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For several years now I’ve been having a relationship with this small rock. Here it is…

I went looking for a special stone on the beach in my lunch-break one day. Of course Eastbourne beach is covered in likely candidates – thousands, maybe millions of them – but this one was special. I didn’t so much find this one, as it found me. I saw it from the promenade, sitting up on top of all the others.

It’s a flint. It’s bigger than a heart, smaller than a head; small enough to hold in my hand but heavy enough to call “a rock”.

I climbed down onto the beach and picked it up… and that was the beginning.

I have a small collection of rocks, all of which are pretty unremarkable, except for some reason I have picked them up and kept them. Here’s another one…

I believe this is an Iron Sulphide nodule. I like this one because it reminds me of distant planets. It’s very compact and seems far too heavy for its size.

And this one…

This was part of an artwork, Impossible Changeling by Caroline Wright. Again – it found me. It was one of  100 gilded stones which were distributed by the artist on Eastbourne beaches for people to find. I’ve no idea how many were eventually found, but, like the flint, this one stood out for me among all the hundreds of thousands of pebbles on the beach – I couldn’t miss it.

Lyall Watson in his book The Secret Life of Inanimate Objects[1] calls objects such as my rocks, “notions”.

“A notion, is an inanimate object which need have no intrinsic value or practical utility, but which nevertheless demands attention and exercises power over those people to whom it appeals… a thing with meaning, a mind thing; something of consequence which inspires thought. And once chosen a circuit is completed which provides a flow of energy that gives a notion its power.”

Now this all sounds a bit metaphysical to me and I’m more of a pragmatist than a metaphysicist, but these stones have led me to explore some new thoughts and ask some questions – the most fundamental one being: “In the beginning… why did some clusters of molecules become this thing we call life while others remained ‘inanimate’ like my rock.” And anyway… what is life? What is “the spark of life”? And where does the spark come from? And of course, a proposition posed some years ago by artist Andy Holden, a suggestion which has stayed with me all this time, “Maybe there is no such a thing as an inanimate object.”

[1] The Secret Life of Inanimate Objects (pp72-74)

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