Sunday, May 12, 2019

Water level

It was unseasonably warm with record-breaking temperatures over the Easter period. 'That David Attenborough knows something' the man at the garden centre had said. He'd seen him on TV. 'I feel sorry for the Poles' he added. I must have looked confused. 'Them that run the car wash, I fell sorry for them' he'd said. Then 'we won't get cut off cos of the plants'.  Count your blessings. Hot sun, dry earth. The sky was heavenly blue in Newfoundland as well, and way out in the ocean icebergs like ghostly cruise liners drifted across in stately procession. 'We never saw them as kids - well not that I remember' I heard a local say. But now there's signs up with iceberg water for sale, and the whale watch boats have been pressed into service too, so you can get close up to those huge stacks of solid water drifting by. I clicked on the car radio when I got back - just in time to hear them talking about a 'managed realignment' of the coastline back home. The man from the National Trust was worried about footpath erosion and his cafes and visitors centres getting swept away by the encroaching sea. High water rising, storms battering the cliffs, cracks in the limestone bluffs. And if that wasn't enough there's a trickle of water snaking its way down the shower pipe; I worry about when to flush the toilet. Meanwhile protestors glue their hands to the pavement outside Westminster. Climate change, you could cry.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Democracy of things

In a democracy of things every object exists in relation to others. What's more all classes of objects have equal status although some can, of course, have more influence than others. Broadly speaking that is what is meant by DeLanda's much used phrase 'flat ontology'. Thinking about this it occurred to me that someone should document all the different attempts that have been made to give voice to non-human objects, those more or less silent members of this parliament of things. Admittedly some social science researchers have tried, and poets often touch upon it, but in fiction it is usually the preserve of writers of fables or children's stories. The anthropomorphic conceit - for that's what it usually comes down to, is more often than not concerned with bestowing human characteristics on animals. After all it offers a compelling way for us to understand ourselves - here Kipling springs to mind. Animals and their inter-relations become ciphers for human characters, their interactions and even their social organisation (Rikki-Tikki-Tavi for instance). But inanimate objects are much harder to voice. Rilke does this brilliantly by writing about a tin lid, of all things, '...a lid like this could have no other desire than to be sitting on its tin; this must be the limit of what it could imagine; a satisfaction that could not be surpassed, the fulfilment of all its wishes. It almost represents something approaching an ideal, having been twisted patiently and softly into place, to be resting evenly on the little matching protrusion and feeling the interlocking rim within you, elastic and just as sharp as your own edge is when you lie there on your own.' (Rilke, 2016:105). The composition is so finely tuned, but in the end, like all anthropomorphic writing it is, when it comes down to it, a sort of extended metaphorical reflection on the human predicament. I'm still looking for examples!