as fast as they are decaying, the form of a cell or organism miraculously remains constant.

It is through a constant feedback and adaptation process that an organism is able to achieve this stability within a constantly changing environment. Capra’s findings demonstrate that even physics has now recognized there is an inextricable intertwining of creativity and evolution:

…When the flow of energy increases, the system may encounter a point of instability, known as a “bifurcation point,” at which it can branch off into an entirely new state where new structures and new forms of order may emerge…This spontaneous emergence of order at critical points of instability is one of the most important concepts of the new understanding of life. It is…often referred to simply as “emergence.” It has been recognized as the dynamic origin of development, learning and evolution. In other words, creativity---the generation of new forms---is a key property of all living systems. And since emergence is an integral part of the dynamics of open systems, we reach the important conclusion that open systems develop and evolve. Life constantly reaches out into novelty (Capra, p. 13-14).

If creativity is one of the essential characteristics of life, and modern, techno-industrial society consistently relegates creative arts—the bodybased arts in particular—to the very bottom of the priority list, it is any wonder this society consistently engages in destructive behavior? When we contemplate the findings of modern physicists such as Capra, we can see that a deprioritization of the arts is a deprioritization of life. In denying the essential importance of the arts, we deny the most basic processes of life itself. Pursuit of the arts quite literally is a desire to evolve and change, a desire to live.

We must make room for the arts if we are to be taken seriously about our stated intention to live sustainably on this Earth. If we claim that our New Society is life-affirming and enhancing, we need to ask ourselves, “How are the arts being affirmed, honored and encouraged?”

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