A Mystery Wrapped in an Engima, Then Shoved Under the Desk

a piece of crumpled paper with writing on it sits on a desk
Photo by photosteve101 via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

There’s a lot going on in the world; things feel heavy. Sometimes, you want to ignore the news for few minutes and get absorbed in something light, whimsical, irrelevant — like in in-depth look at waste paper baskets. Except whoops! Thanks to Ben Marks’ piece in Collector’s Weekly, we now know that waste paper baskets are way more gravid with meaning than we thought. Who knew?

Until I read Paradox, I had not considered the possibility that waste paper baskets could be imbued with paradox, but Legrand has convinced me. In a perfect world, he postulates, the office is a place where work is performed efficiently and at high speed. But the presence of a waste paper basket is proof of the opposite condition, since it’s designed to be filled with failures. Thus, as Legrand puts it, a waste bin is “a jelled temporality.”

“As long as the bin hasn’t been emptied,” he elaborates, “its contents are the physical rendering of our thinking, our doubts, and ultimately the rejection of everything that doesn’t fit into a certain system. Once emptied, that visibility is over, or, as Heidegger would say, the truth is hidden again.”

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