TED White, a science fiction author with some ties to the sf fan community, used to write a column for an SF fanzine (I forget which one) titled 'Thots while lawn mowing'. In the winter, it was 'Thots while snow shoveling'. Random stuff that crossed his mind while doing something else.
I had a train of thought while in the shower that just sort of wandered without ever heading in any firm direction, but it drew on some stuff that's been on my mind lately, so here it is: thoughts while showering, No. 1. Maybe there'll be more. Maybe not. I will definitely shower again, though.
There are a lot of people interested in urban ruins, old industrial sites and the like, that have been abandoned. For example, this site, or this site about 'Bannerman's Castle' on an island in the Hudson, or this beautiful site about various abandoned buildings in Europe. Ruins in general are fascinating. I'm not quite sure why. England in particular has beautiful monastic ruins dating from Henry VIII's 'Dissolution of the Monasteries' as part of his break from Rome. They were first recognized as being beautiful in the 18th century, and those without a nice monastic ruin on their property sometimes built fake ruins. It was during this time that Thomas Gray penned this brutal attack on a politician he despised, "On Lord Holland's seat, near Margate, Kent."
Old and abandoned by
each venal friend,
Here Holland took the pious resolution
To smuggle some few years and strive to mend
A broken character and constitution.
On this congenial
spot he fixed his choice;
Earl Godwin trembled for his neighbouring sand;
Here sea-gulls scream and cormorants rejoice,
And mariners, though shipwrecked, dread to land
Here reign the
blustering North and blighting East,
No tree is heard to whisper, bird to sing:
Yet nature cannot furnish out the feast,
Art he invokes new horrors still to bring.
Now mouldering fanes
and battlements arise,
Arches and turrets nodding to their fall,
Unpeopled palaces delude his eyes,
And mimic desolation covers all.
the sighing peer, "had Bute been true,
Nor Shelburne's, Rigby's, Calcraft's friendship vain,
Far other scenes than these had blessed our view
And realised the ruins that we feign.
Purged by the sword
and beautified by fire,
Then had we seen proud London's hated walls:
Owls might have hooted in St Peter's choir,
And foxes stunk and littered in St Paul's."
Holland, it seems, had built artificial ruins on his property, and Gray gleefully used them to imagine that Holland had intended the downfall of English civilization. I doubt that those of us who find ruins interesting really would like to see all civilization as a ruin. I think part of their attraction is almost the same as that of a horror movie. We live our lives in modernity, in a world of structures built by ourselves, apparently strong and solid and enduring. To see this apparently solid world in ruin causes a frisson of horror, like seeing a person dead, or one of the deformed babies or gruesome deaths that are the staples of rotten.com, or Stile Project.
I've wandered through a couple of industrial ruins myself, and they turned out to be less interesting than I expected. A wall of an abandoned gothic cathedral, outlined against the sky at sunset on a grassy English hillside is doubtless quite lovely, but a stairway filled with trash in an dead industrial plant of pedestrian design is just yucky.
Drat. Out of time, have to go sleep because I'm working tonight, and I was just about to drag in Gollum, the philosophy of science, and reene. Okay, tomorrow then. Good night!