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Hi and thanks for landing here. It might seem a bit backward, but I decided to start blogging only because I've been enjoying Twitter so much. While I love the 140 character limit of tweets, I realised that a blog would give me a place where I could have the luxury of saying a bit more. I've also set up here because I have a blogging project in mind... but more on that later.
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the cover of the book how are things
How are things?

Posted on 07 November 2011, 23:11

We use one word, ‘book’ to describe such amazingly varied things. In the past few weeks I’ve encountered one book which made me sit up in bed reading way too late (the sci-fi novel Ready Player One), another I bought because I loved its gloomy illustrations (a vast black Victorian Bible), and one or two others I’ve gone to for tiny, sought-for quotes or poems.

And then this book, How Are Things? by Roger-Pol Droit. I’ve had it since the beginning of the year and it’s become my regular squeeze. The writing is casual and unexpected, it has short little chapters, and it makes me think… I love books like this which don’t demand to be read all at once.

Droit, a philosopher who likes to be popular rather than academic, spent a year recording his encounters with unremarkable objects, the things we meet and use every day. In How Are Things? he gets you to stand back and see them as if for the first time. One of these short meditations reminded me of my first mystified and magical encounter with a chest of drawers, something I hadn’t thought about from that day to this.

The objects Droit looks at don’t at first seem very promising, but in his patient hands they open up their secrets. The remote control: ‘a thing of magic, a thing of sorcery’. The drawer: ‘it offers up its contents to your eyes and fingers without quite leaving its cave’. The freezer: ‘a victory over time, over decay, over death’. The supermarket trolley: ‘vast capacity, intended to make one forget just how much’.

Here are some of his thoughts on the mobile phone…


Here we have a thing that emits incongruous tunes, or vibrates, or flashes, just to let you know, inside your pocket, or strapped to your belt, or in your car, or even in close proximity to your heart, that there are people who want to speak to you, urgently, this instant, to get information out of you, to offer you work, to make plans, to give you their news. And who want to speak to you here and now, in person, wherever you are, whatever you might be doing.

You know as well as I do that it does not succeed. There is a whole range of tricks that enable one to outflank this permanent invasion of unwanted voices wherever one goes. The voice mail, the text message, the call-return and other such tactics allow you to put off and postpone. Nonetheless, you are supposed to pick up and return your messages as soon as possible, throw yourself upon them breathless with attention and just a touch of guilt, as soon as you are back online. Since the basic principle, the entire rationale and avowed ambition of the portable phone is perpetual connection, non-stop, limitless, lifelong, night and day.


Read one of his meditations per day and see the universe in a grain of sand, as Blake said.

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