Out of the thirty something submissions I sent out in 2020—not including the query letters to agents for my latest book—this little poem was the only piece of mine that was accepted, by a cool blog for poetry. It was a nice feeling, but dealing with all the rejections (despite being the most productive I've ever been with my writing) was difficult to deal with. But just like painful memories from the past, it's best just to keep looking forward. This poem’s about looking forward.
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What is freedom and how can we get it?
For existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (pictured) freedom comes to an individual in virtue of trying to attain it.
‘If the past [i.e. tradition] concerns us, it does not do so as a brute fact, but insofar as it has human signification; if this signification can be recognized only by a project which refuses the legacy of the past, then this legacy must be refused … [If] everything about [today] already seemed justified and that there was no more of it to reject, then there would also be nothing to say about it, for no form would take shape in it … [I]n the light of this project situations are graded and reasons for acting are made manifest.’ — Simone de Beauvoir, The Ethics of Ambiguity
Hence false certainty in our beliefs belies our chances of real freedom as we embrace existence too concretely. Our beliefs should be held more ambiguously than that.
Consider a man who wraps the value of his existence in external goals: money, power, position, conquest—it is only by achieving these external objects that he feels his existence will be validated. He cannot ever admit to the subjectivity of his goals, even though he himself identified them: to do so would be to acknowledge the subjectivity of his own existence.
Alas, he undermines a true understanding of himself: he loses his chance at being free as he is constantly upset by an ‘uncontrollable course of events’ which he will never be the master of. Simply put, he is controlled by his goals—and we don’t want that.
We should want meaning, which comes from within. But it takes modesty, for the required freedom arises from recognising that there will always be a distance between us and these things and aspiring to them anyway. In our unfamiliarity we lay a foundation for life affirmation to become someone who finds meaning and is free.
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L'art de ne pas lire est très important. Il consiste à ne pas s'intéresser à tout ce qui attire l'attention du public à un moment donné. Quand un pamphlet politique ou religieux, un roman ou une poésie se met à faire grand bruit, rappelez-vous que quiconque écrit pour les imbéciles ne manquera jamais de lecteurs. Pour lire de bons livres, la condition préalable est de ne pas perdre son temps à en lire de mauvais, car la vie est courte.
Schopenhauer, La lecture et les livres (via depeyrac)
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