Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interpreting individuals

In Arthur Miller’s selection from the Death of a Salesman, a very interesting point is brought up that deals specifically with the interaction of people through an existentialist lens. Throughout the semester, we have focused mostly on the self and rarely addressed interactions of two people, except for when we studied Sartre, specially his claim that the interaction between two freedoms will always result in conflict. In Miller’s literary work, the interaction between Willy and his family occurs before he has died and at his funeral, his family attempts to make sense of his suicide, despite the fact that there is no way to know what was going on his mind right before he killed himself. What’s interesting to note is that while we do acknowledge that the world is absurd and that paradoxes emerge constantly, we seem to ignore that when dealing with other people, and attempt to rationalize them based on their actions. When we don’t understand them or the rationality that we ascribe to them doesn’t make sense to us, we tend to rely on an emotion to deal with those people.
Instead of attempting futilely to understand beings or more common, but even worse, take shortcuts and only analyze a few traits or a few actions, we need to acknowledge that they are freedoms like us and impossible to objectively define. A person is constantly changing. Preferences, thoughts, and actions taken are all fluid and rarely stay constant for more a few seconds, except when consciously forced. Leaving room for this unpredictability that ultimately arises and not attempting to rationalize one’s actions into an interpretation of that person, serves us better than exhausting our brain for an interpretation of events, where their only utility is to serve ourselves. But what I’m asking for is unreasonable.
Finding meaning in anything and everything, no matter how extremely limited and subjective it is, is what people do. It is just as much a way to survive and cope in this world as it is a way to make sense of this world. While we cannot change our way of dealing with other people and their freedom, we must at least acknowledge the way we ascribe meaning to them and how we view them. We must constantly question this rationale and at the very least make it as malleable as possible, since the rationale that may have explained an individual to us at one point may not suffice at a later point, yet we still use it and rarely question its foundation.

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