from Prologue: Wastewater Treatment Facilities as Socrates Tartarus
In Socrates’ Phaedo, underground waterways appear more physiological than hydrological. Socrates describes the motion of air and water as breath in a continuous stream in Tartarus, which causes terrible and monstrous winds as it passes in and out; and when in turn it ebbs from there and rushes back this way, it fills our streams again, and when they are filled they flow through their channels and through the earth; and arriving in regions to which their ways have been severally prepared, they make seas and lakes and rivers and springs. Some rivers, he states, flow in a complete circle, like a snake, they descend to the deepest parts before discharging their waters. I do not know if I believe in the immortality of the soul; but I do believe in emotional memory, subterranean, beneath logic, translated by the collective into our metaphors and myths. How often is the imagination used to cope with big loss? If it is a flood, then it’s fertile. Loss can spawn results, fictive or real possibilities, parallel worlds to contend with the unknowables.
As Judith Butler writes, how can responsibility be thought on the basis of this socially ecstatic structure of the body? As something that, by definition, yields to social crafting and force, the body is vulnerable.
The body is on an operating table. The body is in bed beside the mattress dent. Or the body isn’t here, but an imprint of its absence. The river drains back into its channel and leaves its mark of a rise in the floodplain. Something is lost in a reconsolidation of memory, the edges curl, burning. The chemical tailings. The floodplain is or isn’t reconstructed. The memory flows around new contours. Ashes mix with sediment. One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds, says Aldo Leopold. I believe, the penalty is not to live alone in a world of wounds–– instead, it is to live with the seemingly impossible task of determining relation in a world of wounds.
There is a balance to remaining permeable and responsive to instances that are not our own and treating them as our own. Just as in a septic tank, the systematic cataloging and subsequent separation of subjects is known as primary treatment. Next, as in a septic tank drain field, the breakdown of components through the media reports–– so we may remember to forget–– is secondary treatment.
In an undated passage sometime in July, I wrote, The effects of the drought are very clear–– a lot of plants along the cliffside appear brittle and blackened with thirst. Or, is it true that if someone is ignored long enough they can believe they don’t exist?
Water, water everywhere, / and not a drop to drink.