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Alejandro de Acosta – The Impossible, Patience

The Anarchist Library

2022 04 15
https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/alejandro-de-acosta-the-impossible-patience?v=1650048470

Author: Alejandro de Acosta
Title: The Impossible, Patience
Subtitle: Critical Essays 2007-2013
Date: 2014
Notes: The Impossible, Patience was originally published by Little Black Cart in book form and can be found here.
Source: Retrieved from archive.org

Introduction: Proximity
The book’s form

As I wrote the essays gathered in this collection I passed from one writing plan to another. Around seven or eight years ago, following instructive reading of Montaigne, Hume, and Gracián, I had conceived a plan to compose a series of essays. Each would defend an indefensible thesis or at least inhabit a difficult, paradoxical perspective.[1] This was partly out of sheer appreciation for the form and a consequent desire to explore it, but also out of a need to find a way to express what I had to say, insofar as I sometimes felt myself beyond common sense, in a less than prescriptive voice. I was not disposed to continue writing in the prose that composed some of my first published forays into the topics discussed here, which are perhaps more articles or papers than essays. It occurred to me to splice contradiction and abstraction into the flexibility and personable tone of the essay (thus the inclusion of Gracián—certainly not an essayist—in the above list), adding some of the terse contrariness of the thesis. It seemed to me this would prove healthy in two respects: it would save me from the destiny of a certain prose, called “academic” by its detractors, and also, perhaps, counteract what I perceived (and ever more continue to perceive) as the linguistic rigidity around some vibrant subversive projects and in most anti-political conversations. But as the years after 2010 unfolded, I found myself less in the mode of composing essays serially and largely in solitude, according to my older plan, and more in one of dialogue with people from the North American anarchist space or milieu[2]—responding to requests for contributions, or simply acknowledging the appearance of interesting new persons, discussions, readings, and events. In that way a plan for a book of essays on previously selected topics (seduction, boredom, survival, solitude, masks, etc.) changed into the more sequential order of the present collection.[3]

Another way of describing the newer plan of the collection is to note the following. Three essays placed in the middle were written in dialogue with… what is the appropriate designation in this context? Poets? Artists? Creators of difficult creations? In any case, writers who belong to the history of the anarchist Idea, but are rarely discussed in the company I have been keeping: Fénéon, Cage, Duncan. Rather than section these three pieces off in a section on literature or language, or, worse, publish them elsewhere, I opted to insert them into what would have otherwise been a sequence (a syllabus?) of essays where anti-political and nihilist themes deepened, in oblique directions, my explication of that Idea. As I noted, the shift from serial composition to a dialogical mode introduced into the essays a more linear, developmental structure, as if the effects of conversation had led me to more of an explicit parti pris. It seems important to me both to retain something of that structure for the reader and to interrupt it. Otherwise I run the risk of composing a book of theory about nihilist anarchy, something no one needs. If, in the interpolated essays, the engagement with these three figures (as well as that eternal outsider, d.a. levy) remains in the mode of introduction and allusion, I think it’s because I suspected and continue to suspect that many of my readers either have no sense of them as writers or cannot connect what sense they have to anarchist practice—least of all an anarchist practice of reading or writing! Which is all to say that I wrote these pieces to some extent in a teaching mode. I am glad to have touched upon each of these writers here, if only because to name and honor them in my own way constitutes an assertive response to a certain expectation of sloppy writing that characterizes the anarchist space.

If there is a note of patience in these essays about matters that drive people around me to great impatience, then I suppose that I have found it, among other places, in the form itself. I take it that an essay is primarily an exploration of ideas, and only secondarily an exposition. Expectation of getting to the point is replaced by invention of a wandering line in and as the essay. Mine are also informed by a kind of egoism that authorizes me, in its peculiarly empty way, to make whatever I am concerned with my own, as I impersonate the social outsider I often, but with no real certainty, feel myself to be. So to the paradoxical formulation of confounding theses I now add this paradox of form, that the sociable genre of the essay can be deployed so antagonistically at times. In saying so I am respectfully acknowledging those that inspired me to write essays, reassuring all those who think there is something fake at work here that they are indeed correct, and, hopefully, amusing everyone else.

The title’s punctuation

Bill Haver used to say that to think the most important questions one simultaneously requires a infinite patience and infinite impatience. In the coincidence between some friends’ will to destruction and the brevity of most attention spans I sense the infinity of impatience. Omniprevalent rushing to action, conclusions, or whatever is next in the feed does make one feel that patience has never been less possible. But that is just a feeling, something like a premonition, not much more; the present situation is full of dreadful affective indices. Here some minimal resistance, some uncanny intuition, informs me that a strangely infinite patience may still be coupled with our familiar infinite impatience. And that is why the title is not Impossible Patience. Patience is sometimes difficult, but it is hardly impossible. What is impossible is the realization of the Idea of anarchy (which is why many friends, unwitting Platonists, call it the Beautiful Idea). What is impossible would be to fully assume, to truly embody, the resistant positions (quasi-positions, really, as they are anti-political rather than political) most often referred to in this book.