Magic of everyday life

We are never really sure where actions, decisions or events spring from. But, in all their stark reality, the results are there. What lies hidden within men and women is beyond our grasp; maybe these hidden depths are only an instubstantial mist, and not a profound substance (a Grund, a nature, an unconscious belonging to the individual or a group); it may only be a myth. Men and women are beyond us. But the battle, however confused, always has an outcome. There, before us, lies a child, a casualty, or a corpse; a marriage, a life together to organize or to disrupt, a place to live to be found; suffering to endure or avoid – pleasure to enjoy or spoil; a decision to hazard and accept with all its consequences (and this without adequate information, or having lost information en route, etc.). Uncertainty is not without its charm or interest; it can never last long. It maintains ambiguity, keeping what is possible in a state of whorehouse possibilities; it can even oscillate between the comical cons, but there is no telling when something new on one side of the scales will come to outweigh the other. So decisions may ripen like fruit on a tree, but they never fall of their own accord; we must always cut the stem, we must even choose the moment of choice …. Hence the infinately complex, profound and contradictory character of life is given an element which is always new, and which is indeed constantly being renewed by knowledge.

To put it more clearly or more abstractly, ambiguity is a category of everyday life, and perhaps an essential category. It never exhausts its reality; from the ambiguity of consciousness and situations spring forth actions, events, results, without warning.

… magic plays an immense role in everyday life, be it in emotional identification and participation with ‘other people’ or in the thousand little rituals and gestures used by every person, every family, every group. But in practical life as in ideology, this magic only signifies the illusions men have about themselves, and their lack of power. And everyday life is defined by contradictions; illusion and truth, power and helplessness, the intersection of the sector man controls and the sector he does not control.

Quote from Critique of Everyday Life by Henri Lefebvre, pp. 18-22. Originally published in 1958.


References

Lefebvre, Henri (1991) Critique of Everyday Life, Verso, London.

 

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One thought on “Magic of everyday life

  1. Pingback: Comfortable with Ambiguity? | Authentic Voice

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