How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Forget
The first section presents a problem which has made itself clear within our historical age. When analyzed by itself, this problem has a tendency to be coupled with nihilism. Nihilism is not a solution, of course, and this cannot be allowed. Thus, the first section, with its indulgence in hopelessness, is paired with a second one. The second section elucidates a solution to this problem.
Section I: The Problem
One comes into a world capable of unimaginable cruelty – most of which remains silent, subtle, evades the ruthless abstraction of statistics. A daily death felt thousands of times by billions of people. One comes into this world with a will to change it. Yet one’s spirit is shaken by the countless other kindred souls who had similar intentions that burnt bright with an admirable passion far beyond the young sparks that flicker in and out today. One’s spirit is shaken that despite their passion, these old flames were nevertheless extinguished.
“To try as they had tried! To fail as they had failed!” There is a beauty in those moments of historical significance that fed the flames of those passionate creatives. That inimitable feeling of the world moving around your feet. Lenin frolicking in the snow upon hearing his revolution had outlasted the Paris Commune. But these moments, steeped with emotions only known by those who had lived them, become passionless historical facts. The passing of time fossilizes them, abstracting away their authentic, felt meaning and subsequently inspiring a flame no hotter than the snow that crunched under Lenin’s joyful feet.
These events, when rendered historical objects of the past, inspire nothing that could affect one’s passion; their real felt values decompose like flesh on skeleton. All we are left with is the sanitized, objective, unfelt, uncaring bones of empirical procedure.
We come into a historical age where all meaning or direction has already been made. All avenues of escape have already been spent. New attempts merely mutely copying the old. Facsimiles entirely alien to the spirit of the original. We attempt to dance just as Lenin did. Unable to steer away from the unfeeling simulacra of history, one is cursed to not create but reproduce that which has already been made. All that one can truly envision has already been done.
Philosophy cannot be done with a hammer as the time for philosophy has passed. The philosophy of the academy represents its historical age well – practical, non-speculative, social-ethical. What is there to speculate on today? What is the purpose of speculation if the direction of history does not depend upon it? That is why the “philosophy” of the current historical epoch can be nothing except practical, pragmatic, “realistic,” unromantic, mirroring the many “newly” envisioned procedures for revolutionary change.
The younger generation comes into a world of unimaginable suffering, unquantifiable pain, and an unquantifiable understanding. They can resort to nothing except the already fixed, failed avenues of escape gifted to them by history.
Their failures can equate to no meaning – not even that surely incredible, inspiring feeling of historical change felt by those creatives that preceded them by generations, who unknowingly fixed them along such paths.
Lenin danced in the snow because his change meant something; it was a creation of new avenues, opportunities. We do not dance. We cannot dance. Because the time for creation has passed.
We are the first generation to understand the great weight that has been set upon us by history while also being unable to imagine the continued existence of such a history beyond our own lives. A history that is yet to be made is no more for there is no future, yet history is all that we can remember.
The simultaneous end of history and the unimaginably restrictive imposition of it onto our actions paralyzes us, guilts us by association. It destroys any ability to lift the massive weight of imposed understandings forced onto us by the past while also removing our actions of any future significance that might drive us to create. What a cruel world to live in that is the opposite of the Greeks of antiquity, who had no sense of an imposed historical past beyond the myths they gleefully invented and an open avenue for creating their future.
Surely if there is a coherent collected history beyond our generations, the crystallized, expressionless, objective representation of us in those accounts will have as much raw meaning to those in the future as these events have to us now.
Future historical generations may only exist to us merely in the same way we treat historical facts (as projections of our own time). These fictional future generations must, according to our self-imposed guilt, judge us for our inaction. Yet hopefully, they will judge us based upon their own epoch’s standards. One in which the historical significance of their actions does not weigh them down and fix them to premade, predetermined directions of change. Hopefully (I can only imagine from my own age), they can move in ways we could never move; they can create in ways we never could. And hopefully, they can forgive us.
Section II: The Solution
One comes into a world steeped in already imposed meanings, directions of action, avenues of ‘change,’ that appear to one as if they are all that exists, all that could exist. This is the primary problem facing our current historical epoch.
Our long-term memory weighs upon us as a force; the giant mass of historical facts and inevitabilities, when remembered, generates a gravity that gravely constricts and narrows one’s thoughts and actions. The historical realities of family, culture, civilization trace their structures onto desire, tying it down, controlling it until there is no room anywhere else for desire to flow except along fixed, predetermined contours.
We must utilize our short-term memory if we are ever to learn how to create once more. To forget these long-term “necessities” is the only necessity I can speak of today in good conscience. Creation is not possible if all one has access to is that which has already been created.
