Friday, March 25, 2011

Reflections on the year: Time and the contradictory "now"

Over the last year, I have realised that trash has much to do with the notion of time. Because of its physicality, and because of the nature of the materials that constitute trash, trash can make time stand still for many centuries. Indeed, I have wondered what it is we would like to be remembered for - trash is a time capsule. It provides an archaeological record for those that will come along generations for now. They will be able to see how we indulged ourselves, what we thought was important, and what we thought wasn't important. They will soon realise that what we thought was important was gratification through the degradation of and violence against nature. They will realise that what we thought was unimportant was nature itself, the very land upon which our feet rest, the very air we inhale and the very water that permeates our body.

I have mentioned how trash can transcend space and time. Trash is a result of our wanting to be somewhere else (1, 2), spatially and temporally. Eating Indian mangoes grown in summer in Ann Arbor during Michigan fall will absolutely result in trash and ecological degradation, and there is just no way around it.

We also live in a world of now - we want the future now. We always look forward to the next, the new, the untouched. There is a deep dislike of what it is we have now. These ideas are not my own, but have been influenced by the writings of people like Wendell Berry and Derrick Jensen and Jay Griffiths.

It is rather interesting though that even though we want to be in the future, even though we want to "progress," we are always unsure of what the future looks like, and we can be indecisive now because of uncertainty. Many times, we are unwilling to make essential decisions now because we don't know how those decisions might affect the future. Government policies are a prime example of this. Such indecisiveness now can lead to dire outcomes later. Many of our actions we will never know the outcomes of, but many we will. As I wrote about at length a few days ago, now is easier to comprehend than the future, and we can all be making important decisions now such that the future is not mired in political and environmental mess.

Having given up the ability to do many of the things we think are important to our lives, we have put ourselves in the position of reliance. The best example of this is food. We rely on others to provide food for us now, and we will continue to rely on them into the future. This has the potential to result in trash and degradation, as I've written about here. Trash is borne out a lack of preparedness to deal with its generation. I have dealt with this project by trying to constantly think about what I may encounter, and being able to express to people my thoughts to people. At the same time, it is also easy to see that trash can be borne of preparedness. Many of us may think that we will need an afternoon snack, and will therefore pack a packaged granola bar. The difficult thing is to reconcile preparedness with what we choose to be prepared for, and with what. I can be prepared for the afternoon hunger pang, but with something other than a packaged granola bar. It is not difficult, but there is always room for improvement and a heightened preparedness. In a world of now, it is important for us to consider the future.

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