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Back to the Future: Musings on Time and Utopia 3/3
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2007-11-16 09:47:02
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We may ask: why does our historicity take the form of trying to repress the future by controlling it? Because to wholeheartedly embrace what is right-here-and now-in front of us as an unknown that transcends us and beckons us to a response requires letting go of that which is right-here-and now-in front of us, thus relinquishing our toehold on the present and abandoning ourselves to the unforeseeable without efforts to control it. Indeed, irrespective of what the future holds in store for us, opening ourselves to it in its radical heterogeneity is a radical disruption, a sort of death.

Thoreau puts it thus: “We should go forth…in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return, prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdom. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again, if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready to walk” (Walking). This kind of walking does not bring one back to an original natural time. It leads straight into a historicity that requires leaving home, and abandoning all hope of ever returning.

The home we do not wish to leave is presence undefiled by the future. We have never been there, and yet we dread departing from it even though this departure is what we are. We desperately try to make historicity conform to our plan for it so as to relieve the dread. A goal-oriented life is not open to the future; it attempts to get ahead of time itself, so as to prevent it from devastating us. The alternative to historicity as we ordinarily live it is not to returning to natural time but abandoning ourselves to historicity rather than trying to control it. Surely it requires the ascesis of dispossession which Thoreau prescribes, but this ascesis leads into history, not away from it.

The ecstasy of being transported out of ourselves is inseparable from the anguish of departure. Think of the myth of Europa and the scene of goddess Europa departing for good on top of a black bull (Zeus in disguise). We may ask: is she being transported out of herself in ecstasy? On the way we answer that question hangs the whole issue of the cultural identity of Europe. For the fullness of the present can be experienced only in so far as we abandon ourselves to the future what is immanent within it.

It can easily be argued that no time has been obsessed with controlling historicity as our own. This drive at control is intensified by the painful realization that we do not control time and that there is no higher providence that will do it for us as the founding fathers of the United States surely believed. So we feel abandoned in history and abandoned to it. The intensity of this abandonment drives us to control the dreaded heterogeneity of the future; but the more control is achieved, the less history becomes possible. Enter Francis Fukuyama who postulates an end of history when historicity is an anachronism and everything will be under control; that is to say, a future time in which the future will have been abolished. Enter Henry Ford with his “history is bunk.” Thoreau for one would strongly argue that we must try to escape such madness and go back to a time when the present was not held hostage to the inevitable progress as conceived by our present day rationalists dubbed by Vico “barbarians of the intellect.” Therein lies the prostitution of our very humanity.

One parting thought: there is an alternative to both the myth of the undefiled presence and the utopia of a wholly controlled future, which is to say, the alternative to getting behind time and getting ahead of it. The alternative is to live within historicity itself as Vico has well taught us. To live in the present as it is broken open to and by the future. The difficulty, in my opinion, is that the obsession with measurement and control has become so pervasive within modernity that the very existence of the future in its heterogeneity seems to be in jeopardy. Within the problematic times we live in, nothing is held out to us, except the utterly unforeseeable wonder, the possibility of something impossible to anticipate. Both Thoreau and Vico teach us that to live fully in the present is to abandon ourselves to this possibility of something impossible to anticipate.

Indeed, to live fully in the present is to abandon ourselves to this possibility instead of wishing to avoid it or control it. We desperately need to learn what Thoreau calls “the art of walking,” but even here he would claim hat our power to do so depends on what used to be called grace, over which we have no control.


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Sand2007-11-16 11:16:43
This advice to blind ourselves to the possible consequences of our actions on the basis that it is impossible to predict the future is about as loopy as anything I have ever encountered.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-16 15:05:41
This comment is also appropriate here too.It appears that any author at variance with your restricted point of view, mostly derived from rationalism, is a “puppet,” while those who agree with it are the great men to be eulogized and applauded. You have cast aspersion in some form or other, mostly crude and rude as seems to be your style, on generally acknowledged great men such as Thoreau, Jung, Vico, Whitehead, Santayana, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Dostoyevsky, just about anybody who does not happen to share your rationalistic pseudo-scientific ideology. One cannot but wonder as to how many books would you proceed to burn did a modicum of authority or political power come your way? The mere fact that you keep reassuring us that you are bereft of power is already a hint at how far you'd go.

As you know, or perhaps don’t know yet, on May10 1933 in Germany, reputedly one of the most civilized countries in Europe, a total of 20,000 books were put to the torch in a public burning by students in Nazi uniforms in some thirty cities while some of their professors looked on uncomplaining. Among the authors burned were Hemingway, Heine, London, Mann, Freud, Bretch, Dostoyevsky, Marx, Remarque, Wells; just about anybody who disagreed with them, never mind their fame or reputation as a scholars or authors or philosophers. It made the bonfires of Savanorola, Torquemada and De Landa and Robespierre (another “enlightened” authoritarian bullish personality)look like a pick-nick in comparison. Indeed, the barbarian of old burned books out of ignorance and lack of intellectual sophistication, the new “barbarian of the intellect” as Vico dubs him, does so for ideological rationalistic reasons and therefore the cultural damage is greater by far.

