Oct 27, 2020  │  m. Jul 29, 2023 by manuhortet  │  #jean-paul-sartre  

0-13 - I appreciate how the format is introduced, clarifying from page 0 that the coming text is a set of extracts from a diary. The appreciation comes more because of the raw fact that it is introduced (contrary to other modern french existentialist novels as e.g. The Fall); you can avoid the mainstream narrative ways without having to confuse the reader for the first 20 pages

0-13 - A minor topic, the volatility of street scenes (or, you could induct, of life) is introduced. Made me think about a photographic set, presenting the contrast between pairs of pictures where the only variant is the “street happening” in them (one where something special happens + one in a gray day where nothing is going on?). I see some weak link here to psychogeography too.

0-13 - The topic of solitude is introduced. It gets associated with delusion, which is understood by the main character as one of the effects.

13-30 - “Three o’clock. Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do. A peculiar moment in the afternoon. Today it is intolerable. […] I know in advance that today is a wasted day.”

  1. Sartre uses un drôle in the original. It gets translated to “peculiar” in English (R. Baldick) and to “absurdo” in Spanish (A. Bernárdez). I’d argue “absurdo” catches better the essence of the sentence, but “peculiar” falls closer to the literal image imprinted by the original French words. Which translation is better? Is the total union superior, or contaminated by the translators’ views?
  2. The simplistic take away would be that finding oneself out of purposes feels wrong; it makes the flow of time feel absurd and the idea of being trapped in it intolerable. I see this being supported by stoicism’s call to have a sense of urgency, as the opposite means to neglect our nature and lose our character to sloth.
  3. There exist circumstances where being liberated from coming tasks, and from the desire of delivering, turns up a positive state of mind (meditation, the lightness of a holiday). What is the contextual difference for this? When does emptiness produce relaxation and when does it invokes nausea?
  4. I could theorize that the existentialist sorrow is triggered when we can’t find solid enough excuses to justify the idea of not delivering or improving. That is to say, of creating value.
  5. This points to an aggressive underlying utilitarian view of the self, which is more or less valued based on the literal value it is considered to be creating.

13-30 - “People who live in society have learnt how to see themselves, in mirrors, as they appear to their friends.”

  1. How is your Interpersonal intelligence related with your idea of the self? Getting used to sell a manufactured persona can possibly collide with your self-understanding, but knowing more about human nature would facilitate finding patterns in oneself. The two topics are, then: 1.1 Does faking your persona to the public blurry your perspective of the self? 1.2 Is the quantity of human interaction directly related to the ability to understand human nature? (Does this topic relate to existentialism?)

33-34 - Topic: the role of statuary in psychogeography. A statue can remind passersby on the achievements and greatness of society and therefore of themselves. They can, too, bring a feeling of dryness and evil to the place.

43 - Discussing own interests with certain people we don’t look up to feels unpleasant. It’s like we enjoy selling ourselves only to certain clients.

45 - First evocation of the finitude of being and experiencing. It’s enjoyable to see good moments pass, as you’re one with the experience mass they form. But at some point the experience reaches completeness and the end is one with the beginning. At that point, looking at the happening from outside, a natural call to come back emerges.

  1. There seem to exist a natural instinct to dislike the finitude, even if we could rationally agree that this limit is what brings meaning, sense of being.
  2. The wheel of time (Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism) may seem spiritualist attractive because of this, apart from bringing completion.

47 - Another idea presented is that life can only acquire meaning in retrospective. Normally, life feels to be the meaningless succession of hours, days, months. Occasionally something happens; we move, our partner dies, we change jobs. But the monotony comes back, sooner than later. It’s only when we tell a story, or relate a memory, that events in life are chained in meaningful ways, able to build a faceable story compact enough to be understood.

  1. This sets a conceptual difference in meaning between what we remember as our life, and the continuous flow of situations we experience; our real life.

65 - Roquentin has a Nausea episode when feeling an adventure is about to happen, while noticing too his existence. He mentions the feeling is like the Nausea “and yet it’s just the opposite”. I suspect it’s because this time he is realizing existence when looking at his life and himself, not at different objects. This is because there is a trace of essence in himself and his life which he does not find in objects, and intervene with the idea of existence, making it more bearable.

68 - It is said that the feeling of adventure is that of the irreversibility of time. As I understand this, both the realization of the uniqueness of the moment and the feeling of meaning in it are what form adventures.

69 - “I was delighted to find him lying to others, but I would have liked him to make an exception of me”. It can be fine, when context asks for it, to use people. But it never feels right to be used. This means people can, and are, seen as objects in our understanding of reality, while we never are. It sounds wrong, huge lack of comradery.

70 - Dead takes the essence of people. You can build a legacy that persists, but you will be gone, and with you, your essence.

83 - We reach a high level of abstraction (from reality) when working to understand something. Our character, history and context blur away. We become just processors. Can this be considered a meditational state?

107 - The long, dense, evocative museum wandering experience made me desire one alike. Spending hours watching, getting oneself immersed into no more than a small bunch of works.

111 - “It must be said that his better half is his double”.

114 - It is easy for our oeuvre to abandon us. Think about revisiting old texts, or old code. Something the purest form of yourself (the focused one) created, is no longer recognizable. It is just another outsider piece of reality, that can at any given moment take sides against you.

