Growth and Dissipation

I recently had a wonderful discussion with Faniel Darmer in which he suggested that “Being implies growth though. It’s evident in all creation. “persevere” is another word for growth. Nothing just remains static and is considered being. Being is growth, being is change and evolution.”

Since my own experience corroborates Faniel’s assertion, I was naturally inclined to agree with him.  However, one of the lessons of philosophy is not to rest with our first impressions or inclinations.  Therefore,  I decided to see if I could find any counterexamples to the claim that being necessarily involves growth.

If we consider things in and of themselves, we can find several examples of distinct things that do not appear to grow, and yet are still said to ‘be.’ We can think of a molecule that breaks down into its component parts, a cliff face that is eroded and dissipated, a rough rock that is smoothed by a stream, a star that explodes, a flame that burns out.  In all of these cases, we find things whose being involves dissipation.

We cannot conclude from this fact, however, that the thesis that being involves growth is false, precisely because the things in each of these cases all grew before they dissipated.  The molecule ‘grew’ or formed through the bonding of its components, the cliff face grew into its once mighty form through the Earth’s geothermal and seismic activity, the rock built up its form before it lost it to water erosion, the star grew into its full form, and the flame swelled prior to its extinguishing.  From these two sets of facts, we can conclude that it is not the case that being involves only growth and that it is not the case that being involves only dissipation.  In fact, if we reflect on any distinct thing existing in space-time, it soon becomes apparent that  it has the twin potentials to both grow and dissipate.

What does the fact that all existing things, distinct forms, or beings have the potential to grow and dissipate mean for a modified nondualist metaphysic?  By ‘modified nondualism,’ I mean the view that reality is singular, seamlessly one, but that it appears in space-time and the field of consciousness under the mode of diverse appearances with distinguishable characteristics.  Thus it is the position that, metaphysically, all is one; phenomenologically, one is all.

The determination that being involves the potential to grow, or increase in form, or dissipate, or break down in form gives us insight into these diverse appearances or forms of the one reality.  Every distinct form has the potential to grow or be part of the growth process of other, more complex forms.  Moreover, every distinct form has the potential to dissipate in its form, to break down, or to be part of the dissipation process of other, more complex forms.   By ‘growth process,’ I mean the process of building up into a more complex form; by ‘dissipation process,’ I mean the process of breaking down into simpler forms or component parts.  Both growth and dissipation are forms of transformation; if all beings or distinct forms have the potential to grow and dissipate, therefore, all beings or distinct forms have the potential to transform.

Indeed, we observe as a fact of daily experience that being in space-time involves transformation. Everything changes in some form. Often, these changes involve growth or dissipation. And the matter is still more complex because things that, considered in and of themselves, do not seem to grow, are often part of larger processes that involve growth (in the example of a rock that is part of the Earth’s process of transformation, for instance).  As Faniel said, “nothing is static and is considered being.” To be is to change.

Bringing together these interim conclusions, each changing thing has the potential to be involved in processes of construction, building up, or growth on the one hand and processes destruction, breaking apart, or dissipation process on the other.  In fact, distinct things, forms, or beings, undergo countless processes of growth and dissipation in the course of their existence.   This is particularly evident in the case of living things such as plants.

For a large portion of its existence, a plant’s being involves growth. Towards the end of its life, it shifts from growth to dissipation; it wilts, its leaves lose their vibrancy, and it begins to deteriorate.  Finally, it dies and its components scatter.  This scattering is an example of dissipation, but the components go on to become part of other things and to play a role in their own growth cycles.

In this sense, the building up of form and the breaking down of form are interrelated in a beautiful paradox; dissipation itself feeds into growth, which feeds into dissipation. The two are one in the cycle; they are inseparable. We might, therefore, say that dissipation involves growth and growth involves dissipation, and that that which undergoes growth and dissipation, involves both.  This is to say, in short, that being-in-process, or being-in-space-time can equally involve processes of building up and breaking down.  And, to bring this back to the modified nondualist position, this characterization of the behaviour of being-in-process or being-in-space-time applies to distinct forms/ appearances/ manifestations/ expressions of the one fundamental reality.


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