Recently i returned to Australia across the Tasman Sea flying high in the sky and watching the wonderful world of clouds. The movie inside seemed trivial by comparison.
Seated above the leading edge of the wing, i had a clear view of the fine work – a marvel itself – of the construction which goes into the wing and the front of the engine.
And the engines themselves – almost defying comprehension, lifting this great weight into the sky, and across vast distances in a few hours.
It is impossible not to be impressed. I pondered my own curious position vis-a-vis modern science and thought how good it would be to be able to simply embrace modern life and modern science on the terms its enthusiasts make for it. How good it would be to be able to simply accept the great adventure and experiment we are part.
But … it is not the marvel of the jet engine as a means of propulsion and the fine metal work and design of the aircraft as an thing in itself which requires critical attention.
What was this aircraft (and any like it bringing a staggering 30 million passengers into Sydney airport alone this year) leaving in its wake? And also, bringing in with it?
Passing through the rituals of customs just so you know who is in control in modern Australia, what wrong attitudes could it bringing in which may not be welcome by the original peoples?
What social and environmental factors have been excluded from our considerations when we unreflectively embrace aircraft travel?
Modern forms of abstraction fail to deal with the residue which results from the process of abstraction.
Abstraction is a process which puts an emphasis on some aspect of experience at the expense of the rest of experience.
Generally, in situations which comply with our social norms, we privilege and elevate abstraction.
By comparison, it is possible to imagine an approach which treats the whole as being worthy of respect – and, as a result, insists that any ‘residue’ from a process is accorded its proper treatment and not simply discarded.
This seems to be an approach which is found in non-western societies where it is put into lived practice.
For example, the disposal of afterbirth or the freshly severed foreskin may require careful treatment. To modernising minds, these may be ‘thrown away’ as being of no significance.
Such practices are often regarded with scorn by modern scientific minds.
But we may be seeing an approach which takes real care to ensure that ‘what is left over’ is assigned to its proper place if we are to lead balanced lives.
Nuclear fuel dumps and other toxic waste matters – and even the enormous ‘rubbish’ dumps of modern life – confirm the graffiti sign "There is no away to throw."
LOOK OUT JIM -SHE’S GOING TO BLOW!
But abstraction itself is an inherently unstable process.
By ‘factoring out’ part of the whole as being "of no account" we lay unstable foundations for all that will be invested upon them.