Natality as a human condition –
The future of the world is totally unknown and is full of unexpected situations, but “creativity in the world” enables us to better deal with this unpredictability and irreversibility of action in the realm of human affairs. And to try to change the societies in which we live, we can call upon to natality, the most important human condition of human beings according to Hannah Arendt, which is the capacity to give birth to something original and unexpected in the world. To be prepared to start something unexpected, to be creative and make us feel in the world, we may sometimes want or have to be invisible to the reality of needs, as the artist Hito Steyerl argues in his work.
For Hannah Arendt, in her book “The Human Condition”1, the important thing was to think about the experience of doing politics, and this experience is the action that happens in freedom and plurality, its two central elements. For her, freedom means the capacity to begin something original, to do the unexpected, the capacity that all humans are endowed by virtue of their birth. Thus, action as the realization of freedom is rooted in natality, in the fact that each birth represents a new beginning and the introduction of the original into the world. So freedom is the possibility to think and meet other people in the realm of human affairs and thereby create something original and unexpected. To act means to think and take the initiative to introduce that original and unexpected in the world. This is how we create the world. This is the “creativity in the world”, the thought and action that take place in freedom and plurality.
When we think about what we can do, in order to act and create something together; this creativity is an action in freedom, but also in plurality, which includes others in the world. We cannot change the world on our own, but we can try to change the way each one thinks, we can try to make everyone creative, try that everyone have the impetus for “creativity in the world”, and thus try to change the future of the world. This future of the world is totally unknown and will be full of unexpected situations, resulting from the unpredictability and irreversibility of action in the realm of human affairs.
Given that human action is unpredictable and irreversible, what saves the realm of human affairs is to be able to start something original and unexpected in the world, it’s to be creative. On this important role of the beginnings, of the creativity in the world, let us recall the words of Arendt to emphasize the importance of the condition of natality:
“The miracle that saves the world, the realm of human affairs, from its normal, “natural” ruin is ultimately the fact of natality, in which the faculty of action is ontologically rooted. It is, in other words, the birth of new men and the new beginning, the action they are capable of by virtue of being born. Only the full experience of this capacity can bestow upon human affairs faith and hope, those two essential characteristics of human existence which Greek antiquity ignored altogether, discounting the keeping of faith as a very uncommon and not too important virtue and counting hope among the evils of illusion in Pandora’s box. It is this faith in and hope for the world that found perhaps its most glorious and most succinct expression in the few words with which the Gospels announced their “glad tidings”: “A child has been born unto us.””2
The most important human condition is natality, the capacity to give birth to something original and unexpected in the world. This is how we have the capacity to create and try to define our future, and not allow each one and the world to be defined by the past. And, as the artist Hito Steyerl argues in her work “How not to be seen“3, in this life of excesses of images and surveillance, domain of selfies and information and communication technologies, to achieve the ability to give birth and to start something unexpected, it may be necessary to be invisible to that reality full of necessary and useful things. To be prepared to start something unexpected, to be creative and make us feel in the world, we may sometimes want to be invisible to the reality of needs, so that we can be conditioned only by the world, the realm of human affairs.
Filipe Novais, Porto, Europe.
Image: From Hito Steyerl video, “How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File”; 2013, Tate, London.
1. Arendt, Hannah, “The Human Condition”, Ed.1998 (1st ed.1958). The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
2. In Arendt, 1998, op.cit.; pp.236-247.
3. Hito Steyerl, 2016; “How not to be seen”, Video in “Hito Steyerl – ‘Being Invisible Can Be Deadly’”, TateShots min.4.40; Modern Tate, London. Also Hito Steyerl (b.1966, Germany), April 2018, Exhibition EYE Art & Film Prize 2015; Amsterdam, Netherlands.