Facts of Life
Part 2 of 4

Essays and Poems on Symbiosis and Other Phenomena

for Speaking Voice and Complementary Music


Facts of Life was first presented at the Axiom Gallery in Cambridge, September, 2006. Each of the four sections of text was preceded by an original electronic recording. A live musical piece, 12 Haiku for Speaking Voice and Violin was performed following the last text.

The text may be used in performance in a similar way, or with live music played between the four sections of the text, including at the beginning and end.

The texts inhabit both the short essay and classical poetic forms. Poems range from a Babylonian Acrostic, Greek Ode, Epistle, and Pantoun, to a British Limerick, Free Verse, and a 20th century Clarihew. Two Sonnets employ a modern style of 14 lines, unrhymed.

The content of the poems and essays are directly or indirectly related to the subject of evolution, specifically to the process of symbiosis. Symbiosis refers to long-term biological and cultural partnerships that have evolved from distinctly different origins.

-J. H.


Clarihew (English, humorous)

At A Conference

At a conference, Margulis, Lynn
Spoke eloquently with Dorian, her kin
About strange prokaryotes.
Then bought drinks at the Marriott.



Cultural Symbiosis

Cultural symbiosis* is the merging of different memes. Memes are bits of cultural information that people exchange and share, such as a recipe, a song, or new consumer product. Memes survive, reproduce, and evolve through various forms of imitation and dispersion.

Biological symbiosis is a long-term partnership between two or more different organisms. Cultural symbiosis is a persistent association between two or more different cultural elements.

We form symbiotic associations with our cars, cell phones, television, video games, and pets, to name a few.

Regions of cities and towns are cultural symbionts. They are composed of mini-environments, unique neighborhoods situated in close proximity, each of which is characterized by a geographical, social, or cultural identity.

Corporate mergers occur by agreement, or by hostile takeover. In a successful merger, each partner must provide some lasting benefit to the other.

Inventions that combine two or more unique objects such as horse and carriage, and its successor, the automobile; electronics, with their separate components of transistors, CRT’s microprocessors and memory chips; large consumer malls, are symbiotic. A recent example is the modern cell phone which integrates a telephone, camera, email, and internet access. 

In art, collage, diverse sampling within the same music, songs that combine text and music, dance with music, opera, multimedia, are all symbiotic forms.
In the use of language, portmanteau is used to describe a word created by blending two or more different words and their meanings. For example, the word flare results from combining the words flame and glare. Lewis Carroll coined the use of the word portmanteau.

Concepts and ideas are often intimately associated – not without their various consequences - such as church and state, commerce and politics, love and marriage, science and art.

Other, less intimate, associations include the beneficial relationship between humankind and greenspace, such as parks, gardens, commons, conservation lands. Each promises a major survival benefit to the other. The same is true for goods and services.

Sports fans worldwide provide support to athletic teams in huge numbers, while, in return, benefit from personal satisfaction and city or national pride. Similar support in exchange for personal value is true of popular music, entertainment, and the arts.

Both entrepreneurial and philanthropic behavior is loosely symbiotic.

* my own term


Epistle (Roman, Biblical)

Letter to Gertrude

(I love Gertrude Stein.
She said:
There ain’t no answer.
There ain’t never been no answer.
There ain’t never going to be no answer.
That’s the answer.
I disagree.
She said:
Human Nature and the Human Mind
are not related to one another.
She said:
There is no relation between Human Nature
and the Human Mind.
I disagree.
Hemingway said: Gertrude is always right.
I disagree.)

Change is pervasive throughout the universe.
There is always change.
There has always been change.
There will always be change.
Adapting to change is fundamental, primary.
Adaptation is the answer.

If we define Human Nature as the genetic predisposition
of humans to behave in a particular way, in cooperation with environment;
if we consider Human Mind to be synonymous with Human Brain,
if we allow that Human Behavior emerges from,
and Human Experience is contained within, Human Brain,
then we must observe that Human Nature and Human Brain
are not only deeply related, but are cognitively and neurologically
one and the same.

I like Hemingway, but Hemingway was not always right.


Pantoun (Malayan)

Global Integration

For thousands of years,
Invasion, migration, immigration, and slavery,
As well as the advent of cities, all have induced or contributed to
The forced assimilation of different genes, societies, and cultures.

Invasion, migration, immigration, and slavery,
Occur when entire communities are overpowered by enemies.
The aggressors may replace the previous culture with their own,
Mix the new with the old, or simply modify the existing culture in new ways.

The aggressors often replace the previous culture with their own,
Creating a mix of different populations.
Human populations can be broadly grouped (in alphabetical order) as
Africans, Arabs, Asians, Europeans, and Hybrids.

When a mix of Africans, Arabs, Asians, or Europeans 
Create an offspring, the result is a hybrid generation.
When a hybrid generation emerges,
The assimilation of the two previous groups has begun.

Assimilation is a form of globalization.
Ironically, the assimilation of the two previous groups
Represents a tendency toward cultural inbreeding.
The more assimilated the world population becomes, the less diverse.

(A Pantoun is composed of 5 to 15, 4-line stanzas, where each stanza borrows a line
from a previous stanza)