Trackless waste

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Villard de Honnecourt’s notebook contains some 250 drawings made around 1225-1235 AD. Click here to see the notebook in full

A life without record is a trackless waste. Life can thrive without narrative, but it is barren, if only because it does not impact the next generation. A flower buds into spendor, but it is unable to scatter its pollen to another field. It is beautiful, but the end is the end. Through reproduction and record – which is just another form of reproduction, human cultures spread their splendor and avoid the trackless waste, as the psalmist says.

To record an instance is to go beyond the instance, to open up the possibility of possibilities, to say yes to the future tense. There is no perpetual present, except for the trackless waste, which is an abomination to life and self-renewal. The waste is a waste because the alternatives can be plentiful, and the next better and more flourishing than the previous.

To be trackless is to be without either a future or a present, a prisoner to the evanescent moment, which fails to be an event for lack of significance. For there can be no significance where there is no tomorrow where meaning can play out its own drama.

Make furrows in the heavy soil and crisscross the waste with tracks. Rest assured that the dust will never cover the tracks and the thistles will never completely undo your work.

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