i killed a plant once because i gave
it too much water. lord, i worry
that love is violence.
— José Olivarez, from “Getting Ready to Say I Love You to My Dad, It Rains,” Citizen Illegal
- I believe a hurricane represents a form of non-organic life. It lasts long enough for us to give it a name. It assembles itself. It’s not living in the sense that it doesn’t breathe. But to ask it to breathe would be to impose an organic constraint on it. The thing doesn’t have to breathe, it doesn’t have to have a pulse. Even then, certain winds do breathe, say the monsoon, the wind that is most prevalent on the southern coast of Asia. It is a perfectly rhythmic creature: it blows in one direction for six months of the year, blows in the other direction for another six months, and every sea-faring people in Asia that made a living from the sea had to live with the rhythm of the monsoon. The monsoon gave those cultures their rhythm. If you want to go that way, well, you have to go that way in the summer, then you get there and you have to wait for the winter to come back. You have to plan your life to that rhythm. So the monsoon is a self-organizing entity, there is no command component at all, it is non-organic life, and it is a pulsing non-organic life. It even has the beat that we tend to associate without hearts.
The fractal shape of natural objects means they are irregular or disjoint and the word stands in opposition to algebra which comes from the Arabic al-jabr and means “to rejoin broken parts.” (It was used originally to refer to setting broken bones.)