Tag Archives: metamorphosis

A Compass for the Twenty-First Century

“In the technocratic version of environmental politics,” writes Ulrich Beck in a critical passage of The Metamorphosis of the World, “carbon emissions become the measure of all things.” But for Beck this is inadequate. “Climate change risk is far more than a problem of measures of carbon dioxide and production of pollution”:

Nor does it signal only a crisis of human self understanding. More than that, global climate risk signals new ways of being, looking, hearing and acting in the world — highly ambivalent, open-ended, without any foreseeable outcome.

…the past is reproblematized through the imagination of a threatening future. Norms and imperatives that guided decisions in the past are re-evaluated through the imagination of a threatening future. From that follow alternative ideas for capitalism, law, consumerism, science…etc.

Alternative ideas, or at least a new set of expectations and beliefs. Global climate risk

creates the expectation (sometimes even the conviction) that a reformation of institutions (law, politics, economy, technological practices, consumption and lifestyles) is now urgent, morally imperative and politically possible, even if it fails at conferences and in politics.

“The global risk of climate change”, he concludes, provides a “compass for the twenty-first century. Yet…it is an open question where this compass leads us. There is an enormous discrepancy between normative expectations and political action.”

The enormous discrepancy between expectation and action also describes an enormous field of political possibility. This is where our responsibility comes into play.

The dream worm

I had a strange dream last night. Or was it a dream? To call it merely a dream doesn’t account for the sneezing fit it brought on. Or the sneezing fit that brought it on. I am still not sure which is the case.

I saw, and I felt, a tiny wormlike creature fly quickly into my left nostril. It was as if I felt it, and at the same moment in my dream state I created a picture to understand what I felt. But I can’t really say whether my body simulated the experience of my dream or whether my dream accounted for my body’s experience.

A worm flew into my nostril. The flying worm was smaller than the tiniest centipede, the size of a nose hair (which is what I am telling myself this morning it was, a stray nose hair I inhaled).

As I imagined the worm making his way through my sinuses and to my brain I began to sneeze; or as I began to sneeze I imagined the worm making his way through my sinuses and into my brain. In any case, the sneezing fit became so violent that it woke me and got me out of bed, my body leading my spirit out of sleep and trying to purge itself of the dream worm.

I sneezed five, six, seven times. No sign of the worm.

Even this morning I worried that the dream worm is in fact a real worm. Having managed to survive the sneezing typhoon, the tiny creature has lodged itself in my brain, where it will do its work.

The worm has no grand strategy. He is there to do the work worms like him have done for ages, addling the brains of their hosts. He doesn’t do it overnight. And he does not do it alone.

The dream worm burrows deep inside the brain, tunneling his way through the delicate brain tissue, until he has lodged himself inside one of the nooks or cracks or crevices that you see in models and illustrations of the brain. He arrives at his niche fat and sated on tissue. Once situated, the worm enters a period of gestation, as if the brain were a giant soft cocoon, where a worm can wait. And, of course, turn — as worms will.

Being mortal the dream worm eventually will metamorphose: not into a butterfly but into a dream. And by the time this worm becomes the chrysalis of a dream my brain will be teeming with other worms, all waiting to be born into dreams. And by then, I sense, it will be too late for me.