I have wanted to write this for awhile now, ever since I read that beautiful masterpiece of HHhH by Binet. He really did write a masterful work of history, gripping, agitatingly accurate, but there was also something that rubbed me the wrong way. It was his incessant talk of his girlfriends, one by one he would talk about how they loved him and how perfect they were together and then they would just be gone, or worse he’d add how things ended, which is never a pleasant matter. As maddening as his arrogant commentary on his love life was, it illuminates the hope that like moths to the flame we cling to. He and all of us seem to be so dependent on these fickle relationships. Our hope is that it’s going to “work out” and all will be hunky-dory.
We try to force life to work, we try to force history to conform to our whims and will. We all want our stories, our very own histories to turn out well, to end “happily ever after”. Many of us realize that life is tragic, and so we do all we can to avoid turning our lives into a tragedy. But perhaps life doesn’t work like that, perhaps it’s not just choosing between a tragedy and a fairy tale. Perhaps, we try to coerce fate to meet our wants because we see our story as being something that we alone can change. We want a grand narrative, at the helm of which we are. But history’s not just a grand narrative told by one being, indeed it is a collective project worked on and never finished, in fact maybe it’s unfinishable. An unfinished portrait, a scene on a Grecian Urn that never plays out, like Rodin’s Michelangelo’s Slaves, a sculpture reaching towards nothingness never taking shape, in a sense being formless, but at the same time being worked on by countless hands each building and destroying until it takes a form? That is history.