115 - The feeling of closure can be unbearable; as it brings emptiness. What there is to life after you mission, your reason is over? Yes, closure reminds us of the meaningless of existence, by making us face that endings doesn’t end things.

119 - “My thought is me: that is why I can’t stop” - We are ultimately our chain of thoughts, our current way of processing information, of accessing and creating ideas. We exist by what we think; and we cannot prevent it.

121 - “Existence is an imperfection”.

126 - The fact that we all exist and that it is our only problem is some solid common ground for everyone.

130 - It is unsettling to think about the set of knowledge we are missing. The branches of human activity that, although realized by humans, being of your same cut, are completely foreign for you.

133 - Love is the most consistent of the lies we tell ourselves, as its promises tend to be kept even after having faced its decrepit becoming into insipid routine.

134 - The autodidact, in the name of humanism, presents the idea of life having a meaning; the one you choose to give it.

135 - “Couldn’t one say that the real mystery of the Mass is the communion of souls?” - Feeling of unity and community as a seller of ideas.

139 - “I am a Socialist. […] I am no longer alone. And I shall never be alone again. […] there are other men in front of me, I see them and I think that I am a Socialist, that they all form the purpose of my life, the object of my efforts”. Outside of ideologies and political or moral debates, making the improvement of people’s life the purpose of your life is the highest form of generosity, and I’d say, of honor. This idea, this romanticization of the idea of getting political makes me in fact want to approximate myself to political movements. I may do, and this may have played a role on it.

152 - We undergo existence without noticing, without consciously perceiving the act of existence itself. This is key, as any posterior meditation about existence builds up on this fact, on our lack of conscience of our labor of existence.

154 - Did I use to experience Nausea? As a kid I used to think about death. It was something that chased me and assaulted my mind from time to time. I remember a dramatic feeling of despair, a radical horror stuck in the background. It was mainly fear, presented in a pure, crude form. But there was more to it. I could define it as a strong feeling of detachment induced by the idea of inevitability. This could have perfectly been a realization of the lack of meaning around existence, life, reality. The feeling has since then abandoned me, at least I am not being able to invoke it on demand. Maybe later in life, when the inevitability of the final go feels present again.

155 - “[…] black, like the circle, did not exist”. Another way of drawing a wall between us an existence. Our models are not real, they are our own way of process the inaccessible reality. There is no black. My black is not your black. Our blacks are not the black of my ink. None of those blacks would be the pure idea of black, if the later could exist. There is no black black. (Plato’s ideas world)

157 - “Existence is not something that can be thought of from a distance, it has to invade you suddenly”. There are indeed feelings that only appear as realizations, one being the Nausea. I personally would think about that completely indescribable feeling that sometimes run over me when I am thirsty. I think being thirsty is just a condition, maybe not even the key. I shall try to document this; maybe it’s my personal Nausea?

161 - Inexistence cannot exist but for the particular.

164 - “I could never find the words she expected”. It feels in fact impossible to overplay unrealistic expectations. Noticing on time and avoiding putting oneself in losing positions would be nice.

166 - The past seems to tell more for some people. To be more relevant, to play a heavier role. For the rest this feels cheap, stupid, proper of a stuck mind.

169 - Do people have an eternal, unmovable essence? A sort of chore ideary that survives more superficial revisions of the self.

173 - “I’m outliving myself”. If accepting the idea of the chore ideary, you may find yourself in this position when those tumble or diffuse away, as doing so negates their very existence.

177 - “The situation is the raw material, it has to be treated”. What happens on its own is a mere scenario, our experiences are the union of that and our performance. Transforming the giving situations into good or bad experiences is a moral question, and the only real playground for your will of power to flourish and act. This is what really differences people: their ability to read the situation and perform based on it, to imprint their character and desires into reality, to get control of what is.

179 - Adventures and perfect moments both point to the illusion of meaning that comes with feeling your will of power took on reality; that means, with feeling your performance was as good as it could. This is a critical realization: it may be the will of power what brings meaning.

185 - “[…] and specially the obscene ones [books], because, in spite of everything, that occupies your mind.”

186 - “I shall still be in a town”. The idea of all towns being essentially the same is presented. The idea of deriving, as in being alone with the town itself, is mentioned too.

187 - “[…] very French, a name in my memory which is not as rich as the names of Florence or Baghdad. A time will come when I shall wonder: Whatever did I find to do all day long when I was at Bouville?”. One page later, a negation of the idea of towns being essentially the same. The ideary we build upon them, and the situations they offer to set them apart.

189 - What we feel as the consolidated basics of existence are nothing but habits that may well change tomorrow.

196 - “I could distinctly feel the drama was going to begin: they all wanted it to begin”.

203 - A town being conscious about ourselves (in a figurative way: what is conscious about us is their people, and therefore the town’s more complex existence as a societal set of ideas and opinions) tie it to our past versions. Your opinions and feelings about those past selves will then slide on it, hiding your original, raw self-town relationship. (I barely recall how I experienced the botellon, but commonly evoke who I was in there; your old view of the town is buried in the memories in which the town is not more than a mere scenario).

210 - Existence takes place in an atemporal manner. A song is itself forever, without caring about witnesses of its existence. The set of sounds do exist before somebody put them together, and will remain in existence for as long as existing is possible.