#45 - Am I Building Sustainably?

Leaf-Inspired Trunk Pt. 7

Previous Parts in This Series: Part 1: Intro, Part 2: Mold Unknowns, Part 3: Mold Attempt #1, Part 4: Mold Attempt #2, Part 5: Theoretical Understanding, Part 6: Confirming the Theory


It's been so long since I last worked on the trunk mold that a spider moved in. 

To clear the area for my third attempt at the mold, I killed it.

This attempt was going to be very dull. I'd be repeating everything I'd done before, except making sure to use more material (unlike the first attempt) and use painter's tape (unlike the second). So I had plenty of time to think as I worked.

I thought of the spider. Why had I not put a cup over it and carried it outside? Did I need to kill it? I comforted myself with a phrase my mother uses when she kills bugs, "ਚਲੋ, ਜੂਣ ਬਦਲ ਗਈ" (meaning, "Well then, it's on to its next life"), which is usually followed by a grin that says, "I know I didn't need to kill that bug, but since we believe in reincarnation, it's not really dead is it?" How we twist the noblest ideas to suit ourselves.

But on the other hand, there's actually some sense in that, isn't there? Because how far can you really go to avoid killing? I could become a vegetarian, but then there's all the bugs killed by pesticides on the farms that grow my vegetables. And the birds killed by automated harvesters. And the millions of Plains bison massacred to make way for vast, dull cornfields.

Let's say I could wave a magic wand and live my life without killing a living thing at all. Even then, I’d find that simply extracting minerals from the ground can cause suffering. I was just reading the other day about the carbon emissions caused by the extraction and processing of limestone. It's critical for making cement, and it turns out that the way it's processed releases carbon into the atmosphere, and is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. What was one of the ingredients in my casein glue again? Oh, that's right. Lime.

While we're on the subject of sustainability, here I am trying to develop more sustainable materials to work with, and I find myself on my third try making the same mold - the first two were a total waste of material. Who knew that pursuing sustainability would require such unsustainable methods?

By this point, I felt bad about the spider, bad about the lime, and bad about the waste.

But then I remembered a documentary I recently watched called The Private Life of Plants. Turns out, plants are murderous! They look innocent enough, but they're all secretly trying to kill each other by "suffocation" or blocking each other's light.

So it isn't really possible to live without killing, without emitting, without waste. Those are the basic functions of life, after all. We aren't yet disembodied minds that can float about in space. Nor do we have the powers of those ancient Indian yogis who subsisted on nothing but air. We're living, breathing beings caught in a dense tangle of consequences, doing our best to minimize the harm we cause to others.

And that's the best we can do - we can't eliminate, but we can minimize. And what we consider "minimal" is something of a line drawn in the sand. A line inside of which you kill the spider and say "ਚਲੋ, ਜੂਣ ਬਦਲ ਗਈ".

I looked down and found that I'd finished taping the mold. With plenty of time left to kill, I shifted gears over to poetry:

There was no way I was making a fourth, so a lumpy mold it is. The ideas were good; I just don’t have the hands yet. Over the lumps, I added vinyl tape. This was my best idea. I needed to seal the plaster so it would release from the part and the usual packing tapes didn’t conform well enough. Vinyl tape seems ideal.

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Drawing exercise #34. If you missed it, here’s why I’m learning to draw.

Plate five done.