On Aging

V1ÀL11 ¬IL V1>1LI¬11LI
Jea Amcry
1×PNoLP1I1 ÜY JLHN 1. ÜP×LLY
Indiana
|nivcrsiq
Prcss
BLOOMINGTON AND INDIANAPOLIS
Originally published as Ober das Alter. Revolte und Resignation.
C 1968 Erst Klett Verlag fiir Wissen und Bildung GmbH. Stuttgart
English translation C 1994 by John D. Barlow
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by
any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and
recording, or by .my information storage and retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American
University Pre:;ses' Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only
exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of
American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of
Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984.
€™
NANÌ¡AL1UHLO ÌN 1HL UNÌ1LO 51A1L5 L¡ ANLBÌLA
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Pblication Data
Amery, Jean.
rOber das Alter. English]
On aging : revolt and resignation I Jean Amery; translated by
John D. Barlow.
p. cm.
Includes bibhographical references.
ISBN 0-253-J0675-2 (cloth)
1. Old age-Psychological aspects. 2. Aging-Psychological
aspects. I. Title.
BF724.8.A4813 1994
155.67-dc20
93-41804
2 3 4 5 99 98 97 96 95
J'avais vecu comme un
peintre montant un chemin qui surplombe
un lac dont un rideau de rochers et d'arbres lui cache la
vue. Par une breche il l'apen;oit, il l'a tout entier devant
lui, il prend ses pinceaux. Mais deja vient la nuit ou l'on
ne peut plus peindre et sur laquelle Ie jour ne
se relevera plus!
-Proust, Le Temps retrouve
I had lived like a painter
climbing a road overhanging a lake, a view
of which is hidden from him by a curtain of rocks and
trees. Through a gap he catches a glimpse of the lake, with
its whole expanse before him, and he takes up his brushes.
But already night is coming, the night in which he will
not be able to paint anymore and upon which
no day will follow.
-Proust, Time Regained
Contents
TRANSLATOR
'
S PREFACE ix
TRANSLATOR
'
S INTRODUCTION | X
PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION xix
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION | xxi
Existence and the Passage of Time 1
Stranger to Onesel 2¯
The Look of Others >9
Not to Understand the World Anymore ¯ö
To Live with Ding 1U9
NOTES 129
TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE
!n makìng thìs transIatìon ! havc bccn mìndIuI oIthc Iact that,
bcgìnnìng wìth At the Mind's Limits, aII scvcn oI Amcry´s scII-
contaìncdbooks camc ìnto bcìng orìgìnaIIy asradìo taIks. Each
cssayorchaptcrìn cach onc oIthcmìs abouttwcnty-hvcpagcs
Iong, basìcaIIy what Amcry couId rcad ovcr thc radìo ìn just
undcranhour. Thcyhavc anìntìmatc, convcrsatìonaIstyIc that
mìghtnotbcprcscnt ìnwrìtìngsncvcrìntcndcdtobcrcadaIoud.
Anyonc who has hcard Amcry rcad ovcr thc radìo or hcard
rccordìngs oIhìs rcadìngsknowsthcpartìcuIarIymcIanchoIyand
rcIIcctìvc prccìsìonoIhìs voìcc and thc hoId ìt can havc on thc
Iìstcncr.!ntransIatìng, !havc trìcdto rctaìn thìs tonc as muchas
possìbIc, cvcn ìn thosc occasìonaI passagcs that sccm Icss con-
vìncìng, ordatcd, ormorcdcpcndcnton stcrcotypìcaI cxampIcs.
EvcnthoughìtìsAmcry´s practìcc ìnCcrman to uscgcncrìc
sìnguIars, ! havc trìcd to usc thcm onIy occasìonaIIy, partIy to
avoìdthcìmpIìcdgcndcrprcIcrcncc, butaIsobccausc ! hndIrc-
qucnt uscs oI gcncrìc sìnguIars and nomìnaI adjcctìvcs cIumsy,
cvcn pompous, ìn EngIìsh. Furthcrmorc, to say ¨agìng pcrsons
arc IìkcIy . . . " sounds Icss swccpìng than ¨thc agcd pcrson ìs
IìkcIy. . . . " ! hopc rcadcrs donot IccIthìs tobcanunncccssary
vìoIatìon oIAmcry´sìntcntìons.
!wouIdIìkctothankthrccpcrsonsìnpartìcuIarIorthcìrassìs-
tancc ìn thìs projcct. John CaIIman, Dìrcctor oI thc !ndìana
UnìvcrsìtyPrcss andcdìtoroIthìspubIìcatìon, Iorhìsassìstancc
andcncouragcmcntandIorbcìngsuchasupcrbcdìtorandunì-
vcrsìtyprcss dìrcctor, NormaDrakc, Ior cIcrìcaI assìstancc, and
cspccìaIIyPatBarIow,IormanyIormsoIhcIpandadvìcc.
TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION
CìacomoLcopardì,whosuIIcrcdIromnumcrousphysìcaIaìImcnts
bcIorchìsIìIc cndcdatthc carIyagc oIthìrty-cìght, stìIIwrotcìn
hìsPensieri thatoIdagcwasthcgrcatcstcvìI,Iarworscthandcath.
ToLcopardì,oIdagcstrìppcdhumanbcìngsoIthcìrpIcasurcs,but
IcItthcmthcìrappctìtcsandbroughtthcmcvcrykìndoIsorrow.
HcwaspcrpIcxcdthatanyoncwouIdIcardcathandwantoIdagc.
!nwhatwasonoIhìsIastpocms,hcwrotchowthcgods,thìnk-
ìngthatthchumancondìtìonwouIdbctoobIcsscdandIuIIoIjoy
ìIyouthcouIdIastandthatancarIydcathwouIdbctoomìId, dc-
cìdcdtoìntroducc¨astrongcrdoomthantcrrìbIcdcathìtscII" .
And so thc ctcrnaI oncs
!nvcntcd thcworstcvìIknown, thatht
CrcatìonoIunagìng souIs-oId agc.
Thcstatcìnwhìch dcsìrc
Rcmaìnsìntact, ourhopcsbccomccxtìnct,
Thc sourccs oIourjoy run dry, ourpaìns
!ncrcasc, and good comcs notagaìn to us.
ThìsìsnotavcryhappyorconsoIìngvìcwoIoIdagc, andìtìs
madc cvcn morc dìsmaI bythc Iact that ìtsauthor, whìIc ncvcr
cxpcrìcncìngoIdagcchronoIogìcaIIy,couIdtcIIIromthccxpcrì-
cncc of hìs youth, wrackcdwìth paìns and mìscrìcs sìmìIar to
thoscoIoIdagc,WhatìtmìghtbcIìkc.YctmostsocìaI,psychoIogì-
caI, and rcIìgìou· programs oIconsoIatìon try to ovcrcomc thìs
vìcwoIoIdagc.I ìstoohopcIcssandgIoomy.Furthcrmorc, ìnso-
cìctìcswhcrcoIdagcìsbccomìngmorcandmorcthcnormrathcr
thanancxccptìon, ìtìsncccssaryto rcsìstthcdcbìIìtatìngcIIccts
xì Translator's Introduction
oI a propcnsìty to dcprcssìon and sorrow that couId aIIIìct thc
IargcstproportìonoIthcpopuIatìon.NoncthcIcss,Lcopardì´svìcw
ìsnotmuchdìIIcrcntIromthatprcscntcdbyJcan Amcryìnthc
pagcsthatIoIIow,cxccptthatAmcrywrotchìsbookwhcnhcwas
hIty-hvc. HcwasnotsuIIcrìngIroma dcbìIìtatìng dìscasc, andhc
had survìvcd thcworst socìaI nìghtmarc ìmagìnabIc. torturc, dc-
portatìon, and ìntcrnmcnt ìn Auschwìtz. !t ìs possìbIc that hìs
AuschwìtzcxpcrìcnccmadchìmcxccptìonaIIysusccptìbIctocvcn
thc sIìghtcst ìndìcatìons oIthcdccìduousncssoI agìng. Hc wrotc,
aItcr aII, thathcbcIìcvcd ¨that ìn Auschwìtzwc dìdnotbccomc
bcttcr, morchuman, morchumanc, andmorcmaturc cthìcaIIy.
Youdonotobscrvcdchumanìzcdmancommìttìnghìs dccds and
mìsdccdswìthouthavìngaIIyournotìonsoIìnhcrcnthumandìg-
nìty pIaccd ìn doubt. Wc cmcrgcd Irom thc camp strìppcd,
robbcd, cmptìcdout, dìsorìcntcd. . + .¯ !tìs aIsopIausìbIcthat, ìn
spìtc oI survìvìng thc HoIocaust, hc rctaìncd scars that IcIthìm
cspccìaIly ìmpatìcnt wìth thc onsct oI thc ìnconvcnìcnccs cx-
pcrìcnccdbyhumanbcìngsìnthcìrhItìcs.Furthcrmorc,asAmcry
statcsìn thcpagcsthatIoIIow, hc Iound thc terror oI hìs cxpcrì-
cnccsatAuschwìtztobcquaIìtatìvcIydìIIcrcntand, ìncrcdìbIcto
say,IcsshIIcdwíthìntcrnaIhorror andanguish thanthccxpcrìcncc
oIagìng.To thìs canbcaddcda Iascìnatìonwìth dcath, pcrhaps
best acknowledged in an essay written in 1973 ìnwhìchAmcry
contrasts EIìas Cancttì´s rcmark, ¨! hate dcath, " wìth hìs own
¨IcarIuI Iongìng" Ior dcath and hìs ¨havìng IìttIc dcsìrc to Iìvc
Iong.¨
!nanycasc, AmcryìntcntìonaIIywrotcthccssaysoIOn Aging
todìsturbhìs Iìstcncrs (thcywcrcbroadcastovcrthc radìobcIorc
bcìngpubIìshcdìnbookIorm) andrcadcrs.Hìsaìmwastomìncc
nowords aboutthcunpIcasantncssoIthc cxpcrìcncc oIgrowìng
oId and to dcmonstratc that cxìstcntìaIIy onc can ncvcr know
xìì I Translator's Introduction
what a¿ìn¿ìsIìkc untìIonccxpcrìcnccsìt. Rathcrthan tryìn¿to
saywhatagìn¿couIdorshouIdbcìnamorchumanc socìctyand
amorcundcrstandìngworId,Amcrywantcdtodcscrìbcwhatìtìs.
On Aging ìs a most honcst book, ìntcntìonaIIycschcwìng anat-
tcmpt to makc rcadcrs IccI bcttcr. !n spìtc oI ìts starkncss,
howcvcr, ìtmayprovìdcawayoIcopìn¿wìthoIdagcbascdona
rccognìtìonoIwhatìscomìngandbcìngprcparcd IorìtsarrìvaI.
Jcan Amcry´s IìIc bcgan ìn Vìcnna, whcrc hc was born ìn
1 91 1 as Hanns Maycr. Hìs hrstpìccc oIwrìtìngwaspubIìshcdìn
1 928. At thc unìvcrsìty, hc studìcd phìIosophy and contìnucd
wìth hìsaspìrìngIìtcrarycIIorts, compIctìnga novcI, Die Schiff­
bruchigen (Thc shìp-wrcckcd) , whìch hc scnt to Thomas Mann
andRobcrtMu-ìI.ThcIattcrsaìdthatìt was °gìItcd,"butAmcry
was ncvcrabIc to pubIìsh ìt. Whcn thc Nazìs camc to powcr ìn
Austrìa ìn 1 938, Amcry IIcd Vìcnna, knowìng that, sìncc hìs
IathcrwasaJcw, hcwouIdbcpcrsccutcdìIhc staycd. Hcmovcd
to BcIgìum, joìncd thc rcsìstancc thcrc, was cau¿ht dìstrìbutìng
IcaIIcts, andcvcntuaIIy,aItcrbcìngtorturcdandhavìnghìsìdcn·
tìtydìscovcrcd,wasscnttoAuschwìtz.
Hc survìvcd thc brutaIìty oI thc HoIocaust and rcturncd to
BcIgìum aItcr thc war, changìng hìs hrst namc to ìts Frcnch
cquìvaIcntandrcarrangìngthcIcttcrsoIhìsIastnamctobccomc
JcanAmcry.HcmadchìshomcìnBrusscIsandbccamcajournaI-
ìst,wrìtìngìnCcrmanmostIyIorSwìsspubIìcatìons.Buthcncvcr
thoughtoIthìsjournaIìstìcactìvìtyasanythìngmorcthanwrìtìng
on consìgnmcnt. Hc actuaIIypubIìshcd sìx books oIjournaIìsm
aboutjazz, Iamouscontcmporarìcs,ìncIudìngWìnstonChurchìII,
andvarìous ncwsworthymattcrs. Onc oIthc books, pubIìshcdìn
thc carIy sìxtìcs, was about CcrhartHauptmann, thcquìntcsscn-
tìaI modcI oI t!c opportunìstìc Ccrman wrìtcr undcr both thc
NazìsandthcMarxìsts.
xììì Translator's Introduction
Throughoutthìs pcrìod, Amcry IcIt that hc was a IaìIurc as a
wrìtcr.Lookìngback, hcwrotcshortIybcIorchìsdcath, ¨Myìdcn-
tìtyasawrìtcr,whìch!hadbccnscckìngsìnccmysìxtccnthycar,
whcnmyhrstmanuscrìptwasprìntcdìnVìcnna,hadvanìshcd.!
accustomcdmyscIItothc sìtuatìon oIaIaìIurc ora 'ratc.´' AIIoI
thìs changcdwìththcpubIìcatìonìn I966oIJenseits von Schuld und
Sihne (At the Mind's Limit), a scrìcs oIcssaysabout hìscxpcrìcnccs
ìnAuschwìtz. ' Ashc put ìt Iatcr, ¨!had cscapcdthc drudgcry oI
wrìtìng artìcIcs ìn !966. ! couId contcmpIatc wrìtìng about thc
thìngs thatwcrcwcìghìngonmysouI. "ªHcwcntontowrìtc sìx
morcbooksIìkcAt the Mind's Limits aswcIIasnumcrouscssayson
varìoussubjccts, somc oIwhìchhavcbccngathcrcdtogcthcrìn
scvcraIbook-Icngth coIIcctìons.
Thc thìngsthatAmcrydcscrìbcsas¨wcìghìngonmysouI"aII
turnaroundthcIraìImortaIìtyoIhumanIìIc. agìng, suìcìdc, tor-
turc, cxìIc, IaìIurc, dcccìvcd Iovc. Dcath haunts thcm aII. Hìs
ìntcrcstìstodìscusshumanmortaIìtyIromthcìnsìdc, asìt wcrc,
wìthoutcaIIìngonmoraIìndìgnatìon, socìaIscìcncc, orpsycho-
IogìcaI anaIysìs. Thus thc chaptcr on bcìng torturcd ìn At the
Mind's Limits, cstabIìshìngthcabsoIutcncssoIthc cxpcrìcnccand
ìts pcrmancnt ìmpact on thc constìtutìon oI onc who has bccn
torturcd. !nabookaboutthchctìtìous charactcrCharIcsBovary,
husbandoIMadamc BovaryìnFIaubcrt´snovcI, Amcry trìcs to
gctìnsìdcthccharactcr, trcatìnghìmasa rcaIhumanbcìngwho
had suIIcrcdthc Ioss oIIovc and hadbccndupcdby thc onc hc
Iovcd, ìn ordcr to dcIcnd hìm agaìnst attìtudcs that mock hìs
sìmpIc-mìndcdncss, hìstrust,thatmakcIunoIhìmbccauscoIhìs
spousc´sbchavìor, cvcntodcIcndhìmagaìnstthcauthorwhoìn-
vcntcdhìm. `
Thc mostcontrovcrsìaI oIthcsc books was hìs dìscoursc on
suìcìdc, Hand an sich legen ( IìtcraIIy. ¨To Iay hand on oncscII") ,³
xìv I Translator's Introducon
pubIìshcdìn 1 976, two ycars bcIorc Amcry took hìs own IìIc. !n
thìs book, hc prcs:nts a sympathctìc vìcw oIsuìcìdc, usìng thc
Ccrman word Freitod (voIuntary dcath) , ìnstcad oI thc morc
common Selbstmord ( scII-murdcr), bccausc thc Iormcr ìs not
judgmcntaIbutmcrcIydcscrìptìvc. !naddìtìonto thc mcIanchoIy
contcmpIatìon oIsuìcìdc as a potcntìaIIy posìtìvc actìon ìn somc
cìrcumstanccs, Hand an sich legen oIIcrsa probìng dcIìncatìon oI
Amcry´sbasìcconccrnaboutwhatìtìsandIccIs Iìkc tobcwìthìn
oncscIIa IaìIurc, or a IundamcntaIIy unhappy pcrson, wìthout
makìng thc poIìtìcaI cIaìm oI bcìng a vìctìm. Startìng Irom
Wìttgcnstcìn´saphorìsm¨Thc worId oIthchappypcrsonìs a dìI-
Icrcnt worIdIromìhat oIthc unhappy pcrson," whìch scrvcs as
an cpìgraph Ior thc book, Amcry sccks to dcmonstratc that thc
kìnds oI cxpcrìcnc:�s thatdrìvc onc to suìcìdc cannotbc undcr-
stood Irom outsìdc thc ìndìvìduaI cxpcrìcncìng thcm, that thc
IccIìngs oIwcII-bcìng oI thosc who arc not suìcìdaImakc thcm
uItìmatcIyìndìsposcdto undcrstand thc suìcìdaIandthcìrstatcoI
mìnd. Ashcwrotcin aIcttcr, ¨!tìs to bcabookthat cntìrcIyprc-
scntsvoIuntarydcathIromwìthìn sothatthc authorcompIctcIy
cntcrs thc cIoscdworIdoIthc suìcìdc. ThcrcIorc. nothìngsocìo-
IogìcaI, nothìng pºychoIogìcaI ìn thc narrow scnsc. Thcsc
rcIIcctìonsarcpcrtìncntto consìdcrìng On Aging, towhìchAmcry
thought Hand an sich legen shouId bc a companìon. Just as thc
suìcìdaIstatc ìs oncthatrcsìstsundcrstandìngbythosc who arc
nonsuìcìdaI, so thc tcrmìnaI statc oI agìng cannot bc IuIIy ap-
prcciatcduntiIonc |saIrcadyagìngoncscII.
On Aging: Revolt and Resignation, pubIìshcd ìn 1 968, was thc
hrst oI Amcry´s books aItcrAt the Mind's Limits. !t was aIso thc
hrst hc pubIìshcd wìth thc pubIìshìng hrm oIKIctt ìn Stuttgart
(Iatcr KIctt-Cotta) , whìch wouIdpubIìshaII subscqucntbooks oI
hìs as wcII as rcìssuc thc Ccrman tcxt oI At the Mind's Limits.
xv Translator's Introduction
Whcn On Aging waspubIìshcd, Amcry wasbccomìngastonìshcd
at-andgratìhcdby-hìs suddcn succcss ìn hìs Iatc hItìcs.
EachoIthccssaysoIOn Aging covcrsa partìcuIarcompIcxoI
ìssucsaboutthccxpcrìcnccoIgrowìngoId.AsMonìqucBoussart
poìntsout,'ºanaspcctoIcachìscsscntìaIIyadìaIogucwìthFrcnch
ìntcIIcctuaIs. !n thc hrst, ìt ìs MarccI Proust, who not onIy pro-
vìdcsmuchoIthcrcIIcctìvccommcntarywìthhìsscrìcsoInovcIs
In Search of Lost Time, cspccìaIIy thc Iast, Time Regained, butwho
