Thanks to everyone who came out to Gasworks for my 'Speck on Speck on Speck' event! Please enjoy the following meditation, the final piece, from the talk- you can read my favorite pieces from the night after the jump.
think of the slope of your neck as you’re doing so
calculate which point of breathe you are in
feel the stalks of your eyes rotate and tighten
blink if you need to
let your vision expand and refocus
take in the rest of you
the foreshortening of your pose
the feet so far away
think of all the strata of air and pollution and smells
between your lenses and the tops of your feet
96% of your entire being is between those two markers
the top of your head capping the diagram
think of your bodies full height
your shoulders, spine, and legs
the soles of your feet against your shoes against the ground
look across the lake- use your view finder to search out and frame a specific view of the city. harbor island. queen anne. the downtown core. block out the sky, natural features. focus on the information left behind. this perimeter is yours, but the information inside is a result of the efforts of hundreds of people, thousands. it is engineered in every facet. with the glowing lights and landmarks, streets, machines, homes, the framed image is proof of what we can do. It is a living video capturing current history.
everything in this frame has a life cycle: it will be updated, renovated, fixed, restored, demolished, re-built, marked as a landmark or memorial, ‘Proposed Land Use Action.’ After all that, or maybe even during, global warming’s rising water will creep in, removing certain layers. Natural phenomenon will settle in with earthquakes, volcanic action. even without the earth, celestial actions will eventually crush anything we now recognize.
if the earth continues to be a planet, there will be evidence of our current manufacturing for billions of years.
move your viewfinder away from the landmasses and up into the sky. remember what the telescope told you was out there; the detail, the life. as your framed vision travels across the sky, notice the color variation, the light pollution and smog, a veritable sky map of toxic or heavily populated areas.
in downtown seattle, the only time you can see true darkness is when looking into the center of the sound- the ring of lights and their refractors fringe the view of the flat black water.
to live in a place where even the sky is manufactured, tinged by industrial process is to complete the seal between us and the natural world.
when i was a kid, i was devastated to learn of any and every ecological issue in the news. i remember hearing a story about whales beaching themselves to try to escape sonar and being so over come with guilt and sorrow, i was inconsolable. my greatest wish in that moment was for all humans and their machines to painlessly evaporate, so that all animals would be safe from us and our terrible deeds. i was probably in third grade. i remember telling my dad this ideal solution i came up with, and he very wisely any sympathetically reminded me that was not too likely a thing to happen.
he focused my attention outwards, saying that earth is one planet, yes, and that we have to do a better job taking care of it, but that every star out there was another possibility, and another potential earth. maybe one of them was doing a better job. maybe one was doing worse. maybe we can be an example, or learn from them (this was a big “fingers crossed” for him - his love of outer space and wish to find life has always been huge). the crucial thing to remember, though, was that the sun was always expanding, getting larger, hotter, and would eventually expand to overtake us. I wouldn’t get to see it in my life time, but it would eventually destroy earth. or a comet would. in either situation, i didn’t need to wish for the extinction of man, as the universe was already taking care of it for me.
lets start with you
lets look at the city- the thing that contains you, at least right now
lets look at the insides of ourselves- evaluate what you contain
lets think of the city, and the things that make it up
Yoko Ono said on Facebook that we are all drops of water in the same ocean
we know these waters
we know our limbs, we have an idea of our faces
we know what hurts, what needs looking at by a doctor, what partners like best
we know that we must’ve had parents, and that they did too
We know that the city depends on commerce, communication, the internet, resources, and people doing things.
right now we know that cranes are everywhere.
look over you.
look into how there is darkness, and behind it, what science and telescopes have proven their to be.
make a list of the different celestial objects there can be
suppose the size of one of them
how many earths fit inside
how many elephants does it weigh
how many light years
lets start with darkness
lets look at the night sky - the thing that surrounds you, at least right now
lets look into it’s depths with the telescope - see what you can
lets think of the cosmos, and the things that make it up
it is easy to think about the universe and its expanding nature, its energy and it’s potential, and feel amazed. it is easy to think about black holes and the hypothetical circumstances of alternate dimensions and feel awe or fear. it is easy to think of the universe and the physicality of it’s blackness, of it’s particles, of it’s density, and feel like we are never done counting. it is easy to think of the universe and the research we’ve begun, and feel like it’s never done. it is easy to feel that the universe is above us, that it is separate from our lives and feel like it/we have no effect.
it is easy to think about the human race and it’s needs to multiply, its various cultures and cities, and feel amazed. it is easy to think about illness or lack of resources or poverty and feel fearful and apologetic. it is easy to think about people-kind and their diversity, of their stamina, and feel like we are never done growing. it is easy to feel like people surround us, yet we are separate in our lives and feel like we/they have no effect.
feeling small is the normal
look at the ground underneath you, remember it is deep as well as wide
think of the things that bother you, how strong your memory is
tasks to complete, jobs to continue, all the projects in action,
and the emails
in the moment, they consume your whole self
tomorrow, in an hour, you won’t remember why they were pressing
this body is physical
i clothe it and compel it to act, gesticulate, and get things done
it rebels sometimes, but not for long
i count its external pieces
i trust the mri from 2007 when it says i am whole
by taking comparison of other bodies and their actions, my trust deepens
my consciousness is physical
the act of thinking adds to the matter composing central organs
its decisions effect my entire physical self
where it is and what it does
the other bodies it interacts with and how
as far as control goes, this is it, as much as it is
this is the one thing I’ve got
right now i live in pioneer square, at the edge of the industrial district of seattle. this portion of the city has the most light pollution, and at night i can see the fringe of it obscuring my view of nighttime. my partner and i will walk down first avenue to pier 66 for a little fresh sea air- i am always struck by how, if i look northwest, i see pure night. this one track of the sound is inky black, its perspective flattened by the lack of visual information. by daylight i know there are mountains in the furthest distance, and the lights of the harbors and towns on the other side of the peninsula and islands, but the combination of nightfall and marine ozone act as a solid curtain.
if i look long enough in this direction, i can forget that the city and its million lights surround me- that the ever-on industrial district keeps glowing, that street lights and illuminated advertising shine, that office buildings’ lit office project outwards far up into the sky. i can reset my personal scale - go back to being one small mammal.
there are places we go to seek the true night sky,
we see the pictures in the travel magazine and on national geographic.
“I just need a break from all this. I want a vacation. I need one.”
in our memories, the family cabin offered a relief, sneaking out with a flashlight.
that time you slept on the beach. the drive on the highway when you turned out the headlights.
your dad pointing out the big dipper. the time you could see the curve of the milky way,
the day you knew you were in infinity.
you can surprise yourself in the city, charging up third avenue to kerry park, pausing to mock that tourist’s photo cityscape, and realize you can see stars. definitely more then five stars. here.