“What usually remains intact in the eras of petrifaction and predestined ruin is the faculty of freedom in itself: the pure capacity to begin, that gives life to and inspires all human activities, and constitutes the hidden source of production of all great and beautiful things. –Hannah Arendt: “What is Liberty?”, Erogenous Zone No. 8, 1991
HAVANA TIMES – In these days the earth has aligned itself with the sun in a similar position to that of the day when I first poked my head out from the maternal womb. How badly I take birthdays!
We “westerners”, wrapped in our banners of “practical reason” tend to be touchy about time and anniversaries, much more so than reason and praxis would invite. Other than inflating one’s ego, does it matter at all to have been born on one day or other, one month or the month before, one year or the following?
I, for example, have taken 38 turns around the sun. What use is it for me to know this? Does this statistic say anything about my real age? Very vaguely. Some regions of my body and my spirit still display their infancy, while others, with all the blows that life has given them – Ay! They seem ancient.
Almost everything in this life moves in cycles. The stars do this in a very evident way, but so does society, and each one of us.
The social cycles and our own should be the foundation, the center, around which our daily lives are structured, but this privileged position continues today to be occupied by the galaxies.
Our inner clocks, which mark our intimate hours, possess an alarm (aches, cravings, calls from our interior voices, etc.) that sound daily to indicate to us the needs of our body and spirit, or the end of one stage and the beginning of another.
However, we turn a deaf ear, or misinterpret such signals and mistreat the “apparatus” by trying to adjust its hands to the official time.
We know the phases of life only in broad strokes: childhood, adulthood, old age; studying them further is something we leave to the specialists. We dedicate little interest to understanding, following (or perhaps influencing) our own personal cycles, but it’s difficult for us to forget a birthday, a fifteen-year-old’s coming of age party, a silver wedding anniversary, etc.
We celebrate each anniversary with a party, even when our spirit screams the opposite at the top of its lungs: this is called a being out of sync.
Luckily, it hasn’t been this way always or everywhere. Other cultures, like that of the Zen, offer the closest attention to the phases of inner life. We need a Ptolemaic revolution that would relocate us as the center of our world. We’re not as egotistical as we suppose.
Collectively, all the interactions of the individual cycles generate the great cycle of society. But, obviously, the same things happen in the case of society: we pay more attention to the centuries (we know their names well and the second in which they begin or end) than its cycles (of which we barely know what they are, or how to name them.)
The primitive peoples who dedicated themselves to agriculture, hunting and gathering had a close dependency on King Sun and, logically, they organized their community life around it.
But ourselves, freed from this necessity still insist hard-headedly in corralling our social life within the solar calendar. And so we have school years, fiscal years, working years, annual and biennial gatherings, official commemorations etc. It’s a mental phase that we have not yet outgrown.
In the schools here, especially in the history and political science classes, they try to stuff the young people’s heads with the story that capitalism is a phase that will give way to another, better one, for which we are only in the waiting room.
And that sounds so false, abstract, so ideological, so much like a Party document that people let it in one ear and out the other or refuse it totally. (There’s always one who takes it on as a sacred revelation).
But calendar fixation doesn’t only attack the uncultured plebeians. In intellectual circles there are frequent attempts to take advantage of the obligatory yearly commemorations to rethink and bring to the forefront a given event of the past.
A forced hand, in the end; the most likely outcome is that the year’s anniversary may not be the propitious moment to discuss the phenomenon in itself, and the fatigue of it may be great.
Obviously, the astronomical cycles and abstract time are universal references to keep in mind, but why exaggerate them. In reality, it’s all an atavistic fetish of little importance, but there are so many things like that in our everyday life that end up pinning one to the ground like the dwarves did to Gulliver.
So let’s move forward, then, decapitating idols with the iconoclastic machete and coming step by step ever closer to the kingdom of creativity. Gather together your stores of Intelligence and valor: we will need them.