Any Theory of Evolution


Any theory of evolution must explain three types of change: in genotype (caused by random mutation), in environment, in body under pressure from the organism.

While the word ‘relation’ might inspire images of romance—-wind-kissed dandelions, the caress of light on the haunch of a fox—-relation between the three types of change is best understood economically

as genotype and environmental changes exact a ‘price’ that any given body might pay through a reduction of ability. When ability is exhausted or the body’s ‘budget’ becomes depleted, the individual (now falling

from a fiscal cliff, now small enough to fail) dies.


These economics do not subtract but divide. After climbing a mountain, demand upon a body’s respiratory capacity requires a climber sit under a tree to rest. She looks

upon the valley;
steeples puncture clouds.

In a clearing, she spots a field.
What might she grow there?

When a poisonous spider lands on her shoulder, she shudders under its caress. But this environmental change is not depleting. She sits motionless, restoring her respiratory capacity, until the spider extends its web

—-like a prayer—-to the nearest hanging branch. You might think the web art, you might decide her rest is dance. Because she can survive these dual demands upon her budget, either haiku or epic could be written upon her descent.


But suppose upon reaching the summit our climber confronts a tiger instead. Tiger demand and spider demand are not two equal bills. The price paid by her body in order to run from the tiger will be withdrawn from her already depleted respiratory capacity.

A stone thrown in a pool of water makes a whisper of sound, but I can still hear the echo of many pennies thrown into empty wells.

And what about the fields farmed to fallow? And what about the land over grown with law?

Our climber stumbles. What will she feel first? The prick of tooth or the force of claw?


Newtonian energy economics are subtractive but the economics of the body divide like a county fracturing into acreage and lots, plots and subplots such as the one about the spider and her web. (Song, she said,

not fishing but singing) Any theory of evolution contains fish, tiger, bird. Many theories tell the story of the wolf, his striking mercy. Any theory of evolution should consider a feedback loop, a like/unlike category, a summons nailed to a church door. In the space just beyond the tendril of a spider’s web that’s where we look for god.









In the space just beyond the tendril of a spider’s web that’s where we look for god—-

A man, red of face, runs. A man runs free, we are told. Is animal, is better than animal.

Is an animal that, alone among the animals, refuses to be satisfied by the fulfillment of animal desires.

One suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun—-

………that reasons

………that makes bargains

Let us instantly connect to what’s important to us. Taxes are due. This list of expenses. This tally. This two-columned theme.


Many theories postulate a predator and prey. We know about the cockroach and we know the mycelium—-as above, so below. We are still learning about the mummichog, the lingula, and the tardigrade, which can go without water for ten years.

The longest human hunger strike 206 days and counting, the better part of one year.

His sister brings him water.

Issawi has lost 35 kilograms (about 77 pounds), has kidney pain and has lost feeling in parts of the right side of his body.

If, God forbid, any prisoner dies of hunger strike inside the prison, the situation on the ground will deteriorate

The news is instantly out of date.

Cockroaches can live without water for a scant few weeks

but for forty human minutes they can hold their breath


When ability is exhausted or the body’s ‘budget’ becomes depleted, human conflict often occurs. This can be expressed as wrestling, a form of embrace between equal or unequal partners. In animal terms, it can be interpreted as ‘play,’ which also describes the ambiguous nature of most budgets at the upper end: another term for the mutable quality of a budget is ‘give.’

There is some give in the budget, but not much, so we must be careful.

‘I give you my land,’ said by one human to another, is not binding in the eyes of the law. This sentence cannot bind them together in relation to the land.



The sentence cannot bind them.

Nor can web bind our resting climber to tree. Let alone explain the relation between poet and spider. Where we see tool she sees a note held as long as her thought extends, while the climber feels accomplishment smolder in her lungs

and the poet herself has wasted energy in signifying.

By which laws should we read such a situation? Through which laws the spindling of moss under the poet’s foot?

In his room in Trinity College, Newton kept a locked wooden trunk. And while he drafted equation after equation to explain the laws of mechanics, we will never know how many times he consulted those deistical tracts and alchemistic manuscripts (a form of embrace between equal or unequal partners)

or whether he hung the key beside a cupboard door

or pinned it close to his chest.


