Do not underestimate objects!

Lyle perches in lotus position atop the towel dispenser for “nighttime’s gurtical tete-a-tete,” sucking the insides of his cheeks and listening intently to Ortho (“The Darkness” Stice) as he relates the severe case of nighttime somnambulism that involves not just his own personal movement but that of his bed, which moves (the bed) from its position against one wall in Stice’s room to “a whole nother wall” (How much do I love that he says a whole nother?!), a phenomenon on which Lyle’s advice to The Darkness is singular:

Do not leave objects out of account. The world, after all, which is radically old, is made up mostly of objects.

What exactly Lyle means by this however is unclear (to me, anyway). He’s got this sort of persperation-craving Buddhist thing going on, right? So I’m thinking the whole thing about not underestimating objects may tie into the Buddhist notion of attachment and freeing ourselves from attachment and craving (!!) and the like. Speaking of craving, when Lyle says objects, is he referring to the subjects of our varying addictions, or is he simply referring to our attachment to objects (and does this subject v. object notion bring up a whole nother kettle of fish)?

  • Hal’s one-hitter
  • Pemulis’ yachting cap (attached to Pemulis’ head)
  • Mario’s head-mounted Bolex (attached to Mario’s head)
  • Eric Clipperton’s Glock 17
  • Poor Tony’s feathered boa
  • Tiny Ewell’s laser chronometer
  • The fork embedded in Morris Hanley’s left hand

Objects matter. They take up space in our heads (!!) – I may not think of myself as an object-attachment type person, but I am. Though I work in the digital world, in my personal life, I am a bit of an analog (it’s the wrong word – pre-digital?) devotee. Having recently acquired a 1970s-era turntable, I spend entirely too many minutes flipping through the bargain bins of my local record store, minutes that I count on old Timex Expedition (analog) chronometer (which chronometer’s whereabouts I must be cognisant of at all times).

do not underestimate objects

In the first moments of each day, I gather my objects together – phone, wallet, said chronometer, laptop, Infinite Jest… not the ebook but the actual 6 x 2 x 9.2-inch book, which, when this post sees its digital dawn at 6 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, I will have crammed, with those other objects and an assortment of wearable objects, into a 10 x 16 x 24-inch carry-on object with which I will board a large and aerodynamic Boeing 737 object, the object of which will be to ferry me to another locale (home to the Bureau des Services sans Spécificité), filled with entirely different objects. And while I am often predisposed to mailing postcards, my transmissios  to you this week  will be digital. analogs (right word) of these objects that I will endeavor to not underestimate.

But back to my question about Lyle…?

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16 thoughts on “Do not underestimate objects!”

  1. P.S. Since I believe that “the sense of conscious presence” or “the witness consciousness” is the most important characteristic in our world as we know it, and since (AFAWK) non-sentient objects don’t have this consciousness, that OOO seems like a kind of academic and not terribly useful way of looking at the world. Except for being odd and different, that’s always somewhat worthwhile…

  2. Morning prayer (on my knees, pretending to search for my shoes deep under the bed): Dear God, please let me be a catalyst for a conversation that I can’t even hope to follow.

    Night prayer: Thanks, God.

  3. Some good stuff, here!

    I think I’m onboard when it comes to the poignancy of Lyle’s aphorisms being, like, hard to pin down. Which isn’t to say that, as seems to be the case with most clichés––especially AA’s (which Gately visibly struggles with)––there *isn’t* ultimately some deeper meaning to them; rather, it seems a mark of nature’s plentitude that a well-formed idea simply stated finds deep connection with all manner of “states of affairs”. Simplicity and elegance are characteristics nature seems to value, in other words, and clichés have them in spades.

    With regard to OOO, I’ve read about it before and find it fascinating but I’m not convinced that it represents any kind of radical departure from more traditional forms of empiricism/idealism. The most striking claim of OOO seems to be that of “withdraw”, or the idea that no object is exhausted by its relations, but it’s totally defanged by the built-in admission that there’s no way to ever verify or even examine it (the claim). Maybe I’m missing something because it seems like a pyrrhic victory.

    Wittgenstein still feels like the relevant philosophical touchstone, here, and to my knowledge OOOgists don’t claim him as any kind of like conceptual forebear. Objects are “simple” in Wittgenstein’s schema, but they certainly aren’t to be underestimated on account of their simplicity––much like Mario, perhaps?

  4. Mark,

    Your usage of “analog” here—at least with regard to the turntable/records and the Timex—is completely correct. As for the linked author’s argument that film photography isn’t analog media, I believe it was Confucius who said: “that’s just, like, his opinion, man.” For some reason, he wants to refer to any photography that isn’t accomplished by capturing light with digital sensors (eg photography that’s accomplished with film negatives & requires a darkroom) as “chemical” rather than “analog” photography, which…I mean, it’s a free country.

    But “analog,” in the sense that he’s using it (to designate a “not-digital” category) is a sense that exists specifically because of digital computing and was used to designate computing performed without the use of the binary “digits” 1 & 0.

