Wednesday, 20 March 2013

On Transience


In his essay ‘On Transience’ (1916), Sigmund Freud recalled a walk he took in the Dolomite Mountains with the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. It was an exquisite summer’s day, the flowers were in bloom & brightly coloured butterflies danced above the meadow. The psychoanalyst was glad to be outdoors, but his companion walked with his head bowed, his eyes fixed on the ground and remained taciturn throughout the excursion. It wasn’t that Rilke was oblivious to the beauty around him, he simply could not overlook how impermanent everything was. In Freud’s words, he was unable to forget ‘that all this beauty was fated to extinction; that it would vanish when winter came, like all human beauty & all the beauty that men have created or may create. Freud was unsympathetic because for him, the capacity to love anything attractive, however fragile it may be, was a hallmark of psychological health. Rilke’s stance, though inconvenient, helpfully emphasises how it can be those most in thrall to beauty, who will be especially aware and sadden by its ephemeral character. Such melancholic enthusiasts will see the moth hole beneath the curtain swatch & the ruin beneath the plan.

-Taken from the ‘Architecture of Happiness’
(...without permission).

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