CLIFF CREGO | Dipper Falls, rock-water flowform, Eagle Cap Wilderness

Dipper Falls, rock-water flowform, Eagle Cap Wilderness . . .
On the road in the Northwest of America. [click photo for next . . . ]



ON THE LENS OF PERCEPTION &
THE CONTRADICTION OF WASTE


Contradiction, both overt and subtle,
both in
action and in perception,
is the primary cause of collapse.


Just as it is an important ritual for me to clean my camera
lenses carefully every day—removing smudges and dust,
but being careful not to scratch the glass, which I have to
confess I'm not very good at—so too it seems essential for
me to every day clear the lenses, so to speak, of my perception.
Philosophy is the cloth with which I do this.

All seeing is conceptual. That is, a concept is like a lens or
a filter which in a powerful way shapes or in-forms what we
see. So part of my daily practice as a kind of philosopher /
artist is both the cleaning up of old, and the learning of new
concepts. For instance, I learn and begin to study a new variety
of mountain plant, say a species like Alpine Fleeceflower, a
member of the Buckwheat family which I had not seen before
coming into the Wallowas. As Thoreau remarked long ago, it
is surprising that after one has learned to recognize a new
species you suddenly begin to see it everywhere. At a more
subtle level we can also begin to observe how a new concept
actually works, in this case a new plant species. What did I see
before I had the Fleeceflower concept? Just an undifferentiated
green background? It's an interesting problem.

At the same time this cloth of philosophy clears away old or no
longer useful concepts. This might be necessary if a concept is
no longer relevant, or worse, misleading or false.

Take the concept of waste, for instance. Now waste might
admittedly seem at first glance to be an uninteresting, most
would say, banal thing. After all, in normal everyday life, waste
is that which we want to be rid of. But from the view of conceptual
philosophy—this mundane, ordinary concept of waste may be
seen to have extraordinary significance because of a deeply
hidden contradiction between how we think about waste, on the
one hand, and how waste actually works in the natural world, on
the other. (Notice that here, philosophy is a lot like intellectual play,
because we are allowed—indeed even encouraged—to make
sweepings statements like these, and then explore by means of
image, reason and logic where they might take us. It is rather like
trying out a new lens or filter and seeing what we can see, what
we can do with it.)

Now, a recurrent theme of mine is that waste as either a concept
or fact does not exist in Nature. One of the signature features of
Mother Earth's web of life, in my view, is that what is discarded
by one organism—the excrement, body parts, gases, etc.—
becomes the essential food of another. So there are no one-way
streets, or dead-end roads where junk, especially toxic junk, just
piles up in the natural world. Instead, the movement of the cycles
just keeps turning and turning as the energies of life continuously
in a marvelous and wonderful way transform themselves.

From Nature's perspective, what we call waste is simply a
failure of design. Take a new iPhone, for example. Sophisticated,
charming, information technology, yes. Perhaps in some ways
even revolutionary. But why is not closed-loop recycling and
easy repair designed into all the iPhone's components right
from the very start? I would argue simply because the present
concept of waste necessitates that we turn a blind eye to the
destructive consequences of our all-pervasive throw-away lifestyle
and the metaphysics of design that supports it. Indeed, I would
go on to suggest that this really rather remarkable devil's loop of
seeing waste as an unfortunate but necessary evil of technological
innovation has in a way become a central defining illusion of
present Western culture. In other words, we may well be
remembered when the large-scale strata of history come to be
explored in the distant future not by what we have created but
more by what we throw away.

Briefly, of crucial importance is the ethical dimension of this
culture of waste. For example, to stay with the iPhone for a
moment, is Apple behaving unethically by not designing technology
for zero waste? I would argue most definitely, yes. And so am I if I
purchase their products, which I do. For what we are really doing
is passing on a whole ugly heap of exceedingly complicated and
expensive toxic cleanup crises to our children.

To conclude in this philosophical spirit, just let me say that an
important implication of this idea that waste is a contradiction,
is that it offers us the clearest and simplest way to approach
massively complex global problems like air or water pollution,
soil contamination, or climate change. It is simple because we
could not only clean up the problem at its physical, but also,
and in a way more importantly, at its conceptual, philosophical
source.


Camp Lost & Found,
Eagle Cap Wilderness,
Oregon, VIII.17.2008

| If you're interested in philosophy and the general background
to the present crisis of perception, culture and consciousness,
please preview my little book, THEATER OF THE NEW. |

| my webpage for THEATER OF THE NEW | facebook page |










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All Photographs & texts by Cliff Crego © 2011 picture-poems.com
(created: VI.1.2008)