Peter Lawler wrote a blog post yesterday commenting on a quote from Walter Percy’s novel The Last Gentleman:
For until this moment he had lived in a state of pure possibility, not knowing what sort of man he was or what he must do, and supposing therefore that he must be all men and do everything. But after this morning’s incident his life took a turn in a particular direction. Thereafter he came to see that he was not destined to do everything but only one or two things. Lucky is the man who does not secretly believe that every possibility is open to him.
As Lawler summarizes,
Without some such closure — without knowing somehow that you’re “not destined to do everything but only one or two things” — you never get around to living.
It’s taken me a long time to understand that deliberately closing off some options can open more interesting options.
One thought on “Pure possibility”
This reminded me of G.K. Chesterton’s statement in Orthodoxy: “They are both helpless—one because he must not grasp anything, and the other because he must not let go of anything. The Tolstoyan’s will is frozen by a Buddhist instinct that all special actions are evil. But the Nietzscheite’s will is quite equally frozen by his view that all special actions are good; for if all special actions are good, none of them are special. They stand at the crossroads, and one hates all the roads and the other likes all the roads. The result is—well, some things are not hard to calculate. They stand at the cross-roads.”