JPS: The Jean-Paul Sartre Navigation System.
BY GABRIELLA COOK and JEREMY RICHARDS
[Originally published July 2, 2012.]
Starting Point: Existence. Destination: Essence.
Return Trip: N/A.
As a traveler with volition to soar beyond guidance, you implore me to recalculate. The world spins beneath the satellite’s gaze and all roads re-converge. In four miles, affirm again that there exists no exit. Hell is other commuters.
Ahead, turn left and catch your reflection in the driver’s side window, self as other present to itself, cast against the rushing pavement. When a lamppost interrupts your image, turn back. Keep turning.
The phenomenology of lanes anticipates anxiety and caprice, intent to second guess your initial choice, and a sudden swerve, pulling the wheel with a greasy hand as the empty burger wrapper flies from the passenger seat and wedges beneath the all-weather mat. If you look up to check the rearview and find the mirror bent down, do you suddenly inherit the posture of whoever once sat in your place?
You are approaching the in-itself and for-itself. You have passed the in-itself, whereas the for-itself can never be escaped. The in-itself and for-itself walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Hey, we don’t serve irreducible ontology here.” The in-itself turns to the for-itself and says, “See what I mean?” Drink responsibly.
Regardless of the chrome reflection inches from your progress, regardless of the push and jolt, regardless of your projected assumption of where you would be by now, the only true confirmation of traffic pulses before you on the screen, a tangle of red veins. If you could reach out and strangle these roads, cut off the blood supply, or tear at them with your teeth (suddenly de-realized and aware of your shame), the result would not be blood, but exhaustion. Exhaustion would spray in every direction. We are condemned to be on freeways, a way that is only free in absentia, while the toll ticks inward. Here is a sign that promises rest. Here is a sign that promises an end to hunger, claiming that dairy has crowned its own royalty.
The destination is all that’s left. The destination is not your right. Notice how the desultory snake sprouts a head in the shape of a checkered flag. In the wind, here you witness your surrender interrupted by nothingness in even steps, white/black, white/black, the gaping mouth of a beggar, the blizzard consuming a night so dark and so close it convinces you that the sun is a fiction, a mistaken memory, nostalgia for the fire that set you running. You have arrived—not where you intended, but at a point where you agree to be still.
What do you mean, “you’re lost”? Why did you ask me to begin with? I’m not familiar with the area. Accept the authentic void of wilderness, relinquish the momentum of direction altogether, or hell, I don’t know, just look it up on your phone.
McSweeney’s is now a nonprofit and we would greatly appreciate your help. Click the button to donate. Thank you!
SUGGESTED READSList: Existentialist Quotes for Social Media Platforms
by Jim Sabataso (2/27/2015)
Famous Philosophers and How They Were First Discovered
by Mike Sacks (5/3/2010)
Jean-Paul Sartre’s Script for Without a Trace
by Bob Woodiwiss (8/13/2008)
RECENTLYLet’s Save Sitting!
by Liza Behles (5/22/2015)
How to Find Love: Lessons from an Old Maid: Halfway Point
by Connie Sun (5/22/2015)
List: Batting Heckles Uttered by the Dad On My Son’s Little League Team Who is a Meteorology Professor and Whose Research Interests Include Cloud-Based Analytics for Spatio-Temporal Data With a Primary Focus On Climate, Hydrological and Ecological Sciences
by Gary M. Almeter (5/22/2015)