Tim Morton seems not to have liked my comment suggesting that reality is a mix of stability and instability, and that stability is an achievement rather than a default position.

The universe, I would say, is an achievement as well. His much-loved (?) lava lamps are achievements, as are Graham Harman‘s Lego blocks. They don’t fall from the sky; they are made into objects that withstand a fairly high degree of turbulence in their environments. Humans have become great producers of such things — of things that can be shipped all the way from China (as Leonard Cohen used to sing) and that work for a little while according to their instructions, before we tire of them and order next year’s model.

But even in a world without humans, there are achievements aplenty: planets and galaxies (amazing achievements, they); oceans teeming with life, some of it organized into social groups; and ecosystems, geological formations, bacterial networks, individual organisms, and all the rest. Even the things that do fall from the sky — asteroids and meteorites, for instance — are achievements, though the more impressive achievement is the atmosphere that protects those other things from the onslaught of the meteorites. They all take a fair bit of work being made and maintained — not necessarily work by “themselves” (though that, too), but work on a multitude of levels and scales. And they are all in process (or, to be more precisely, in various kinds of process), always modulating between stability and instability but, fortunately (for us) crafting enough stabilities to make a pretty richly diverse world possible. View full article »