What A Mesh


Timothy Morton’s ecological theory is meshy. Literally, actually. For Morton, mesh explains the interconnectedness of all living and non-living beings. infinite both in number of connections and scale of differentiation. He states:

The ecological thought does, indeed, consist in the ramifications of the truly wonderful fact of the mesh. All life forms are the mesh, and so are all the dead ones, as are their habitats, which are also made up of living and nonliving beings. We know even more now about how life forms have shaped the Earth (think of oil, of oxygen–the first climate change cataclysm). We drive around using crushed dinosaur parts. Iron is mostly a by-product of bacterial metabolism. So is oxygen. Mountains can be made of shells and fossilized bacteria. Death and the mesh go together in another sense, too, because natural selection implies extinction (Morton, The Ecological Thought, 2010).

At first glance, this idea doesn’t seem to jive with object-oriented studies, which holds that all objects exist independent of other objects and possess agency, or the capacity to move in and out of relations (and assemblages of relations). If all objects are interconnected, however,  they lack agency and, instead, remain ensnared within a totalizing relational determination. Independence of preordained–so noted because absolute relationality implicates relations, themselves, in a clown walk of codependence–relational assemblages is impossibilized, precipitating the stacking of relations on top of one another to forge illusive teleological regimes. So, does that mean the concept must be discarded, since that Tim is an OOO’er?

Not necessarily. He just needs to clean up his mesh. Rather than defining it in hyperrelational terms that undermine objects themselves, Morton should, in my view, define the mesh topologically, as the sum total of all relations extant in a given spatiotemporal frame. In this way, the mesh complements Morton’s hyperobjects thesis, completing the object-oriented turn of the ecological thought. Hyperobjects are characterized by an ambiguous mereology, in that they cannot be locally manifested because of their massive distribution. In other words, manifestations of a hyperobject–for example, Earth–have achieved escape velocity for the objects they pertain. Hyperobjects remain fully objectal, however, despite their size, a point that is sometimes missed. Even though hyperobjects occupy a higher dimensional space than “smaller” objects to which they adhere, they are fully agential beings, capable of entering into and departing relations. Operationalizing the mesh as the summation of all objects, on the other hand, would undermine objects, turning the mesh into an ultimate hyperobject from which all other entities could never, even in theory, be severed. In effect, the mesh would become a single substance, an objectal form, with other objects being defined in terms of alienation from this ideal. Put simply, the mesh would be God, auscultating itself through the becoming-other of its constituent parts.

Instead, the mesh can be understood relationally, as the aggregate of all encounters between objects in a given assemblage. Just as a hyperobject can be parsed in terms of parts and wholes, so can the mesh. Thus, the mesh can be adapted to describe objects relating in various scales. If capitalism is a fictive hyperobject for Western economic entities, then the mesh encapsulates all commodified relations occurring within a capitalist framework in a given temporal frame. Like hyperobjects, the mesh can be scaled up or down, depending on the entities in question. Importantly, the mesh is not, itself, a relation, but a fictive entity bounded by prehension (if all relations are translations, then relations comprising the mesh are always already ‘sensual’, in the phenomenological sense of being ‘intentional’ deployed by Graham Harman). The key, here, is in the uncanniness of the mesh that parrots hyperobjectal incertitude, the inherent unfamiliarity of even the most familiar objects, or what Morton calls ‘strange strangers’. Meshed entities exist coexistentially, yet contingently, meaning that no matter how close they appear to one another, objects cannot achieve a speed great enough to outrun their finitude. Accordingly, when objects seemingly should be on a march toward intimacy through repetition of relations, the absence of each other’s being is made more and more present, the gulf of becoming–indeed, awareness of the lack of total interdependence–widened. Repetition of the withdrawn essential chasm births both reverence and horror, rendering the mesh a field of relational anxiety, within which objects are neither reducible to signification nor instrumentality, but expose processes of projection as an objectal withdrawal masquerading as a structurally individuated subjectivity.

Put a bit poetically, existence in the mesh implicates the contingent affirmation of an unseen Other refracted through the looking glass, instead of an enduringly entangled binary of self and not-self on either side of a prismatic plane. That said, relations within the mesh seek not the colorful space opened on the other side of the rabbit hole, but, in contrast, a fuller experience of descent, simply out of love for the act of falling.

I Dream Of Objects


Two views. Pick one. Or none, if you disagree with both.

Dreams as affective manifestations: Virtually no one denies that dreams can be affective, productive of nonconscious phenomenological vectors capable of precipitating new patterns of thought and forms of relation. But are they fully embodied and substantive objects, things-in-themselves retaining their own autonomous and withdrawn inner being? According to Levi Bryant, the answer is no. For an entity to be deemed objectal, Bryant’s argument holds, its being must exist independent of all other entities. Full stop.

Since dreams are dependent upon the being of a dreamer, neurological impulses, semantic memories, neocortices, and the like, dreams cannot enter into, be extricated from, or form relations with other objects, and are, thus, reduced to the status of qualia, or ‘local manifestations’, an animation of qualities expressed by objects interacting within a specific and fragile spatiotemporal configuration, one that is broken upon the dissipation of the dream or the act of waking. From this view, dreams do not possess difference or becoming apart from the material difference effected by the entities from which it is drawn. And since, for Bryant, being is difference, dreams cannot be said to possess autonomous being, no matter how forceful their emotional residue may be.

Dreams as material objects: Claiming that dreams are nothing more than ‘local manifestations’ involves denying the mereology of dreams-in-themselves. If we grant that whole objects are existentially severable from and ontologically inexhaustible by their constituent parts, then we can say that dreams are quasi-imag(in)ed beings comprised of neurological and psychoemotive bits, made intelligible in the way that other mental manifestations, conscious or otherwise, are presenced and, for that matter, withdrawn. We get hung up on the putative immateriality of dreams, which appears to foreclose standard modes of sensory perception. Yet, at some level, dreams are ‘percevied’, inasmuch as they produce memories and corporeal effects–ever wake up shaking, following a powerful nightmare? Once we dismiss the correlationist circle–dreams exist for no other entity than the dreamer, who only has access to meta-cognized oneirological ideation–we’re left with the the possibility of dreams as agential beings, whose existence exceeds qualitative apprehension. Dreams cannot even be denounced as pure products of consciousness, in light of nonconscious biological factors involved in their fruition.

Borrowing from Ian Bogost‘s phenomenological interrogation of video game characters, we can ask the question: What is the real dream? Is it the dragon that chases me as I sleep? The electrical flow of information between the hippocampus and neocortex? Protoconscious processes that suppress the release of norepinephrine and serotonin? Sublated experience and neuroses? Perhaps the answer is, as Bogost would hold for Mario or Zelda, that all of these are the dream, meaning that all of these entities exist immanent to one another, such that no one entity is singled out as being more ‘real’ than its counterparts and relata. Like Zelda, the dream is real for each of its aforementioned components, leaving the sleeping dreamer as just one object among many toward which the dream gestures, distorts, and translates into its own terms. Dreampomorphizes, as Timothy Morton would say.

Your thoughts?