I was hoping to do a post about some recent conversations I’ve had about the curatorial work our contemporary condition requires of us, and I hope to do that, perhaps next, but this other issue has been frequenting my lunches with Jay, and I feel closest to them now and would like to share a few of their inquiries.
I want to talk about time. It’s a complicated subject, no doubt. It’s complicated specifically with a number of entryways, but I want to cut through as much of this as I can and get down to this: we are all going to die. I don’t mean each of us, individually, in scattered hospitals or nursing homes at whatever our “chosen”…”time,” but rather, that we are all going to die collectively–humankind, is going to die, perhaps all life on planet earth, is going to cease existing, and there is an increasingly solid agreement that this is going to happen sooner rather than later.
To me, and to many, the likely cause of this death will be environmental destruction. But in the past, especially, ten years, a very clear and present (🙂 ) paradigm has shifted. Let me list quickly for you a number of items that have occupied recent thought:
1. Increasing awareness of our extremely complex and absolutely devastating practices against our planet and its ecologies. This has just been posited.
2. A severe economic crises that threatened (threatens) the entire mechanism that moves our people and resources around and within one another.
3. Similarly, a move of the centers of production as far to the other side of the world as possible. The fallout, good and bad and otherwise.
4. A holy/culture war. Several fronts. Foreign and domestic.
5. An explosion in information and computing technologies such as to create an “information age” or a “knowledge economy.” Subsequently, an intense media saturation, an overturn of entire communications behaviors and institutions, and lastly a satisfaction we have, perhaps, never known, at least in terms of abundance.
These are all well known concerns, and not all are bad. But the question I am very tempted to ask is if the combination/proximity of these concerns are, not, without, but with very little, precedence. I think most would say yes and agree that there is a sizable angle of change pulling beneath us.
I don’t mean to be getting incapacitatingly freaked-out, but rather to steer these emotions toward a subject we all might profit from understanding better, which is how the sense of change and the risk of its failure disrupt our sense of time.
Let me tell you a “when my Grandfather died” story, which goes like this:
When my grandfather died, I had a hidden joy. Not for his death, his death terrified me–rather, for the disruption it caused. I was out of school for about a week. Every boy loves to be out of school, but there was more to this. I was out to be among people and to talk and think. I thought of my Grandfather’s life. I thought of his death. I thought of my parents’ death, and of my own. And packed around this in sheaths were the wet days of that week. All the ceremony, the family, the eating and stories pulled fine threads through the week and held it there as though up, briefly, to be observed. In this suspension, action is impossible. Of course, there is much to be done with a funeral, which is something I do not understand because I have, thankfully, never had to manage one. But everything else that tugged me forward with the promise of letting me touch it sat idle, in an eddy, limning the gate through which I eventually returned to my life from that interim. Every death I have been near has caused this reaction, but more so, every significant change. Surrounding it are these days.
But I feel we are now perpetually in this state, even as we push forward and design and build and trade. Perhaps it is even the exact opposite, that the present feels to us unloosened and gliding the convection of our activities. Because of our prolonged cues. It is the environment in which we live. Perhaps I speak mostly for myself, but it is a sense I have felt from my peers as well, and the best I can describe it is as a kind of despondence, an acceptance of a much more limited set of ambitions. I do not need to speak about the dangers of this kind of state of mind, but I do feel it necessary to say how unfortunate it would be that we cannot use all the good we have made, not only to rescue ourselves but to realize something better, simply because of our lack of will.