[NB] The Present, the Past, the Contemporary

This is how we’re going to live from now on – surrounded by the swirl of strange and terrible weather, never quite knowing when the great black wall of it will shift and slam into us.  AGAINST THE DAY will remain relevant, because it’s the picture of every minute of every day from now on.  Amazing things, every single different kind of story we can imagine, and the altitude thrill of constantly being on the edge of bubbling fatal chaos.—Warren Ellis

I have read this review three or four times now and I can tell I am trying to get at something in it. It may come down to this quote. Let me walk through my responses to it.

One: “This is how we’re going to live from now on – surrounded by the swirl of strange and terrible weather, never quite knowing when the great black wall of it will shift and slam into us.” Well, yes, right, bu when have we not lived like this? This is the human condition. I feel like there was a brief moment, not even a century long, when we could have the fantasy of a world ordered according to human scales, disciplined by computers and engineering. We soon enough discovered that we weren’t actually able to do that and so we’re confronting anew our radical exposure in the world.

Two: “because it’s the picture of every minute of every day from now on.” I don’t quite buy this, either, in part because I don’t buy that the anthropic impulses that drive our world will be able to endure for much more than another century, if that. Maybe…maybe, but mostly I’m doubtful.

Three: “constantly being on the edge of bubbling fatal chaos.” The bubbling chaos seems like something that will be with us for a good deal longer, though, as the entire world reorders itself around the disaster of our times.

Four: Which means that there is something different about this time, something that isn’t like everything that has happened before in our historical experience (sure, maybe there have been histories before our own, civilizations lost to us, but that is something else, another people’s historical experience). We have remade the world in our image and seen our image dissolve in a wave of computer code and mechanization, felt the wave break through the surface of the mirror and spill out over us, like nanites hungry to remake us.

Can we go backward from that? It’s a perverse parody of Hegel’s dream, to have achieved the unity of world and spirit only to discover that it is alien to us. And yet, it is by our hands and our thoughts that this world was wrought. What does it say that the era most under our influence yields the most alien forms of thought?

Five: Which is to say that we have reached a point where the Hegelian dialectic seems to swing toward the world rather than toward spirit, that what is negated in the modern moment is the anthropomorphic fantasy that gave birth to it.

H. P. Lovecraft’s continuing relevance lies in part in that conundrum, on that resolved puts us on the other side of the modern moment, something neither postmodern nor premodern, but new.

Maybe. I’m just chewing here and figured I might as well post something.

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