“Not to think that you can live a good life…”

I’ve watched this clip a number of times and wrestled with the ideas that Kateb puts forth about suffering, goodness, and the meaning of one’s own life. If you take the time to do this, I imagine that you will also find yourself changing your mind about what you think Kateb means, whether you think he is right, and how these thoughts might apply to your own life.

It does seem to me that we (as a culture, as individuals, and as human beings) spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to create a space for ourselves in which the sense of suffering is constantly decreasing and the sense of satisfaction is constantly increasing. This struggle is exhausting. This struggle never seems to be won by anyone.

What I love about what Kateb has to say is that no matter how bleak his vision may seem, his urging for us to resist the illusion of a sustained sense of happiness and to concentrate on what true satisfaction is possible (to him, love and work), is a truly liberating message. He asks for us to see our condition as it is and to work outward from this point, rather than from a clouded and convoluted vision of what we wish the world could be. Of course, this is not to say that we should not press for a better existence or resist oppressive forces. In fact, I think Kateb is saying the exact opposite. He’s simply advising that we not further burden our existence by clinging to a reality that simply is not possible at this juncture in history, as this will only compound one’s dissatisfaction and suffering.

Also, you will die if you hear the heartbeat of a squirrel…apparently.



One response to ““Not to think that you can live a good life…”

  1. I agree with the idea of “living one’s life”… that the immense joys and unbearable sadness that we experience in life are meant to be owned and embraced, that they might both push us forward and round out our experiences. The thing that struck me, is that towards the middle he talks about defining a “tolerable life” for ourselves. Just because there are ups and downs, doesn’t mean that life has to be simply tolerable. I think you can live a really good life without exhausting all of your energies on the “struggle” that you talk about, it just hinges on how we interact with the sorrows of life. Embrace them as a part of the beautiful complexity of human emotion rather than something to be feared and avoided at all costs, and life truly can be far more than tolerable.

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