timothy-morton

Putting something called Nature on a pedestal and admiring it from afar does for the environment what patriarchy does for the figure of Woman. It is paradoxical act of sadistic admiration.
—  Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature

Hyperobjects [i.e., massive entities existing outside of human time and space] insist that we care for them in the open […] There is no ‘away’ to throw plutonium in. We are stuck with it, in the same way as we are stuck with our biological bodies. […]

The ethical and political choices become much clearer and less divisive if we begin to think of pollution and global warming and radiation as effects of hyperobjects rather than as flows or processes that can be managed. These flows are often eventually shunted into some less powerful group’s backyard. The Native American tribe must deal with the radioactive waste. The African American family must deal with the toxic chemical runoff […] the slow violence of ecological oppression. […] Poor people–who include most of us on Earth at this point–perceive the ecological emergency not as degrading an aesthetic picture […] but as an accumulation of violence that nibbles at them directly.

—  Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects

Okay, deep breath – it just isn’t right to criticize genetic engineering as unnatural, as if decent people should ban horses, dogs and cats, wheat and barley. It isn’t sound to call “technological” gene manipulation wrong, as if stud farming wasn’t technical manipulation. Crossbreeding is a form of technology. And what is barley if not a queer plant? Biological being are all queer. All food is Frankenfood. The ecological thought might argue, provocatively I know, that genetic engineering is simply doing consciously what was once unconscious. My DNA can be told to produce viruses – that’s how viruses replicate. There isn’t a little picture of me in my DNA: hence the swine flu, which evolved from viruses affecting three different species. Genomics can use a virus to tell bacteria DNA to make plastic rather than bacteria.

What’s wrong about genetic engineering is that it turns life forms into private property to enrich huge corporations. Large, dynastic families controlled corporate capitalism all the way back to the spice race, the first pace race. Capitalism has always restricted gene pools and amassed large quantities of property, with accompanying stability and power. The capitalist language of deregulation, flow, and circulation masks the static, repetitive, “molar” quality of capitalist forms. But processes of privatization and ownership contradict the liquid, queer, mutagenic, shadowy, and ungraspable qualities of life forms. If we’re going to resist genetically engineered life forms, we shall need to figure out why. Otherwise, our illusory reasons will produce in the long run just as illusory a result.“

—  Timothy Morton, “The Ecological Thought,” Chapter: Dark Thoughts, pp 86-87.

“Paintings have always been made of more things than humans. They have been made of paint, which is powdered crystals in some medium such as egg white or oil. Now when you put the painting on the wall, it also relates to the wall. A fly lands on it. Dust settles on it. Slowly the pigment changes despite your artistic intentions.We could think of all these nonhuman interventions as themselves a kind of art or design.Then we realize that nonhumans are also doing art all the time, it’s just that we call it causality. But when calcium crystals coat a Paleolithic cave painting, they are also designing, also painting. Quite simply then, the aesthetic dimension is the causal dimension, which in turn means that it is also the vast nonlocal mesh that floats “in front of” objects (ontologically, not physically “in front of”).”

- Timothy Morton (Realist Magic)

youtube

The long lost and forgotten y2k fat fat fat. Starring Timothy Morton, Ben Siler and myself. Made in 2003 (some of us didn’t think we were out of the Y2K woods yet).

The globalizing sureness with which ‘there is no metalanguage’ and 'everything is a metaphor’ are spoken in postmodernism means that postmodernism is nothing like what it takes itself to be, and is indeed just another version of the (white, Western, male) historical project. The ultimate goal of this project, it seems, was to set up a weird transit lounge outside of history in which the characters and technologies and ideas of the ages mill around in a state of mild, semiblissful confusion.
—  Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World

“The BP oil spill of 2010 provides yet more evidence that ecological reality contains hyperobjects: objects massively distributed in time and space that make us redefine what an object is. Consider plutonium: it has a half-life of 24,100 years. No one meaningfully connected to me (will they even be human?) will be alive then. No matter how broad they are in scope, all self-interest-based theories of ethics break down at these scales. We must both formulate (in Bruno Latour’s words, ‘compose’) new ways of thinking about objects, and revise our ideas about the subjects that think about them.”

