Other Worlds

February 06, 2019

I wrote this for my friend Adrien Converse, the artist Lurm. In their streaming series “Live with Lurm,” Adrien reads pieces of writing for the very first time, then improvises music in response. Here’s the episode:

If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke…

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Objects confront us with their inconceivable history. Coleridge’s flower brings Paradise into the world; its presence is an intrusion of its past.

But if that flower is magical, so are other objects, for their origins are nearly as remote. We think of distant times and places (when we think of them at all) as distinct from the here and now: consider the phrase “a different time.” Yet we constantly encounter objects from parts of the world we can’t imagine. A shark’s tooth rends flesh and traverses the oceans and becomes a fossil and part of a mountain, and later it’s picked up by a boy, set aside among keepsakes, and rediscovered as the attribute of a dead man. What will it be next? As we handle everyday objects, what lost worlds do we bring into our own?

And if everyday objects are magical in their implication of other worlds, so too are other people. Like Paradise, like distant times and places, the subjectivity of others is hard to imagine. A life is a unique path through space and time, to say nothing of mind and emotion—each of us has surely glimpsed several facets of the universe (trivial or profound) that no one else has ever witnessed. Imagine the paths, the worlds, that converge in a single crowded bus.