    The fact that he cites record players/records as an example of an “acceptable” use of the word “analog” makes it even harder to be charitable with regard to his yelling-caps “FILM IS NOT ANALOG” position because film negatives are (forgive me) analogous to records. Photography’s essence is recording the marks that light makes (photo=light/graphy=writing) It is about making an image with light. Analog media are those that record linear, continuous information using physical objects and/mechanical devices in the process of recording/reproducing. Just because there are darkroom chemicals involved (just another non-digital physical object!) doesn’t make film photography “not-digital.”

    If my explanation isn’t convincing, here’s a more thorough/better worded version: https://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/mediatheory/keywords/analogdigital/

    Also, @claude sylvanshine: I’ve always understood object-oriented ontology’s premises to be a bit like looking through the wrong end of the telescope, as it were. 😉

    1. wOOOt, Mr. Robert Short!
      Excuse me but look at this end of the the tele as I twist Wittgenstein’s Tractatus for my own thoughts:
      “2.032: The determinate way in which objects are connected in a state of affairs is the structure of the state of affairs.” – Ludwig
      Remember Gately and DuPlessis, and how Gately asks why the masking tape / cellotape is kept next to the phone in upper and middle class houses (something like that), and comments on the arrangement of things in the house, e.g. cutlery can usually be found below the cupboard in which plates are kept etc.
      Taking that as one example w/ Ludwig in mind, I would like to draw a cause-and-effect relationship between the placement of objects and their relation to each other in the house, to Gately’s decisions re: what to do to DuPlessis!
      Yrs Truly,
      OOO

      1. …But doesn’t “drawing a cause-and-effect relationship between the placement of object and their relation to each other in the house, to Gately’s decisions re: what to do to DuPlessis” commit the OOO no-no (nooo-nooo?) of “privileging human existence over the existence of nonhuman objects”?

        I mean…the objects didn’t place themselves, right? So isn’t the kernel of the argument about why the *human* who *placed* the *objects* chose those particular objects & places that’s the thrust of the cause/effect claim? And wouldn’t the network-theory folks lose their minds over such a strict 1-to-1 casuistry? (Full disclosure: if network theory boils down to anything other than “causality is fucking complex,” I’d also like someone to please hip me to what it is.)

        How could any argument written in a language only humans can understand possibly *not* privilege human existence over the existence of nonhuman objects? Would that argument have to be written for objects? And how would that be achieved, since the argument relies from the bottom up on the chain of “human sense input–>cognition–>literacy?”

        And about this: “object-oriented philosophers maintain that objects exist independently of human perception”…I don’t have a degree in philosophy, but I’m pretty sure this idea had been debunked after platonism but before OOO. How would OOO’s approach differ from, say, Sartre’s concept of the “object pour-soi/object en-soi,” if at all?

        Maybe I’m just being thick-headed, but I’ve never understood the goals of OOO’s method. Is it like trying to make the most radical break with all theoretical approaches because they’re tainted with the imperialist/sexist/racist/and-so-on-ist legacy of the Enlightenment? I’m deadly serious about the real possibility of my thick head. Seriously. I’ve had several people try to explain it to me.

        1. Gah. This is why I shouldn’t post without revising.

          “So isn’t the kernel of the argument about why the *human* who *placed* the *objects* chose those particular objects & places that’s the thrust of the cause/effect claim”

          should just be

          “So isn’t the kernel of argument about why the *human* who *placed* the *objects* chose those particular objects & places?”

          1. I am pleased to be your personal Ingersoll, Rob!

            Ok, yep I reduced objects to their effects and relations, which is indeed a no-go in OOO, and properties and qualities are also a no-go. Lemme try to be more articulate and maybe fire just a couple more missiles a la Ingersoll?

            Gately brings up the pattern of the predictable arrangement of objects in a typical middle and/or upper class house. I guess I should have said that when I was thinking about this, I was thinking: sure this could be because of economical and affordable reproductions of houses being designed a similar way, so encouraging human patterns and habits to e.g. keep cutlery beneath the cupboard with plates etc, but it’s the very given-ness/obviousness/automaticness of this pattern that led me to think about the objects themselves shaping the design of the house, and the subsequent human relation to the objects in the house.

            I know that above sounds whack, like choosing a bed and only then choosing the size of the bedroom, and then the house, depending on the size of the bed. Pls bear as I try to articulate:

            So I am saying Gately did what he did to Duplessis not only because the objects are arranged in those positions whose expected arrangement he is familiar with from previous burglaries (the objects are not arranged because humans have developed a habit of arranging them that way) but because the objects themselves bend and shape the space around them (not based on their function assigned by humans), and in that way, their presence and location affects the way human beings relate and use them.

            It’s hard to articulate because humans relate to objects (mostly) based on function. But, back to IJ, Gately asks why the masking tape is kept next to the phone in most houses when there is no use for it there (or something along those lines)… which also brought out and made me think about the obviousness/givenness/automaticness of the arrangement of objects for me (separate from their function).

            What I’m trying to get at is basically similar to McLuhan’s medium is the message idea, esp. with the idea of things being “ubiquitous,” and shaping human relations and cognition in a way that is not obvious.

