Archives: received wisdom

This happened on twitter, I found it brilliant, so I’m putting it here because my site my rules ok?

i am not resigned

Sometimes a bunch of pop culture fragments fall together like an essay. It’s entertaining in my head but it’s hard to convey the experience. Like this:

Whenever I hear that some unreplaceable piece of archaeology or art has been defaced or destroyed, I think “good”. This attitude would have been unimaginable to the 20 year old me. But I think now the past is for burning.

Ding Jihao wasn’t the first. You could argue he was maintaining a centuries old tradition:

Graffiti on the Temple of Dendur, Metropolitan Museum of Art

There is nothing in history, no fragment of substance, that isn’t constantly reinterpreted for each new era. Every artifact or piece of art is just something used as a stage to debate things we care about now. Standing on those planks you can pretend to give facile arguments weight. Burn those stages. Argue in the street, where you have to work for respect.

All of our past is poisoned by excuses for atrocities standing on the art and architecture of earlier times.

There’s no end to what you can do when you don’t give a fuck about particular people.
Louis CK

I’m sick of respecting relics. Intellectualized commodities we use to one-up each other in sanctimony. Made by apes no better than us. All of it ash that hasn’t burned yet.

All our physical history should be ground under a tectonic subduction zone and we forced to make everything over again.

It took time to ruin a real world. But, time was all it took.
Bruce Sterling, Love is Strange

I both do and don’t mean all that.

In my own life, if I keep too much artwork or things I’ve made around, the psychological weight of all that effort just sitting in a pile, staring at the inside of a drawer or box, or worse – grinning vacuously at me from a wall or shelf, just shuts me down. The urge to make new things is smothered. I have to get rid of it. Sell it, give it away, tear it to pieces. I’d love to burn it, most times, but living in the city doesn’t afford much opportunity for that.

I really can’t figure out if the past matters. Once it has left living memory, all we have are documents and objects. We tell each other stories about them and they might as well be science fiction for all the direct experience any of us have of the reasons those things came to be. Every single thing we know about the past is an act of imagination and ridiculous hope. Reconstructed lost languages, using the sounds people make today.

Finding Shakespeare

It’s bleak and liberating at the same time, like atheism. The past is only fiction. It was there, it happened, but we can’t know anything about it after one hundred years or so. A wave of ignorance rolls through the dimension of time and never recedes. The only things we can really know are the creatures with us trying to outrun it. We throw our children ahead of us and drown. When our children after us go under we’re not even memory. Just story.

received wisdom

This is what stories are meant to do.

Over hundreds of thousands of years we told each other stories full of lies that turned out to just be the empty spaces surrounding truths that were too big to see. That we could only ever know by the shapes of the lies that fall around them. We poured lies all over the world and as a result, by accident, we saw what it all actually was and turned into human beings.

This trick still works.

skinny legs and all