Transitions and Thresholds

Posted on December 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

No onw knows waht the future holds, what is coming. It’s not even clear that we know what has already come but we haven’t yet caught up with. (even that formulation is problematic: what is the ‘it’ which we haven’t caught up with…’progress?; what is ‘it’ that is coming?? Precisely…) Unlike much thinking , perhaps small towns can give one a clearer vantage point in some ways.


When it comes to change, one of the most often noted comments is “things have always been this way, there is just more reporting.” Or: “human nature never changes, things have been basically the same over the last x-thousand years. Well, yes and so, maybe maybe not.  Such comments are perhaps both benedictions over the current scene as well as wishful thinking; better the beast you ride than the one coming over the hill.

One thing left out of the calculations of sameness extending to the far horizon is a measure of what constitutes human nature. One of the psychosocial processes since at least the Enlightenment (if not well before) has been a constraint of the definitions of what constitutes a stable human, a winnowing of the margins and a strengthening of the central tenets of ‘Humanism.’ The current neoliberal global environment is the inheritance and, if many current thinkers are correct, the result of 2000 years of Judeo Christian culture—and it’s ongoing collapse into the secular world.

Out of that chaotic collapse is a maelstrom of ideas and questions about where we are now, what direction we should go, or, if we should do anything at all. Or if we even have anything to say about it.  Previous cultures have used prophets, shamans (often under the influence of entheotropic substances) to scry the path ahead.

Now we prophesy under the sign of the Machine and stochastic collocations and projections…and then do what we want to do anyway.

So what are some of the more oblique vectors that are coming our way now, what strange new philosophies and visions? As it turns out many of the visions are the ones we have had from millennia ago in our philosophies and dreams, dreams not of men and women but of other creatures.

The synonyms for ‘threshold’ say as much as we need to know: brink, dawn, door, doorstep, doorway, edge, entrance, gate, inception, origin, point of departure, sill, start, starting point, verge, portal and probably many more that we could present.
Much now is about portals, possible openings (note the plural) into different forms, times and spaces. And, although it may seem a bit of hubris on our part, into the new, that which may be on the other side of the doorsill. Granted, the term ‘new’ has been leveraged into banality by thousands of consumer ads; it may be time to degrease it and knock the rust off. The one thing that modernism has done is bequeath a patina of ‘been there, done that,’ a patronizing sense of familiarity with the world. It may be that the mechanisms of modernism have turned from excavating to backfilling. Even the very idea of ‘thesholds’ has been set on a wobbling axis by those who believe there is not, and cannot be anything radically new under the sun, and those who wish to bring back a sense of enchantment, of stepping through a portal, into a different world. (Let us just note in passing that the premier contemporary philosopher of the threshold Giorgio Agamben, is not so sanguine about the possibilities of threshold events, in that ‘states of exception,’ ‘zones of indifference,’ ‘bare life’ and a general orientation toward human/inhuman thresholds lead to what some would claim as fascinating and others as  fearful repercussions. But then, a threshold by its nature is also a zone of indeterminacy.)
Whether dream world or drudge world, prison world or paradise world, our technologies are ever on the way to seemingly making both come true simultaneously. 
And the idea of  the Event –or an event, they are somewhat different–is dependent on aspects of transition and and threshold, as would be an anti-event if such a thing be possible. Or for that matter, the question of whether there can ever really be a deadend.