Soft Matter: The Valorization of Mud 02

Soft Matter: The Valorization of Mud 02


From Earth and Reveries of Will 泥土與意志的幻想

By Gaston Bachelard 巴舍拉

Translated by Springhero 雄伯


    Let us follow a little more closely the natural anapsychoanalytical process that frees adults from infantile fixations. We shall observe that the undeniable interest of young children in their own feces develops with surprising certainty and regularity into interest in mud pies. Normal children evolve towards cleanliness. They become clean not simply due to societal influence but through a sort of psychological adjustment. This evolution is presented very clearly by Juliette Boutonier in her study of Anguish, previously cited:



      All in admitting that the young child show no repugnance for its own feces…I doubt that, left to its own devices, the child would find such objects sufficient to satisfy its natural aspirations. It is certainly true that infants love to play in and dirty themselves with mud at precisely the age when they are in the process of renouncing the free activity of their sphincters and the manifestations of interest this provokes. Nonetheless, no matter how rudimentary the child’s activities, one sees arise another exigency than that of manipulating soft, dirty objects; for the child seeks to give form to this material, however, awkwardly. What’s more, success in building with sand follows a period of tactile manipulation in which the child seeks, even more crudely, to transform things.



   Boutenier describes a well-conceived education as a “ more concerned with surpassing than suppressing ( such infantile) tendencies.” Transcendence in this case consists precisely of work with malleable matter. Education must provide young children at the proper time with materials of the specific plasticity that best correspond to their earliest tactile activities. The child thus sublimates one matter with another. Sadly, our system of instruction, even where most innovative, is fixed upon concepts : our elementary schools provide only one type of modeling clay. The plasticity of the material imagination demands a wider range of softnesses. The stages of material development might be determined with greater precision if more attention were paid to the material imagination.



    Subsequently, the normal imagination must harden, it must be exposed to wood, to stone, and finally to iron to achieve its maximum virility. But the imagination is best served by a fairly long period of work with plastic materials. Those who learn to work soft matter with their hands at a young age are more likely to turn out well themselves. The transition from soft to hard is a delicate one. Destructive tendencies almost always manifest themselves in defiance to solid objects. Soft matter has no enemies.



   I should note, however, that it is in the regression toward the earliest stage of infancy and anal fixation that one may identify a filthy, wretched sadism. It is easily recognized that some neurotics display an aggression expressed through filth that recalls certain forms of animal behavior. Buffon describes a number of animals which, in fleeting, spray a nauseating urine the stench of which, he believed, served as a means of defense against their enemies.



    Buffon tells of one such creature” which had, as its sole means of defense, its posterior; which it would immediately turn in the direction of whatever approached, and from which it would emit the foulest smelling excrementa imaginable.” Buffton described the coase, which “ strangles poultry and eats only the brains; whenever annoyed or frightened, it gives off an abominable odor—a sure means of defense, for neither human beings nor dogs dare approach: its urine, with which this pestilential spray apparently combines, stains and infects its victims indelibly.” Buffon reports one traveler’s claim that the coase sprayed “ its urine on its tail which served as a sort of sprinkler, forcing its enemies to flee from the horrible odor.”




From Earth and Reveries of Will


By Gaston Bachelard 巴舍拉

Translated by Springhero 雄伯





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