The Hole by Jean-Paul Sartre exposes many aspects of the concept of holes, the more obvious physical and the conspicuous metaphysical holes. According to Sartre the hole, void, or abyss is an empty dreary place that we humans have the yearning to fill up. The chance of human life begins with the penetration of a hole.
According to Sartre the ephemeral filling of the this hole is evidence that the women has the need to be filled and the man has the desire to fill.
Our very existence depends on filling the two small holes in our nose with air, we constantly exhale and inhale rhythmically to no avail, and the crevasse remains empty of a tangible substance. The hole in our face we start as children to fill it with our fingers, then we graduate to fill it with food, then some adults continue the fixation with (some would consider) salacious and corporeal behaviors.
Then we have the metaphorical hole—the inner sanctum—the soul hole. The compulsion to fill the soul hole is one of the catalysts for human altruism, religion, and spirituality—better yet–the existence of social justice. Adam Smith tells us in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.” I am not inclined to discuss the nature of man for the purpose of this discussion I assume nature to mean desire.
However, I am inclined to say the desire of man according to Sartre’s essay is to fill a hole, and that hole, in this case is in the less fortunate stratum of society. Altruism has been debated oftenl times throughout history, it has even been quantified. Gary S. Becker, a Nobel Prize winning economist, created a math model on the societal effects and intentions of altruism. Altruism is an enigma. Sartre’s essay simplifies the phenomenon.
In line with Hegel’s master-slave dialectic, the person of power needs the powerless. The hole filler needs a hole to fill. Whereas the powerful views him self as complete, (he-the powerful is bountiful with economic, human capital, and material possessions). There is still a void in the soul. The soul-hole may not be engorged. For he, the powerful, in a capitalist economy may have contributed to the condition of the persons he is inclined to help.
The complete person has no where to go. Once you are complete, fully complete there is nothing left but death. The powerful capitalist in this case may indeed be disposed to excavate his soul by creating an internal hole and simultaneously create societal holes in the form of the less fortunate, in order to have more holes to fill–internally and society at large; a provocative dichotomous relationship. Unconsciously (maybe), he is destroying to rebuild—acquiring capital to give it away, a simultaneous capitalist philanthropic being.
The benevolent capitalist will feed the hungry, filling two holes simultaneously–the hole in the face and the soul-hole—his soul. But what does he feed him? Generally, charity foods are staples, the absolute necessities (starches, breads, canned foods etc). The complete, will not engage the de void with lavish delicacies—for he, the devoid is unworthy of the joys of complete fullness, just the temporary sub standard transient fulfillment of musing the fulfilled.
The French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, argues in his book The Physiology of Taste (1825), “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” If the fulfilled would dare feed the empty the same things he eats he would be admitting that they are equals or similar and clearly they are not–They cannot be if the delicate balance is to be kept. Sartre spoke of the greasy and the slimy foods. The poor is feed the fluffy and the dry. Nonetheless their carnal need to eat is fulfilled. The whole receives a much larger reward from feeding than those being fed. Altruism perpetuates his life.
Altruism is not a constant occurrence amongst philanthropists; the idea is constant but not the action. The soul-hole is like a gas tank—its driver will ride on “E” (all the while acquiring more wealth and creating more holes)—before cyclically desiring to correct society’s failures, by patching up the holes he created—thus filling his tank, to once again empty it for survival.
The delicate balance is a unique homeostatic atmosphere. Each one which is powerful has its own threshold for vitality. The moderately powerful may offer advice, volunteer a paltry amount of time, or just acknowledge the indigenous existence. The meagerly powerful may do even less. The homeostatic nature of the altruism life cycle is purely on an individual basis. Some will allow ride the soul-hole on “E” for miles needing a tow, while others are persnickety and refill every 50 miles. The fulfilled (wherever the lye on the spectrum) must have an internal mechanism that indicates their need to replenish the soul-hole. Just as one knows their car and how long they can ride on “E” before filling up.
The relationship between the fulfilled and those they designate as empty is fragile. The small amount of empowerment through material or intellectual gains is the one aspect the fulfilled have to lord over the indigenous. For so called empty is thought to have kept the soul-hole on full. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Religion is what keeps the poor man from murdering the rich”. The balance between the poor man and his full soul and empty belly, and the full belly of the rich man and his hollowed soul—they need each other—one more then the other. The poor man seeks solace in spiritual riches. Therefore, his power if realized is much more substantial. For the rich man depletes his soul most times at the expense of the poor man in the plight of obtaining fiscal wealth. Thus he starts the cycle all over again.
At the end of Sartre’s essay he talked about man’s need to become God and the premise is impossible. The selflessness at the root of altruism is considered by some Christ like. Sartre says, “Thus the passion of is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion”. Man desires to create then fill physical and metaphysical voids in a vicious cycle for the reminder of his life. When the desire is gone and the void is filled man ceases to live. If we all had exactly what we wanted and none of what we needed the quest would be futile. And we would all be empty, hollowed, void, empty spaces—white walls in an apartment.