09 August 2007


Let us discuss dust.

Dust : –noun : is a general name for minute solid particles with diameters less than 500 micrometers.
1. earth or other matter in fine, dry particles.
2. a cloud of finely powdered earth or other matter in the air.
3. any finely powdered substance, as sawdust.
4.the ground; the earth's surface.
5. the substance to which something, as the dead human body, is ultimately reduced by disintegration or decay; earthly remains.
6.British. ashes, refuse, etc.
7. a low or humble condition.
8. anything worthless.
9. disturbance; turmoil.
10. the mortal body of a human being.
11.to wipe dust from furniture, woodwork, etc.
12. a single particle or grain.
13. Archaic. money; cash. –verb (used with object)
14. to wipe the dust from: to dust a table.
15. to sprinkle with a powder or dust: to dust rosebushes with an insecticide.

In the shower this morning, for some odd reason, I began thinking about dust; what is dust, whats in dust, the DNA of dust and the memorex of dust.

If dust in your home, your office, and any other human environments is mainly generated by the inhabitants - especially domesticated pets such as dogs, cats and birds - and mainly from their skin cells that slough off - then isn't dust very much alive? and very much more than we think it is? More than something ugly we need to wipe away?

This got me thinking that somewhere, in an underground lab/lair there are scientists in white lab coats from The University of Dublin Alternative Biological Sciences at The University of California at New Mexico studying dust. And yes, they should be busy curing AIDS and cancer but somewhere they're most certainly analyzing dust.

With all these CSI-type shows now we all think we're forensic detectives and most of us know that DNA evidence can be found in the most bizarre places. We don't need a bloody crime scene or a bullet or a fingerprint on a gun or a bloody knife anymore. Thanks to modern science and forensic brilliance, there are smoking guns now the size of a speck of, well, dust.

I don't want to veer too far off topic but there's forensic entomology which is the use of insects, and their arthropod relatives that inhabit decomposing remains to aid legal & criminal investigations. Insects are increasingly being used to trace absconding murderers.

In certain cases of suspicious death, the length of time that insects have colonised remains is useful to police investigations in helping to determine time of death. It is the mandate of the Provincial Coroners Office to determine time of death but, through pathology, they are unable to scientifically estimate beyond a certain postmortem period. In such cases, insects may become evidence and assist in determining time of death. This is based on the length of time that certain insect species (usually blow flies) have colonised the remains. Blow flies are the insects of primary significance because the time they begin to colonise remains is often approximately consistent with the time of death.

So then, what about dust? What about the study of dust? What about the beauty of dust? The memories of dust...

Some years ago a friend of mine was telling me about Rolfing. Rolfing is a somewhat controversial system of soft tissue manipulation, with the objective of realigning the body structurally and harmonising its fundamental movement patterns in relation to gravity and the moon.

The term Rolfing is generally used to apply to a range of systems based on the teachings of Dr. Ida Pauline Rolf. Practitioners of Rolfing believe it to enhance vitality and well-being, and claim that after sessions, many clients stand up straighter, gain in height, and that soft-tissue bodily asymmetries tend to disappear. Rolfing is in some ways similar to deep tissue massage however, practitioners stress that Rolfing's attention to the balance of the body in gravity sets the practice apart.

There's one thing that you'll only know about Rolfing however if you've had it done or know someone who swears by it and that is: muscle memory is fucking powerful.

The friend of mine who first told me about Rolfing said it was a life changing experience. He said his practitioner or therapist or whatever literally picked him up from the massage table by the skin of his back and he heard it pluck - separate from the vertebrae. As you can imagine, he said it was religious in its release; cosmic, orgasmic, painful, insane. The days following he felt like he'd be jumped by sixteen drunken rednecks at a honkytonk bar in Calhoun Falls but he had clarity of mind, he was peaceful and felt aligned with the stars and the moon. And this guy wasn't a kook or a gypsy or a soothsayer; he was just a pretty normal dude who praised the effects of Rolfing.

In one session he said his therapist was working on his neck and suddenly he was transported back to when he was 6 years old and fell off his Schwinn and broke his collarbone. He said it was like he was right there, laying on the ground with scuffed palms and knees and a broken collarbone, screaming for his mom. He said it was so fucking intense he almost cried. He wasn't a religious dude but this was like what he imagined it felt like to see God. And it was all related to deep rooted muscle memory. The memory of the tissue in our bones and our bodies.

You know how they say you never forget how to ride a bike, well thats thanks to muscle memory. Muscle memory starts with a visual cue. A classic example are chords while playing instruments such as the piano or guitar. The beginner must think and interpret these chords, but after repetition, the letters and symbols on the page become cues to the muscle movements. As the brain processes the information about the desired activity and motion such as a golf swing, one then commits to that motion thought as correct. Over time, the accuracy and skills in performing the swing or movement improve.

I don't know about you, but that shit blows my fucking mind. Second only to when I watched my friend perform an autopsy and seeing the delicate, fragile intricacies which lay beyond our skin and bones, I wondered how we even stayed alive for 2 minutes much less 70 or 80 years. This is as close as I get to God and believing in miracles. Seeing the heart and the lungs and the brain and the kidneys and the muscles and the veins all somehow silently working together is nothing short of a miracle. It's/we are a machine, albeit a very, very fragile one.

So ANYWAY, where was I? Oh, back to dust. I was in the shower this morning and I started thinking if dust is basically made up of all this posthumous matter, wouldn't it have its own memories? If dust is primarily made up of dead skin from living creatures, then dust itself is alive. Maybe dust remembers like some say plants scream when they are cut. Maybe there is a world out there we don't know about. Maybe the adage "to be a fly on a wall..." should be replaced with "to be a dust bunny on the floor".

Dust is there for it all; it sees and hears everything; it soaks it all up. We all came from dust and one day we'll all return to dust. Dust is everywhere in religion:

The afterlife consists of the dreary "House of Dust and Darkness".

In the Bible: In Genesis 3:19, God — following The Fall, Adam and Eve's transgression — states to the couple (representing humanity): By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.

This latter clause is used in the Ash Wednesday service in some churches for the administering of ashes.

In Genesis 13:16, God states to Abram: I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.
Dust will outlive the roaches. In the end, it will all be dust: pieces of us; our laughter, our stories, our sadness, our tears, our joy, our loss, our mourning. It's all stored in dust.

Like water from a tap we drink today, that same very same water fell from the sky a billion years ago, and Caesar bathed in that same water, and Moses drank from it and so on. On and on it goes. Like dust. Like a single cell. We can recreate the entire world from a speck of dust.

Soon we'll be cloning sheep from specks of dust. Mark my words. And next time you get out that Pledge to wipe off that dusty TV or that nightstand, think about the echoes inside that ugly dust, it will outlive us all, it already has.

Perhaps dust makes us cough because its the souls of others passing through our body?

Either way, dust is immortal.

The Faint with Bright EyesDust


Anonymous said...

i've long thought that reincarnation is not so much reincarnation but the memories of our dna; the blood of our grandparents and theirs running through our veins, and our through our children's and their children's children. that's a lot of history for a body to contain.

- ciara

Anonymous said...

you are eloquent and brilliant

Gotham City Insider said...

No, I just type fast, but thanks! :)