Sunday, March 2, 2014

Nothing to Say

Do you ever go through those times when you feel like you just have nothing to say?  Or, more accurately, nothing worthy to say?  Well, that has been the case for me for months and months now.  But I've been inspired by other bloggers' blues (and their public struggles against it) and decided to just write a post, even if the post doesn't interest anyone but myself.

It's MY freakin' blog, right?!?  Throat clearing noise.  Anyhow, moving on.

So I've recently been reading The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt, which I would describe as a philosophical socioeconomic treatise.  Maybe I just made that sound really boring.  It's not; it's fascinating.  I believe it was originally published in 1958 and some of the things she wrote seem ahead of their time for 1958.  But then what do I know, I wasn't alive in 1958.

For example, she writes, with my comment in parentheses:

"the spare time of the animal laborans [i.e., humans] is never spent in anything but consumption, and the more time left to him, the greedier and more craving his appetites.  That these appetites become more sophisticated, so that consumption is no longer restricted to the necessities but, on the contrary, mainly concentrates on the superfluities of life, does not change the character of this society, but harbors the grave danger that eventually no object of the world will be safe from consumption and annihilation through consumption.
    The rather uncomfortable truth of the matter is that the triumph the modern world has achieved over necessity is due to the emancipation of labor, that is, to the fact that the animal laborans was permitted to occupy the public realm; and yet, as long as the animal laborans remains in possession of it, there can be no true public realm, but only private activities displayed in the open."

Like this blog. 

But the reason I quote this part - from her section on labor - is that it seems extremely relevant, not only to blogging, but also to the consumer awareness (and inherent consumption) that is part of the maker revolution of which seamstresses, etc. are a part.

I generally try to avoid doing this kind of thing on my blog because I feel like I'll seem pretentious.  But today, I say, f*ck it, I am pretentious, there are worse things.  And I think her ideas are worth quoting.

Also, quite fascinating, is her discussion of the root for the word object.  Apparently it is a derivative of the Latin verb obicere, meaning "something thrown" or "put against".  So inherent in the word is the idea of standing against something, or withstanding time and/or forces, pressures, etc.  She talks about humans defining themselves against objects.  Our rapidly declining (dying) bodies being contrasted against objects which can and do outlast us.  And defining who we are via these objects, i.e. establishing meaning in the fact that I use this object (brand, whatever) over another object.  That this object can then stand in for me as a place marker. 

I realize that those aren't new ideas, but still, I enjoy the visceral reminder that we humans are creating those objects and the meanings attached to those objects and that all of it is just sorta improvised.  I find it beautiful and tragic at the same time.  We are so imaginative and self-deluding. 

But the other part of that quote, that there is "no true public realm," has to do with political power structures and civil liberties, I believe.  Who has access to what, who participates in what decisions, etc.  And if we are chiefly concerned with trying to create some kind of immortality with objects - or prolong our life cycle (consumption) as much as possible - we are focused primarily on the self and less on the social.  I'm working with the definition that political structures are there to regulate how people interact with other people (and governments with other governments).  So our (previously) private, personal relationships with objects (and perhaps, but not necessarily, with the creation of those objects) becomes more important than our interactions with other, equally dying, people. 

Or that we interact with other people via the object, again, giving some kind of precedence to the object.  Subordinating our social behavior to the forms dictated by the object.  Social networking, anyone? 

Anyhow, that's just me thinking out loud.  And using an object to deliver my thoughts via a specific social platform. ;)  Any thoughts?

And because they say no blog post without a photo shall there be, here's a photo:


One of my objects, on which I had advanced quite considerably, and decided to rip out.


11 comments:

  1. Wow, that's a really interesting quote with a lot going on. Thanks for sharing! These ideas do seem really relevant today, but they're kind of sad to think about. We're all trying to establish our own permanent relevance, but that's just not possible, and our efforts seem to be chipping away at our privacy.

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    1. There is a lot going on there! I'm still trying to unpack I think...

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  2. By reading your post I just realized my English is too poor to face the exam I have to take in a few months. The quotation was completely lost on me, really. I understand the words separately but they don´t make sense together. That´s probably too much reading about facings, seams, topstitching and understitching and too little of what I should be reading: books and newspapers. See? everyone can benefit from this post!
    Sending you lots of love!

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    1. You make me smile because I'm sure your English is wonderful! It's completely possible that the quote doesn't make any sense - it's philosophy after all! :)

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  3. Totally irrelevant to your post, but this made me think of you:

    http://www.handimania.com/knit/30-minute-infinity-scarf.html

    That way if you want to undo it it's easy;-)

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    1. Thanks, that's pretty cool! It's like a game :)

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  4. Interesting quote. :D She definitely has a point, although I'd like to believe that we don't define ourselves and our lives by objects all of the time. At least I try to define myself also by my deeds (although you could argue those are also object bound, I guess), thoughts, experiences and, especially, relationships. Then again, experiences can definitely fall under the heading of consumerism.

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  5. Thanks for commenting! I'd like to believe we don't define ourselves through objects all the time too. And I love material and well-crafted objects, so I'm not 'anti-object'. Another interesting thing is how Freud and Hegel, etc. talk about objectifying other people (sexual objectification, for example). Our relationship to objects is so strong that we use the word to talk about how we sometimes relate to other people! I find the whole thing fascinating, obviously! :)

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  6. Yes, well we are very attached to our objects aren't we?! especially in blogging, since we tend to write about the material things in our lives rather than our emotions, feelings and interactions we have with the people, like our loved ones; which I heartily agree are the only really important "things" in our lives! Personally I don't write about those aspects of my life though, because that is personal, you know? I have this chronic few fear of oversharing. It's feels safer and definitely easier to write about things than thoughts :)
    Anyway, it sounds like a book worth checking out. :)

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    1. sorry I don't know how that "few" got in the middle there. Must be autocorrect doing something funny :)

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    2. Thanks for commenting! I agree, I don't share much about my private life either and I quite like material things and trying to be creative - it's an important part of how we negotiate the world. I think my own fascination with material culture is what makes her ideas so interesting to me.

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