Thinker : Being : What is the Hill Doing?
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Biking along a wooded trail this afternoon, I noticed that lots of branches had fallen down out of the trees. Must be due to all the storms here lately. The trees are mostly pine. Some of the fallen branches were already dead, but many have green pine needles still on them. Few are any larger than two inch diameter.

I looked at the small green branches and wondered What is the Hill Doing? I meant, how is the hill evolving through this abundance of branches on the hill? What effect does shedding these branches have on the hill? Will it prevent erosion, offer a foothold for new trees, bring new birds and animals, etc.

But the way I asked myself the question made me think further, "What do I mean by 'What is the hill doing?'"—sounds as if I meant to say that the hill had intention, plans and purpose. How silly; the hill itself isn't anything at all of itself, just an abstraction in my mind of a feature of the earth.

On the other hand, the hill does have an overall purpose when I account for everything in and on and above and below the hill. Each constituent of the hill has some characteristic actions and effects on its surroundings: the effect of the tree shedding branches makes more loam for fertile soil, birds spread seeds, worms eat the wood and make soil, etc. Taken together, the end result (always in process, never final) on the hill is the same as if the hill itself had the intention of the happenings. The intention doesn't reside anywhere, as if in a brain, but it does reside in the overall interactions of the constituents.


Every system is the same in this way: they each have "intentions" just as a hill does, a society does or a race does—as does any abstraction or mental unit.
First written Tue, Mar 3, 1998
Last published Wed, Jun 2, 1999