Wednesday, May 01, 2013

From My Existentialist Phase

I seem to have gone through some kind of existentialist phase around 1976.  Here's an item from the card file:

In the long run...what is really chosen is oneself.  It is out of decisions that the self emerges.  A self is not given ready-made at the beginning.  What is given is a field of possibility, and as the existent projects himself into this possibility rather than that one, he begins to determine who he shall be.  It is in this context that the question of permanence versus provisionality must be considered.  A unitary self, as distinct from a series of unconnected acts can emerge only if there is a constancy of policies and commitments.

So John Macquarrie.  Existentialism 185-6 (1973)On the next card, I find an echo, from someone who didn't think of himself as in any way an existentialist:
The sentiment of being is the sentiment of being strong.  Which is not to say powerful: Rousseau, Schiller, and Wordsworth are not concerned with energy directed outward upon the world in aggression and dominance, but, rather, with such energy as co9ntrives that the centre shall hold, that the circumference of the self keep unbroken, that the person be an integer, impenetrable, predurable, and autonomous in  being if not in action.
That's Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity (1972), a book I remember reading with great pleasure and I think profit, though I could never quite get straight which was Sincerity and which Authenticity.  With both of the above, compare the bit on the next card from a near-forgotten early novel by a man who became famous later:
I have read that it was a saying of an ancient Greek that the first requisite for happiness was to be born in a famous city.  It is one of those saying which, because they deal with the particular and the concrete, like the instructions on a bottle of patent medicine, can appear flippant, except to those who have experienced their truth. To be born on an island like Isabella, an obscure New World transplantation, second-hand and barbarous, was to be born in disorder.  From an early age, almost from my first lesson at school about the weight of the king's crown, I had sensed this.  Now I was to discover that disorder has its own logic and permanence: the Greek was wise.
That is VS Naipaul, The Mimic Men 118 (1969).  From Palookaville, second hand and barbarous, that's all for tonight.


Ken Houghton said...

Not necessarily related, but saw this and thought of you.

Buce said...

Interesting that you should say. Chopin has never really been on my radar, neither then nor now. Nothing personal ("he always spoke well of you, Buce"). Just not there.

We did go to a Chopin recital in
Warsaw a couple of years back. "Did you like it?" I asked the Missus on our stroll home. She shook her head gently." "I think," she said, "she had only 13 fingers..."