Ian Alan Paul on Sat, 14 Oct 2017 15:59:34 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Looming Impossibility of the Present

And so here we are. In the present, the new normal. In a situation that feels just as quotidian as it does impossible.

With my coffee I read of fires in California and I scroll through friends' facebook posts debating which filters and breathing masks are best to buy. I read of the news from Puerto Rico, where a tragedy smears across days and then weeks in slow motion, obfuscated by politicians but nonetheless occasionally breaking through the surface. I listen to friends talking about what white supremacists are doing on their campuses, worried about posters and about speaking events, while some have begun receiving death threats. I hear of safehouses being organized for migrants that are soon to be made illegal. Everywhere things are heating up, the seas are rising, and democracies fall from the air like flies.

On mornings like this one, I'm reminded of Brecht when he wrote that "Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are." What could better describe our present? There's no room for nostalgia in such a formulation, in a rapidly disintegrating present that forcefully collapses towards the future. While collapse is always to some degree anticipated as we can see its shadow stretching across the ground beneath us, even its most astute architects cannot be sure in which direction the debris will fall.

As I've grown older, one thing which has become increasingly clear to me is that life is resilient. It goes on. Whether in occupied territories, under the weight of a military coup, or after the election of a demagogue, tea and coffee are still brewed in the morning, and people still find, even if somewhat troubled, sleep at night. Even in the face of the most tremendous of losses, the past's rubble is slowly and carefully accumulated into something new and is in turn guarded by the living. We find temporary and fragile shelters from our looming impossibility.

And so here we are. In the present, the new normal. In a situation that cannot stay this way because of the way it is. In a kind of life we live because we must continue living.

The question for us, I think, isn't whether or not the future can be warded off, although promises that it can be will continue to fill the air with their vacancy. All that remains for us is to embrace the possibility of the impossible present we find ourselves within. If the world can no longer hold as it is, what can come to be in its stead? As our lives in their present forms become increasingly less possible to live, the only refuge may be in the collective invention and elaboration of new forms of living.
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