An unfolding moment

Posted April 27, 2024 · 2 min read

Yesterday, my friend MD and I spent the day wandering around. In the afternoon we found ourselves at the Whitney Biennial, which described itself in part as the following (emphasis mine):

a provocative yet intimate experience of distinct and disparate voices that collectively probe the cracks and fissures of the unfolding moment. … [A]rtists demonstrate … ways to come together even in a fractured time.

The juxtaposition between these key phrases was interesting to me — "a fractured time" felt like it rang true, but somehow contradicted "the unfolding moment". It seems to me that my experience of the world has fractured sufficiently from other people's such that the moment unfolding for me is very different than for someone else.

I don't know if life has often felt like this and I'm experiencing it for the first time as a young adult, or if the landscape of media and technology has shifted to bring this about, but it does feel like the sheer volume and variety of information available has inhibited the development of a shared understanding of what's going on — "the unfolding moment". I've noticed this especially at work when my colleagues and I discuss current events: our personalities, locations, and feeds of choice lead us to diverging notions, not only of what's actually occurring, but what's important to pay attention to or care about.

Sometimes, when I have conversations with people who have very different intuitions or beliefs about what might happen in the future, I really question my own sense-making. It can be hard to feel out where I might be wrong versus where my reality is different enough that it's reasonable to have a different set of concerns.

Ultimately, though, I think the experience of feeling alienated from other people and their understanding of the world is more distressing than having difficulties assembling a collective intuition for what may happen next. There's something reassuring about feeling like "everyone is in this together", even if the situation is bleak, and I feel unsettled without that reassurance. The sentiment falls apart when I don't even know what the "this" is.

I doubt there are easy conclusions or solutions to this phenomenon; if there are, I haven't discovered them yet. My suspicion is that the rate of change of the world is increasing much more rapidly than any of the ways we know how to cope with changes, and that this is one of the many byproducts of that difference.

My attitude thus far has been to turn to pragmatism as my guiding philosophy, where I turn from wondering what is true (which is difficult) to what is useful (which is… tractable?). And for now, thinking too much about this has exhausted its usefulness to me… so it's back to enjoying "Outlive" on my train ride for me!


Julia Cooke © 2024