Careful, careless baby (i)

In March of 2020 a quote that placed medicine as the basis for civil society went viral. It read:

“I once heard a lecture by anthropologist Margaret Mead, who asked the question, “What is the earliest sign of civilization?” She suggested several possible answers. “A clay pot? Iron? Tools? Agriculture?” No, she said. “This is the evidence of the earliest true civilization,” she declared as she held up a femur, a leg bone, that showed evidence of a healed fracture. Mead explained that the skeletal remains of competitive, savage societies never showed such signs of recovery. Clues of violence abound: ribs pierced by arrows, skulls crushed by clubs. But the healed femur shows that someone must have cared for the injured person—hunted on his behalf, brought him food, and served him at personal sacrifice.”
—Dr. Paul Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully

The drama of the scene (an experienced anthropologist holding bones up in the air to make tender declarations) has stayed with me these past few years as a trigger of the loving mental space I was in during early confinement.

Lately though, my own disillusion with the insistence on going back to “business as usual”, and how caring for, caring about (or being cared for) seem to be flattened by vigilance and performative duty, have made the memory of that mental space unrecognizable.

Careful careless baby is a series of experiments around that, how we communicate softness online, and the general malaise that will not lift. Here are femur bones made of sugar and water that never hold, and a generative poem on a dying website.