I am always faced by the same paradox ; no sooner do I become aware of the alchemy worked by my imagination upon reality than I see that reality reclaimed and borne away by the uncontrollable river of things.. The Revolution of Everyday Life,1973
Raoul Vaneigem is the author of the quote which names this blog.. I found it online I confess, and WordPress accepted the title after having refused several others. I’m not sure Raoul would be so accommodating with my appropriation
I knew who he was from my copy of the Situationist International Reader.(borrowed from a guy at a Sun Ra concert in Florence in 1983 – probably time I gave it back..) To find my context I did the usual trawl through Wiki land but I cant find ithe quote in the online version of his manuscript, . I wondered if I had misrepresented him?
Raoul has a unsurprising contempt for consumerism , and on the whole, appears to have no time for things. He’s good at aphorisms – here is another one about how richness is merely the accumulation of a number of poor things. Things are fetishes – they distract us and prevent us from knowing ourselves.
Yet at other points he suggests that they can be granted a life – a value – and that is perhaps what I can see in the quote I found, the paradox of the discovery of creativity or use via stuff that leaves us with only stuff as our remnant .
Thingness also concerns Robert McFarlane in his recent book, Landmarks
In Old English, thynge does not only designate a material object , but can also denote ‘a narrative not fully known’ , or indicate ‘ the unknowability of larger chains of events (p35)
Although, unusually for RmcF, I couldn’t find a citation, this does make sense, as in everyday speech, ‘the thing about .. ‘, does mean an ongoing situation, where the thing is a signifier for a number of associations.
It also explains to me why I am drawn to the term ‘thing’ rather than the Latinate ‘object’ – more philosophically distinguished and less ambiguous.. I ask myself if it would be so easy to get lost in a river of objects?
And then there’s Heidegger
If we speak of the essence of a house and the essence of the state we do not mean a generic type; rather we mean the ways in which house and state hold sway, administer themselves, develop and decay – the way they essentially unfold [wesen]. The Question Concerning Technology, Basic Writings, Routlege Classics, p234
Do things unfold , have essences – isn’t that a bit Pseud’s Corner really?
My limited understanding of H is that he does not so much believe that stuff is animate but that our philological representation (later) and phenomenological perception of it (earlier) present it to us in this way. In other words , Vaneigem’s aphorism about granting things a life echoes his thought.
Then there is the Zen köan
there is the thing and there is the word for the thing and that is one thing too many.
…which is a good answer to that kind of unchallenged subjectivity, but doesn’t leave a lot of space for writing.
The paradox of connection is with the other and simultaneously with the thing (maybe also with the self – what is it to know, experience?).
So we can get lost in the river of things, yet they provide us with things to relate to, and in doing so we can define ourselves , even if only provisionally, briefly. And I think also they give us something to relate to others about , to engage with others around.
I d like to believe the psychogeographic project ( a word that the SI chewed up and spat out again, but is a good enough place to start) is a way to experience some of this, which has a playful sense to it, that makes a connection to phenomenology in a pragmatic way , and to the Revolution of Everyday Life (thank you again, Mr Vaneigem), which does seem increasingly like a good idea. In fact, to my political self, this would be a necessary precondition to any other sort of social revolution.
That prospect of an objective stance that can be shared, and then falls away again into moments of altered subjectivity – that’s why I liked that quote, and, it’s not vital that I know that this was the authors intention, but it is the journey it took me on, and, remember folks, the journey itself is home..