The other night, I shared the hyperlink to an interview about a book on ecology. In it, the author gushes about the affect he hopes his work will have on the reader’s way of perceiving the world:
“To go and see something like a bunch of gulls swarming, [before you’re like] ‘Oh, they’re just gulls swarming,’ but then realize, ‘Wow, no, directly underneath them there could be thousands of herring.’ I mean, how cool is that? And I just think, wow, I want to be able to see that. I want others to be able to see that and make that connection that things are not isolated.”
Prior to reading this article, I’d bumped up against the walls of my echo chamber by sharing my surprise at what I’d perceived as too little outrage around a certain celebrity scandal; an internet friend, who has been in that chamber for over a decade, kindly informed me that less mainstream media have been making connections long before I’d caught wind of this non-news; which only heightened my feeling of disorientation—how does a moment in time come together in our public consciousness? What makes an event?
Somehow, I’d skipped over the slow erosion of this public figure—this symbol of something or other in the eyes of my youth—now set in the category of things that occur and are acknowledged, but not reflected on, like a random stabbing in the parking lot after dark.
What makes for significance? Why should one story be told instead of another?
After a couple of replies back and forth with this internet friend, I rather abruptly relayed a memory of her own marking of time & significance—a birthday tweet—more than a decade ago. I remembered the generational angst in her post—its affect on my perception of myself and herself and that time-space contraction we somehow shared, without ever having met—but I didn’t remember her words. She ran a word search anyway, from 2008 to 2011, but could not substantiate my claim.
I can’t imagine that I’d dreamed that whole thing up. It would be strange if I did, because, for me, that moment was one of those flashes of narrative color or insight into a person that inflects the whole rest of the story.
And that’s a creepy thing to say out loud, I guess, but the point is this: we can’t control our significations—or, indeed, our significance. How cool is that?
I’ve been thinking a lot about mediated lives; I’ve used the metaphors of thread and fabric and stitching for a while now to articulate these thoughts. Textured materials are ready-to-hand—prêt‑a‑porter—metaphors of interdependence, a language “to be able to see…and make that connection that things are not isolated.”
This morning, moments after opening my eyes, I wrote these words for metafor.es—a threading together of my thoughts with another’s:
“We often find ourselves reflecting on how we might tell the stories of exchange between artisan, designer, curator/seller, and customer. This art installation by @jordannassar translates the questions that guide our vision of cultural heritage into art. His piece is iterative and relational: a pillow he bought from a Palestinian woman, a design he appropriated from her work on the left landscape, and an embroidery he co-created with her on the right. It is a visual metaphor for the trade we aspire to: replicas as vessels of relationship, trade as vectors of reciprocity, culture as interrogations of difference and commonality.”
Raneem went with this version instead: “the original, the replica, the co-creation – a beautiful reflection on the pieces and designs we seek and trade with artisans and designers.”
We’re writing about actual fabric but we might as well be writing about our selves. End quote.
I don’t know what connects me to a disgraced icon who will never know that I exist; or has intersected me with a writer on dust that I’ve only met once; or keeps me tethered to Raneem and/or to the stars she’s taught me have significance as they make moves across the surface of my life: “You are the one who threads the needle and selects the correct fabric”—that’s my astrological reading for the week.
I don’t know.
I just see the seabirds flocking and imagine the sea life swarming too; as above, so below.
And I believe that these are, in fact, connected; tenuously, perhaps, or maybe that’s just how it appears to the naked eye.