November 17, 2012

THEY COULDA BEEN SOMEBODY:

Big Idea: The Hell of Pure Possibility (Peter Lawler, November 16, 2012, Big Think)

Here's a thought of the novelist Walker Percy's searching character Will Barrett in The Last Gentleman:

For until this moment he had lived in a state of pure possibility, not knowing what sort of man he was or what he must do, and supposing therefore that he must be all men and do everything. But after this morning's incident his life took a turn in a particular direction. Thereafter he came to see that he was not destined to do everything but only one or two things. Lucky is the man who does not secretly believe that every possibility is open to him.

 Here's Percy's thought:  Sartre was wrong to say that hell is other people.  Hell is the experience of "pure possibility."  It's the experience of not knowing who you are or what you're supposed to do. It's  to have no order or direction to your life except what you might quite arbitrarily choose for yourself.  If you might be everyone or might do anything, you don't have what it takes to turn your life in any "particular direction." You're unlucky enough not to have what it takes to live--meaning  live well.

According to David Brooks in his most recent column:  "At some point over the past generation, people around the world entered what you might call the age of possibility. They became intolerant of any arrangement that might close off their personal options. "

In keeping with Mr. Lawler's recent essays, isn't it largely marriage and parenthood that replaces possibility with direction?
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Posted by at November 17, 2012 6:56 AM
  
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