With a prodigality that goes far beyond the areas of trade, fashion, and business, the glittering installations of the temples of consumption show, behind an anodyne appearance, some fundamental features of our varied modernity.
I will stop on these lines in the omnipresence of the ephemeral, of the fleeting, as an essential attribute of the vast majority of things that are offered to us in the fiery showcases of shops, department stores, outlets and malls. (*)
Indeed, all of this modernity (including “durable goods”), has an increasingly shorter useful life. This is the case with new constructions, automobiles, household appliances, etc. All of this ages poorly and prematurely.
The new materials degrade prematurely, and it is very difficult today to find a product, a material, an object of common use that can accompany its owner for a long part of his life. Nothing else happens with interpersonal relationships, which languish before they have matured, because of the loneliness of the inhabitants of the citizen wasteland.
Loneliness poorly camouflaged by the effervescence of social media interactions.
The ephemeral nature of the products is in solidarity with other features of our way of existing in these times, a kind of neurotic interest in instantaneousness. It is this, a perverse defect of our sui generis modernity, that makes individuals underestimate the past, which reinforces the presence of oblivion as a necessity of existence ic et nunc *.
This, at the same time, induces disinterest in the future, giving rise to a concentration of the temporality of existence, to a chronological dimension whose extension does not exceed the limit of the instant and its dissolution.
In such a temporary constraint, there is neither space nor time (redundancy worth it) to deal with: others, their own life projects and, even less, morality or history. We forget that living in the present is not living in the instant; It is hard for us to assume that we live in a present whose roots are in the past, from which our days have been nourished and will continue to be nourished, even if we do not know it nor want it. It is a present that we must make last, and to the extent that it depends on us, last in the best possible way.
“Does this mean that the past exists? No. On the contrary, precisely because memory and fidelity no longer exist: to give, here and now, the being that no longer possesses. If memory has a duty (…) it does not result from the existence of the past. On the contrary, because it no longer exists, we must remember it, because it only has us to inhabit, as the past, the present.” (1)
In an analogous way, we must resist the temptation to give up relating with the future; it is indispensable to assume that the essential of the future, since it forges in the present of each day.
“You don’t have to think about the future because it exists. On the contrary, you have to think about it because it doesn’t exist and thus depends, at least in part, on what we think and want about it.” That is why imagination, anticipation, prudence and will are so necessary: to do, here and now, that “the future, when it is present, does not stray too far from what we want.” (2)
(1) André Comte-Sponville, What is time? Ed. Andrés Bello, 2001. Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, 2001.p.137
(2) André Comte-Sponville, op cit.p.138
* Fiery: Wonderful
* ic et nunc: here and now