Circles Vs Lines

The central illusion of our times

The circle of life

Natural life is full of circles. One creature's death in another creature's dinner. One creature's shit is another creature's manna. One creature's waste is another creature's energy. Everything must die, but in digestion as much as reproduction, everything is reborn again and again. Each death is a line with a beginning and end, but put enough of them together and you have a circle that's nearly unending. The circle of life.

Artificial life, however, is just lines. The lines we wait in to get an iPhone, the box it comes in, the inevitable road to the landfill, the imaginary line we call 'growth'. The corporate world thinks its cheated entropy with 'innovation' but all they've done is break billions of living circles and turn them into dead-end lines. Every product we buy is the effective destruction of resources for a bit of ineffective distraction. They thought they cheated entropic death, but they just went into massive entropic debt. Death is a line, and we're all in it now.

My son told me to take this photo. I don't get it


This weekend I was dragging my kids through a nature reserve, and everything there goes in circles. This is how life goes. The trees grow in circles and become rotting stumps for termites. The termites become a feast for circling birds. The bird takes a dump and the cycle restarts. When I left the nature reserve, however, we hammered through all the unreserved nature we destroyed, through roads that obliterate anything living if they dare cross the painted lines. We went to a house that had nothing else living in it, or else it's a problem. Nature is all circles and cycles, but 'human' nature is all boxes and lines.


How did we get here? Well, the pronoun is vital here. 'We' is really 'they,' as I've hinted. Humans are not the dominant species on Earth and haven't been for centuries. Humans long ago incarnated our greed as corporations (and nations) and gave them free reign over the continents. Human greed incarnated as corporations was colonization.

In colonization, natural energy flows became warped into artificial triangles—slaves to South America, sugar to North America, rum to Africa—all in service of making lines go up in artificial metabolisms. Natural 'stocks' were fed into the stock market like they came from nowhere and went nowhere. And it worked for a while. The ocean was deep and the world was wide. The colonizers ignored everything around the Cartesian Plane of human desire, now legally personified. They took all the loops and broke them into one line. We call this line 'growth' or 'development' today. It is, in fact, a lie.

No one can defy entropy or, more accurately, the gods. One can delay entropy, but this comes with compound interest on the other side. All they (our greed incorporate) has done is create one big loop, which now trends towards one big decline. They've taken a lot of little loops that recycled materials and energy quite rapidly and turned it into one giant garbage dump that will take centuries to unwind. They took a well-oiled machine and literally burned all the oil and turned it to unusable scrap in record time.

Once you see the world of lines you can't unsee it. Just compare, for example, a banana to the game Bananagrams. A banana comes in a package that can immediately grow more banana. Bananagrams comes in packaging that no living soul can digest for years, if not decades, if not centuries. The plastic tiles are useless once humans stop believing in them. This is the entire world we built, and which we are proud of doubling every generation. It's just a game, a game we played with real lives.

Even human recycling is just a weird form of necrophilia. None of the elements are recycled for other lifeforms benefit, it's just so we can reincarnate desire a few more times, with a hideous application of energy, like a literal Frankenstein. There's no real concept of a loop here, of a death and rebirth you don't control, left up to other souls. No, everything must be animated by the soul of Capitalism, recycling becomes just another reason to buy. Recycling is just sniffing around the mirror at the end of a party, to do a last pathetic and lonely line.

Breaking The Circle

Life is full of circles, but death is just a line. Other life can form another line out of death, and if you put enough of those lines together, it forms a circle. The circle of life. But if you break and disconnect the lines, the ecosystem cannot recycle matter and energy, the center cannot hold, and things fall apart. Humans think we've cheated this process because we can show our line going meteorically up, but we're just the meteor. Every line we value (population, energy, production) has an equal and opposite reaction, and unequal and inordinate consequences. We are breaking thousands of circular flows to create one line. We call this line 'the economy' and pat ourselves on the back, like we've broken the arrow of time. But where does this line come from? Where does its waste go? Nevermind. Just enjoy the ride.