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robertogreco : darkness   6

Ursula K. Le Guin: A Left-Handed Commencement Address
"So what I hope for you is that you live there not as prisoners, ashamed of being women, consenting captives of a psychopathic social system, but as natives. That you will be at home there, keep house there, be your own mistress, with a room of your own. That you will do your work there, whatever you’re good at, art or science or tech or running a company or sweeping under the beds, and when they tell you that it’s second-class work because a woman is doing it, I hope you tell them to go to hell and while they’re going to give you equal pay for equal time. I hope you live without the need to dominate, and without the need to be dominated. I hope you are never victims, but I hope you have no power over other people. And when you fail, and are defeated, and in pain, and in the dark, then I hope you will remember that darkness is your country, where you live, where no wars are fought and no wars are won, but where the future is. Our roots are in the dark; the earth is our country. Why did we look up for blessing — instead of around, and down? What hope we have lies there. Not in the sky full of orbiting spy-eyes and weaponry, but in the earth we have looked down upon. Not from above, but from below. Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourishes, where human beings grow human souls."
via:anne  ursulaleguin  hierarchy  patriarchy  power  millscollege  commencementaddresses  1983  society  victims  darkness  domination  control  commencementspeeches 
july 2018 by robertogreco
“Today’s world has no equivalent” – BLDGBLOG
"Ted Nield’s book Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet—previously discussed back in 2012—is an exercise in what has long been referred to here as landscape futures.

In Nield’s case, this means literally imagining what the surface of the Earth might look like after hundreds of millions of years’ worth of tectonic transformations have deformed it beyond all recognition. Supercontinent could thus be read alongside Jan Zalasiewiez’s The Earth After Us as a useful guide for thinking about radical landscape change on a truly inhuman timescale.

Nield writes, for example, that, “even if some civilization of 200 million years ago had completely covered [the Earth] in cities and then wiped itself out in some gigantic global nuclear holocaust, nothing—not even the faintest trace of some unnatural radioisotope—would now remain on the surface.” Some of us might think that writing books, for example, is a way to achieve immortality—or winning an Oscar or becoming a national leader—yet covering the entire planet with roads and buildings is still not enough to guarantee a place in any sort of collective future memory. Everything will be erased.

The book goes from a speculative, but apparently realistic, scenario in which subduction zones might open in the Caribbean—thus dragging North America back toward a seemingly inexorable collision with Eurasia—to the future implications of past tectonic activity. Supercontinents have come and gone, Nield reminds us, and the cycle of these mega-islands is “the grandest of all the patterns in nature.” “750 million years before Pangaea formed,” he writes, “yet another [supercontinent] broke up; and before that another, and so on and on, back into the almost indecipherable past.”

At one point, Nield asks, “what of older supercontinents? What of the supercontinent that broke up to give us Pangaea? And the one before that? Compared with Pangaea, those lost worlds seem truly lost. As with all geological evidence, the older it is, the less of it survives, the more mangled it has become and the harder it is to interpret.”
It is all but impossible to picture them—to see oneself standing on them—as you can with Pangaea. They have their magical names, which lend them reality of a sort despite the fact that, for some, even their very existence remains controversial. About Rodinia, Pannotia, Columbia, Atlantica, Nena, Arctica or distant Ur, the mists of time gather ever more thickly.


The amazing thing is that this cycle will continue: long after North America is expected to reunite with Eurasia, which itself will have collided with North Africa, there will be yet another splintering, following more rifts, more bays and inland seas, in ever-more complicated rearrangements of the Earth’s surface, breeding mountain ranges and exotic island chains. And so on and so on, for billions of years. Bizarre new animals will evolve and bacteria will continue to inter-speciate—and humans will long since have disappeared from the world, unable to experience or see any of these future transformations.

While describing some of the potential ecosystems and landscapes that might result from these tectonic shifts, Nield writes that “our knowledge of what is normal behavior for the Earth is extremely limited.”

Indeed, he suggests, the present is not a key to the past: geologists have found “that there were things in the deepest places of Earth history for the unlocking of whose secrets the present no longer provided the key.” These are known as “no-analog” landscapes.

That is, what we’re experiencing right now on Earth potentially bears little or no resemblance to the planet’s deep past or far future. The Earth itself has been, and will be again, unearthly.

In any case, I mention all this because of a quick description found roughly two-fifths of the way through Nield’s book where he discusses lost ecosystems—landscapes that once existed here but that no longer have the conditions to survive.

