Ideas, Emergence. Relational Nourishment?

Have you ever come across some idea, innovation or artwork and felt something like, “Ah! I was just thinking about that!”?

In academic arenas I’ve seen related phenomena sometimes called multiple discovery, simultaneous invention and historic re-occurrence. [1]

As a kid on ‘usa’ playgrounds, when two of us said something at the same time, we had a race to say “pinch, poke, you owe me a coke”. The quickest to declare the ownership-spell was awarded a soda pop.[2]

In other sorts of moments, an idea or invention is put forth by a person or group — and then other people relate to that idea. Here I am thinking of teaching, sharing, fusion, influence, inspiration, appropriation, plagerism, copying, etc.

About unique, novel innovation, umm…


I turn to our primate kin and their handy sticks. Perhaps you have heard about apes and their ant-fishing poles?

Many apes poke a stick into the entrance of an ant or termite home. They wait a moment, then pull the stick up to feast on a fresh insect-kabob. Wiggling their ape fingers directly into the hole tends to result in too many painful bites. The stick affords them a more relaxed dining experience. [m]

Apes often sculpt sticks to suit their needs in nuanced ways. Such as for honey dipping, water-sipping, grabber-sticks, pole vaulting, ladder use and more. Specialized stick crafting varies from region to region. [3]

Also, people have reported apes inventing uses for sticks in new situations. That is, the apes seem to spontaneously invent a tool to use, to fit a specific situation which they have not before encountered. [6]

Some of these novel situations might be called simultaneous invention. This is when one group, in one location, uses a certain kind of honey stick — and a second group, with no exposure to the first — is seen using the same honey stick style. [p]

Other times we humans have witnessed apes involved in social learning, such as teaching, fusion, influencing, copying, or so forth.[12]

Birds are also fairly well know for their stick ideas. [f][17][3]

Ants have been spotted creating honey sponges. [8]

Spontaneous ideas, simultaneous innovations, novel ideas, learning from others — this happens throughout nature. It is not limited to human realms.

[Photo by Patrice Audet on Unsplash.]

[Photo by Kevin Jansen on Unsplash.]

My guess is, if you are a Funnel Ant who creates a honey sponge, it is rather irrelevant to your life whether or not a human decides to give you a copyright patent for novel innovation, calls you a simultaneous-inventor along with a spattering of ants from around the globe, or if they call you a plagiarizer for that matter.[4]

[ ]

Goodness knows, such distinctions do matter in human realms!

Did you ever say an idea in a meeting and get ignored. Then, moments later, hear someone else say the same idea and receive instant praise? [5]

Did you ever tell a friend about a new idea. Then, later, hear your friend repeat your idea without mentioning you at all?

Did anyone ever tell you that something you were doing was plagiarizing, copying, or appropriative?[x]

Did you ever download a song without sending money to a living artist?[10]

Did you ever have an idea, then find out that someone in your field already performed or published the very same idea? [19]

Did you ever contribute novel ideas to an open source or mutual aid project — instead of trying to trademark or sell your material for personal gain?[3][6]

Did you ever experience a company or colleague take credit for or earn money from an idea that you shared with them? [5][w][13]

Did you ever forget where you learned something?

[ — I first saw this meme posted by Melanie Noyes.]

Discerning how human ideas and inventions are categorized, what sort of attribution is appropriate and to whom — these sorts of questions are often not a clear-cut matter.

Nonetheless, attempting to flesh out and ask such questions is extremely important. In many cases, ideas or inventions correspond with tangible livelihood factors. Such as cash. Or in mental-emotional-physiologically-spiritually bolstering effects that emerge through being appreciated and seen by your community and beyond.

There are so many more variations and contributing factors related to why, when and how it matters whose name is associated with an idea, who is being acknowledged. Too, what matters, when often changes depending on if you are looking at the scale of an individual’s life, if you are looking at trends within a cultural grouping, lineages of thought, or if you are considering even larger inter-cultural or global systems.

[mapping of academic papers —]

Science textbooks from my public school told me that Charles Darwin came up with the idea of natural selection.[j] Nowadays, many science sources are presenting the story as a case of simultaneous invention.[13]

For those who don’t know, one simultaneous innovator of this idea was Alfred Watson, a close colleague with Darwin. Watson and Darwin each did their field work in different regions of the world. Yet, both were English men occupying the same scientific-social circle. The pair regularly exchanged ideas and even published a collaborative paper on natural selection.

Watson and Darwin acknowledged and celebrated one another, at least publicly. Yet, for various reasons, Darwin’s name stuck like burdock while Watson’s drifted to the wayside.

I wonder,
how many other multiple discoverers arrived at similar ideas about evolution?

