Friday, 21 February 2014

The thoughts of other people

I always find this quote a little spooky - Proust's assertion that our social personality is created by the thoughts of other people. 

Most of us I suspect would prefer to keep something in reserve, some aspect of our social personality for which we alone are responsible. Megalomaniacs insist on it.

But then, even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is created by the thoughts of other people.

Even the simple act which we describe as ‘seeing someone we know’ is, to some extent, an intellectual process.

We pack the physical outline of the creature we see with all the ideas we have already formed about him, and in the complete picture of him which we compose in our minds those ideas have certainly the principle place. In the end they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to follow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice that these seem to be no more than a transparent envelope, so that each time we see the face or hear the voice it is our own ideas of him which we recognize and to which we listen.

Marcel Proust – À la recherche du temps perdu

4 comments:

Sackerson said...

Yes, it is difficult to change yourself in a familiar milieu. I have often suggested that you need to extract yourself from familiars, make the changes you want and then join a different group, whose homeostatic instinct will keep in the path you have chosen. It's how I gave up smoking: did it between jobs. It's probably also why thousands of people disappear each year,walking out of their past lives completely.

A K Haart said...

Sackers - presumably divorce can have its roots in the same urge.

I should have changed jobs more often, but family responsibilities and a mortgage tend to make security very attractive. Even so...

Demetrius said...

Perhaps a touch of the absinthe here? Or had Albertine been getting on his nerves?

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - absinthe maybe - something has to explain that mountain of words.