Bartleby’s “I’d rather not to”
[1] keeps the “possibility hanging between event and non-event, between the capacity to be and the capacity to not be”[2]. It is in this middle state that the future of our “presence” is decided. It’s in this in-between that we may, if we are lucky enough, recognise and capture that fragment of “event” that puzzles and attracts us, that calls our attention and will unfold both towards the future and the past; both towards the inside and the outside. That “fragment” is the evidence of an absence. Or, better said, the “presence” of an absence. And it is from that “presence” that we can find the clues we need to start the hard task of imagining the world.

But how can we recognise and capture that fragment, if ‘it” appears only when we least expect it, and if it can hardly “stand on its feet”, so fleeting and transitory?

We know that looking at the world again as if it was the first time is an impossibility. But if we resort to the capacity we have to fictionalise the real (so as to be able to think about it, as Rancière proposes
[3]), it is possible to look at ourselves looking at the world for the first time. And that is where we can, by means of that artifice – of that “as if” –, put ourselves at the “other’s place”, a necessary condition for us to be surprised anew.

Fictionalising amounts to finding new questions for the same usual answers. But for that we need to have a diverging and open gaze. A gaze that is not afraid of appearances and does not “panic” whenever it does not immediately understand what it sees. A potential gaze then, capable of reading “between the lines” and of opening doors (and windows) for new interpretations and relations with the world. In a word: a “creative” gaze.

“Creativity”, as it is understood within this method, is not a property of some enlightened few. “Creativity” requires training. And the way we approach that training, that practice, is turning our focus away from the very decision, to direct it to the “noise” settled in our bodies, namely under the form of “habits”, “convictions”, and “expectations”. When that “noise” is excessive, it works as friction and makes us waste time. It deactivates the capacity to read a new situation, becoming the main obstacle to implementing creativity as the operative system of our decisions.

To deal with that friction, we propose to develop and stimulate the capacity we all have to reflect on thought as such. That is to say, that we activate a meta-cognitive reasoning. Paradoxically enough, we will see that it is through that capacity to look at ourselves from the outside as we act (just as we are able to think as we speak), that we will find free spaces for “creativity” to assert itself. The reason for this is quite simple: instead of worrying with what is “about to come” or about what we have left behind, we “waste time” with the conditions for the event to happen. We “waste time” listening to the signs: the signs of time and the signs of the body. The rest will come by itself.

[1] See Herman Melville (1819–1891), Bartleby, the Scrivener. A Story of Wall Street.
[2] See Giorgio Agamben, “Bartleby, or On Contingency”, Potentialities: collected essays in philosophy (ed. and trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen), California, Stanford University Press,1999.
[3] See Jacques Rancière, Le Partage du Sensible, esthétique et politique, Paris, La fabrique, 2000, p. 61.