Sand2007-11-16 15:22:18
For someone severely afflicted with glossolalia with a coprophilic twist you certainly are terribly penurious with your words. Here is my response from the other thread.

As usual, your paranoid hysteria seems to have taken over. Nobody is burning any books, but you take any criticism of yourself or anybody else as a move to destruction or censorship. I have welcomed open discussion and I doubt that you are so impressed with my analysis as to believe a few of my doubtful words in the direction of any of the authors you have mentioned would destroy the respect that the world has given them. But even the best of them deserve critical inspection from time to time as they all (as have you and I) have said foolish things on occasion. Unlike your God, they do not pack thunderbolts for a raised eyebrow and if they have made mistakes their integrity would no doubt prompt them to be grateful for the revelation so that they could be corrected. Who is this guy Bretch?

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-16 16:42:49
As I fully expected, the nexus beteen rationalsm, intolerance of others' opinions and book burning is lost on you. Or coult it be that it has been understood only too well and found an inconvenient truth?

Sand2007-11-16 17:12:57
Or, coult it be that your accusations have been so outrageously off the mark that a penguin would find your post idiotic?

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-16 17:48:13
Does that profund statement earn you a high five in your sycophantic club? Does everybody wear a taxido there? What happened to Descarte's duck? Is it still writing a dissertation on your poetics of defecation?

Sand2007-11-16 18:07:26
You are just so static, Paparella. Try jumping rope for a bit. It should improve your footwork and perhaps move up through your thalamus past your cerebellum into the teeny weeny space where a few neurons clack together and maybe even think. I definitely told you that Socrates now undergoing duckhood has flown south. He certainly does not belong to Descartes but has always operated as a free bird. It never admitted any poetic inclinations.

My dictionary does not list a taxido but perhaps you neglected to space it properly.
(What does a taxi do?) Anyway I never wear a hat so if this taxido thing is headgear, you are out of luck. A hat with a flashing light to flag a taxi might be useful. Perhaps you should patent it.

I really appreciate your interest in these fabulous things. Perhaps they have mythic potential.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-16 18:34:51
Paradoxically, despite your distracting, shallow, and abnoxious antics, you have actually proven with them and your penchant to pigeonhole people in your preconceived rational boxes and be pissed off when they don't meet expectations, Thoreau's point about the dehumanization of "enlightened" man (that man that C.S. Lewis calls "man without chest")out to get ahead ot time so as not to be surprised by what the future may have in store. How myopic indeed. To get more static than that means to run the risk of being dead and not knowing it yet.

Sand2007-11-16 18:43:09
My experience has been that dead people are never aware of it but of course you have been brainwashed to believe otherwise.

Your fascination for men without chests strikes me as quite peculiar. That is amongst all your other peculiarities. It conveys an image out of a movie by John Carpenter but has no emotional impact aside from its freakish image. It certainly has no intellectual component. But communication has never been your strong point anyway.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-16 19:10:26
Your self-appointed purpose in this forum is not that of the Grand Inquisitor and defender of political correctness, as you'd like to fathom, but rather that of disseminator of confusion and dissension, caricaturizer and demonizer of any phenomenon or any person that is not in perfect agreement with your own shallow pseudo-scientific cliches. A nasty brutish and rather bullish way of communicating to be sure which assures neith communication nor any kind of genuine dialotue.

For example the concept of "men without chest" is, true to form, made into a caricature because surely you don't have the foggiest to wha C.L. Lewis might be referring to and of course have not use for him and his books. For the sake of a potential dialogue with those readers with open minds who may be wondering let me merely point out that in “The Abolition of Man” Lewis makes comments indicating people today are “men without chests.” “Men without chests” refers to the complete lack of emotion held by those who are brought up in a society where they are taught a lack of emotion through their education. He seems to be indicating that children are taught to believe and live as if they lack a heart, soul, and emotion. They are brought up like machines, cold and calculating, and they have lost the ability to have a heart. In society today, the children are somewhat taught in this form. They are programmed to think a certain way and in teaching, the emotions rarely make an appearance.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-16 19:19:50
I now predict that you will get on your quixotic horse which defecates normally and charge asking disingenuously "what is neit, and what is a dialotue? and so get your high five from some sycophant. They are typos of course (which he also makes, by the way): one should have been "neither" and the other "dialogue." Those interested in a dialogue will overlook them but those out to distract and sow dissension will of course parade it as attention to form; in reality it is a stratagem, a straw man to cover up the vacuity of one's content.

Sand2007-11-16 19:37:39
Indeed, you are absolutely correct. I am indeed curious about what is neit and what is dialotue. I am getting the feeling we are in Lewis Carroll country and next you will be telling me it was brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
Your insanity seems to have gone totally overboard in accusing all modern youth of becoming soulless Machiavellians. You can see what is popular in, for instance, modern popular music and still maintain that? WOW! Are you out of touch! Talk about vacuity of content! Whew!

