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Friday, February 17, 2012 4:32 pm
Ask a Book: Poker Night and Nothingness
Posted by: Keir Graff

Have a burning question about etiquette or literature? Ask a book!

Dear Being and Nothingness, by Jean-Paul Sartre,

Every Thursday night, I get together with some old high-school buddies. We play poker and have some beer and pizza and blow off some steam. My wife hates these nights. She says we’re all living in the past. She’d rather I stay home and work on her list of projects to fix up the house, but I think it’s in perfectly good shape for the two of us right now. What do you think? Is it just a harmless night of camaraderie with old friends, or should I be focusing more on the future of our marriage?

—Nauseated in Nixa

Nauseated,

Your wife is correct. And so are you. This struggle between the two of you is one you are doomed to enact, ad nauseam, due to your belief in the bourgeois emotional system you call “love.” The good news, however, is that you can pass the time until you die by pondering questions of infinite richness. For instance, I ask you to consider whether you truly enjoy these poker nights with your “buddies”—or do you find, rather, that you merely assume the pose of one who enjoys mindless diversion? I suspect that, if you were able to view yourself through the eyes of another, you would find your laugh a little too hearty, your elbow a little too crooked, and your off-color jokes something for which you have no particular affinity. In short, you are playing at being “one of the guys.” But you asked for my advice, Nauseated, and here it is: stop living in the past, fix up the house, and respond full-bloodedly when your wife gives you “the look.” Even though it will never bring you happiness.

Being and Nothingness

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