Sunday, June 5, 2022

Passion, detachment, death-drive, ghosts, equilibrium, old-growth

Quotes I'd like to share with you. Sources at bottom.

From Living Alone and Loving It:

"Passionate interests have the potential to cross-pollinate. Years ago I met a woman who was fascinated by the history of bread. 'If you study bread,' she told me, 'eventually you learn everything about the society that made it; who tilled the fields, who harvested the grain, the artists who created the utensils and the art that adorns them, the status of women, farmers and merchants, even their economy.' It seems that if you pick up the thread of almost any interest and are eager to follow it, it can weave together the whole world!

From The Four-Dimensional Human:

“Bartleby, the copyist who refuses to copy...

* * *

The grotesquely static Bartleby, spending hours in trance-like states, embodies the petrifying qualities of authoritarian power structures that uphold corporate architecture. His employer tries to indulge Bartleby’s refusal, and encourages him to take ‘wholesome exercise in the open air. This, however, he did not do.’ ... Bartleby is ultimately arrested and removed for being a vagrant...His employer recognizes the lunacy of this charge: ‘It is because he will not be a vagrant, then, that you seek to count him as a vagrant.’ ... Bartleby, as the static-vagrant, is a monstrous impossibility. ... The clerk spends hours entranced by the view out of his window, which is the unchanging non-view of a wall, the essence of failed refreshment. ... caught in a cycle of reproducing that which already exists. Being absorbed into this strange form of static work, motion without progress..."

From “Pride Reimagined":

"In his 2005 book, In a Queer Time and Place, J. Jack Halberstam writes that queer cultures produce 'alternative temporalities,' or 'queer time,' by allowing us to imagine futures for ourselves outside birth, marriage, reproduction and death, those 'paradigmatic markers of life experience.'"

From Monster Portraits:

“‘A zone of incandescence.’ Aimé Césaire, from a 1943 essay in which he writes that in order to maintain poetry, one must ‘defend oneself from social concerns by creating a zone of incandescence.’ Quoted in A. James Arnold’s introduction to The Original 1939 Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, Wesleyan University Press, 2013, p. xvii.”

From Peripatet:

"It pulls apart the suicide and makes it personal, every feeling felt, every nuance placed simply before your eyes in enticing imagery that humanizes the experience and thus perhaps terrifies you. Intimate with suicide, this is the result. You become intimate with someone choosing death over life because you understand what might lead one to think this way. You understand the pills, the cabinets full of. You understand the arguments, the evenings full of. You understand the family’s concern, the life apparently full of nothing else. You feel nauseated with identification, perhaps. It’s a downer, a terrible thing, you’re a negative creep."

From "High Falls: A Human Chain":

"Problematically, suicide also works to backfill a biography so that every action in a person’s life seems pointed towards a tragic endpoint, which of course is grossly deterministic. 'Only the living seem incoherent,' continues Critchley, with irony. 'Death closes the series of events that constitutes their lives. So we resign ourselves to finding a meaning for them. To refuse them this would amount to accepting that a life, and thus life itself, is absurd.'"

From "The Light Moves and Changes Everything":

“The afterlife would be dreadful if we were aware of being forgotten, and most of us will inevitably be forgotten, as soon as within a couple generations. While alive, we are mostly surrounded by the recognition of others, even if that recognition consists of being avoided on a subway car or chased from a homeless encampment by a police officer. But profound oblivion awaits, much to the dismay of those who work tirelessly to impress themselves in the collective consciousness of the internet. The awareness of this irrelevance is what being a ghost is all about: understanding the self as dandruff, flyspeck, dryer lint, a single particulate of exhaust soot on a blade of drought-resistant grass along the median strip of an interstate. The body decays ignominiously, so we invent the spirit and glorify that instead, testifying to the mystic self as a wilful, independent force – but the spirit is as disposable as a wisdom tooth, and the presence or idea of ghosts reminds us of this.

Ghosts in their liminal fix also populate a formal panel rejecting the dichotomous valorisation or damnation of the Abrahamic human spirit: neither the perpetual orgasm of rapturous, heavenly bliss nor a hell of physical pain administered with close attention by demons – rather, an insular bureaucracy without meaningful interactions aside from the occasional grievance that can never be communicated adequately beyond a shriek, a stuck piano key, a slammed door, or a cracked mirror, more often driving away those propitiated or appealed to (the living occupants who still have faith in tidy endings) than resolving any intractable problem left over from the spectre’s ephemeral life.”

From "Finding Satisfaction, Knowing When to Stop":

The Old Master uses the sinograph “unhewn, primitive piece of wood” ( 樸) to represent the pristine wilderness and unadorned simplicity of nature, untouched by humans.

* * *

Like the Dào, is ubiquitous and ineffable. But as we evolved into bipedal creatures, we began to use our hands to shape into artifacts or tools ( 器)4. There is a zero sum game between and . For thousands of years, indigenous cultures managed to preserve an abundant , until they too were decimated along with the .

As we create more , more is destroyed forever. Once we have obliterated enough to tip the critical equilibrium, we have also brought our survival into question. I am afraid we may be at just such a junction, perhaps we have even exceeded it.

* * *

Civilization was able to maintain a reasonable amount of until the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. But since then, we have so thoroughly destroyed , we can no longer restore it. The best we can do is to stop our mindless destruction and let trees, billions of them, rescue us."


Barbara Feldon. Living Alone and Loving It: A Guide to Relishing the Single Life. New York: Fireside, 2003. p. 60.

Laurence Scott. The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016. “Chapter 6: The Cabin in the Woods.”

Thomas Page McBee. "Pride Reimagined." New York Times. June 16, 2020.

“Notes.” Del Samatar and Sofia Samatar. Monster Portraits. Brookline, Mass.: Rose Metal Press, 2018.

Grant Maierhofer. Peripatet. Inside the Castle, 2019. p. 426 of PDF.

High Falls: A Human Chain.” Robert W. Fieseler. Delacorte Review. June 28, 2019. Accessed May 21, 2020.

"The Light Moves and Changes Everything; or, the Quantum Mechanics of Memory in the Afterlife." Teresa K. Miller and Gregory Giles. Berfrois. January 28, 2020. Accessed April 26, 2020.

"Finding Satisfaction, Knowing When to Stop." Yoo-Chong Wong. Sisyphus. February 2020.

These passages remind me of the work I did for Ten Past Noon. If I'd known about them earlier, I would have worked them into my book.

forest in daytime
Forest by Valiphotos from Pixabay

No comments: