to perceive, in the darkness of the present

The ones who can call themselves contemporary are only those who do not allow themselves to be blinded by the lights of the century, and so manage to get a glimpse of the shadows in those lights, of their intimate obscurity. … The contemporary is the one whose eyes are struck by the beam of darkness that comes from his own time.

In the firmament that we observe at night, the starts shine brightly, surrounded by a thick darkness. Since the number of galaxies and luminous bodies in the universe is almost infinite, the darkness that we see in the sky is something that, according to scientists demands and explanation…In an expanding universe, the most remote galaxies move away from us at a speed so great that their light is never able to reach us. What we perceive as the darkness of the heavens is this light that, though traveling toward us, cannot reach us, since the galaxies form which the light originates move away from us greater than the speed of light.

To perceive, in the darkness of the present, this light that strives to reach us but cannot—this is what it means to be contemporary.

Agamben, Giorgio. What is an Apparatus, and other essays. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009. 45-6.

directly and thoroughly with the present

Strange, by the way, that when we survey this whole intellectual movement, Scribe appears as the only one to occupy himself directly and thoroughly with the present. Everyone else busies himself more with the past than with the powers and interests that set their own time in motion….

Meyer, Julius. Geschichte der modernen franzosischen Malerei (Leipzig, 1867), 415-16. in Benjamin, Walter The Arcades Project, trans Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999. 391.