We end for ever.
Our ego ends, but aspects of our being are invested in the meaning of our life's work.
I'd like to quote the especially powerful conclusion to Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men""Where you went out the back door of that house there was a stone water trough in the weeds by the side of the house. A galvanized pipe come off the roof and the trough stayed pretty much full and I remember stoppin there one time and squattin down and lookin at it and I got to thinkin about it. I dont know how long it had been there. A hundred years. Two hundred. You could see the chisel marks in the stone. It was hewed out of solid rock and it was about six foot long and maybe a foot and a half wide and about that deep. Just chiseled out of the rock. And I got to thinkin about the man that done that. That country had not had a time of peace much of any length at all that I knew of. I've read a little of the history of it since and I aint sure it ever had one. But this man had set down with a hammer and chisel and carved out a stone water trough to last ten thousand years. Why was that? What was it that he had faith in? It wasnt that nothin would change. Which is what you might think, I suppose. He had to know bettern that. I've thought about it a good deal. I thought about it after I left there with that house blown to pieces. I'm goin to say that water trough is there yet. It would of took somethin to move it, I can tell you that. So I think about him settin there with his hammer and his chisel, maybe just a hour or two after supper, I dont know. And I have to say that the only thing I can think is that there was some sort of promise in his heart. And I dont have no intentions of carvin a stone water trough. But I would like to be able to make that kind of promise. I think that's what I would like most of all.
The other thing is that I have not said much about my father and I know I have not done him justice. I've been older now than he ever was for almost twenty years so in a sense I'm lookin back at a younger man. He went on the road tradin horses when he was not much more than a boy. He told me the first time or two he got skinned pretty good but he learned. He said this trader one time he put his arm around him and he looked down at him and he told him, said: Son, I'm goin to trade with you like you didnt even have a horse. Point bein some people will actually tell you what it is they aim to do to you and whenever they do you might want to listen. That stuck with me. He knew about horses and he was good with em. I've seen him break a few and he knew what he was doin. Very easy on the horse. Talked to em a lot. He never broke nothin in me and I owe him more than I would of thought. As the world might look at it I suppose I was a better man. Bad as that sounds to say. Bad as that is to say. That has got to of been hard to live with. Let alone his daddy. He would never of made a lawman. He went to college I think two years but he never did finish. I've thought about him a lot less than I should of and I know that aint right neither. I had two dreams about him after he died. I dont remember the first one all that well but it was about meetin him in town somewheres and he give me some money and I think I lost it. But the second one it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin through the mountains of a night. Goin through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin. Never said nothin. He just rode on past and he had this blanket wrapped around him and he had his head down and when he rode past I seen he was carryin fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. About the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin on ahead and that he was fixin to make afire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there. And then I woke up."
To me this passage shows that "legacy" is not a question of class (how much money we leave - the first dream) but something like character, or social station (within the context of this extract, living (and dying) well as father - the second dream). That the narrator wants
to make a promise, like the person who carved the stone trough, represents, I like to think, a desire for both a more stable and
less individualistic, less fatalistic culture. This is a wish I share.
Apathy and fatalistism project a levelling pre-theory upon Being such that beings (including man) have no possibility to show up as the things they are, being denied the possibility of meaning. Extreme nihilism - the dark night of the soul - represents an apex of human anxiety, in which one complains that life has no meaning. The impossibility of Being having meaning (the inability of beings to show up as the things they are) is perpetuated by the fatalism in question. Fatalism is not only a metaphysical error but, as an ontological impossibility to be
, is also the same phenomenon as death
. As Shakespeare recognised: "a coward dies a thousand deaths."
To overcome fatalism we need to project ourselves back into the given meanings (role-based identities) of our culture. When these meanings are sick (identity is a question of individual lifestyle choice) a culture is in big trouble.