Monday, June 14, 2010

Vivre sa vie

11. Place du Châtelet. A stranger. Nana the unwitting philosopher.

Nana: Mind if I look? ...You look bored.

The Philosopher: Not at all.

Nana: What are you doing?

The Philosopher: I'm reading.

Nana: Will you buy me a drink?

The Philosopher: If you like.

Nana: Do you come here often?

The Philosopher: Occasionally. I happened by.

Nana: Why are you reading?

The Philosopher: It's my job.

Nana: It's odd... Suddenly I don't know what to say; it often happens to me. I know what I want to say. I think about whether it is what I mean. But when the moment comes to speak, I can't say it.

The Philosopher: Yes, of course. You've read The Three Musketeers?

Nana: No, I saw the film. Why?

The Philosopher: Because in it, Porthos... this is really in Twenty Years Later. Porthos, tall, strong, a little stupid; he's never thought in his life. He has to place a bomb in a cellar to blow it up... He does it. He places the bomb, lights the fuse, then he runs away, of course. But suddenly he begins to think... What about? How it is possible to put one foot before the other? You must have thought about that, too... So he stops running. He can't go on, he can't move forward. The bomb explodes, the cellar falls on him. He holds it up with his shoulders. But after a day, or maybe two, he is crushed to death. The first time he thought, it killed him.

Nana: Why did you tell me that story?

The Philosopher: No reason, just to talk.

Nana: Why must one always talk? Often one shouldn't talk, but live in silence. The more one talks, the less the words mean.

The Philosopher: Perhaps, but can one?

Nana: I don't know.

The Philosopher: I've found that we can't live without talking.

Nana: I'd like to live without talking.

The Philosopher: Yes, it would be nice, wouldn't it?... Like loving one another more, but it isn't possible.

Nana: But why? Words should express just what one wants to say... Do they betray us?

The Philosopher: But we betray them, too. One should be able to express oneself. It has been done in writing. Think: someone like Plato can still be understood - he can. Yet he wrote in Greek, 2,500 years ago. No one really knows the language, at least, not exactly. Yet something gets through, so we should be able to express ourselves. And we must.

Nana: Why must we? To understand each other?

The Philosopher: We must think, and for thought we need words. There's no other way to think. To communicate, one must talk; that is our life.

Nana: Yes, but it is very difficult. I think life should be easy. Your talk of The Three Musketeers may make a good story but it's terrible.

The Philosopher: Yes, but it's a pointer... I believe one learns to talk well only when one has renounced life for a time. That's the price.

Nana: So, to speak is fatal?

The Philosopher: Speaking is almost a resurrection in relation to life. Speech is another life from when one does not speak. So, to live in speech, one must pass through the death of life without speech. I may not be putting it clearly, but there is a kind of ascetic rule that stops one from talking well until one sees life with detachment.

Nana: But one can't live everyday life with... I don't know…

The Philosopher: …With detachment. We balance, that's why we pass from silence to words. We swing between the two because it's the movement of life. From everyday life one rises to a life we call superior.

The thinking life. But this life presupposes one has killed the everyday… too elementary life.

Nana: Then thinking and talking are the same thing?

The Philosopher: So I believe. Plato said so; it's an old idea. One cannot distinguish the thought

from the words that express it. An instant of thought can only be grasped through words.

Nana: So one must talk and risk lying?

The Philosopher: Lies, too, are part of our quest. Errors and lies are very similar. I don't mean ordinary lies like I promise to come tomorrow, but I don't, as I didn't want to. You see, those are ploys. But a subtle lie is little different from an error. One searches and can't find the right word. That's why you didn't know

what to say. You were afraid of not finding the right word. That's the explanation.

Nana: How can one be sure of having found the right word?

The Philosopher: One must work. It needs an effort. One must speak in a way that is right, doesn't hurt. Says what has to be said, does what has to be done, without hurting or bruising.

Nana: Yes, one must try to be in good faith. Someone told me: "There is truth in everything, even in error."

The Philosopher: That's true. France didn't see it in the seventeenth century. They thought one could avoid error and what's more, that one could live directly in the truth. It isn't possible. Hence Kant, Hegel, German philosophy: to bring us back to life and make us see that we must pass through error to arrive at the truth.

Nana: What do you think about love?

The Philosopher: The body had to come into it. Leibnitz introduced the contingent. Contingent truths and necessary truths make up life. German philosophy showed us that in life, one thinks with the servitudes and errors of life. One must manage with that, that's true.

Nana: Shouldn't love be the only truth?

The Philosopher: For that, love would always have to be true. Do you know anyone who knows at once what he loves? No. When you're twenty you don't know. All you know are bits and pieces, you make arbitrary choices. Your "I love" is an impure affair. But to be completely at one with what you love, you need maturity. That means searching. This is the truth of life. That's why love is a solution, on condition that it is true.

- Vivre sa vie - Jean Luc Godard -


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