Sunday, December 4, 2011

What does it mean to find another human being?

Edvard Munch, 1896
Perhaps here and now is a good place to admit that I don't fully understand what it means to "attempt to find another human being." Does it mean to find one other human being, in conjunction, relationship with one's self? Someone to whom one can relate, thereby implying the inherent overwhelming difficulty of this task and the endless alienation of human existence?  Or does another human being mean an übermensch of sorts? A different kind of human being, beyond even the lonely self? A new type of person, a new and different way of being human? Another possible understanding of the phrase might be an attempt to find a human being who is truly other, one whom one cannot possibly merge with or be a mirror of. These recent discussions (below) of strangers, exiles, idiots, and artists have made me wonder. I think, of course, also, of another Musil attempt, from the novel, the "attempt to love a scoundrel" with all its connotations for the question of loving one's neighbor as one's self, and of the terrible but thrilling frisson of embracing that extreme other, one's feared or hated self, brother, enemy, beloved. For what is more frightening, after all? Finding one's self subsumed into otherness or the alternative of infinite separation?


  1. As fate would have it, I'm currently rereading J. M. Coetzee's Age of Iron (I'll be teaching it next semester), and certainly many of your questions have occurred to me during my reading. The plot concerns a woman, Mrs. Curren, a retired classics professor in South Africa who comes in contact with suffering (homelessness, Apartheid) after having not been affected by it for most of her life. It is as though she's awakened to the reality she'd shuttered out throughout her life.

    Mrs. Curren's thoughts on the homeless man who has been (uninvited) living in her shed, and why she seeks to know (find) him:

    Because he is and is not I. Because in the look he gives me I see myself in a way that can be written.

  2. Interesting question indeed....

    In just the title.. "Attempts to Find Another Human Being"seems as though one is being prompted to keep attempting to unveil, discover, some thing; and perhaps it is the process, not the content, not the ending, that is being revered here? As attempts, for me, means that one keeps attempting, trying, being drawn to move towards something, away from where they are, as to unveil, discover, another way of Being. It is through this process of trying, attempting, that a new relationship to one's Self is shaped, formed, allowed to surface from the depths of what is known, felt, beyond language, to be True for myself (ex. I am a writer). A new definition of being human, the process of being, takes hold- moving it from a noun into verb- from objectification into the realm of subjective experience- out of logos and the left brain, into animae (soul) and the right brain...