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Vol. 5 No. 2 (2022): Dwelling in the Contemporary Condition

"Even Now There Are Places Where a Thought Might Grow—"

  • Anne O'Byrne
February 9, 2023


The world is full of unattended nooks, places known to no one living, places hidden from all but a few, places unheard-of, not quite remembered, yet to be discovered or rediscovered, places vastly remote and others close to where we are right now. That is to say, the world is riddled with contingency. It is a condition of worldliness, merely the case, neither here nor there. But among those sites are places haunted by suffering, even cruelty, and our not knowing them is a cause for concern. Contingency is at work here too—the claim that emanates from such a place may or may not be heard—but now our failure to hear it is a question for us. The very universality of contingency turns out to be trivial, and dwelling on it turns out to be a way of ignoring the suffering that it not permitted to register. Once such a place—of unjust imprisonment, of industrial dying, of disposal—presents itself to consciousness, our not having seen it before is shocking. How can we not have known? What else have we failed to hear?