We know 'projects', right? We did projects in primary school: ‘Dinosaurs’, ‘People who help us’. High speed train HS2 is a UK government project. The EU was a post-war project towards peace.
There’s another way of thinking about projects that has been inspiring me lately: when we take our ideas, our plans, and visions, and use our energies and passions to make them happen, that’s a project.
This idea comes from Simone de Beauvoir, who reminds us that the noun project relates to the verb to project, as in projecting a beam of light into the sky. As metaphor, being human is about projecting ourselves beyond this ‘now’, this given world.
We are our projects.
We take control, or the illusion of control, of our own lives through the projects we choose for ourselves. We relate to other people through our projects, our passion for them, and our involvement in them. We invest our time and effort, and we create a meaning for ourselves in the world through these projects.
Our flying shapes our sky.
These are our sky-shaping projects.
These are nothing like primary school ‘projects’ which were usually little more than a way of mixing up content and presenting it in a fun way. And high speed trains and the EU belong in another realm, of political projects that may be initiated by someone’s sky-shaping project but quickly become both more, and less, than that.
In “The Second Sex”, de Beauvoir is piercingly good on women’s projects, in particular on how women struggle to become artists and writers. She may sound old-fashioned on some things; she certainly does not make for comfortable reading; but she knew. She lived this.
It was as if she took my life experience and unrolled it like a map, pointing out the continents and oceans, showing how routes across this world of my life became inevitable. She pointed out the centuries of history and myth that led to this. She gave me new words to describe my experience.