Tuesday, 1 April 2014

I, token

"Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?  You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you,—and full as much heart!  And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.  I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;—it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,—as we are!”

You sense a difficulty but you are unable to say what it is - you are humming along to, the ballad of a proletarian. You realise that the perturbation which you register is inseparable from your existence.  You have inherited a certain difficulty, it is yours, and you are incapable of resolving it. As long as you survive, you feed it. As long as you live, it lives. It is almost all of you - but it is not enough of what you are for you to be blissfully unaware of it. For sure, you cannot cut it out of yourself. You have come into being as the bearer of what is amiss - but you are strangely unable to directly express in your own words what this is. It names you, you do not name it. It lies beyond you, it precedes you - it is what we shall call ‘the up to date difficulty’. You, personally, are whatever is amiss up to this moment. You are fatally compromised. You are not free to step outside so as to gain an external perspective. And that means you constitute its presence, its force, in the world. Even as you struggle against it, without even being able to name it, you fulfill its function. You begin to understand that you are its product. You understand this or, you don’t -  either way, you hurtle on in its embrace. Will it, this difficulty of yours, die with you? If you die at the end of this moment, then perhaps it will also die. That is something to think about, something to hope for. Or, to dread: we come to love the habits that wound us. We come to wish for their preservation. But for the present, you might assign this difficulty a domain, a stage, a frame within which it will certainly appear, albeit in fractured form. You might call this frame ‘politics’ and within it you may summon up all that is amiss as tokens, as the assigned form, of flickering, exclusive, contradictory, shadowy claims. These tokens of your difficulty disport themselves before you. You seize hold of them as if they are at your command, you respond to them as if they are real - but in the very act of your recognising some of it, the greater part becomes diffuse, ungraspable, all the more elusive. You have the token but not the thing. Even so, you are impelled to hold onto what you know. There is hope, if not yours, then a structured hope (a token that is labeled hope), there is a hope that if you successively preserve the fragments made available to you, and others do the same, then perhaps an aggregate will form spontaneously, like a midden, like an isle of plastic, at the edge of this moment to be resolved at another level, in some other difficulty’s moment. It is a long-shot, it depends on many variables, and the authenticity of the proposition. But there is nothing else. And so, you are free, at least, to hold on to hope.  It could be that the difficulties which are given historical form by people like you, always fall away with their moment. Then there really is hope, hope in the form of a token, bound hope, structured hope -  and wouldn’t that be a means of holding onto what already has you in its grip?

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