The Wreckage of Dreams

I’ve always been drawn to decay. Human detritus, the brittle old leaves of progress.

Rusty tin with holes; weatherboards flapping in the wind; scars in the tarmac; a whole front porch just fallen down right there; weeds sprouting from the cracks in old buildings; saggy little wooden houses; abandoned boats; signs for things that don’t exist; bright paint cheerfully peeling; an empty tank at a crazy angle; windows boarded over with plywood, which itself is starting to rot and peel; “For Sale” signs overgown with forlorn weeds; houses ripped in two by a hurricane years ago, that no-one has got around to demolishing; the unrepeatable geometry of a collapsed barn; weed-filled greens and broken cart trails in a failed golf course; ruined old farm machines left in a yard.

Every one of them is a story. Someone thought this would be a good thing, useful, beautiful. They put work into it. People helped. Resources were gathered. Plans drawn up. Legalities settled. Patience was needed. Obstacles were overcome. Disappointments endured. Success was celebrated. The achievement was delighted in. Then it became mundane. Taken for granted. Boring. Things changed. Priorities shifted. Maintenance became a hassle. Other things demanded attention. Relationships broke, and were formed again. New dreams dreamt themselves. Neglect set in. Sun, wind, water, and gravity, however, neglect nothing.

Things tend to chaos. Structure is a frail and temporary state, bought with energy.

“Ideas” are idealized. They are perfect Platonic forms, all shiny. When we implement them, we strive to create a little bit of the world that mirrors that perfection. When I walk around an airport, I think of the resources that it has taken to create this much pristine geometry in real space. The more perfect it is, the more energy it takes. And the less real it is.

Imperfections are character. Like the lines in an old man’s face, or the bend in an old woman’s back. Every crack shows the irruption of nature. She will reclaim her own. In the face of all our human arrogance, thinking we can pave over every bump and smooth out every irregularity, she just waits.


5 thoughts on “The Wreckage of Dreams

  1. Reflecting on my own recent trip to India occuring at same time –

    Thus the huge, chaotic, Howrah Railway Station near Kolkota must have been owned by nature for centuries and will probably endure but the equally huge but pristine and immaculate Singapore Airport Terminal 3 is doomed when it is no longer economic to extract earth’s last oil reserves.

    On 6 November, the day after Divali, we were in the Kali Ghat area at what was apparently a very imoratant Kali festival. Dozens, if not hundreds of goats were being slaughtered to appease this wrathfull goddess at the Kali Temple we visited. Thankfully I didn’t see this but there was a lot of goat heads, trotters and entrails and many contented pariah dogs hanging around. The Brahmin priest who runs the place assured us that all of the meat is used to make curries to feed the local poor.

    Down by the ghats on the Hoogley River (part of the Ganges Delta) we watched many colourful processions from every district of Kolkata as they brought their Kali effigies to merge into the holy river. Noisy, colourful, tumultuous rituals repeated over and over to make sure that all of this dangerous female energy is neutralised!

    I thught of you Bhante! You would have loved it.

  2. Perfect observation and contemplation.

    It’s interesting that all people want things to be good and well, always. Just the opposite of what nature is and will present to us.

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