Bound to Fulfillment

With­out being for­giv­en, released from the con­se­quences of what we have done, our capac­i­ty to act would, as it were, be con­fined to one sin­gle deed from which we could nev­er recov­er; we would remain the vic­tims of its con­se­quences for­ev­er, not unlike the sorcerer’s appren­tice who lacked the mag­ic for­mu­la to break the spell. With­out being bound to the ful­fill­ment of promis­es, we would nev­er be able to keep our iden­ti­ties; we would be con­demned to wan­der help­less­ly and with­out direc­tion in the dark­ness of each man’s lone­ly heart, caught in its con­tra­dic­tions and equiv­o­cal­i­ties, a dark­ness which only the light shed over the pub­lic realm through the pres­ence of oth­ers, who con­firm the iden­ti­ty between the one who promis­es and the one who ful­fills, can dis­pel. Both fac­ul­ties, there­fore, depend on plu­ral­i­ty, on the pres­ence and act­ing of oth­ers, for no one can for­give him­self and no one can feel bound by a promise made only to him­self; for­giv­ing and promis­ing enact­ed in soli­tude or iso­la­tion remain with­out real­i­ty and can sig­ni­fy no more than a role played before one’s self. [empha­sis mine]

— Han­nah Arendt, The Human Con­di­tion, 2nd ed., pg 237

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