Saturday, July 16, 2005

somewhere in eternity

AFter Babel argues that it is the constructive powers of language to conceptualize the world which have been crucial to man's survival in the face of ineluctable biological constraints, this is to say in the face of death. It is the miraculous - I don't retract the term - capacity of grammars to generate counter-factuals, 'if'-propositions and, above all, future tenses, which have empowered our species to hope, to reach far beyond the extinction of the individual. We endure, we endure creatively due to our imperative ability to say 'No' to reality, to build fictions of alterity, of dreamt or awaited 'otherness' for our consciousness to inhabit. It is in this precise sense that the utopian and messianic are figures of syntax.

George Steiner. Introduction to After Babel. 3rd ed. 1998. p. xiv.

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