Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do plants sleep?

Ficus lyrata
pencil
11 Jan 2012
I made this picture of a fig tree yesterday at the Wellesley College Greenhouses. They're open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. almost every day of the year.

I'm reading an interesting book: "On The Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition and Fiction" by Brian Boyd, Belknap Press (Harvard) 2009. I've just started it so I'm only in the "evolution and cognition" part of the introductory chapters. But it has gotten me thinking of the requirements of life and different evolutionary strategies of different life forms.
Since plants adapt to the environment in a very different way than animals, is there any possibility of a "fiction of trees" or "poetry of roots and fronds?" What we think of as "creative play" is mostly our overpowered brains "desperately" seeking patterns in a chaotic flow of information that streams through our senses. If a tree hasn't needed to quickly adapt its moment-by-moment behavior to predators for example, it might not have all this pattern-seeking software in its neurons (okay, I don't think plants have neurons in the same way animals do) and hence it doesn't leapfrog whatever patterns it has adapted to and create meaning or predictions. It just IS. And that's pretty OK if you're a plant.

I like the idea that fiction and Art as behaviors are part of Nature and can be explained as adaptations to selection pressures in Nature. They are an evolutionary byproduct of our particular biology interacting in our particular social way of existence. This view reinforces the necessity and inherent pleasure of Art-making as a deep behavior that explains the presence for Art of all forms across the span of human culture.

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