August 9, 2022

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Interview with sociologist Hartmut Rosa | Learn to resonate

Einstein at the airport |  Press

Have you ever been secretly disappointed after returning from an expensive trip that was supposed to be perfect? And conversely, are you moved by an unremarkable sky on your windshield?

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Hartmut thinks Rosa knows why.

“The more we try to control the world, the more it eludes us,” summed up the German sociologist.

Winner of the Erich Fromm Prize, sponsor of the UNESCO Chair in Philosophy with Children, Rosa is one of the “21 Thinkers to Read in 2021”. Philosophy Magazine.

For a German sociologist, Rosa was very approachable. He is wary of theorists who elaborate, even in, concepts that light no flame. He likes the big questions that everyone experiences. Love the relationship with time, work and life.

For 30 years, he criticized the frenetic concerns and loss of inner life in daily life. The pandemic reinforced his theories. It was a mature idea for its time.

I read some of his books last winter. To my surprise, he agreed to talk to me Zoom in From his office at Friedrich-Schiller University. Had to make an appointment a month in advance. The man is faithful to his principles: he does not overload his schedule.

Photo courtesy of Jürgen Scheer, University of Jena

Hartmut Rosa

His diction is slow and precise. He was always looking for the perfect word, with awkward glee when the formula satisfied him.

“The pandemic has made me think a lot. Time slowed down. We can do what we promise to do. For example, finally reading Shakespeare. Then we realized it was boring, so we went back to YouTube…”

Rosa has been interested in accelerating the pace of life for several decades. He alleged that capitalism encourages us to always innovate, produce and consume more. This constant competition is like an escalator descending against us. You have to move forward to survive. Otherwise, we fall back.

This speed and growth orientation is the foundation of our society. We accept that as self-evident. Rosa laments that it is “invisible, apolitical, undiscussed, untheorized, and unarticulated.”

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Psychopop responds with a recipe. Tips for greater happiness. Mindfulness with cutout abs and LED chalet…

Rosa does the opposite. He is not looking for a solution. He is interested in the social causes of this imbalance. The source, according to him: technology. She broke her promises.

A long time ago, we dreamed of the advent of a leisure society, where work occupies only a secondary place in our lives. And more…

We sleep less and do more things at the same time.

At the beginning of XXe century, Georg Simmel found that city dwellers interacted with more people, but formed fewer deep relationships. Rosa believes that this also applies to our relationship with nature, objects and experiences.

The present is constantly shortened. As a good German sociologist, he had an unpronounceable word to say: “Gegenwartsschrumpfung”.

Take the example of email. This makes it more efficient. We can communicate in seconds. In principle, this should free up some time. But the opposite happens. The more messages we receive, the more quickly we need to respond. The to-do list is long.

Hartmut Rosa

Rosa stopped. He adds with a slightly wistful smile: “Why do we live like this, exactly? »

To a woman, a gay man, or a toothache, XVIIIe The century was not ideal.

Rosa agreed. “I’m not nostalgic,” he insists. But that doesn’t negate the criticism of his time.

A successor to the Frankfurt school, he breaks down our social patterns to expose their failings. The planet is not that small. We have access to all experiences, all knowledge, all culture. To more possibilities than our imagination can imagine.

This “widening of the available world” is not neutral. It increases our desires. This quest goes further. into orbit.

Check out the billionaires who go sightseeing in space. Land is not enough for them…

Hartmut Rosa

But not everyone has the luxury of time. A common citizen dreams of this idleness. He backs off on buying a telescope, content to know that he can theoretically observe the universe. He can’t even use it.

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According to Rosa, we try to expand our capacity to have experiences. We accumulate them, store them. It becomes a fetish. We desire the object, to experience its own possession. To say we can take advantage of it, someday, maybe…

Another example: You open your computer. Every album imaginable is online. You browse for 10 minutes before making the right choice. After a few seconds of listening, unsatisfied, you try to find something better.

We are both frustrated with what we don’t have and disappointed with what we do have. Through all these unsatisfied pleasures are quickly digested.

Rosa quotes the German playwright von Horvath: “You think we are very different. We don’t have time to be that kind of person…”

This brings us back to the example of the traveler’s departure. Anyone who buys luxury accommodation has expectations. If it rains, you feel cheated. As happiness is a product, he is the condition of the contract he paid for.

This desire to “expand our access to the world” is also an effort to put at our service.

Everything should be useful to us. We are no longer surprised. We become deaf to the beauty around us.

Rosa was not the first thinker to recognize the crisis of meaning. Marx spoke of alienation, Weber of disenchantment, Camus of the absurd and Lukács of reification.

But Roja went one step further. He pointed to the emergency exit.

This is another big idea of ​​his: “Resonance”. Consider the experience at the beginning of the text of a man who finds himself moved through a mundane landscape that appears without warning.

A relationship without desire for control or possession. Pure availability to his environment.

“We’ve all been through this before,” he says. It is universal, but difficult to describe. Let me give you a personal example. I was skiing in the Swiss Alps near Bern. I felt the physical presence of the mountain, almost overwhelming. Seeing its peaks immediately connected me to them. It is not logical. It is a deep sense of belonging. »

Rosa lists some conditions for resonance: entering into a relationship with something, not trying to control it, and accepting to be affected.

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Slow is not good, he said. The reverberation can be felt while riding a bicycle up an incline or during a rock concert at 100 decibels.

Resonance is not a one-week yoga retreat to “work on yourself” to return to the office with charged batteries.

Roja did not ask to look inside. Instead, it invites us to open our eyes. Because life is elsewhere.

I tell him about Charles Taylor, who he did his doctorate with and who is his friend. “I could debate for hours,” he enthuses. To him, we are animals that understand their own lives. »

Rosa took the idea further. Meaning does not come from human relationships alone. It also comes from a relationship with nature and everything around us.

This made the pandemic so painful. It is slow without resonance. And we had to get used to interacting with others again.

“Social interactions are a very important need. But the paradox is that the less we see people, the more we want to see them. We again force ourselves to go to a restaurant or the theater with friends. Then, once there, we are full of energy. »

At the start of the pandemic, he was optimistic. He expressed hope that lessons will be learned. If we can ground planes, we must curb the pollution that warms the Earth and impoverishes biodiversity.

“But I see now that people are very eager to get back to normal,” he says. At least, on a personal level, we may have evolved. »

The virus became unstable because it was uncontrollable. Like life, basically. This is an existential reality that we must learn to live with.

Hartmut Rosa

Suggested Reading to Discover Hartmut Rosa:

For a short and clear introduction.

A cure for acceleration: impressions from a trip to China

A cure for acceleration: impressions from a trip to China

the flame

For a slightly longer and more accessible version.

Make the world inaccessible

Make the world inaccessible