Sand2007-11-16 20:45:35
You are proving more inventive these days than I can imagine. You keep throwing in fictitious people. First Bretch and now C.L.Lewis. What next - The Wizard of OZ?

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-16 21:23:32
You are indeed quite predictable, as rationalists usually are.

Sand2007-11-16 21:33:32
Is there some virtue in being irrational?

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-16 22:21:16
Those voices keep telling you that I extol irrationality and you believe them because you remain unwilling to consider that while rationality is part of reason it is not the whole of reason. You yourself, despite what you'd like to believe, did not come out of your mother's womb reasoning and rationalizing and for some years in your infancy you made sense of reality not by logical thinking but by imagination as found in fairy tales and myths. Eistein used to say that God who is perfect does not need rationality, He intuits and in fact he extolled intuition as a sine qua non of doing science. If the voices told you otherwise, they are deceiving you.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-16 22:37:16
On the game of playing wannabe professor of English teaching syntax and spelling. Let us look at this statement of yours taken at random and verbatim:

"I have read fine print insurance contracts simpler and more obvious than this."

That statement has a faulty syntax. It should read: "I have read fine print insurance contracts which are simpler and more obvious than this."

Here is another syntactical flaw: "...in the manner of Franco Spain." That should have read "in the manner of Franco's Spain," or if you prefer "in the manner of the Spain of Franco."

And here is a typo, just to mention one: "the inequalities of th current economic system." "The" is mispelled.

This may appear silly and it is, but then again you started the silliness. I will not accuse of not knowing English, as you have done, but the question needs to be asked:how prudent and wise is for those who live in glass houses to be throwing stones?

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-16 22:42:27
In the above there is syntactical oversight, the sentence "I will not accuse of not knowing English" should read I will not accuse you of not knowing English. Does that mean that I don't know English syntax? Most sane and reasonable people would answer: of course not unless your interlocutor has an ax to grind.

Do you really think you are fooling all the people all the times?

Sand2007-11-16 22:49:16
Why, Paparella, I do believe you think you are putting on some sort of exhibition before a great audience. The reality is that we two have surely outworn the patience of whoever was mildly interested and you are strutting in front of nobody. It's just you and me and you are just a funny old deluded idiot and I am fool enough to amuse myself with you.

Sand2007-11-16 23:23:29
I apologize for misusing you this way. I am old and a bit sadistic and, obviously, like you, have too much free time to play with inappropriate toys. I think we should stop here. We have no doubt pissed off a good many people at this site with our nonsense and I am never going to persuade you of my view of reality and you have no reality to offer me worth my consideration.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-17 00:05:22
Indeed, it was nonsense all along, even Forrest Gump would know that, but what was the purpose and the motivation? That is what I find intriguing, coming from a being who considers himself perfect in his rationalism.Merely fun and games? I doubt it. At this point, before indeed I desist from giving you the time of my day the question needs to be asked even if nobody will read it, for Hermes always reaches his destination even when it appears that he missed his target: how are the antics of somebody thwo defines himself as "a bit sadistic" help the luster of this magazine, and any sort of worthwhile cause besides satiflying one's sado-masochistic propensities?

A modest suggestion: there is a novelist which surpasses your pet philosopher Nietzsche by far because he is able to analyze those sado- masochistic components of human nature all the way to their roots and does it better than even Freud or Jung. His name is Dostoyevsky and the novel is "The Possessed," but actually any of his novels will do. If you stop looking at your mask in the narcisistic idolatrous pond for a while you may learn something about human nature and hence about yourself from his novels. Take a hard look without attempting to control what may result from it.

Sand2007-11-17 06:12:03
No, Paparella, you may dismiss it as nonsense because it is evident it is beyond your powers to comprehend how far away from reality you are but the attitudes are real and they are important. But, to utilize a cliche´(which is your favorite linguistic exercise) pigs' ears are no raw material for silk purses.
Let someone else confront you if he or she cares. No doubt there will be much to confront.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-17 06:23:18
"I apologize for misusing you this way. I am old and a bit sadistic..."

I am afraid Mr. Sand that to offer any kind of authentic apology one has to respect one own humanity. Any apology from those who consciously or unconsciously are in the nasty habit of "using" people, for whatever reason, remains suspect. One of Kant's morela imperaives is to never treat people as means to an end but as ends in
themselves." The price of not doing so is dehumanization and in fact the inability of offering an authentic apology.

You have pretty much put your cards on the table as to the fool's game unintereste in an honest dialogue that you have been playing all along. Obviously you need some peace in your life and to engage in the constant srife that you seem to relish is to end up being sucked into it. Hence I will from now on respond to any antics you may wish to continue with one word: shalom. When, and if, you acquire some of it then we can resume a dialogue which is never predicated on agreeing wih each other's point of view but on respecting the other's humanity by respectin one's own. That notion by Levinas was mentioned in the article on Levinas on which you also cast aspersion. Perhaps you understood it only too well, but I am areaid that understanding is not enough.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-17 06:26:38

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