Did they not write their observations because they felt it was already common knowledge?

Did they share their ideas yet were ignored by their social spheres?

Did they document their ideas but that documentation was destroyed or stolen?

Did they choose, as Alexis Pauline Gumbs writes, “to refuse to be seen, to be known, to participate…” with that particular scientific community? [4]

[Photo by Andrei Prodan on Unsplash.]

In zeitgeists that I occupy, my friends and colleagues have tended to exchange ideas in kitchens, while dancing, wandering in trees, while doing chores and crafts, riding buses, while sipping drinks, during conferences, classes, workshops and meetings.

I notice that idea-trends seem to emerge and take to the air like a murmur. The sum of us seems greater than the parts.[9]

In a murmur it is hard to spot, who or what ignites a sudden turn or a swoop. How many environmental factors, how many tiny culminations build up to a “last straw” moment — that moment at which an invisible-building-up becomes a tangible, seen move? [5].

Sometimes it seems easy to spot when one of us-flock-of-birds has introduced a new way to use a stick. Other times, pin-pointing a precise origin of an idea remains infinitely slippery.

How do I, how do you — distinguish where idea murmuring ends and novel stick invention begins?

One thing is clear, celebrity sticks to only some of our flock.

[Photo by Fermin Rodriguez Penelas on Unsplash ]

In researching this topic of multiple discovery, I came upon stories of pulmonary circulation.

Modern understanding of pulmonary circulation begin around 3000 BC, in ancient Egypt. That is what The Journal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Anesthesia told me.[7] Other sources attribute such origin to the Persian Sassanid Pahlavi manuscripts, from around 224–637 AD. [8][9] Many suggest that the honor should go to Syrian Ibn al-Nafis, who wrote of pulmonary circulation in 1242 AD. [10][11] A few sources try to tape the title of circulatory discovery to Europeans of the 1500s[12][13][14].


Did Egyptian circulatory ideas of 3000BC influence those Persian texts of 224AD?

Did the circulation ideas in Persia arise independently, in a case of multiple discovery?

Did some of the pulmonary concepts discussed in the Persian manuscripts make their way through 700 years, and land in the Syrian world of Ibn al-Nafis?

Was Syrian born Ibn al-Nafis, who later moved to Egypt, influenced-on by those earlier Egyptian ideas from 3000BC? [14]

The uncertainly goes round and round.[16] To whom, what names, what regions, what peoples should a discovery prize be given?

Again I wonder,
who else had similar ideas about circulation? Yet — for this or that reason — their ideas never reached a scribe? Who else was a simultaneous discoverer?

[Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash ]

Here is another sort of story I have seen unfold in various ways. Perhaps you recognize some version of this story, perhaps not –

We begin at a gathering. A workshop, a festival, a conference, a training, a panel discussion, a symposium, a what-have-you-gathering.

At this gathering there were the usual cast of subcultural celebrities, performers, teachers, speakers, or presenters.

A few participants, Ayanna, Dallas and Lani, found themselves talking. Throughout the week many of the ideas that Ayanna shared evoked tremendous excitement in Dallas and Lani; they found Ayanna’s ideas novel, invigorating, compelling.

All three returned to their respective homes, sometimes sharing recaps of this-or-that famous presenter with their friends, mentors and colleagues.

Too, Dallas and Lani talked about Ayanna’s ideas. Although, as it happened, Dallas and Lani rarely mentioned Ayanna’s name to their mentors nor colleagues. Afterall, Ayanna was not famous so they would not have know her name anyway.

Some of the ideas they heard from Ayanna eventually threaded into their own work. Yet, Dallas and Lani had lost track of who said which idea; what they had said and what Ayanna had said all blurred together. Like concrete, idea-emergence hardened over Ayanna’s particular contribution. It was not intentional, nor did they notice it was happening.

Whatever the contributing factors — whatever the whys of why Ayanna’s contribution went unmentioned— the impact of chalking Ayanna’s ideas up to emergence evoked something of a spiritual-bypass, a colleague-bypass.

[Photo by Cole Freeman on Unsplash]

Where did Ayanna get her ideas?

Did she hear her ideas in the murmurings of her flock?

Did her squad, her flock, spontaneously innovate these ideas?

Or did her flock actually hear these ideas from a neighboring flock?

Again, where does idea murmuring end and novel idea begin?

Is Ayanna a singular innovator?

Is Ayanna but one of many simultaneous innovators? Are she and Darwin alike in this way?

Did they get their ideas from the murmuring of ants and finches?

What sorts of recognition might be relevant to ants, birds, apes, plants, rocks? What fosters their livelihood?