Many theories postulate a predator and prey but theory is not law and a wolf will rarely hurt another wolf. When a fight occurs over pack dominance the winner pauses at the brink of a kill (mountain summit, edge of a fiscal cliff) as the loser rolls to his back to expose neck and belly

soft as the edge of thought, pulsing like a line of verse, and the victor finds himself

overwhelmed with the urge to urinate. Anthems swell around such delineated territories, such somatic release. In some species aggression

is an inhibitor of violence. Yet brown rats, when confronted with a member of a strange clan will send out alarmed cries of attack. The intruder runs in desperation never defends herself typically dies

of shock and exhaustion when not ‘slowly torn to bits.’

In study after study, any yearling, any offspring, any interloper learns to expect a certain context (my beauty my terror)

First I looked in other people’s books. Then at my own. Then at my bank statements.

How do we bunker compassion?



First I looked at the built environment. Then at ‘the natural world.’

At the Buttes Chaumont in Paris, I faced the Disneyland of Napoleon’s dream.

In a graduate program never completed, I faced the paradox of the Romantic Sublime.

………pin it close to your chest in an intimate exposure
………the flood from behind a screen

During hurricane Irene, I manned the midnight livestream, high and dry.

………‘to contribute’

………‘to be of use’

While admiring the rock formations and log steps at the Buttes, a Parisian woman says, ‘C’est du béton, c’est marveilleux.’

It’s concrete, isn’t it marvellous!?

………the least natural of the city’s parks, and the most populist
………pin your chest to your heart
………walk through the screen


The Senegalese form of wrestling, Djom, allows for blows with the hands, the only of the West African traditions to do so. Wrestlers-in-training, vying for the prestige that comes with success in the sport, forego alcohol and women and rub their feet with stone. The relation of the stylized fighting to Jom (‘heart’ or ‘honour’) is expressed through its very name.

Isn’t it concrete—-marvellous—-

The laws by which we read a situation, like the laws by which we experience a landscape, are

………soft as the edge of thought

Any theory must complete them.

I’ve been broke as a joke but never broken.

Are we close?



We experience a landscape as if a form of wrestling, partnered and played, trapped and embraced, rubbed by stone. How else might we know ourselves if not from a view of the mountaintop?

There is no mirror in the locked trunk.

With cracks in the screen I could still take photographs. Doesn’t it feel clean—-like the air at certain altitudes—-this document? But when the resolution was wrong I could not see the whole screen.

At the summit, the climber remembers cathedrals of concrete or the neogothic façade of the church in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, built by a mason who copied it from a postcard of the Cathedral of Köln.

How lonely she feels in her hunger and memory

how easily she might fall victim to spider, tiger, economy

Any theory of evolution must explain the situation on the ground,

‘I’s written in foreign script all over the postcard.


At the summit, one climber stands helpless as another falls to the floor

A spider weaves its prey into safety at a cost

What alternatives exist?

………torn slowly to pieces
………the situation on the ground

A rational cost-benefit analysis finds that a marriage buys $29,600 in happiness for a man and only $14,600 for women. But divorce is more costly for the man, leading to a negative net for husbands overall, while a modest positive gain can be claimed by their wives.

With cracks in the screen I could still reach out
In a room filled with others who were also reaching out

The room as our primary mode of experiencing environment
the screen as a door to the room

At the limit of the budget, we say we are reaching. The response is to find some new way to stretch

This involves changes in genotype

………in environment

………in body under pressure from the organism

At the points of the stretch a vulnerability is created. Attenuation lends translucency to what once was opaque. A superficial puncture, as an affectionate nip, becomes profound.


How lonely she feels at the limits of her budget, how ready for theory

………some kind of bargain
………net gain

A random mutation, soft
as thought

The climber sits precariously on the ridge
Swaying, still unbound
Buffeted by theory

Other days have passed, other organs failed. The cliff is a real possibility

The record has been set and it is spinning