There is no lack of trash in the world. It is astonishing. For every piece of good citizenry we do by snagging the swirling bag blowing in front of us there seems to be an unending number of bags and bottles and papers to replace the one you just got. It is a huge problem that reflects at least two destructive features built into the nature of our economy:
Things need to be disposable so that we keep on buying to spur growth which makes trash
Hurting nature has no cost
Trash becomes ubiquitous and it literally becomes part of the landscape by way of landfills but even more perniciously is just sort of accepting that cups and wrappers and wadded up circulars are just standard fare. While there is external trash. There is also internal stuff floating around our minds or hearts as well that functions just like trash does. This problem of inner trash didn’t come up with E when she sat down in Union Square for a creative approach with me. But the problem of inner trash will be considered in a moment.
E felt like a crunchy sort from the moment she stepped to the table. Her Birkenstocks and her Central Americany looking patterened shirt and army pants paired with her broad and handsome face was the very picture of an eco-traveler.
But E upped my impressions.
She told me that she is concerned by the amount of trash in the world. Particularly where she lives in Ecuador.
Not that I disagreed at all about the amount of trash and the problem of it – we chatted about the North Pacific Garbage Gyre and other problems of consumption and trash. But E more specifically put her finger on the problem of trash in Ecuador.
It disconnects people from nature. Here we are in this beautiful country and people who live there don’t see it. They only see it as a place to dump their stuff. And they are losing chances to save it.
It was a full and honest appraisal of her adopted country but certainly it could be applied to any nation.
So I asked her:
What are you being cut off from? What is your experience in the nature of Ecuador?
The first word she said indicated the depth of her presence: “Openness.”
She paused and continued “And connectedness.”
I waited a moment and felt the simplicity and richness of her simple statement. What shot into my mind was the hope that she was artistic…but I didn’t know what sort of art might be relevant.
So I asked with fingers crossed
Are you really artistic?
E said haltingly
I teach ceramics at a college there.
She looked at me like I had done a low grade job of reading her mind – impressive but not terribly specific.
I lit up and said
Incorporate trash into your ceramics! Make new shapes guided by the trash! Embed the stuff into clay! Reclaim traditional techniques and forms with the trash within!
E looked at me and noted
That is really interesting. I wonder about outgassing when you fire them… But it is a really good idea to repurpose the trash and render it functionally inert and use it for counter-purposes.
I had no idea about the outgassing being a problem or not at all but suggested that it might be possible to do low heat firing or sun baked firing like in traditional ceramics. E liked that addition tremendously because it solved the outgassing problem entirely – if it was indeed a problem. We suddenly went into a small riff on how traditional thick walled ceramic styles of pots and sculpture reclaimed could partially rehab the Ecuadorian landscape or the trash could perhaps be buried in bricks and used for housing. The bricks would have less clay in them but might be just a strong.
How cool is that? She said she would look into the outgassing problem but was certainly going to start seeing how trash and clay would start to work together.
This creative approach went really well but what about the notion of inner trash? We don’t want our inner environments constantly polluted by anger, bitterness, hatred, bad habits and the like. Our experience of inner trash can be the same to exterior trash.
- We can just become numb to it – it is always there.
- We can try to pick it up and tuck it away – out of sight, out of mind.
- We can rail against it’s presence and say that we should never have it in the first place.
I am sure there are others.
Trash at one point served a purpose. But it only becomes trash when it was discarded unconsciously. So one way to deal with the inner trash (which was at one point useful) that we experience is to approach it with consciousness and incorporate it into new places that fire your creativity.
Use your anger to power an art project.
Build a temple to sloth.
Write a song about being bitter
Choreograph a dance piece about hatred.
In doing so you will have a new relationship with your anger, sloth, bitterness and hatred. In being reclaimed you will have forged a relationship with it. You’ll be unlikely to trash it again in the same way.
The idea isn’t to do these exact things but to use what we have cast away unconsciously and reclaim it as our own for new purposes.
What sort of art have you made from your inner trash?