We are nature. We are animals. Tho, we are different than ants, of course.

It is clear that our attributions, who we recognize and honor, have wide, tangible consequence.

In case it is not-yet clear,

this writing is not really about ego nor individual talent.

Perhaps you identify as a singular innovator, or that you have arrived at your livelihood because you are particularly talented, insightful, business-savy, persistent, charismatic, you have positive thinking skills, skilled at emotional regulation, or so forth?

Perhaps you are one who prefers to avoid recognition or any outward sorts of ego inflation, a preference to be low profile? Perhaps you avoid acknowledgement of your doings in the world?

Whatever your particular situation –

In this writing I am not talking about you, per se. In this writing I am exploring dynamics which are bigger than you or me, Ayanna or Darwin.

The beating-heart of my interest here is about livelihood dynamics which are bigger than one person, bigger than one factor.

I am looking at money and fame. Although, I do not say that is is by money alone, nor Nobel-size recognition which brings about nourishing livelihood.

I am trying to explore a few streams so that I can foster understanding of wide rivers and intersections of livelihood.

[Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash ]

I sit here now, considering naming my friends in my lineages of learning, considering tracing various ideas among us, between us and beyond our friendship flocks. I find feelings of confusion, complexity, an awareness that this project will take some time.

It is easy to say that the groups I meet with regularly, the colleagues and friends I talk with often, they help sustain my life, nourish me. Naming animal and plant friends feels straight-forward. Poco, Habib and Colt, for example — these three horse-friends fundamentally shaped who I am today.

Yet, when I consider naming a few people-friends in my flock, but not others, I feel a distinct pang of concern. A worried intuition washes in, warning me that naming some and not others may foster distance between some of us, more than foster collective nourishment.

To clarify, I do not think my individual flock friends cannot applaud their friends without pangs of envy or something of that sort. Rather,
I find the conditions we fly in to be dangerous, for some of us more-so than others.
I find it hard to gently murmur when flying in the midst of a maelstrom; the effects of social inequity reek havoc on many scales and manifest in complex ways.

[Photo by Cooper Baumgartner on Unsplash]

Within your work flocks, friendship flocks,

however you play with and define what your various flocks might be –

do you notice,

Which of your contributions are recognized? Which are not?

How is your livelihood — your cash, your food supply, your supply of love exchange, your people who care for you when you are sick, how is your mental-emotional-spiritual being?

How do various aspects of livelihood seem to intersect in your life?

From your perspective, how do those things seem for your flock mates?

Who do you see in your flock getting colleague-bypassed, ignored, copied or stolen from?

Within your flocks, who is talked about, read, quoted, recognized?

Are those well-worn names people from within your flock?

Are they names of people outside of your flock? Some combination?

Whose voices do you and your flock hold dear? in which moments?

Whose names do you repeat? to whom?

When any amount of recognition or fame comes to only a few within your flock, do the aspects of that recognition-livelihood get spread out to all of you?

Only to some of you?

If so, which aspects of livelihood or recognition seem to put distance between members of your flock – between those who have and have-not?

When you have conversations and you leave feeling like you’re sparkling, full of new ideas, who were you talking with?

Can you discern,
when is an idea a murmuring between you two— or— a moment when one-or-the-other-of-you offered a particular contribution?

When do you notice moments of simultaneous or multiple discovery?

Can you discern, which murmurings arise out of your flock?

Which ideas emerged in a neighboring flock?

Which ideas are simultaneous discovery?


When you look at a wide network of intersecting flocks, global-size murmurings— [17]

Which groups seem to be recognized, lush with which aspects of warm beds, food, love, and/or income?

Whose livelihood seems well endowed? Which aspects of livelihood?

Can you trace any lines of this livelihood — when, how, from where did these aspects of livelihood emerge?

Which flocks, which people, seem to be colleague-bypassed, ignored, copied or stolen from?

For those with little livelihood, can you trace the distance from livelihood — when, how, from where did their life and these aspects of livelihood separate?

Which aspects of livelihood are present?

Who among those are trying to be heard? Who is struggling to arrive at livelihood, warm beds, food, love, meaningful work, or income?

Who among those are refusing to be seen ? Who seem to intentionally move away from flock-to-flock overlap, like the so-called Sentinelese?[w]

How do patterns within your flocks compare or differ from patterns that play out in global-size murmurs?

However you come by your money, bed, food or love — If you place yourself, if you imagine yourself within these global-size flocking dynamics,
Where do you seem to fit?
Where do you and your flock-mates seem to fly in relation to other flocks?

And how do these livelihoods seem to relate with the livelihoods of ants, apes, burdock or birds? [1]

[Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash ]

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