Sitting in futures, I read from a 1922 lecture course in which Heidegger discusses German decadence and decline, and the factical-life situation of the University.
Sitting in futures, I recognize my own life-situation as decadent, savoring the pleasures of a civic existence. Nuit Blanche, Coffee shops, (occaisional) dining out, many friends. Basically, there is little denying that modern hipster-student existence is a repetition/derivation of French Aristocratic decadence. Even the poor student is decadent because the distinction is not the amount of money spent but the purpose for which life is lived. “For the sake of itself”, we could say, after all, it is only in a situation where life is lived for its own sake that romantic love can appear as a legitimate option. Is my warriness towards romantic love a form of fear/fleeing from this decadence? Is a life of rigor even opposed to decadence? What constitutes the decline in decadence if it is not in opposition to a life of rigour?
But it is, if decadence is decline, it must be a loss of ends, a loss of directionality – a loss of telos. Life can be “lived for the sake of itself” in two senses, either in the sense of pleasure or affect (Deleuze – becoming as a categorical imperative towards decline/the new). Or, in the sense that life is directed towards its own factical situation, “life”! Life is not pleasure or affect or transcendental consciousness, but the situation which does not “present itself to you”, but rather presents and recedes – the categorical imperative is to become worthy for/to appropriate originally the situation.
I speak of rigor often, but what is it? Is it directing oneself at a single goal, and doing everything for its sake? That cannot be it, not only because one always has many goals but because any particular goal must be continually re evaluated in light of a new situation.
I love my neighborhood. As I walk by the cafes and bars at midnight on a monday, I love everyone inside. Not only them, but distant friends also. The cold air on my face reminds me of a French bar in Ottawa and all of a sudden I feel the wide open possibility of the future and all the warmth in it. It remains always the case that I could die at any moment (mortality, authentic being-towards-death), but precisely because of this my life already contains in a certain sense all the indefenite possibilities which may occur in the future. In this sense, my graduation, my children, my friends till old age, holidays – all the things on which one reflects back in old age are already present in a certain sense in youth. And for this reason, I can cast my mind towards them and feel close to friends not as a function of when I will next see them, but as a function which supervenes on all the possible times I will see them, for the rest of life.
(philosophical recapitulation: what it means for my life to already contain my own death, is that it also contains all my other possibilities although less definitely so.)
One thought on “Decadence, Wonder, Love”
My inclination is that your predilection for the questioning of the notion romantic love (from a coffee shop nonetheless – see next point) in no way represents a decrease in your level of decadence.
Casually pondering your decadence from a position of privilege and comfort, especially without resolving to change, seems almost hyper-decadent. The charge is not one of hypocrisy, as I may have also just crossed that line (at least I’m not in a coffee shop right now, and dislike coffee), but one of conceptual clarity.
My esteem for you increased upon your usage of the term “modern hipster-student”.
The fact that your death is an inevitable conclusion and therefore possibly allows for meaning and authenticity in your life by no means establishes that other future possibilities will happen, or are accessible to your consciousness. Neither does your appeal to your character, or the statistically average Canadian. While I can agree who you are now helps direct future possibilities, and that it is reasonable to assume your life will likely follow the societal average in some rough fashion, these things still haven’t happened until – to put it so bluntly and idiotically – they happen. I’m hyping the simple point made by commonsense, but you’re denying the potentiality of a radical schism – that your life might be altered in a drastic and unpredictable fashion. Death is the best example of this, and you’ve acknowledged that it might come at any moment, but the specific examples you give to support your conceptual approach of treating the theoretical standpoint of your death as the realization of the possibilities that have and will make up your life are presently accessible, in some sense, suspends the insight of death by defusing the unexpectedness (in the sense of surprise/suddenness) of it. You might not have children, or friends till old age, so this doesn’t appear to be deeply existential to me, but merely the observation that we can direct (dare I even say “waste”) considerable mental power towards non-existent objects.