This is a creative response to Jane Bennett’s – Vibrant Matter. I write inspired; quickly and openly about a recognition of ‘thing-power’ on Marazion beach when I was 15 years old.
By Bob Marns
I sit with the number 22 quantifying the time I have existed in a body. onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightninteneleventwelvethirteenfourteenfifiteensixteenseventeeneighteennineteentwentytwentryoneTWENTYTWO. Another person asks me the question to measure my existence. As if I strive and open-up to life in a straight line of progression. Within our colloquial sense of our lives we hint that they are experienced as a rumbling reverberating gathering-ups of intensities. It is possible for moments in the present (the bodily-felt, the flutter-thought or visual-glimmer) to rise up, gathering rapid intensity, so that they become something never un-present, always simmering just below consciousness; always already available for recognition and memory. Moments of felt intensity that are not formulated as ideas but as feelings. Becoming a memory expressed always by and through the body.
This, forced to thought, as I sit here reading Vibrant Matter and two sentances collide to force recognition of a time spent in my life already recognising and embodying what I am reading now. Fulfilling my suspicion that all ‘philosophy’ is existence put and tested in language.
Let’s go here and there simultaneously and see what happens.
“The quarantines of matter and life encourage us to ignore the vitality of matter and the living powers of material formations… I will turn the figures of ‘life’ and ‘matter’ around and around, worrying them until they start to seem strange… In the space created by this estrangement a vital materiality can take shape. Or rather, it can take shape again, for a version of this idea already found expression in childhood experiences of a world populated by animate things rather than passive objects” (Bennett, p. vii)
“Even a falling stone, write Spinoza, “is endeavouring, as far as in it lies, to continue in its motion”” (Bennett, p.2)
I sit on hard stones watching, listening, sensing the waves crash onto shore a few paces in front of me. Sweat dries slowly as I have completed my daily cycle down to the ocean. I have just moved from Birmingham to Cornwall and this daily ritual helps smooth the path between the two worlds. I move towards uncertainty (having to go to a new school, will I make friends? What are people like down here?) with the help of the ocean as my new friend. Viewing it from our new house is a constant urgent invitation. You can’t go from being nowhere near to sea to a 10 minute cycle away from it just to look at it! The taste of the sticky chewy Vimto still in my mouth as I adapt to new worlds carrying over rituals from others (I lived next to a very good sweet shop in Birmingham). The stones here are only hard in substance, not in form. The unimaginable ferocity of the ocean produces smoothness as it meets land. Smoothness is soothing. Fingers explore its form and I am reminded of the impossibility of its representation (have you ever tried to draw a smooth stone? it’s hard). Smoothness sooths. Familiarity with the stone grows. I attune to the edges of my body as I become aware of the sensory symphony that I am immersed. Waves crash seaweed smell, a sloppy hard sound water meets slime meets stone, wind sensed sweaty skin, horizon asks and seagulls surf, distant waves shout rocks brushes white makes spray. See stones rolling. A line drawn and re-drawn, with every wave some stones become darker than their dustry-dry brothers and sisters. A line becomes a dance. Like how individual birds form forms, making a swirling expression of shapely-wonder. Stones yearning to encounter their great conductor. Picked up, an immanent moment of suspension then clattered back down, re-orientated and re-organised. Ocean drives form while their rolling contact with others smooths edges. I sense these stones as bodies collectively being formed and re-formed by everything that surrounds. Yearning motion, yearning form. I stand up. Familiar stone in hand. Wish my friend good luck and is thrown far into the waves. Forever re-shaped and re-shaping.
Bennett, J., 2009. Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Duke University Press.