            RE: Language, you’re right about the impossibility of a lang. for nonhuman objects. I think the language of object-based interaction is clearer (for me) when thought of w/r/t gesture, which is why the obviousness of the arrangement stood out for me too (it’s almost reflexive for Gately, so I thought about gesture and automatism, or learned automatism).

            I’m not sure what the goals of OOOs methods are, with the exception of recognizing the way objects shape human interactions.

            I shd mention: Lyle’s phrase about the world being old and full of objects reminds me that there is a premodern fascination w/ objects in OOO, but I have not looked into this fascination w/ premodern things.

            All of this being said, OOO itself is fairly new, speculative, and kinda nuts, and pretty much why I am interested in it!

            Will respond about Sartre when I have some more time over the next few days.

          2. Thanks for trying to help me get my head around this. I think my comprehension of object-oriented ontology breaks down in the same place that it does with “the posthuman,” and that place is a disagreement over language.

            If I’m understanding two of OOO’s claims correctly—1) that it’s a mistake to confuse the categories of “being” and “thinking” and 2) that there’s a perceivable distinction between an unknowable “objective reality” and the reality knowable through human perception/cognition—then it’s probably best I go ahead and get off the thought-experiment at this stop.

            I think the root of my confusion is with the word “privileging” in the first sentence of the wiki you cited: “Object-oriented ontology (OOO) is a school of thought that rejects the privileging of human existence over the existence of nonhuman objects.”

            OOO’s claim that there’s an error in conflating “being” and “thinking” because to do so _privileges_ “human existence” over “the existence of objects” is, to my mind, guilty of begging the question. And that’s because (for my human brain and its admittedly puny human thoughts) it’s not possible to think the concept of “privilege” without the concept of “value.” Privileging any X over any Y requires a choice, which choice requires a judgement, which judgement requires an assessment of value. And I can’t think of a way to understand “value” as anything other than “human value.” If “value” doesn’t mean “value for humans,” my circuitry overheats—because, well…value for what/whom?

            Unfortunately, it’s a problem that’s (for me) built right into the language, and it reveals itself in an ethical dimension when I try to exchange the word “object” for “human” in the phrase “human existence” and act like there isn’t a meaningful difference.

  5. Hadn’t thought of the Buddhist non-attachment concept! Great post!

    J.O.I’s dad’s booze flask is the object that has stuck with me throughout, and based on the weight that has for me, my thoughts around objects in IJ have been more around what it could mean to “be” an object.

    Don’t mean to get too “prolixly academic,” but also want to bring up OOO:
    “Object-oriented ontology (OOO) is a school of thought that rejects the privileging of human existence over the existence of nonhuman objects.[1] Specifically, object-oriented ontology opposes the anthropocentrism of Kant’s Copernican Revolution, whereby objects are said to conform to the mind of the subject and, in turn, become products of human cognition.[2] In contrast to Kant’s view, object-oriented philosophers maintain that objects exist independently of human perception and are not ontologically exhausted by their relations with humans or other objects.[3] Thus, for object-oriented ontologists, all relations, including those between nonhumans, distort their related objects in the same basic manner as human consciousness and exist on an equal footing with one another.[4]” (From Wiki)

    Also E.M. Cioran once wrote something along the lines of “self-pity turns one into an object.” (paraphrase)
    And this reminded me of a review of Cioran’s book on Fitzgerald the late and wonderful HTML Giant:

    “[F. Scott] Fitzgerald mopes that insomnia robbed him of mental clarity and the capacity to reflect why he’d “become identified with the objects of my horror or compassion. Cioran defines sickness in distinction to the compulsion of health: to be an object, to be propelled and compelled as an expression of unrestrained will. The sick see their suffering and indignity in the world around them, a solipsism that reads into all reality an expression of one’s horrors or compassions: “to be sick is to coincide totally with oneself”. The sick are incapable of being an object, and are incapable of action. To act is to partake in the unsympathetic field of objects engaged in motion. Self pity condemns action, regards the self as unclean or faulty, and glorifies capitulation, depression, death. Self pity does all this, and it does this to keep one sane, to keep one in the throes of reason. It’s the final expression of self preservation by those who have deprived life of all value and worth.” http://htmlgiant.com/reviews/an-admiration-of-f-scott-fitzgerald-by-cioran/

  6. I don’t mean to be harsh on Lyle (I like him, I really do!) but I wonder if he isn’t a parody of the guru — a guy who says things that sound deep but that are really either obvious or devoid of content. I mean, don’t put more than your own weight on the lat pulldown pulley? I mean, there’s a sweat-licking whiff of Deepak Chopra about Lyle and it reminds me of this study, inspired by a Chopra Tweet:

    http://journal.sjdm.org/15/15923a/jdm15923a.pdf

    Another aspect of Lyle is that almost all high school sports movies, which the Enfield Tennis Academy scenes, to me, seem to parody, have the wise weirdo and Lyle fits that bill.

      1. Is Lyle somewhere between JOI as The Wraith and a regular human trainer?
        The non-outside locking sauna doors and >50 C temps might indicate this…
        …a traumatization that made Lyle both more and less than human…

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