As usual, a message from my friend provoked a long, unnecessarily obtuse response from me. But perhaps that is interesting, and perhaps relevant, to read. So here it is. [NOTE: This is not word for word. I have edited for literary effect.]
Hi/I DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO/my mom told me today “dont get your hopes up about cambridge. its a game of luck. prepare for rejection”[and i know she makes a valid point[but that just made me even sadder and even more scared[am i supposed to be positive and idealistic abt this?! or should i be realistic??????EJLHGRrhuisilh
[Background. My friend wants to apply to Cambridge. She is incredibly smart—and has remarkably good grades, which, although doesn’t determine everything, matters in Uni application. However, she is suffering from imposter syndrome and what I name (taken from my badass college counsellor) College-Making-Smart-People-Feel-Stupid syndrome. I had been suffering this for the past month or so, although recently I have became numb—one can only be so worried for so long, until one realize that there is no point to the worrying, and one just has to do what one gotta do and wait for the coin toss.]
My reply: =added ex post facto
I don’t think it is a game of luck./As in, of course luck plays some role, but you just have to try your best and turn the odds your way[I think that it doesn’t matter whether you are positive and idealistic or realistic[The important part is just what you do [for that is what matters]]As in, are you gonna keep on working your ass off until December or give up, no matter whether you are positive or pessimistic [I am a firm behavourist in this respect, I guess. What you believe is, most of the time, just what you do. Because we can lie to even ourselves our intention for action—to use Anscombe’s example, just because Truman told himself that he bombed Hiroshima to destroy some military base does not absolve him of guilt.]]I’ve read a very interesting theological interpretation of protestantism[Many sects [most famously, Calvinism and Lutheranism—Nietzsche, perhaps, was influenced in this regard] have the idea of predestination[But the paradoxical thing is that predestination doesn’t make you work less but makes you work harder[(Hence the famous book by Weber called the The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism)[This is because Luther insisted on the utter impenetrability of God and fate[So you are predestined. But you cannot know how you are being predestined.[And you are in some sense proving your fate by working as hard as you can[And then after you’ve reached the end you would retroactively call it necessity/destiny [hence why it is fate. When you look back it all seems so natural, that it has to happen this way, although “the future’s [always] uncertain, and the end is always near”][When that is the most radical freedom (freedom under predestination/luck) [freedom to make your action your destiny][So, ummm, I guess the takeaway is[To try your hardest under a game of luck is the greatest freedom.[I guess that is inspiring?
As Camus says in The Rebel: “It is not sufficient to live, there must be a destiny that does not wait for death.”
And as Shakespeare says in A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
If then true lovers have been ever crossed,
It stands as an edict in destiny.
At last, a beautiful passage from Heidegger’s What is called Thinking—one that I wanted to use in numerous essays but never found a chance.
“But the fateful character of being destined to such thinking, and thus that destiny itself, will never enter our horizon so long as we conceive the historic from the start only as an occurrence, and occurrence as a causal chain of events. Nor will it do to divide the occurrences so conceived into those whose causal chain is transparent and comprehensible, and others that remain incomprehensible and opaque, what we normally call “fate.” The call [of thought] as destiny is so far from being incomprehensible and alien to thinking, that on the contrary it always is precisely what must be thought, and thus is waiting for a thinking that answers to it.” (p.165)
Typical enigmatic, beautiful Heidegger.