Friday, May 19, 2023

the nature construct


Inside the ‘nature’ construct that seems to have been central to my work at Saipua, and here on the farm, is this ‘cameo’ quince, planted about a decade ago and blooming every year around the middle of May to an ever-shrinking florally-focused audience armed with clippers. The more for me!

I say ‘has been central’ because my thoughts on nature have been shifting fast alongside my bumpy migration away from urban floristry and into the rural fringe - ultimately a location better suited for contemplating philosophical and political questions I’m interested in spending my time on. The ‘nature’ of that floristry past was a prop of sorts, a decorative item that was an aesthetic addition to life, to apartments, to weddings, and to fashion shows. An evocative image most often consumed on a small screen. Happy to have provided that for many, and happy to still dabble in that work (teaching again this year after a year off and - last I counted - I’ll be making flowers for 4 weddings in 2023).

Blame what you want - the rise of monotheism, the bible, Decartes, Elon Musk - but we as a species have been distancing ourselves from our embedded earthly selves for a long time. The invention of the phonetic alphabet diminished the connection of language from any worldly phenomenon. (As opposed to - for example - the pictogram-based characters of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, which constructed a language whose symbols were rooted in earthly world objects and happenings.)

Where we went ‘wrong’ or how to make it ‘right’ are not the questions I’m interested in. Instead, I’m curious how we might coax forth a new paradigm that looks nothing like the ‘nature as resource’ place we’ve been in. I like to envision a new Genesis in which animals speak their own names to Adam while he listens…

I’ve been listening to the Joe Rogan show (probably not where you were expecting this to go). I think it’s wise to know the landscape as much as one can, and besides, he had on Michio Kaku recently, a physicist I have enjoyed listening to from way back when he had a regular slot on WBAI. Pentti used to listen to it after lunch when I came home from kindergarten.

Michio Kaku is known for birthing string theory. He is an avid futurist, a proponent of AI and colonizing outer space, and is obsessed with solving the God Equation (or the theory of everything). Hyper-optimized, masculinized sci-fi topics that generally land in a bucket I’ve labeled ‘circle jerks’.

I’m not advocating anti-tech, luddite realities. Our technologies are expressions of ourselves; from cave paintings to the alphabet to binary code to the rise of atomic computers (est. approx. year 2100 with 1M times the computing capacity of current hardware). These expressions stem from the basic drive we have as animals to continue our species and the very specific human desire to understand our world and where it came from.

As if it’s for us to know.

I’m attempting to write the text for the new Worlds End School website without using the word ‘nature’ because so much of our work on the farm is to center ourselves in relationship to the ecosystem. This is what embedded, embodied work means to me - who are you, right now, where you are, with those people right around you?

I don’t want us to get to the stars only because we destroyed everything here.

I am advocating for materialism in the philosophical, feminist sense; that only through direct interaction in the physical world will we have enough agency to evolve into who we really want to become. Not destroyers.

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