My old philosophy professor Norman O. Brown would periodically interrupt his lectures, tilt his head upward as if tuning in to the whisper of some heavenly voice, and announce in a puckish tone, “It’s time for your irregular reminder: We’re already living after the end of the world. No need to fret anymore.”
The implication was that the worst had already happened. We had lost much of the cultural riches that had given humans meaning for centuries. All that was going to be taken from us had already been taken.
On the bright side, that meant we were utterly free to reinvent ourselves. Living amidst the emptiness, we had nowhere to go but up. What remained was alienating, but it was also fresh.
Working from the hypothesis that you’re living after the end of the world, what are you free to do that you weren’t able to do before? Who are you free to be?
It’s been a rough year. I think we can all use a little pronoia.