Posts Tagged ‘Myth of Sisyphus’

sustainable satisfaction

June 18, 2010

Just one more Generosity post, for now, so I can discharge this current obsession and look for another to latch onto.

Richard Powers is one of those literary writers–like Percy, Updike, Stegner, Ford– best read with pen and notebook constantly to hand,  so many and memorable are his striking aphoristic lines. To wit,

a sharp blue filament of need makes him want to see what will happen to the species, long after he’s dead…

An endlessly useful & preserved trait: the ability to revise  at will. ‘All writing is re-writing’…

Mobile is the last thing in existence he wants to be. His every original thought is already being interrupted by real time…

…[there’s a] massive structural flaw in the way the brain processes delight. The machinery of gladness that Homo sapiens evolved over millions of years in the bush is an evolutionary hangover in the world that Homo sapiens has built…

Depression had its uses once, when mankind was on the run. But now that we’re somewhat safe, it’s time to free the subjugated populace and show what the race can do, armed with sustainable satisfaction at last…

That’s what the brain-body loop does, anyway [make up its own autobiographical details]: it’s not the traumas Thomas remembers that shape Thomas — not so long as Thomas shapes the traumas Thomas remembers…

But this is when the story is at its most desperate: when techne and sophia are still kin, when the distant climax is still ambiguous, the outcome a dead heat between salvation and ruin

He launches his slow Internet connection, then stares at the search-engine box, wondering how to initiate a search for unreasonable delight. He taps in manic depression, and deletes that, too. He taps in extreme well-being. And right away, he’s swamped. In the world of free information, the journey of a single step begins in a thousand microcommunities. Inconceivable hours of global manpower have already trampled over every thought he might have and run it to earth with boundless ingenuity.  Even that thought, a digitally proliferating cliche…

He tries to say things that won’t look ludicrous, copied down…

The genes of discontentment are loose, and painting the universe. Life’s job is to get out of their way…

Fate has no power over anything crucial… What we have been is as nothing; what we will be is ever beyond us.  But what kind of story would ever end with us?

This is what the Algerian tells me: live first, decide later. Love the genre that you most suspect. Good judgment will spare you nothing, least of all your life…

Flow, words: there’s only one story, and it’s filled with doubles. The time for deciding how much you like it is after you’re dead.

“The Algerian” here is Powers’ protagonist Thassa, who– like the other gifted and challenged Algerian, Camus, and his subject Sisyphus– we finally must imagine to be happy.

There’s no single point to a memorable work of art, but I take this point away from Generosity:

“What we will be is ever beyond us,” lasting satisfaction can only be sustained by feet planted firmly on the ground of the present, but: we owe the future our best transmission, too. There is indeed a perpetual challenge to us, in this, but no contradiction. Real generosity to the future gives all to the now.