Those included strange forests that, because of the inclination of the Earth’s axis, grew in almost permanent darkness at the south pole. “These forests of the polar night,” Nield explains, describing an ancient landscape in the present tense, “withstand two seasons: one of feeble light and one of unremitting dark. Today’s world has no equivalent of this eerie ecosystem. Their growth rings show that each summer these trees grow frenetically. Those nearer the coast are lashed by megamonsoon rains roaring in from [the lost continent] of Tethys, the thick cloud further weakening the feeble sunshine raking the latitudes at the bottom of the world.”

There is something so incredibly haunting in this image, of thick forests growing at the bottom of the world in a state of “unremitting” darkness, often lit only by the frozen light of stars, swaying now and again with hurricane-force winds that have blown in from an island-continent that, today, no longer exists.

Whatever “novel climates” and unimaginable geographies lie ahead for the Earth, it will be a shame not to see them."
blgblog  geoffmanaugh  naturalhistory  earth  tednield  immortality  humans  pangaea  ecosystems  change  forests  darkness  adaptation  geography  time  climate  climates  landscapes 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Demons by Candelight
"I grew up with frequent power outages and load-shedding, especially during the summer time. Dark evenings without power were a special time for children. The candle-lit hours on porches and balconies were a strange mix of an ethereal kind of intimacy, beckoning darkness, and thoughts that retreated from both sunlight and electric lights.

You could do nothing useful during those hours. There was no TV or radio. Reading was difficult. Candle-lit meals tended to be either quick, simple affairs whipped up in semi-darkness, or leftovers. Families who turned the blacked-out evenings into family time generally sat out on the porch. Adults would use the time to tell family stories to children. Teenagers and some couples would stroll up and down the street, occasionally stopping to chat with neighbors. Younger kids would run around squealing and playing, seemingly possessed by the strange euphoria-inducing forces leaking in from another world. Or they would huddle together and try to scare each other with ghost stories.

Even back then, having never experienced cold northern climates, I instinctively knew that the Scottish word fey, born of cold foggy highlands, and which I had only encountered in books, was somehow the right word for the charged pre-Monsoon summer air around me."

***

To a great extent, our existence is framed by the kinds of light that illuminate it. The work/life balance is really a sunlight/electricity balance. Half our waking hours are framed by sunlight, the other half by electric lighting.

If the medium is the message, the message of sunlight is survival and work. Despite emerging lore around hacker all-nighters and owl-work, we are not a nocturnal species, or anywhere close to becoming one. We conduct our affairs in the harsh and unforgiving light of the sun. Sunlight is much too valuable to waste on non-essentials, so it is a light that keeps our mind on practical details. Even apparent leisure activities have a plugged-in-and-present quality to them, with a clearly definable value proposition that can be linked to survival. We save our slow strolls for sunrises and sunsets. Exercise in broad daylight is vigorous and energetic; for health.

The message of electricity-powered evenings on the other hand, is one of active and practical reflection, of learning from our own lives and the lives of others, through television and the Internet in particular. We review our own game-tapes, in solitude or in conversation. We take in and discuss news of distant wars and local traffic accidents, integrating them into the backdrop of our own stories.

Where work leaks into the night, it tends to be the heroic component. Programming or writing sessions driven by the steady energy of flow conditions. Or heavy-lift efforts to conquer piled-up mountains of tax paperwork. The banalities of life — calling customer support, going to the post office, holding meetings — those are for sunlight hours.

But candlelight hours enforced by blackouts are neither sunlit nor electrically lit. Candlelight is a light of disconnection and isolation; of forced intimacy and reflections easily avoided at other times. Of forced sensory presence in the here-now, rather than a sought-out and self-imposed retreat from life.

It is the difference being wanting to learn to swim and being dumped unceremoniously into the deep end. For adults unused to radical disconnection, candlelight can bring forth more lurking horrors than the supernatural imaginings of children.

Such people, unable to handle ascetic slowness for even a couple of hours, buy generators."



"I learned recently that our ancestors did not sleep as we did. Before street-lighting (first oil and gas, then electric) became common in the 1800s, apparently humans tended to sleep in two sessions, eight hours spread across two sessions within a twelve hour period between sunset and sunrise. Between first and second sleep, people apparently lived a third life that was distinct from the work of daylight between dawn and dusk, and the life of evenings until first bed-time.

I suspect the period between first and second sleep was something like what we experience today during blackouts. The link above mentions several interesting things about the period, and references a few books I plan to read."



"Stillness is the third space between spaces of action and reflection. A space that vanishes if life becomes too frictionless and reliably provisioned."



"Stillness is the other side of sacredness, the experience and contemplation of transience, letting go and irreversible loss. The practice of accommodating emptiness. In the presence of the demons who represent the work of our lives that must be done before we are done."



