If I stand in the middle of a city and clear my mind of all conscious conditioning, all wandering thought and expectation, utterly wipe it clean, and I look about me without prejudice, I now see it as a creature that has just emerged into the light from a sewage pipe it entered miles away, in a swamp at the edge of town, where perhaps it was born, and where probably it is used to forage. I don’t see the sudden city as something “I” or “we” made for some purpose, but simply as a new environment I must now negotiate.
I quickly realize “I” and “we” are forces of natural selection. “Nature versus Nurture” is quickly revealed as a false duality. My biology is the result of past environmental forces, including the forces exerted by these creatures that, in one of many animal communication systems, are called “humans,” speaking being as natural as birdsong, writing as natural as pheromones.
A creature responds to its surroundings by calling out. The call may take the shape of a material inscription, whether an Atlas Shrugged or a calculation of claw marks on the trunk of a tree. I hear the cry, I interpret the sign, I react to it as I would react to anything else in my surroundings. It influences my behavior, which further influences my surroundings, perhaps becoming a sign itself (such as this). Where is the division between “nature” and “culture,” between action and reaction? There is no clear division, only a miraculous moment, immeasurable as the singularity of a parabola, when something falling begins to rise.