The Words–Interviewing Oneself
It has been over 45 years since the existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre became the first free man to turn down the Nobel Prize.
According to TIMES, “In 1964, French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (who was privy to pre-announcement rumors) wrote the Nobel committee saying that if they awarded him a Prize, he would refuse it. They ignored his request and awarded him the Literature Prize that year anyway, perhaps hoping he could be persuaded to accept. He was unmoved.”
TIMES continued, “Sartre maintained that his ideals about freedom conflicted with those of the Nobel Committee and that he did not want to be ‘institutionalized’ with the prize money, then worth about $53,000—which he believed would corrupt his writing. Days after the announcement, he told a reporter, ‘A writer ought to live according to his own lights.’”
With Sartre in mind, and with a world waiting a radical philosopher leader, let’s look at the book Sartre wrote in 1964, THE WORDS, and get a feel for what the man was about in the radical 1960s (and earlier).
- Why do you think Sartre divides his story in two parts, “Reading” and “Writing”?
If the Word is passed onto the prisoner who is chained and facing only the wall of a cave, he has to take in what he hears or has heard from others. Likewise, with his mind, he has to decide the following of what he hears: Is what hears relevant or important? Is it factual? Whether it is partially true? Likewise, much of what we know of our wider world of this planet Earth and of our Universe in Time comes to us from what others say or have written. We, from childhood onwards, can experience and have experienced only very little of what is happening or has happened on this planet. Likewise, what others have written for us or have told us makes up more and more a greater or more humongous background or foreground to what we ourselves experience. Likewise, out of this mass of knowledge and experience are words which we produce but are not entirely only our own words of concepts.
A child cannot write in any language–except his own created babble–until he has observed, listened to, read, and/or heard the words of others. We are social animals. We may, like the “Knights of Faith” in Kirkegaard’s writings, be seeking most of all a religious, ethical and ever more aesthetic experience through which to enjoy our days, but we have to work our way through the food of thought, which often comes from the experiences and writings of others.
Although the first part of Sartre’s book is called READING, this fact does not mean that READING ceased for young Jean-Paul Sartre at one age and a new age of writing began in a world he created all by himself, i.e. using words he has thought out on his own, like some amazing superman character who has more knowledge than anyone else on the planet. No. Definitely it is the case that Sartre recognizes only that he came of an age to begin to write and the basis of this skill was empowered through what he had read—even though at the earliest stages of his life he could appropriate and adapt what he had read, heard, and experienced through observing others. In the READING section of The Word, this came through written texts of both classics and children-aimed story books or popular magazines aimed at youth and adventurers.
WRITING is only a new stage in the life of Jean-Paul Sartre, and this new section, WRITING, did not mean that READING concluded, like a scene in drama, with Act 2 taking off in a completely other part of the globe in space and time. For Sartre, obviously getting to know or gaining the ability to decipher what a scribbled word could possibly mean, i.e. reading, preceded naturally his own ability to write in any narrative form. His writing was merely to a great degree an extension of what had come before his eyes over time.
One of Sartre’s early favorite French writers, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, could never have guessed how much influence he has had on future generations or how he would influence Jean-Paul Sartre or any number of American or French educators specifically, but the very idea that “existence precedes essence” would be considered by many a reader of these 20th and 21st centuries as simply a continuation of the centuries-old Nature vs. Nurture Controversy, a controversy which rolls on like the ying and yang throughout history for educators, reformers, scientists, politicians, jailers, and ethicists who have continued to argue which comes first in the modern world of progress and development.
Naturally, even spoken- and listened-to- words (or phrases) play a role in both Sartre’s education in literature and comics and in his own writings–and appropriations and adaptations of other’s work or ideas. A search across the internet on the tale’s of Sartre’s years in street cafes smoking and drinking world of Paris Cafes would be filled with how much he loved the spoken word, especially savoring his own. However, in writing, he claimed to be able to take the criticism he had gained from others and to thus be able to produce an even better work. That is he not only stood on the shoulders of giants, but he learned on the backs of his most determined critiques. However, as a speaker or debater, Sartre found only energy and motivation. Writing was what Sartre felt called to do—although by whom or by what he is called or driven exactly is not clear. He is driven also at times by a flight from or fight with boredom, but that is “another story.”
