To the extent that ontological questions drive my recent writing (which includes Ecologies of the Moving Image, Ecologies of Identity, and a metaphysical manifesto-thriller called Why Objects Fly Out the Window), they are predominantly the following two:
- How do things enter into relation with other things?
- What happens (in the world) when they do?
In other words, I’m grappling with the nature of events, which I would define as new relational processes arising unpredictably from the encounter of previously unconnected processes. If all things are taken to be organized sets of processes, bounded or unbounded, open or closed in varying degrees, then events would be occurrences that do not merely repeat cycles of activity, but, rather, that bring new things into existence. They always feature the setting-off of processual action into a new direction, or into many. The general parameters of an event may be more or less predictable, but there is always an element of unpredictability, because of the creativity initiated in the creative advance into novel processuality that constitutes that event.
Readers of Whitehead may ask what doesn’t qualify as an event. At the most microcosmic scale, every actual occasion could be called an event. My notion of an event, which may be better capitalized as an “Event,” or even prefixed as a “Hyper-event” (following Tim Morton’s lead), encompasses not a single prehensive occasion, but a meeting of processual consistencies out of which arises an unpredictable set of distinctly new processes, which in turn expand the circle of affective horizons by which their effects reverberate into the universe. The difference is a matter of scale, and the Events of interest to me will be different than those of interest to the ant crawling on the window in front of me. Epistemology thus always impinges on ontology; categories are affected by the perceptual capacities of those for whom they are relevant.
It just happens that the kinds of events I’m analyzing in depth all involve humans: film viewers entering into relations with films and the worlds they present (in EMI); artists, music aficionados, travelers and pilgrims, entering into relations with landscapes; scientists and journalists entering into relations with El Niño-Southern Oscillation weather patterns; post-Soviet artists and East European border dwellers entering into relationship with “the West” (in E of I). But there is always more than just people and things: there are cameras, film-viewing spaces and screens, and the internet; dance steps, concert stages, and highways (in Cape Breton Island); concepts, models, media networks, ocean currents, and weather measurement devices; borders, maps, transfigured icons, and galleries (in East/Central Europe).
And in principle there is no reason why the kind of process-relational ecophilosophy I’m proposing couldn’t be applied to events occurring among Himalayan snow leopards, soil microorganisms, worms and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria in deep-sea hydrothermal vents, or atmospheric processes on Titan — that is, in places where humans have either never dared to tread or are far from being central characters. I don’t have the requisite background in animal cognition, pedology, oceanography, or extraterrestrial geophysics to do that kind of work justice, so I will stick with what I know best, which is culture. But redefined through this prism, culture, I hope, will look rather different from how it’s traditionally been seen.
Why “ecosophy-G”? I’m following Arne Naess’s habit of signing his own ecosophy as “ecosophy-T,” named after Tvergastein, a mountain hut where he apparently wrote many of his books. My ecosophy comes closer, in many ways, to Felix Guattari’s (and Gregory Bateson’s in turn), but the nod in each direction is apt.
The “G” stands for the Green Mountains, Greensboro (Vermont), Glastonbury Tor, and mount Grabarka, all of which have loomed in the background of my thinking and writing at one point or another; and for geophilosopher-ecosophists Guattari (with Gilles Deleuze) and Gurdjieff; and for the letter “ge” (Ґ, ґ), which was excised from the Ukrainian alphabet by Stalin, because if the Russians don’t have a “ge” and a “he,” why should Ukrainians? To paraphrase Bakhtin, even letters will have their homecoming festivals. But mostly, it stands for ground, earth, land, Ge, the Greek γη or γαια, the creatureliness born from Chaos that in turn gave birth to sky, sea, and mountains. It is ecosophy grounded in these very things amidst which we find ourselves.