Tim Carmody on kottke.org linked to an interview with writer and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips in The Paris Review, quoting from the part about the need to not know yourself. Also interesting is the exchange concerning a quote from Randall Jarrell in his book Missing Out: “The ways we miss our lives are life.”
I don’t know what it’s about, but it strikes me as true, and painful because it’s true.
What’s painful about it? It could be extremely comforting, couldn’t it? It could be a way of saying, Actually, that’s what a life is, it’s the lives you don’t have. As if to say, Don’t worry, because that’s what a life is. Or just that missing all our supposed other lives is something modern people are keen to do. We are just addicted to alternatives, fascinated by what we can never do. As if we all had the wrong parents, or the wrong bodies, or the wrong luck.
Are you telling me not to worry?
I’m saying there could be a comfort in that line. And the comfort would be something like, You don’t have to worry too much about trying to have the lives you think you’re missing. Don’t be tyrannized by the part of yourself that’s only interested in elsewhere.
Well, you could just think it’s terrible, and start believing that mourning is the realest thing we ever do. But one is going to feel different things at different times. As Emerson said, “Our moods do not believe in each other.”
There’s a mood in which you’ll feel, This is a terrible fact about life. We’re always going to be preoccupied by what we’re missing, by what we’ve lost, and there’s no way around it. And in other moods we can think, Well, that’s what it is to live a life, so get used to it, that’s the point. That’s not a problem, it’s the point.