UNKNOWN ELEMENTS

Updated: Mar 19

An ecological understanding allows us to identify "things"—rain, cloud, river—at the same time that it reminds us that these identities are fluid. . . all we can really point to is a series of flows and relationships that sometimes intersect and hold together long enough to be a "cloud." (Odell, How To Do Nothing 175-176)

This scene between Mrs Arne and Stephen calls us to stop resisting the wildness of our identity, and to step into the endless possibilities of our biology. Arriving immediately after learning he was adopted, a bewildered Stephen stares at Mrs Arne through the bamboo fence. This shot, angled downwards, situates Mrs Arne as creature-like to Stephen’s gaze. Whilst the schoolboy is able to move around the garden freely, enlightened by knowing nothing about himself, the gardener is trapped in her own frustration at disciplining the wild around her.


STEPHEN. I'm sorry what I hear, Mrs Arne.

MRS ARNE. Me swearing?

STEPHEN. Oh, no, no. That you can't have any children.


Here, Stephen dismisses Mrs Arne's gardening desperation in order to explicitly recognise her wildness. At the same time, he wanders to the end of the bamboo fence and crosses to the other side. Disregarding the binary logic of Mrs Arne's construct, Stephen comments: “some of what goes to make me up I know, but now there are unknown elements, possibilities''. Eye to eye with Mrs Arne, Stephen fully acknowledges the wild unknowability his identity. The indeterminacy of his biological origins has freed him to move through life not requiring himself to discipline and define. The wild garden will always exceed Mrs Arne’s attempts to control it, the only thing she can do is put down the trowel. The unknowability of Stephen’s self is dispersed across the space like seeds in the ground (Halberstam 10). In this sense, this dialogue questions how to live with “the bewilderment that accompanies the desire to end [this] world without knowing what comes next” (Halberstam 32).


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