“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Is Ecological Art? (MP3)

I had had a very very moving time in Cumbria (where I used to live a bit) and the exhibition of work at the Wordsworth museum, inspired by the idea of a fusion between Basho and Wordsworth, was really, really touching. So I almost did lose it, just like I warn at the beginning! Also I made people laugh, don't worry...

It was to non-scholars who really liked it and really cared about ecology and all that. Thank you Jeff Cowton and everyone who put this together. Highlight talk so far.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is indeed a very beautiful talk, and the emotion you were in tempered your delivery of it in a way that made it unusually accessible. You often do more of a high-speed stream-of-consiousness thing that unfortunately ends up streaming past and leaving me unconscious; if you talked like this all the time, I'd be a lot less bewildered, and I can't really feel like bewilderment is always a good thing.

I have to comment, though, about a question you answered: "Having heard this, what would you like for me to leave here and do?"

I agree with everything you say about how we violently discriminate against contemplation, so that the drive to "do something" is part of what we actually want to beat, and may create more of the problem. However, I think the questioner was mistaken in one small but vital way: The status quo of agrilogistical reality isn't still going on "around" you while you're sitting still and contemplating or hesitating, because you're NOT sitting still: you're going with it in absolutely the same direction it's going in. In other words, YOU are part of what is "going on around", inextricably: there is no boundary; you ARE it. The train is moving you with it; you only feel like you're standing still because you're standing on the train, feeling "hesitatey" and not dong anything decisive. Now, we can argue about what effect your emotional state is having on other beings (I'm sure it's not nil), but I dare to think that we all--including you, Tim--are maybe at least as interested in the reverse part of that equation.

The reverse part of the equation is that politically, you can't not move in a decisive direction. Howard Zinn said this, and I've seen no evidence to contradict it: you can't be neutral on a moving train. You can pull the emergency brake, you can jump off, or you can continue traveling in the direction the train is going. If you continue traveling, you can feel or think or say anything you like about it, but this doesn't alter the destination. And I'm talking about YOUR destination, not some "the fate of the world is in your hands" kind of thing.

So, two things. One, it might be a good idea to differentiate between "active" and "passive" modes of hesitation. Active hesitation might take the form of jumping off the train or pulling the emergency switch, but I don't know if you will accept that this sort of decisive action can be non-agrilogistical.

Two, in order for this ecognosis to be relevant to other beings it really must, as with all principles, be translated into a directive for the purposes of implementation. "Gravity causes water to flow downhill", for example, is a principle that a modern engineer interprets as a challenge: "Let's build a coal furnace to power a turbine to make electricity to power a pump so we can make the water flow uphill again!" On the other hand, voicing the principle as a directive reads more like: "Figure the downhill flow of water into your intention for design, and remember that capillary action in soil and transpiration in plants ALREADY make water flow back uphill."

As you've said, science needs to start working better with the humanities. This goes both ways.