Drawing on poetics and visual art as well as philosophy and the science of complex systems, Ira Livingston's Poetics as a Theory of Everything explores what our seemingly most artificial conceptual constructs (such as poems and metaphors) and even the most illegitimate offspring of the human brain (such as drug-induced hallucinations) can tell us about the natural processes that shape living creatures and other systems.
Reviewers have described Livingston's previous books as 'lucid, playful, and reader-friendly,' 'exhilarating and moving,' and 'high-level discursive performance art full of conceptual kicks.'
Poetics as a Theory of Everything begins by considering current obsessions with both sustainability and imminent apocalypse-- symptoms of the postmodern condition-- and follows them down to their roots, which extend all the way into our common predicament as living beings. Subsequent chapters take up constraint (a fundamental creative principle in poetry, games-- and thermodynamics) and meaning (understood as a Rube Goldberg-like process whereby systems interact with their fellow systems, subsystems, and environments). The book ends lyrically with a series of prose sonnets and illustrations that develop these principles.
Throughout the book, text and images embody a principle shared by systems theory and Buddhist/Daoist thought: that the same process that leads to the fragmentation and dissolution of form also leads to its emergence, consolidation and elaboration.