External Forcing

In my previous post, I mentioned the analogy between human and Earth’s boundaries. How if we go at something full force without taking a break to recover, we’ll eventually burn out, in the same way that we’re burning our planet out.

But some deep thoughtful friend of mine threw in a wild card: what about external influences to these ‘closed’ systems with defined boundaries?

Firstly, I’d like to point out how frustrated I always get when taught that the Earth’s system is ‘closed’ (nothing leaves or comes in). We know that this is not the case. It should be obvious to anyone who’s ever been outside or has looked out of a window, the systems’ primary source of energy – the sun – is externally sourced. Additionally, what about those meteorites (hello Allende) and asteroids? Bringing in external material and energy results in an imbalance in the Earth’s system. The consequences of these impacts result in change and adaptations to equilibrate the system and bring it back to neutral, although this neutral state may change. It’s one of the suspected causes of the dinosaur extinction, and thinking about it, makes you feel rather insignificant and extremely vulnerable.

Over a geological timescale, perhaps small chemical and physical changes have occurred that have changed our environment, and have meant that humans can be here today – but what triggers these changes? For instance, the introduction of cyanobacteria more than 3.5 billion years ago – without whose photosynthetic properties, we most likely wouldn’t be here today. But where did the cyanobacteria actually come from? Probably an adaptation to an external force.

 So yes, the earth does change and adapt too, and to a certain extent has elastic boundaries. But these are geological timescales, and the changes we’re making are on less than a 2000 year time scale.

The absurdly fast and naïve rate at which we’re pumping chemical gases such as CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, changing the state of the earth’s physical and chemical properties, is no doubt going to cause an imbalance. How the Earth’s system will ‘absorb the shock’ are re-equilibrate, and what is will equilibrate to, is still unknown. But change is pretty much unavoidable at this point.

So with respect to the planet, I firmly believe that we can’t keep pushing at its’ boundaries, and expect nothing to change. On a slightly depressing note, if you think about it, it’s fascinating what’s happening – we could be witnessing our self-destruction. Almost more terrifying is just how complacent we’ve become.

Applying this external forcing concept to us as humans introduces a new tangent of discussion: Can people really change? How much truth is there behind that cliché ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’ saying. Or is it possible, that severe external forces can swoop in and change you forever – the Earth’s asteroid human equivalent – and you become a ‘new person’ in the process?

If so, in what form do these external forces come?

A person?

A book?

A newspaper article?

A haphazard comment?

A single glance?

A slight intonation?

Think about where you are today, or something important to you, whether a hobby, a job, another individual or object. Think about the influences that brought you to this ‘thing’. Not just, “I guess it looked cool”, but did someone say something that really brought it to your attention and made you consider it from a different angle, or perceive a concept or way of living differently? Or was it a sensation you had, an exhilaration that you’d never felt before that perhaps resulted in a passion?

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Reflecting and reflexing…or just enjoying the view

I’m frequently asked “why did you take up triathlon”, and now I’ve really thought about it, reflecting and reflexing (this is a thing: thinking about why you’re thinking about what you’re thinking). And it is a number of factors. But I can narrow it down to three significant and specific comments or questions that three different people said, not even necessarily to me. Some not necessarily positive comments, but I reckon that these three people have no idea that it’s the force of something they said that has ultimately brought me here – and it’s going to stay that way. At certain points in time, I don’t think I would’ve thanked them. But reflexing back on it I can’t emphasise enough how grateful I am that those three comments were said, and that the imbalance they caused in my own mind and body has brought me here. I don’t think I’m a ‘new’ person, but I’m definitely a different person to the pre-triathlon me 2 years ago, just as today’s Earth is different to the pre-dinosaur ‘Earth’.

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Just chasing our dreams and enjoying doing so

So if like me, you’re feeling slightly shocked and shaken by what’s happened recently in Paris, maybe it’ll help to try and remind yourself of your purpose. What are you doing, who are you doing it for, and where do you hope it’ll take you?

If you can’t remember – maybe it’s time to rethink why you’re doing it – you never know what external force could swoop in and change your life forever.

With thoughts going to all those suffering and affected in Paris – how can this be human?

Imo x

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