The French have a word for it

I remember when I first encountered the word bonheur, the title of a film by Agnes Varda.This is usually gets translated in to English as happiness. But in French bonheur has a less nebulous sense than the English happiness; it is to do with fulfilment, with well being, with the pleasures of a good meal or pleasant surroundings or warm relationships with others. Practical useful pleasures. Very much the business of Purposive Drift. As Charles Eames put it, “the rewarding experiences and aesthetic pleasures of our lives should not be dependent solely upon the classic fine arts, but should be, rather, a natural product of the business of life itself.”
Now I have a new word, avenir. I learnt it from Harry Eyres, who in turn learnt it from the film Derrida. In the film, he says, “Derrida suggests a distinction (in the French language) between futur and avenir. Futur/future (as in planning for the future, future trends and so on) suggests a continuation or extrapolation of the present, running along the same lines or tracks. The beautiful word avenir, on the other hand, means what is to come, something potentially quite other, something we cannot yet know, but which might, just might, be the realm of justice and peace on earth.”
I like the notion of the future being seen as “‘what is to come, something potentially quite other, something we cannot yet know”. That is very Purposive Drift.

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  1. Sorry, the Harry Eyres’s link now requires a subscription to the FT. You can get a free fifteen day trial.

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