aIso appcars ìnAmcry´s dìscussìon.Thc subjccthcrcìs tìmc, Iìvcd
tìmcasopposcdtocaIcndarandcIocktìmcorthctìmcoIphysìcs,
thc way tìmc passcs, and thc way agìng makcs thc cIdcrIy pro-
grcssìvcIypcrccìvctìmcasthccsscnccoIthcìrcxìstcncc.
Thc Iast pagcs oI Sìmonc dc Bcauvoìr´s Force of Circumstance
provìdc thcundcrpìnnìngsoIthc ncxt cssay, a mcdìtatìon onthc
ways thc agìng arc aIìcnatcd IromthcmscIvcs. Thcbodybccomcs
a burdcn thcy carry around wìth thcm, cvcn as thcy comc to
know ìt bcttcrand to ìdcntìIy wìth ìt morc. Thcrc arc, ìn Iact, a
numbcr oI sìmìIarìtìcs bctwccn dc Bcauvoìr´s Old Age, hrstpub-
Iìshcd shortIyaItcrOn Aging, andAmcry´s rcIIcctìons, aIthoughìt
sccmsthatcachbookwas wrìttcn ìndcpcndcntIyoIthcothcr.
Thc thìrd cssay dcaIswìth socìaIagìng, thccondìtìonoIrcaI-
ìzìng that ìt ìs no Iongcr possìbIc to Iìvc accordìng to onc´s
potcntìaIorpossìbìIìtìcs,butthatoncmustIìvc ìnsobcrrccognì·
tìon that onc ìs what onc ìs, or cIsc IaII back on a prctcnsc oI
normaIìty,ctcrnaIyouth, oranìdyIIoIscrcnìtyandsatìsIactìon-
oroptIorbcìnga crank. Thìs cssay drawsonJcan-PauISartrcand
Andrc Corz, as wcII as thc novcI La Quarantaine by Jcan-Louìs
Curtìs. !tnaturaIIyIcadsìntothcIourthcssay, oncuIturaIagìng,
whcrcAmcryagaìncaIIsonSartrc,whomhchaswrìttcnaboutìn
othcr cssays and who, aIong wìth Sìmonc dc Bcauvoìr, had a
strongìnIIucncconhìmìmmcdìatcIyaItcrthc SccondWorIdWar.
xvì I Translator's Introduction
!n cuIturaI agìng, thc Ioss oIthc abìIìty to undcrstand ncw dc-
vcIopmcntsìnthcartsandìnachangìngsocìcty´svaIucsandthc
IccIìng oI bccomìng uscIcss and out oI touch wìth thc worId
bccomc cvcryday aspccts oI onc´s cxìstcncc. Thc hIth and Iast
cssay, onthcncancssoIdcathandìtscIIcctonthcIìvcs oIthc
agìng, Ior whom dcath and dyìng arc companìons, shows thc
ìmpactoIAmcry´srcadìngoIVIadìmìrJankcIcvìtch´sLa Mort, pub-
Iìshcd ìn 1 966. Thc novcI Les Thibaut (Thc Thìbauts) by Rogcr
Martìn du Card, d:scrìbìng thc dcath oI thc oId Iathcr oI thc
ThìbautIamìIy, dcmonstratcsthcuttcrmìscryoImanycndìngsoI
IìIc. Amcryargucsthatcvcryoncmakcsacompromìscwìthdcath
ìnoIdagc,thatphysìcaIcondìtìonìnwhìchwcIccIthcdcaththat
ìsìnus. !tìsacompromìscthataIIcctsourbchavìorandìnIIucnccs
our dcmcanor. Amcry´s ìntcntìon bccomcs most cIcar ìn thìs
cssay. to dìsturb casy and chcap compromìscs and to urgc hìs
rcadcrstothcìrowrìndìvìduaIactsoIdchanccandacccptancc.
!naddìtìontoFrcnchbackgrounds, suchasthosccìtcdabovc,
AmcryaIsocaIIs ìntopIayhìsrcadìngsìn CcrmanIìtcraturc and
thought, cspccìaIIy ThomasMann, whoscmcdìtatìonson dcath
anddìscasc ìn The Magic Mountain arc IrcqucntIy cìtcd, and thc
physìcìanHcrbcrtPIìggc,whoscphcnomcnoIogìcaIstudìcsoIdìs-
casc andthc bodyAmcry haswrìttcnabout cIscwhcrc as wcII.
AmcryprcIcrsIìtcrai\andcuIturaIrcIcrcnccsIorcvìdcnccìnsup-
portìnghìsvìcwsbccauschcdocsnotwanttobcsystcmatìcand
bccausc hc approachcsagingìn tcrms oI cxpcrìcncc. Whcn hc
turns to scholars, it is to philosophers like Jankelevitch andSartrc
ortopractìtìoncrsIìkcPIiìggcwhotrytodcscrìbcthcwayhumans
IccI thc cxpcrìcncc 0Iagìng, cvcn ìI thcyoItcn do soìnabstract
tcrmsthatarcIorcìgntoAmcry, rathcrthanto thoscwho havc
donc studìcs, madc :urvcys, orothcrwìscobscrvcdIromoutsìdc.
Hìs usc oIthcìrìnsìghts ìsbascdonan unusuaIaIIìanccoIFrcnch
xvìi I Translator's Introduction
cxìstcntìaIìsmandVìcnncscposìtìvìsm, anaIIìanccthatìscvìdcnt
ìnhìsanaIytìcapproach to many oIthccuIturaIIyacccptcdìdcas
andmctaphorsaboutoIdagcanddcathìnOn Aging.
WhatthcrcadcrhndshcrcìsadcsìrctodcscrìbcoIdagcasìtìs,
ìntcrmsoIhowìtìsIcItandscnscdrathcrthanìnmcdìcaIandpsy-
choIogìcaI tcrms, wìthout consoIatìon and wìthout cxtcrnaI
support mcchanìsms. a condìtìon ìnwhìchhuman bcìngs tcnd
towardccasìngtobc,towardbcìngnothìng,towardthcncgatìvc,
bcìng ¨unabIc topcrIorm much physìcaI work, uncoordìnatcd,
unhtIorthìsandthat, untcachabIc, unIruìtIuI, unwcIcomc, un-
hcaIthy, un-young,"asAmcrydcscrìbcsìt.ThconIywaytodcaI
wìththìscondìtìonìsIorthcagìngtocastthcmscIvcsìnanattìtudc
oIsìmuItancous rcvoIt and rcsìgnatìon. Rcsìgncdtothcìncvìta-
bìIìtyoIagìngandaIIìtsconcomìtantdìscomIorts,Irustratìons,and
Iosscs,thcycansavcthcmscIvcsIromcmbarrassmcnt,strcss,and
thcwastcdcIIortoItryìngtobcsomcthìngthcyarcnotbyrcvoIt-
ìng agaìnst thìs condìtìon and rcIusìng to pIay thc socìaI and
psychoIogìcaIgamcs.thcIìttIcjokcsandpassìvcscntìmcntaIìtìcs,
bcnìgncommunìtyactìvìtìcs,andsocìaIscrvìccoutìngsthatdchnc
thcoIdashcIpIcssvìctìms. !mpIìcdìnAmcry´sbookìsthcìdcathat
consoIatìonìsaIormoIvìctìmìzatìon. Hcdocsnotwanttomakc
pcopIc IccI bcttcr. Hcwants to ¨dìsturbthc baIancc, cxposc thc
compromìsc, dcstroythcgcnrcpaìntìng,contamìnatcthcconso-
Iatìon,"ashcwrìtcsatthccndoIthcbook.
Amcry,wcIIawarcoIthccontradìctorynaturcoIhìsprcscrìp-
tìon, rcIuscs tobackoIIIrom ìtbccauscoIthc absurdnaturc oI
agìngìtscII.!tìsatcrmìnaIcxpcrìcncc, Iromwhìchthcrcìsnorc-
covcry.!ndccd,AmcrycaIIsìtadìscasc, avìruswccarrywìthus
Irombìrth.!nthìs,hìscssaysarcoItcnrcmìnìsccntoIthcmemento
mori oImcdìcvaI wrìtcrs and thcìr cmphasìs on thc ncccssìty oI
dcath, onIywìthoutthcìrthcoIogìcaIundcrpìnnìngsandpurposc
xvììì Translator's Introduction
and wìtha dìIIcrcntmotìvc. Hcìsnot tryìngtoconvcrtortcach
moraIìty.ThckcytoAmcry´sbookìshìsdctcrmìnatìontoIookat
thcphcnomcnonoIagìngwìthoutbIìnkìng, to asscss ìtwìthout
scntìmcntaIìzìn¿, consoIìng,ormìncìngwordsaboutthchorrìbIc
naturc oIwhathcsccs. !t ìs sìmìIartothc stancc hc tookìn hìs
autobìographìca'wrìtìngs,ìnhìsattcmpttoìmagìncwhat¡twouId
bcIìkctobc CharIcsBovary, ìnhìsanaIysìsoIsuìcìdc, andìnhìs
mcdìtatìonsonthcIatcoIìntcIIcctuaIsìnAuschwìtz. C onsoIatìon
couIdcomc,hcwrotcìnAt the Mind's LimitS,.one hada rìgìous
+¬¬¯ ` ¯¯¨�¨ ´¯ ´´ ´¯ ~- �`¯��
IaìthoranìdcoIogìcaIconvìctìonaboutthcìncvìtabìIìtyoIhìstory
ìn whìch onc´s Iatc couId bc sccn as uItìmatcIy rcd
¿
cmìny,
·
_
o
~ ¯ ¯ ¨¯¯¯´¯ · ÷ ,
¯+· ·¬·
mattcrwhatthccxtcntoIpcrsonaIsuIIcrìng.Amcryhadncìthcr
Iaìthnor convìc1ìon. !n On Aging, hc notcs thc roIc oI rcIìgìous
bcIìcIandscntìmcntìnprcparìngIordcathandìnthìnkìngabout
ìt, cspccìaIIyìnºuch¨mctaphorìcaIIycmpty" phrascs as ¨Rcstìn
pcacc. "ToAmcry,attcmptstoconsoIcandchccrup,toamcIìoratc
oIdagcanddca!hìn comIortabIc IormuIas, arcaIIpartoIa ¨vìIc
dupcry"thathìsbook,ìnavcrypcrsonaIway,aìmstocxposc.
WìthOn Aging, AmcrywasvcnturìngìntoamcrcìIcssrcIIcctìon
onhìsownconcìtìon, ananaIysìsdctcrmìncdtobcasmuchwìth-
outcompromìscaspossìbIc.!tìsnotsurprìsìngthatìtIcdcvcntuaIIy
tohìs study oIsuìcìdc.Morcovcr, hccouIdnotavoìda IccIìng oI
supcrIIuousncssandìrrcIcvancc,ashcwrotcìnoncoIhìsIastIct-
tcrsbarcIyawcckbcIorchìssuìcìdc,andhccvcnrcIIcctcdthatìt
mayhavcbccn'somcthìngIìkcancrroroIIatcthatìn1 945, whcn
! was stìII rcIatìvcIy young, ! dìdnot dccìdc tobccomc a Frcnch
wrìtcr. "'When he was still relatively young: wìththìskìndoIrcgrct,
about whìch hc couId do nothìng, thc horror oI agìng was trì-
umphìngovcrhìm.Amcry´ssuìcìdc,hìsvoIuntarydcath,sccmsto
havcbccnthconIyroadhcthoughtwasIcIttoh
¡
m.
PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION
!n thc dccadc that has passcd sincc ! rccordcd this cxpcrimcnt !
couId havc Icarncd much morc about aging. Not without¿I
�4
-
�urc do!rcmcmbcrthc strong criticism whcn my book appcarcd,
cspcciaIIy that oI a gcntIcman dchnitcIy gctting on in ycars who
rcproachcd mc somcthing Iikc this: what, so hc thought, couId
this ¨young" pcrson oI 55 ycars, J.A., undcrstand about aging
and agc? What docs hcthink hc´sdoing?
As !rcadthc tcxt again, !havc to saytomyown dccp rcgrct
that thc chccrIuI oId man ìs wrong-and !´m right, aIas! ! had
¯ "¯¯^T¯¯
undcrstood mysubjcct.!I! havc Icarncd anythingin thc Iasttcn
ycars, ithasIcadmc instcad toacccntuatcwhat!saidatthattimc
rathcrthantomodiIyit.Evcrythinghasbccnatracc worsc than!
had Iorcsccn.physicaI aging, cuIturaI aging, thc daiIyapproach,
scnscdasaburdcn,oIthcdarkjourncymanwhorunsaIongatmy
sidc and urgcntIycaIIs tomc as toRaimund´s VaIcntinwith thc
uncanniIyintimatcphrasc, ¨Comc, IittIcIricnd. , . . "'
Todayasmuchasycstcrday!thinkthatsocictyhastoundcr-
takc cvcrything to rcIicvc oId and aging pcrsons oI thcir un-
pleasant destiny. And at the same time I stick to my position that
aII high-mindcd andrcvcrcntiaIcIIortsinthisdircction, though
indccd capabIc oI bcing somcwhat soothing-thus aIso bcing
harmIcssanaIgcsics-arcstiIInotcapabIcoIchanging orimprov-
inganything fundamental aboutthctragichardshipoIaging.
At onc singIc point ! wiII makc a rcvision, at thc vcry point
whcrc I wrotc that bad phrasc, thc ¨IooI´s story oI a voIuntary
dcath. "Here ncwinsights and Icarnings havc Iorccdmc into an-
othcr dircction, havcgivcn my rcIIcctions an cxtcnsion that I
xx I Peface to the Fourth Edition
couId nothavc ìmagìncd at�hat tìmc. Thus, ! IcIt myscIIbound
towrìtcmybookon suìcìdc, By One's Ow Hand-A Discourse on
Voluntary Death, whìch, ìn a ccrtaìn scnsc, can bc consìdcrcd a
contìnuatìon oIthc workbcIorc us.
BrusscIs, Sprìng 1 977 JcanAmcry
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION ,
CompcIIcd by nothìng morc than an ìncIìnatìon to bc
-
contcm-
pIatìvc, and pcrhaps to
]
ractìcc bcìng so, ! submìt hcrc
cxpcrìmcntaI cssays about thc agìng oI human bcìngs. Expcrì-
mcntaI-notìnthcscnscoIa scìcntìhccxpcrìmcnt,butìnthatoI
IookìngIorsomcthìngwhoscundìscovcrabIcnaturcwasobvìous
to anaIytìc rcason Irom thc start. Thcsc mcdìtatìons about my
subjccthavc nothìng todowìth gcrìatrìcs. Thcy dcaI wìth aging
human bcìngs ìnrcIatìontotìmc, to thcìrown bodìcs, tosocìcty,
to cìvìIìzatìon, uItìmatcIy todcath. Rcadcrs who cxpcct rcmarks
oIa posìtìyc scìcntìhcnaturc on thc subj cct, thc kìnd oI knowI-
cdgc that couId assìst thcm ìn prcparìng thcìr Iìvcs Ior a
partìcuIar condìtìon-that oIagìng-wìIIbc dìsappoìntcdby thìs
book. ! cannot aspìrc toanythìng Iìkc that.
!n an cra whcn ìntcIIìgcncc ìs turnìng away not onIy Irom
whatìs ìmmcdìatcIy gìvcnbyconscìousncssbut Iromthe human
being ìngcncraI-ìnwhoscpIaccsystcmsandcodcsappcarasthc
subj cct oIìnquìry-! havc kcpt cntìrcIy to what has bccnIìvcd.
Ie viu. !nmakìngthìscIIorttorccordasIaìthIuIIy aspossìbIcthc
developments in which the aging person is ensnared, I used es­
scntìaIIya mcthodoIìntrospcctìon, addcdto that was a strìvìng
Iorobscrvatìonand cmpathy. But anyhopcIorscìcntìhcmcthod,
cvcn IogìcaI strìngcncy, had tobcabandoncd.
!I, onthconchand,thcsubjcctìvccharactcroIsuchnotcshas
bccnscII-cvìdcnttomcIromthcbcgìnnìng, !havcstìIItrìcd,on
thcothcrhand,todìrcctthcproccsstowardobscrvatìonsthatarc
morcthansubjcctìvc.!havcconstantIytrìcdtomìrrorIromcvcry
vìsuaIangIcthc ìdcas !´vc Iormcdby mcans oIa thoughtproccss
xxìì I Preface to the First Edition
that constantIycontcsts and corrccts ìtscII, onc that ncvcrshìcs
awayIromcontradictìon-aIIoIthìs,ìtìstruc, whìIc conscìousIy
dcvìatìngIromthcgoaIsoIobj cctìvìtyorìntcrsubj cctìvìty. !was
onIycarrìcdaIongbythcunccrtaìnhopcthat!mìghtsuccccdìn
ìIIumìnatìngaIcwIundamcntaIIacts,vaIìdIorthctypìcaIhuman
bcìng oI our cìvìIìzatìon. Out oI that camc a wagcr. dccìsìons
aboutwhcthcr!wasmakìngscnscornot,aboutthcvaIucoImy
work orthc Iack0;[ ìt, arc IcIt cntìrcIy tomy rcadcrs, sìncc that
thìrdauthorìtythatmakcsajudgmcntoItruthcouIdnotbc ìn-
vokcd.
!naddrcssìngmyrcadcrs, ! amrcqucstìngthcmtojoìnwìth
mcìnsomcthìngthatwasrcvcaIcdtomconIywhìIc!waswrìtìng
ìtdown. SpccìhcaIIy, as! IcIt myway Iorward, stcp by stcp, !had
togìvcupthchopcsaIwayscvokcdbythcagìng,!hadtoìnvaIì-
datc consoIatìon. Whatcvcr thcrc ìs ìn consoIatìon that ìs
rccommcndcdtothcagìng-howtocomctotcrmswìthonc'sdc-
cIìnc and IaII, cvcn ìIpossìbIc to bc abIc to gaìn asscts Irom ìt,
nobìIìty oIrcsìgnatìon, cvcnìng wìsdom, Iatc tranquìIìty-ìt aII
stood bcIorc mcasa vìIc dupcry, agaìnstwhìch! hadto chargc
myscII to protcst wìth cvcry Iìnc. Thus, cvcn though ! ncìthcr
pIanncdnorcvcns JrmìscdìnadvancchowthcywouIdturnout,
mycxpcrìmcnts,ìnquaIìtymorcIìkcscarchcs,wcntIrombcìng
an anaIysìs to bcìng an act oI rcbcIIìon, whosc contradìctory
prcmìscwasthctotaI acccptancc oIìncscapabIc andscandaIous
thìngs. ! can onIywaìt and scc ìI thc rcadcrs ! am addrcssìng
answcr mc, ìI thcv accompany mc on my way through thcsc
contradìctìons.
EvcnìI! dìspcnsc wìth cvcryaIIcgcdIy scìcntìhcìnstrumcnt
andbasc my poìnt oI vìcw cntìrcIy on myscIIand thc unccrtaìn
ground oI myqucstìonìng, ìt ìs stìII onIy too obvìous that! havc
bccn subjcct to numcrous ìnIIucnccs. Rcadcrs can rccognìzc
xxììì I Preface to the First Edition
thcmas casìIy as thcy can myquotatìons, occasìonaIIy structurcd
ìnto thc tcxtandas suchnot cxprcssIy ìndìcatcd.
Butthcrcarcthrcc authorsIromwhom!havc Icarncdmuch
andwhom ! havc toìntroducccxpIìcìtIy sìncc thcyarc possìbIy
not suIhcìcntIy wcII known. thc Sorbonnc proIcssor VIadìmìr
JankcIcvìtch, thc Ccrman physìcìan and phcnomcnoIogìst Hcr-
bcrtPIi¡ggc, thc FrcnchpubIìcìst Andrc Corz.'
No author can brìng out thc rcsuIts oI hìs rcstIcss hours
wìthout bcìng anxìous. Whcn onc wrìtcs about thc most pcr-
sonaI thìngs ìn thc hopc that, hcrc and thcrc, dcspìtc cvcry
scII-rcstrìctìon, thcy couId bc transIormcd ìnto somcthìng unì·
vcrsaIIy bìndìng, thc drcad ìs cvcn grcatcr. Books do not onIy
havc thcìr own dcstìny. thcy can aIso bc a dcstìny.
BrusscIs, Summcr 1 968 JcanAmcry
Existence and
the Passage of Time
Thc agìng humanbcìng-thc agìngwoman, thcagìngman~��

