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The Unlikely Blessings of Living on Borrowed Time in a Leased Land 425

contingencies abound in one’s personal life

as one accidental

incident may have the grave consequence of taking the course of

history to a drastically different direction

and even though the past

is flawed and the future is unpredictable, yet one has no other option

than to live in the “imperfect now.” Rather than resorting to and

embracing the discourse of exceptionalism in attempting to write a

narrative of the self in which one emerges as the sovereign of one’s

life and the master of one’s fate, Landsman learns to “shift the order

of possibilities” in his life so that he learns to see the index of one’s


being accepted and recognized as a success

is no longer

taken to be important. This shifting of the order of possibilities is

termed by Eric Santner as an “inner conversion,” which he describes

as the “uncoupling” of “the drive from its destiny” (2001: 124). And

if I understand Santner correctly, the “uncoupling” that he tries to

elaborate upon is nothing more than the “disruption” and

“interruption” of the notion of destiny or teleology that is valorized

in the writing of the story of an individual or people towards self-

fulfillment or self-completion. In other words, Santner exposes and

questions the ethical consequences of structuring one’s life along a

teleological trajectory which, in a way, governs chance events and

possibilities by first anticipating them and then by taking preemptive

actions to exclude them, or to exclude them by including them. This

rationalist attempt to “discipline” and “author” one’s life via the

“governance of contingency,” to borrow a phrase from Michael

Dillon (2007), however, does not mean that contingencies are

eliminated and domesticated; rather, as we can see from the growing

popularity of counterfactual fiction, one tiny change can lead to a

convoluted web of greater changes. Anything can and does happen.

What truly matters is not that History

the past, the present, and

the future

cannot be disciplined by the mere force of the human

will; what matters is that which activates the “uncoupling” of the

drive from its destiny so that one can shift the order of possibilities

in one’s world and learn to live with the contingencies of History.

In Santner’s attempt to flesh out a legacy from the Jewish