Talk by Ginny Battson, recorded largely by the River Lugg (fieldwork of place) for playback at the English Shared Conference, Manchester, July 2022.
[above gentle rush of water, some traffic noise, birdsong, including cooing woodpigeons, and occasionally duck wings flapping in water]
From Ginny Battson to Paul Evans
Hi Paul, I wonder whether you would be good enough to offer your thoughts on a new word I have been forging for this idea of introducing a little magic to non-fiction. You said you’d be disappointed if I didn’t come up with something!
I recently attended an online event with Catherine Wilcox and Charles Talioferro, and asked them what they thought of using highly imaginative interventions in non-fiction. Could they be considered a deceit or distinct opportunities to reflect in the context of ecophilosophy? Catherine was a little resistant at first, but very interested in the idea as research. Charles asked me to consider were they magic or science fiction additions? Of course, they would need to be distinct in order not to fool reasonable minds – the closer to real life the more likely they are to suffer falstalgia!
The word is miratic(s).
mir (from latin, mirus – wonder-full), as in miracle, mirage, mirror (looking, reflective).
atic (from latin, aticum – belonging to, related to).
“ic” is also an adjective, and the sound may echo erratic (adjective or geological noun). Elements found perhaps where they shouldn’t!
I’m thinking of introducing it to the world via the recording I am making for the conference.
Warmest wishes, Ginny
From Paul Evans to Ginny Battson
The miraculous erratic! fabulous ……………I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed – the miratic is the fantasy of the commonplace, that liminal space between fact & fiction, not about belief but resistance to empirical hegemony – all the best, Paul.
I’m perched on a mud cliff above the Lugg just as it turns the bends through Mordiford in Herefordshire under an old bridge, and off down to join the Wye. I am watching swallows, swifts, house martins, flying right above the water and then dipping their beaks into the liquid lotic flow in order to take a drink on the wing. I am sorry I can’t be there with you today. I am actually awaiting the test results of pathology on a tumour that was removed about three weeks ago. And I felt that I’d probably be better to wait around the phone today than sit with you wringing my hands.
I am an ecophilosopher, writer, and walker, not necessarily in that order, and the creator of Fluminism, an ecophilosophy of love and ecology. I coined the term symbioethics to nurture a new era of recognising humans as fully symbiotic beings in flows of matter and energy living among many other symbiotic beings. An ecolinguist, I also create neologisms and I identify concepts to improve human/nature relationships.
So I’ll read you an extract from my research, which again is critical and creative combined. This is called Deus Ex Machina, and I wrote it after visiting the Severn Bridge, the old Severn Bridge, that is, with my daughter, watching the tide come in and out. The Severn Estuary of course is where five major rivers drain, with all their positive organic matter, but also their problematic matter and energy. Um… heavily polluted… ecologies that are just about holding on, species surviving seemingly at the very edge of what is possible. And with… with love. You’ll hear one of those additional imaginative miratics that I spoke of in my correspondence with Paul that I read out to you at the beginning of this talk. I’d really be interested in what you think. I propose that they might or might not … may or may not be little portals for the human imagination in the ethical, the moral imagination of… thinking about nurturing and caring, healing, putting things right with all that’s wrong in our relationship with nature as part of nature.
[Recorded earlier at home]
Deus ex machina, Latin for ‘god from the machine,’ is a term derived from ancient Greek theatre. In tragedy and sometimes in comedy, to miraculously resolve a dramatic plot corner or catastrophe, actors who played gods were carried onto the stage using some kind of machine. The machine could be either a winch, like a crane, to lower bodies from above, or some kind of lift to bring them up into vision through a trapdoor. Playwrights like Aeschylus and Euripides fashioned them as devices to wow, to draw a crowd, to evoke a feeling of awe and moral surrender to the idea of some greater power. And men still do it, with their grand openings of giant bridges and launches of ships and Space rockets, except this time the power is more honest and blunt ~ a self-aggrandisement of the human money-chain, domination of land, air, sea, and now space, the techno-brain, Western capital power labelled as “investment” and engineering prowess. There’s no masking anymore, no suspended disbelief. First, there must be the desire for something spectacular to resolve our plot corner or catastrophe – humans have been wired to find exhilaration in novelty—and these men meet that demand. They exploit for their own agendas, political expediency and money—it is usually both. Exquisitely controlled, it’s an assertion of the power that was once the domain of the gods, and we are all still buying in. But it’s a plot flaw, a device to replace the real work needed for life’s genuine resolutions, not least the peaceful and loving alignment of human life within all living systems. To do it often means overcoming many of our fears. Deus ex machina side-steps the need. It’s is an easy “out,” distracting when doom looms closer, where the long haul to resolution is seemingly short-circuited. There will always be a price to pay after the curtain call, and it’s usually borne by the vulnerable and voiceless.
Like a passenger plane crashed into the jungle, or a ship sunk in the ocean, the trauma is here right now in the estuary, perhaps overrun by roots and holdfasts and tendrils, a reef-like sanctuary of sorts for the animals that live in the shadows. But the wreckage is also a poison, with its paints and oils; an unwarranted picturesque artwork, bleeding its mythology into an ancient ecology. These are the sunken coal barges, the car ferries, the timber ships, The Brunswick, Ramses II, The BP Explorer, and a Victorian railway bridge demolished by deathly collisions in a place that is so turbulent and dangerous, yet full of life and those trying to love, even under a slick of oil. At the same time, this is also a place where old bones and magnificent auroch horns still dwell, trapped with split oak planks and mussel middens of long-dead ancestors. Even the footprints of Mesolithic human children still just appear at the lowest tides, real and tangible to those lives where murk is the ticket to life. Up here on the bridge, we don’t have to face any of it. We can cruise along at speed thinking about our busy lives and where we are going today, glimpsing the sparkle of the setting sun on the horizon, unaware, unconcerned, of what lies beneath. As if 14 metres of tidal rip, and all the junk and the heavy metals drained from the land—Cd, Cr, Ni, Zn and Pb—have no bearing on us and our daily lives. Enter, giant burnished silver bristle worms, filamented, glowing white heat in the sub-mud, articulating their armour in little, sudden jerks. Lead sabellaria worms the size of cranes harden to each rising tide, sucking in plastic, spitting out fire. Nickel prawns the size of men pop up from the vast trap doors to dance for bronze two-ton gobies; automaton puppets. The separation from reality—that suspended disbelief—becomes horrific, and the “jumpers”, by whatever turmoil tears through their minds, make an assumption that stepping from the bridge is the end of it. Broken bodies, broken minds, the troll of this bridge is in the myths of industrial Capitalism.
I think being an ecophilosopher is already a creative endeavour, but when it comes with communication with others I do feel that with such new times, difficult times, with our planetary boundaries being so stretched, and overstretched, that we need to think about new and creative ways of communication, and fluminism, as it is a philosophy of love, I do believe that it might have a place – I certainly want to find out whether there is any mileage…mileage in this idea fluminism has a place as literature. After all, what do we do mostly when we write, if not care? It’s a devotion! Writing is a devotion. When it goes towards life, then I think it could well be fluminism. I hope so.
Please do feel free to visit my website, which is seasonalight all one word dot com, and you are welcome to leave notes beneath my posts, or contact me via Manchester Writing School, Place Cluster, David Cooper. My supervisors are Paul Evans and Gregory Norminton. Thank you for listening.
Miratic(s) ~ highly imaginative yet obvious fictional additions to creative non-fiction in order to make a moral point, to evoke emotion, or to raise serious questions.