Sunday, October 13, 2013

On Animals, Objects, and our Love



I was asked to write a brief commentary about a piece of mine for an anthology engaging with our contemporary notion of animals. In my poem, deer and chairs are conflated. The following is brief, and, by the ending, fulminating, response.

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I think about how our modern notion of what is 'other' blurs inanimate objects with animals and vice versa. For much of culture, outside the hospitable firecircle of the human, the light fades quickly, only a few animals allowed as pets or as marvellous outliers of the non-human to sit by us.  (And this not to mention, the humans we leave out in the cold, which is another discussion.)

I have the idea that much of modern culture places animals into the same category as robots or other automatons-- task-accomplishing machines with only the illusion of agency and/or emotion.

Since the animal is commodified in the way of the inanimate, it is easy to place it in the same category as these other emotion-simulation machines. 

But, further,  we even look on our other non- objects with such love, intimacy, and affection. They may as well as living beings that we love. Our emotional connection, our heartaching being-longing for our shoes, toasters, chairs, designer table is often so palpable and powerful, that the categories between animate and in-animate often begin to blur. 

And though our toaster doesn't have agency, we may feel that we love it like a non-human living thing. In the past, they gave names to swords that they loved. Names to ships. Now we feel some of our objects pass into our emotionally intimate world. How different is a deer leaping over the fence into the garden than a sullen, left-slouching shed, a silent chair, innocent and blinkless, forlorn, discovered in early morning in the shadow by the hedge?

This is the capitalist non-human spirit world. We are like consumer shamans, surrounded by the non-human ghosts of things we may love and own.

Chair. Coffeemaker. Car. Horse. Deer. Swallow. 

They are more than arbitrary linguistic categories. We are able to colonize the animals and objects of the world with our tenderness, our hunger, our desire.


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