Getting to know Walter Benjamin

I am currently learning about Walter Benjamin, a well known philosopher, sociologist, literary critic, translator, essayist.  Below is an interesting quote that I recently came across today. I think this is helpful and some what relevant to the way I am trying to think about the past and the present. I don’t necessary agree with everything that is implied in this quote but I think it is an interesting way of analyzing time. The underlined lines are my favorite part of this excerpt.

‘One of the most remarkable characteristics of human nature,’ writes Lotze, ‘is, alongside so much selfishness in specific instances, the freedom from envy which the present displays toward the future.’ Reflection shows us that our image of happiness is thoroughly colored by the time to which the course of our own existence has assigned us. The kind of happiness that could arouse envy in us exists only in the air we have breathed, among people we could have talked to, women who could have given themselves to us. In other words, our image of happiness is indissolubly bound up with the image of redemption. The same applies to our view of the past, which is the concern of history. The past carries with it a temporal index by which it is referred to redemption. There is a secret agreement between past generations and the present one. Our coming was expected on earth. Like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed with a weak Messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim. That claim cannot be settled cheaply. Historical materialists are aware of that.

I will keep looking up more interesting works and see how they relate to my work as I develop my ideas.

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