Dirt is not dirt, but only Matter in the wrong place

Dirt is not dirt, but only matter in the wrong place. - Lord Palmerston

Often attributed to Freud, but originally spoken by Lord Palmerston, this observation carries more weight than it might appear at first blush. It coincides with the difficulty translators have when trying to achieve an equivalent to the Greek word “kakos”, which is used elementarily to mean “ugly”, “bad”, “ill”, “evil” and a host of other associations, a word that Ezra Pound choose to translate coincidentally as “dirt”.

When we realize that language use is simply matter put in relation to matter, questions of what is “dirt”, that is what is “out of place” become spatio-temporal questions. Variations in abstraction of “dirt”: evil, unhealthy, invalid, dissonant, false, unlawful, bad, disgusting, untenable, irrational, wrong, dangerous, incorrect, ugly, destructive, nonsensical, untrue, immoral, (among so many others) are simply “matter in the wrong place”…that is, they are kakos.

Dunamis

hmmmm…makes me wonder what the wrong place would be for a diamond that would make it defined as a piece of dirt. I guess dirt is subjectively defined as lacking a certain level of quality even though it may be useful such as dirt in the garden.

Then there is the concept of relative dirt. I remember one story of an extraordinary spiritual teacher once approached by a new female student who was in obvious awe of him. She confessed that this made it difficult for her.

He looked at her for several moments and finally said something to the effect: "Yes, compared to me you are sh-t but I, compared to some others, am also sh-t. So you see we are the same. She left confused and taken back but returned soon with a big smile and a more relaxed mind.

Its all relative. :slight_smile:

Nick,

hmmmm…makes me wonder what the wrong place would be for a diamond that would make it defined as a piece of dirt.

In a bowl, where rice should be, when a man is starving. A diamond is about as useless a thing as there can be unless an entire network of valuation is established around it.

Dunamis

Dunamis

I know what you mean but it just doesn’t seem right. The diamond, useless during the situation you describe, still has a potential a piece of plain rock lacks.

I can come into my home with some mud on my shoes and it falls onto the floor. what is the subjective potential or the usefulness of the mud for me? I cannot find any so I consider it dirt. It just seems as though dirt cannot be defined by the moment but more as its subjective potential forus in normal life.

Nick,

“The diamond, useless during the situation you describe, still has a potential a piece of plain rock lacks.”

This is absolutely incorrect to imagine that there is an inherent superior “value” to the diamond because of this or that quality. If you are freezing, and you need to build a mud hut and you have a pile of diamonds and no clay, the diamonds are a complete waste. Plain rock is of value in situation “x”, diamonds in another. The “potential” of clay is as powerful as the “potential” of diamonds. It depends on their assemblage. Diamonds are “dirt” if at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Dunamis

Dunamis

But what about the diamond’s power of transformation? I’m not suggesting the objective superiority but only its subjective potential of transformation into money where it can in turn be exchanged into something more essential.

You’ve suggested: The “potential” of clay is as powerful as the “potential” of diamonds. It depends on their assemblage. Diamonds are “dirt” if at the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’m suggesting more than just assemblage but the additional subjective power of transformation into something more useful at the time.

Nick,

“But what about the diamond’s power of transformation?”

Now you are talking psycho-spiritual metaphor? Jumping out of the religious forum are we? The Spiritual image I imagine you are drawing upon, and not actually diamonds in the world, is the idea, hope, dream, vision of every piece of matter being put in the proper place, i.e. a world without “dirt”. I’m not sure this is the “place” to argue that possibility.

Dunamis

I bet a Greek farmer considered dirt kalos, not kakos

Aporia,

“I bet a Greek farmer considered dirt kalos, not kakos”

Exactly. But only because it was where it was supposed to be.

Dunamis

Outside?..except for potted plants, I guess.

As far as the “value” of an object, its worth is measured by what someone else is willing to give you for it. If one person would rather have a diamond than a certain sum of money, the diamond is worth that sum of money to them. To the person selling the diamond, it is worth whatever they are willing to take for it. A diamond is worth a loaf of bread to a starving person and 2 months of labour to a man who takes advice from popular media and is planning on proposing.

“Dirt”, as an object, is any thing that has no use according to the one who perceives it as dirt. Junk,clutter,garbage…all are labeled so because they lack value to the one who labels them as such. If someone were to dump a load of coal in front of my door…I would consider it dirt because I currently have no use for coal. If someone had dumped the same coal in front of my coal-burning stove heated shack 200 years ago, it would not be dirt.

It reminds me of a running segment on my favorite show as a small child, “Sesame Street”. They’d show images of objects or activities and have this song 'Which of these things is not like the others…which of these things just doesn’t belong?" 5 pictures of dogs and 1 cat meant that the “thing that didn’t belong” was the cat. The cat was the “dirt”…poor cat. :confused:

Most value and values are assigned and completely contingent.