This long-term memory of ours is a dam that must be broken! And it can only be shattered through forgetting. Like a flash flood of tremendous force, the burgeoning, billowing onslaughts of desire of the past altered and ravaged the terrain of world history, smoothing spaces that had been previously striated, sanding down contours that could limit the further uncontrolled movements of desire. Like the countryside village made unrecognizable by rapidly advancing waves, the face of history had been permanently altered by the many waves of revolutionary desire. How could we ever forget such as thing as this! How could desire ever flow outside the boundaries set by this awe-inspiring past?
But these unrelenting flows of desire had not lasted forever. They had ironically etched themselves into the landscape of history, generating unforgettable contours and striations that now come to define the narrow limits of what seems possible for the creatives of today. The mnemotechnics of old revolutionary action deny us the very same billowing and burgeoning which they had attempted to ensure would never again be seen as impossible.
This is why we must forget all over again. We must work against the lines drawn by all the creatives of old, who had no hint of the future limitations caused by their actions. If we do not learn to forget, we are destined to eternally repeat their failures. If we do not learn to forget, we are constrained within the hardened and stale realm of pre-constructed meanings that provide no opportunities for change.
Oswald Spengler, for instance, was unable to forget the culture that he meant to critique, rending his cultural criticism useless. If all meaning in history is truly just “family, race, society, civilization,” then, as Spengler had seemingly assumed, there is nothing one can do.
He and the other so-called “revolutionary conservatives” can only possibly come to despise the things which they had created and were forced by the same “historical necessity” that barred them from meaningful creation to begrudgingly follow along. Their long-term memory weighed on them like a force that transcended any possible change of direction away from nihilism.
National Socialism was, if there ever has been, a “revolutionary conservative” movement. This assertion ought to come with all the logical conclusions implied by an association with a group of thinkers such as the revolutionary conservatives, who attempted to critique their world while still using their long-term memory. Despite being entirely alien to their ideal worlds (and, in fact, even worse than the original societies they had critiqued), they all fell in line with this new movement. Fascism becomes the only possible thing that cultural criticism can produce if it only uses its long-term memory. In attempting to diagnose the nihilism of his age, Spengler became one of its most active proponents. He claims to have been inspired by Nietzsche but instead only took heed from the last man.
Any meaningful cultural criticism must come with a forgetting – a spirit of short-term, creative exertions and not long-term, nihilistic repetitions. Criticism must come as a rootstalk, growing between the cracks of one’s predetermined cultural, historical understandings. It must be weeds that grow between the seams of long-term meaning, which attempts to enforce itself as the only thing that can determine one’s direction of growth; it wishes to take up all possible spaces of action and make one think that they have no choice but to accept the nihilism it brings. As Deleuze and Guattari understood, “grass is the only way out.”
This historical meaning wishes to be totalizing, wishes to make no room for life, for anything else other than a timid acceptance of itself and its already fixed directions. These imposed avenues of action come with nothing except a social death stretched out across entire lifetimes.
Life in the present is the balance between the overbearing inheritances of the past alongside their supposed historical “necessities” and the unset directions of the future. One must never ensure that remembering the former makes one forget the latter! Life must attempt to grow in all places where the past cannot find it and fix itself to it. Life must not allow these inheritances to pull it out and replace it with a cold, meaningless facsimile of historical objects that have already become, which are destined to reproduce themselves with an even more catastrophic failure than had been experienced before.
You must not move in the already fixed directions which are set onto you by the past! You must grow in new ways that spite the very fibre of these inheritances, even if some of them seem admirable, worthy of repetition. Live in ways that they suggest are not even possible. Grow alongside avenues of change they suggest do not even exist. Coalesce within spaces between them which they wish to tell you are already filled by their sterile, cold, meaningless inheritances.
Occupy spaces that these historical necessities cannot even conceive of. Create in places the police (the ones within your head as well as elsewhere) do not know how to police. Learn things that the overbearing, professionalized, sanitized knowledges (upheld through the academy and elsewhere) cannot understand. Create new ideas that the institutions which uphold these sterilized knowledges cannot possibly come to know. Make sure that they cannot even comprehend the extent of how dangerous your new creations are to their petty, insignificant, forced sense of “order.”
What a crime it would be to reduce all that is, all that could be, to all that has become! And “become” not in the sense that it had existed in its becoming but merely how it exists to us today. What could be more paralyzing of an effect than reducing life and its potentialities, directions, desires, to the narrow structures set out for it that have already been tried and failed? What a miserable life it would be to simply follow that! That is not even a life, not even a becoming, but merely a lifeless repetition of all that has already become. We must, as Deleuze said later in his life, “distinguish between becoming and history.”
Do not follow alongside the failures of the past! However much the legacy of these failures wishes to suggest that it is all that you can do. To frolic as Lenin once did, to create new avenues as he had once done, one must forget him. Forget what has solidified through history into a sterilized, objective, meaninglessness that cannot hope to inspire the change which one desperately needs.
Shave down these historical facts that have crystallized themselves into your waking consciousness, which make no room for a passionate flame that desires to burn as brightly as it possibly can! It is only in forgetting that one can remember what it means to create.