"There is a new kind of stillness creeping back into our lives. The dim glow of smartphone screens is more like candle light than electricity or sunlight. It is a warm bubble of connected hyper-intimacy we carry around with us through both days and evenings.

Sometimes, when I look up from my smartphone and unplug momentarily from Facebook and Twitter, I get the same sense of unreal other-worldliness that I used to get looking out at the urban landscape of a blackout.

Darkness is a relative thing after all. Even the brightest-lit scene seems dark when you become sensitized to what you’re not seeing. Walking about, glancing up from the small screen, I realize that I am surrounded by darkness. People whose lives are opaque to me. Trees I know nothing about until I try to identify them on Wikipedia. Docked ships with invisible stories attached, which I cannot see unless I look up a ship-tracking site. And somewhere in the universe of unexplored information, lurking demons of our digital selves who can wander invisibly even in the brightest sunlight, stewards of debts we did not know we were accumulating.

The demons of our smartphone lights are perhaps more powerful than the demons of candle light. Because until recently, we weren’t even aware they existed.

Now we do. We know they’re out there. We know they represent unrecognized debts to ourselves. More work-of-life items for our to-do lists. And that, I suppose, is what makes the age of the Internet a new kind of enlightenment.

The light of smartphones is a weak one today. It is not always on or all-powerful in relation to the universe of digital information, the way electric lighting is in relation to physical darkness. Using a smartphone feels like using a flashlight during a blackout. I often hop back and forth between offline and online worlds, googling birds and ships I spot, restaurants I walk by. Soon, I suppose, I’ll learn more about people I see through my AR glasses, whenever those become cheap enough for me to buy. Those will perhaps be the electric bulbs of our time, replacing the smartphone candles we stumble about with today.

Much of the darkness being lifted today only reveals a world of new banalities. But hidden among those there are new debts to fill moments of stillness.

When augmented reality finally hits our world in earnest, another layer of darkness will be peeled away. Demons that lurk today in the darkness of smartphone-level connectedness will retreat.

And we will come to cherish newer kinds of unexpected and unscheduled darkness."
death  darkness  light  venkateshrao  2014  candlelight  history  energy  electricity  sleep  community  technology  stillness  blackouts  consciousness  slow 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Matthew Battles – What is a specimen
"The little ivory characters are examples of tupilaq, a genre of carved critter widespread among the Inuit and other peoples of the far north. The tupilaq that live outside of museum time, outside of gallery time, are evil spirits called into being by a shaman for the purpose of making mischief. They carry curses to rivals and enemies. Made from bone and fur and other materials, the tupilaq are powerful magic — and dangerous for those who wield them, for if discovered, their powers turn back on their users unless an immediate public confession is made. Secrecy and darkness are the native habitat of the tupilaq; they lose their power when exposed to the sociable light."



"Objects arrive webbed in connections, and hoard their most intimate gestures and relations in unreachable treasure-houses. A collected object is a kind of vessel, freighted with an irredeemable record of acts and things, inaccessible worlds of sense and event, a tissue of phenomenal dark matter caught up in time’s obliterative machinery."



"Forged in an organismic manufactory, tooled by genes (it’s symbols all the way down), a tooth takes its place for a time in a network of perception and action: catching the piercing resonance of whale song bounding in the deep canyons — testing and metering the shifting temperatures of Arctic air — tearing and gripping the trauma-tautened flesh of smolt salmon."



"I want a museum with the modesty to realise that the objects of its interest do not take their sole, true, or final form beneath its gaze. As seen by science, objects withdraw their auras — burning coronas that connect sense and experience to the deep past — and when the galleries and museums are in ruins, they will expose new banners to time’s unfolding."



"Upon leaving the dermestid room, you had to stand in the airlock and brush down your clothes. There was an aroma of putrefaction in the room, but it was faint — you got used to it. The sound, however, was oppressive. The place hummed with a static song of tens of thousands of beetle grubs, hairy and grey, all chewing at sinew and dried muscle."



"Although to call the specimens dead does not sound quite right. For the specimens had transcended or exceeded death, had passed beyond its dominion by means of a process that arrested, ostensibly in perpetuity, their participation in the carbon cycle, the wheel of disarticulation and recombination, that is life on earth."



"An act of predation subsumes and reincorporates phenomenal animal affordances; the scientific sacraments of collecting and accessioning, by contrast, call forth abstract and motive truths, just as the expertise of the shaman reveals and directs the powers of the tupilaq spirits."



