Marcel on Disponibilité and Indisponibilité: Handy, Unhandy, Available, Unavailable

Continuing with the theme of disposability, here is a brief passage from The Mystery of Being, vol. 1.  Marcel comments on his own terms.

We come up against a notion here which seems to me of capital importance but for which it is difficult to find an idiomatic English equivalent—at least neither I, nor the English translator of my previous work, Being and Having, managed to do so. The French terms I use are disponibilité and indisponibilité.  Literally, in English, one would render these as availability and unavailability, but it might sound more natural if one spoke of handiness and unhandiness, the basic idea being that of having or not having, in a given contingency, one’s resources to hand or at hand. The self-centred person, in this sense, is unhandy; I mean that he remains incapable of responding to calls made upon him by life, and I am not thinking merely of the appeals for help that may be made to him by the unfortunate. I mean rather that, over a much wider field, he will be incapable of sympathizing with other people, or even of imagining their situation. He remains shut up in himself, in the petty circle of his private experience, which forms a kind of hard shell round him that he is incapable of breaking through. He is unhandy from his own point of view and unavailable from the point of view of others.

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