Thursday, December 16, 2004


Predictability in nature is about instinct. It's dedicated to survival. I can predict that the feral cat with the autumn coat that curls itself on the six-inch width of an outside divider wall will flee when I approach. I can predict that it will know when I've left its surroundings and then return to curl on that same wall. Nearly everything I know about the mockingbird is predictable: how it zooms across the breadth of its territory checking for trespassers, how it will swoop low and peck the random cat caught in its path, how its harsh cry carries and its angry shree shree shree alerts companionable species to threat.

There's not a thing out of synch with these behaviors. The flight and the attacks and the calls are what keeps the cats and the birds safe, allows them to flourish, and protects their sanctity as a species.

Looking at predictability in humans is another thing. Aren't we beyond instinct? Why then, do we revert to survival-like behavior, actions that are as predicatible as the feral cat?

There's been a series of interlocking threads on a poetry forum. This forum keeps a firm purpose: discussion of poetry, especially poetry written by women. Its inhabitants are for the most part, women, and because of its origination, many are fellow academians. I'm certain that if any single post were thrown into one of those instant language applications that assigns a reading level based on average syllable count that the output would fall into the college or graduate school level. There are the jesters, who dissipate long silences or intense conversations with their monosyllabic simplicity. But on average, the posts are a series of complex sentences built with multisyllabic words.

Serious business here. But I'm thinking that this species of cyber animals is not much different from other online animals as far as predictability goes.

Much like that feral cat, this forum pulls its collective self up and turns its bright head away from a strange presence. Unlike the cat, whose predictable spurning enhances its beauty, makes it more desirable because it is self reliant and independent, the collective freeze of the forum is predictably alienating. It's meant to be, of course. It's a predictable behavior.

Predictability, because of its nature, gives itself time for analysis. I can witness the silence, the deniable rebuff, and I can examine it. What I see is self-perpetuation. A species protecting its identity by preventing what it presumes is contamination. After the silence, comes the jester. This pattern of behavior repeats not only on this forum but on others as well. One of the dangers of predictability is the absence of newness; originality and predictability cannot co-exist.

In another entry, I'll talk about diversity among species and its affect on growth.

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