News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Nullity After 911

Friday, August 05, 2005

Nullity After 911

Alastair Hannay, from his book _On the Public_, summing up in some way the modern predicament. Discussing Ground Zero 911, he says:

"We need occasionally to step aside. Or meet in some public space where we are put in mind of how little of what we do or achieve counts, seeing things directly and without the interfering spins and refractions of the media or of their influence on our current perceptions. One such place is Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers once stood; these are to be replaced not only by a new tower, this time of Freedom, but also by something less rhetorical, a grove named 'reflecting absence'. It is only a fitting symbol of the position from which reflection over the nature and setting for human fulfillment can take place; sight of the levelled terrain and memory of the terrible events that caused it can free the mind for a moment from its normally healthy addiction to the world, a addiction that easily creates enmity and division. It is a prospect that can produce a sense of human levelling. Kierkegaard said that coming to the point where all you can say positively of yourself is that you are a human being reveals the fundamental nullity of selfhood, the ultimate anonymity, a ground zero in which you stay put but at the same time move on, letting it educate your everyday. He predicted we would end up there and that it would be a good thing if we did." (p. 122)

n : the state of nonexistence [syn: nothingness, void]

It is this state which Hannay alludes to to. It is perhaps, akin to the Buddhistic concept of no-mind or no-self. But Hannay, following Kierkegaard is also talking about the state of nothingness that the current Zeitgeist of Americanism propagates as it makes its way around the world destroying cultural identity, religious systems and world-views, political systems, and various traditional notions of self associated with these cultures and traditions.

This such that the type of traditionally psychological definition of "self" and personality simply lose any meaning. Indeed, the bane of the times is the amount of self fragmentation and alienation that occurs within "modern," secularized societies. How many people require some type of medication to simply get through a day in America? The alienation self characteristic of American culture grows--it does not diminish.

So how can allowing this type of culture to continue its world advance be a good thing? Because it deos return the human to his/her basic facticity of being human--at least that is the hope. All dogmas, ideologies, socio-cultural constructs simply fade away into a world where all values are equal and none means anything.

This is the nullity that Hannay talks about. Its goodness is obviously a two-edged sword. It poses the possibility of engaging with the nothingness of the world and thereby constructing a self or simply allowing oneself to die--to go with the times, accept one form of nihilistic response or other, ie, passive bourgeois selfsatisfaction where one lives like a cow or destructive nihilism where one believes that through acts of destruction one will reach some rock solid base of authentic and real existence.

What is the alternaitve? As Hannay notes, it is to accept one's humanity and try to work from there--recognizing one's nothingness while at the same time discovering what exactly that nothingness means in terms of living a human life.

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