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STILLED LIVES

THOUGH WE USE, HANDLE, AND observe objects of every sort, with the widest range of feelings, they seem placid when set beside the channeled dread we have of corpses. The chief reason we can look at most inorganic objects without horror is that they never lived. That’s an odd way to consider things, I know, but human death puts it in mind. The pathos sometimes evoked by objects when abandoned or ruined stems from the mortality of those who lived with them, and is always associated with past lives. These objects act upon the mind as surrogate bodies, possibly charged with memories, but nothing to compare with the real thing that was once sensate. Photographs of the dead visually record beings once like us, but now nullified and reduced to objects. With this kind of subject, whatever psychic distance implied by photographs is shortened in our recognition of our own destiny, on an unknown

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