Johannes Klabbers is a therapist who has worked in Melbourne with people with cancer and terminal illness. As a narrative therapist, he explores our relationship with death – or lack of it. His entrance to his talk was enthusiastic and his presentation in large friendly capital letters. Klabbers asks not what things are, but what they could be. He frames this as a posthumanist project, the next stage of thinking after humanism.
The thing about dying is that we know it’s there, but that a diagnosis of its coming changes our relationship with time itself. Our general inability to acknowledge our own finiteness distorts our relationship with life. This is a problem, Klabbers says, and a problem, within a problem, with further complications. People are unhappy and don’t know to whom to turn to find answers to existential issues. Klabbers advocates for the need to organise ourselves and open a discussion about this. He quotes Kant, Descartes and Camus as presenting different ways of being in the world in their time, but these methods now need updating.
Hope is for children – while it may nourish in the short term, its value is minimal and as a result it may collapse around us if the structure is unstable. Optimism, on the other hand, is a conscious, autonomous decision that any one of us can make. There is undoubtedly countless pain and suffering in the world and an imbalance on many levels. 600 people own 50% of the world’s resources and a million people worldwide kill themselves annually, adding further anguish to those left behind. Klabbers doesn’t believe in the 45-minute therapy model: he talks with people for as long as needed. He makes the point that reality is not as fixed as we believe, as quantum mechanics is now showing.
The big question: What are we? Klabbers is in residence throughout Normal? to chew over these questions with anyone seeking to engage with them. It’s not that there are no alternatives to the current system, it’s just that they’re so hard to imagine. So how do we decide what’s actually important? The answers: respect for the other, enjoying our difference and empathy for each other’s journeys and challenges. Johannes has also had a pre-cognitive dream foretelling the date of his own death. While it suggest a ripe age, he still only has about 10,000 days to go. He’s therefore hoping to report something significant for each of those days to give them value.
- Madlin Bee
Links Relevant to this Diagnosis:
Johannes Klabbers – www.johannesk.com
Klabbers - About Posthumanist Therapy in Q&A Form
David Klinghoffer – Darwin, Marx and Freud: The Genealogy of Posthumanism
Mark Fisher – Capitalist Realism