msb ~073 Picture this

Picture this  

Picture Icelandic elements: a photograph by Gareth Goldthorpe
Iceland elements

As recent passages here — TERRA and The Library of Ice — hint, my reading’s had an Arctic preoccupation recently. I’ve never been north of 60o, so my polar regions are imaginary zones. Although reading is intensely visual, photographs still jolt my every-day, word-fed way of ‘seeing’ the distant world. I’ve dabbled in photography, but my brother does the real thing, and I’m envious of his skills and travels. I’d forgotten his recent Iceland trip, my anticipation of his new images and, checking his website, there they were: freshly discovered places that others’ words had been walking me toward. Continue reading “msb ~073 Picture this”

msb ~071 Knowledge that does not know itself

Knowledge that does not know itself  

questions marks on trees in a forest
Forest of unknowing?

Revisiting Donald Rumsfeld’s sage words on knowns and unknowns, philosopher Mark Kingwell helpfully unpacks different species within Rumsfeld’s missing fourth quadrant of knowledge: the Unknown Knowns.

Some might be our subconscious dreamscape of suppressed knowledge — a form of surreal self-mapping, which sometimes surfaces in disguise into the conscious world.

Others might be the very real workings of our selves within the world, through the store of tacit knowledge we bring to our daily practices: knowledge that’s routinised, submerged. Continue reading “msb ~071 Knowledge that does not know itself”

msb ~068 One foot through the door

One foot through the door  

Through the doors: Dark Mountain Project 14: Terra
Dark Mountain Project 14: Terra

“They say that travelling opens doors, gives people new perspectives. This is only partially true. People carry their doors with them: perspectives seldom truly change.” I’m setting one foot into Terra, The Dark Mountain Project’s new book, and this image is from one of its earlier essays, by Nick Hunt. Every journey, the next village, the next continent: a portal into that new perspective, new dimensions. Nick is recounting his travels in Ethiopia: the cultural and natural experiences that bring new things into visibility, push others into invisibility; and the “preconceptions [that] can be destroyed” with each one although, as he suggests, we carry so many with us without noticing the load on us or on the land. Continue reading “msb ~068 One foot through the door”

msb ~059 Only connect

Only connect  

Path: space to connect

Louisa Thomsen Brits’ Path narrates place and personhood through poems that make ‘a short story about reciprocity’. This small book treads lightly through wide scapes of spirit and land; beginning with a quote from Robert Macfarlane: “paths connect. This is their first duty and their chief reason for being.” Perhaps all beings (human/non-human) are also paths: expressions of particularity and process; routes and roots to our essential connections.

I am footfall and track,
trail and trace,
thread of passage and possibility.

Trodden-through with a region-specific ‘word hoard’, Path is both intensely local to those paths Brit walks and universally translatable to our own natural geographies, histories, biographies.

I offer to make sense of the world,
to unravel tangle to intelligible thread,
I am your next natural step,
a silent, sinuous course stretching ahead of you... Continue reading “msb ~059 Only connect”

msb ~057 Creativity: a bright idea

Creativity: a bright idea   

Q&A? Not that simple

At The Conversation, Gareth Loudon argues for education for greater creativity as a bridge between silos of knowledge. This includes that famous ‘two cultures’ gap identified by CP Snow decades ago: the separation of sciences and humanities. Specialisation, of course, involves people becoming more expert in smaller areas (that unkind old joke: you learn more and more about less and less until you end up knowing everything about nothing). The separation is then reinforced in how we’re taught, how we expect the world to work and be managed. Continue reading “msb ~057 Creativity: a bright idea”

msb ~048 Earthrise, again

Earthrise, again   

Earthrise frame

There’s an overfamiliar-yet-fresh feel to the film Earthrise, documenting the moment humans first photographed Earth appearing behind the moon. Familiar because, raised on images and imaginations of manned space exploration as it happened, I’ve seen this photograph so many times: the small, watery rock teeming with invisible life. Fresh because the film lets us see back through the eyes of three elderly men who were there then, alone: emerging from profound blackness never experienced before, after hours scanning endless, dead grey dust no one had yet walked on – and feeling their eyeballs flood with the only colour to be had anywhere: first sight of distant home. It moved them then, fifty years ago this December, and you can see it move them now, looking back. Continue reading “msb ~048 Earthrise, again”

msb ~044 The haunting

The haunting   

haunting presence

There are no natural sources of polychlorinated biphenyls only natural sinks, such as Killer Whales and other predators. As such, PCBs are part of the pattern of whorls and loops that make up the human fingerprints we’re learning to understand as the Anthropocene: spooky fingerprints that circulate around us within other living beings. Continue reading “msb ~044 The haunting”

msb ~043 Palliative curation

Palliative curation  

heritage beyond saving

I value my memory of the blistering critique I received when speaking to environmental experts about sometimes having to ‘let go’ of loved sites of natural or cultural heritage as the contradictions of trying to ‘hold back’ historic climate change become starker: “Wooly-minded fudge!” Particular scorn came when I mentioned ‘palliative curation’. Many of the ideas we’re going to have to explore are contentious, even provocative, so my only complaint is that I’d done a poor job explaining the possibilities.  Continue reading “msb ~043 Palliative curation”

msb ~040 Making sense of weak signals

Making sense of weak signals

Listening mode…

In this 2009 article, Paul Schoemaker and George Day identify biases we unconsciously apply to our worldviews, blinding us to important but weak signals of change. Once we “lock in on a certain picture [we] often reshape reality to fit into that particular frame. Humans tend to judge too quickly when presented with ambiguous data; we have to work extra hard to consider less familiar scenarios.”

Such biases render reality as familiar, expected: reducing the scope to consider different perspectives. We become overconfident in our way of seeing: filtering what we see according to our mental model; rationalising it to sustain our belief in the model as reality; seeking evidence to bolster this. Continue reading “msb ~040 Making sense of weak signals”