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Column: Desire For The Change Demands Substance For Fulfillment

This story was written by Peter Johnston, Yale Daily News

What is one to think the morning after? The passion that reached itsclimax the night before, giving way to a hazy afterglow and eventuallysleep, is now cold and distant. Think about it long enough and thestirrings of desire return, but not in the same way.

The deed is accomplished; any reenactment resembles aftershocksrather than the initial quake. The consummation only happens once. Theprior concern desire and fulfillment is replaced by two questions.Has the consummation given rise to new life? If so, will that life becarried to term and brought into the world?

Consider the first question. At issue is whether theconsummation was real or imagined. That is, whether the climacticmoment occurred in the context of generative possibility, or in achimera of longing and hope. Much of the rhetoric indicated the latter.We are the change weve been waiting for is a self-indulgent fantasy.And the substance often matched the rhetoric, foretelling no more thanthe transcending of an existing malaise. The promise of change overthe power of the status quo.

The problem with such substance is that it prescribes nothingbeyond the triumph. It dramatizes and heightens anticipation for aglorious moment of liberation without painting a vision of thesubsequent world. Change on its own means nothing after the climax.And if the climax is everything, the context of its realization matterslittle.

It should not be surprising that film was the most effective medium for this message. Film inspires, arouses.Directors whet the appetite of the viewer, then pull back, rhythmicallysaturating his mind with desire. The anticipation is heightened bycontrast. The status quo is not merely the privation of change, but acosmic stain, a storm that hasnt quite passed yet, as in one videoshot in Fredericksburg, Va.

Sometimes the skies look cloudy, and its dark, and you thinkthe rains will never pass. But as long as all of us are together, aslong as we are all committed, then theres nothing we cant do. Panacross a cheering throng with a rain-beaded lens, light flittingthrough upstretched arms, increasing intensity in the insistent guitar.The manufactured moment is a type of that to come, a hope pointingbeyond itself. It may look dark tonight, but if I hold on to hope,tomorrow will be brighter.

But however vapid the message, however infertile itscharacteristic medium, last nights consummation occurred in a contextof generative possibility. The intimations of the last two years mayhave been fantastical, but last night was distinctive as the confluenceof the forces of flesh and blood. The consummation has given rise tonew life a vision the world after the triumph. The vision is at anearly, embryonic stage, and the former object of projected aspirationsis now the vessel of that vision. Will the vessel carry the vision toterm and bring it into the world? Will the life be aborted orstillborn?

The father of the new life is the sovereign the people. Theproper purpose of a vision is to inspire, but law is concerned withformulas, which only inspire in opposition to other formulas. After thetriumph, law has no power to inspire; that is, law is nothing butpower. The sovereign is living flesh capable of generating a vision;the law is dead formulae the consummation of which can only lead tosomething unnatural. The first lesson for the vessel is this: to saythat law is the father would be to abort the vision.

Life cannot develop without appropriate nourishment. A visioncannot grow without the witness of history. History is full of progressand regress, of sanctification and degradation. As the intimation ofequality impresses events with the character of progress, the testimonyof nostalgia tempers triumphalism. The second lesson for the vessel:feed the vision with the fllness of history, else it will arrivestillborn.

Many videos of the last two years concluded with a sun risingover a horizon. One memorable example insisted, coincident with theemerging sun, your voice can change the world. The message is onlytrue for the vessel, who may deliver a new vision in seventy-six days.But the language of seventy-six, tied to legal formulae and shallowhistory, would forestall any such delivery, revealing nothing in itsplace but murder and deformation.

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