2 June 2009

"Years later did I enter a mine, its entrance a weeping hole in a cliff that formed the riverbank, the floor being no more than a foot above the level of the river rushing by. A small stream fed into the river with a little sandbank on which a group of muddy kids and women were waiting in the rain for earth to be carried out, it being their job to to wash this for gold. The miners were too poor to have anything but candles, and because the tunnel took a right-angled turn, it was pitch black most of the way. It became clammy and hot and progressively harder to breathe. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to heave a pick and iron bar all day at the pit face. My flashlight revealed intricate roof supports as we sloshed through the sludge. I felt I was choking and then saw the light after turning a bend. Two elderly skinny guys stood there scratching their heads, surrounded by boulders two feet in diameter. An unholy mess. Somehow I had expected a nice flat floor and a neat right-angled wall of stone at which they would be chipping away. A real tunnel, you might say. Instead there was this gruesome disembowelment of mother earth with everything at sixes and sevens, oozing muddy water and nameless fluids.
As I turned to go back, I began to feel curiously at home and cozy in the mine, perhaps because I knew I was on the way out and could start to reflect on this as an experience that I now hand over to you. This is the basis of many theories of history, personal no less than worldly. at first the human being is so immersed in reality, in this case horrific, that she or he has neither consciousness nor self-consciousness. There is no Other, just the interior of the pitch-black mine penetrating your being. Then comes the second part of the story. Evolving differentiation enters the scene. Subject peels off from object allowing for consciousness of self.

Aha! I am having an experience!"

Michael Taussig - My Cocaine Museum

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