Energy

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I was completing an assignment yesterday on metabolism, as one does

If there was one thing I took from that assignment (ok, ok, it was quite interesting, so maybe not just one thing!) was that life requires energy. In the absence of energy there is no life. Maybe life is energy… I don’t know, not going there at the moment.

But we need it and each drop of it is parsimoniously eked out to make it last and drive as much activity as possible. The body even uses the waste product (heat) to maintain energy production and storage. The body is also more efficient at utilizing energy than anything we’ve been able to come up with.

So far so obvious. Now we come to the nitty-gritty: how in the world do we mobilize all this energy to serve our purposes? Oh wait, do we have a purpose? Quick, get back to the drawing board and get thee one

But other than being cheeky, it’s not just the purpose that we need energy for – I use enormous amounts of energy for waiting!. The body uses most of the energy just to stay alive (you know, allowing our big brains to control breathing, heart pumping, digestion); in contrast, we use most of our energy for the little things in life, for the non-essentials. Or rather, we have set up our world so that we need to perform lots of non-essential activities in order to maintain said world. Let’s see, we need to use a lot of energy (dig some ore to make into components of a car and the roads, work at a particular job) that will allow us to drive to the supermarket to buy something like food which we then need to store, prepare and cook in order to eat. The last bit is the only one truly essential. The rest is inefficient at the best of times. We have less leisure than the animals we don’t want to compare ourselves with. We ruin our health by specializing more and more when I believe we were meant to be generalists. We also think this is normal and pity the ones who don’t have the “conveniences” we do.

And yet we dream of the simple life. Which wasn’t that simple, as it was brought home to me by reading to the little one about prehistoric life.

Because I am not really complaining as such… my rant is more around the wastage of energy. So maybe what I am looking for is a simpler life. Yeah, I want to have my cake and eat it, too! I want to spend less time (oh, the links between energy and time need another blog article for sure!) for the basic needs ; that means having shelter, water and food close to home, being knowledgeable about health care, paying taxes for the systems I use. Basically I want to arrange my life so that I have most of the conveniences but not so much of the consumption.

So that I can concentrate more on being human…

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Play

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It is commonly known that play is a child’s work. That one should allow for unstructured play. That play is complete in and of itself, without requiring a result, although it may have one anyway.

It is also commonly accepted that in growing up you will “put aside childish things” and acquire the focused, result driven, consequence-tempered approach of the adult. What I have observed is that in our “civilized” world, where we work more than monkeys but are less content than them , where every second of life is held to ransom but we have to wear headphones for music to blast away the boredom of our task, play is making a resurrection in the adult world. The five minutes of wind-gazing while you’re supposed to be working is play. The sexting without expecting an answer is play as well.

Un-needed experiments are also play. Those are my favourites. They are un-needed as I can easily find the results. They are also safe because my survival does not depend on the result. I can then fail. What a novel idea! 🙂 Not that I start with the idea of failing, I am too competitive for that. I start with the idea that I will win. At least I will learn something. If I fail, I can throw away the failure. This is waste and I do not condone it, I just acknowledge my luck that I have enough so I can fail without major consequence.

This seems very strange to other people. I don’t think they always understand why I should even experiment. I also don’t think they understand why I am not very upset when I do fail. In other words, why I play and not take things (life?) seriously enough. They like it only if I get a result that they like as well.

There is gratitude in me that I should have enough raw material so that I may be free to experiment. Like milk, raw, fresh, safe and yummy. Sometimes I get to the end of the week and I have not touched the bucket. Tomorrow I will get another bucket. Hm… seems a waste to pour it as fertilizer for the plants. Right, I guess we could make cheese. I can buy cheese from the supermarket. Yes, that’s true, but why not make it yourself? Ok, let’s make cheese. What sort of cheese? Most of the time I am smart and try an easy/fail-proof recipe. But nice as the result is, the learning is small. So next time I will try something more complicated. Success again, the feeling is better! The next time I will try something even more complicated… drat, I failed! Where did I fail? I followed the recipe religiously! Hm… I guess it was step 2 out of 3 possible. I put the drained cheese to heat up in hot milk. I think I need to put them to heat up together, then the whey might have a chance to actually separate… and then I can make ricotta out of that… brilliant, next time I will succeed!

The result was a bit of rubbery substance, some funny-looking milk, an empty bucket and a heck of a lot of dishes and cloths to wash. Given that I am not a child, I have thrown away the rubbery would-be cheese, I poured the milk as fertilizer and washed and cleared away the evidence myself. Some wasted resources were acknowledged and a lot of learning was integrated. I was happy and did not understand why I was not encouraged to try again. How else would I learn? What do you mean, what is the purpose of that learning? As my beloved Heinlein would say, “specialization is for insects”.

No, I did not need that cheese. Yes, I could have bought it from the supermarket.

I just wanted to play. I could. No one got hurt, abandoned or suffered because I played. So I did.