wìIIIrcqucntIy mcct suchpcrsonsh�rc,prcscntìn¿|þ�mscIvcsto

s ìn many varìants, ìn many dìIIcrcnt kìnds oI drcss. At onc
poìnt, wcwìIIrccognìzcanagìngpcrsonasahgurcwcIIknownto
usIroma workoIIìtcraturc, ìn anothcrpIacc shcwìIIbca purc
abstractìon drawn Irom thc ìmagìnatìon, þnaIIy, hç\ìII¸rc-
vcaIcdìnhìs contoursas
¿[
c autþo¡qIthìs scrìcs(¸css �1Thc
.~·¬¨¯¯¯¯`¯`´¯ .- ~-·- ~¬'�'¯
.---

.-
actuaInumbcroIycarswìIIbcjust asìndchnìtcasthcpcrsonwho
ìsagìng,justasìtìsìnrcaIìtyandìnthcwaywc uscIanguagc.Wc
wIII scc thc agìngwhcn thcy arc onIy around Iorty, bccausc ìn
ccrtaìncìrcumstanccsthcproccsswc arc goìng to trytodcscrìbc
announccs ìtscII carIy on. !n othcr cxampIcs, thcy wìII cntcr as
humanbcìngsìn thcìr sìxth dccadc, cach thcrcIorc actuaIIybc-
comìnga scncx, accordìng toa vaguc statìstìcaI objcctìvìty. Hcrc,
whcrc wc arc dcaIìng wìth existence and the passage of time, Ict´s
ìntroducc onc oIthcmas a man scarccIyhItyycarsoId,whosc
carIydcathwouIdccrtaìnIyj ustìIythatatthìsagchcaIrcadyIcIt
hcwasanagìngpcrson, thcrcIorc rcquìrìngusaIsotoacccpthìm
2 I ON A GI NG
assuch.-Wcmcclhìma s hcappcarsonccagaìnatamomìngrc-
ccptìonIorthchrsttìmcaftcrmanyycars.AIongtìmcago, hchad
wìthdrawn IromthìsvanìtyIaìrìnwhìch hchad oncc pIaycda
sìgnìhcant part. HcìsdrcsscdìnaIrockcoat, vcryuprìght, stìIIìn
goodposturccvcniIhìschcstandbcIIyappcararchcdIorwardìn
a not quìtcnaturaIand somcwhatuncannyway. Hìs thìckbIack
haìr, Iyìngdownthcnapc oIhìsncck, andhìsmustachcarcstìII
thcìrnaturaIcoIor,0uthìspaIcIaccabovchìshìghcoIIarìsasrìgìd
as wax, Iìkcamask, and hìs orìcntaIIymcIanchoIycycsarc wìth-
outIustcr, rcstìngìnthcshadowoIdccp,bIuìshrìngs.
Wc´II caII thìs 1gìng man by thc cìphcr ¨A. , " j ust as wc´II
dcsìgnatcaIIthosc oIhìscomradcsìndcstìnywhomIromtìmc to
tìmc wc ìntcnd to ìntroduccto our consìdcratìons. A. . boththc
mostmathcmatìcaIandabstractspccìhcatìonìmagìnabIcandonc
thatIcavcs to my rcadcrs thc most cxtcnsìvc Ircc spacc to thìnk
ìmagìnatìvcIy and concrctcIy. Thìs tìmc, howcvcr, Ict´s caII thìs,
ourhrstA., bythc namcthcworIdgavc hìm. thc narratºuror, as
ancxccptìonthatì: stìIImorcprccìsc,byhìscìvìI namc, strangcIy
pronounccd ¨Pruh" ìn hìs homc dcpartcmcntLoìr-ct-Chcr, thc
pcrson wcknowa:Proust-Marcº|Iroust.
Hatìnhand,A. -MarccIProust¬cntcrsthchomcoIhìshosts
anddìscovcrswhìItdoìngsothatthcscrvantsoIthchouscrccog-
nìzc hìmagaìnìn ºpìtc ofycars oI abscncc. Thcrc comcs Iathcr
Proust,thcscpcopIcsay¬andsìncchchasnoson, hcknowsthat
¨fathcr" canonIyrcIatctohìs agc. !Ithcscrvantskncwthcsìtu-
atìon bcttcr and couId cxprcss thcmscIvcs morc cIcarIy, thcy
wouIdsaythatthcscarccIyhIty-ycar-oIdman, ìnspìtcoIhìsun-
bIcachcdhaìrandhìsstandìngthcrcsostraìghtandtaII,Iooks,ìn
a waythatìshard to dchnc, oIdcrthanhìs ycars, cspccìaIIybc-
causcìnhìsunmovìngycIIow-whìtc IaccrìgormortìsìsaIrcady
antìcìpatcd.-ThcnarratºursccspcopIcagaìnwho,ìIthcìnspcc-
3 I Existenc and the Passage of Time
tìonoIhìscycswcrcnotdcccptìvc, arcworscoIIthanhchìmscII
ìs. WhoìsthcIaìry-taIckìngwìththccottonbcard,draggìnghìm-
scII aIong as though hìs shocs had Icadcn soIcs? Thc Prìncc dc
Cucrmantcs, ìt-an ¨ìt" about whìch wc wìII spcak Iong and
much-had happcncd to hìm. And who´s thc oId man, whosc
whìtcbcardno IongcrIooksIìkc anactor´sproponanamatcur
stagcbutIìkcthcbcardoIabcggar?Monsìcurd´ Argcncourt, no
doubt, thc narrateur's ìntìmatc cncmy oI somc tìmc ago. Thc
Barondc CharIus, oncchaughtyandsupcrb,hasbccomcatragìc
drawìng-roomLcar, dìIìgcntIyrcmovìnghìshattopcopIcwhoìn
hìsbcttcrdayswcrcnotcvcnworthyoIhìsraìscdcycbrow.BIoch,
thc companìonoIcarIìcrtìmcs, ìsnow caIIcd JacqucsduRozìcr
and wcars a IormìdabIcmonocIc to rcIìcvc hìs agcdIacc oIthc
taskoIshowìnganykìndoIcxprcssìon.-Thcvìsìtorcomcsupon
human bcìngs whosc cycIìds havc thc scaIcd rìgìdìty oI thosc
abouttomakcthcIrcxIt, whoscconstantIymurmurIngIìps sccm
tobcuttcrìngthcpraycrsoIthosc aIrcadysìngIcdoutIordcath.'
ScIcrosìshasthoroughIyrcstructurcdothcrsandmadcthcmìnto
stonc-Iìkc Egyptìangods.Thcnarrateur cvcnhndssomcwhosccm
hardIychangcdasIongasthcyarcobscrvcdIromadìstancc,sccn
upcIoscìn convcrsatìon, howcvcr, thcìrapparcntIystìII-smooth
skìnrcvcaIssuchswcIIìngstothcobscrvcr,suchtìnynoduIcsand
rcddIsh-bIuccapIIIaryvcsscIsthatthcyarousccvcnmorcvIoIcnt
avcrsìonanddccpcrhorrorthanthoscwhoscagcannounccsìtscII
wìthout conccaImcntìn thcIr coIorIcss haìr, crookcdbacks, and
draggìng Icgs. Thc gucstrccognìzcs mostoI thcmagaìn, hc has
sccnthcm,spokcnwìththcma Iongtìmcago at somc diner en
ville, and throughthcìrscIcrosìs and dchydratìon, hccandccodc
thc Icaturcs oI thc past. But ìt aIso happcns that somconc ad-
drcsscshìm, whoscIacc, voìcc,andhgurcIcavchìmhcIpIcss. A
IatIadygrccts hìmwìthhcr "bonjour." A.Iooksathcr, qucruIous,
4 I ON A GING
andbcgshcrpardon.ì t ìs CìIbcrtc, whomhchadIovcdìnCom-
brayasaboyandonthc ChampsEIysccs.-ButwhathasrcaIIy
happcncdtothcscpcopIcthatProust´s narrateur hasIoundagaìn
atthìsrcccptìonoIthcPrìnccdc Cucrmantcs?Notmuch.Evcry-
thìng.Time has passed.
Tìmc haspasscd, Ilowcdby, roIIcd on, bIown away, andwc
passwìthìt-what am! sayìng?-Iìkcsmokcìnastrongwìnd.
WcaskourscIvcswhattìmcmìghtactuaIIybc, aboutwhìchwc
saythatcvcrythìnggIìdcsandrunsbywìthìt-askourscIvcswìth
atcnacìousnaïvctc that bordcrs on totaIrìdìcuIousncss, andthcn
arctaughtbytIoscthìnkcrswhoarcsoadroìtìnIogìcaIpIaythat
thcqucstìon,whcnaskcdìnsuchabanaIIorm, ìs dcccptìvc. -A
Icw cxpIoratorycxpcrìmcntswìththc ìdcaoItìmc throw us ìnto
totaI conIusìon: justcxactIywhatthatvcryoIdand cIcvcr bìrd-
hcadcdEngIìshmansays,IoIIowìngZcno,ìnanamusìngparadox.
Docsthcpastcxìst?No,bccauscìtìsaIrcadygonc.DocsthcIuturc
cxìst? No, bccausc ìt has not yct comc. Thcn ìs thcrc onIy thc
prcscnt? OIcoursc. But ìsn´t ìt sothatthìsprcscnt contaìns no
strctchoItìmc?!tìsso. ThcnthcrcìsnosuchthìngastìmcataII.
Corrcct.ìtdocsn´tcxìst.RusscII´sparadoxcanbcsoIvcd.Answcrs
cxìst to many qucstìons about tìmc, and suIhcìcntIy sharp and
wcII-traìncdthinkcrshavctrìcdtohndthcm. Butwhatthcy´vc
comcawaywìthhasIìttIcto dowìthourconccrns.
!n thìnkìng about tìmc, whcn wc arc not taIkìng about thc
tìmcoIphysìcìsts,IorwhomìtìssomcthìngquìtcdìIIcrcntthanìt
ìsIorus, butabout our tìmc,whìchìsaIways only ours, ourIìvcd
tìmc, ourtemps vºcu-insuchthìnkìng, wcstcpIorwardbctwccn
twodangcrous toncs,bothoIwhìcharccquaIIyIataI.Onthconc
hand, wc arc thrcatcncd by duII rumìnatìons and dìIcttantìsh
broodìng. Ontnc othcr, wc havc thc tcchnìcaI Ianguagc oI thc
spccìaIìst ìn thc dìscìpIìnc oI phìIosophy, whìch, ìn soundìng
5 I Existence and the Passage of Time
Icarncd, strìvcstoprovcìts own sìgnìhcanccmorcthanthc vaIuc
oIìtsknowIcdgc.Andyct,wchavctotrytoprcss on,bccauscìtìs
tìmc,Iìvcdtìmc, or,ìIyouwìII, subjcctìvctìmc,whìchìs ourmost
urgcnt probIcm. ProbIcm? Oncc agaìn a word Irom thc ncws·
papcr,smcIIìngoIIcnsìvcIyoIprìntcr´sìnk.Tìmcìsourarchcncmy
andourmostìntìmatcIrìcnd, ouronIytotaIIycxcIusìvcposscssìon
and,aswcncvcrsccmtorcaIìzc,ourpaìnandourhopc. !tìsdìIh-
cuIttospcakoIìt. Down Iromthc magìc mountaìnwchcar.can
tìmcbcnarratcd, thìs tìmcìtscII, as such, ìn and IorìtscII? Dch-
nìtcIy not, that wouId bc a IooIìsh cntcrprìsc. A story that
procccdcdtotcIIthattìmcIIowcd,ìtranon,tìmc strcamcdaIong,
andonandon-noonccouIdscnsìbIycaIIthatastory.-!twouId
notonIynotbcastory, asthatIamous magìcìan,ThomasMann,
thought,butìtwouIdaIsohavcnothìngmorctodowìthtìmcthan
thc Iact that ìt wouId takc a IìttIc tìmc, cvcnìI onIyj ust a IìttIc.
FIowìng away, runnìng on, strcamìng aIong, tìmc docs not do
thcscthìngs, suchthìngs takc pIaccìnspacc, cxpcrìcnccdvìsìbIy
oratIcastasaconscqucnccoIwhatìssccn.WhcnwctaIkoItìmc,
wc usc hgurcsoI spccchIromthcworIdoIspacc, ¨spatìomorphìc
mctaphors, " asoncmìghtsaytosoundschoIarIy.Tìmc ìshardIy
narratabIc. Wcsay¨hardIy" andnotunnarratabIc. Othcrwìsc wc
wouId havc to rcmaìn sìIcnt ìnstcad oI stìII cvcntuaIIy sayìng
somcthìng, as wc struggIc to do, ìn thc spacc bctwccn thc two
dangcrzoncs. Fìgurcs oIspccchmaybcuscIuIasIongasthcìrhg-
uratìvcnaturcìsconstantIyacknowIcdgcd.AndwccancmpIoy
our consìdcratìons, cvcn thosc wìthout cpìstcmoIogìcaI vaIuc,
whcnwcsuccccdìndcscrìbìngthìngsìnwhìchothcrscandìscovcr
thcmscIvcsagaìn.
Fora Iong tìmc A. had bccn conccrncdwìththc tormcntìng
qucstìons oI agìng, cxìstcncc, and thc passagc oI tìmc. Now hc
6 I ON A GING
was vìsìtìng onc oI hìs Irìcnds, a Iamous physìcìst, hopìng thc
IattcrwouIdbc abIc togìvchìmsomc advìcc ìnmakìng scnsc oI
thcscìmpcnctr+bIcthìngs.Thìs manoIscìcncc ìmmcdìatcIytook
ovcrthc convcrsatìon, andthìngs quìckIybccamc IoIty andhìgh-
spìrìtcd. Tìmc? A probIcm oIphysìcs. Oncc wc hadthc cIassìcaI
physìcsoINcw!onìnwhìchtìmcwas notyctrcaIIytìmc.Thatìs,
tìmc, sìncc ìt was onIy a mattcr oI thc movcmcnt oI bodìcs ìn
spacc, couIdbc rcvcrscd. Thc posìtìonoIthc moon, Iorìnstancc,
was just as casytoprcdìct ìn advancc Iorthc ycar2500, on thc
basìs oI acccptcd data, as ìt was ìn rcvcrsc Ior thc ycar !600.
Thcn, wìthmodcrnphysìcs, camc thc tìmc oI thcrmodynamìcs,
ìrrcvcrsìbIc tìmc, tìmc tìcdtothcconccptoIcntropy,a mcasurc-
mcntIorthcìmprobabìIìtyoIthcordcroImoIccuIcsrcsuItìngby
chancc, a tcndcncythatIcads to a gcncraIIy ìncrcasìng dìsordcr,
thc cxtrcmc ca·c oIwhìchìs so-caIIcdhcatdcath.PopuIarIyand
brìcIIyIormuIaìcd.thcrmodynamìctìmcìs notrcvcrsìbIc bccausc
ìt tcndstowardthc dccayoIaIIbcìng. NoncthcIcss, thc physìcìst
wouId conccdt that onc couId aIso spcak oIa ¨bìoIogìcaI" tìmc
whìch, rcvcrscd, wouIdcauscthc constructìonandnot thc dìsso-
Iutìon oIstructurcs. Howcvcr, bìoIogìcaItìmcwouIdnotconccrn
hìm, at Icast not untìI statcmcnts about ìt can bc transIatcd ìn
thcìrcntìrctyìnto a mathcmatìcaI-physìcaIIanguagc.
Nonc oIthìs was vcry ¨cIcar" to our troubIcd A., but ìt was,
cvcnìn a sIìghtIy qucstìonabIc way, somcthìnghc couId IatcntIy
dcaIwìth, somcwhatìntuìtìvcIy, sothat hcpartIykncwwhathìs
Irìcndwas taIkìng about. Forhìm, howcvcr, rathcrthan Ior thc
proIcssor, ìt wasnota qucstìon oImovcmcntsoIbodìcsìn spacc,
nor oIhcatdcath, IorwhìchIor Cod´s sakc thcrc wasstìIIpIcnty
oItìmc, nor cvcn a qucstìon oI tìmc dcduccd Irom thc Iacts oI
cvoIutìon.Hcwas spcakìng oI ycarspassìngaway, oImcmorìcs
that suddcnIy appcarcd and dcccptìvcIy suspcndcd tìmc, oIthc
7 I Existence and the Passage of Time
wcight oI dcath scnscd in thc pIain rcsuIts oI timc. With con-
ccptuaI impaticncc, thc man oI positivc knowlcdgc indicatcd
withanoddinggcsturcthat hcwasdisincIincdtoprocccdinthis
vcin. Sincc hc was notjusta brainyandrigidspcciaIist, howcvcr,
but a cuIturaIIy circumspcct human bcing, philosophicalIy wcll
rcad, with thc intcIIcct oI a gcncralist, cvcn Iamiliar with that
othcr cuItivatcd pcrson whom wc mct at thc Cucrmantcs´, hc
said, ¨! know, duree vecue, Bcrgson, Minkowski, irrationaIism,
phcnomcnoIogical mcntal gamcs, !´m rightin thc picturc. But !
ask you, whatisaII that to mc, ! who dcaI with spacc and timc
in my cquations, spaccand timcinsoIarasthcyarc oIcoursc dc-
hnabIc andcapabIc oIbcingwrappcdupinIormuIac?"Whatwas
it in Iact to him? A. thankcd him and sIinkcd oII humblcd,
broodinginhisuncIcarhcadashcwaswontto do, notcvcnabIc
to Iorgivc himscIIIor having darcd to cngagc such a scrious in-
vcstigator with such undcvcIopcdhaII-thoughts.
LongaItcrthathchappcncdtomccthisIricndagain.Thistimc
thcmanwasdiscouragcdandtircd,noIongcrprcdisposcdataIlto
stickingarrogantIytothcsubjcct. ¨HowtimchasrunawayIrom
mc, " saidthc schoIar. ¨HowIonghasitbccnthatwchavcknown
oncanothcr?Twcntyycars?MyCod, whatpIans!oncchad, what
aIIdidn´t!wanttodothat!stiIlhavcn´tdonc.Andwhat!wouId
stiII Iikc to hnishiI onIy !wcrc grantcdthc timc. But too much
timchas aIrcadygoncbyand!havcsoIittIctimcIcIt." ¨Oh, mi-
racuIoustimc, oh,tospcnd timc-",thisthcphysicistdidnotsay
anymorc, A.wasthinkingthuswithin, somcwhatmcchanicaIIy,
andhcpartcdyctonccmorcIromhisIricnd,withoutconsoIation,
asiIhcwcrcncithcrcapabIcoIitnorappointcdtoit. Onccagain
hc hcard thc words oI !mmanucI Kant,words hc had hcard so
oItcn, words that had bccn IamiIiar to him sincc his youth, in
whichhcagainandagainrcdiscovcrcdhimscIIandhismcditations
8 I ON A GING
ontìmc, rcgardIcssoIthcIactthatcvcnmodcrnIogìcanddìaIcc-
tìcshadaIrcadymadcshortshrìItoIthcm.Spaccandtìmcwcrc,ìn
spìtcoIaIIattcmptsoImodcrnphìIosophytoconstructa spatìo-
tcmporaIsoIìdarìty,aIìcntooncanothcr.TìmcìsthcIormoIan
inner scnsc,that.s,thcIormthroughwhìchwcpcrccìvcourscIvcs
andourcondìtìon.Wasn´tthatobvìous?AtanymomcntA.couId
paccoIIspaccandhndhìmscIIwìthìnìt.Thcoutcrscnscwasthc
scnsc oIourscnscs,whattookpIaccìnspaccwasdìscussabIc. But
whatcvcr happcncd wìth thc ¨ìnncr scnsc" IcItIìttIc oI ìtscII to
communìcatc, and thosc who darcdto goìnsìdcthcmscIvcs to
IookIorìtstraccsandìtsobjcctsIoundnorcwardIorthcìrcouragc
and wcrc thrcatcncd byan ìntcIIcctuaIIy dcsoIatc nothìngncss.
WhcrcvcrrcaIìtywasspatìaIandwordsIaìIcd,onccouIdstìIIcarry
out actìons that rcpIaccd thosc words. What ìs bIuc? That can
hardIy bc cxpIaincd, but A. , whcn askcd about thc coIor bIuc,
couIdstìIIpoìntt hìsIoIdcrandsay,¨Hcrc-now-ìsbIuc. "But
how,onthcothcrhand,couIdhcmakchìsIccIìngIortìmcacccs-
sìbIctoanothcr?Forthat,thcrcwasnoìndcxhngcrpoìntìngto
anythìng that couIdbc pcrccìvcd ìntcrsubjcctìvcIy. Onc had to
waìtuntìIothcr:camcbythcmscIvcstothc subj cctoItìmcand
spokcoIìt.That'swhathadj usthappcncd.OutoIhìsownnccd
andwìththcsamcwords,spurncdasbanaIcquaIIybyscìcnccand
bythcdìscìpIìncoIphìIosophy-ìn¨ìdIctaIk, "asìtwouIdbccaIIcd
byMartìnHcìdcggcr, drcsscdìnawaìstIcssjackctìnaskìhutsur-
roundcd by a roarìng wìnd-thc physìcìst had spokcnoItìmc,
bccausccvcnhcwasnoIongcrayoungman.
Thc tìmc oI whìch wc bccomc awarc ìn agìng ìs not onIy
somcthìngwc cannotgrasp, ìtìsaIsohIIcdwìthabsurdìty, abìttcr
mockcryoIcvcryìntcIIcctuaI prccìsìon wchavc aspìrcd to. Somc
oIus cxpcctsoncthìnggood.butthctìmcoIgood cxpcctatìons,
thìs ¨good" tìmc. bccomcs ourcncmy, wc want togctìt bchìnd
9 I Existence and the Passage of Time
us as quickIy as possibIc, wantto ¨cxpcI" it orcvcn ¨kiII" it. And
somcthing bad thrcatcns othcrs. hcrc thc ¨bad" timc bccomcs
our onIy Iricnd, to whom wc hoId ourscIvcs Iikc a man con-
dcmncdto dcath. hc stiII has hvc hours tiIIhis cxccution, thcn
two morc, hnaIIy, whcnthc stcps outsidc canaIrcadybc hcard,
it´sjusta Icwminutcs, scconds, and thc poor sinncr wouIdIikc
to makc this most horribIc momcnttarrya whiIcbccausc it isso
IovcIy.² -Or takc a young man witha grcat dcaI oI timc bcIorc
him, so much that hc docsn´twanttobothcr withit, hc docsn´t
nccd to know anything about it at aII. FccIing hcaIthy in his
body, hc is so surc oIhimscIIhc docsn´t cvcnnccd thc statistics
that grant him, thc twcnty-ycar-oId, hItymorc ycars oIIiIc-an
unIathomabIc strctchoItimc.Hcisin thc proccss oIIivingonIor
avastpcriodoI timc with thc goodknowIcdgc and conscicncc oI
his twcnty ycars. Buttomorrow hcwiIIdrivc his carintoa pIanc-
trcc and Iic dashcd to picccs on thc route nationale. Thcn hc wiII
havc lived falsely with his pIans and vaguc hopcs, bccausc Iora
IiIc that has comc to an cnd, thc cnd-thc carIy cnd in this
casc-is thc truth oI thc bcginning and aII its stagcs, and this
carIycndnowthrowsitspaIcIightonaIIphascsoIthcyoungIiIc
gonc by. Butcvcn thcn, whcn wc rcachanagc thatcorrcsponds
cvcnhaIIway toour cxpcctations and our statisticaIIy mcasurcd
timc, our timc, parccIcd out and dchncdwithcIocksand caIcn-
darpagcs, isstiIIimmcnsc,bound-IcssinthcrcaImcaningoIthc
word. Strctchcs oItimc ormasscsoI timc arc rcIativc, not onIy
withrcgardtointcrsubjcctivcphysicaItimc, which, aItcraII, docs
notmakc scnsc tous, but aIso with rcgard tocach othcr. Thcir
rcIations thcrcbydo not rcmainthc samc.
A. hasgoncthroughthcwar,WorIdWar!!withitsscrvicc at
thcIront, itswounds, itsbombings, itsIossoIrcIativcs, anditscx-
puIsions Irom thc homcIand. Forhim, thc mass oItimc Ior thc
1 0 I ON A GI NG
ycars 1 939-1 945 ìs opaquc andhcavy. Thc tcn ycars prcccdìng
thc war cxpcrìcncc havc bccomcjustasIìIcI�ss, thìn, and sIìght
ìn hìs mcmory as thc two postwar dccadcs, hvc ycars arc a
Iongcr, wcìghtìcrtìmcthantcnortwcnty. Butwìthoutbcìngno-
tìccd, thc tcmporaI wcìghts havcnowbccomc dìstrìbutcd ìn a
ncw way. Crass has bccn growìng ovcr thc cntìrc past, whìch
suddcnIyappcars nowtobc IcvcIcd, noIongcrhavìnganytìmc
vaIucataII.UntìI-onc usuaIIydìscovcrsìtwìthabIow¬thc dìs-
pIaccmcntoIthc quantaoIthcpast, whìchhascontìnucdtotakc
pIacc undcr thc grass, bccomcs manìIcst. thcn thc tìmc oI thc
warìs nomorctcdìousthanthc
·
tìmc aItcrìt, andwhatnowap-
pcars as a mass oI tìmc, Iìkc a mountaìn, ìs pcrhaps just a Icw
summcr wccks, vcry Iar away, thatbroughtwìth thcm an aI-
rcadyhaII-IorgottcnIovcaIIaìr.
Wc ncvcr cstabIìsh a rcasonabIc rcIatìonshìp wìth cIock and
caIcndartìmc. Furthcrmorc, wcncvcrcvcngctaIongìnour ow
tìmc, whìch stìIIconstìtutcsourcntìrc cgo.Wcdìdspcndborìng
andamusìngday:, atIcast that´swhatwc say, casuaIIyandwìth-
out cmbarrassmcnt. Howcvcr, ìIwctryoncc agaìntoaccIìmatìzc
ourscIvcs to thoºc Iong and short pcrìods oI thc tìmc oI our
Iormcrdays,wcdìscovcrthatsomcthìng´snotrìght.!twas,tobc
surc,notavcryIongwhìIcataIIthatwcspcntìnthcborcdomoI
monotony, but a IrìghtcnìngIy short onc, rcvìvìng ìtscII com-
pIctcIy shrìvcIcd up and nuII ìn our mcmory. Tìmc that was
cntcrtaìnìngbccauscìtwascvcntIuIwcrccognìzcasaIongtìmc
and a grcat timc. Thc cIock ticks rcguIarIy. Today ! tcar offthc
pagc oIa caIcndarjust as ! dìdycstcrdayandjust as!wìIIdo to-
morrowwhcnìt--an¨ìt"aboutwhìch�stìIInccdtotaIk-«ocs
not ìntcrrupt mc uncxpcctcdIy. NcvcrthcIcss, thc pacc oI tìmc
docsnotkccpìn stcp. ! doìt myscII, wìthìn tìmc and wìth tìmc,
andìmagìncthat! am, ìInotabravcmarchcroIthìsIìIc,atIcast
11 I Existence and the Passage of Time
an ordcrIy onc-. untìI ! rccognìzc that at onc tìmc ! raccd
brcathIcssIyaround,whìIcìnanothcr!draggcdmyscIIsIuggìshIy
aIong, a Ia

