:: Article

On What Is

By Christopher Clifton.

On the Nature of the Debt

The necessity to pay has been revealed in countless signs to be interpreted as letters of demand that must be answered. Intensifying heat, melting ice, rising seas, violent storms, drought, flooding, failing crops, mass migrations, and extinctions: what they point to is impossible to say except in terms of future finance, or the terms by which the presence of the debt may be restructured. That the nature of those terms cannot be thought about with any understanding in advance of their acceptance is no reason not to hope that that might happen. To continue to depend upon this debt without attending to those letters of demand will only lead to that which cannot be accepted. Our hope is in the coming of the contract.


The Terms of Finance

In relation to the difficulties faced, it may be helpful to remember that relief is incompatible with any kind of willing to succeed, and with impatience. For the finance will be relevant to that which is, not that which may be wished for. The investment in the sun – to use an obvious example – had proceeded in the manner of a slow negotiation of the necessary terms that were not favourable to any human plan. Nonetheless they were consistent with the kind of happy outcome such a plan might have envisioned, which was waiting to be brought to light by finance: where a problem to avoid became an unexpected answer to go on with. Technological components have not altered the reality to which they were applied, but have enabled it to be what it would be. They are a part of what they act on, not its cause: the invention of technology is not about design, but letting be. It follows that the relevance of finance to the problems of the world is in its relevance to being, not to purposeful creation.

To come to terms with, or to reach another figure of the debt is a financial operation that needs patience. For the debt cannot be paid by its own substance, in the sense that it may never be accounted for from any point of view that is within the debt itself. That a figure has been reached can only signify that what has been accounted has been faithfully discharged, and is no longer a concern. There is nothing to be done but to allow for this to happen.


For the Next World

The terms of our relation have not even come to light, much less been settled. But perhaps it is this need to come to terms that is the sense of our relation. They are always yet to come. It is in keeping with this absence of relation that we find ourselves together, and at one. Such unity requires us to abandon every interest in the world that is at risk of termination, and accept our situation. The world to come may even be defined by such disinterested acceptance – as a promise to fulfil forever after.

The contract is to come, but also endlessly behind us. It has never been a choice – and there is nothing else to save us.

Christopher Clifton lives in Australia. His treatise Of the Contract is published by Punctum Books, and his fiction can be found here.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, May 13th, 2019.