April 19, 2020
I’ve been having a bit of trouble writing down any coherent thoughts as of late. That’s a shame, for it was my intention to dig a bit deeper into my thoughts on this blog. To take more notes while I was reading and then hopefully try to formulate sentences and paragraphs which could help me make sense of all the information swimming in my head. Well, none of that. Or rather, I did read some stuff, yet I failed to take any notes, nor think about the points made on more than a strictly surface level.
Still, I’m in no mood for self-chastising, so for now let’s settle on a promise to myself that I will try to do a little better in the upcoming weeks. Which actually leads me to an essay that is part of this wonderful newsletter The Convivial Society by L. M. Sacasas. In his April 14th installment of the newsletter he writes about assuming responsibility for time.
The essay talks about how we’ve historically handled looking at the future. Sometimes with flagrant optimism and hope, as if progress was inevitable and could only bring us good, and sometimes with anxiety, when we felt our future was completely dependent on the moods of our (fickle) gods. One of the essay’s main points is our falling out of love with belief in the capital P of Progress; we succumbed to an anxiety we try to control with predictive technologies. A future we can know before it happened. So we can course-correct prematurely for any errors in human judgement we think might happen in the future.
It’s a belief that reeks of insecurity. Sacasas links it to a sentence from a poem by W. H. Auden “Their Lonely Betters” and illustrates his idea in the following way: “If the future is subject to prediction, crassly understood, I cannot be responsible for it. […] the future is [thus] inevitable, whether because of the dispensations of technologically empowered ideology or ideologically laced technology, and if the future is inevitable there is no way to assume responsibility for time”.
Sacasas then leads up to the introduction of “promises” as a way to assume responsibility for time. I do recommend you read the entire essay, as it much more intelligently, eloquently and exhaustively argues the point, but the gist of it is that by way of Hannah Arendt, Sacasas argues that making and keeping promises is one remedy against the chaotic uncertainty of the future.
A promise puts oneself in the mix. Unlike a prediction, where one assumes the future to happen regardless, and one can only do its best to protect oneself from it. And furthermore, a promise grounds ourselves in a time and place. We can go back to the point where we made the promise and decided upon the aim and purpose of it. We’re taking responsibility for what we’ve been doing, and what we are going to do.
I will recommend once more to read the essay. I promise it’s worth your time. And with regards to myself I will make a promise to make a better effort with my blog. There are a couple of ideas I have yet to fully work out, but seem potent enough to spend my time on.