Wednesday, February 15, 2006

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guility? (early May)

On the whole, Quidam’s entries for the month of May seem to me easier to understand than those he made in April. Insanity is still a theme, but isn’t quite so predominant now, and speculations about abstract Possibility give way to (somewhat) quieter ruminations on deception, the spirit of the erotic, and his own inching from an ethical to a religious state of being. There is also a fair amount of analysis of behavior, both his own and his beloved, and as might be expected this leads to a speculative paralysis that leads the reader (this reader, anyway) to side with the girl, with or without the sense of eternity he seems desperate for her to have.

May 1. Morning: Quidam seems to have bounced back after declaring that his depression had won out at the end of April, and the result is fairly dizzying display in which it’s hard to sort out the events that have led to these reflections. He refers again to his mention of ‘separation,’ which has evidently disturbed her enough that she has become stronger. In his view, anyway. I’m not sure I understand exactly why this should be so, although I suspect it’s because he broached the subject rather than acting upon it, and now she has the choice of taking that final fateful step. I would point out (assuming that this is true) that wouldn’t necessarily be true (almost certainly would not be true) if she loved him as he claims she loves him. Rather she would wait in fear and trembling for him to act on his claim, not at all wanting that end herself. Abraham certainly was terrified at the crucial moment, but what about Isaac?

Regarding the question about a pasha with three horse tails, go
here . I wonder whether his point isn’t that he can do without the social distinction that comes with being a married man, although it seems to me that this distinction is probably part and parcel to the ethical sphere expounded upon so much by Judge Willhelm in Reflections on Marriage. And when he writes, “With such a union, I become unhappy; I am alarmed about my deepest existence”, it seems obvious that it must be one or the other. And he’s correct when he says here that the responsibility is his, however much he seems to write his way around this in other entries. I would also point out that the Catholic view of sacraments runs counter to this: marriage is very much a religious state of being. Though it’s also certainly true that there is, religiously speaking, traditionally a prejudice (or maybe preference) for the unmarried state, to which Quidam seems to be aspiring.

May 2. Midnight: Quidam does not deny that he harbors angry feelings against his beloved, and claims that he does “not like these direct expressions of feelings; one should be silent and act interiorly.” Question: is this what we have now come to regard as the passive/aggressive profile? Not to reduce it to pop psychology, but to get purchase on some of this stuff one has to be willing to grab whatever wrench might fit.

On this day he also speaks about his perfect freedom and the need to act accordingly. The jump he makes from “time is and remains a dangerous enemy” to how a man can act with self will and yet thank God is at first hazy, but he thankfully clears it up with an extended analogy about a woman so drunk she falls in the street:
Yesterday I saw a drunken woman in the street; she fell down, and the boys laughed at her. Then she got up without anyone’s help and said: I am woman enough to get up by myself, but for that I thak God alone and no one else – no, no one else! When a person is totally engrossed in this distinction, it is rather humiliating for him to be so far from having made new discoveries that a drunken woman says the same thing. And yet it is indescribably joyful and moving and inspiring that even a drunken woman says the same thing.
Has a certain punch, this explanation.

Quidam states that he is committed to the life based on an idea. I find this troubling, because it seems to me that it has been just this sort of commitment to an idea that has been the ruin of so many over the past century. I don’t deny that ideas aren’t important, or that they don’t, philosophically, have much more sway over our lives than we are often willing to admit, but to elevate ideas above their human begetters seems to me where so many of us have gone wrong. But maybe I’ve misunderstood his point. Gotten the idea wrong.

May 4. Morning: And unless I’m mistaken, Quidam himself is especially cognizant of this point in this day’s entry. He has brought up the word (‘separation’, I think), and illustrates the difficulty with language (presented by language?) with another analogy:
There is an enormous difference when a warship and a nutshell put out to sea, and the difference is eternally visible. It is different with words. The same word can indicate an even greater difference, and yet the word is the same. The word has not come up between us in a pathos-filled way, but it comes up again and again, mixed in among various things in order to clarify the mood.
I hear more echoes of Shakespeare (he referred to Juliet in the previous entry) in this nutshell, this time Hamlet (“O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite Space”) and that Dane’s obsession with language.

Evidence for Quidam’s concern for the human reality in this drama is in the last paragraph, when he writes,
In my view, this means that I am making a human being unhappy.
And especially:
what I am suffering at the thought of her pain, at the thought that I probably will never recover from this impression because my whole edifice has been made to reel, my view of life, of myself, of my relation to the idea has failed …
And so the last sentence was unexpected, and seems to me unfortunate: “that is my share. It is the lion’s share, or more accurately, the sorrow is so great that there is abundantly enough for both of us.” Hasn’t he just taken responsibility for the effect his actions will have on her? Why then does he rhetorically appropriate her suffering? Isn’t that what he’s doing, or am I missing something here?

Next comes the story of Periander, The Reading Lesson.


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