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Saturday, November 19, 2005


Malinconia del Presente

Our sense of reality has a certain inertia.  The avant-garde lives in the future, most people live the present and big companies and institutions lurk in the past and ancient history.

When you are used to work on the edge of media and technology and live a life of enhanced interaction via the web, having to interact with certain companies and institutions gives you the feeling of having entered a parallel steampunk world where high science rubs elbows with 19th century bureaucracy.

It inspires tenderness to watch an institution trying to come to terms with a certain technology, while the rest of the world has already moved to some new cheaper more efficient medium. 

When I find myself in one of these situation I experience a strange sensation that I term 'melancholy of the present'.  I will try to explain what I mean.

Imagine yourself watching an old yellowed picture from the twenties or the fifties, showing a man standing proud in front of his brand new sport car, dressing with the bourgeois fashion of the times. 

How does it make you feel?  It will probably give you a weird bitter-sweet retro feeling.  You can feel the naive smug and pride of the man, feeling a paragon of elegance and technological prowess.  At the same time you know how terribly out of date heis, and how embarassing that would have felt to him.

Now imagine you could go back to those times and be there, with that man and see that car, that world.  You would look at it and you would feel all its fragility and transient nature.  The self-satisfied rhetoric of the time would make it feel even more fragile and impermanent, while underlying the childlike innocent nature of those people.

Now imagine that that old picture was taken in the present and somehow you have felt the future, and suddenly you are back to the present time and you can feel the traces of archaisms that you just know are going to die out and become a simble of ancient times.  And you feel the frailty and impermanence and somehow love this time with all its adolescent certainties and blatant weaknesses.

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