Clerestory

Dry November: Day 15

November 15, 2019

Yesterday there was a fire in my building, which I forgot to mention. There were, apparently, six fire engines downstairs, and I could smell the smoke. There seemed to be no warning, I heard no alarms, but I thought of Grenfell, and thought I should at least get ready to go.

I deliberated a bit about whether to take my five dozen notebooks, the only thing that occurred to me might be irreplaceable. It makes me think I should probably get a fire safe for them. The digital stuff (on my home servers) is probably not perfectly backed up, but the most important among it is.

Otherwise, there’s little I’m likely to lose. I’ve noticed that when I’m away for a month or two, there is nothing I miss. We discussed this the other day, the question of whether people are owning fewer physical things, which I’ve somewhere heard termed “dematerialisation” (possibly by Pinker?) and which seems to be behind books like this.

People challenged my perhaps naive assumption; they said that people own more, though the stuff they own is undoubtedly cheaper, more easily replaced, and more expendable than it was a hundred years ago. But apparently there’s something to it, even if, in the grand scheme of things, this difference is insufficient.

By the time I’d prepared to leave, the fire brigade was knocking at my door; they were called at 10:40, and the whole thing was over by 11:12. They put a fire alarm in my flat.

California, where I’m from, has also been burning of late. I’m reading Taleb’s Antifragile, and have been thinking about whether he’s right, whether things must be allowed to burn occasionally, and imperfectly, to prevent later and too perfect conflagrations.


I'm Bryan Kam. I'm thinking about complexity and selfhood. Please sign up to my newsletter or see more here.