It seems doubtful that our crisis, or relation with the past, is one of the important differences between us and our predecessors, Many of them felt as we do. IKf the evidence looks good to us, so it did to them. Perhaps if we have a terrible privilege it is merely that we are alive and are going to die.This seems so completely reasonable and right it’s hard to see how we might disagree with it. Yet there’s a part of me that wants to challenge it. Kermode’s terrible privilege is more than the blank fact of our existence; surely it also includes the much sharper fact of the nowness of our existence. This is what makes the earache I currently suffer much more significant than the entirety of the pains of Prometheus on his crag, because Prometheus’s pains are over and done with, and past pain howsoever enormous does not have the purchase of present pain.
Saturday, 13 February 2010
Frank Kermode, in The Sense of an Ending, notes: ‘it seems to be a condition attaching to the exercise of thinking about the future that one should assume one’s own time to stand in an extraordinary relation to it … we think of our own crisis as pre-eminent, more worrying, more interesting than other crises.’ His point, of course, is that it isn’t so.