From notebooks: running in war and End Times

From my notebook, spoken by a war correspondent I was having coffee with: “Running in a war, you hear explosions, and you ask yourself, “Am I still alive?” It is your only thought, and you see how unnecessary all the other thoughts are. For a while you are drunk on adrenalin. When that wears off, you think you have transcended the parts of life that are burdensome. When that stage passes, you see it is another captivation and that there are endless levels you are never going to get free of.”

From a notebook entry: Richard has been writing about presentism, a way we live now, no longer believing history expresses a narrative of progress or improvement. We are squeezed into the now by intimations of apocalyptic end times. These times are ushered by political calamity and environmental collapse. In presentism, we experience a continual now of moments that are more like a stuck record or a stuck CD than like a chain of moments that lead to their futures and produce their histories. And yet contained in the space of these moments are all the spaces of time that has come before and all of our predictions about the future devised from the perspective of the past. The mind produces elsewheres and elsewhens, a form of time travel that isn’t observable, like the time/space continuum itself. In apocalyptic apprehension, we live all the parts of our lives simultaneously, like Dave in the end room in 2001, a Space Odyssey, and these lives are nested inside each other like Russian dolls. In the sense now I feel of everything I have known ending, I am the Laurie who walked the streets of Long Beach as a child, although I could have riden my bike, in order to think the thoughts of a walker. I am the Laurie who made homes in other people houses until she had outstayed her welcome. And on. According to Frank Kermode in The Sense of an Ending, the apocalypse can be endlessly disconfirmed without being discredited. We go on believing we are living in end times, a destabilizing constant state that produces, casuistically, more anticipated end times–permanent end times. A way out? Face our past with truth and commit to a more equitable future.

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