yboncs and a maIìngcrcr.
So-wouId wc, startìng Irom a dìIIcrcnt poìnt andby com-
pIctcIydìIIcrcnt paths, comc to thc samc wìtty andparadoxìcaI
obscrvatìon that ourbìrd-hcadcd, dìsccrnìng EngIìshman camc
to-that tìmc docsnot cxìst?Nonscnscl Tìmc ìs aIways within us,
just as spacc ìs around us. Wc can no morc taIktìmc away than
wc can our cxìstcncc, cvcn ìIìt ìs somcthìng that no onc com-
pIctcIythìnks through. But can´t wc stìIItakcposscssìonoIìt?
Wc can. Wc hndtìmc ìn ajinj-cvcnìIwc do not, Iìkc A. de
chez Guermantes, cntcrtaìn thc poctìcìIIusìonthat wc havc madc
upIorìtastemps retrouve ìn our mcmory, pIaccd ìtìn suspcnsìon,
andthcrcbyìnsìnuatcd ourscIvcs ìnto ctcrnìty.
How !´vc bccn runnìng, thìnks A., and hc wìpcs hìs brow
wìthhìs hand. !´vcbccnrunnìngata trotthroughtìmcsìnccthc
cnd oIthc war, andnow !´mtìrcdandIccIcompcIIcdtorcstabìt
by thc sìdc oI thc road. Ycstcrday¬whcn thc bIood and thc
dcath wcrc ovcr, ! thought a grcat Iuturcwascomìngtowardmc.
At thc tìmc wc wcrcbIìndIyrunnìngon thc LcIt Bankìn totaI
ragctowardthatIuturc. Saìnt-Ccrmaìn-dcs-Prcs, La RoscRougc,
Sartrc, Irom thc rcsìstancc to thc rcvoIutìon. But tìmc ordcrcd
thìngs dìIIcrcntIy, and out oIthcwìIdgaIIopthcrc grcwa rcgu-
Iartrot, thcIattcrpcrhapsmorctìrìngthanthcIormcr. !arrangcd
myscII to htìnto a worId that ! had wantcd to bc dìIIcrcntbut
whìchìnìts waywantcdmc dìIIcrcnt and ìnthat vcryuncquaI
battIc carrìcdoIIthcvìctory.ThccntìccmcntoIaIaIscbourgcoìs
rcspcctabìIìty. An apartmcnt, smaII, a car, smaII. Abankaccount,
onIy Ior thc sakc oI an occasìonaI rcmìttancc. But stìII. apart-
mcnt, car, and bank account, attaìncd at a tìrìng trot, and thc
1 2 I ON A GI NG
Irccdom oI thc garrct, thc Irccdom oI onc who totaIIy had
countcdonnothìng, ìsgonc¬wìthtìmcandi tìmc.-
How!havcbccnrunnìng, A. thìnksìn cxhaustìon, andnow,
whatcvcrhappcns, ! amtakìng tìmc to catchmy brcath and to
thìnkthìngsovcr, IorthcstrcctsarcbccomìngIongcrandIongcr
andmyIcgsshortcrandshortcr.Mybrcathìsgcttìnghcavìcr,my
muscIcs wcakcr, mybraìnmorc rìdìcuIous. But cvcnwìtha rì-
dìcuIousbraìn,youcanstìIIthìnkaboutcxìstcnccandthcpassagc
oItìmc and thc agìng proccss markìng yourbrow, bcttcr cvcn
thanwìtha hìghIysharpcncdìntcIIcct, sìnccthcIattcrìsaIways
crcatìngordcrwhucyou,ìIyourcaIIywanttokccptrackoItìmc,
arcstìIIsupposcd.ogìvcwaytodìsordcr.

Y You´vcgottomakc ìtyourìntcIIcctuaIambìtìon, A.thìnks, to
1
trytohndoutabouttìmc.YoumaybcsatìshcdcvcnìIwhatcvcr
comcsoutoIìt ìsbadasIongasìt ìs rìght, bywhìch ¨rìght"won´t
mcan¨corrcct,"¡¡st¨honcst.°!sthatmcanttobcsomcthìngIìkc
ìntuìtìvcknowIcdcHcavcns, nol Thìskìnd oIbad, butcorrcct,
thìnkìngìsonIyIG�rìbìn�c´0|wilThc rcst wouId bc
IìL,)a¸urc or
g
hìI
_@
hy, andthcy arc good Ior nothìng ataII ìn
i thìs mattcr.
l.
Rìgorous rcason, aworthwhìIc ìnstrumcnt oIthoughtand, to
bc surc, thc onIyoncthatìs quaIìhcdtopursuc posìtìvc knowI-
cdgc, provcs ìtscIt to bc uscIcss whcrcvcr IundamcntaI contra-
dìctìons cxcIudc thc compIctc justìhcatìon oI somcthìng. !n
kccpìngtrackoItìmc,wcpassovcrccrtaìnruIcsoIconvcntìonaIIy
IogicaIthought. Thcrc arc novaIìdrcguIatìonscvcnIorwhatwc
wanttocxprcssbccausctìmc,unIìkcspacc, ìsnotacquaìntcdwìth
thc IogìcoIrcaIìty. Past, prcscnt,Iuturc, thc hrst bchìnd mc, thc
sccondbcsìdcmcandwìthmc, thcthìrdbcIorc mc. sucharcthc
cIaìmsoIthcwaywcspcakandordìnarìIythìnk.Thatthcycannot
bccorrcctwìth rcgard tothcprcscntìs thc hrst and most trìvìaI
1 3 I Existence and the Passage of Time
ìdcathatgctsìnourway, sìncc, as wc saìdaIrcadyìn agrccmcnt
wìthRusscII,thcprcscntdocsnotcontaìnastrctchoItìmc.Wc´vc
bccnhcIpìngourscIvcsaIongwìthartìhcìaIconccpts.tìmccannot
bcaIìncIromthc pastthat conncctsbythc shortcst patha start-
ìng poìnt to an cnd, but ìs ìnstcad a ¨þcId
ÿ
� ìntc

tìonaIìtìcs. "
OrdìnaryIanguagcusagc,whìchhasnotIìstcncdtothcphcnomc-

noIogìst andhas notnccdcdto, sìnccìtstìIImìrrors thc cvcryday
rcaIìty that ìtaIIcomcs down to-ordìnary Ianguagchasknown
aII aIong that t´s@�_Wc taIk about a
¨
|'
scnt" andccrtaìnIy ncvcr mcananìdcaIpoìntthatcannotbcI
cxtcn
¿
cd. WhocvcrtaIks aboutthc prcscntunconscìousIycon-

strucs Irom a cIass oI data a systcm, a ¨hcId, " ìI that´s a morc

appcaIìng cxprcssìon. !na partìcuIar contcxt, �

w�

hìs
¨now"contaìnsìnìtscIIccrtaìnpastandIuturcquanta.Dcpcndìng
onhowthatwhìchìs saìd and donc httogcthcrtodchncìt, ìt can
bcthc momcntoIa scnsuaIìmpuIsc orthc ìnstant whcn !burn
myhngcrwìthacìgarcttc, aswcIIasthcIourwccksoIvacatìon!
am now spcndìng by thc sca or thc currcnt ycar ìn whìch my
carccrtakcsa ncwturn.! am ìnthc mìdst oIìtìnwccks or ìn a
ycar, but! say¨now, " I Iay outa hcId oItìmc that ìncIudcsa Iu-
turc and a past and caII ìt thc prcscnt. And thus tìmc ìs not a
pcrsonaIprobIcmIoranyoncwhoìsIìvìngIorthcworId-untìI, oI
coursc, thcmomcntwhcn onc rcaIìzcs, ¨AIas, whcrc havc aIImy
ycarsgonc. ´' OnIythcn, whcnoncbccomcsawarc oIwhathas
dìsappcarcdandgoncbcyondrccaII, asA.docs,scttIìngdownby
thcwaysìdc, docsonc undcrstandtìmcasa qucstìondìrcctcdat
oncscII.
\
Attcmpts to hndananswcrtothìs qucstìon comc to a stand-
stìII.VcrysuddcnIyncìthcrIìncnorhcIdarc suIhcìcnt. Thc past
ìs thcrc, ìn thc prcscnt, and ìt stays thcrc. But thc prcscnt and
thc IuturcIoscthcìrcharactcrastìmc. Thc prcscntìs constantIy

(
\
.
\
J
:
_\�|l
�v\ oJ r
J� ",( •
1 6 I ON A GING
WhatìsìnstorcIorthcmìsdcath,ìtwìIItakcthcmcompIctcIyout
oIspacc, thcìrscIvcsandwhatcvcrrcmaìnsoIthcìrbodìcs,ìtwìII
dc-spacc thcm, ìt wìII takc IìIc and thc worId Irom thcm and
abductthcmIromthcworIdandthcìrownspacc.Thus, asagìng
pcrsons thcy arc stìII onIy tìmc. whìch thcy arc compIctcIy as
pcrsonswhoarctímc,posscsstìmc, andknowtìmc.
But docsn´tthatmakcIìIc a kìndoIbcìng-toward-dcath?Just
bccausc tìmc hastomakc dcathgrowto Iruìtìon andbccausc ìn
thatproccssìtspurctcmporaIìtybccomcstransparcnt, ìsn´tthcrc-
Iorc thc rcaI dìmcnsìon oIbcìng human prccìscIy thc Iuturc as
tìmc? !t ìs and ìt isn´t, and ìn thc ycs-and-no that scrvcs as an
answcrtothìsqucstìonthcno carrìcsmorcwcìghtthanthcycs.
TowaìtIordcathandthcrcIorcbcìntìmc-thatwon´tIcadany-
whcrc. For whcn ! waìt, thcn thcrc ìs aIways somcthìng, thc
arrìvaI and Iuturc oIwhìchIuIhIIsthc tìmcoI my waìtìng. Thus
thc young man waìts, waìts Ior thc woman hc Iovcs, Ior thc
Iandscapc hc wou'd Iìkc to scc, Ior thc workthat hc ìspIannìng
ashìsown. Butwhcrc dcathcomcsìntopIay asthcgoaIoIonc´s
cxpcctatìon, whcrc, Iorthcagìng, thìs dcath, asthccxpcctcd, ìn-
crcascs ìtsproportionoIrcaIìtycvcryday gnd an_ othcr rcwarp
I
��
ìtìngc

cF co
_
g
a

ì
�ÿ�

t

no¯ ìngìt ìs I? Iongcrpo
¸
-
sìbIcspcakoItìmc-ìn-thc-Iuturc. For thc dcaththaty�¢ct
- ~~- -. *·¯
- m+�~. ~�~ -
. ·
ìs nota somcthìng_t�_�

_(

�gTo
waìt Iorìt ìs not a bcìng-toward-ìtbccausc ìt ìs nothìng. Dcath
docsnotsavcthcIuturcasa dìmcnsìonoItìmc.Onthccontrary,
through ìts tolaI rcgatìvìty, through thc compIctc dcbacIc that
cannot bc rcscìndcd and that ìs ìts mcanìng (ìnsoIar as wc can
stìII cvcn spcak oImcanìng, whìch ìs onIy condìtìonaIIyadmìs-
sìbIc) , dcath canccIs thc scnsc oIcvcrykìndoI rcason. !t ìs not
~ ~» m~ ¯´ � WW~ W @ @
thc bony man with hìs scythc and hourgIass who ¨takcs us
homc"-and whcrc wouId that homc bc, anyway? !tìs thc rc-
J
17 I Existence and the Passage of Time
suIt, contradìctoryìnìtscII, oI mybcìngtakcn outoIspaccìnthc
most IìtcraI mcanìng oIthc word: my an-nìhìIatìon.
!n addìtìon, ìt ìs not untìI onc ìs agìng that onc cxpcrìcnccs
tìmc as ìrrcvcrsìbIc ìn ìts cntìrcty. Wc spcak oI thc ¨autumnoI
IìIc"-charmìng mctaphorl Autumn? AItcr autumn comcs a
wìntcr, aItcrthatonccagaìnasprìngandthcnasummcr. Forthc
agìng, howcvcr, thcautumnoIIìIcìsthcIast autumnandthcrc-
Iorc not anautumnataII. Thc youngarc ncvcr prcscntcd wìth

[
c´sìrrcvcrsìbìIìtyìnìtscompIctcìncxorabìIìty. Autumn, wìntcr,
sprìng, summcr, and autumn oncc agaìn. Many such scasonaI
changcsIìcbcIorc thcm.Whatwon´t turnupìnthccarIypartoI
thìs ycar wìIIcomc ìnthcncxt, ìnthc ycar aItcrncxt, ìnany onc
oIthcIoIIowìngsprìngs, not objcctìvcIycnumcratcd, tobcsurc,
yctìna subjcctìvcwaygcnuìncIyappcarìngtobcìnnumcrabIc,
scasonsthatwìIIstìIIbcprcparìngworIdandspaccIorthcm.OnIy
thc agìng, whoalIat oncc know howtocountthc autumnsand
thcwìntcrswìthhorrìIyìngcxactncss,sìnccthcystìIImcasurcthc
scasonsagaìnstthoscthathavcpasscdandgoncìntothcm, ¿ndcr-
¸t�nd¸¸)�_

���@c oI tìmc as

a

ìrrcvcrsìbìIìty-too horrìbIc to
compIaìn about, sìncc so much has sIìppcd by and aIrcady run
past.
Oncc thc agìng rcaIìzc that thcy arc onIyjust tìmc and wìII
soon bc rcmovcd Irom spacc, a numbcr oIìIIusìonary comIorts
appcartothcm,bcsìdcscvcnthcgrcatcstandmostbcguìIìngìIIu-
sìonoIaII,

ì¿ìo�A.-I�ust
¸
whcnasthmapIagucdhìmand
hcscrìbbIcdawayonthcRecherche ìnbcdìnhìsscaIcdroom,muI-
IIcd up ìn wooI scarvcs, thought hc couId takc posscssìon ìn
mcmoryoIa morc rcaIrcaIìtyandaIongwìthìtsomcthìng Iìkc
tìmcIcssncssorcvcnctcrnìty. AsarcsuIt, agrcatworkoIIìtcraturc
camcìntobcìng. But, whcnhccamctohìsIastbrcathandhcwas
torn Irom thc worId ìn agony, hìs achìcvcmcnt was no Iongcr
1 8 I ON A GING

uscIu

oh�m. OthcrsIookìntothcìrspacctosccwhatìtwìIIbc
IìkcaItcrthcm.ahouscwhcrcchìIdrcnandthcìrchìIdrcn´schìI-
drcnwìIIbcactìvcandwìIIwork,atombstonc,grayandpowcrIuI,
wìIItcstìIyIorthcm,thcìrbookswìIIbconshcIvcsorthcìrpaìnt-
ìngswìIIhangon muscum waIIs. ButthchouscwìIIdctcrìoratc
andthcgrandchìldrcnwìIIbcscattcrcdtoaIIthcwìnds, andthc
books andthc pìcturcs wìIIquìckIybc Iorgottcn. !nthcParìsìan
ccmctcryPcrc-LachaìsconccansccmausoIcums,IaIIìngapartand
ncgIcctcd,wìthratsncstìngìnthcm.Wordsarcwrìttcnonthcm
ìn Iadcd goId. "Concession a perpetuiti" (pIot purchascd ìn pcr-
pctuìty), asìIabourgcoìsIortunccouIdatIcastacquìrcapscudo-
ctcrnìty ìn spacc Housc and homc, book, pìcturc, and tomb,
cvcrythìngwìIIbcIìkcthcnìghtsoIIovcandpaìnoIthcdcccascd.
asgoodasìIthcynadncvcrcxìstcd.
!tmaybcthat thcga�sqg� o[tì¸mc ìn agìng¹s mostìntcnscIy
IcItby a pcrsonvhoscIìIcaIways sccms tobc Ioundcrìng, a rate
or IaìIurc dìsposscsscd oI aII ìIIusìons,justas Iack oIsucccss, or,
bcttcr, cosmìc Iaìl urc, opcns a pcrson up touItìmatc qucstìons.
Thc rate A. , aIonc ìn a caIc, who has no chìIdrcn and cannot
cIaìmto thcmìragc oI Iamc aItcrdcath, who wìII not havc hìs
owngravcstonccrcctcd, anddocsnotcvcnhavctomakca wìII,
caIcuIatcs ìnstcad thatìt wouIdbc bcst toscIIhìs own cadavcr to
thc anatomìcaI ìnstìtutc-hc knows morc IundamcntaIIy than
othcrsthathc ìs onIy a bundIc oItìmc. Hc hasaIwaysposscsscd
onIya IìttIcbìloIºpacc, cvcrsìnccnothìngcamc oI¨castìnghìm-
scIIìntothcworId. "Hcìs accustomcdtoIcthìmscIIsIìdcìntothc
wcIIoIthcpastandtoIookIorhìmscIIthcrc ìntìmc.Hìsncìgh-
borwìththc bìgcarand manyrooms raccsnoìsìIyarounduntìI
onc daya paìn ìn hìs chcst sccms to tcar hìm opcn asìIhc had
bccnhungonancathookandthcdoctortaIks soItIytohìs wìIc
oIcardìacìnIarctìon, hcìs takcn out oI spacc bcIorc hc cvcn has
1 9 I Existence and the Passage of Time
thc ìntcntìon oI hndìng thc tìmc to thìnk about tìmc. But thc
agìngrate has a goodìdca aboutwhcrchc hascomc toand, cvcn
ìIhc docsnotrcaIIy¨know" ìnthc scnscoIhavìnguscIuIìnsìghts
Iorhìs Iuturc ìn spacc, hc stìII experiences ìt-morc than thc Ioud
man ìn thc housc ncxt door.
OncthìngthatvaIìdatcswhatwcarcprcscntìnghcrcasaImost
bcìnghumanIycorrcct-thoughnottrucl -thattìmcandìtsìrrc-
vcrsìbìIìtyarconIyIuIIy rcaIìzcd ìn agìng, ìs thcburnìngandj ust
ashopcIcsswìshoIthoscgcttìngonìnycarsIorthc r1 of time.
What has happcncd shouId unhappcn, what has not happcncd
shouIdtakc pIacc. A.has rcgrcts.Hc shouIdhavc donconcthìng
' '
andIctanothcrbc,buthchastorcaIìzcthatdoìngandnotdoìng
arc no Iongcr rcscìndabIc. hc cannot bcstow to hìs past IìIc thc
scnscandthcvaIucthathcwouIdwanttogìvcìt now, bccausc hc
no Iongcrrccognìzcs thc mcanìng hcwouIdIormcrIyyìvc1tqnd
thc vaIuc ìt wouId hoId. !nstcad oI waìtìng IorrcvoIutìon]
w > - ··~ - .~"
cmcrgcIrom resistance, maybc hcshouIdhavcwork�,rcat
en
-
iithc ycarsaItcr 1 945. onnothìngcIscbutdcvcIopìnghìs
Ianguagc. Butnow ìt ìs too Iatc, thc scnscoIhìs IìIc, a nonscnsc
whcn hc Iooks at ìt cxactIy, ìs alrcady gathcrcd up ìn hìm asa
mass oItìmc. Thc rcaIhas washcd ovcrwhatwas onccpossìbIc,
thcsubstancctobcdcaItwìthcannoIongcrbcmoIdcd.Hcrcgrcts
that hc has dawdIcd. Now hc has aIrcady mìsscd thc boat.
WhcrcvcrhcIookshc sccsonthcwaII.ncvcragaìn.
Pcrhaps thìs rcgrctandthìs¨ncvcragaìn, " both oIwhìch onc
can bc ccrtaìnabout cvcn wìthoutcompIctcIyand uncondìtìon-
aIIybcIìcvìngìn thcm, Iìc at thcbasìc sourcc oIthc IcaroIdcath.
AItcr aII, dcath not onIy rcmovcs us Irom spacc but ìt aIso dc-
stroysthctìmc that hasbccnstackcdupìnsìdc us. ConscqucntIy,
not cvcn our rcgrct, whìch Ior aIIìts hopcIcssncss stìII maìntaìns
a tracc oIabsurdhopc, ìsabIc to cxìstanymorc.Wìthtìmc, cvcn

20 I ON A GING
ourIongìng Ior ìt: rcvcrsaI hasto dìsappcar. ¨Lct tìmc turnback
ìn ìtstracks¬Ictusbcaswcwcrctwcntyycarsago-Ictìt bcIast
wcck¬Ict ìt bc ycstcrday cvcnìngl " say Kìng Bcrangcr and
QuccnMarìc.' But tìmc docsnotturnback-tIe rai se meurt. Thc
morc dchnìtìvcIy wc rccognìzc ourscIvcs as agìng pcrsons,:
¸¸_,. · - -· ·-·~ · ·
¸
· ´ `
morc cxactIywccxpcrìcncctìmcìnìtsìrrcvcrsìbìlìty, thc morc ìn
dcspaìrwc hghtagaìnstìt, and at thc samc tìmc and ìnthcsamc
brcaththc morc ìntìmatcIy wcbcIongto ìt. !tìs cvcrythìng that
wc stìlI arc. wc can no morc gìvc ìt up than wc can gìvc our-
sclvcs up, cvcn though wc know that wc wìII Iosc ìt and
ourscIvcs, tomorrow, ìnthc coursc oI thc ycar, ìnhvc, ìn tcn
ycars, ìt rcaIIy docsn´tmattcranymorc.
Wc wcrc sayìng that an agìng human bcìng ìs a bundIc oI
tìmc ora stratìhcd massoItìmc.That docsn´tmcanthat onc can
takc thc bundlc apart and put ìt back togcthcrat wìII, that onc
canIccIthroughthcIaycrs, thatonccanbcthcIordoIonc´stìmc.
Psychìatrìsts tcach usthat thcmcntaIIyìllarc dìsorìcntcdìn spacc
andtìmc. WhatcvcrkìndoIspacc ìsvaIìdIorthosc suIIcrìngIrom
mcntaI ìIIncss, ìt ì· an attrìbutc oI cvcn a hcaIthy pcrson´sbcìng
ìn tìmc. Thc agìng, whcn thcypIungc downìnto tìmc, IalI, Iìkc
watcrIromrocktorock,ìntosomcthìngunccrtaìn.°Wìthrclatìvc
ccrtaìnty, thcy can rcad thc past ìn thc tabulatìons oIphysìcaI
tìmc, aIthough cvcn that ìs notaIways succcssIuI. Thcy arc not
aIwayssurc thatìt was hvc ycarsago orIour, and thcy hcsìtatc
ìn gìvìng thc cxacttìmcwhcntcllìngthcstory.OIgrcatcrconsc-
qucncc, howcvcr, ìs thc Iact that thc grìd thc agìng usc to
communìcatc wìth othcrs whcn thcy ìtcmìzc pcrìods oI tìmc
docsn´t conccrn thcm, that ¨hvc-ycars�ago" Iccls no 0rtQ
t
Irom ¨hItccn-ycar� -ago,"
·
that¯ìi|cthc ìndìvìdual laycrs oItìmc
�·��·· ¯' ` ' ¹*· '�� ` . "�¹^
may changc thcìr spccìhc gravìty Ior thcm, such a changc has
2 1 I Existence and the Passage of Time
nothìng to do wìth chronoIogy. !tìs ìn thìs scnsc thatthosc who
havc dìscovcrcdthcìr tìmc Iìvc compIctcIy unhìstorìcaIIy.
ForA., whoìntcndstorc;aar|�� at t
_
chomcoItbc