-Timothy Morton, “Here Comes Everything: The Promise of Object-Oriented Ontology”

The moment was what Wordsworth calls a spot of time, a traumatic rupture in the continuity of his being, a wound around which his psyche secreted memories, fantasies, thoughts. The self, in this respect, is nothing more than the history of such wounds and the secretions we exude to protect ourselves from them. Freud puts it this way: the ego is the “precipitate of abandoned object cathexes,” like a mystic writing pad whose underlying wax is inscribed with everything that was ever drawn on it. The ego is a poem about strangers: the blow of a hand, an abandonment, the hardness of a bed, the warmth of a teddy bear.
—  Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects
Wilderness can only exist as a reserve of unexploited capital, as constant tensions and struggles make evident. It is an abstraction….Wilderness embodies freedom from determination, the bedrock of capitalist ideology. It is always ‘over there’, behind the shop window of distance, aesthetic experience; even when you are 'in’ it, as the elegiac frenzy of much nature writing demonstrates.
—  Timothy Morton, Ecology without Nature, 2007
THE STROMATOLITES

this world is the child of catastrophe.

how would it be—if there had never been an extinction, not one? if there had never been the great dying? it would not be this. big—old—dead. (deep time.) it’s like we can’t even think it right. what is ancient? ancient egypt, sure. just like yesterday, but without daytime tv or microwaves. I can take that. but 250 million years ago? No.

(and we’re all alone.)

I ask the stromatolites questions, like, when I go to the toilet, is it okay to switch on the light? because I’m only in there for a minute and I guess I could manage in the dark, but then I usually still turn the light on because it’s normal and with it on I can read the back of the toilet roll packet while I pee and reassure myself that it comes from sustainable forests and that the packaging is widely recycled and that there is not a single effect on the planet of this here particular product, and how could there be anyway because it’s just one thing that’s quite small and the world is big, right? I mean I don’t really know what big means or how big big is, it’s like the ancient thing, it doesn’t fit, and maybe only the stromatolites know exactly how big and maybe I’ll ask them that soon but first about the toilet light, is that okay? or, when it’s really cold, like now, and I have a heater on, is that okay? tell me, is that okay? or, when I make a journey in a car, is that okay, not every day, but from time to time, is that okay? or is it NEVER FUCKING OKAY? (I know that T’s not wrong about the brick, about how the only really defensible relationship to have with any car is with a well-aimed brick, but somehow that reaction gets to seem extreme, and it’s like those things must be okay because we do them, so many things, so many of us, every day, and they’re okay, right? they’re okay?)

the stromatolites never answer

probably because most people never ask

so I have to imagine what they might say. they don’t mind so much about the light or the heater or the car when each is only one but that’s what’s never. it’s never only one (and of course they understand that peeing in the dark would be weird and it is quite cold and sometimes it is just more practical to go by car, although by practical they mean humanpractical which is on a totally different scale to stromatolitepractical, because on that scale, in the Grand Scheme of Things, in deep time and in the big bigness of the world, to go by car is not practical, but of course we can’t see that, it doesn’t fit). and I don’t think that they’d ask me to kill myself or anything, but that’s probably the only thing to do, stop living, or else just pretend they said yes, yes, it’s okay, which is what we do anyway, the only thing we ever managed collectively: one big pretending it’s okay

“To write poetry is to force the reader to coexist with fragile phrases, fragile ink, fragile paper: to experience the many physical levels of a poem’s architecture. Since there is no top object, no bottom object, and no middle object, sheer coexistence is what there is. To write poetry is to perform a nonviolent political act, to coexist with other beings. This coexistence happens not in some eternal now, or in a now-point, however expansive or constrained. The “nowness” of a poem, its “spaciousness,” is the disquieting asymmetry between appearance and essence, past and future. With remorseless gentleness, a poem forces us to acknowledge that we coexist with uncanny beings in a groundless yet vivid reality without a beyond. This is what it means to compose an object-oriented defense of poetry.”

-Timothy Morton, “An Object-Oriented Defense of Poetry”

I can barely follow him most of the time, but jesus WHAT EXHILARATING PROSE.