How can we use the ideas of a philosopher as a starting point for our own thoughts? In the spirit of philosophical practice I am sharing here some personal thoughts that this text of Gabriel Marcel provoked in me.
“We must therefore focus on the condition of a person who isn’t fully identified with his actual surroundings. Some coincidence has exiled him to where he is now, and his place is his place only by chance. In the current conditions to which he must submit, this real place can only be seen as a “beyond,” as the home of home-sickness.”
Some coincidence has thrown me to where I came to this world, out of place. Unwanted by my actual surroundings. I realize I must fight for making this world into a better place. But can´t we leave things as they are? What if most of the other people are comfortable with life as it is – and it is just me who do not fit in? I check and I realize that this is mostly not the case. Unfairness and even violence is haunting our lives and that of people we share our lives with. Most grown-ups have learned to just look away. I make a promise: I will not learn to look away. I will keep alive the home that is “beyond”.
Are these thoughts and yearnings only psychological mechanisms that result from certain experiences in a far away past? But this would not explain anything. As Nicolai Hartmann tells us: our thoughts build upon a physical and a biological level, but these levels do not explain the contents of our thoughts. In this sense saying that our thoughts are psychologically conditioned (in the sense “psychological” is understood generally) does not tell us anything at all about their contents, since everything is somehow psychologically conditioned.
“Our experience of depth is connected to the feeling that a promise is being made, but that we can grasp only a glimpse of the fulfillment of that promise.” (Gabriel Marcel)
So a promise has been made. I couldn´t exactly express in words what this promise consists in. Maybe I do not need to keep it. Maybe I can not keep it. I promise to help here and work there to make this world a better place. But it is not possible. If I work here, I am neglecting people and work there. If I work there I neglect people and work here. What if “beyond” is not better than here and now? What if there is no such thing as “better”? But then again, I have had the experience of grasping a glimpse of the fulfillment of my promise. This glimpse makes it worth for me to get up in the morning and continue, working – and wondering if I will ever return “home”.
(The quotes from Gabriel Marcel are from the text published in Agora -Topics Page - January 2017)