Prìnccdc
Cucrmantcs, thc �yçjlc.tcpcmbcrs havc Do chronoIogìcaI
ordcr. Thc IaccoIhìs mothcrovcrhìsbcd, thc soundoIthcìron
gardcngatcshuttìngwhcnSwanncamctovìsìt, ancvcnìngwìth
Saìnt-LoupìnDoncìcrcs, thc tastcoIthcmadcIcìnccookìc, and
thc mcmory oI a drcss oI thc Duchcss Orìanc, aII dìIIcrcntìatc
thcmscIvcsthrough dcgrccs oIìntcnsìtywìthoutgaìnìnganysìg-
nìhcancc Ior hìm. Just Iìkc thc rcst oI us, A. hadIosthìswayìn
tìmc.!ntcrvaIs,days,wccks,ycars,dìdnotmattcrtohìmanymorc
thanthctìmc dìssìpatcdbythc othcrbrothcrsdìdtothcmonkoI
Hcìstcrbachonhìsrcturnhomc tovcspcrs.'Bccauscthctìmcthat
hc Iound agaìn dìdnot havc a chronoIogìcaIstructurc,bccauscìt
was morcovcr onIy lived tìmc and as such ìndcpcndcnt oI bìo-
graphìcaIIyhxcddatcs,A.IookcdIorìtìnthcIcvcIsoIìntcnsìtyoI
what had dìcd away. But thcy wcrc aIso changìng ìn tìmc and
wìth tìmc. Evcn bcIorc hc was takcn out oI spacc, hc hìmscII
stcppcd out oIspacìaIìty and thc worId gìvcnìn thc prcscnt, oI
whìchhc saìdthathchadsccnìtprcvìousIyonIythroughhìs¨dc-
ccìtIuIscnscs. "HcgavcupthcworIdtobccomctìmc, tobccomc
hìmscII. hc rcmcmbcrcdwhatwas stratìhcd ìnhìmastìmc, bc-
causchcwastootìrcdtokccpwantìngtocxprcsshìmscII. AIIhc
hadwasthcIcaroIdcath,bccauscìtdìdnotj ustrcmovcthcbody
IromspaccbutaIsowìthdrcwIromthìsbodyìtstime. !ttookIrom
hìmthctìmc hc had Iìvcd through, tìmcìnwhìchhc aIonc had
bccnabIctohndthatscIItowhìchhc,Iìvìngdans Ie monde (ìnthc
worId) , thcworIdundcrstoodhcrcasbothphcnomcnaIhcIdand
¨cIcgantsocìcty, " hadnotbccngrantcdanyrìghtoIposscssìon.
A.rcmcmbcrcdandrcmìndcdhimself: ì. c. , hcbccamchìmscII
ìn rcmcmbcrìng. Whathc dìdn´ttcII us aboutìnhìsnotcs about
22 I ON A GING
hìsactuaI recherche du temps perdu, ísthatkìndoItìmcthatcvcn
thoscpcopIcscnscwcìghìngìnsìdcthcmscIvcswhoscmcmorìcs
IadcawayandwhoarcnotìncIìncd, orIackthcstrcngth,totryto
hndthcmscIvcs.-·Thcagìng-notjusttospcakoIthcoIdorcvcn
thc drowsy and vc)

Id

ccI thc wcìght oI tìmc strata cvcn
whcnthcyarcnotIumbIìngaItcrthcmìnmcmory.ThcIccIìngìs
constantIyprcscntwìthìnthcm-andnotonIybccauscoIthcdì-
\
mìnìshìngpowcrsoIthcìrbodìcsorthcìncrcasìngsuIIcrìngsthcsc
|
bodìcs causc thcm-that thcy carry time ìnsìdc thcmscIvcs d
thcrcIorcdonotcvcnnccdto
¡�¿¡¡
zc t
¿
c
·
;�s!¡n �hcìrmc� �.

A
t ·
- ×
¡¡_
c-pastìsprcscnt, cvcn wìthout cach mcmory, asapur
¿
IccI-
ìng, an ìmmcdìatc and ìncommunìcabIc quaIìty. !n ordcr to
symboIìzcìtìnIanguagc,wchavctobrìngìnmctaphorsIromthc
worIdoIspacc, ìIwcarctosayanythìngataIIaboutìt.Thcwcìght
oItìmc rcsts cvcnìnsomconcwhocanstìII rcmcmbcr onIyaIcw
ìncìdcnts thatgìvt ìtsubstancc.Wìththatìtbccomcspure tìmc,
makìngthc¨ìnncrscnsc" prcscnt, morcauthcntìctousthanthc
¨outcrscnsc, "thc pcrccptuaIIormoIspacìaIìty.
Spacc, cvcn my s¡acc, thc posscssìon oI whìch gcts mc
throughthcspatìaIIorm oIìntuìtìon, ìsIìkcwìscandaIways thc
spa
��
oI othcrs. anìntcrsubjcctìvcIy undcrstandabIc phcnomc-
non. Thcrc ìs no:hìng ìmmcdìatc about ìt, nor ìs thcrc any
ìncommcnsurabìIìty bctwccn Iìvcd spacc and thc mcasurabIc
spacc oI scìcncc. But wìth mytìmc ! am aIonc, no mattcr how
much! maybc rcquìrcdtocommunìcatc ìt. Thus, thcIccIìngoI
tìmc has a dramatcaspcct that ìs not ìnthc IcastcomparabIcto
that oIthc IccIìng oI spacc.
AnA. wcknowwcIIIaytìcddownIorsìxmonthsìnahaII-
darksoIìtaryccII.Hchadnospacc,partIybccauscthcccIIwastìny
andonIysIìghtlyIìt, partIybccauschìsbondskcpthìmIrommov-
ìng. !nthcIongrun, hcgotuscdtoìt, hc dìdnotlackspacconcc
23 , Existence and the Passage of Time
hc hadacccptcdthc IactoIhìswìthdrawaI Irom thc worId. Buthìs
Iìvcd tìmc manìIcstcd ìtscII wìth a much grcatcr dcnsìty. From
mìnutctomìnutcandsccondtosccond, ìt sothoroughIybccamc
thc past ìnsìdc hìm that thc suppcr oI soup hc had cnjoycd an
hourcarIìcrwasnoIcssdìstantIromhìmthanthcchìIdhoodcx-
pcrìcncchchadjustrcmcmbcrcd.HcwasaIrcadyhaIIrcmovcd
Iromspacc,andhc dìscovcrcdatthatpoìnt, onccandIoraII, that
Iìvcdtìmc ìn ccrtaìn cìrcumstanccshastocompcnsatcIorworId.
thcIormcrwascntìrcIyhìsposscssìonandhìsauthcntìcìty,butby
thcIattcrhcwasconstantIydupcd. Whcnwctakcupthcprospcct
oIscII-rcaIìzatìon, wc hopc tocngravc our scaI upon thcworId.
ButthcnìttranspìrcsthatcvcrydìcìsobIìtcratcdby anothcr. A
potcntìaIwìIIdocsnotIcadtobccomìngancgo,nortotakìngpos-
scssìonoIthcworId. !tìsonIyabrcathIcssIosìngoIourscIvcsto
Iorcìgnpowcrsthatarcovcrpowcrìngus.
!nthccnd, A. , ìnhìsccIIìnthcmìdstoIthcmanyparadoxcs
andabsurdìtìcshcbumpcdìntowhìIc rcIIcctìngoncxìstcnccìn
spaccandtìmc,camctorcaIìzcthconcgrcatIactthataIIothcram-
bìguìtìcsandcontradìctìonshoIdcncIoscdìnthcmscIvcs. thatby
bcìng-ìn-thc-worId,bybcìng cast ìntothcworIdoIspacc,ancgoìs
notyctpossìbIc,ancgowìIIonIycomcìntobcìngìnthcstruggIc
agaìnstthcworIdandìngcntIcpIaywìthìt,thatbythctìmcancgo
hasconsoIìdatcdìtscIIìnonc´smìnd.ìtìstime runby,tìmcwìthout
worId, andthìsshadowycgo-ìn-tìmchasthccmotìonaIquaIìtyoI
ìncrtmournìngandrcsìgnatìon,thatcvcntuaIIyncìthcrthccgo-
ìn-thc-worIdnorthccgo-ìn-tìmccanbcrealit.
AndyctaIIoIusarcstìIIrcaIandapartoIrcaIìtyasIongaswc
rcmaìnìnspaccand carrytìmcwìthìnus. OnIywhcn ouraII-too- _
strcnuous mcdì�atìonsaboutcxìstcncc and thcpassagcoI tìmc,
condcmncdtoIutìIìtyIromthcstart,havcdrìvcnusìntomadncss
orsuìcìdc,arcthccontradìctìonshnaIIyrcsoIvcdìnthcabsurdìty
24 I ON A GING
oIIunacyorscII·dcstructìon.ThcrcIorc, A. ´ sstatc oImìndìnhìs
ccIIwasdìIIcrcntIromthatoIsomcoIthc comradcswìthwhom
hc Iatcr dìscussccthc naturc oItìmc spcntìn such soIìtary con-
hncmcntundcrathrcatoIdcath.ManyoIthcmhadnotgìvcnup
thc hopcthatcomcsIromthcdcsìrcto castthcmscIvcsìntothc
worId. A. Iookcd ahcadto hìs cxpcctcd cndwìthoutgrcat Icar.
•• :'J'.\ �' ',�. • � `` · ` · º `·^·
Not bccauschc was couragcous-hcwasn´t-butbccauschc had
bccomcastìrcd as thcgucstoIthc CucrmantcswhcnhcIcItthc
prìncc´s matine tc go to work ìn hìs cork-pancIcd room. AII hìs
mcdìtatìons, ncccssarìIy transIormcdìnto broodìngs, had worn
hìmout, sìnccwhathcwastryìngtothìnkupwas ìnconccìvabIc
andcouIdnotcvcnbcbroughltomìnd.Thoscwhoarcnotsatìs-
hcdthatwccxìstìnrcaIìtyandreally arc,justbccauscothcrssay
soandactIìkcpcopIcwhorcaIIybcIìcv


hcyIìvcìnarcaIIy

I
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ì

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c
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thcmscIvcsandtothcworId, sìncc thcy stìII wìshto thìnkth

n-
thìnkabIc. Thcyarc ìn a badway, and thc onIyIorms oI rcIìcI
rcmaìnìngtothcmarcthoscIìkcA. ´sIatcscarchIorhìsIosttìmc.
Tobcsurc, th:srcIìcIwasonIynccdcdbythoscwhoactuaIIy
camcIromthcabsurdìtyoIcxìstcnccìnthcpassagcoItìmctothc
cdgc oIa madncssthatìspcrhapsthconIyanswcrtowhatìs not
onIythcmosttormcntìngqucstìonoIbcìngthatcanprcscntìtscII
to us, butthcmostdcccìtIuI onc. Wc rackourbraìnsìna scarch
that Icads to dccpbroodìngand Iromthcrc to pondcrìng pn-
scnsc.NottodSl) ìs
·
¡
oIìvcìn

lìmcandrcaIìtyIìkcEvcryman.onc
`¼ ¨ -
. " - ··
- · ´ . · ·* � ¯``¯¯` `¯` ´
ìs 1I a kìnd oI cquìIìbrìum that cannot bc dcstroycd by
anythìngbutusuaIIy rcconstructsìtscIIìnakìnd oI spìrìtuaIccII-
rcncwaI. OnchangsbctwccndcathandmadncssìnabaIanccìn
whìch a spatìaIìzcd chronoIogìcaI tìmc and Iìvcd tìmc havc ap-
proxìmatcIythcsamcwcìghtandwhcrcthcbraìn´sìncrtìaactsas
25 I Existence and the Passage of Time
a IormoI scII-protcctìon. Pcrhapsonc claìmstohavca ¨natural
IccIìngIortìmc, " aguarantccoIahcalthymìndandthcstrcngth
tocndurc.
WìththìsIccIìng,arcwcsìmpIywìthdrawìngIromthc dangcr
zoncoImcntalworkìntothccomIortoIconvcntìon?Whcnwc´rc
notcavcsdroppìngon ourscIvcs, wc doìndccd spcak IIucntIy oI
tìmc asìIwckncwaII about ìt. tomorrow wc´II scc cach othcrat
twclvc,aycarago!vìsìtcdthcLoìrccastlcs,waìtìngatthcdcntìst
ìsborìngandtìmc-consumìng. Exìstcnccwìthìn socìcty Iorccsus
toownawatch, towrìtcdownappoìntmcntsìnanotcbook,torc-
scrvcapIacconthcIcrryIora trìp onapartìculardayacross thc
EngIìsh ChanncI. !n thc pcacc that comcs wìth Irccdom Irom
thìnkìng,wchavcapast, prcscnt, andIuturc,asthcyarccxpcctcd
oI us bccausc wc arc mcant to bc IunctìonaI . But ìn thc cnd,
what´snotqucstìonabIcto us, prccìsclythat ¨naturaI IccIìngIor
tìmc"thatwcboastaboutandìnwhoscccrtaìntywcknowour-
scIvcs to bc supcrìor to anyonc pondcrìng nonscnsc, may stìII
bc dìIIcrcnt Irom comIort and acquìcsccncc to thc law oI thc
Iunctìonal . !t actuaIIy has much morc to do wìth ¨naturc," wc
couldarguc, andnotonIywìththcnaturcoIphysìcaIandmathc-
matìcalordcr, dcrìvcdIrom thc scìcncc oIrcaIìty, butwìthlived
naturc, nature vicue, tovarya conccptIamìlìartous.
Bccauscwclive, ccrtaìnIy.!tcanbcassumcdwchavcawound.
Athrst, ìtwìlInotclosc,ìtoozcspusandcauscsuspaìn,sothatwc
notìccìthrstas anattackIromspaccoutsìdc oIus, onourbody,
whìchwconIyIuIIyposscsswhcnwc don´t,ì. c. , whcnwc´rcnot
awarcoIìt.Butthcnìtgctsbcttcr.ThcstruggIcwìththcìnIcctìon
ìswonbythc organìsm, thcwoundcIoscs-andnow, aIIat oncc,
ìtìstìmcthatwìpcsoutthcìnjury.Wìthcachdaythatpasscs, thc
wound, hcaIìng upwìth ncwtìssuc,bccomcs morc and morc a
Iìvcd tìmc and lìvcd naturc, uptothc day oItìmc´strìumph, on
26 I ON A GING
whìch, thankstothattìmc-saìdtohcaIaIIwounds, somcthìng
whìchonthccontrary,ìtdocsnotdoataII-thìswoundìnIactno
Iongcrcxìsts.Thcwoundhasbccomcascab,takcncarcoIbytìmc,
and ìs ìtscII not tìmc any morc nor cvcn a spatìaI cxtcrìor, but
sìmpIyapartoIthcbody, noIongcrnotìcìngìtscIIandbcIongìng
tothcworId.
SoobvìousIythcrcrcaIIyìssuchathìngasanaturaIIccIìngIor
tìmc, onc that gocs bcyond convcntìons that arc opcratìonaIIy
ncccssary. But to meditate about time is not natural and is not intended
to be so. !tìsthcworkoIhumanbcìngswhoarc horrìhcd,whoarc
-·, .�· ··..,j

noIongcratpcaccwìththcmscIvcsbccauscthcìrdìsquìctdocsnot
Icavc thcmìn pcacc and thcywouIdIìkc to hnd thcmscIvcs by
abandonìngthcmscIvcs,hndthcmscIvcsìnthctìmcwhoscsccrct
oncdaydìstrcsscsthcmìnthcìragìngandstìrsthcmup. !sìtbc-
causc thcy´vc rccognìzcd that thc hcaIìng oI cvcry wound ìs
dcccptìvc, sìnccbcyondcvcryconvaIcsccnccthcrcstandswaìtìng
Iorthcmandcvtryonc cIsc thcuItìmatcdìsabìIìty, aItcrwhìchno
tìssuc rcncws ìtscII any morc?!sìtbccauscthcy cannot comc to
tcrmswìththcIact that thcyarcnowprcscntìn spacc and tìmc
but, onaccrtaìndaygcttìngncarcrandncarcrthcywìIInoIongcr
bc thcrc? T�
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cp¸g�)|QasÞoïthaW of mçJµ× IUÞ~
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rcadygathcrcdupìthc:¡¡,

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spacc ì nwhìch ¦hcy can rcmaìn a bìt Iongcr. WhìIc thcìr tìmc
���
g]Q
i�; ,

uyarc stìIIonIycrcaturcs
oItìmc.EachoIthcmsays ¨!" andmcans ¨mytìmc. " Andmorc
and morc thcy arc bccomìng strangcrs to thc othcrs-to thosc
whosìmpIyIcttimctìckaway, andcvcntothoscsharp-hcadcd
othcrswhoìmpcscupontìmcthcordcroIthcìrwcII-Iunctìonìng
mìnds.

Stranger to Onesel
ForthcpastIcwwccks,A. hasbccnnotìcìng, whcnshcstandsìn
IrontoIthcmìrrorìnthcmornìng,thatIìttIcycIIownodcsoIskìn
orcxcrcsccnccscanbcsccnOnhcrcycIìds. Thcy causcnoIurthcr
dìscomIort, don´thurt whcn touchcd, and can cIcarIybcjudgcd
harmIcss. Thcy´rcnotcvcnpartìcuIarIyugIy,justdìshgurìngìna
vcryIìmìtcddcgrcc,onIynotìccabIcbyothcrsìIthcyarccxpIìcìtIy
poìntcdout.ButIorA. thcy add toa kìnd oIµpca;ìncss that has
turncdupìnrcccntycars,ancwkìnd,wìthoutpanìc,yctstìIItor-
mcntìng ìn a dcIìcatcIy ìnsìdìous way. Shc consuItcdhcr smaII
popuIarhandbookoImcdìcìnc,wìthwhìchshcconccrnshcrscII,
tohcrownchagrìn,morcandmorcoItcn, andconcIudcdthatshc
was aIIIìctcd wìthxanthcIasma, somcthìng causcdbyccrtaìndc-
posìts, cspccìaIIythcothcrwìschatcdsubstancc choIcstcroI, whìch
hc

