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Someone once described my rela­tion­ship to the house as one of rooted entwine­ment, that it lived in some way and its pas­sions and plaints were con­veyed up through a net­work of inter­con­nected neu­ronal-like roots, run­ning through me and out of me into the struc­ture itself. If a pipe rat­tles or a light flickers or the foun­da­tion shud­ders, I feel the snaking ten­drils and inter­woven matrices of mol­e­cules vibrating meaning through my dousing-rod-like limbs and com­mu­ni­cating con­ditions to my inmost soul. Not in so many words, but that was their gist…

Strangely, that’s not that far off.

I’ve often lamented that our society is not so nat­u­ral­istic or mate­ri­al­istic as we’d some­times like to believe. In fact, we’re not mate­ri­al­istic enough. We’re not nat­u­ral­istic enough. If we were, our rela­tion­ship with the nat­ural and the mate­rial would not be nearly so shallow and dom­i­neering, so repug­nant to stew­ard­ship and sus­tain­ability, so con­suming and destruc­tive and ulti­mately self-immolating…

We’ve largely ceased to com­mune with our envi­ron­ments, save in the most shallow of ways. We don’t rec­og­nize the natured dimen­sions of our built envi­ron­ment, thinking arti­fi­ciality is always a con­test with nat­ural forces — some sort of raw, sub­lime, roman­ti­cizing noble sav­agery — rather than merely another facet of nature’s infi­nitely faceted inter­ac­tions. We don’t really rec­og­nize the pulsing, throb­bing agi­ta­tions of the mate­rial from which we are com­pos­ited inter­acting with the mate­rials on which we are fun­da­men­tally and irrev­o­cably depen­dent and by which we are sur­rounded and in which we’re saturated.

A once abstracted pas­sion for old build­ings has over time devel­oped into a sort of bodily tuning fork, syn­chro­nizing my expe­ri­ence with the con­crete real­i­ties of those atoms erected by us into com­plex sys­tems of enshel­ter­ment. If you listen closely, every­thing speaks and its speech is such that only we can hear it. We need to listen more closely, not just to the sub­audible speech of the organic beings out­side, but that which is trig­gered in the very center of all mate­rial existence.

Things speak. It doesn’t take a great deal of effort, only time and patience, to listen to their voices. Ask any craftsmen how her fin­gers know how to manip­u­late the most dis­crete and minute of mate­rials, shaving off microm­e­ters with her crude, stubby fin­gers? She won’t be able to describe the process, only that there is some sub­con­scious rela­tion­ship between the thing and her­self. There’s some­thing in the del­i­cate recep­tivity of our nerves that detects more than we con­sciously know. You too can send out roots into a world preg­nant with meaning, trying to com­mu­ni­cate its every fiber with your every fiber.

Orig­inal Illus­tra­tion by Adam Bond, © 2020