The third week feels like a copy of the first. But instead of an over-frantic energy demanding productivity, it’s a lull. Perhaps two more days of other work would remind me of the limits of this stay. Too much freedom is like being stranded in the ocean. You’ve no idea which direction to move in. Every start feels like a false one, and you just want to conserve energy until you see a sign, a flare or a boat, to give you something to move towards.
And perhaps whatever reality there is in the notion of coherent individual continuity is just a function of the physical existence. – Aldous Huxley, Eyeless in Gaza
We assume personalities exist because bodies do, and personalities seem inextricably linked to the body. But the post-human world atomises ‘personality’, produces multiple identifiable selves. These extraneous selves are either absent in body (text-based expression, which embodies the self in vocabulary used) or adds additional bodies (in the case of avatars). In the second situation, online behaviour which contradicts that of the physically based personality (the person you know in ‘real life’) is seen as a false incarnation of the behaviour and body. But if personalities, in the traditional sense of a self emergent from the body, do not exist, then these online-exclusive personas are just as fictional as the ‘true’ personalities. It’s not as Zizek says because they are all spectres, all snow flakes melting in our hands. Mask, avatar, persona: none are a true ‘personality’, simply different manifestations of thought vis a vis environments and experience. Continuity of a certain self is only true if there is continuity of environment. We all know the person who claims to have completely changed during an extended time elsewhere, only to return to typical behaviour on their return.
The reality of the coward behind the computer screen is as legitimate as the online persona. Neither self is superior, only that the personality of the computer screen is more contingent on digital technology being available. You would not say that a dog who sheds its coat in summer is not the same dog, simply altered in state.
I’m thinking about how beautiful the waves are before they break and how I wish we could freeze them like that, all concave planes and jagged peaks. I think of ICE-NINE from Cat’s Cradle and how, despite the total destruction it would bring, it would for a moment create a moment of complete beauty.
Then I think of mountains and their beauty, not too dissimilar to that of the ocean, but monstrous, the ragged grandeur of clashing tectonics, of worlds butting heads.
And no wonder, then, that the sea attacks the land endlessly. The mountains have a permanence of form that the sea envies. Throughout its many forms the sea forms an assault, and withers away the object of its envy. The rain attacks the peaks and plains, the steams carve up the mountainsides, rivers the flats, and water nourishes the plants whose roots further churn and devour the earth.The sun dries the deserts. It feeds the plants too.
The earth, the most human facet of geography – hard, industrial earth – throws its hot sticky bile into the air and tries to blot out the clouds and the sun. Its counterattack takes much of its energy: it is not in the earth’s nature to change state. It heaves dust into the air from emphasemic lungs. It works for a while: the sun retreats, the plants are scorched, the heat makes the water vanish. All is dead, dark, and dry.
But after this the plants ferociously advance, aided once again by the water. The dust is fodder and hungry cells gobble up the pyroclastic offering.
Perhaps, after all, the earth only wants to be like the water: flowing, changing, free.
The snow has body. This much is certain. A body is an object that has experiences and contains evidence of those experiences. This is often confused with an identity or self, but the body is the record of events. The ‘self’ only exist in activity, in becoming. In the way that a photo album can contain evidence of an individual’s history, it in no way can dictate what will happen, or how they will act, despite vague predictions being possible. That moment of selfhood, of becoming, only exists in the press of a button.
But the snow certainly contains experience. It is a record of all earthly history up until this point. I choose to compliment the snow as it is water in its least ‘active’ or ‘functional’ state. It doesn’t quench thirst, it doesn’t cool drink or beers, or provide a home for polar bears, fish, dolphins or coral. It doesn’t block the sun or provide us with a hot bath. It sits, meditatively, on everything. In this moment I want it to experience something warm, literally and metaphorically. This moment of exchange alters the snow too, physically and spiritually. I want for the snow to embody kindness, emotional warmth, support, etc. The snow changes me too, becomes active when receiving – my hands go numbwith the effort of holding it, no longer able to feel it. My touch destroys it, and its touch numbs me.
This snow, forever altered, will enter back into the water system. My wish is that it will imbue other water with this loveliness, this positive experience. Like ice-nine this form of water will envelop the planet. We brush our teeth with love, drink tea and coffee of selflessness, water our plants with kindness. Like holy water I am placing a spell on this snow. I wield it like a divine instrument. But it is not the divinity of God it contains, but the divinity of one body trying to connect with another.
Now is a turbulent time. I’m in a position where I should, in theory, sail through relatively unscathed. However there are millions of others who will suffer. I cannot do much, treading water to stay afloat as I am. But I can offer what I little I can. Little though it may be, like that handful of snow, if it catches then our collective handfuls of snow might be enough to ease the plight of those worse off.