r

organìsmìsapparcntIyproducìngìnìncrcasìngquantìty. Xan-
thcIasma aIso cngcndcrs, Ior a momcnt, an assocìatìon wìth
Xanthìppc, whìchìntcnsìhcdA´sdìscomIort, cvcn thoughìtwas
known to hcr that thc rcputatìon oI thc quarrcIsomc tcmpcra-
mcnt,cIìngìngtothcwìIc oISocratcs,wasunjustìhcd.
28 ON A GING
ThusA. , hItyycarsoId, caIIìnghcrscIIwìthunbccomìnghu-
morXanthìppcbccauscoIhcrycIIowdìshgurcmcnts,practìccsìn
IrontoIhcrmìrrorabusìncssoIscII-asscssmcntandìIIumìnatìon
oIthcdarkstatcoIaIIaìrsoIbothaIìcnatìonIromhcrscIIandscII-
cnrìchmcnt, oIanavcrsìon, cvcna rcsìstancc, tothccgoIIcckcd
wìthycIIowand¦ookìngbackathcrIromthcmìrror,asshcsomc-
tìmcspompousIysaysoIhcrscII,wìth¨ravìshcd" cycs. Sìncc shc
ìsuntraìncdìnthcwork oIthcmìndandIccIsbothrcduccdand
cxcìtcdbythìsncwhostìIìty, ìtìsundcrstandabIc thatshcathrst
IooksIorassìstarcc. OnccanIookatìtIromwhatcvcrangIc onc
Iìkcs,ìt´sstìIIa qucstìonoIthcIaìIurc oIthcmctaboIìsm, hcncca
manìIcstatìonoIoIdagc, andshc turns Ioradvìcc to Sìmonc dc
Bcauvoìr, a wrìtcrshc consìdcrsa Irìcnd cvcn thoughthcyhavc
ncvcr mct, whohaswrìttcnsothoroughIyandbcautìIuIIyabout
la force des chases t thcIorccoIcìrcumstanccs) , cspccìaIIythccondi­
tion of aging. ¨! oItcn stop, IIabbcrgastcd, at thc sìght oI thìs
ìncrcdìbIc thìng that scrvcs mc as a Iacc," hcrIrìcnd wrìtcs. ¨!
Ioathcmyappcaranccnow.thccycbrowssIìppìngdowntoward
thcbagsundcrncath, thccxccssìvcIuIIncssoIthcchccks, andthat
aìroIsadncss arcund thc mouththatwrìnkIcsaIwaysbrìng. . . . !
scc myIaccasìtwas, attackcdbythcpoxoItìmcIorwhìchthcrc
ìsnocurc. "' A.mumbIcs. poorSìmonc, youwhosuIIcrwìthout
bcìngaXanthìp¡cIìkc mc. -ButshcìsstìIInotcntìrcIysatìshcd
wìthhcrIrìcnd, cvcnìIIuIIoIsympathy, bccausc aIthoughthc
Iattcr has ccrtainIycompIaìncd,just as A. has, shc has not dc-
scrìbcdwhatstìI¦happcnsbcyondorbcncaththcjustìhcdocca-
sìonIorthccompIaìnt. that´swhatmattcrstoA.
What ìs thc basìs Ior thc dcIìcatcIy sawìng paìn that had aI-
rcady ovcrtakcn A. cvcrymornìng ìn Iront oI thc mìrror Iong
bcIorc thcycIIowIIccksappcarcdonhcrcycIìds? !tmaybcthat
somcwhcrc, stor:ddccpwìthìnhcr, thcrcìsahorrorthatIorthc
29 I Stranger to Oneself
prcscntcan´t copcwìthagìng andthc organìsm´sdctcrìoratìonìt
causcs, a dccp Icar oI hcr cgo, whìchatthc samc tìmc ìs a non-
cgo. A. can stìII obscrvc ìt, not onIy ìn thc mìrror but aIso by
touch¡ngìt.Thus,thchandthatIccIsìtscIIbccomcsìnanuncanny
wayaIccIìng hand as wcII, thcnon-cgo, sothat constantIy, cvcn
ìn youth, thc most prìmaIIy IamìIìar thìng comcs bcIorc us as
somcthìngaIìcn.Thìsshuddcr,partoIourbasìchumancondìtìon,
ìsìndccddìsguìscdbycvcrydayIìIc-(howbrìghtordarkthcncw
Iìpstìckìs, ìsn'tthcIashìonabIchaìrdoaIìttIctoobouIIant, ìsn´tthc
ncckIacc just a nuancc too ìndìscrcct?)-so that onc can stcp
awayIromthcmìrror, toIcrabIypoìscd, andprcscntoncscIItothc
day.ButthcthìncvcrydayIaycrìsrupturcdwhcncvcrthcagìng
humancrcaturc, scckìngaItcrthctraccsoIìtsagìng, rcmaìnshxcd
ìnIrontoIìtsmìrrorìmagc.thcnwcarcsuddcnIyconIrontcdwìth
thchorror that wc arc both cgo and non-cgoandas thìs hybrìd
cancaIIourcustomary cgoìntoqucstìon.
YctpcrhapsthcstrongcstwcaponshouIdstìIIbckcptìnrcscrvc
aIongwìth¨horror"and ¨Irìght" andthcdramatìcbombastthatìs
ìmmcdìatcIysupcrscdcdIor thc agìngbyadìsìncIìnatìonIoran·
othcrkìndoIdrama,IcssmctaphysìcaI,asìtwcrc,butthcrcIorcno
Icssdìstrcssìng,andoncìnwhíchthcbombastìsaIsodìssoIvcd. A.s
cychxcsonthcycIIowskìncxcrcsccnccs.ShcdocsnotIìkchcrscII
anymorc,pcrhapstcIIshcrscIIIìkchcrIrìcndthatwhatnowhasto
scrvc as hcrIacc hasbccomcadrcadIuIthìng.-ScII-hatrcd?That
wouIdbcgoìngtooIar.ScII-hatrcdaIwayshasamoral quaIìtythat
cannotpossìbIybccxtcndcdtoanavcrsìonIorwìthcrcd skìn, to
thcccIIsoIthctìssucthatgraduaIIyIoscthcìrsoIubIcsubstanccsso
thatcvcntuaIIythcaImostìnsoIubIcIundamcntaIsubstanccprc-
vaìIs.ScII-dìsgust?Notcvcnthat.IorA.knowsvcrywcIIthatthc
xanthcIasmaandthcwìthcrìngskìnhavcaIwaysbccnconsìdcrcd
dìsgustìngandprobabIycvcn rcmcmbcrs dìmIythc avcrsìon shc
30 I ON A GING
hcrscII had IcIt carIìcr Ior thc dccrcpìtudc oI othcrs. But that
knowIcdgc has comc tohcr csscntìaIIy Irom outsìdc, Irom thc
worIdìnwhìchhcrycIIowIIccksarcthoscoIastrangcr,whìIcthìs
stuII ìs Ior her, cvcn ìI shc consìdcrs havìng ìt rcmovcd by a
surgcon(bythcway,howmuchdocs suchanopcratìon cost?ìsa
compctcnt cxpcr1 avaìIabIc?) . Thc IIccks arc stìII her IIccks, hcr
own,ìntrìnsìcaIIyhcrs,agaìnstwhìchdìsgustcannomorcrcvoIt
thanìtcanagaìn:thcrownmctaboIìcdìschargc. Shamc?Maybc.
AIthoughìtwouId naturaIIy bc conccìvabIc Ior aII womcnand
mcn,youngandoId,togothroughthcworIdwìthdrìcd-outskìn
and soIt coIorcd noduIcs on thcìr cycIìds. Somcthìng Iìkc that
wouIdnoIongcrbcugIy, sìnccìtwouIdbcìmpossìbIcìnsucha
cascIorcvcryonc todctcstcvcryonc.
ButbcìngtìrcdoIoncscII. asancxprcssìon, ìt ìs comparabIc
to ¨tìrcd oIIìIc, " a phrasc thatncvcrconvcystotaIhatrcdoIIìIc
anddìsgustwìth|ìIc,cvcnìIìt nowandthcnIcads tosuìcìdc,but
aIways convcys a dcsìrc IorIìIc or a dcsìrc Ior a spccìhcIorm oI
IìIc thatIìIc has dcnìcdus. TìrcdoIoncscII, that´sìt.
Thcmorc shcrcpcatsthcmornìngmìrrorcxpcrìmcnt, whìch
has bccomc a rìIuaI, thc morc A. dìscovcrs a paraIIcI bctwccn
bcìngtìrcdoIhcrscIIandhavìngakìndoIscII-satìsIactìonthatrc-
sìstsacknowIcdgmcnt. SomcthìngappcarsìnhcrthatìsIìkcthc
prìdc oIhavìngaIrcady cndurcdIora Iongtìmc sothat, dccpIy
mìrcdìnhcrwcai1ncss, shcwcarshcrbrìttIcskìnIìkcabravcwar-
rìorwcarshìsscars.AgìngpcopIchavcanarcìssìstìcrcIatìonshìp
wìth thcìr bodìcs, cxccpt that thc ìnIatuatìon wìth thc mìrror
ìmagc ìs no Iongcr uncquìvocaI butìs prccìscIy a wcaryIovc ìn
whìchthcwcarìncssIovcsìtscIIandthcIovcìsdccpIywcaryoIìt.
Lìkc cvcryor¡� ìn hcr sìtuatìon, A. wìshcs to throwIìght on
thìs dark statc oIaIIaìrs, andshcìs astonìshcdby th�
whìch shc ìs transhxcd and whìch has no chancc oI c