RECOMMENDED READING: http://www.iep.utm.edu/sartre-p/
- Characterize how Sartre invents the adult world seen from the eyes of a small boy. Is it accurate? What type of insights do children give us into understanding ourselves and the world?
Having read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye prior to reading The Words, I was struck by the continuity between the works of using the “I” author or first person narrator to tell a sort of autobiography, i.e. iconoclastic biographies. Morrison used various forms of the “I” author and juggled the order of her narration set in a time period and place of her youth. However, she took more seriously the focus of the story as an educational tool to a much greater degree while Sartre focuses more on self-revelation. In choosing this pathway, Morrison may have not gotten as far as she hoped to within the constraints of her mosaic technique—and is therefore a more direct on model narrations of century’s gone by and thus more disturbing to some degrees than the first person or “I” narrator of The Words. By this, I mean that rhythm and tempo of thoughts conveyed by the “motorboat” and at times “rootless” tempo of Sartre in The Words, are something that the reader can become used to because the tempo and dimension is always bright and apparent after a while; whereas, the sudden jump into the childhoods of the father and mother of the protagonist Pecola in The Bluest Eye come in the form of a surprisingly neutral narrative format. This format contradicts to some degree the opening ditties and bitter critiques of the “I” narration used by the same third person narration throughout most of the rest of The Bluest Eye.
In The Bluest Eye, Morrison’s narrator appears to be a child who claims to have the insight and wisdom of an adult. In this she must be some sort of prodigy. That is, in order to sort out the powers-that-be-sources in her own society at such an early age is at times less than convincing. That is, the narrator appears to be claiming in her critical voice that she doesn’t fall for the illusions of the world around her and is calling into question the order of the world at a distinctly young age. She is constantly conscious of the makers-and-shakers who are defining and determining what the people of mainstream America (in her small town) see to be beautiful (or not). From an early age, she perceives scams and cover-ups by elders. However, in such analysis, I find the Blue Eye first-person narrator appearing to fall short,. In short, her narration is more like a fly on the wall narrator at times, i.e. one with a bit of omniscience, like the real author Toni Morrison, but not with the depth of internal growth and thought one sees in Sartre’s autobiography, The Words.
The Sartre autobiography, in contrast, in using the Poulou or childhood voice as the “I” (or first person narrator) is at first much more convincing than flamboyant or outrageous. Sartre begins the book with many factually accurate facts of history, and concepts of childhood development and his growing self-confidence are found progressively throughout the book. In short, in comparison to his growing speed in thought and reflection—i.e. flashbacks and future scenes–in the second half of his WRITING section of The Words, Sartre starts READING section a bit more traditionally than Morrison, who is certainly often both consciously and overtly concerned with the problem of voice in narration of any autobiography, and is thus clearly never satisfied with her own present perspective in narrative. Sartre, too, claims to never be satisfied with his finished works, but quite obviously enjoys his present work as he puts his enrgy and flames of thought into it.
Sartre, starts his “autobiography” by talking about his family tree, dating back to the 1850s in Alsace. He starts on his mother side—not the Sartre side—to make it imminently clear that his originally-German-speaking ancestors or Alsatian tribe had a greater overall influence on him. He tells of the Schweitzers and especially of his Schweitzer grandfather, Karl, who as a teacher of languages and linguist, had the greatest of influences on his life. For example, off-the-cuff, Sartre mentions that his mother is a close cousin of Albert Schweitzer, one of the most famous Alsatians in all of history. Then, without skipping a beat, Sartre moves on—as if to say simply “That is another story”: This narration is about me—just as any self-centered child might focus on in his own self-centered narrations.
In short, Sartre, in his first two pages of writing The Words appears to be giving us a somewhat straight forward and linear autobiography—one in which he might be anticipated to tell us as balance and even-handedly as possible about key events in his early years, which in turn affected him and forged him into whom he has become.
However, Sartre’s initial paragraph in this biography goes on for more than five pages. By the end of it, one knows that Sartre is not in handing us a traditional progressive autobiographical narration. This author is a philosopher, who is interested in language and is interested in multiple levels of narration and introspection. Nevertheless, within this very-long (five-pages) introductory paragraph, we are shown characters in Sartre’s family tree who were destined to be aesthetics, ethical, and religious—all themes of Sartre’s life and evident throughout this book.
