Monday, December 17, 2007

The Calamity of Yesterday

"We are not merely more weary because of yesterday. We are other, no longer what we were before the calamity of yesterday."

-Beckett in his essay on Proust. (Strictly for people who know the meaning of the word "Being.")

More Beckettian (and Proustian) wisdom from Anthony Cronin excerpted from his book Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist:

So much for the past. As for the future, "Lazily considered in anticipation and on the haze of our smug will to live, our pernicious and incurable optimism, it seems exempt from the bitterness of fatality." But advance into the future is really a continuous process of disillusionment. Even when we get what we want, "We are disappointed by the nullity of what we are pleased to call attainment", the principal reason being that what we attain was desired by the person we were, not by the person we have become when we attain it. The subject which desires a particular object has died, perhaps many times, on the way and "For subject B to be disappointed by the banality of an object chosen by subject A is as illogical as to expect one's hunger to be dissipated by the spectacle of uncle eating his dinner."

The common state of humanity is suffering and if our sensibility were not dulled by habit we would feel it to an almost unbearable extent. Habit "paralyses our attention, drugs those handmaidens of perception whose cooperation is not absolutely essential." When the protective screen of habit is pierced the results are almost intolerable. Fortunately habit quickly re-establishes, for, as Proust says, "Of all human plants, Habit requires the least fostering and is the first to appear on the seeming desolation of the most barren rock." Nevertheless there will be brief periods when habit and its boredoms will be dispersed, when we will have to adapt and form new habits. We do this very rapidly, but "The periods of transition that separate consecutive adaptations...represent the perilous zones in the life of the individual, dangerous, precarious, painful, mysterious and fertile, when for a moment the boredom of living is replaced by the suffering of being."

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