Thursday, November 08, 2007


Andy Goldsworthy — Storm King Wall

Remaining sane while becoming civilized is a process of cherry picking experience as preferences and probabilities to evidence who we are at any given moment much like I used to do as a mason picking just the right shape, color and texture in a rock to work with the state of the wall at each point in time. I always preferred dry stacking to the permanence of mortar just for the permeability giving room for rain to water stray seeds in niches to bring the wall to natural life.

There was a project undertaken by Andy Goldsworthy to rebuild an old, colonial wall that had been scattered asunder by trees growing along its length and other ravages of time in the Storm King area of New York. The beauty of the results lies in the idea behind its reconstruction and the metaphor I find in it for the point in ones life when the law and order of civilization is found to be in constant conflict with and no longer rules ones nature and must be arranged to allow it to flourish in the enlightenment of free thought. The hundred-plus years of growth of the stand of trees is a straight line where the original wall was built after clearing the wilderness for agriculture. Taking root along the wall, seeds becoming trees slowly eased the stones, rocks and boulders into points of imbalance and a falling away from the line. When he arrived very little erect wall stood amongst the twenty foot wide scatter of debris along the line. To commemorate the line of the original wall he removed all the remnants from around the trees and reassembled them in ribbon fashion snaking around each tree and back across the line of the original wall between them.

In the same way, after sufficient conflict between the learned behavioral propriety of civilization and ones growing experiential sense and awareness of natural instincts, one may find that the artificial imposition of laws becomes irrelevant to ones experience of nature. If one still considers nature to be something to be conquered, the rules are reavowed to be held impervious to the wilderness of the unknown and the mind begins to suffocate without fresh thought. If one honors experience over authority, the heresy may take form as anything from overt criminality in rebellion to hermetic hermithood off the map withdrawal. In my previous post I demonstrate that I am not even off the political map yet and my dependence on energy for this computer and some food means I am still on the real artificial map as well. My goal is to, like Buster Keaton when the front of the barn swung out and fell around him, be standing where the loft window landed when whatever occurs in the immanent collapse of the myths of American exceptionality, limitless oil and global abuse denial shakes the civilized world like nothing anyone alive has ever imagined.

As I commented on The Far Queue yesterday on the subject of World Bank versus South American alternatives:

At the beginning of the 21st century, mankind is torn between admitting the effect of its overpopulation and industrialization on the health of the planet and scrambling to finance further degradation by still relatively pristine third world populations. If we were serious about the survival of our progeny and health of the planet we would:

1) Stop the perpetually self-defeating increase of world food production to stop the population increases that inevitably increase the number starving people and quantity of polluters. The always increasing population is always the justification for industrial excesses in production.

2) Individuals must become more aware of the effect of over population by the sheer quantity of polluting, heating prosthetics technology requires each to acquire. Education about the need to prevent unwanted pregnancy with contraception is of paramount importance. Without wars, genocide or birth permits the human population could be reduced effectively in two or three generations if the implications of overpopulation were fully realized by everyone. It is criminal to prohibit the choice of birth control to a species becoming cancerous to the body of which it is a part.

3) Stop using harmful technology immediately, all the phase out plans are too soft. The internet already has the capability of every type of communication except teleportation of physical entities. A giant portion of western civilization's exceptionally excessive contribution to world wide pollution is due to the auto and air conditioning proliferation by commuters to and from jobs they could do just as well at home. While the impermeability of their offices and parking lots could be returned to nature or used to house the homeless, as if either of those would ever happen.

I don't find much hope for independent financing of local versions of the US's thingathon to gain South America the improvements its indigenous populations envision. Or anywhere else for that matter. The Nobel winning micro loan business is financing Indian farmers’ buying Monsanto hybrid seed for the first year only to find the same expenses the next year causing thousands of farmers to choose the alternative to such debt, suicide. Money is not food, what else does one need from day to day?


leslie said...

By my nature, I'm a dry stacker, too.

red dirt girl said...

ohhhh - wow, this is a fabulous piece of art: for a mason is truly and artist working in a specialized medium .... i love your interpretation of the wall: what it represents to you. I would definitely consider this to be a landscape 'installation' piece. Being trained as a landscape arch. helps me to understand your viewpoint regarding nature and stewardship - a topic often discussed over a pitcher of beer after classes.

I had a serpentine wall built in my back garden. I asked the mason to please dry stack the wall. As it also acts as a small retaining wall, I explained to him the idea of leaning the wall back to hold the soil better ..... he mortared the wall instead. I suppose some lessons just aren't meant to be learned!

a beautiful post. thank you.


Pisces Iscariot said...

Re: Hope in the shape of Central/South American changes -It's easy to say that this is all we need to do to save the world, but you must know as well as I that the Juggernaut that constitutes the System does not change course that easily (not even by armed insurrection, an act that more often than not replaces old tyrants with new ones.) - the System does, however, respond to nudging.
What is happening in Central America is more positive than any call to arms - an attempt to instill a social conscience into the System.

gregra&gar said...

Red Dirt Girl, Thanks for the visit, you've been missed. I had one of those experiences upon building my house: I did everything from designing the house to go around existing trees to eventually slamming in the last nail after nine months of working on it weekends, except pour the foundation. When I got off work they day they poured I found they had rotated the floor plan and cut down all but two of the trees on the property!! Another nail in the coffin of trust.

Pisces-I agree about the snails pace of juggernaut system change, but if people understood that the results of bad policies cannot be remedied by renewed bad policy the system would run out of fuel — public gullibility and fostered dependence. Bolivia is the best example of true revolution without insurrection.

Pisces Iscariot said...

...and Venezuela - much to the chagrin of the US administration (right and right)