This forum revolves around a question: Is this all there is? We invited contributors to respond to the question however they chose, without a particular “this” given in advance. The Immanent Frame specializes in longer-form commentary on questions related to secularism, religion, and the public sphere. Its work is both probing and confident. In support of this work but also as a kind of pause in it, we encouraged contributors to go where they wanted both in content and in form. The idea was to make use of this burgeoning digital space to speak in a variety of ways about where we find ourselves.
Our inquiry was spurred by The Immanent Frame’s tenth year, a time-mark whose metric neatness prompts thoughts of review and renewal. The decade 2007-2017 spans an epoch of political change, economic chaos, and artistic and technological innovation. The same can be said of any ten year stretch. What matters are the particulars, which will challenge the representation of the world shaped in any historical frame—immanent or otherwise. Such frames are generative nonetheless, even if mainly in the breach. Indeed frames and breaches are among the primary subjects in the study of secularism, religion, and the public sphere.
These abstract musings provoke sharper questions. What epoch is this we are entering or have entered? What is this time? What time is it? Marking anniversaries is a stimulus for looking back and looking ahead, and asking, What is there to do now? Or, in a more pensive register, Is this all there is?
The question evokes Peggy Lee’s inimitable performance, which moves silkily into the heart of many elemental things, not least of which—dancing. In its openness, the question also recalls Frequencies: A Collaborative Genealogy of Spirituality, an earlier TIF-SSRC project in conjunction with Killing the Buddha built on the wager that the current times call for collaborative effort and a collective of replies.
This latest collaboration has been the gift we give to The Immanent Frame on its tenth birthday. The first essays in “Is this all there is” were published in October 2017, and the last in March 2018. We are grateful to all the contributors for the generosity and risk of their replies, and to Olivia Whitener and Clare McGranahan who served as editorial assistants for the project. With this work we signal a desire to find our ways both singly and in common in this—these voices, these worlds.