A book is a portable device for storing and sharing information, using multiple screens viewed in sequence to lead its readers through narratives of time. If there is no narrative of time, if every screen (called a page) in a book is happening at the same time, then narrative must happen somewhere outside it. Books are successful at re-creating their shape in the world. An assembly line is a book in this sense. An apartment building is a book in this sense. This orchard below, for instance. Look at all those pages. In this case, they are formed out of cloned apple trees kept in slave plantations and are meant to be read from a tractor. It takes a bit of poison to keep the pages free from the mis-readings called weeds.
Books are hard masters. They enslave trees, like the Royal Galas above, and the people who tend them, by their insistence on the repetitive, linear reading of screens, all with homogenous content. This homogeneity is much desired, and is a sure sign that a book is present. These days, people even go to university to study how to write books, where they are placed in groups of people as written by books as they are and learn to write through a continual process of correction and performance that is called “creativity.” It is simply the book talking. It is yet another way in which this technology is used to print the environment on the consciousness of its readers, and to choose just what that environment will be. In the case of creative writing, the concept got its start by a perceived need by the privileged cultures of the 1930s United States to draw often communist and certainly radicalized and educated youth into forms which supported the primary American myths of populism, individualism within intense peer environments, a wise mentor or priest guiding by example (a beautiful example of a booked human) and literary forms that dissected the self rather than the environments of power and ethics that shaped it in that form, in the way that environment shapes the activity of a beetle…
… or the lives of aphids are shaped by the herding and milking behaviour of ants, such as the weaver ants hard at work on this sagebrush below.
When I said yesterday that we might consider stopping to write books, I might have been more clear and mentioned that a book that escapes the social bondage, political control, and anchoring of self to narratives of time and which prevent individuals from seeing themselves as voices of their environments, and perhaps no more individual than the latest crop of creative writing novels, would be interesting to explore. My suggestion that we could write and read the world was one way of approaching this idea, but there are a lot of other things we could do. We could follow the example of the ants, for instance …
Note How the Ants Climb the Pages But the Aphids Do Not
.. and transport reading devices to locations suitable for reading and harvest their reading later, or we could change the shape of the book. This blog is an experiment in that direction, moving between text and image, for example. Have you ever tried reading it without the images? A disaster! They are not just illustrations but are here to break the hold of even this book form, the computer screen, to dominate our conversations with notions of time or that other legacy of the book, which gives dominance to analyzed and condensed environments, which appear in the artificial narratives bound by words, which create hypothetical states called consciousness, when in fact consciousness is to be present. Here, for instance…
Can a Book With No Pages Be Called a Book?
… or here:
Note How Deer Have Read this Wild Sunflower by Eating All Its Seedheads for their Protein and General Munchiness
If you’ve been following this blog, you know I’ve been talking from time to time about consciousness being environment, and that what humans do within it is conscious when it participates in it. I would call anything else slavery, and it leads to mirrors of itself, slavery of the world to human willfulness and ignorance. Compare the beauty of this birch, cooked brown by being planted in the wrong environment and soon to die as dozens of her sisters have already done along the Grey Canal Trail here in Vernon, a linear walking park…
… and yet looking very beautiful, by human standards, and this young pine, much the same colour …
… killed last fall by a buck rubbing the velvet off his antlers, and looking dead and out of place. The thing is, it operates as a flag and a stand in for the deer, and adds the presence of the deer to the landscape. Removing this tree to “beautify” the park would diminish the human experience of it and enslave humans to an artificial notion of beauty very much a product of books. It is not just humans who can be enslaved, though. The fir tree below might have a thing or two to say about the ethics of the notion that a human can “own” a tree, and has the right to do with it whatever they fancy, however stupid. In this case, one family planted it as a hedge and a new owner got the idea that we wanted to see out instead. The result is perennial violence.
It is a reflection of the relationship between the form of the book, the way it changes readings of the environment, and the way it boosts certain human behaviours, including slave ownership and time, over others. After all, there is no saying that a book couldn’t arrange its pages like the rose below …
… or even like this colony of edible weeds growing in a crack along the boundary of the road I live on, which are unread, unharmed and uneaten.
In the work of bringing a dying earth back to life, changing the nature of our narratives and, especially, changing the form of the book might do more than we might otherwise expect. What if a book were laid out like this?
Or like this?
Note How the Pages Bend
There really is no right order in which to read them, either. Wouldn’t that be a better populism than one that elevates social fantasies to the level of reality? It works fine in human social environments, but is it ethical to destroy the earth by divorcing humans from the benefits of being written by the earth to do so?
Or like this lupine in my bee garden:
There is linearity here, but not in human control. It takes weeks to make a reading.
Or like this elm…
… that drops its pages by the kazillion.
Or this landscape on the Ashcroft Ranch, with an entirely different relationship to time, linearity and space than books can provide. I don’t mean the content of books. That’s only a reflection of their form.
So, perhaps we should let ourselves be written, and report on what is said. And yes, full disclosure: I have two degrees in Creative Writing; I took the second in the hope of teaching in a way that would make the field new. That’s not the way things worked out, but here we are, doing it together, and being guided the whole way.
Every farmer knows this knowledge well: schedules are determined by animals, plants and seasons, not by human will; that is used to align human activity to patterns that are already there. Now, doesn’t that sound more than a little like indigenous behaviour? That gives me hope. And with that… have a great time reading yourself being written in the images of a dogwood below.
Learning from the ants… that’s not so bad, is it?
It’s the ethical thing to do.