Similar to the first person “I narrator” in The Bluest Eye, I—as reader—eventually dismiss Sartre’s childhood self reflections as narrator with an authentic childlike voice. I can hardly believe that a child had so deep a knowledge of the cycles of life in literature, reading and writing, or that the voice of Sartre is in any way an accurate depiction of the world and thoughts of the child-Sartre, i.e. who is, neveretheless, the official voice or narrator of The Words. This is because Sartre is suggesting throughout that the book, especially in the WRITING section, that he fairly clearly perceives his world over time as a child and from early youth onwards feels called of the destiny to become a writer—an author, e.g. like many of his heroes who created either the works his grandfather enjoyed or who created the works of fiction, film or comic books that he also swallowed up whole, i.e. as an impressionable and opinionated (but pleasant) child.
An example of Poulou’s thinking that is not-at-all-akin to most children is found near the end of the novel when Sartre is criticizing other authors who have proven formative to him in his pre-teen (and possibly later) years. Sartre writes, “Those children lived in a state of terror. They thought they were acting and talking at random, whereas the real purpose of their slightest remarks were to announce their destiny. The author and I smiled tenderly over one another over their heads.” [p. 204]
On the other hand, the randomness or rambling stream-of-consciousness with which children speak (or retell events) is certainly part-and-parcel of Sartre’s self-narration of his childhood in The Word. This sort of reification or rambling in self-narration is present and insightful in The Words. This rambling may even at time be true for most children pretty much of the time.
From the same paragraph cited above, here is another stream of thoughts or quips by Sartre speaking as a very young teen, “And then everything turned upside down: I would find myself on the other side of the page, inside the book. Jean-Paul’s childhood resembled that of Jean-Jacques and of Johann Sebastian, and nothing happened to him that wasn’t broadly premonitory.” [p. 204] Because Sartre was now inside the book, a la Alice in Wonderland, Sartre as a child or youth could claim that he “shuddered” as he saw for the first time his own future death as witnessed by his grand children reading of it in some future narrative.
While it is true that children–and especially young teens–do begin to ponder death a bit, it is not often that they can so easily put themselves into the shoes of others—except in games played on the playground or on stage. However, for most children, i.e. without psychological problems, the moments of fear and trepidation passes. For this reason, most children do not know how many times they have died when playing war nor how often they have been killed trying to save their friend or themselves from defeat while fighting to be King of the Mountain. Most everyone shakes off such deaths and then move on. That is what children do well, i.e. in contrast to adults and older teens. Children, as a whole, can forgive, forget and move on. It is older teens and adults who seem more reticent to forgive, forget and move on in the case of disaster or life-changing events. In overcoming his fear of death, Sartre could eventually move on, too.
Meanwhile, concerning Sartre’s childhood views of the world, i.e. as exposed in The Words, Sartre’s childhood respect for Napoleon is mentioned passingly in The Words. Sartre felt he was destined to become a hero of stature—both in France and abroad. Therefore, some of his exposed childhood fears appear to have had little influence on the long shadow of his life of writings and action. This, too, appears to be a realistic part of the narration—and a personal triumph for Sartre that he came slowly to become a little more comfortable with (despite his overt rejection of the Noble Prize).
Let’s focus on young Napolean as a swash-buckling figure in Sartre’s childhood as an example of how images powered his self-image. Napoleon, like Sartre, was a physically short man but a giant of his age. It is said that Napolean carried himself tall. When he entered a room, it is claimed that people actually felt that they looked up to him. Like Napolean, Sartre never died in war and was barely five feet tall. This disadvantage (and a bad eye) did not stop Sartre from joining the military in the months leading up to WWII). In fact, after imprisonment in Germany, Sartre successfully worked with the underground along with the French Resistance inside occupied Paris. In short, although Sartre was fearful as a child of many things, including a fear of boredom and a fear of death as a failed author, but inside he was a fighter and hero—often with both action and words as his weapons.
- Discuss both the unique and common experiences of Sartre’s childhood and identify which ones seemed to have a determining influence on his development and later, on his choice of career (philosopher and writer).
