The Battle Against the Hyperpresent.

“Because to tell the truth, nothing happens anymore. Nothing any longer has the time to happen. There is no duration left for anything to unfold in. Nothing can anchor itself in the world long enough to make sense. While the present still has a duration, the hyperpresent no longer does.” – After Death, Francois J Bonnet

It’s a feeling I imagine many of the listeners of my podcast feel on an almost daily basis, myself included. In fact, I think it’s an age-old feeling which once only used to appear in momentary life-events, but which now appears almost constantly throughout the passage of everyday existence. The feeling that everything is passing you by, and yet, you can’t really discern what ‘everything’ is. There was never time to work with it, to homogenize it in some form, to play around with it, to mess about, to truly feel or think about it. At most one seems only to get the chance to have a tertiary glance at a single iota of existence before it trails off into a confusion.

Bonnet’s ‘hyperpresent’ is much alike the ‘nanopresent’ I wrote of in an earlier piece. The increasing slicing up of time into smaller and smaller pieces, until all one is left with is a nano-second of time, not enough to ever feel informed. The situation seems helpless, how can one battle the ensuing mass of accelerated time and come out the other side still sane? Unfortunately, it’s once again a question of definitions. Those who are willingly entering into this carousel of time – which can only be defined as schizophrenic – are those who we should deem insane, for with sanity comes a stability, with insanity a constant turbulence. This is why I define the time we live in as schizophrenic. For if we take just 3 common symptoms of schizophrenia: multiple (often conflicting) identifications, inability to articulate meaning due to excess signification, and an accelerated pace towards the supposedly new – we can see that the time of modernity is completely schized.

In an instant nothing can grow. We exist in a paradoxical phenomenological time which seeks to destroy its own essence as a temporality. Modernity wishes for time to be space. As Beings with the apparent functions to interpret data we believe ourselves to always have one-over modernity, as if because we push the buttons, this truly means we are in charge. I would ask you of course to look around, to…look our your windows! Is the man who sits in a daily traffic jam, raging at his predicament, is he in charge? Is the woman slumped in-front of a PC screen 8 hours a day doing accounts ‘in charge’? Are the collective sleeping mass who scroll through addictive apps all day ‘in charge’? The answer is of course obvious, and I mean this not as some neo-Luddite screed against technology.

Each days presents us with a mass of conflicting information and paradoxes which we seek to untangle, and yet, the only means to untangle this web is the means which we’re given by the said paradoxes. In modernity one is entering into loops of identity at all times. Modernity wishes for you to lose your self. Each day also presents us with such an overwhelming quantity of signifiers and symbols, that we quite literally lack the ability to ever correlate anything given to us within a single instant. We are always left with a decision between ignorance or the labyrinth. And yet, this inability to correlate anything and everything given to us is also accelerating. When we look to the past we find something already changed, when we look to the future we see only static, and when we look to the present it has already disappeared from beneath us. Our ontology is floating dangerously, allowing itself to be pulled back and forth by the wills and whims of techonomic demiurge. And yet, I still believe, it can be beaten.

I think all can be incorporated, and I also believe that any idea or ideology which makes you emotionally hostile – as opposed to intellectually inquisitive – towards your surroundings is one which is both skewed and dangerous. I write often of ‘Exiting Modernity’, yet, this is not synonymous with hating modernity, or revolting against modernity. If one revolts in the manner of aggression against an addiction they find themselves being drawn in by its power. If one is exerting excess energy towards/against the modern world it has already won! It is – generally speaking – best to become informed of your enemy’s tactics and put your energy towards shielding yourself, as opposed to using your energies in an offensive. A good defense is a great offence. Let modernity try and take you, let it squander its precious resources on someone who is ready for it.

How does one begin the ‘Battle Against the Hyperpresent’ then? What are the aims, objectives and strategies of the enemy? Hell, who is the enemy? The enemy is clever in that it foremost wishes to avoid definition. Some of us have locked onto the word ‘modernity’ as an encapsulation of that feeling, ‘something is wrong and I can’t put my finger on it’. There are other names found within other traditions. But for me, modernity works well because it doesn’t attempt to remove what’s happening from what’s happening. It’s all very well saying that what’s going on right now is part of some much larger plan or goal, but what can we do with what we have right now? This is where any practical battle can begin. We have little in the way of material, for that has largely been co-opted by modernity as a means to satisfying artificially created desire. But we do have something, we have ourselves, we have our attention.

