I chose the title “An End to Oblivion” because it has been my aim to impart, partly to myself and partly to others, that it is necessary, most necessary now in our critical juncture as a species, to start affirming life over the threat of Oblivion... It would be highly convenient if, as a society, it would be as simple as saying “enough is enough,” to declare that Oblivion, that darkness that permeates the philosophy of today, the myth, that deep resignation that corrupts our public officials, that gives dark heart to our business ventures, and seems to color every step we put forward, was at an end, something we could put to bed.
Oblivion is never far from today’s realities, and there is a conclusion among those who would be active in taking these life-affirming stances that the dye has already been cast, and that it is impossible to pull back now in the face of our obstacles, whether public or private. The environmental crisis of this great oil spill, which as I write right now is still gushing forth thousands upon thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, is but another signifier of this fact. One feels only the terror of helplessness as it unfolds...
We have seen the great cobblestone of the 20th century grind to dust the possibility of individual dignity, and put into question not how we are to live together, but whether or not that is possible. Self-preservation and promotion are now the paragons of virtue in our time. Consumption is another. We all seem helpless as we ride the wheel of bodily needs, under the yokes of the gun and the stomach.
The youth are left with a sense that the future doesn’t exactly belong to them. It seems already determined by businessmen whose mantra is profit at any expense, and who live completely outside of the bounds of any political ideology or institution.
In the music world, we saw the unleashing of dissonant forces in the idea that tonality didn’t express the reality of 20th century life, that tonal harmonies and constructs were fascistic, escapist, or bourgeois. They were partially correct; though, composers then eventually huddled into a kind of “cult of atonality,” and denied life and tonality before
they would embrace it. It is thus that the greatest life affirmers of the past were looked upon as fascistic, or, at worse, dated, in the eyes of the growing modernist cult of “progress”. They too were ground to dust in the great cobblestone of the 20th century.
“To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Theodor Adorno uttered these words in 1949. One might say the same thing about Hiroshima, or Vietnam. It proposes a very serious question: how are we to write poetry and music when we are drowned in an age of horror and barbarism? Is art what our society really needs?
The words of Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay “Nature” speak to me in this regard: “Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?” I feel a sense that the question of this title is greater than I could respond to, but it is still a dare I’d like to make to myself and to those who are reading this: Can we take the steps to declaring an End to Oblivion? Is it still possible to hope?
We must stare straight into the spirit of the times. It is my hope that at the end of that death stare, we will come out will an affirmation of life, one informed by the trials of the process itself. In “An End to Oblivion”, it is this affirmation I’ve endeavored to represent.