Thursday, July 29, 2021

The official student newspaper of Methodist Ladies' College, est. 2020

In Defence of Dust

There is a certain romance to be found lingering about corners and crevices. Omnipotent, perhaps. You may view it with disdain or disgust, but it is there. An unworthy foe, ever present but ever conquerable, not warranting hatred but simply indifference. A blemish, a speck, an impurity; dust.

I must begin by asserting that you should continue to clean your home and uphold this as sacrosanct, but I do propose this: there is merit to the dust on your bookcase, under the typewriter, surrounding your attic. 

Briefly humour me. Picture the scene and it’s scent and the visceral engulfment you might face in an unclean room, cluttered with disuse and timeworn fragments. Dirt on your shoes and in the floorboards and perhaps a stream of sunlight to cut the begrimed glass. In this indulgent vignette there is friction in your throat and on your eyes, is there not? An itch on your chin and heavy air. But there is only silence in this fantasy place. Truly the very nature of such particles is a desire to be undisturbed. And so, in silence you might stand weeping despite yourself. Reddened eyes. Runny nose. Dust. 

Irritated as you may be (in every sense of the word), there is an undeniable reverence to be paid to any such substance that lays bare the human body by simply existing. In self defence, perhaps? Power move. 

Besides, there is universal understanding that we are nothing if not ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’. So consider, if you please, where these fragments were settled before they entered your home. Whose stirring roused them from their resting place? More morbidly, this sliver of discomfort is the memorial for someone who was. And who were they before they were nothing?

As such, I present my case; this is not dust but history on your hands. Regardless of faith or religious loyalties, one fact is certain: A nearly infinite number of circumstances aligned for you to exist, for me to exist, for this article and this newsletter and school and city and state and country and so if you are there, on the other side of this screen, that’s remarkable. It is conceivable that this sentiment is unrequited but I think it is beyond extraordinary that our two bodies of consciousness just interacted. My words and your eyes – top ten anime crossovers – have made it such that this confounding and irrepressible world was contained for a moment and that an excerpt from my thoughts is now yours to keep. Pretty cool, I reckon.

In that same vein, the speck you just brushed off your table or shook from your coat is the result of a trillion and one decisions. It is the meeting point between you and, I dare say, every other person or thing that has and will ever inhabit this planet. For a brief instant, you shook hands with everyone that ever was. I’m proud of you since you’re not usually this sociable, but I digress. 

Accounting for this ‘forever in a second’ concept, I wonder if you still endeavour to believe in free will. As if to say that your childhood is not influenced by the entities and personalities around you, as if those persons and objects were not put there by those who came before them. You are interminably influenced, will boundlessly influence others and so on and so forth. So, who are you to stand up to the summation of all things eternal and say that you chose? Who are you if not a product of time? An unfinished one at that. One with lots and lots of flaws, some good things and a few really fun idiosyncrasies. You’re iconoclastic, eccentric, unique! In ways that were decided for you in the very first collision that started this Rococoesque construction that is society.

You were made. Not designed, I don’t think (no one had time for that), but moulded nonetheless. If that strikes you as demoralizing, I hope you can be consoled in knowing that everyone’s like that. This foaming broth, humanity, is rife with connection and mutual understanding. That there is a shared languor in a free 1st period or a ubiquitous vexation at sudden downpours is quite undeniable and I hope you agree that that’s valuable beyond measure. Uniformity, in a sinister and candid manner, offers you this: we will all be dust one day, but we will be dust together. 

Thus, to put pause to this drivel and sentimentality, mayhaps you will yield to an unwarranted sense of nostalgia next time you pick up the vacuum or brush the surface of an old book. Maybe you’ll stop to run your hands over its spine and contemplate the hands that changed to place it in yours. You might even say silly things like ‘this spine is not simply a spine but the course of the universe, woven and bound’, but I won’t put words in your mouth. I, the writer, simply wish for your next dismissal to be not a chore but a bereavement, a sacrifice, an iactura. Take nothing for granted.


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