Thrownness

Hello, faithful readers!

While I originally promised to make one post a day (like, two weeks ago, back when I had a lot of confidence in my own conviction) that evidently didn’t pan out as expected. So here is my new promise: to make one post a week that aims to inspire you in the same way it inspires me. Simple, right? Let’s see!

I am also working on a Draw My Life for you guys in hopes that through it you can understand a little more about who I am and what I’m about. If anyone has any suggestions or helpful tips on how to best execute a Draw My Life, please mention it in the comments section. I’ve done a couple practice runs so far; it’s not easy!

Now that all of the introductory frills are out of the way, let’s get this blog on the road! (get used to corny – you’ll be getting a lot of it from this point forward)

On Thrownness

I am not particularly keen on philosophy. I’ve come across few theories in my 20 years on Earth that have really blown me away; maybe it’s because I tend to enjoy drawing my own conclusions about the meaning of life. However, in my Communication Theory course this past Wednesday I had a theory from a fellow named Heidegger shoved down my throat with alarming intensity (Prof. Eicher, despite her soft voice, is an impressive public speaker).  The theory raised the existential question of life every human frets over: “Who am I and why am I here?”

For as much as I resent pompous men who spend their lives trying to tell me how to live mine, I became infatuated with Heidegger’s answer: Thrownness.

“”The future is our projection of possibilities. While those possibilities are finite, they are also indeterminate. They can never be grasped or worked out in advance. The desire to grasp and work out our possibilities in advance, due to fear, insecurity and the illusion of control, contributes to some of the most painful aspects of the human condition. There is another way to be with our possibilities, but it is not this way. Wherever we are, at any moment of our lives, with no exception, is where we have been thrown. It is not necessary to figure out who threw us, why we have been thrown, or towards where we are being thrown. We spend an inordinate amount of energy on those three distractions. The key to thrownness is not about that; it is that we are thrown, and that we can attend to our thrownness. Our essential possibility, says Heidegger, is in our freedom to choose how to attend to our thrownness…Our being as possibility is shaped by the way we are with our thrownness.” (Fox, Robert)

Most of us students stared at the Professor with tilted heads and furrowed brows. She chuckled, and put Robert Fox’s review of Heidegger’s theory of “Thrownness” in layman’s terms:

“”I’ll speak English for you: We’re here, and we didn’t ask to be. We didn’t choose this body, this family, this location, this planet. We can’t fight or change any of this because it is beyond our control. Any sudden event that happens to us is beyond our control. But you know what we DO have control over? Our reaction. How we decide to be when we are ‘thrown.’ We are absolutely innocent in our thrownness, and we are absolutely responsible for how we relate to that thrownness. Don’t fight it, guys. Learn to BE in it.”

Image

When life feels like it’s going topsy-turvy,my sister and I tend to seek solace in the sea. It was comforting to know that we were not the only ones crazy enough to go to the beach on a chilly February day – this couple was happy as could be!

So Heidegger says that our deepest fears and anxieties are born from spending too much time trying to dissect or reverse the thrownness that is definite. It’s a comforting theory – what happens to us isn’t always our fault. Where we are doesn’t quite determine who we are. And when horrible things happen to us – a death in the family, a natural disaster, or any other situation that we feel is certain to tear us apart – it is not the event itself that matters, but how we decide to exist in it.

So why are we all so hung up on changing these “truths”? I would assume it’s because we internalize everything we experience. Part of the scientific definition of being “human” is being able to self-reflect and recall past events. Perhaps in that ability lays the habit of trying to trace our own progress. When something bad happens we have a tendency to think, “Where did I go wrong?” Heidegger insists we stop dissecting our past, and instead look towards the now. How do I want to handle this?

I was floored by how much his theory seemed to pertain to my life. Recently I’ve been so hung up on the situations I’ve been “thrown” into over the past year that I haven’t put any effort into trying to overcome them, or better yet, simply survive in them. Situations like losing my house to Sandy, losing some of the most important people in my life once college began, and dealing with having a grumpy boyfriend based 2,000 miles away. These are all things that I didn’t quite sign up for – but here they are, and it’s time to exist.

Speaking of the grumpy boyfriend, I had decided during a bout of inspiration to write him a letter concerning this very topic earlier in the week. As a Specialist in the US Army Infantry he is particularly susceptible to the effects of thrownness. Almost every aspect of a soldier’s life is out of their control –  something that drives my little hero insane from time to time. Passing his two year mark earlier this month has made him quite the emotional wreckage – so much to do before his service is done, so little time to decide what he wants to do with his fragile future. The letter contained much of what I have written here (along with all that mushy “I love you to the moon and back” crap-o-la. Although sincerely, readers, I DO love you to the moon and back) and was stealthily dropped into his Facebook inbox late one night, patiently waiting for him in the morning. Once he finally had time to read it, he told me simply, “I loved it.” Another life, changed by Heidegger. Being a famous philosopher must be pretty rewarding work.

Next time the world has you in a strange-hold, readers, turn to thrownness. Stop focusing on what you have done to end up where you are. Stop agonizing over not being able to change what has already occurred. Recognize that some predicaments of life are part of the human condition, and that success is found not in being able to move mountains, but in learning to summit them. And when you can’t find it in you to submit yourself to this tumultuous thing we call life, go somewhere to get away from it all. Go somewhere safe. Last Sunday, I had to run away. Guess where I ran?

You guessed it! To the sea.

Until next week!

The Great South Bay Muse

Credits: Some quotations and my general understanding of “thrownness” came from a copy of Robert G. Fox’s (The Institute for Existential-Psychoanalytic Therapy) Introduction on Thrownness, found in the After Post-Modernism Conference, 1997.

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One thought on “Thrownness

  1. I can completely relate to throwness. During the last year I have, for the first time in my life, definitely felt thrown. I had always known exactly what I wanted, how I wanted, when I wanted. I wasn’t indecisive when it came decisions about life in my late teens and early 20s. I always had intent which dictated to me logical decisions. Of recently a lot of my logical decisions that serve my intentions make me feel incredibly thrown. Sometimes I can revel in feeling thrown and the excitement of never knowing what could happen next. However, often throwness makes me feel scared, sad, and alone but I know in reality this is never true because even at my my most thrown I have wonderful freinds, family, and an incredible sister to run away to the sea with. I can never be thrown too far. ♥

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