Roger-Pol Droit has this to say about his bed:
My bed … Everyone would acknowledge to be a thing. In spite of which, when I am stretched out on it, I cannot bring myself to think of it as a thing. … It is more like a co-ordinate in space, a state elongation, of lying down. A structuring of the world, rather than an object in the world. p. 80 – 81.
However, in the ‘vertical (or upright) world’, Droit contends that a bed becomes simply
A thing amongst things. However personal, however charged with associations, with emotions, with past and future memories. You are born in one and will die in one; you make love in it, dream in it, take refuge in it, weep in it, go to pieces in it. Every rite of passage takes place within its narrow confines. Yet as soon as we have to move it around or look down on it from above, it reverts abruptly to being a mere thing. p. 81 – 82.
I am not altogether sure that I am able to achieve this detachment in my understanding of the ‘thingness’ of a bed. Even his understanding of the bed as a ‘state of elongation’ – of something more than the sum of its parts – seems somehow to lack the engagement I feel in looking at beds. No matter how I try, my awareness of the complicated, intersecting associations I carry about them colours every level of perception. At least, I am certain this is the case when I look at beds in actual rooms – real places where real people have used them. I cannot separate the object from the context: beds are somehow private things, even in the relatively public space of a hotel room or rooming house, in which any number of people may use a given bed over even a short time. Somehow, the echoes of both past and future use become part of the structure and strength of the thing before me, and hint at the cacophony just below the still surface of neatly placed blankets and sheets. So many voices, so many stories in the silence of that ‘mere thing.’
It is different, absolutely, looking at a bed in a department store or specialty shop. In these places, beds are sanitized ciphers, standing in for their living, breathing counterparts. They speak only of rest and health, of mass-produced, perfect, ergonomically-designed lives, fit for consumption by every perfect person who aspires to such a clean, well-designed existence. These beds don’t interest me; in truth, looking at them leaves me vaguely uneasy.
Perhaps it is simply my fondness for the nest-like sanctuary I have found in my own bed; perhaps it’s my lack of affection for many aspects of the ‘vertical world’ and its lack of imagination. Or that I am too fond of refusing simple answers and explanations. But the beds in the York cannot, for me, be parsed so simply: hotel furniture. Wadding and springs and thread. Things. To be used and forgotten.
Work Cited: Droit, Roger-Pol. How Are Things? A Philosophical Experiment. Trans. Theo Cuffe. London: Faber & Faber, 2005.