I woke up with this phrase stuck in my mind recently, after a strange and vivid dream. It involved a landscape somewhere between Deep Space Nine and Snowpiercer, dark corners filled with metallic pools and steam hissing across braying crowds. I can’t remember the narrative of the dream but a crucial idea from it remains clear in my mind.
The Last Man is about the suffocation of growth rather than the end of the impulse to grow. It is the end of resonance rather than the cessation of our search for it. It is the loss of our capacity to give birth to stars and a forgetting that we ever had it:
And thus spoke Zarathustra to the people: It is time for man to fix his goal. It is time for man to plant the seed of his highest hope. His soil is still rich enough for it. But this soil will one day be poor and exhausted; no lofty tree will be able to grow from it. Alas! The time is coming when man will no longer shoot the arrow of his longing beyond mankind— and the string of his bow will have forgotten how to twang! I tell you: one must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: you have still chaos in you. Alas! The time is coming when man will give birth to no more stars. Alas! The time of the most contemptible man is coming, the man who can no longer despise himself.
The dream left me with a vivid sense of the claustrophobia of imminence which might still be felt after this forgetting. The sense of being hemmed in, aspiring to be something more while denied the conditions which would make this growth possible. Many of the questions I’m interested in ultimately relate to this feeling, its sociology and psychology. It’s odd to realise that I’m only now coming to understand the final object of years of work.