20050716-019-pennsylvania-camping-cracked-mud-along-susquehanna-tracksI remember, with wonder, the mud along the shores of the James River down the street from me in Richmond, Virginia. I couldn’t have been more than four or five. My father would take me fishing for catfish and like any boy of that age, I would play in the water and the mud. We would catch a few fish and then return home. Often there would be a bushel of oysters waiting at the house and we would shuck them while preparing the fish, with their writhing whiskers, awaiting the feast to come.

If the mud of the river would fill me with such wonder, then this is because it would crack and harden in the hot sun, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I can still hear my father singing:

When the work is done
and the sun goes down
We all get together to have a little fun,
Down in the Mississippi mud

I would try to preserve these little pieces of earth, to put them together as a puzzle, but they all fell apart. What filled me with wonder, I think, was that earth could take on this form when evoked by the sun. Here was a sort of transformation of the elemental. Grains of dirt, otherwise loose such that it would fall from your fingers, could, after becoming wet, turn into this solid substance with a distinct pattern that couldn’t otherwise be discerned in the grains of dirt. A qualitative transformation. An interaction between substances– dirt, water, and photons of light –produced this new substance.

The idea, then, would be that substances reveal themselves, disclose themselves, in their interactions with one another. One substance draws something out from another substance, a new quality, a new arrangement, new properties.

I feel as if I only exist in being drawn out. In monadic isolation nothing takes place. I hibernate and remain still. It is only in relation to others, others who see differently than me, others that are hostile to me, others whom I love, others whom I hate, that thoughts take place in my mind. I discover my being relationally through a conjugation with other substances, other persons, such that I’m led to undertake involuntary adventures in aleatory encounters with these others that function like perturbations, informational interventions, that produce within me the revision of everything that I thought. This is the beauty of the internet… Such a strange field of aleatory encounters with such unsavory characters; yet nonetheless, despite all the frustration and misunderstanding, a cross fertilization of substances drawing oneself out of oneself, becoming, as a result, other. Sand for oysters everywhere. What a disaster for civilization!