In some ways, it is difficult to speak of common childhood experiences. Some children are dragged out of their homes and are forced to beg on the street for their parents. Others have to work as migratory laborers. Others are spoiled with more video games every week. Others still have a full family living in their home. Others are divorced and never see one of their parents. Likewise, a typical childhood in Kansas of the 1970s is also not the same as that of the 80s, 90s, 00s, or 10s.
Therefore, I can best compare my own childhood experiences and recollected thoughts or memories to that of Sartre’s. My household was not a mixed-generation house hold as Jean-Paul grew up in. My grandparents lived very far away. Likewise, neither did my parents die or separate after I was born. On the other hand, I did have many of the same sort of intense experiences with reading early on that Sartre experienced. Nonetheless, despite my massive exposure to reading early on, writing came to me only after I had finished high school.
Like Sartre, my early world of books was filled with picture books, including the Children’s Bible with its fantastic colored drawings. Unlike Sartre, I do not remember adults forcing me nor pushing books on me at an extremely early age (before age 5), but I do know that by the time I was attending school regularly that my mother would come up to my (brother’s and) my bedroom to read to us at night. She was reading books that were aimed more at adults or young adults, but the stories were moving and enlightening for ones so young. My mother continued doing this until we were almost into our teens.
Meanwhile, due partially to my family having picked up (uprooted us children) and moved to a new town when I was 9 years-old, I didn’t have many friends in my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade years. So, at that time I became an avid reader of not only books—but of encyclopedias, just as was the case for Sartre. Later, in the 5th and 6th grades I came to enjoy doing extra credit by copying out texts from these encyclopedias (and other non-fiction works from the libraries) for my social studies teacher, my history teacher, and my English teacher. I, therefore, early-on practiced the art of plagiarism which Sartre practiced in his formative years of writing tales. In short, I practiced taking out paragraphs from encyclopedias and non-fiction books and enjoyed changing them slowly into my own words.
I should note that similar to Sartre’s home, my mother and father had bought an inexpensive, but colored, encyclopedia set before I even went off to kindergarten. So, in a way, I grew up with an encyclopedia as a joy and pal. I could browse through each volume at home before going to sleep at night. Those encyclopedias had interesting photos to look at from all around the world. It was very important to turn one-page-at a time on rainy days or hot summer afternoons. It enabled my fantasy and mind to wander. Importantly, this encyclopedia-set at my home soon proved to be only the beginning.
By my fourth grade year, I was going through three other sets of encyclopedias in the school library. As well, at the public library, I would read through different ones. At times, I focused on my loves—baseball and famous baseball players or football team. At other times, though, I read diligently of countries that my dad had visited in his travels decades earlier. (My father had saved up money and taken a trip around the world at when he was 21.) Sometimes I would simply go page-by-page through the entire set of volumes from AAA to ZYK very slowly—looking for anything I had missed the last time I had been grazing in that part of the alphabet.
When I was 8 or so, my dad encouraged me to read things like the Hardy Boys series. Within a two or three year period I had devoured more than 60 Hardy Boys as well as more than 20 Alfred Hitchcock and the 3 Investigators. I loved mystery and the adventure. I also read a lot of biographies of famous people, from Lou Gehrig to Nathanael Hawthorn to RFK, JFK or MLK. However, by the time I entered junior high my father was badgering me to read classics, like Les Miserable’s and the Man in the Iron Mask. My father also encouraged us teens to read the local and big city newspapers daily.
Despite all of this pressure from my father to read, I did not realize until I had moved out of my family home as an 18-year-old college student that my family had been an exception, i.e. in its emphasis on reading. My father had trained himself to be a fast reader and would eventually read at least 7000 complete books and novels before he passed away a few years ago. (What is more interesting is that my father had dropped out of university after 3 weeks. Despite that, he was a lifelong voracious reader and role model to me.)
However, despite this ambitious reading relationship and love affair with books revealed to me by my father’s life witness, I never really thought seriously of becoming a writer until I went away to college and wrote my first letter-to-the-editor. The positive feedback on that publicized writing was what started me on a long but slow journey of publicizing and blogging over the past thirty years. I recall that that first influential letter to the editor of the local Collegian dealt with the need to have better field of candidates in the college election for president. My letter inspired three other college students to run for that particular office. So, I came to know that words could lead others to become inspired and, more importantly, lead them to act. (My senior year, I even took a one journalism course before graduating with a B.A. in History and the Social Sciences. This journalist experience, in turn, led me eventually to become an insatiable writer for OP-ED News and other magazine and websites.)
