I always used to be big on objectivity – getting to what’s factually and actually right. But I’m much less obsessed with the ‘objective’ these days.
The (at times painful) discovery of my working and family life is that, with the exception of basic chemistry and arithmetic, pretty much everything in life is a matter of interpretation.
It all depends on where you’re looking from, what you’re looking with and how you’re understanding what you’re seeing. Different lives and different experiences equal very different interpretations of the same data. There are few facts and many interpretations.
So, with the passage of years and against my better judgement, I’m strangely drawn to Sartre’s view nicely encapsulated here:
Since I could always have chosen some other path in life, the one I follow is my own. Since nothing has been imposed on me from outside, there are no excuses for what I am.
Since the choices I make are ones I deem best, they constitute my proposal for what any human being ought to be.
The inescapable condition of human life is the requirement of choosing something and accepting the responsibility for the consequences.
Which makes me totally responsible for the life I choose.
Freed from the shackles of objectivity – that there is a right answer or a right way to live – I realise that in fact we often have more choice than we think.
What happens to us is more our responsibility than we are sometimes ready to accept. Every life is a unique, personal and ongoing act of creation. We live creating the ultimate work of art – ourselves.
Norman Mailer puts it pithily:
Every moment of one’s existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit.
Life is a work of art. But these days I’m happy to settle for the bustle of a Dutch feast, instead of seeking the perfection of an Italian ceiling.