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Tuesday, September 25, 2012
ANYTHING GOES & NOTHING MATTERS
I drove the eight miles from Cambridge to Greenwich, New York, around eight o’clock and the night was bell-jar clear. A scrim of deepest blue sky backlit the landscape of tender hills and valleys while on the ground I wended the twisting two-lane state highway 372 with my brights amplifying the yellow road signs and the iridescent lines on the pavement, alert for deer, who can kill you. The Talking Heads spastically warbled one of their triumphant electronic anthems of post-modernity over the radio. It happened that I had been playing fiddle at a contra dance.
What a strange privilege it is to live in these perilous times. I don’t mean privilege in the sense of the college humanities departments, with all their crybaby overtones of grievance and resentment. I mean in the sense of having lived through a thrilling turbo-powered climactic chapter of the human melodrama. Until a few decades ago nobody ever swooshed through these ancient hills in a motor car, on a magnificently engineered minor country highway, and in perhaps less than a decade no one ever will again, and at the collective level of a culture or a nation we have no sense of this whatsoever.
We have no sense of anything except the junk-cluttered moment, including our junk politics and the junk ceremony of the present election. When today is a long time ago we will wonder at the feckless cravens that modernity made of us, in particular the absence of any sense of duty to the project of being the only self-aware organisms (as far as anyone knows) in the universe. In this country, anything goes and nothing matters, and that’s the simple sad truth of where we are right now.