As I was reading in The Word about Sartre’s grandfather warning that the young Jean-Paul that he needed to prepare to be a teacher as well as an author. I had had to nod my head in agreement at this wisdom. If an author can avoid it, he should neither unnecessarily hunger nor make his family suffer financially while he is finding himself or his voice in writing. Moreover, teaching (and it’s close access to libraries) enables one to have time to regularly thumb through or study classics and important works of writing, history, literature, new, and film. These readings are followed by lectures and speaking activities on related further topics. Eventually, such short speeches or discussions in the classroom can then be expanded into essays for others to comment on.
NOTE: Starting with my year of living abroad, I became a voracious diarist. I have been keeping diaries or journals for nearly three decades now. This has further honed my narration skills and improved my thinking as a writer. So, as I read of the little (Poulou) Sartre’s writing and rewriting without ever rereading his work, I had to recall all of the journals that I have written but not reread. In short, some of Jean-Paul’s experiences were definitely common to many authors.
4. Sartre, the philosopher, is most famously known for having written: “Existence precedes essence.” Discuss how Sartre develops this idea in The Words (particularly, in his own character, “Poulou”). If you were to fictionalize your life story as Sartre has done, would you agree with his idea that “existence precedes essence,” or do you think we are fundamentally imbued with a certain character traits or a “nature” that are/is unique and unchanging?
Poulou is one of the narrators that Sartre uses to describe his young self, embedded in the nature of other’s stories or texts. Poulou was also Sartre as a child. Sartre, the adult, stood much of Western philosophy on its head by stating that existence (even the existence of a human idea) can precede the essence of the being—at least as far as humanity goes.
With this in mind, according to Sartre’s narration in his READING section of The Words, the child Poulou is free because of many peculiar realties: (1) The youth was free because he has no father to serve as master or punisher in his rearing years. (2) Likewise, his mother appears more to be an equal or a sister to him than any matriarchal figure, someone who is happy to spoil his whims in reading comic books and going out to cinema, i.e. freeing the boy of the restrictions his grandfather, Karl Schweitzer might otherwise place on him. (3) During most of his pre-teen years, Poulou is free from the institutional constraints of a school. However, by the end of the novel, , Sartre explains that his adult philosophy has really freed him from childhood illusions.
Meanwhile, by the end of the WRITING section in The Words , Poulou is often sometimes revealed as a fearful and un-freed human, who cannot outgrow the thoughts, images, restrictions, and dreads of his present world nor the world created by his forebears. Sartre eventually outgrows this boy, Poulou. It is likely that the boy all-but-disappeared in the 1940s when Sartre’s fame as proponent of existentialism made him a national hero to youth movements in France and elsewhere. On the other hand, by the time Sartre produces The Words, Poulou is back–and not necessarily out of an act of self-exorcism (of any lingering memories of Sartre’s youth) by the aging existentialist.
By 1964, Sartre, who had been born in the bourgeois world of pre-WWI Paris and raised by exiled Alsatians, was a French superstar of the arts, philosophy and politics. He was a controversial figure (saying controversial things), but he was one who was now free to correct himself and to admit problems with earlier writings. By 1964, Poulou, along within the aging Jean-Paul Sartre, reappeared and allowed Sartre in The Word to criticize his youthful self-centeredness and launder publicly his own faults as a rude and opinionated reader and critique of literature, culture, history, and philosophy.
In The Word, Sartre came quickly to admit that he was forged as part of the world of his forebears—a world, which (in the pre-WWI French era) had been focused on war and dreamed-of victories over Germany, i.e. in order to retake the beloved Alsace and Lorraine regions. The “Rape of Alsace” was a common imagery and an oft-spoken phrase of this very era.
Sartre’s Grandfather Karl, who most influenced him in his youth, was from Alsace but had chosen to be French and had created the school of Modern Languages in Paris (in his own image?). Poulou learned of western literature at the feet of this grandfather while learning of the proletariat arts from his mother, who took him to cinema and to buy racy literature on the Seine ramparts. From his childhood onwards, Sartre desired fame and to be a hero. Poulou worried at times whether he would fail grandly in striving towards this dream. However, by 1964-1965, Sartre had more than enough public notoriety, so that he could (and did) turn down the Nobel Prize offered him—becoming once again the modest bourgeois child of his youth.
