Wednesday, November 29, 2006

gratuitous reflection dept.

Much of the violence that infects our world is due, I suspect, to the fact that we have lost the capacity to interact meaningfully with the dead, even as we are tantalizingly enthralled with death. Hollywood reflects this tension in some obvious ways. Capitalism cultivates, among other things, a perpetual present, a life shorn of the capacity to remember meaningfully. Nostalgic sentimentality is not memory. But Robert Pogue Harrison, in a fascinating book I just finished reading, presents an alternative vision that identifies resources for resistance/hope:

“The dead depend on the living to preserve their authority, heed their concerns, and keep them going in their afterlives. In return, they help us to know ourselves, give form to our lives, organize our social relations, and restrain our destructive impulses. They provide us with the counsel needed to maintain the institutional order, of which they remain the authors, and prevent it from degenerating into a bestial barbarism. The dead are our guardians. We give them a future so that they may give us a past. We help them live on so that they may help us go forward.” (Robert Pogue Harrison, The Dominion of the Dead, 158)

OTT: Joanna Newsom, Monkey & Bear

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