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Robert John Bennett – Revision – Harvard Novel

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5 September 2022

The item below is part of a translation of "The End Is Where We Start From." It is meant only as an exercise. Other parts of the translation are available to the right, under "Version in English."

Part Three:

Harvard – the second and third year

Part 3, Chapter 14

"So now you know what else was besides you, until now you only knew about yourself! You were actually an innocent child, but even more so, you were a diabolical person! And therefore know: I now condemn you to the death of drowning! "
–Franz Kafka
The judgment

The first of his really serious crises this year concerned his position as director of the Tanganyika project. Since this was the only job at Harvard that he believed could give him the same sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as his work in Africa had done, the crisis was serious for him. Of course, she seemed much worse to David at that time than just "serious".

At the beginning, work on the project seemed to be going well. David selected an outstanding group of project participants and began by explaining to them everything he had learned about East Africa and the experiences a Harvard student could have there. This was the most pleasant part of his work as director, and at first it helped to heal the effects of the apparent need of his mother and stepfather to suppress any sign of self-confidence or independence in him.

The organization of the Tanganyika project was the only activity that allowed him to preserve something like an identity that he believed he had in Africa. Every time he worked on the project, he could regain, at least for some time, the feeling of being a strong, competent, independent young man who enjoyed conveying to others the excitement and satisfaction of working in the exotic place they wanted to visit. As he began to do so and befriended the new members of the project, his self-esteem grew and the feeling that life seemed to have meaning again. The pain and confusion of his existence began to come together again into something meaningful, something that convinced him that he was giving other people a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

At the same time, David also developed a sense of the intricate pattern that life's possibilities can sometimes contain. He began to understand that he could use this pattern to acquire the wisdom he was capable of. However, he did not yet understand that the pattern often involves pain.

When he was young, every time his life suddenly and without warning began to follow a new pattern, he was shocked and angry, sometimes even angry or desperate. The destruction of the old pattern seemed so pointless and meaningless that life itself seemed meaningless and meaningless for a time.

Because he concentrated on the old life he had survived and outgrown, he was blind to the new; He knew nothing of the new possibilities that presented himself, sometimes in incomprehensible and painful ways.

He may have wasted a lot of time unaware of these possibilities, but the waste was perhaps only apparent. Someone he thought was a saint once said to him, "Everything can be made right in a moment." For David, that meant, "It had to mean that even the seemingly wasted parts of life can become part of a pattern, which ultimately gives meaning to our entire existence and also to the existence of other people. This process, in addition to the associated pain, can also bring some kind of joy, and how much of it was part of something bigger was a question that David had been thinking about for many years.

Whether he ever understood it later or not, at the age of twenty-one he did not understand anything about it.

When his connection with the Tanganyika project suddenly ended that fall of his second year of study and, it seemed to him, brutally, he was tempted to believe that the universe itself was driven by an arbitrary and vicious force that cruelly and brutally wreaked havoc wherever there was anything good, something promising, something that seemed to bring a little joy or hope or cheerfulness into life – or at least, he thought selfishly, into his life.

Sometimes it is the pattern of our past upbringing that breaks into our lives and seems to destroy everything important and valuable. This is certainly part of what happened to David back then, but if something like this happens in our lives, maybe it can be integrated into something bigger, something that ultimately brings us happiness. How exactly this happens and who exactly is responsible for it, he could not yet know.

In the case of the Tanganyika project, it was the pattern of lifelong confusion and isolation imposed on him by his poor mother that destroyed any hope of success in his work with the project. However, his lifelong conviction that one way or another "a deity shapes our ends" enabled him to survive the rubble.

(to be continued)

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