In praise of silent transformations

The Myriad Things:

What I love about this idea of “silent” transformation is its gentleness, its freedom from drama. It does not hysterically shriek that time is passing and that we need to do something before it is too late: instead it quietly solicits our attentiveness, asking us to look to the subtle and labile nature of the multiple changes that are already in process. [François] Jullien spends a good deal of time talking about what he calls—against Badiou—the ‘mythology’ of the event. There is a certain strain within continental philosophy that is obsessed with the idea of the ‘event’ as a break with the existing order of things, a kind of rupture that is necessary for something new to happen: because without some kind of break in the order of things, so the story goes, there could be nothing of newness in the world. Events of this kind—events that seem to be a break with the existing order of things—could be called noisy transformations: like the events of the nightly news, they monopolise our attention, so that we don’t notice those quieter transformations that are happening all the time. And I can’t help wondering if the very drama of these noisy transformations blinds us to the fact that even these events are not really such a break in the order of things at all (hence Jullien’s ‘mythology’ of the event): instead—but only if we ignore the noisiness and the drama and look a bit more patiently and calmly—we can see, in retrospect, that the seeds of these transformations had been growing for a long time.

(Be sure to read the comments thread as well as the post.)

New seat

The seat on the new toilet cracked after less than a year. No more cheap shit, we resolved.

Just for the record, it wasn’t me that split it. I’m not going to name the culprit, but he has broken his share of chairs, as well — not because he’s too heavy (he isn’t), but because he can’t sit still.

There are some things it just doesn’t make sense to be impatient about, you know? Like meditation — the whole point is to practice stillness and letting go, right? Only one side of the O-shaped seat split, though, so it still held together well enough for my daily practice, such as it is. The bit of a jagged edge helped prevent me from getting too comfortable, kept me focused.

But this is a guesthouse, and the owners — my parents — became concerned that some of their guests might not take it as lightly as I do. So this afternoon, Dad finally splurged and bought a new seat. It’s a 16.5″ (42 cm) WestportTM Designer, “Hard,” with Lift-OffTM for Easy Cleaning and Quiet Slow-CloseTM Action.

The old seat came off without too much trouble. I like jobs that require nothing but a screwdriver, because that’s the only tool I have in the house. If I need a hammer, I have to go borrow one from my parents. Though sometimes I can get by with a rock.

It felt a little odd to be putting a toilet seat in a garbage can.

One thing I wondered as I put the new seat on is why public restrooms always have U-shaped toilet seats, while toilet seats for use in the home are O-shaped? Perhaps the latter is more of an invitation to solitary contemplation, suggesting by its very shape both completeness and emptiness. I mean, I can think of some practical reasons for not having the seat connect in front for toilets with a high rate of usage, but I’m curious about why no one ever installs that kind of seat at home. I suppose the U-shape is too closely associated with public restrooms, and people are after a different ambience at home. After all, for the average American household, the bathroom is the most often redecorated room in the house. It’s not just a place to shit, shower and shave, it’s a place to nest. Maybe lay an egg or two.

The new seat appeared most commodious, and I could hardly wait to take it for a test-sit. But if you don’t have to go, you can’t go, you know? (And just think how much simpler our lives would be if things were always that way — if we were incapable of doing anything unnecessary! Heck, if my mind worked half as well as my digestive system, I’d be in deep nirvana by now.)

So I contented myself with trying out the Quiet Slow-CloseTM Action a few times, and I have to admit, I was pretty impressed. Push the seat or the lid down as hard as you want; they still won’t slam. Instead, they sink slowly and ever so quietly into position, as if to remind us that we have all the time in the world. Just sit.

The ineffable, with a sore bottom

For Beth, because she liked it

You sit, spine arrow-
straight, aiming at
the center of each
ripple: that spot where
a mayfly guttered,
where a thought-
fish rose. Unwatched,
your face begins to show
its phylogeny, relaxing
against the skull’s
inverted cup. You start
to glow, like any primate
being groomed – though
there’s no other.
The preceptor’s long-
ago story has set
root: how the only guard
on duty left her post
because she forgot the
watchword, bought
herself a bottle &
drank & drank until
she forgot her own
name. So the city
was overrun: that’s
how you’re sitting.
Through the open window
the sound of rain like
the body’s finest hairs
whispering with static.
You sit as if you were
no longer waiting
for anything, as if your
bones were tired of talking
among themselves,
as if they could climb
an upside-down tree
of lightning.
If only they weren’t
sewn up in a bag like
field mice in their
cave of grass: all flesh,
all blister. I mean
this grab bag,
this very poem
so far from where
you sit.