"Only later, upon its post-mortem discovery, was this dead creature turned into data. Now roughly preserved and enshrined in the Smithsonian, the dead insect serves as holotype for the computer bug. Like the tupilaq, computer bugs are ungovernable spirits evoked by a kind of transubstantiation. As the uncanny architecture of the computer unfolded itself in Harvard’s labs, the bug found its way not only into the machine’s works but into a new role as an object in our midst — a role that took its place among the object’s other histories and meanings, its penumbra of qualities.

This patterned assemblage of purposes, roles, and given characteristics, this accidental and ephemeral fate, I want to call by the name habit. An effigy, an insect, an animal’s measured, pinned-out pelt — we have our ways of domesticating these objects, of bringing them to ground, fixing them in amber or in print. The precise practices vary with what habits we bring to bear (from science to shamanism) and the collections they inhabit. And here is a clue — for dwelling in the word ‘inhabit’ is ‘habit’ itself. What if the habits in question are not ours, but those of the objects themselves?

A habit is not only a way of acting, but also a costume of a kind. Some objects — books, dice, celery stalks, lens caps — have deeply ingrained habits, while others — seashells and stars, perhaps, but also bottlecaps, icicles, and plastic six-pack yokes twirling in the mid-ocean gyre — wear their habits more lightly. And some objects take on the habit of naphtha and indelible ink, of cotton wool and alum, of cabinet drawer and taxonomic order.

The word ‘habit’ catches for me a sense of the shoddy assortment of qualities that knits an object into the fabric of things, weaving into one whole its social roles, the cultural codes it keys, and its whence-and-whither entanglements with deep time."



"After a long moment, the bat fled in a blur, disappearing into Chicago’s booming late-autumn breeze. It disappeared into the invisible cabinet of its unmeasured curiosity, its habit secreted in the wind."

[Previously: http://hilobrow.com/2013/01/29/resistant-objects/ ]
matthewbattles  objects  collections  museums  nature  aura  2013  tupilaq  meaning  meaningmaking  taxonomy  whales  animlas  teeth  inuit  art  culture  srg  edg  glvo  specimens  life  death  memory  memories  storytelling  holotypes  preparators  procedures  metadata  autotelos  naturalhsitory  georgescuvier  secrecy  darkness  magic  eowilson  history  bugs  computerbugs  habits  time  qualities  shamanism  science  understanding  misunderstanding 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Photo Booth: Living Ghosts: In Exile with the Sahrawi Bedouins : The New Yorker
"Andrew McConnell’s thoughtful & poignant project on the Sahrawi Bedouins—now into 35th year of exile from native Western Sahara.

McConnell says: “In pursuing the Sahrawis’ story, what struck me more than anything else was how forgotten these people are. How is it possible, in 21st century, for tens of thousands of men, women, & children to languish in refugee camps for 3.5 decades—unknown? How can continuous U.N. resolutions & international laws be ignored & abused w/out censure? & how can human-rights abuses proceed unchallenged?”

McConnell decided to stage his portraits in the darkness: “I wanted to give a sense that this is one long night for the Sahrawis—lasting 35 years. My showing very little of the land emphasizes that the Sahrawis are landless. By lighting them simply & in darkness, I am trying to say, ‘Look! These people are here!’ …a people utterly forgotten, abandoned, hidden from the world’s consciousness—a people living as ghosts.”
bedouins  sahrawi  humanrights  photography  darkness  andrewmcconnell  westernsahara  northafrica  refugees  un  2011  africa  exile 
may 2011 by robertogreco
'Biutiful': Tragedy And Addiction In Barcelona : NPR
"tragedy…a genre that has been forgotten in entertainment business…valuable way to express stories of human beings…

…people doesn't know about existence of this film because obviously the industry is just about selling entertained destruction. You know what I mean, like, predesigned corporate products to take money from the pockets of 10 to 15-year-old kids…

…audiences…have a lot of stiffness in their emotional muscles…even intellectual ones…they just want to sit…and are used to  being entertained…

…much more darkness & bleakness in 30 minute TV newscast…films that people are killed & you don't feel nothing…

…guy is dying, but you care for it. And the way I have seen people really relate to this character & are affected by the film all around the world I have been travelling, you cannot get better than that because the people really shake in a good way and they are not indifferent. And that's what art and that's what art should do, which is provoke, create catharsis."
alejandrogonzáleziñárritu  film  tragedies  biutiful  barcelona  immigration  migration  art  news  hollywood  entertainment  media  2010  darkness  bleakness  death  dying  catharsis  empathy  emotions 
december 2010 by robertogreco

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