Gelassenheit, Career, and Gatsby


Today I looked up and the sky and wondered “Where exactly are you taking me, God?”

Then I realized: it shouldn’t matter. I spend so much of my time imagining where I will be in one year, in five years, forward-thinking and planning and moving with intentionality. I really think I can make it, that somehow will do exactly what it takes. The closer I get to each transition in life, the more pressure I feel to somehow make it work for myself. I get insecure, thinking I would be able meet my goals if only I weren’t… The closer I get, the more I realize how little control I actually have over my life. Too infrequently, I realize how good a reality that is.

We human beings don’t have freedom to initiate our lives, only to react what happens in them. Who knows why events play as they do?

All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.

It’s true. We are given time (i.e. life) and we should hold it as a gift. We aren’t given a career, we are given opportunities. Doors open and doors close. It doesn’t matter what cliched way we phrase it; we don’t make ultimate decisions.

The great Gatsby spends his life imagining that he is God and trying to manifest what he ultimately desires. In the end, he gets what he started out with: a vision of a blinking green light. No matter how hard he tries to grab it, it remains at a distance. For Gatsby, the light remains at one place, one fixation. For us, the light ought to keep drifting out to sea, pulling us with it into the Unknown.

This is what it means to proceed by way of gelassenheit, of “letting be.” Gelassenheit is an attitude, a humility, a trust in what is Ultimate to present what we need so that we can react appropriately. If that happens to be what we dream, fine. If it happens to be what we fear, fine–we will be given the strength to cope and succeed. In the end, what matters is not what we are doing so much as how we are following.

Follow well. It is the only way to have peace, and thus, to lead.

To lead = to set off out to sea.

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2 thoughts on “Gelassenheit, Career, and Gatsby

  1. 7twentyfour says:

    I think it’s apparent that there are strong connections between your previous post complicating the notion of an “auteur” or author and this one. If, instead of “making” something, bringing art into being is a matter of “letting be,” how do you see yourself making the best with what you have as an artist?

    Maybe a more fascinating question this post has led me to is this: what is a work of art if it is something we merely make space for? Is artistic production, as I have suspected, a negative act, a clearing-out designed to open up the possibility of something new to come? Or is there still a positive role we can carve our for ourselves as agents in creation?

    My thoughts on writing–probably for filmmaking itself–has been that it starts with the recognition of a possibility in a blank sheet of paper or a digital surface. These thoughts aren’t very coherent or systematic yet, but I love the way your thinking is tending.

    • I would agree that writing begins with consideration of possibilities. Once words are chosen, however, there is a violence in choosing one way (or perhaps a group of ways) that a story will unfold. The artistic act is a collapse of infinite possibility into a few. At the same time, though, art becomes a symbol which can take on near universal significance, once again pointing into infinite possibilities. The symbol thus has a paradoxical role. It seems that art has a role of appropriation, of taking what is still possible and creating possibilities for new things.
      I wonder if it’s hard to see this at work in something vague like an art film, a Bergman film. It might make practical sense in a political/social-commentary film like Moolade, where the film has an incredible sense of presence (present-tense): standing at the end of the past and looking hopefully at the future.
      Am I making any sense? ;)


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