September 11 and the Loss of Time
Things Hidden Have Been Revealed, and Now We’re Hurtling Toward the Finish Line
September 11, 2001, was a Tuesday. In 2021, it was a Saturday.
It is the opposite of what Ernest Hemingway called a Moveable Feast — it is a kind of Fixed Famine, which we remember on the same date each calendar year regardless of the day of the week it falls on.
It’s different than the first day of Advent, for example, which falls on the Sunday nearest to November 30 — but always a Sunday.
It seems to me that this day-of-the-week detail is not trivial. Maybe this is coming from my liturgical sensibility. But this year I am writing this reflection on a Sunday — only the morning after.
I just saw a man dressed as an eagle walk down my block. (It’s first Sunday of the NFL regular season. Philadelphia Eagles fan can be forgiven.)
But we are a nation that does not know how to mourn. In part because we have other rituals to keep us occupied.
Now it feels like I will have barely blinked my eyes and this Sunday will be over. I don’t think it’s the pandemic time-warp, or the fact that I’m getting older (we all are). I think it has to do with the fundamental loss of time and ritual and the institutions that have traditionally helped preserved them.
Decentralization must not become synonymous with individuation. Girard writes in his Resurrection from the Underground, about Dostoevesk’s “Notes from the Underground”:
Even though the underground hero occasionally talks about his freedom and he is free, indeed, in the sense that no one can prevent him from impoverishing his own life, he is very much aware that he always reacts to the stimulus of other people in exactly the same predictable way. He behaves like an automaton. As a result, his life, in spite of its constant unpheavels, is ultimately monotonous and repetitive… What Dostoevsky says to the laissez-faire philosophers is that, in a world as empty of transcendence as ours now is, if people are left to their own devices, many of them will choose the underground.
If I read him right, this is what Balaji Srinivasan is advocating. If I am reading him right, he is…