Surrounded by texts, blogging on theory, preparing to talk about ideas, I read E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops," and I wanted to cry. I realized I had not, for 8 hours of the day, breathed fresh air. Too much work had to be done. I didn't have the time.
Questions linger, many more and much deeper than Huxley's:
Has the idea become for me a commodity?
Do I accrue them just to parade them in the MATRF or perhaps a journal?
Have I, reading near 5 books and three hundred pages of pdfs this week, lost the button to the front door?
Do I accept that "First-hand ideas do not exist"?
Who are my white tentacles wrapping around my legs?
If these categories lay over Garrard, then practice is my wilderness and theory my refuge (at least now, since graduate school). Yet this seems to neat. It is snared too easily by the dualistic trap Gary Snyder warns us to avoid. Still, how then, as Snyder says, must wilderness "come home"?
For John, Huxley's Savage, the wilderness is our civilization: a land of excess and un-rule. On the other hand, his world of ritual and practice on the reservation becomes our wilderness—the embodiment of the primitive and the crude. Of the two, it is our world of ideas that can refuse the sacred bond. For John it is chaste love. For Kuno in "The Machine Stops," it is simply a mate. Fordism and Machinism (once practices, now evolved into super-societal theories) have denied them the intimacy they seek. As a remedy John radically fulfills Snyder's call to find the wild within his own body. Tragically, the Savage tries to tame this too.
(Although perhaps "tragically" is too strong of a word. I find it difficult to sympathize with characters whose authors think so little of them.)
As for our world of ideas, our series of tubes and trams and helipads here at Clemson, it bears asking how much our theories are joined with practice. Lefebvre would claim we run too much with post-structuralist approaches to the subject. We have followed Foucault and Derrida to the sacrificial altars. Our subjects have been dissected from our spaces. We no longer link categories of physical and social. All is fractured.
Forster issues a clarion call. A reminder that there is a recession. A reminder that we eat tonight when others do not. A demand for our ideas to leave the building.