vcrbcìn\
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3 1 I Stranger to Oneself
rcconcìIcd to anythìng unambìguous. Forthc ambìguìty cxtcnds
not onIy to thc paradoxìcaI way shc ìsboth wcary and satìshcd
wìth hcrscII ìn Iront oI thc mìrror, cvcn thc dìssonancc causcd
bythccombìnatìon oIaIìcnatìon Irom, and IamìIìarìtywìth, hcr-
scII, havìng comc tobcthc totaIharmony ìn hcrIìIc, causcs hcr
troubIc.
Shc hasbccomc a strangcrtohcrscII, Ior surc. what shcwìt-
ncsscs ìn hcr mornìng rìtuaI has nothìng or onIy a IìttIc to do
wìththc cxtcrnaI scII shc drags aIongwìthhcr Iromhcr carIìcr
andcvcnIatcrbcttcrdays, IorshcstìIIaIways Iìkcs tosayoIhcr-
scII ìn a j ustìhabIy IoIty IcvcI oI conscìousncss that shc ¨IccIs
young. "Hcr namc, whcnshcrcads ìt onancnvcIopc, brìngs to
hcrthc assocìatìon oI a not yctagìngwoman. Shc rcIcrs to hcr
Irìcnd andhndshcrscIIagaìn. ¨Whcn! rcadìnprìnt 'Sìmonc dc
Bcauvoìr, ìt ìs a young woman thcy arc tcIIìng mc about, and
whohappcns tobcmc. . . . " !tìs no dìIIcrcntwìthA.Pcrhapsthc
strongcst componcntoI hcr wcarìncssìsjustthìs aIìcnatìon Irom
hcrscII, thìs dìscrcpancybctwccnthcyoung scII shc has brought
aIong wìth hcr through thc ycars and thc scII oI thc agìng
woman ìn thc mìrror. But ìn thc samc brcath and ìn thc samc
tìck oItìmc ìt bccomcs obvìous to hcr, ìI shc j ust pcrscvcrcs ìn
Iront oIthc mìrror and docs not turn away Irom thc gIass, ìrrì-
tatcdasonIyastrangcrcanbc, that shc, aIongwIthaIIthc ycIIow
IIccks and IackIustcr cycs, ìs coser to hcrscII, wìth aII hcr wcarì-
ncss andìntìmatc IamìIìarìty, than cvcrbcIorc, andthat ìn Iront
oIhcrmìrror ìmagc, nowa strangcr tohcr, shc ìs condcmncd to
bccomc morc and morc opprcssìvcIy hcrscII. -"! had thc ìm-
prcssìononcc, " wrotc hcr Irìcnd, ¨oIcarìngvcryIìttIcwhatsort
oI hgurc ! cut. !n muchthc samc way, pcopIc who cnjoy good
hcaIthandaIways havccnoughtocatncvcrgìvcthcìrstomachs
a thought. WhìIc! was abIc toIookatmyIaccwìthoutdìspIcas-
32 I ON A GING
urc, l gavc ìt n0 thought, ìt couId Iook aItcr ìtscII. Thc whccl
cvcntuaIIy stops, l Ioathc my appcarancc now. " A., howcvcr,
dìIIcrcntIromhcrIrìcndor at Icast dìIIcrcntIrom thc way shc
dcscrìbcdìt,knowsthatshcnotonly dctcstshcrIacc,thatìtìsnot
only aIìcnatcd Irom hcr. For oncc, whcn thìs countcnancc that
onc couIdnot Iookat wìthoutpIcasurc was a mattcr oIcoursc,
whcnonccouId ¨Iorgct"ìt-dìdìtcxìstIorhcrataII?!thadbccn
apartoIthcworIdtowhìchshcbcIongcdandwhìchbcIongcdto
hcr, partoIa scAthat, wìthout contradìctìon andwìthoutambì-
guìty,wasboth -cIIandworId, oncthatdìdnotdoubtìtscIIsìncc
ìt was not yct a|ìcnatcd Irom ìtscII. OnIy now, ìn thìs transIor-
matìonwhìch, I sccms to hcr, somctìmcs gocs as Iar as bcìng
unrccognìzabIc, onIy now ìs thìs strangc vìsagc, no Iongcr Io-
cuscd on thcworIdbccausc ìt´s bccn cxpcIIcdIromthc worId,
compIctcIyhcrs thìs dìscovcryoIthc cIaspìng togcthcr oIaIìcn-
atìonIrom oncscIIandan ìncrcascd scnsc oIscII, whosccxtrcmc
cascmaybcanarcìssìstìcmcIanchoIy, ìs thcIundamcntaIcxpcrì-
cncc oIaII thosc agìngpcrsonswho sìmpIy havc thcpatience to
pcrscvcrc ìn Iront oIthc mìrror, who can summon upthc cou-
ragc not tolcttncmscIvcsbcchascdawayby ycIIow IIccks and
dchydratìon, whodo notìntcrnaIìzcthc convcntìonaIjudgmcnt
oI othcrs and submìt to ìt. -A. wìII contìnuc to carry out hcr
ccrcmonybcIortthcmìrroruntìIthcdayìnwhìchshcwìII cìthcr
bc rcmovcd Irom spacc or havc bccomc, ìnstcad oI an agìng
woman, anoId woman who no Iongcr prcscrvcs any cgo Irom
hcr carIìcrIìIc andwhomustIookIor hcrIormcr appcarancc ìn
hcrphotoaIbum.
r : . l
!tìsthçbìgu
¡
!IagìngthatA. ìsdìscovcrìngandìnwhìch
shc ìs cstabIìshìrg hcrscII, notjusta mattcr oIscII-cxpIoratìonìn
IrontoIthc mìrror. ThcrcIatìonshìp oIan agìng human bcìng, oI
a woman or a man, to hìs or hcr body ìs ambìguous ìn cvcry
" I Q • " ' vi '
3 3 I Stranger to Oneself
sìtuatìon oI IìIc. For agìng ìs not a ¨normaI condìtìon" Ior thc
agìngpcrson. a normìs a mattcroIobjcctìvc ìnsìght. ThatappIìcs
to agìngjustas much asto dcath, whìch Ior cvcry othcr pcrson
ìs aIsoj usta Iact andnothing cIsc. A scvcnty·hvc-ycar-oIdIady
whoscbodywasstìIIìngood condìtìonwcnttoa spccìaIìstabout
thc rhcumatìsm that was tormcntìng hcr. Agaìn and agaìn, shc
cxpIaìncd ìn toncs oIangry ìndìgnatìon that shc had ncvcr had
thc dìscascbcIorc andnowthcdoctorshouIdpIcasc charmìt out
oI hcr body. Thc physìcìan, who was ìn a jokìng mood, saìd,
¨Why, ycs, gracìous Iady, and whcn dìd you actuaIIy want to
havcyourrhcumatìsmìInot now?"ThcIadydìdnotundcrstand
thcjokcataII. shc dìd notwantto havc rhcumatìsm, notatany
stagc oIhcrIìIc, just asshc dìdnotwìshtogctoIdandtodìc, agc
and dcath bcìng cvcnts that aIIcct othcrs. Wc hnd ìt ìn good
ordcrìIourncìghboragcsanddìcs. ourscIvcswc aIwaysrcmovc
Irom thc coursc oI IìIc and dcath.
ForaIIthoscwhodonotIctthcmscIvcsbIcndìntoasocìaIcon-
scnsus,whodonotadapta gcncraI opìnìon-whìchìsrcaIIyonIy
anopìnìonaboutopìnìons-agìngìsno morc oIanormaIproccss
than rhcumatìsm was IorthcoIdIady. ActuaIIy, ìt ìs quìtc dch-
nìtcIya sìckncss, ìndccda IormoIsuIIcrìngIromwhìchthcrcìs
no hopc¯f rccovcry. !t ìsprobabIy truc thatwc aIso gctsìckas
agìng human bcìngs andthcn, ìn thc scnsc oI mcdìcaI scìcncc,
bccomc ¨hcaIthy" agaìn.Yct, aswcagc, wc constantIyhnd our-
scIvcs at a Iowcr poìnt oI )þ_(gspJ;aI aItcr wc havc
rccovcrcd. wcarcncvcrashcaIthyaswcwcrcbcIorc, nomattcr
howgratìIyìngthcìnIormatìonoIthcdoctormìght sound.Today
wc arc somcwhat Icss hcaIthy than wc wcrc ycstcrday and a
mcasurcmorc hcaIthythanwcwìIIbctomorrow. Agìngìsanin-
crable sickncss, andbccauscìtìsaIormoIsuIIcrìngìtìssubjcctto
thc samc phcnomcnaI Iaws as any othcr acutc hardshìp that
34 I ON A GING
aIIIìcts us at somc partìcuIar stagc oI IìIc. Byìncorporatìng Ia-
mìIìarìtywìthonc' sownbodyandcstrangcmcntIromìt, agìng
cstabIìshcsthcsamcrcIatìonshìpwìthourbodythata spccìhcìn-
dìsposìtìonhas,brìngìngusìIIncsscsìnìncrcasìngnumbcrandoI
growìngdcstructìvcpowcr,whìIcstìII,asawhoIcandcvcndurìng
phascsoIrcIatìvcphysìcaIwcII·bcìng,havìngthccharactcroIthc
hardshìpthatcharactcrìzcscvcryIìghtcr andhcavìcrsìckncss.ln
agìng, whìch stìII aIIows ustobcrcadyIorrcvoIt cvcn whìIc thc
agc wc'vc aIrcady attaìncd ìs dìsparagcd ìnrcsìgnatìon, wc arc
conscìousoIourcondition.
lndccd. ìt's a rathcr chcap truth to say that our condìtìon
gcncraIIy gcts notìccd onIy whcn wc arc out oI condìtìon. OI
coursc, anyonc who nccds to say, ¨l IccI good, " ìs not cntìrcIy
comIortabIcwìthhìmscII,]ustasthcmanwhomaìntaìnsthathc
IccIs young can ncvcrbc a rcaIIy young man. Whocvcrthìnks
aboutIccIìnggoodorbadcannotrcaIIybcìnvcrygoodshapc,bc-
causcasIongaswcarc actuaIIyìnIuIIposscssìonoIourpowcrs
andcontìnuctoIivcìnthcccrtaìntyoIahcaIthybodìIycondítìon,
wc don´tthìnkatouthowwc ¨IccI."WcarcnotwìthourscIvcs-
but, aswccan rcad ìn thc wrìtìngs oIa grcat Ccrmanphysìcìan
andanthropoIogist,´ wc arc ¨thcrc," aIongwìththc thìngs and
happcnìngs oIthc worId, wc arc, to add to thc physìcìan´s rc-
marks,outside of ourselves, ìnspaccthatìspartoIusandbcIongsto
us,thatìsìntìmatcIyandìnscparabIyboundupwìthourcgos.
Thcagìng, howcvcr, comcmorcandmorctoaworIdIcss cgo,
partIybccomIng time throughthcpastgathcrcdupby mcmorícs
oI mìnd and boc¸, and partIy bccomìng morc and morc thcìr
own body. ln that thcy Iarc ]ust Iìkc our A. ìn Iront oI thc
mìrror-cvcn w!cn shcavoìdshcrmìrrorìmagcIìkcthcmany
agìng pcopIc who havc acccptcd thc vaIuc judgmcnt that thc
wìzcnìngoIagcìs ugIy-. shcpcrccìvcs hcrbody, whìch at thìs
3 5 I Stranger to Oneself
stagc ìs prcscnt to hcrashcr cgo, asa shcII, as somcthìng cxtcr-
naI and donc to hcr, and at thc samc tìmc as somcthìng thatìs
actuaIIy hcrs, to whìch shc ìs morc and morc rcduccd and to
whìchshc dcvotcsìncrcasìng attcntìon.
Wc Iìkc to sìdcstcp thc mìrror. But wc cannot kccp Irom
sccìngthchands onwhìchourvcìnsprotrudc, thc stomachthat
ìsgcttìngIIabby andIoIdy, thc Icctwhosc tocnaìIs havcbccomc
thìckand crackcd. Wccannotrun away Iromourbody, cvcnìI
bIìnd, wc cannot gct out oI our skìn, no mattcr how much wc
wouId lìkc to, whcncvcr wc touch thìs IIaky, scaIy skìn. Thc
body, whìch, as SaHrc has saìd, was oncc Ie neglige and undcr-
stoodìtscIIbynot undcrstandìng-thìs body, whìch ìs no Iongcr
thc mcdìator bctwccn thc worId and us, but cuts us oII Irom
worId and spacc wìthìts hcavy brcathìng, paìnIuIIcgs, and thc
arthrìtìcaIIy pIagucd artìcuIatìon oIour boncs, ìs bccomìng our
prìson, but aIso ourIast shcItcr. !tìs bccomìngwhat rcmaìns, a
shcII-thc phrasc ¨mortaI rcmaìns" probabIy suggcsts ìtscII to
cvcry agìng pcrsonwho rcIIccts uponwhatìs happcnìng to hìs
or hcrbody-butbccomìng ìn thc samc brcath oI thought thc
mostcxtrcmc human authcntìcìty, sìncc ìn thc cnd it ìs what ìs
hnaIIy rìght.
Whatcvcrwas carIìcr worId, as part and portìon oI our cgo,
shrìnks wìth and through thc wìthcrìng body. ìt bccomcs thc
cIcarncgatìonoIusourscIvcs.
For a Icw ycars, A. has bccndìsturbcdbythc cooIìng oII oI
whathconcccaIIcdhìsIccIìngIorIandscapc. Mountaìns, vaIIcys,
Iorcsts hc oncc Iovcd arc now, to hìm, a cIub ìnto whìch hc has
not bccn admìttcd. Thcrc´snodoubthc hasgood cnough rcason
to bc skcptìcaI about ìntcrprctìng naturc as an acsthctìc Iand-
scapc. at ccrtaìntìmcsvcrycIosctothcprcscnt,Iorcsts, vaIIcys,
36 I ON A GI NG
andmountaìnswcrcthcbuttoIbadpoctry andcvcnworscpoIì-
tìcs. Thoscwhooncc caIIcdthcmscIvcs ¨tìcdtonaturc"andsang
oIthc Iandscapcwìth rathcr raspìng voìccswcrc thc cncmìcs oI
thchuman. A. wouIdhavca rcasontostìckwìthSìgnorScttcm-
brìnì whcn hc cxpIaìncd to IìIc´s young probIcm chìId' ìn hìs
graphìcwordshcwnaturcìnìtsrcIatìonshìpwìththcmìndìs thc
cvìI prìncìpIc and bcIongs to thc dcvìI. Yct Ior A., thc !taIìan
Irìcnd oIthc ìntcIIìgcnt wordìsa pIcasantIìtcrary mcmory, but
no authorìty, andhcknowsvcrywcIIhow scnscIcssìtwouIdbc
to dcnyhìmscIItncpIcasurcsoIthccontouroIa mountaìn orthc
unduIatìonsoIaIorcstsIopcjustbccausc ashortbutstìIIhìstorì-
caIIyvcrydìstanttìmcago, a mostsuspìcìouskìndoIacsthctìcs oI
thc Iandscapc anJmystìhcatìonoInaturc had cxìstcd.
!tIastcd a goodwhìIcbcIorchc got to thc bottom oIhìs Ioss
oIa IccIìngIorIandscapc, a IossthatwasabouttocoaIcsccncga-
tìvcIyìn a pronoJnccd dìspIcasurc ìn Iandscapc. SpccìhcaIIy, hc
bccamc conscìous ìn naturc morc than ìnthc cìty oI how thc
worId, whìch hc stìII hadposscsscdasapartoIhìspcrson, had
bccomcthcdcnìaI oIthìs pcrson.
Thc mountaìn, Iaborìous tocIìmb, cvcnìI ìtwastobccIìmbcd
at aII, was by thìs tìmc hìs antì-cgo. Thc watcr ìn whìch hc
wantcdtoswìm, butwhìchhconIycndurcdwhcnìthada quìtc
spccìhc tcmpcraturc that ìt ccrtaìnIy wouId nothavc, saìdno to
hìm. Thc vaIIcy, charmìngbut IuII oIIIìcs thathad ncvcrboth·
crcd hìm at aII ìn hìs youth but now ìrrìtatcd hìm wìth ragc,
bccamcthcncgationofhiscxpansivc dcsircs.Thcothcrs cIìmbcd
thc mountaìn, swamìnthc Iakcs, stroIIcdaboutìn thc vaIIcys. hc
was cxpcIIcd and thrown back on hìmscII. Thc hostìIìty oI thc
Iandscapc, whìch wc prcscnt hcrc onIy mctaphorìcaIIy, but
whìchat thc samctìmcìs a rcaIìtyandanìmmcdìatcIygìvcnIact
oIconscìousncss ìn thc monde vccu-ìt was onIy conscìous to A.
37 I Stranger to Oneself
nowasthc contradìctìon oIhìspcrson. Hc bcgantoavoìdnaturc.
Nowhc hasbccomcthoroughIyaIìcnatcdIromìtandwìthdraws
to whcrc thc chaIIcngc oIa worId that has comc tobchìs dcnìaI
noIongcr humìIìatcs hìm cvcry hour: tohìs room. WhcnIrìcnds
ìnvìtc hìm to Sunday cxcursìons or sojourns ìn thc country, hc
dccIìncs, thankìng thcm ìndìIIcrcntIy. !tdocsn´tmakc scnsc to
matchyourscIIagaìnstanopponcntthat ìnccssantIyìncrcascsìn
strcngth and supcrìorìtywhìIc you stcadìIy dccrcasc.
RcasonabIc scìcntìhc mcthod or cvcn just pIaìn cvcryday
obscrvatìonwìIItcach usthatA. ´scasc ìs an ìndìvìduaI oncand,
to spcakìnmcdìcaIcatcgorìcs, thcrcsuItoIa dchcìcntstatcoIhìs
hcaIth that docs not aIIow hìm to pursuc athIctìc orpartIyath-
Ictìcactìvìtìcs, whìIc cvcrythìngcIscwcarc sayìng ìs ovcrrchncd
drìvcI.-Andìsn´t thcrcaIsothc cxampIcoIthc marrìcdcoupIc,
aIrcady dccpIy dcsccndcd ìntoagc, stìIItakìngwaIks Ior substan-
tìaI dìstanccs and IccIìng ¨good" and ¨young"? CcrtaìnIy. thc
robust oIdIadìcsandgcntIcmcnarcstìIIaround, bcstìrrìngthcm-
scIvcs Ior a IìttIc worId and spacc. Thc onc ìs a IìttIc sìckcr than
thc othcr, anothcrìs aIrcadyagìngnotìccabIyatIorty-hvc sothat
hìs crstwhìIc studcnt coIIcagucs hardIy rccognìzc hìm, stìII an-
othcr rcmaìns so dauntIcss on hcr sìxtìcth bìrthday that hcr
acquaìntanccshnd shc hasn´t changcdataII andtoast thc sìxty-
ycar-oIdyoungIady. Bcyond suchscII-cvìdcnttruìsms, howcvcr,
what wc wcrc sayìng ìn tryìng to dcscrìbc thc csscncc oI agìng
wìthout goìng ìnto cìthcr thc sturdy naturc oIcommon scnsc or
thc objcctìvìty oImcdìcaItcrmìnoIogyìs stìII true: thatspccìhcaIIy
thc worId docs not onIy wìthdraw ìtscII Irom thosc who arc
agìng, butìtbccomcsthcìradvcrsary, andthatcvcryonc, sooncr
orIatcr, aIIIìctcdwìthmorc or Icss dccpbodìIytravaìI, gìvcs up
thcuncquaIstruggIcandbccomcs dìscngagcd.Thcday oIthc rc-
trcat wìth IIags IIyìng, oI thc totaI dcIcat by a worId that's
38 I ON A GING
bccomc hostìIc, comcs Ior cvcryonc-as ccrtaìna s thc dcath ìt
hcraIds.
!IthcrcìssomcthìngIìkcabasìccondìtìonoIagìng,ìtcanbc
approxìmatcIy conccntratcd ìnwordsIìkc¨toìI" and ¨troubIc. "
ToìIsomcì s thcIorpìdhaIIconscìousncssoI thcìncurabìIityoI a
maIady, andtroubIìngthcccrtaìnty,notcntìrcIyacknowIcdgcdìn
mostcascsbutalwaysñIIìngourcxìstcntìaIspacc, thataItcrcach
acutc ìIIncss, whìIcwcmayìndccdpcrhaps rcgaìnourhcaIthìn
thcmcdìcaIscn:c,wcstìIIgctupIromthcbcdìntcrmsoIIìvìng
ourIìvcs sìckcr:han wcwcrc bcIorc. Hcrc aswcIIwc arc con-
stantIyìnthccIutchcs oIthc ambìguìty oIaIìcnatìonIrom, and
IamìIìarìtywìth, ourscIvcs,oIscII-wcarìncssandscII-scckìng.Thc
Iormcr aIwaysdrowns outthcIattcrìnìtìaIIyatthcpoìntwhcrc
thoughtturnsìnto spccch. That´ssupposcdtobcwho!am?thcy
ask, thosc sìckwìth agìngandsìck oIìt aswcII, whcncvcr thcy
IookìntothcmìrrororrcaIIzcagaìnandagaìnwhìIcwaIkìng, run-
nìng, orcIìmbìngthatthcworIdìsbccomìngthcìradvcrsary,that
thcìrbody,whìchhascarrìcdthcmandthcìrscIvcs,ìsbccomìnga
corpusthat wcìghs upon thcmwìthìnandìsìtscIIa wcìght out-
sìdc.!nadccpcrIaycroIwhathasbccnIìvcd,howcvcr,prìorto
spccch, thc scarchIorthccgoandthcaddìctìontoìt ìsprccmì-
ncnt.ApccuIìarcourscoIcvcntsconsummatcsìtscIIthcrc.Thc
agìng,whoscphysìqucshavcIorbìddcnthcmthcworIdandma-
IìcìousIy compcIIcd thcm to dcaI wìth thìs body ìtscII, cvcn
uItìmatcIytobccomcbodyandnothìngcIsc, mustìncvìtabIycx-
pcrIcnccthchuskthatwIIIbccomcthcIrºmortaIrcmaIns,¨both
cIothìngthcmanddìsrobìngthcmIromwIthin, asancxtcmaIìty-
andthcdcaththrcatcnìngthcmasamurdcr.
Thc hrst sta¿c oI thc dìssocìatìon oI thc cgo ìn thc agìng
proccssconccrnsthc mcntaI cgo. !nusìngthatcxprcssìon,wc do
notmcanto spcak oIa transccndcntaIcgobut, onthc contrary,
39 I Stranger to Oneself
arc rcIcrrìng to onc thatconsìsts oI coIIcctcd tìmc, prcscrvìng ìts
ìdcntìty through mcmory-thìs cgo oI our conscìousncss wouId
Iìkc to shcd ìts husk ìn ordcr to bccomc ìtscII agaìn, ì. c. , that
whìchìt has constìtutcd ìtscII to bcthrough mcmory. Accordìng
toìtsIccIìngs, ìt rcbcIs agaìnst a IaIsc cgo, ìntowhìch ourhuskìs
tryìngto makc us, thìs huskthat consìsts naturaIIynotonIyoIan
cxtcrnaI huskbut oIìnncr cIcmcntsaswcII, such as, IorcxampIc,
an achìng stomach ora dìsturbcd hcartbcat. Pcrhaps A. says at
that tìmc, !I onIy thc damncd cadavcr wouId Icavc onc ìn
pcaccl-bywhìch hcthìnks hc candìscngagchìmscIIIromwhat
ìswcìghìngupon hìmwìthìnandIromwhat, vìsìbIc Ior cvcryonc
to scc, ìswastìnghìmawayoutsìdc. And ìnIactthc agìngproccss
ìsjust suchamatcrìaIìzatìonandsubstantìatìon. Thc mctaboIìsm,
IunctìonìngmorcandmorcpoorIy, causcs thc cntìrc organìsmto
turn to dross ìn a proccss that ìs aII-cncompassìng, cxtcrnaIIy
rccognìzabIc, and subjcctìvcIy notìccabIc. AItcra rcspcctIuI dìs-
tancìngIromthc worId oIphysìcaI conccpts, onc mìght pcrhaps
saythatìnagìngthcbodybccomcsmorcandmorcmass andIcss
andIcss energy. Thìs mass, thoroughIy pcrccìvcdwìthìnthcm as
suchbythosc dìscascdwìthagìng,standsìnrcsìstancctothcoId
scII, whìchhas bccn prcscrvcdbytìmc andhas bccnconstìtutìng
ìtscII ìn tìmc, as thc hostìIc new ego, Iorcìgn and, ìn thc cxact
mcanìngoIthc word, odìous.
StìII,thcodìousbcìngcnguIhngusIromwìthìncannotaIways
rcmaìnwhatìtwas.ThcoId cgo, ìIìtcontìnucstocxìstasaccu-
muIatìonoItìmc, constantIybccomcsmorcandmorcabsorbcdìn
tìmc ( sìnccworId and spaccdowìthdraw) and cntcrsìnto akìnd
oIsuspìcìous ¨gcntIcmcn´sagrccmcnt"wìththcncw cgo matcrì-
aIìzìng ìn thc burdcnsomc body. FìnaIIy, a dccpIy suspìcìous
symbìosìsoImcmoryIìnkcdtotìmc´scgoandthc prcscntoIthc
body´scgocmcrgcs. AnuncannytcndcrncssoIthcagìngIorthcìr
40 ON A GING
ncw cgo turns up, a tcndcrncss that ìn no way cxcIudcs thcìr
bcìng tìrcd oIthcmscIvcs but cvcn acccntuatcs ìt. A. touchcs a
sorc spot orIookshard andpcnsìvcIyatthcwaythcskìnon hìs
Icgìsgcttìngrough.WhathcìndìstìnctIynotìccsìndccpambìgu-
ìtyandcontradìctìonandìsscarccIyabIc toadvancctothoughts
ìnwordsìssomc!hìngIìkcthìs.Youpoorstomachthatscrvcdmc
IaìthIuIIyand dìgcstcd what! tookìnsothat! dìdnotnotìcc or
cvcn posscss you, you who wcrc conccrncd that thc strcam oI
humorsìnmybodynotrundry!YoupoorIcg,you´vcbccncarry-
ìngmcthroughaworIdoIstrccts, mountaìns, cobbIcstoncs, and
gaspcdaIs!Nowyou´vcbccntakcnIromtìmcandworkandcan´t
doanymorc,you´rcbothtìrcd,]ustIìkcmyhcartthatwon´taIIow
mcanymorcto¿o upstaìrs two stcpsatatìmc.
MìscrabIc Icg, wayward hcart, rcbcIIìous stomach. you hurt
me, you´rc my advcrsarìcs. ! wouId Iìkc to touch you and Iook
aItcryou andcommìscratcwìthyou and aIso to tcaryou outoI
mybodyandrc¡Iacc you. My hcadswìmswìththc thoughtthat
! ammy Icg, myhcart, mystomach, that ! am aII myIìvìngccIIs
aswcIIasthosconIysIuggìshIyrcncwìngthcmscIvcs-andatthc
samc tìmc ! am·tìIInot thosc ccIIs. ! ambccomìng a strangcrto
myscIIthcmorc !approachthcmand,whìIcdoìngso,bccomìng
noncthcIcss myscII.
!n thc vaguc mctaphorìcaI Ianguagc wc havc choscn, Ior
bcttcr or Ior worsc, Ior ourconsìdcratìons, a Ianguagc ìncapabIc
oIhoIdìngìts ownagaìnstscìcntìhcìnvcstìgatìon, onccansay. ìn
agìng, ! am myscII through my body and against ìt. ! was myscII
whcn ! was youngwithout mybodyand with ìt. !wìIIbc, oncc !
havc passcdovcr thc stagc oIagìngand cnIìstcd ìn thc armyoI
thc oId, stìIIonIybodyandnothìngcIsc, bodyasprogrcssìvc dc-
crcasc ìn cncrgy and ìncrcasc ìn substancc, untìI ! bccomc
cvcntuaIIynoIongcrmyscIIoranythìng cIsc, assoonasmy sub-
41 I Stranger to Oneself
stancc ìs rcady toIalI apart ìnto ìts clcmcnts. Agìng ìs-now Ict
us ovcrIook Ioroncc thc IashìonabIc word-thc momcntoIthc
dìaIcctìcal turn. thc quantìty oI mybodyas ìt movcs toward an-
nìhìlatìonbccomcs thcncwquaIìty oIatransIormcdcgo.
Butwhatarcwchumanbcìngs?AdwcIIìngpIaccoIcxcrucì-
atìngpaìn,thìnksA. , ashcwakcsup oncnìghtwìtha toothachc.
ApparcntIyapcrìostìtìs,broughtIorthbythcIIattcnìngoIthcgum
pockcts, IoIIowìngwhìch bactcrìa pcnctratcthcjawbonc.An cx-
crucìatìngpaìnattacksmcsothatthctoothsupportìngmybrìdgc
wìIIprobablybccxtractcd.AndthcnaskìlIIuIdcntalconstructìon
wìII coIIapsc. AItcr that, ìI ! don´t want to mumbIc my way
through thc worId, prcmaturcIyscnìlc, wìtha cavcd-ìnmouth,
somcthìng that ìs unIortunatcIyproIcssìonaIIy ìmpossìblc cvcn
thoughìt wouIdprobabIybcthc mostcomIortabIc solutìon, !´II
havctohavca dcntaIprosthcsìs. cxtrcmcmatcrìaIìzatìonoImy
alrcady strongIy matcrìaIìzcd body. As ! know Irom countIcss
morcorIcsswìttyjokcs, thc dcnturcìsnottragìc,j ustcomìc. ¨!n
ouryouthyouIìkcdtobìtc mc, " thc lcchcrouswìIcsays tohcr
husband, who murmurs somcthìng about hìs hard day at thc
