Gallium: tremulous, vibratory, resonant, metal. An impossible shape shifter, a category defier. This metal shows the limits of my localised view of things; the way I think in categories. Metal should only be hard, beautiful, and dangerous. Even mild steel is a curious conflation. Steel isn’t mild, it feels harsh, uncompromising, rarely fluid, reactive, or soft. Isn’t this how most of us think, in hardened categories, thrown ahead to navigate the uncertain world?

Not all swans are white as Europeans discovered when they came to the land, they called Australia. Categories on legs marching with science and guns and a reductive reason, that turned people and the natural world into objects. The observers, imagining they were separate from the world which had shaped them. We stop perceiving as we progress through life. So much of what we experience is memory: categories of prior knowledge projected onto our surroundings. John Dobson, the famous sidewalk astronomer and Vedantan monk insisted it was in our DNA: to only see our immediate neighbourhood and not the solar system which is our real neighbourhood. For Dobson human beings are genetically conditioned to only see the narrow horizon of need and survival—and not to see our deeper connection to the immeasurable horizon. In my early twenties I studied poetry at Melbourne University. I was struck by William Blake’s question: Where will you stand to view the infinite and unbounded?

Its spiritual, and in a certain sense contemplative, nature resides directly in its concrete form, in the analogy between the mineral realm and that of the soul; for this similarity can only be perceived by a vision which can look at things qualitatively—inwardly, in a certain sense—and which grasps the things of the soul materially—that is to say objectively and concretely. In other words, alchemical cosmology is essentially a doctrine of Being, an ontology. The metallurgical symbol is not merely a makeshift, an approximate description of inward processes; like every true symbol, it is a kind of revelation. [1]

Titus Burckhardt

[1] Titus Burchardt, Alchemy, Penguin Books, (Maryland: Penguin Books, 1967) 67.