Sunday, October 20, 2013


Waste not, want...

I've realized that waste is one of the underlying themes of this tree stump project. It's done and gone, as many people have observed to me, certainly can't do anything about that. But I'm still sorry for the waste of something unique for the sake of our imagined right to be free of fear, at least fear of things that someone easily identifiable can be sued about. Back in practical land, it is hard to quantify risk, and officials are tasked with protecting us from it. I can understand why this is the way it turned out. Yet the feeling remains that something irreplaceable was wasted, to make a tiny risk into zero risk. It is a waste I seem determined to fight against symbolically, both in my involvement in making things from the wood and in my efforts (which have hijacked what was meant to be a prosaic artist's self promotion blog)  to make the loss itself into a work of art. In some ways it's a very Italian approach: what you do with a martyr is make things out of bits of her, and make a very big deal over them.

Two guys spent most of Saturday morning loading this thing in front of my apartment with mysterious cardboard boxes, then covered the top with construction debris. I wonder what is inside, particularly since they don't seem to want me to have it, but not quite enough to really start digging through the heavy top layer...

More prosaically, I'm one of those people brought up in an environment strongly influenced by the lives of my depression era grandparents. People who saved bits of twine, didn't eat out, took things out of other people's garbage before it was (semi) fashionable. I've lived my entire adult life in a sort of haze of horror at the waste around me, a mouthful eaten and the rest thrown away, carelessly bought, still in the box but put on the curb because the moment of enthusiasm has passed, things people need loaded into a dumpster, because it's not worth a busy person's effort to get the things to those people.  If you weren't brought up so that you viscerally feel that waste is a horror, it's easy to miss. It's just the way things are done around here, time is money, mindfulness is expensive, it makes some sense. But these things drive me crazy every day. I've always arrayed my life against them personally, but feel helpless against the larger tide.

Fallen apples rotting at a U-pick place in western NJ.

But I was also brought up to believe that what you feel is less important than the practical consequences of what you do. We're still trying to live in the moment, to be blind to the damage we do while just trying to get by, and to what is done in our name, by poorer people somewhere else, also just trying to get by. But the consequences of that waste are getting harder to ignore, we dimly see the time ahead when we cannot ignore them. Habits of a life time are hard to change, both personally, and in systems that encourage perverse behavior on a massive scale, but ultimately there are no other choices but slide to the bottom or start climbing. So, do you really need to buy that? How much effort is it to go on freecycle or craigslist, and give that other thing away now, rather than throw it out the next time you move? Do you need any of the material things you think you do? Maybe we can change before it's too late.

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