Archive for December, 2009

The coming of a new decade seems trivial in comparison to the last comparable benchmark—the coming of the new millennium. But still I think my own generation is experiencing the coming decade with the same anticipation evoked by that benchmark ten years ago. For people my age—those born between 1985 and 1990, give or take a few years—a promise was broken in the interim. We were raised in a decade when time stood still: the 1990s. We were the first generation born after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and it seemed the dust was settling on “The End of History.” History, ideology, big ideas, and revolution—both of politics and consciousness—were things of the past. As the dust settled, and the naïve delusions of our romantic forebearers gave way to pragmatic procedural liberalism, politics, and even community, were perceived, by both the salient voices of the Left and the Right I think, as a procedural form of traffic engineering. You tickle your inclinations and I’ll tickle mine; as long as we don’t bother each other when we pass the time. We were all content with simple bourgeois American plastic pleasures as we waited for Godot. This was Life after History for those of us who came of political sentience in the 1990s. “Nothing to be done.”

And then came the new Millennium. Where we expected stasis, there was movement. Where we expected prosperity, there was loss. Where we expected contentment, there was pain. The inauguration of the decade saw the inauguration of an illegitimate President. Dreams of American isolation were shattered on September 11, 2001; we realized we were still part of the political flesh of the earth. London, Madrid. A record budget surplus became a deficit. The gap between rich and poor widened. Two wars were waged by the United States under lies and deceit. Abu Ghraib. An American city was lost. The 12/26 Tsunami. Global warming. The worst financial crisis since the great depression. Tehran.

Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now?

I do not mean here to make any novel political claims; the historical account I’ve given of the past twenty years is nothing more than that of a sophomoric twenty-something Leftist. I mean here to be writing a piece of autobiography, a coming of age story. What seems so unique about my age group is that we were born into stasis and came into movement, sometimes we even craved it. Is that not unique? Perhaps not. It feels unique at least.

But onward we trudge, with a new, and doubtless more realistic understanding of what the future holds. The world hasn’t stopped. The world could never stop. Justice calls us from our sleep. There is work to be done. There is pain to be had. There are promises to make. There will always be.

“Prior: We can’t just stop.  We’re not rocks–progress, migration, motion is…modernity.  It’s animate, it’s what living things do.  We desire.  Even if all we desire is stillness, it’s still desire for.  Even if we go faster than we should.  We can’t wait.  And wait for what? God.., He isn’t coming back. And even if he did…If He ever did come back, if He ever dared to show His face, or his Glyph or whatever in the Garden again…if after all this destruction, if after all the terrible days of this terrible century He returned to see…how much suffering His abandonment had created, if He did come back you should sue the bastard.  That’s my only contribution to all this Theology.  Sue the bastard for walking out.  How dare He.

Europa: This is the Tome of Immobility, of respite, of cessation. Drink of its bitter water once, Prophet, and never thirst again.

Prior: I can’t. I still want my blessing.  Even sick. I want to be alive.

Angel:  You only think you do. Life is a habit with you. You have not seen what is to come: We have. What will the grim unfolding of these latter days bring? That you or any being should wish to endure them? Death more plenteous than all Heaven has tears to mourn it. The slow dissolving of the Great Design, The spiraling apart of the Work of Eternity, The World and its beautiful particle logic all collapsed.  All dead, forever, in starless, moonlorn onyx night. We are failing, failing. The Earth and the Angels. Look up, look up, it is Not-to-Be Time. Oh who asks of the Orders blessing with Apocalypse descending? Who demands more Life? When Death like a Protector blinds our eyes, shielding from tender nerve more horror than can be borne. Let any Being on whom Fortune smiles creep away to Death before that last dreadful daybreak when all your ravaging returns to you with the rising, scorching, unrelenting Sun: when morning blisters crimson and bears all life away, a tidal wave of Protean Fire that curls around the planet and bares the Earth clean as bone.


Prior:  But still. Still
Bless me anyway.
I want more life.  I can’t help myself. I do.
I’ve lived through such terrible times, and there are people who live through much much worse, but…you see them living anyway. When they’re more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they’re burned and in agony, when flies lay eggs in the corners of the eyes of their children, they live.  Death usually has to take life away.  I don’t know if that’s just the animal.  I don’t know if it’s not braver to die.  But I recognize the habit.  The addiction to being alive.  We live past hope.  If I can find hope anywhere, that’s it, that’s the best I can do.  It’s so much not enough, so inadequate but…Bless me anyway.  I want more life.”

–Tony Kushner, Angels in America.

Consider this my New Year’s Resolution: a belated prayer against stasis in the new Millennium. A will to Life. And remember, “a laughing apocalypse is an apocalypse without God. Without master, this universe has rhythm; without Other, it is dance and music; without God, it has style.”


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