January 14, 2013

quote to know #1: how should a person be?

Do you have a passage or quote or saying that you read time and again to remind yourself that everything's okay, that you're okay? This is mine, a passage in Sheila Heti's "How Should A Person Be?" It describes the boy who never grows up, the boy who always dreams but never does, the puer aeternus:

"Such a person inevitably looks back on life as it nears its end with a feeling of emptiness and sadness, aware of what they have built: nothing. In their quest for a life without failure, suffer, or doubt, that is what they achieve: a life empty of all those things that make a human life meaningful. And yet they started off believing themselves too special for this world!

But—and here is the hope—there is a solution for people of this type, and it's perhaps not the solution that could have been predicted. The answer for them is to build on what they have begun and not abandon their plans as soon as things start getting difficult. They must work—without escaping into fantasies about being the person who worked. And I don't mean work for its own sake, but they must choose work that begins and ends in a passion, a question that is gnawing at their guts, which is not to be avoided but must be realized and live through the hard work and suffering that inevitably comes with the process.

They must reinforce and build on what is in their life already rather than always starting anew, hoping to find a situation without danger. Puers don't need to check themselves into analysis. If they can just remember this—It is their everlasting switching that is the dangerous thing, and not what they choose—they might discover themselves saved. The problem is the puer ever anticipates loss, disappointment, and suffering—which they foresee at the very beginning of every experience, so they cut themselves off at the beginning, retreating almost at once in order to protect themselves. In this way, they never give themselves to life—living in constant dread of the end. Reason, in this case, has taken too much from life.

They must give themselves completely to the experience! One thinks sometimes how much more alive such people would be if they suffered! If they can't be happy, let them at least be unhappy—really, really unhappy for once, and then the might become truly human!”