Wor(l)d Made Flesh: The Materiality of Interaction

I just finished reading two interesting blog posts by Levi Paul Bryant, whose blog Larval Subjects I highly recommend you follow. In his post, entitled “Thinking at the Edge of Apocalypse“, Bryant emphasizes that the essence of ecological ontology is not ‘nature’ (i.e. “pertaining only to rain forests and coral reefs), which, regardless of how suffuse, is representative of an illusory binary that severely limits ecology to a very narrow scope. Instead, and in all actuality, as Bryant explains, the utter impetus of ecological ontology is, in fact, a kind of inter-relational totality. Here, Bryant writes, that “To think ecologically is to think beings in relation; regardless of whether that being be the puffer fish, economy, or a literary text.” Simply stated, “Everything is ecological,” including and especially “culture and society”.

This in itself is a scathing critique of capitalistic and consumeristic ideology, which precisely proves Bryant’s point. In her article, “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” Gillen Wood demonstrates that “It is the character of modern consumer society to promote the idea that nothing is connected”. The orientation of such a societal structure is entirely individualistic, atomistic, and, above all, pathological, propagating a deleterious ontology of false segregation, thereby eliciting deprivation, and disenfranchisement. However, Wood writes that “Sustainability, by contrast, teaches that everything is connected,” as such, “sustainability is truly the science of everything, from technical strategies for repowering our homes and cars, to the ecological study of biodiversity in forests and oceans, to how we think and act as human beings”.

In this regard, Bryant further elaborates the immensity of ecological ‘inter-relationality’ and ‘interactivity’ in his post “Interactivism“. Yet, here he makes the vital distinction that these interactions of ecological ontology are not “ghostly”, phantasmic, abstract, transcendent, nor apparition-like but, instead are unavoidably material, concrete, and fleshly. Byant writes that “there is always a materiality of interactions” and that “Every interaction requires flesh.” He explains that “Even symbolic and linguistic interactions require flesh to occur,” noting that “They require an atmosphere…or electro-magnetic signals, paper, smoke, or any number of other mediums.” Flesh is matter and, as Sallie McFague explains in her book, The Body of God, flesh not only “includes all life-forms” but, also “all matter on our planet” (17). Flesh, it seems, “links us with everything in the most intimate of ways” (McFague, 17, *my emphasis added). Flesh “knits us together with all life-forms in networks of shared suffering and joy” and is without a doubt “the most intimate and most universal way to understand reality” (McFague, 17).

These are but my initial thoughts, reactions, inclinations, and musings based solely upon cursory inquires and peripheral readings. I look forward to delving deeper, thinking further, and researching more…

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The Sustainable Mapping of Ideology

In her article, “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” Gillen Wood demonstrates that “It is the character of modern consumer society to promote the idea that nothing is connected” (Wood). The orientation of such a societal structure is entirely individualistic and atomistic. However, Wood writes that “Sustainability, by contrast, teaches that everything is connected,” as such, “sustainability is truly the science of everything, from technical strategies for repowering our homes and cars, to the ecological study of biodiversity in forests and oceans, to how we think and act as human beings” (Wood). In this regard, Wood does well to note that “Sustainability is a human and social issue as much as it is ‘environmental'” (Wood). Thus, as Wood describes, the primary and most predominant obstacles  to realizing, actualizing, and achieving global sustainability are psychological, social, and ultimately ideological.

George I. Garcia and Carlos Gmo. Aguilar Sanchez explain that ideology is “the generating matrix that regulates the relation between the visible and the invisible, the imaginable and the non-imaginable, as well as the changes/shifts in these relations” (2). Garcia and Aguilar Sanchez propose that ideology is comprised of “three basic moments: ideology in itself, as a series of ideas; ideology for itself, in its materiality (ideological State apparatuses); and ideology in and for itself, when it enters into operation in social practices” (3). Indeed, the ‘psychologically’ “inherited mental frameworks that reward us for the normalization and simplification of complex realities” and the socially constructed “economic and institutional arrangements designed to protect us from material wants,…risk, shock, disorder and violent change” are the very building blocks of ideology ‘in and for itself’ (Wood). Here, the fragmentary self-ishness of modern Western consumer consciousness is nothing short of being ideologically hegemonic. The work of ideology is to provide “an idealised vision of a ‘society’ that cannot really exist” (5). This is expressed and articulated most clearly in the operative practices of consumptive civilization, implicitly promoting the idea that we can continue our current way of life and go on consuming at our increasing rate without experiencing or causing any disastrous or catastrophic effects, suggesting that there is simply no direct correlation between our societal practices and ecological crisis.
Sustainability and Deep Ecology function as radically subversive social critiques of ‘ideology’. Both sustainability and deep ecology emphasize the fact that “we live in a world characterized by connectivity” and that we must adapt our thinking to a complex, connected model of the world and our place in it,” expanding the boundaries of the self, initiating the ‘complete’ integration of personality and consciousness, and adopting a relational ‘total-field’ image of the world (Brennan and Lo). In this way, each and every one of the efforts of sustainability and deep ecology seek to actively engage in “the long and difficult process of de-normalizing” and disrupting the ideological underpinnings of consumeristic society (Wood), awaking us to the “traumatic limit” and the “true horror of the Real” which urges us to activity (Garcia and Aguilar Sanchez, 5-6).
Brennan, Andrew and Yeuk-Sze Lo. “Environmental Ethics.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Edward N. Zalta. Stanford University, 2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.
Garcia, George I. and Carlos Gmo. Aguilar Sanchez. “Psychoanalysis and Politics: The Theory of Ideology in Slavoj Zizek.” International Journal of Zizek Studies 2.3 (2008). Web. 18 Nov. 2013.
Wood, Gillen. “Sustainability: Ethics, Culture, and History.” Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation. Eds. Tom Theis and Jonathan Tomkin. cnx.org. Connexions, 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.