Dimiourgós and the Optional Respiration

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Quotes of the Day

Originally,
the atoms of carbon from which we’re made
were floating in the air,
part of a carbon dioxide molecule.
The only way to recruit these carbon atoms
for the molecules necessary to support life
—the carbohydrates, amino acids, proteins, and lipids
—is by means of photosynthesis.
Using sunlight as a catalyst
the green cells of plants
combine carbon atoms taken from the air
with water and elements drawn from the soil
to form the simple organic compounds
that stand at the base of every food chain.
It is more than a figure of speech to say
that plants create life out of thin air.
—Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Finally life made the air, turning sunlight into fuel, freely available to all breathing creatures.
—SolSeed Genesis Ritual
First came the leaves, ?floating? leaves,
the surfaces on which Sol's fire was captured!
—SolSeed Viriditas de TerraRitual

Contemplation for the Day

Let us imagine

You are riding your elephant across a hanging catwalk suspended above murky green water. You can see other catwalks parallel to yours. There is one to your left that is on fire. The one to your right seems to be rotting; mushrooms are sprouting all along its length, from its wooden railing, its decking, even the supports hanging from the sky which hold it above the water. There is another catwalk to your left, between yours and the one on fire. It is dripping with septic water, its wood decaying and blackened.

Your own catwalk is covered in tooth marks as if rodents had been gnawing on it. Further evidence of this is the profusion of animal droppings scattered over its deck and along the top of its railings. The water and the catwalks seem to go on forever. There is no land in sight. Then you notice ahead on your catwalk a group of small people in white robes. As you near you see their bright blue eyes and know that you have found the Goddess in this story, Sophia.

As you approach her you call to her, "Sophia, what experiment are you running today."

"Just One," Sophia replies in her frightening unison-voice, "My experiment today involves drowning."

"The drowning of what." you say, and your elephant turns to run away from her, for you fear the answer.

And, as if in answer, the partially gnawed through decking gives way under your elephant's weight and you and her both fall along with a rain of shattered wood, toward the green water below. You look to each side and see some burning wood, some black septic wood and a giant mushroom all falling from their respective catwalks into the water below. Your elephant trumpets in fear.

Dimiourgós by Genevieve Townsend

As you hit the water you feel arms envelope you. Through turbulent air bubbles and murky water, you see a face with glowing green eyes looking back at you. The arms are pulling you toward the face and you feel its lips latch on to your own and force them apart. Air is pushed into you and you accept it gratefully after Sophia's remark about drowning. Then only seconds after giving you the air, the other being who is embracing you takes it back sucking the air from your lungs. And then, of course, it gives you more again. It is performing artificial respiration; the most natural thing to do under the circumstances.

You trade air back and forth like this for many breaths. You think you are sinking as you do so, but it is hard to tell. The only point of reference you have is the creature with which you are embraced and, if you are sinking, she is sinking with you. You wonder how many times you can pass air back and forth before it becomes too depleted. Yet every time she breaths into you it feels as if you are breathing fresh air.

You wonder what she is and open your eyes. Her face is wrinkled, and her lips are rough. She opens her eyes and they glow pure green. You think to her, "Gaia?"

But she responds, "No, Burning One, I am not Gaia; I am Dimiourgós Zácharis, Goddess of Photosynthesis." She pauses to look into your eyes, "Now be calm and give me your breath!" and with that she sucks the air out of your lungs again.

Again, when she breathes back into you, the air feels fresh and invigorating. Yet now you are aware that she is actually doing it to load it with carbon dioxide, one of the three inputs to photosynthesis. You think back to her, “I was going to thank you for giving me air to breath but you need this exchange as much as I do; you need my oxidized carbon.”

Dimiourgós laughs in your mind, “I don’t need it as much as you do. I have many other sources of oxidized carbon, but you have very few options for your oxygen.”

You look to the right and see your elephant also embraced in her branches (not arms after all!) being breathed into and out of. Further to the right you see the mushroom also locked in the same kind of embrace. Again, Dimiourgós sucks the air out of you.

Curious, you look to your left and see a piece of blackened wood in the same embrace, and you think to the Goddess, "Dimiourgós, what is living in the wood of that blackened bridge that feeds you?" And again, Dimiourgós breaths back into you and it is clean and fresh.

"Aerobic Bacteria, Burning One!" Dimiourgós replies. She sucks the air out of you again, you are beginning to feel a rhythm forming.

You notice that the same branches which are holding you are also holding pieces of wood from the bridge you had been standing on. "Dimiourgós, what is living in that wood which feeds you oxidized carbon?" you think. She breathes into you.

Dimiourgós is puzzled, "The wood itself."

As the air leaves your lungs, you think, "But the wood is dead! It can't respire can it?"