Likewise, the youthful bourgeoisie child and narrator Poulou had been interested in pursuing the asceticism and religious faith of his cousins and forefathers. (This group does not include his grandfather Karl, who was not very serious about religion.) Poulou had gone to churches and had tried to pray. Sartre as Poulou occasionally even reached out to God (or God waived at him) but then, like his Grandfather Karl, avoided him—and, likewise, Sartre at least felt or perceived that God had let him alone as a youth. Eventually, in the 1940s, Sartre would come to argue consistently the agnostic cause, i.e. stating that the world of atheism needed no God and existential theory didn’t require one either. As a matter of fact, Sartre propounded at that junction in his life, the phrase “existence precedes essence” allowed humanity to stand at the beginning of existence by himself making his own choices as to his essence or his destiny.
However, by the mid-1960s, Poulou was around–not only to be critiqued, i.e. not simply to be given short-shrift—but as a valuable discussant in Sartre’s present life of WORDS. How else could Sartre continue to learn from his past writing and philosophical conundrums if he did not recognized the narrative effects of Poulou on his present existence and memory? For example, in contrast to his earlier works, Sartre, in both the READING and WRITING sections, emphasizes in The Word that at many junctions in his life, he might have chosen the religious rather than the agnostic path. Such an admission would have been impossible for him to make in the 1940s, but by 1964 Sartre felt free and confident to do so as an elder statesman and renegade critique of European culture, literature, thought, and philosophy.
Neither is short-shrift is given by (the now much older) Sartre in The Word to discussing religion. Sartre notes that essence embodies religion but existence is only justified in retrospect [p.88]. This sort of justification colors and discolors all sense of essence. Existence is thus justified, i.e. in retrospect, through fame, honor, beauty, religion, or whatever we as humans value. Existence is preeminent but not the justification of self.
However, these values that make up any justification for being are certainly choices that each human must make. That is why Sartre still emphasizes that he is a humanist. Man can choose to have either a belief in religion or a faith in atheism, but what matters is the being of it. Living out that being or existence is the place where people have had choice—in both thought and deed since time eternity.
More importantly, since humans are existing (or beings existing) before essence, then they have ultimate responsibilities to fulfill as part of their essence. One cannot claim, I sinned or murdered because it was within the nature of man or my own personal nature. [p. 98] One always has a choice. It is by assuming the responsibility for these choices that moves us forward—forever changing the essence of our existence.
“Do people want a life without faith and without convictions?” is one of the kinds of questions that both young Poulou and the elder Sartre discuss in The Word. In the child Poulou we have an extreme-individual. Early on the world is about him only. Later, he fears what he cannot control. Finally, the elder Sartre recognizes that it is working with and within groups of other members of humanity that we also have our identity and make our choices. Poulous initially discovered this slowly when he came to know other boys from the boarding lyceum, where he was sent from the age of 11 onwards. In short, although individual responsibility is inherent in the existence of man, working and playing with others in groups is an option to pursue in changing humanity’s (life) essences and thus our own.
As a whole, I agree that Sartre’s philosophy or world view is possible for some to have without a God. I think it is a good philosophy, but I can see it as applicable to my God (even as a Christian) because in my Bible, in the Book of John, we find that in the Beginning was the Word. Therefore, either the object or the subject of humanity can exist first or second in a chain. However, the important role we humans play is in filling and defining the essence of our lives. This is where choice resides.
Similar to the elder Sartre’s belief, I think that a mature individual has a choice in everything he undertakes. To a great extent, Sartre is accurate. On the other hand, in the end, knowing about choice and recognizing choice in our lives is far too difficult for most individuals to realizs as the choices that we masses of humanity have had to often face have had foundations laid before us in truly limiting ways. We saw examples of this sad apparent lack of authentic individual choice in the lives of many of the characters in Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. In short, where one is born or at the point of “the essence of the world in which we individuals exist” continues to be determinant of the degree to which we have access to an appropriate variety of options and choices in life. Only over time, can we progressively gain footholds to force more options and essences to enfold.
This is what has happened to Poulou. He grew into John-Paul Sartre but existed still. However, he existed with a greater sense of control over his essence and life’s essence.