Disturbance is something that mixes up the status quo, that destroys some things and creates openings for others. It is a source of death but also of life. In ecology, a disturbance is anything which 'tweaks' an ecosystem - a fire, a windstorm, an epidemic of plant disease. Disturbances tend to kill off plants in the short term. Walking through a forest immediately after a fire, or in the midst of ghostly dead trees killed by boring beetles, proves this fact. However, it is disturbance that brings life as well. Without disturbance, forests become clogged with dead branches, creeks are jammed full of silt. Without disturbance, things stagnate and die.

A few days ago i was walking through some chaparral which had recently burned. The hillside was speckled with dead, blackened stems. At the base of each was a surge of fresh green leaves, bursting from the roots of the plant. Without fire, chaparral grows old and dies. Without fire, the wildflowers have no room. Cottonwood seedlings will never sprout without a flood.

It seems that long ago, religions and myths, and society in general, had a better grasp of this. Jesus died, and was reborn, refreshing the world. The phoenix died in fire, but his offspring proliferated, like the seedlings of ponderosa pine after a fire. These days, people just seem to stop disturbance as a part of life. People dam up rivers to stop floods. People put out forest fires. People obsessively try to prolong their lives. People try to impose an order on the world which just isnt there. Meanwhile, the fires keep burning, floods keep bursting through the levees, just as they always have.