Thursday, July 21, 2011

Adaptational Acknowledgement

Sometimes I struggle to find the right words to describe the spectrum of emotion, thoughts, and connections that I experience every day.  Every so often I try to reflect on the day, week, month or even year and to notice the changes I have gone through.  It is important during the course of our lives to acknowledge externally the progress that we make internally so as to continue the journey without becoming stagnated in personality.

By addressing and making conscious these small milestones we are able to move beyond them and take the next step to becoming what we want to be, to what we believe we are inside.  Although historically I have remained less social, I now actively try to follow this course of opening up and telling people about myself.  Not just the obvious about where I am from and what I like to do, but I am attempting to open up a deeper dialogue with those around me.  More recently I  have been keeping a journal and writing this blog, but even when writing it is important to put down more than just a catalog of activities from each day.  Add thoughts, feelings, and motives associated with your actions.  Describe in detail the inferences, assumptions and intuitions you feel.   

I have found that sometimes it is easiest with strangers because they are not bound by preconceptions already formed of who they believe I am.  It is a clean slate to express who I am at this very moment, not who I have been up until it.  Of course I tell them where I come from and what brought me here but the real connection, the trust that binds any relationship, is formed by exposing completely novel information about myself... By expressing something that is new, even for my own ears to hear.  All the other information, the things that I have told others before... the rehearsed and practiced lines that you scarcely think about as they fall from your lips might mean no less to them. However, from my point of view, at that moment I become someone new, someone changed, and it is by this person that I am reborn.

It is acknowledgment that is the catalyst of change in the cell, the organ, the individual, the community...  At any scale it is the same.  Something new occurs, for example let us say a chemical is released in the body.  The chemical is only able to affect cells that have the proper receptors that are able to acknowledge its presence.  All other cells stay the same as if nothing has happened.  It is the same process with an individual.  Instead of a chemical messenger, new experiences occur.  If the experience is acknowledged consciously then change is allowed to occur within the person, moreover the change can also be directed by that person.  The word for this process is adaptation.

Now consider non-adaptation beginning at the scale of a single cell again.  A chemical is introduced and the cell does not respond.  It is unable to recognize the chemicals presence or importance.  Change may still occur with constant exposure but the effects are indirect and the change is slow to take place. However the environment that the cell exists in has changed regardless of its own ability to acknowledge the difference.  The cell will now, most likely, be less effective... less fit for the new environment that it finds itself in.

  Again this is synonymous at the scale of an individual.  A person may experience something meaningful to them, but if quickly brushed aside and forgotten it will have no lasting effect.  Only constant and prolonged exposure to the same unrecognized experience can affect an individual who denies its importance.  If acknowledged, they fix the experience as a part of themselves. They begin to define themselves.

I found it quite scary to define myself as a teenager because I believed that once you became defined change was then impossible.  I thought that what makes up your being now will decide what you are later.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  I've learned now that by defining yourself you actually increase your own ability to change, to adapt.  Redefinition is always possible and constantly happening in all of us, however it is only those who realize, who acknowledge it in themselves, that are able to adapt in a meaningful way.  What better way can there be to acknowledge self-change, to redefine yourself, than to meet a stranger and to tell them about your experiences.  

Experience itself is the fertilization of potential change and to acknowledge that change is to adapt, to be reborn.  For instance, I have just had an amazing experience full of new discovery during my time counting birds for the Alaska Bird Observatory.  That planted the seeds of change in me but it did not make them grow.  It is now that I have expressed those experiences that the change is able to take root.  I grow and adapt more to who I really am with every new experience that I relate.  The only thing to prevent this is my own skepticism.  Skepticism and sarcasm are the antagonists of experience and significance.  Skeptics limit their own experience while sarcasm strips it of significance.

Keep an open mind, allow your own belief in the unbelievable and the intangible.  Experience the change that takes place around you.  Put yourself in situations where you might feel uncomfortable, out of place.  This is where you will learn the most, where you will find the ability to adapt.  The simple fact is that we don't know everything and more importantly we are ignorant of what it is that we don't know.  One of my favorite quotes to exemplify this point comes from the movie Men In Black.

"Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet.  Imagine what you'll know tomorrow."

One of the glaciers across the bay

Eric and Jude (behind), Woofers on my farm

Luke, Noah, and I in San Francisco

Scotty(Left) and Me(Right) in the float plane

Taking a picture in Kanuti NWR

P.S.   Just found this blog that a friend, David Swanson, is writing about his time in Cameroon working on a water supply project. Check it out!


  1. You are amazing. I'm so proud of you and all the happiness that you have attained and so grateful to know someone like you. Miss you so much - safe travels and hopefully see you soon!

  2. I guess it's safe to say your journey has opened some new paths with the time you've had to reflect, congratulations. 180 degrees South comes to mind.