On my hike around the reservoir last weekend I carried a copy of Octavio Paz's Itinerario. Paz, who died in 1998, was a Mexican Nobel Prize winning writer. It was hot and humid last Saturday so every now and then during my hike I'd find a shady spot with a good view, pull Paz's book from my backpack, and read awhile. At dusk, inside my tent atop an isolated peak with White- winged Doves cooing around me, treefrogs plinking and thunder booming across the next ridge, I read Paz.

It's a shame Paz didn't know more about Nature. His world was human thought, human politics and human history. As such he restricted himself to just a tiny, tiny corner of the Universe.

What fascinates me is that despite this limitation Paz developed profound insights, and a belief system I'm more or less comfortable with. This doesn't surprise me, though. Often I've observed that all complex systems, be they biological ecosystems, mature political beliefs, the evolving Universe, or whatever, are pretty much structured the same. Study anything in very great detail and you gain insights applicable far beyond the field you're studying.

For example, Paz ends Itinerario with "The Universe is innocent, even when a continent sinks or a galaxy cinderizes." The concept of "bad" lies in human minds, he says. He sums up his insight by saying that "to fight against evil is to fight against ourselves."

So, Octavio Paz, prize-winningly working out the structure of the human condition by examining human thought, politics and history, comes to the very conclusion I have. To me, nothing is as "bad" as endangering or ending "Life on Earth." And, to confront this evil, we must confront ourselves.

We must do battle with our own appetites, our own lack of empathy with other living things, our own insensitiveness, our own unsustainable traditions (especially inherited systems of thought such as religions and blind nationalism), and our deep-seated aversions to change.

I like that Octavio Paz, studying human thought, politics and history, came up with the same conclusion I did looking at oak trees, ants and quartz crystals.