And on the first day, there was kipple, and there was nothing more that anyone could do about it.
It is the trash that creeps into abandoned buildings: empty bottles and rubble, crumpled magazines and cracked plastic buckets. It is the junk that creeps into your home and your drawers and the bottom of your purse. It is small plastic toys Made in China, and it is plastic bags. The corpses of lighters and faded blue shirts crumpled and dried into landscapes on cracked concrete. It is The Unexplainable Abandoned Single Shoe.
Kipple is the word that Philip K. Dick gave the concept in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but it has existed forever. Chaos, breaking through into the “order” of civilization. Kipple, chaos as expressed in the age of hyper-consumerism.
Every now and again I am overcome by it. I feel so out of control of everything that I become paralyzed by my relative helplessness. I feel listless and unmotivated. Why bother to do anything in the face of such a force? Then I sit, for a day or for a few, drooling in front of rented movies, looking into worlds where everything is orderly, scripted, with a neat beginning and ending. And I slowly remember how ugly those worlds can be. Plastic. Lacking nourishment.
So I remember to let the chaos back in, to accept it. To let go, just a little bit more, of the obsession with control and order we are all socialized with, in varying degrees. Accepting it, becoming it living with it and through it.
The natural* world is chaotic and unpredictable, and its chaos is beautiful, its chaos is life. Neatly planted fields of corn, city blocks, and painfully geometrical buildings are symptoms of the desire to enforce order, to make things neat and clean and easy to swallow. Which tends to mean sterile and covered-in-concrete. Which tends to result in a pattern of domination.
Civilization has been an epic conquest against the wild and chaotic. Clear-cut, pave, tame, and replace it all with a constructed order. The battle continues, but can never be won. Every building will one day crumble. Every sidewalk destroyed by the weeds that grow fat in the cracks. Every city will wilt back into desert or savanna or marsh or forest, taken back by the forces of chaos we will never completely defeat.
*I fucking hate using this term, but for a lack of a better one I’ll use it, as I’m sure you all more or less know that in saying this I am saying “everything,” and more specifically, things not covered in concrete. I hate the term because it acts as if everything that gets filed under nature these days—trees, and forests and non-human animals, for example—can be separated from everything that humans are up to. It’s all one big heap, and it would probably be really good for environmental policy if we stopped talking about these concepts as if they were different universes.