The shadow the future throws

In an interview that Illich recorded with his friend Douglas Lummis in Japan in the winter of 1986–87, Lummis asks him about a “possible future.” “To hell with the future,” Illich replies. “It’s a man-eating idol. Institutions have a future . . . but people have no future. People have only hope.”7

rivers-north-of-future-illichch. Preface

I will not allow the shadow of some brilliant future, of something which is to come, to fall on the concepts with which I try to grasp what is and what has been.

illich-in-conversationch. VI

The future should not be allowed to foreclose on today, even if today is foreclosing some possibilities in the future. No future is worth living or fighting for that is not existent in the present.

desertch. 55

I think it is a necessary condition for thinking and reflecting, both with meaningful and sensual words and clear and distinct ideas, to know that we have no future. There might be a tomorrow, but we have no future about which we can say anything, or about which we have any power. We are radically powerless and engage in conversation because we want to find out ways of extending our budding friendships to others who, with us, can enjoy the experience of their own powerlessness and our joint powerlessness. The people who speak about Gaia and global responsibility, and suppose that some fantasy we should do something about it, dance a crazy dance, which makes them mad. I am not an atom, nor am I a beauty. And as much as I love to look at you, you aren’t a beauty either — you are this David. A sense of being able to celebrate the present and celebrate it by using as little as possible, because it’s beautiful, not because it’s useful for saving the world, could create the dinner table which symbolizes opposition to that macabre dance of ecology, the dinner table where aliveness is consciously celebrated as the opposite of life.

illich-in-conversationch. X

The spectre that many try not to see is a simple realisation—the world will not be “saved.” . . . If we don’t believe in a global revolutionary future, we must live (as we in fact always had to) in the present.2

desertch. 6,78 via mushroom-eowch. Prologue

Though disasters are not necessarily great levelers, some of the formerly wealthy in this one no longer owned more than the poor, and many of the poor were receiving relief for the first time. Nearly all shared an uncertain future—though because they were all in it together, few seemed to worry about that future. [...] That lack of concern made it easier to be generous in the present, since much self-interest is more often about amassing future benefit than protecting present comfort.

paradise-built-in-hellch. 28


paradise-built-in-hell Solnit, Rebecca. 2009. A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disasters. Viking. ↩︎ 1

desert Anonymous. 2011. Desert. St. Kilda: Stac an Armin Press. ↩︎ 1 2

mushroom-eow Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press. ↩︎ 1

illich-in-conversation Cayley, David. 1992. Ivan Illich in Conversation. House of Anansi Press. ↩︎ 1 2

rivers-north-of-future-illich Illich, Ivan. 2005. The Rivers North of the Future: The Testament of Ivan Illich. House of Anansi Press. ↩︎ 1