Welcoming our Spectres

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Hauntology is a science of what returns. It is what returns to haunt us. It shows us that time and space are out of joint. It takes us to the boundary between being and non-being. It is a critical lens to view the complexity of our life. It shows how we are influenced by the virtual, the spectral. It manifests how the spectre returns to demonstrates that all present fails. In fact, there is no absolute or fullest present. Nothing except perhaps the divine can be self-present to itself. Everything remains in the coming. As such our present often becomes the future of the past as well as anticipation of the future. The present can never present. Our past is past and the future is the future but our present is haunted by our past and the future. This makes our present ephemeral. Hauntology indicates that all ontology is a haunted ontology. Hauntology opens us to understand our hopes and anxieties. It examines how we got where we are by scrutinizing our past failed aspirations as well as hope-filled future orientations. Hauntology, therefore, enables us to make sense of our present by exposing how we are living with the past and the future.

The past is gone but it keeps returning to haunt the present. Hauntology thus enables us to think past, present and future in new ways. Haunting looks back to the point that is forward to the future from the moment of the present. In doing so it signals towards a legacy and a promise to what is to come drawing our attention to the structuring role of absence. This indicates that the present is haunted by multiple temporalities. The spectre calls us to anachrony. It de-synchronizes our temporal as well as spatial experience. The spectres interrupt and disrupt our present by presenting alternative pasts and futures. They challenge the fixity of the temporal. Thus, in an act of returning that which has happened and that which is yet to come, the spectre haunts our present. This happens through what we may call a mechanism of disjointing, disjunction and disproportion. It is in this manner that the spectre takes us to them so as to facilitate the shaping of the present and the coming of the future. This means the return of the spectre marks a beginning and not the end and pushes us to let the present and future be shaped on the spectral lines. The burden of the past laid on the present by the spectre opens several possibilities of that which came before. This is why the present can never be present. It is always haunted by the past and the present. It de-synchronizes time. There is no pure present. All that we have is contaminated or tainted present.

Maybe we have to heed the invites of Jacques Derrida to live with the ghosts/ spectres. He exhorts us to be hospitable with them. But this decision to welcome the spectre is a difficult one. It is an unconditional welcome. We have to be open to the spectre that remains in the coming. We have to learn to engage with the spectre to free ourselves from its burden. The engagement with the spectre is dialogic. It does not just highlight the precarious nature of the present but opens us to the possibilities to take control of the past, present and future to some extent. We can never have full mastery over our present, past and future. The spectre does not lead us to closures but opens our possibilities to enter the future. When we try to gain some control over the spectre, we enter the zone of possibility. But when we welcome the spectre unconditionally, we enter the impossible zone and do the impossible. The spectre comes from the past but casts new vistas on the future. What seems to be upfront/ frontal comes from the back/ dorsal. This is why it is difficult to distinguish between the future to come and the coming back of the spectre. The spectre of the past appears as the promise of the future. The haunting of the spectre sets us on a task/ mission to usher in the promised future. This something to be done cannot be a return of the past. The spectre sets in place a different future. Hence, we have to be attentive to the manner in which the spectre ruptures the present. We have the ethical responsibility to listen to the spectre and discern what has been and could be otherwise.

We cannot allow the present to be oversaturated with the past. Following Heidegger, we can choose repeatable possibilities and lessons from the past as well open us to what Derrida tells about the manner in which the spectre opens new possibilities for the future. It is in dialogue with the spectre that we can choose to shape a future that is not a future of some past or some present. We can do the impossible by letting the future be the future. opening ourselves unconditionally to the spectre, we may be enabled to respond singularly and hence, shape the future by singular discernment rather than following the generic/ tradition-based ways of shaping the future. This is how the future will not just be shaped by our singular action but the future itself will shape us and fortify our singularity.

This shows that we can also understand our past, present and future in a new light when we welcome, listen and respond to the spectre. This means we no longer are objects of history but will be enabled to historize and temporalize and shape ourselves as well as our future that is both individual and collective. Hence, we have to accept that we are always haunted. It is only by listening to the spectres that haunt us that we can understand where our hauntologies are taking us. We have the freedom to choose or reject the direction opened by our hautologies. Even that which we choose is a result of our dialogic engagement with the spectre and hence our choices that we make to shape us and our future will always remain haunted.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao