Phase Transition

For me, every element of this image provides opportunity to reflect. The color alone evokes the sensibility of winter, the time of year when, for many of us, the often overcast sky tends to dampen the desire for activity. The lines where snow meets ice meets water recall phase transitions: changes of state, chapters in our life where, instead of changing form—as the combination of hydrogen and oxygen do under different temperature conditions—our perceptions and attitudes change under the influence of experience and reflection.

The little ripples in the water evidence both wind and energy alternatively reflecting light and darkness as life moves forward. In the tree I’m reminded that my personal reality is a reflection of Absolute reality, allowing me to interpret its reflection freely. I understand that the reflection is not the tree, but does it even come close to representing it faithfully or fully? Of course, that’s the great mystery. When we look at images of stars and galaxies, are we seeing the universe as cold and lifeless, a place filled with immense objects that collide with unimaginably gigantic consequences? Might the processes—there and here—be the very means by which consciousness expands as part of its reach to attain fuller realization of the Absolute? Of awareness itself. Might spacetime on this planet be a local phase transition for consciousness as it reaches for that awareness?

The “tree” of our personal reality may at times appear to be barren with only the forces of change and chance moving the branches. But wait! Within them lies the  potential for new growth and radiant color. I observe that on the right side of the reflected tree, life appears to be solid and gritty. On the other side, it’s liquid and flows smoothly. In between, in the center, stillness propagates a reflection. And as this image demonstrates, the greater the stillness the fuller and more true the reflection of reality.

Zooming into the molecular level, I find a social consideration represented along the “shoreline” where water meets ice. Indeed, at 3:1 magnification on the computer it closely resembles the coastline of Maine. On one side the molecules stubbornly seek to maintain the status quo as a liquid, whereas the molecules on the other side are just as rigid—literally so—to remain solid. By zooming in even closer I arrive at the place where individual molecules conflict. I imagine their conversation. “I’m liquid and I’m going to stay that way.” “Well, I’m solid and there’s no way I’m going to change!” Well and good. But they are forgetting two things. They are both the same in substance. Irrespective of location and form, they are both water. And they do not exist in a closed system.

A change in the climate, particularly the temperature in this case, would force the change in one direction or the other depending on the presence or absence of heat. Living systems are self-making, but their fate is inexorably determined by changes in the environment. The inevitable choice for all living systems is either resignation or transformation. As George Land put it in his classic book on transformation—“Grow or Die.”

Because atoms and molecules are invisible we tend to think of them as being still, lifeless and without consciousness. Of course it depends on how we view life and consciousness, but if characteristics such as individuality, vitality, self-making (autopoiesis) and community building are part of the formulation, the universe is literally teeming with life and consciousness.

The interface between opposites is the place of transformation.

William Erwin Thompson

A new phase occurs when communication between agents makes cooperation and interdependence more beneficial than conflict.

Eva Jablonka



Title: Tree Reflection; Water  and Ice

File: DC1757

It was February and I was photographing in Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery where there are several ponds and a wide variety of trees. On one of the ponds there’s a fountain and it created the ripples that inched against the ice that was forming along the shoreline. I made several exposures from different angles, some emphasizing the ripples, others the reflection of the tree. As a result of this contemplation I now understand why this particular image appealed to me—it illustrates a phase transition, a phenomenon I always found fascinating.


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