Between classes while I was going to college in St.  Petersburg, Florida, I drove over to the beach to make sand castles.  Surrounded by spires, a boy and his mom walking up the shoreline paused to look at what I was constructing.

“Look, Mom! That man’s making a sand castle!”

No one had ever called me a man before.  I was nineteen.  I was confused.  I was a man.  It was a boy that made this fact known.  It was while making sand castles that the truth arrived.

And so I define my life by how good I am at play.

The heterochronists of the 19th century that discovered and explored principles of biological evolution that included neoteny did not survive the ideological purge that occurred after Darwin’s theory of natural selection was accepted.  It’s as if spring arrived but only blossomed in the yards of people that had white houses, and then disappeared with an immediate return of winter.  Heterochrony includes the concept that evolution unfolds in a fashion that allows the features of embryos or infants to manifest later in ontogeny over time, while the lessons learned by adults are drawn from a vast, interconnected environment of interlocking influences manifested progressively earlier in the ontogeny of descendants.  In other words, progress moves in two directions.

The compulsion to create new moves forward in time.  New experiences move backwards.  Neoteny moves from the single cell outward and forward.  The reverse is informed by an environment suggesting what should be new or different, moving inward, backward in time.

Each individual experiences and manifests these overlapping tides, conversations between the individual and the all.

Creation moves from two directions.

When first explored by Darwin’s contemporaries, neoteny and its twin were believed to be biological processes only.  In theorist circles, there was little question that these dynamics existed.  The controversy was over whether they significantly contributed to the emergence of nonrandom features when progeny were being produced.  Was natural selection one dynamic amongst a host of influences, or was natural selection pretty much it?  Scientists concluded not only that less is more, but that one beats many.  Natural selection smothered the other theoretical babies in the crib.  The evolutionary spring returned to winter.

Whereas neoteny was discovered as a biological principle with ontological expressions, this work argues that neoteny manifests a societal dynamic in contemporary events, particularly social change and the web.

When I begin a sand castle, I pay close attention to tides and waves.  Noting where high tide last left its mark, I start digging a bit beyond that point.  Once spires spring up around the holes where the wet sand comes from, I violate the high tide line by building a channel to where the waves are active.

Building castles, constructing theories, it’s all about playing with waves.


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