Since the early nineties and the war in Bosnia, my parents have lived in Canada, while I’ve lived in the United States. When I visit them with my family, we stay only for a few days. The night before our departure, my father might sit down on the sofa in the living room (a Western showing on TV), and say: “Conclusions!”
I know, of course, what that means: he wants to draw conclusions from our stay because he has a need to know what actually happened, what we have understood or achieved in our time together. Conclusions are closure to him, allowing him to process the imminent loss related to yet another parting from the people he loves.
At first, his demand for conclusions was annoying to me, as such parental quirks often are to intolerant children. But then, as per the usual process, it became an amusing story I would tell, which then naturally led to my doing the same thing, except ironically. It didn’t take long before I started feeling an unironic need to demand conclusions in similar situations and also to escape the compulsion to do so, lest I become like my father.
As all adult children know, there is no way to win that struggle— eventually we do things our parents did even if we swore never to do any of them. During the pandemic, I started producing music under the alter ego Cielo Hemon and released nine singles in 2021 and 2022, the last of which was entitled “Conclusions,” and it was not ironic.
The track concluded the first cycle of Cielo’s music, but it was also related to the reconfiguration of my (and, perhaps, our) relationship with time, wrought by the pandemic and the catastrophe of Trumpism. As every Bosnian knows, trauma splits time into the before and the after, whereby the before becomes inaccessible and available only as a reflective narrative, or even as blatant, delusional nostalgia (Make My Life Great Again!).
A demand for conclusions is an expression of a desperate hope to hoard love for the future, which will be marked by loss.
The need to draw conclusions is really a desire to convert what has just happened into memories as soon as possible—before the next, unquestionably oncoming trauma—and get as much from the experience as possible before moving deeper into the after, where things will not only feel less real but will also become a mark of loss. A demand for conclusions is an expression of a desperate hope to hoard love for the future, which will be marked by loss.
For the last couple of years I have increasingly felt that we are in the midst of a cataclysmic global rupture. Climate change and the related pandemic, the apocalyptic intensity of fascism, the pathetic weakness of Western democracies rooted in delusions of grandeur and the fact that they cannot, because they don’t want to, become systems of full inclusion so they’re reverting to the default: exclusion complete with misogyny and racism. I have an intense feeling that everything I love is ending: literature, writing, music, soccer, skiing, my body, Bosnia, you name it.
This is in fact the end of time, and you have to be a tech bro or a fascist, or both, to think that we are not at a precipice of cataclysmic loss. The question then becomes why write and publish, or do anything, since it won’t make a damn difference one way or another.
And the answer is love: for language, for imagination, for all those who precede us and all the less lucky ones who will come after us, for humanity. For conclusions still bespeak a faith in the future, even if a limited one. One day, we will unfold these conclusions as stories or music and we will know that we have lived and loved, and we might recall and experience again the joy of being together.
From Freeman’s. The final issue of Freeman’s, a collection of writings on conclusions, features work from Rebecca Makkai, Aleksandar Hemon, Rachel Khong, Louise Erdrich, and more, is available now.