Over the coming weeks, as we turn to the new year, L&F will be publishing a series of short pieces on the theme “A Vision of the Future.” The initial pieces are the result of a housewarming gathering at a friend’s house in southern Arizona with the same prompt. Friends brought dreams, poems, interpretative dances, speeches, and theses on the theme, instructed to keep them under 3 minutes long.
1 the Event
There’s something indescribable about the POP of the first broken glass.
How many of you are smirking at the thought? At the cliché? A cliché exists for a reason. This POP includes but exceeds the visceral surprise and excitement of the opening act of an event like the one many of us experienced on the night of May 29th, 2020. When paint on walls declared “No more waiting 4 now”. This POP of the now. Against an impossible future and an intolerable past, a small crowd struck out against the future laid out before us, rejecting it wholesale. Some small effort to tie us immediately to moments across time and space, which in that moment put me shoulder to shoulder with my friends in Virginia, in California, in Minnesota. I hope they thought of me too.
There is a tension which exists in most of our lives, between this talk of the future and the experience of our present. Our phones buzz and we panic. Our phones are silent and we panic more. Our shelves fill with radical, imaginative science fiction and dystopia and utopia battle it out for supremacy in the movie theaters and on streaming platforms. Yet, how many of us can think of plans for the next 5 years? What will a project look like in 10 years? In 30?
3 the Future
It is perhaps more true after COVID than before that, as some friends said in 2019, “In societies where social media prevails, all of politics presents itself as an immense accumulation of scandals”. Something has intensified in our relationship to technology and politics. We are simultaneously suspended in time, waiting for the pandemic to officially end while filling our feeds with infographics of hot takes and emergency medical funds. Or rent funds. Or arrest funds. So many funds. Meanwhile the only fantastical futures we can realistically fathom are ones of catastrophe, precarity, and devastation. We are told to leave utopia to the bookshelves. The future holds our imaginations hostage.
Instead of the Future (with a capital F), I wonder what plans we can make now. This gesture toward immediacy should not be confused as one of reaction, but one of a setting of pace. Not one of waiting, but of movement. No Future, more plans. Planning isn’t universal, it is specific. We make plans with our friends, we link up to others making ethically similar, but different plans. We imagine how we might grow, we ignore our screens more and more. Suddenly our lives feel like those books on our shelves make us feel. Planning for Now means that at any moment we can rip Utopia from the heavens and bring Paradise to Earth. We can never plan a moment like May 29th, 2020, but we can plan, like Walter Benjamin, as if “each day, each moment is the little door through which the messiah may enter.” Perhaps with a POP.