The Fluid “Network”

The Fluid “Network”
Explore “fluid network,” instead of “fluid system” as a term more representative of our bodies’ holistic, adaptive, responsive, resilient, interconnected nature

November 24, 2020

The term “fluid system” is frequently used in Continuum, and I always wonder what exactly it means.

What is the fluid system?

Most people are familiar with the other named systems in the body: the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system, the urinary system, the immune system, the nervous system, the endocrine system, the musculoskeletal system, the lymphatic system, the integumentary (skin) system, and the reproductive system, etc.  Systems objectify and reduce a process to the actions of its parts. These body systems are easily described in terms of their anatomy and physiology.

The fluid “system” is not a system.

Sometimes when we speak of the fluid aspect of embodiment, we are referring to the physical liquids in the body: the liquid serum of the blood, lymph, urine, tears, ocular fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, bile & gastric juices, mucus, synovial fluid, serous fluids in the abdomen and chest. Some of these fluids live inside arteries, veins, or lymphatic vessels. Some fluids reside inside cells; some are extracellular. Some fluids are integral parts of tissues. Bones are 22-30% water. The brain, heart, lungs, muscle, fascia & kidneys are all between 75% - 80% water. Skin is about 65% water. The lowest water content of any tissue in the body is the enamel of the teeth, which is 2% water. The overall body composition is far more than half water. Water is present more than any other substance, but does that make it a “system?” What exactly does it mean to be a system?

The term “system,” as it is applied to the body refers to collections of parts or groups of organs and tissues that work together to serve a common purpose or a specific important job. Some organs may be part of more than one body system if they serve more than one function. Other organs and tissues seem to serve a purpose in only one body system.

Systems are stories we tell about the body in order to organize information conveniently and communicate about the body’s structures and functions. The heart does not know that it isn’t in the urinary system. The brain does not know that it isn’t in the musculoskeletal system. The body functions as a unified, interconnected whole, not as a segregated collection of systems.

The fluid nature of the body does not fit into this definition of systems. Our fluid nature is not a collection of parts or organs. There is no one set of identifiable purposes that we could attribute to a so-called fluid system.

Fluid is the basis for all of life’s processes.

So why do we single out the fluid nature of the body and call it a system? We single out the fluid nature of the body because Continuum values a sense of wholeness, an appreciation of the whole as greater than the sum of the parts. We appreciate this through what I like to imagine as a “fluid network.” A network is an adaptive, responsive and resilient complex, that creates interconnection. Networks involve multiple variables interacting in numerous ways to create dynamic conditions for sustaining life. The word network is a much better descriptor for all life forms. Fluid network clearly describes the nature of the living human body, as well as other living things, both plant and animal, and the ecology of our planet Earth. Our resonance with all water extends universally beyond Earth, to the water that exists in space, on the moon, on Mars, on Saturn’s moons, and other reaches of the universe. Systems are by definition reductionist. Networks are inherently inclusive.

Sometimes “fluid” refers to the physical liquids in the body, but we use the same word to describe the non-physical attributes of the fluidly of life. When we speak of the potency or the vitality of freely moving, expanding and contracting life, we are not talking about measurable liquids. In this context, we are describing metaphysical characteristics. We use the poetic metaphor of fluidity to point us in the direction of our inquiry. When we speak of moving like water, mimicking water’s behavior in order to learn to be more like it, we are speaking symbolically. This is the “non-material” expression of fluidity, and this ineffable quality is included in the big picture when we describe our practice as being rooted in “the fluid network.”

Language is powerful. The words we use shape our perception. By clarifying our language, we more accurately say what we do, and in turn, we are more able to not only do, but be what we say. One of Emilie Conrad’s most often quoted sayings is, “Movement is what we are; not just something we do.” Let’s explore describing the movement of life in the context of an adaptive, responsive and resilient complex, that creates interconnection, “the fluid network.”