Monday, April 11, 2016

For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway

"The world is a fine place and worth fighting for..."

Hemingway's world consists of people and relationships. Of men: their origins tethering them to cultures of pride, discouragement, complications, and characters. Their lives are both lived within themselves as members of, though also slightly transcendent of, their circumstance. Each is of a time and place - though never fully constrained by nor defined by it. National character, culture, circumstance, only carry one so far. We are all slightly surprising to ourselves and others. Yet the wheel of the self spins and we are brought circling back to those repeating aspects by which the self is known to itself and others. In this way the individual is simultaneously bound and free - both predictable and utterly perplexing. Unique entity.

So too is human exchange anchored and uncertain. Our means and modes of interaction ring familiar notes; yet each tune stands apart. The structures of relationships - between friends, or fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, superior and subordinate, or between lovers - provide certain norms and folkways, certain ways of being in exchange. Yet each instance is its own. The tension of sameness and novelty pervades relations.

Life and the world can thus be viewed through a microcosm. But each microcosm is necessarily incomplete. A map with a perfect fidelity to reality is nothing less than the world entire. Three days may be sufficient to know the world. In this, our own microcosm, sameness and novelty contest. We are grounded and chained and set free.