Attention for me is where any great battle begins. If you re-read what I just wrote about how modernity works, how it manages to infiltrate into every nook-and-cranny of daily life, one will notice that in almost all instances it is attempting to degrade out ability to pay attention. It seeks to have us believe that we can have everything at a moment’s notice, without thought for payment, patience or production. If one does not pay for something they will not value it. If one does not work at something they will not empathize with it. And if one does not produce something they will not understand it. Modernity removes each and every single one of these factors by way of credit, addictive mechanisms and consumerism.

Attention is (firstly) the means to assess your situation. What are you paying attention to? Because when one is paying attention they are paying with something of their own, be it money or time – though it’s usually the latter. Our battle against the hyperpresent begins then with an inner-battle with the Will. Once again it is a question of questioning and being attentive to that which pulls you around. Why is it that life seems to be passing you by? Well it may very well be because you simply aren’t paying attention to life. When was the last time you truly remember savoring a meal? Paying attention to the taste, texture and feel of the food, allowing it to be more than some matter which fires off random chemicals within your biology. Or what about a simple walk? When was the last time you truly paid attention to your surroundings? Truly noticing the trees and pathways you take on a daily basis.

A great practical resource for this is – and I’ll be using his work a lot in the coming months I believe – what George Gurdjieff called ‘self-remembering’. Put simply, one is to remember themselves as much as possible. A portion of your conscious action should be of being conscious of being conscious…of being. Self-remembering and being-present are not the same, though abstractly they serve the same purpose. When one becomes overly emotional, overly attached, or identified with some idea of brand to the extent of a personal automatism, they have lost their self…they have forgotten themselves. What is this which takes us away from ourselves I do not know, for Gurdjieff it was one of many Is, one of many internal personalities which seek to derail our authentic way of being. When the Hyperpresent begins to attend to your reality, begins to barrage you with the minute and incessant comings-and-goings of modernity, do not let your self be pulled by that which you never asked for in the first place. Remember to self-remember. Remember yourself, focus on being. Whether or not there is an emotion, a thought, a presence, an analysis, there is still something observing, and that which is observing (the Observer) you should turn your attention towards. Become part of yourself by becoming your own Master.

“Not one of you has noticed the most important thing that I have pointed out to you,” he said. “That is to say, not one of you has noticed that you do not remember yourselves.” (He gave particular emphasis to these words.) “You do not feel yourselves; you are not conscious of yourselves. With you, ‘it observes’ just as ‘it speaks,’ ‘it thinks,’ ‘it laughs.’ You do not feel: I observe, I notice, I see. Everything still ‘is noticed,’ ‘is seen.’ … In order really to observe oneself one must first of all remember oneself.” (He again emphasized these words.) “Try to remember yourselves when you observe yourselves and later on tell me the results. Only those results will have any value that are accompanied by self­remembering. Otherwise you yourselves do not exist in your observations. In which case what are all your observations worth?” – In Search of the Miraculous, P.D. Ouspensky

The Battle Against the Hyperpresent cannot be fought on its own battlefield, but within the inner processes of a single man. One can disallow the hyperpresent to possess them. One can hold fast against the ensuing waves by being-present and attentive, questioning and stepping-back from all that tries to attack. Slowly but surely, man bolsters himself against the wave of the uncertain, anchoring his remembrance of his self in reality. Beginning a new from a position of the authentic.

2 thoughts on “The Battle Against the Hyperpresent.

  1. Very interesting essay. I guess the work of Zygmunt Bauman might be highly relevant for other people interested in the topic (liquid modernity and detemporalization in particular). Harmut Rosa might be another relevant author.

    I kinda prefer the term “detemporalization”. I think it would be great if writers and researchers agreed on a term to make discussion about it more accessible.

    Even in popular culture meditation and mindfulness seem to keep gaining acceptance, so more serious conversation about “detemporalization” and attention could find a place somewhere too. I intuitively agree that many people must have this feeling, but it seems like a complicated topic for research, hard to make quantitative statements about it.

  2. Thanks for the thought-provoking read, metanomad. I certainly feel the ‘hyperpresent’, but the cure prescribed by Gurdjieff seems contrary to my personal experience. I find myself preoccupied with the sort of metacognition that might be understood by “self-remembering”. In fact, conscious “self-remembering” has become a bit of a hook for me, for personal traits could be medicalised as anxiety, depression, obsession, and so on. I’ve found it much more useful to forget myself, and engage with anything and everything else more fully. In that regard, meditation has been very helpful. Something interesting happens when I meditate, which is that I stop identifying with my internal narrative, and I become more conscious of myself as the world presents itself to me, internal and external, unmediated by conceptual thought. Maybe that’s what Gurdjieff was getting at?

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