Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Lovelock / Lovecraft

Just reading a post by Graham Harman that was an odd experience for a couple of reasons. First, I was undoubtedly skimming the piece and was primed to see something that wasn't there. Phrases such as "scariest lecture" and "our species will have dwindled" all served to compound and confirm an initial error, namely: I read Lovelock as Lovecraft. It undoubtedly took me several seconds before all the countervailing evidence gained sufficient strength to overcome the initial mistake (e.g. talk of climate change, Lovecraft having been dead for quite some time - although this would certainly contribute to the lecture being the "scariest" Harman had been to). Plenty of good reasons why I was primed to misread this: Harman writes about Lovecraft with some regularity, I had pointed to a Lovecraft article in the recent past and this was in my visual field on my own blog, plus the key phrases. However, the switching of Lovelock and Lovecraft in my mind has provoked other questions. For example, is the Lovecraftian world of immense, impersonal alien powers somehow similar to the Lovelockian world of Gaia transformed, with humanity displaced, reduced, starving and in conflict over resources. This is certainly a theme to explore.

This neatly leads to my second reason for viewing this post as interesting. Namely, climate change, ecological degradation and species extinction are precisely some of the happy topics that I am currently immersed in, both for a book manuscript and an approaching public lecture. Yes, I agree with Harman that this is a sobering topic, and also not one that it is easy to retain in the mind for any length of time; we simply have too many effective psychological mechanisms for dodging and deflecting this kind of painful data. Wonderfully, though, this has reminded me of the Lovecraft quote that "the most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents." A very pleasant convergence, I suspect I will now be testing this out in the talk.

No comments: