Fluids travel easily. They ‘flow’, ‘spill’, ‘run out’, ‘splash’, ‘pour
over’, ‘leak’, ‘flood’, ‘spray’, ‘drip’, ‘seep’, ‘ooze’; unlike solids,
they are not easily stopped – they pass around some obstacles,
dissolve some others and bore or soak their way through others
still. From the meeting with solids they emerge unscathed, while
the solids they have met, if they stay solid, are changed – get moist
or drenched. The extraordinary mobility of fluids is what associates
them with the idea of ‘lightness’ There are liquids which,
cubic inch for cubic inch, are heavier than many solids, but we are
inclined nonetheless to visualize them all as lighter, less ‘weighty’
than everything solid. We associate ‘lightness’ or ‘weightlessness’
with mobility and inconstancy: we know from practice that the
lighter we travel the easier and faster we move.
These are reasons to consider ‘fluidity’ or ‘liquidity’ as fitting
metaphors when we wish to grasp the nature of the present, in
many ways novel, phase in the history of modernity.