Bo(u)lder rush I

She walks along the line, where the ocean meets the land
like she is walking on a wire in a circus - Round here, Counting Crows

Lets get practical. That is what contin(g)ental philosophy wants us to do. To live the concepts we cherish as the events they are.

According to Latour, the nature/culture dichotomy is the most fundamental scaffold of the modern constitution. The emergence of Science (with a capital S) depends immensely on this partition. And along came secularization, industry, urbanism, and democracy. Along came the noise of technology, war, and pollution. This is what it boils down to.

Not that I want go all Heidegger about this; scholars of alternative sport always risk falling into the trap of romanticism. Not that there is anything wrong with 'risk' and 'falling' per se, it's just that many of the statements of adventurous athletes seem to reinforce the nature/culture dichotomy. One face of this particular Janus is the gloomy cubicle-denizen of culture and society, while the other is the vigorous and dionysian hedonist in nature. Hence the partition subsists.

One classical border between nature and culture is the coastline; nature in form of the water is both threat and leisure for the members of mankind. Storms, tidal waves and tsunamis threaten culture and humanity with floods and erosion. Bauman states in Liquid fear that such natural catastrophies mark the beginning of modernity. Due to Sloterdijk, the turbulence of water has filled human societies with such awe, that traditional western metaphysics grounded itself, firmly and solely, on the alleged solidity of land. After all Tellus is called Earth and not Water (even though more than two thirds of our planet is covered with water).

Regarding the practical examination of this border, breakwaters seem like an apt locus to start with. Many cities assemble a vast amount of boulders to protect their coastal areas. Are these placed in nature or culture? Due to the dichotomy they are definitely inbetween. They are the relation between city and sea. Coincidentally the word boulder appears to be derived from the Swedish word bullersten which means 'noisy rock', and noise, as Serres reminds us in The Parasite, could be understood as relation. Breakwaters then seem to be both the symbolical and physical crest of the wave that is natureculture (which is Latours dedichotomized concept), and therefore qualifies as one of those vantage points in which Serres wants to place the philosopher.

I want to ride that crest without falling, neither symbolically, nor physically. Will you follow me out to the rocks? This is 'bo(u)lder rush'; rushing is more peaceful than dashing, and the boldness comes from the impossibility of preparing for the required motion on this fragmented surface.

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