As the air returns to your lungs you hear in your mind, "Even a dead piece of wood slowly oxidizes in the presence of oxygen, Burning One. I am a patient Goddess; I will sip on a piece of wood for hundreds of thousands of years if necessary, to get the carbon back out of it."

As you watch the pieces of wood being held in her embrace you realize that there are other wooden things around you being held: trees! "Dimiourgós, those trees, they produce oxygen and consume carbon dioxide, not the reverse." She sucks the air from you as she listens to your words.

Dimiourgós laughs in your mind again and fills your lungs, "Burning One, I produce the oxygen and consume the carbon dioxide, albeit inside autotrophs. But autotrophs do roughly half the biological respiring that returns the carbon to me. Plants don't just photosynthesize, they also respire, taking in oxygen and burning their sugars to do work, like growing and pumping fluids and repairing damage. I consume a lot of the carbon dioxide they so produce before it even leaves their bodies."

You look past the wood and see the glow of the fire, impossibly maintained under water by Dimiourgós' embrace and you think to her, "You are in symbiosis with fire?" Your lungs are emptied and there is a pause.

Fear begins to mount that no air is coming back and then, "Burning One," she laughs in your mind and, although it doesn't feel like an entirely friendly laugh, at least your lungs fill again, "I don't care who returns the carbon to me, I need the carbon in its oxidized state in order to reduce it and store my captured energy. Who re-oxidizes it and returns it to me, is of little concern."

"But fire destroys your photosynthetic machinery!" You think to her, "How can that be helpful to you?" Reluctantly you let the air leave your lungs.

"So, do you all, Burning One," Dimiourgós replies, "You eat plants to live, there are bacterial diseases which destroy plants, and fungal ones in greater profusion. Why do you single out fire as different?" The air comes back but you wonder if it will always.

"But fire destroys without producing anything." you think trying to defend your mental picture of yourself as better than fire. As you do, the air is sucked from you again and the image of a burning building sucking in air through broken windows forms in your head.

"It produces oxidized carbon and that is what I need." Dimiourgós seems puzzled by your emphatic thoughts, "Often it produces very rich soil in which I can grow new machinery." The air comes back, as fresh as ever.

"We tend your machinery, help it grow in profusion." you counter. The rhythm has become clear, you can not express your thoughts without emptying your lungs.

"You also tend fires which consume my machinery. You burn forests to make room for your tending of a few plants, your agriculture, and then you leave the soil depleted and unable to support my own efforts to grow my own machinery. I don't know that you are better than fire." The air coming back seems inadequate, only enough to fill your lungs. You picture your pantry full of stored food and wish that you could have cylinders filled with oxygen too.

"We don't just work to preserve our agricultural plants. We also protect forests, fighting fires and insects, bacteria and funguses who would eat your machinery." you think trying hard to justify your existence to this Goddess whose breath you are so dependent on. Sophia's comment about drowning is still echoing in your mind as once again your supply of air leaves you.

Her thoughts come back to you, "Ah, but Burning One, Fire and Fungus, Bacteria and Insect, mostly consume the dead, dying, and broken machinery of photosynthesis. You consume all, clearcutting my machinery away and leaving nothing behind. Sometimes, you even focus on the healthiest and strongest, selectively high grading my best machinery and leaving me with the weakest."

As the air comes back, an idea seems to flow into your mind with it, "But we also consume the oldest and most broken down machinery their is; we release the carbon which has been hidden underground for eons; we burn fossil fuels for you." You push the air from your lungs into Dimiourgós as an offering to your goddess and wait for her response.

Dimiourgós moans in ecstasy at your words, "Yes, you are the best, I haven't enjoyed such a feast of oxidized carbon for many an eon. Yummmmmm!" And the air comes back fresh as always. How could you lose faith that she will provide for you?

Suddenly the water is filled with bright golden light. You wonder if there is a hidden story to be explained by El. But instead you realize that it is just that the Sun has emerged from behind a cloud. Dimiourgós speaks aloud her voice piercing the water and reaching your ears clearly, "Sol God of Sol, Father of Terra, thank you for the light you give me." She sucks hard on your breath trying to get more oxidized carbon out of you with which to store Sol's gift.

A booming voice from high in the sky responds, "Feast upon my light and my love, daughter! You can rely on my constant care! As your father, I will not abandon you."

You feel another presence, Gaia all around you, she responds in a voice that seems to emanate from all around you and from your very bones, "Sol, my love, what would I do without your companionship? But your belly has been growing lately as you reach middle age. Maybe you need more exercise, my love."

How will You fare as this Divine Family reunion continues? Will Sophia get the drowning experiment she craves as Dimiourgós is distracted by her parents? Will You be caught in the crossfire as Gaia and Sol argue about Sol's middle-aged belly? Find out in the next installment of The Dimiourgós Dilemma.

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