The Timing and Shaping of Events in Permaculture

Permaculture Designers Manual




Section 4.8 –

The Timing and Shaping of Events in Permaculture

We can see how an event takes place, but how is it shaped?

Our bodies arise from the origin (O) of a zygote (a fertilized egg) on the surface of the uterus; the placenta is our root, the fetus is the tree of us.

Animals are thus events broken free from the coiling connective cord or umbilical stem of their origins. Their eventual shape is a pattern laid down or encoded by the DNA of their cells, coiled as it is around a plus-torus like a ribbon around a doughnut (Figure 4.11).

When my son Bill was four, we were in the bath together, and he pointed to his toes. “Why are these toes?” he asked.

What do you mean?” I hedged. “Well, why don’t they get bigger and bigger or longer and longer? Why do they stop at being toes?

What limits size and growth? All flows pulse whether they are blood, wind, water, lava, or traffic.

The pulsing may be organized by PULSERS (e.g. traffic lights), and results in WAVES, or time-fronts, or particles on fixed schedules.

Such pulsers (Figure 4.12) are located in our bodies as chemical or physio-chemical spirals in sheets of cells that swirl in sequence to create a pulsing movement in our heart, organs, and viscera.

Pulsers can start, run for a preset time, and stop. This is how we grow, and why we eventually die.

All mammals have an allotted number of heartbeats in relation to their body size, and when these run out, we die. (A friend also theorizes that we have a set quota of words; and when they are said, we die.)

Pulsers plus patterns account for shapes. They determine that a toe will stop at being a toe, and not grow into a monstrous appendage or stay as a midget toe.

Thus, all living events carry their characteristic time-shape memories, and (it would appear) so do rivers, volcanoes, and the sun itself.

The sun “pulses” every 11 years or so, affecting our ozone and climatic factors such as rainfall. Our own pulses have characteristic or normal resting rates, as do our peristaltic or visceral movements.


Pulsers act in concert to create peristaltic or heart contractions, but if they get the wrong signals, can move out of phase and send the organ into seizure. This spasm may cause damage or death (a heart attack).

The pulses drive fluids or particles through vessels or arteries in cities and in bodies, and that then branch to serve specific cells, organs or regions.

Figure 4.12 is a quite extraordinary spiral pattern which arises from the pulsing reactions of organic acids seeded with ionic (Iron, cerium) catalysts.

The pulses are quite regular, “at intervals of about a minute, but these may vary up to 5 minutes in living systems such as nerve tissue and a single layer of a social amoeba” (Winfree, 1978, “Chemical Clocks: A Clue to Biological Rhythm ” New Scientist, 5 Oct ’78).

The system is one of spirals rotating about a pivot point which is not a source but an invariable locus around which a spiral wave is generated.

It is sequences of such phenomena that create a peristaltic system.

Spirals of this nature can revolve in two senses: either organizing material to the pivot, or (revolving in the opposite sense) dispersing material to the periphery.

We can envisage counter-rotating spirals doing both as they do in the circulation of the atmosphere as high or low pressure cells.

The phenomena is shared by nerve, heart, and brain tissue; organic  and  inorganic  oxidation  on two­ dimensional  surfaces; and  in thin  tissue subject  to exciting stimuli.

Ventricular fibrillation (a potentially fatal quivering of the heart) may derive from the spasm effect distributed over heart or nerve tissue, causing an “ineffectual churning” (Winfree, ibid).

It may also account for involuntary spasm in muscle. Spasms can damage  the cells  of  blood vessels , and cause a build-up of scar tissue or cholesterol at the Injury site, or in muscle tissue-an area of hard  waste products.

The social amoeba Dictyostelium uses the pattern to move towards the pivot point where “they construct a multi-cellular  organism  which  then  crawls away to complete the life cycle” (Winfree, ibid), a  process resembling the precursor of hormonal control in the nervous system.

Some such process may assemble more complex multi-species organisms like us.

The cycling spirals can be found in biological docks, such as those which govern the 24-hour metabolism of flowers and fruit-flies, stimulated by oxygen or light pulses.

Within a specific organism, specific pulsers exist; the 24-hour rhythm (CIRCADIAN) of birds is controlled by the  pineal  gland  (New  Scientist, 11 Oct ’84) which secretes a regular nocturnal pulse of the hormone MELATONlN (the changing levels of melatonin trigger the annual cycles of breeding and nest-building in birds).

Visual perception of light changes and day lengths regulate the production of melatonin in the pineal gland. Even small pieces of the gland in isolation will respond to light and can be disrupted by flashes of light (as in lightning) at night.

Thus, we see that not only expansion, but DISCHARGE PHENOMENA such as lightning (or sudden shock in people) disrupt or trigger initiatory reactions in life rhythms, and introduce irregularities in cycles or pulsers, just as expansion or shock Introduces irregularity in fixed forms.

The question arises as to whether the disturbance produced by shock or sudden stimulus is responsible for expansions, cyclic changes, or shape deformations on a more general scale.

Species and individual organisms need both SHAPERS (DNA) and TIMERS (biological clocks) to achieve a specific size and shape.

The two must work synchronously to achieve the correct proportions of parts such as fingers and toes, but both are critical to the organism.

Branching patterns; in bodies must have (already encoded) the correct angles and placements for their main branches, leaving room for side shoots and forks, but not for interweaves or cross-points which damage the function of the organism.

In order to generate the surface or boundary of a person, and their reticulation systems, patterns of incredible complexity and strict limits must be “known” by the cells or the cell organizers.


We ourselves are part of a guild of species that lie within and without our bodies.

Aboriginal peoples and the Ayurvedic practitioners of ancient India have names for such guilds, or beings made up (as we are) of two or more species forming one organism.

Most of nature is composed of groups of species working interdependently, and this complexity too must have its synchronistic regulators.

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