oIhccandìsnotdìsposcdtothccaIamìtyoIconjugaIpIcasurc,but
whcnshc contìnucs to scducc and dcmand that hc oncc agaìn
bccomchcrscduccr, hcgìvcsìn, rcsìgncd,andsays, ¨AIIrìght,aII
rìght,gìvc mcmytccth. "-SomuchIorthcwìttyjokc.A. ìsnot
ìnagrccmcntwìththcpcrsontcIIìngthcjokc. Hchndsthatadcn-
turcìs tragìcIìkc Lcaronthchcathandthatanyoncwho cannot
bìtc ìnto mcat anymorc ìs sìnkìngìnto a hIthymìscry. So IìIc ìs
obvìousIy not onIy a dwcIIìngpIacc oI thc cxcrucìatìng paìn A.
hìmsclInowIccIsìnhìsjaw[ sothathcscarccIystìIIknowswhcrc
thcdrìlIhasactuaIIybccn appIìcd, whìIc somcthìngcompcIshìm
urgcntlyto wantìt somcwhcrccIsc, pcrhaps ncxt to thc tooth-
achc) , but aIso a grìm pIacc oI mockcry. Just as povcrty ìs a
42 I ON A GING
dìsgraccandthc majorìtyoItourìstshndthcsìghtoItattcrcdIcI-
IahìnunpIcasant,soA.sdccayìsobvìousIydìsgraccIuI.thcworId,
mcant hcrc as a socìaI compIcx, docs not Iorgìvc us that thc
proccssoImatcrìaIìzatìonìs consummatcdìn usrìghtbcIorc ìts
cycs, ìtìs onIy ìnIcrcstcdìngìvìngusgoodmcdìcaIscrvìccanda
crucIjokc,bothhavìng comc ìntobcìngìnsocìcty´swìshtokccp
usoIIìtsback.WhìIcgcttìngoutoIbcdtogctagIassoIwatcrand
ananaIgcsìc,A.ìºthìnkíng, lcantrytodowìthoutworId, moun-
taìn, vaIIcy, and strcct, ncìghbor, and]okc-tcIIìng and commìt
myscIImorcdccpIytothcpaìnthatthc dctcrìoratìonoImybody
hcaps uponmc. ToactasìIìtwcrcnothìngtowakcupatnìght
wìthapcnctratìngtoothachcandworryabouthavìnga dcnturc
docs notwork. Thosc who arcbravc, who don't want to know
anythìngoIthcìrpaìnandwanttodìsmìssìtwìthamanIyhrmor
a womanIy cndurìng wavc oI thc hand-not so bad, not so
ìmportantl-thcyarcassurcdoIthcrcspcctowcdtothcmbya so-
cìctythatdocsnotwanttobcbothcrcdbythcspcctacIcoIthcìr
dcmìsc. But ncvcrthcIcss, ìn dcnyìng thcìr paìn and IaìIìng to
rccognìzcsomcthìngthatìsthcìrown,thcyncvcrsuccccdìndìs-
covcrìngthcmscIvcs.
Wc onIy dìscovcr our body ìn paìn and agìng. EspccìaIIy
agìng, ìnthcwayìt hcaps ìts burdcns upon usmorc IrcqucntIy
cvcry day. Sìncc ìn ìts suIIcrìng ìt no Iongcrtransccnds ìtscIIto
dìssoIvc ìnworId andspacc, thìs body ìsjust as mucha truc cgo
asthcstratìhcdtimcthcagìnghavcbuìItupìnsìdcthcmscIvcs.
ConscqucntIy, whcn A. now swaIIows thc paìn-soothìng
rcmcdyandhnd·hìmscIIsuspcndcdbctwccntormcntandhopc
IorrcIìcI,makìn¿hìs conhdcnccìnbcìng IrccIrompaìnthconIy
thìng at aII that opcns up to hìm thc possìbìIìty oI rcIIcctìvc
thought, hc ìs dctcrmìncdtomakc uscoIthcmìnutcsoIsuspcn-
sìonandenter into a relationship with hìstoothachc. !tìs, ashctcIIs
43 I Stranger to Oneself
hìmscII, my toothachc. thc dcsìrc tobc rìd oIìt, or tobc ncxt to
ìtorto shovc ìt onto hìs hcaIthyncìghborthroughthc crackìn
thc dooroIthcapartmcnt, cxìsts, stìII, thc paìn ìsìn myjaw, thc
paìnthattomorrow, Iìkc cvcryonc cIsc, !wìIIprobabIy cntrustto
thc dcntìst, who canpossìbIy savcmcbytcarìngsomcthìngaway
Irommy cgo wìthhìs hand armcdwìth Iorccps and htmc outas
a rcpIaccmcnt wìth a res extensa oIaIìcn matcrìaI, an ìncrcascd
IccIìng oImyownscII,a rcaIìzatìon oImyIIcshìnthcscII-dcnìaI
oI my IIcsh. ìt ìs both an addìtìon to my cgo and a Ioss oI cgo,
spccìhcaIIy thc Iorccdsacrìhcc oIa convcntìonaI, rathcrabstract
cgo that paìnIcssIy IaIIs asIccp andtomorrowwìII bcIong to thc
worId,wìIIbcworId.
PaìnandsìckncssarcthcIcstìvaIsoIdccaythcbody organìzcs
Ior ìtscII and Ior mc. Thcìr purposc ìs to cnsurc that ! am ab-
sorbcdìnthcbodyandconscqucntIy, through thcìnIIammatory
proccss, though ccrtaìnIy rcduccdìn myabìIìtyto Iunctìon, !am
ìncrcascdìnwhatìmmcdìatcIybcIongstomc, !gaìnìncgo.
ThcanaIgcsìchasìtscIIcct, rcIìcIsctsìn. A.brcathcsìn dccpIy
and cscapcs thc probIcmatìc cuphorìa oI paìn whìch, bcsìdcs,
onIytookposscssìonoIhìmatthcmomcntwhcnhchadaIrcady
washcdthc rcmcdydownand, aIongwìthìt, had drunkthchopc
Ior Irccdom Irom paìn. Hc IaIIs back ìnto thc rcactìvc rcaIm oI
normaIìty. Hchasbccn savcd, Iìkccvcryoncwho hasbccnIìbcr-
atcd Irom tormcnt. !t ìsbad tohavcbodìIy paìn, ìt ìs good tobc
Ircc oIìt. A. docsnot mournaItcrthcgaìnìn cgo passcdon to
hìmbythc toothachc. Whatnowsctsìn, ìn thc momcntoIrcIìcI,
ìs oncc agaìn thc IccIìng oIaIìcnatìonIrom hìs own scII through
physìcaI dctcrìoratìon, thc sìgnaI oI whìch was thc paìn ìn hìs
tooth. Whathasbccomc oImc, hc thìnks, sìncchìs cIoscdcycIìds
arc aIrcady bccomìng hcavyIorhìm andhc scnscsthc approach
oI sIccp. A pcrson wìth dcIcctìvc tccth, an organìsm unabIc to
44 I ON A GING
putupany rcsìstancc to thc pcnctratìon oImìcrobcs and thcìr
sprcad throughouthìs systcm. An agìng pcrson. Tomorrowthc
dcntìst, thc Iorccps, thc cxtrcmc matcrìaIìzatìon oI mybody ìn
thc Iorm oI a dcntìst Ior whom ! wìII havc to Iay out a Iot oI
moncy. Am! stì.IthatpcrsonwhoIaIIsasIccphcrc, savcd Irom
achcs andpaìnsbutgìvcnovcrtoothcr, morccvìI oncsthatwìII
ccrtaìnIy stìIIaIû.ct mc? Am ! stìIIthat onc? ¨Cìvc mc mytccth".
that´s how ìtwìll cnd bcIorc ìt cnds. What an awIuI dcbacIc.
SIccpìsgood,tosay ¨dcathìsbcttcr" ìs scnscIcss,thcbcstwouId
havc bccn ncvcr to havc bccn born. that ìs an cmpty IormuIa
thatIogìccancaºìIydìsposc oI.
Lct´sIctthìstooth-pIagucdpcrsonIaII asIccp,hìsthìnkìng, bc-
comìng unccrtaìnandgìvìngìtscIIup onthc thrcshoIdoIsIccp,
cannothcIp usIurthcr. !n any casc, what canbcnotcd, bcyond
thcnocturnaIcxpcrìcncc oI ourìmagìncdpcrson, ìs thìs. ìn thc
sìIcnt dìaIoguc bctwccn scII-gaìn and aIìcnatìon Irom oncscII,
both oIwhìch thc agìng pcrson cxpcrìcnccs ìntoìIandtroubIc,
alìcnatìon ìs ìn thc Iorcground, bccausc thc ìncrcasc ìn cgo cI-
Icctcdby apaìnIuIsubstantìatìon oIthc bodyìs cxpcrìcnccd as
such onIy at rarc tìmcs, cvcn ìI ìt can Iorcvcr and cvcr bc ìn-
tcrprctcd Irom spccìhc symptoms, whcthcr a partìcuIar pcrson
calIcd A. apprchcnsìvcIyIccIshìsachìng lìmbs, whcthcrhc as-
sumcs thc unpIcasant custom oI thoroughIy tcIIìng othcrs at
IcngthabouthìssuIIcrìngs, orwhcthcrhc quìctIy gìvcs hìmsclI
ovcrtohìsavcrsìonandbccomcsìt. Wìthrcspcctto thcncwcgo
thathasjust comc ìnto bcìng, onIythcIccIìngoIbcìngaIìcnatcd
can, Ior thc mosìpart, bcìntcIIcctuaIIyrcaIìzcd.
Thcn,ìnthcscarchIorwordstoconstìtutcthcIccIìngoIaIìcn-
atìon, thc agìng may wcII thìnk that thc res extensa ìs gaìnìng
powcr ovcr thcm and may sìdc wìth thc res cagitans rcbcIIìng
agaìnst ìt. !n othcrwords, thcy thìnk pcrhaps that thc ¨mcntaI
45 I Stranger to Oneself
cgo, " as thcìr truc cgo, rcsìsts thc assumptìon oI powcrbythc
physis andìs supposcdtorcsìstìt.OncoIthcm,IorcxampIc,takcs
aprovocatìvcstanccandprocIaìmsìnhìghspìrìts, ¨!stìIIwìIInot
Ict my asthma Iorbìd mc IìIc. " Thcn hc stands-but who ìs thìs
¨hc" anyway?-agaìnstthìs asthma, rcpudìatcsthcres extensa, and
docsnot acccpthìsbody.Atthìspoìnt, !conIcssthat!ammovìng
Iorward ìn thcsc consìdcratìons onIy wìth grcat unccrtaìnty,
doubtìngmyabìIìtytomakcathoroughìnvcstìgatìon.!nIact, thc
onIy thìng to ìnvcstìgatc wouId bc whcthcr thc Cartcsìan dìs-
tìnctìonbctwccnres extensa andres cagitans corrcspondstoarcaIìty
IìvcdatthcdccpcstIcvcIorwhcthcrìtìsnotìnstcad thccasc that
thcyarcbothìnscparabIyoncandthcsamc andprccìscIyìnthcìr
souffrance vicue vìctorìousIy rcsìst cvcry attcmpt at dìssocìatìng
thcm. OncwouIdnccdtoìnquìrcwhcthcrthccgoarrogantIyrc·
bcIIìng agaìnst a non-cgo, thc ¨truc" onc, pIaccdbctwccn quo-
tatìonmarks, thc cgooIthc res cagitans, whìchaIsoconsìdcrsthc
dccayìngbody asa non-cgo and thcrcIorc Iovcs to spcakoIthc
¨damncd stomach" andthc mìscrabIy paìnIuI Icg, rcaIIyìsmore
thanjust thìs stomachandjustthìs Icg. OncwouIdhavctoshcd
IìghtonthctormcntìngandIcstìvcmìnutcìnwhìchA.gavchìm-
scII ovcr cntìrcIy to hìs toothachc as his, cvcntuaIIy bccomìng
totaIIycngrosscdìnìtsìnIIammatìon, anddctcrmìncwhcthcrthìs
wasthcauthcntìcmomcntoItruth.
Thcsc asscrtìons cIcarIy contradìct cvcryday cxpcrìcncc as
wcIIasthc cntìrc cmotìonaIìnIrastructurc oIthcconccpts oIsìck-
ncss and hcaIth. Othcrwìsc, suchconsìdcratìons wouId havc to
rcsuItìn humanbcìngs aspìrìngto thc condìtìonoIsìckncss. But
ìtìs onIya scII-cvìdcnttruththatthìs ìs not thc casc. Wcwant to
bc hcaIthy, not sìck, wc want to know wc arc young, not oId,
andnormaIIywc don'tcarcìnthc IcastIorthc chancc oIgaìnìng
a grcatcr scnsc oI our cgo through paìn. But thc rcIìancc on a
46 I ON A G ING
normaIìtyoIthìnlOngandIccIìngobvìoustocvcrydaycxpcrìcncc
can bc oI IìttIc usc to us hcrc. NormaIìty ìs aItcr aII a socìaIIy
opcratìonaI conccpt, whìIc wc arc actuaIIy makìng a possìbIy
morbìdattcmpt, ºtìIIìndìspcnsabIctoourargumcnt, toapproach
a Iìvcd sub]cctìvc rcaIìty. Wcknowthat A., wakìngupatnìght
wìth a toothachc, thrcatcncd by Iorccps, cxtractìon, and a
thoroughIy matcrìaI IaIsctooth, wantcdtogctrìdoIhìspìcrcìng
dìscomIort ( othcrwìsc hc ccrtaìnIy wouId not havc takcn thc
soothìngmcdìcati on) , wcknowthathcwasaIraìdoIthc dcntìst´s
ìntcrvcntìon, stìII morc so oIthc dcnturc ìtscII, Iookìng asìt dìd
Iìkc a surrcaIìstìc scuIpturc. WcknowthatA. bccamc aIìcnatcd
IromhìmscIIatthìs hour. WccanaIsobc]ust assurc thatwìth
hìs toothachc hc bccamc hìmscII ìn a ncwway. Thc smaII and
harmIcss torturc that stands hcrc asancxampIc oI thc burdcns
ìnIIìctcduponusbyagìng,cvcnthoughcvcryyoungpcrsoncan
obvìousIybcaIIIìctcdwìthatoothachc, hashcIpcdhìmtohìs, or
atIcasta ncw, cgo. Thcpaìn has madc hìs own body, whìch ìs
supposcdtobcIongtothcworId, atIcastaccordìngto socìctyand
cvcryonc´s dcmandIor socìaIscII-prcscrvatìon, aposscssìonthat
Iromnowonìs ro Iongcr tobcsharcdwìth othcrs. lt has takcn
awayIromhìm onc morc pìccc oIthc worId. Put dìIIcrcntIy, ìt
hasgìvcnhìmtoundcrstandìna crcsccndo thatthcworIdìshìs
ncgatìon. ln thìs casc, ìt ìs socìcty that ìs IcIt ìn thc Iurch, not
knowìngwhcrctostartwìth a IcIIowwho, rcgardIcss oIIoss oI
worIdandgaìno¦cgo, ìsnotcapabIcoIhIIìngouthìs ìncomc tax
dccIaratìonbccausc oIhìstoothachc.
Who has thc Iast word? Thc body that brìngs to thc agìng a
ncwIamìIìarìtywìththcmscIvcs? Orthc socìcty that ìmposcs on
cvcry human bc.ng an cgo that has to stay hcaIthy, ì. c. , opcr-
atìonaI, andthatasres cagitans opposcsthcbodìIycgoabsorbcdìn
thc res extensa? Thc qucstìon ìs hardIyanswcrabIc. ln any casc,
47 I Stranger to Oneself
wc havc to Iìmìt cncrgctìcaIIy what wc havc saìd about thc
momcnt oI truth ìn whìch thc bodìIy cgo ìs unvcìIcd to us by
paìn as thc truc onc. That´sbccauscthc mcntaI cgo, whìch thc
agìngcarrywìthìnthcmandwhìchìn mcmory ìs Iìvcdtìmc, has
ìn Iact constìtutcd ìtscII through thc rcactìon oI IcIIow human
bcìngsto our cxìstcncc. But ìn thc cnd, that mcntaI cgo aIways
turns out to bc thc strongcr, and wc cvcntuaIIy comc back by
dctourtothc rcsuIts oIsupcrhcìaIcvcrydaycxpcrìcncc andtothc
conccpt oInormaIìty, rcIcrrcdto abovc ìn ìts Iìmìtatìons.
ForwcdonotcscapcthcIookandthcjudgmcntoIthcothcrs.
As a young woman, A. onccbcgan a Icttcrwìth "man cheri. "
Sìncc, howcvcr, thcIovcd oncwasatthatmomcntnoIongcrthc
manwho Iovcd hcr, thc "man cheri, " pIaccdìnthcworId wìthout
any socìaI, IcIIow-human, or communìcatìvc Icgìtìmacy, grcw
paIc and cxpìrcd. A. was csscntìaIIy anabandoncd woman, rc-
gardIcssoIhowìtmìghthavcbccnwìthhcrbodyandhcrmìnd,
and thìs bìt oI abandonmcnt was a part oI thc cgo shc Iatcrrc-
caIIcd ìnmcmoryaIongwìthhcrcarIìcrdays oItrìumphwhcn
thc man-cheri Icttcrs shcwrotc wcrcj ustìhcd andwcrc grantcd
thcìrrìghtsbythcma-cherie IcttcrsIromhcrIrìcnd. Sìnccthcrcìs
nochoìcc nowbutto acccpt thc cgo as a socìaI coordìnatc, thc
aIìcnatìon Irom oncscII IcIt by thc pcrson sìck wìth agc ìs uItì-
matcIy not onIy morc pcrsìstcnt than thc gaìn ìn cgo achìcvcd
throughthcpaìnandmatcrìaIìzatìon oIthcbody, butaIsomorc
dctcrmìnìng, morc rcaI, ìI that´s thc way ìt ìs, sìncc ìt ìs thc rcaI
thathashad, and has, ancIIcct.
!t hadancIIcctthanks morc to thc othcrs than to thcbody,
Ior cvcn thc body oI suIIcrìng, cspccìaIIy, ìs cntrustcd to thcm.
Furthcrmorc, thccIIcctonc hascIutchcsaItcrthc othcrs, sìnccìt
can´thappcnwìthout thcm. Whatwc wcrc sayìng ìs truc-and
Ict nothìng bc takcn back Irom ìt-. that A. ' s dìsgust wìth thc
48 I ON A GING
ycIIow IIccks ìs ìmposcduponhcr Irom outsìdc, Irom Icarnìng
spccìhcaIIythat :uch dìshgurcmcnts appcar dìsgustìng to thosc
who arc not dìshgurcd, cvcnwhìlcthc dcIormìtyìsstìIlher pos-
scssìon, A. ´s, whìch to hcr cannot bc prìmarìIy abhorrcnt. But
worIdandIìIcwouIdaddthatìt ìsnota qucstìonoIprìmacy. Thc
socìaI cgo, cvcn ìI ìmposcd upon us by socìcty, ìsj ust as much
somcthìng oIourownas anythìngthatìmmcdìatcIyandphysì-
caIIy cxpcrìcnccsìtscII.
Socìcty docs not know what to do wìth a pcrson Iìkc A. ,
pIagucdbyatoothachctìIlhìsthoughtsarcconIuscd.LìttIcavaìIs
hìm whcn, suspcndcdbctwccntormcnt andthchopcIorrcIìcI,
hccuphorìcaIlycxpcrìcnccshìs cgo´s momcntoItruth. Hcmust
compIy. What wc caII rcaIìty ìs a Iorcc hcld oI socìaI tcnsìons,
actìons,andrcactìons.!tscgo-buìIdìngIorccdocsnotrcIcascusas
Iong aswc cxìst. Thc ìmposcdcgo ìs ìn thc cndsìmpIythc cgo
purcand sìmpIc, andìt takcsancgodìssocìatìonoIan unusuaI
kìndtodìscovcrbcyondoursocìaIIydchncdcgothconcgìvcnby
thcbodyandonIybythcbody.ThcambìguìtyoIaIìcnatìonIrom
oncscIIandIamìIìarìtywìthoncscIIìnagìng-bywhìchwcmust
notIorgctIoroncmìnutcthatagìngìsaIormoIsuIIcrìngandthat
wc cxpcrìcncc ìt as such-thìs ambìguìtythcrcIorc consìsts not
onlyìnthcIactthatwcIccIourbodyasamortaIshclIwhìIcatthc
samctìmc thìs shcII ìs takìng ncwrootìn us morc and morc, ìt
aIso bccomcs manìIcst ìnoursocìaIcgo´scontradìctìon oIcvcry-
thìngcIscthatìs!ormcdIromoursuIIcrìngbody, oIthcbody-cgo
thatìsbothourcIothìngandwhatwc cIothc. A. docsnotknow
whcrctogowìththcdccrcpìtbodythatcauscshìmtoothachcand
Iromwhìch cvcntualIyhìstoothwìIIIaIIout.Tobcsurc, hccan
startarcIatìonshìpwìthhìspaìnandacquìrcsomcthìnghc couId
pcrhapscaIIhìs ¨knowIcdgc."ButsuchìsonIypossìbIcdurìngthc
nìght. not onIy 0ccausc socìcty dcmands that hc hII out thc
49 I Stranger to Oneself
ìncomctaxdccIaratìonIrccoIpaìnandwìthacIcarmìnd,butaIso
bccauschccannot acccptthc cgooItoothIcssncss, rcIuscdbythc
worIdandcxpcIIcdIromìt, that thrcatcns hìm. For hcìs ¨worId"
hìmscII,hcìssocìcty, andhcsccshìmscIIwìththcIattcr´scycs. A.
hìmscIIthìnks hc scnscs that socìcty scnscs hìm. thcrcIorc, hc
wants to prcscrvc thc cgo oIIrcsh tccthhc´s draggcd wìth hìm
Iromhìs youthandatanyprìccgctrìdoIthc othcrcgohccaIIcd
ìnthcmìddIc oIthcnìghthìs ¨authcntìccgo. "
Whìch cgodowccarry ovcr out oIthc pastìnto agìng? Wc
wcrc sìttìngonthc schooIbcnch at tcn. Wckìsscdattwcnty. At
thìrty, wc advanccd, cnvìcd by ourcoIIcagucs, ìnto ourproIcs -
sìon, andasIorty-ycar-oIds, wcdìscovcrcdthatthc othcr scxstìII
Iìkcd us. At cachtìmc wc wcrc an cgo. To what kìnd oI cgo do
wc cIìng ìn agìng, knowìng or onIy ìmagìnìng that onIy ìn thìs
onc wc wcrc morc ourselves than ìn any othcr aItcrward or
bcIorc?Oncpcrsonhadrìchwavyhaìrasayoungman.Now,dì-
shcvcIcdbut proud, hc wcars thc grayìngtuItsrcmaìning undcr
hìsbaIdpatc onthc sìdcsoIhìs tcmpIcsasa pìcturcsquc haìror-
namcnt. Anothcr thìnks shc rcmcmbcrs that at thìrty shc was
charmìng to thc worId oI mcn bccausc oI hcr wcII·dcvcIopcd
bust. AccordìngIy, shcstìIIprcIcrs, athIty-hvc, dccp, Iow-ncckcd
decolletages, cvcn though thc skìn at thc top oI hcr cIcavagc ìs
aIrcady IIaccìd andbrownìsh. !ntruth, thc manwìth thcdìshcv-
cIcd tuIts was not admìrcd as a young man Ior hìs naturaI
unduIatìons,butIorhìswìtty convcrsatìon, andthcdecolletee Iady
oncc owcd hcr succcsscs not to hcr wcII-buìItbrcast but tohcr
ìntcIIìgcnt, IìvcIy cycs.
!tìstructhatthccgowccarrywìthusìsa crcatìonoIsocìcty.
Evcnhcrcthcrcìsnothìngtotakcback.StìII,ìnthcactoIrcmcm-
bcrìng,wchavcremodeled and newly interpreted oursocìaIcgo.Thc
cgothatwcsctasourownagaìnstthcdctcrìoratìonoIagìng,thìs
50 I ON A GI NG
cgothatwcbcIìcvcwchavctoIookatandscnscìnrcIatìontoour
ncw,ycIIow-IIcckcdordcntaIIycndangcrcd,cvcnIorcìgnandoI-
Icnsìvc, cgohas:omctìmcsnotcxìstcdìnrcaIìtyataII. ThcaIìcn
ìmagcoIourscIIìsavagucstatìstìcaIrcaIìty.hvchundrcdothcrs
showcdthcìrantìpathytowardus,onIyamìnorìtyoIhItywcrcìn-
cIìncd to put up wìth us: thcrcIorc wc wcrc dìsIìkcd onIy ìn a
¨rcaIìty"wrìttcn inquotatìonmarks. What´sbad aboutaIIthìsìs
thatwcdonotknowthcstatìstìcs.Wc don´tknowthatour socìaI
cgowasnotonIybuìItupbythcothcrsbutIorthcmostpartmay
havccomcìntobcìngthroughmcrcsupposìtìon.ThcrcaIìtyoIthc
socìaIcgowccxpcrìcnccassuchcvcrydayandtowhìchwcsub-
mìtìsìnthccndjustasqucstìonabIcasA.´snocturnaItoothachc
cgo.!tmaysomctìmcssccmtoagrccapproxìmatcIywìthstatìstìcs
unknowntous,butthcrc ìsnorcIyìngonthat.!nagìng, wcbc-
comcaIìcnatcdIromourscIvcs,doubIcdandìnscrutabIc,Iorwhcn
A. says, shakìnghcrhcad ìn Iront oIthcmìrror, ¨That´snotmc
anymorc,"thcsub]cctìsasIìttIcknowntohcrasthcprcdìcatc.
ThcconscqucnccoIsuchconsìdcratìonswouIdbcthatancgo,
sìnccìtìsstìIImuItìIarìousIydìssocìatcdìnthcsuIIcrìngoIagìng-
dìssocìatcdìntothcbody!havc, thc¨othcr"thatpaìnIuIIyhas me,
ìntothcres cagitans andthcres extensa oImyownscII, ìntothccgo,
qucstìonabIy dcduccd Irom thc rcactìons oI my IcIIow human
bcìngs, whìch wc prcscrvc as Iìvcd tìmc, and ìnto thc daìIy
changìngcgooIagìng-thcabsurdconscqucnccoItryìngtohnd
outìnthìsmanncraboutourmostìnncrcondìtìonswouIdbcthat
aIìvcdcgo,atrue .dcntìty,docsnotcxìst.Onccansctthatasìdcas
abarcandworthIcssmcntaIgamc,Iorcgodìssocìatìonìsìncvcry
momcntcountcrbaIanccdbycgoassocìatìon.Thcqucstìonabout
thcrcaIìtyoIthccgoìs a shamqucstìon-. ]ust as ErnstMach´ s
proposìtìonthatthccgoìsabundIcoIIccIìngswasashampropo-
5 1 I Stranger to Oneself
sìtìonbccauscthcvcryactoIbundIìngcanccIcdthcìndìvìduaIcIc-
mcntsoIthcbundIcassuch.WcrcIcrtothccgowhcnwcsay ¨I, "
andwcsay¨!"wìthgoodrcasonandgoodscnsccvcnìIwcIìkcto
standìnIrontoIthcmìrrorshakìngourhcads and doubtìngour-
scIvcs,cvcnìIatnìghtwcIìkctocntrustcgo-buìIdìngpowcronIy
topaìn, cvcnìI wc rccognìzc that thc ìmagc oIourscIvcswc´vc
carrìcdwìthus ìs ìmposcd upon us by socìctywìthoutus cvcr
knowìng ìn thìs casc whcthcr thìs too ìs a haIIucìnatìon oI our
spccuIatìon.FìnaIIy,ìtìsstìIIthccascthatourskìnsurIaccdcmar-
catcsus. whattranspìrcsonthìssìdcoIthcboundaryìswhatwc
arc,whathappcnsbcyondìtìsothcr.AphcnomcnoIogìcaIwayoI
pcrccìvìng, cschcwìng thc opposìtìon oI ìnncr and outcr and
adaptìngspacctousandustospaccsothat!ammyscIIasmuch
asmyworIdoIspacc,strìkcsatthccorcoIwhathasbccnIìvcdand
yctaìmsrìghtonpastìt.!tìstructhatatthcIcvcIoIwhathasbccn
ìmmcdìatcIyIìvcdwcarcboth¨wc" and ¨worId. "!tìsjustastruc
that at that samc IcvcI wc constantIy makc dìstìnctìons. !n thc
monde vecu andìnthcattcmpttorcconstìtutcìtmcntaIIy, thcbasìc
proposìtìonsoIIogìcnoIongcrhoId, that´sthcmisere. Thcambìgu-
ìtybccomcs anantìnomy.
And yct. wc havc to takc IogìcaIcontradìctorìncssupon our-
scIvcs, havc to takc upon ourscIvcs absurdìty and thc rìsk oI
cvcrymcntaIconIusìonwhcnwcmcdìtatc on ourcondìtìon. I is
aging that exposes us to that kind of consciousness and makes us capable
of it. Bythìs tìmc, thcworId whosc ìmagc ìs Iogìcìs aIrcady cIcar-
ìng out.
WhcnwchavccrosscdthctopoIa mountaìnandbcgìntogo
downthcothcrsìdcandìtquìckIybccomcs stccpcrandstccpcr,
IastcrandIastcr,ìtìsnoIongcrourpIacctothìnkìnawayappro-
prìatctothcconqucstoIthcworId,IccIìngcompcIIcdto dcmon-
stratc Ior ourscIvcs an ìmagc oI thc worId ìn Iogìc. Thc prìmal
52 I ON A GING
contradìctìon, dcath, awaìtsusandcompcIsus toIormIogìcaIIy
uncIcanproposìtìonssuchas,¨Whcn!noIongcram. "DcathìsaI-
rcadyìnus,makìngroomIorcquìvocatìonandcontradìctìon.Wc
bccomc! andnot-!.WcposscssancgocncIoscdìnourskìnand
mayatthc samc!ìmchndoutthatthcIìmìts aIways wcrcIIuìd
andstaycdthatway. WcbccomcmorcaIìcnatcdIromourscIvcs
and morc IamìIìarwìth ourscIvcs. Nothìng ìs scII-cvìdcnt any-
morc. Thc cvìdcncc ìs no Iongcr bcIìcvabIc. AIìcnatìon Irom
oncscIIbccomcsaIìcnatìonIrombcìng, nomattcrhowIaìthIuIIy
wc stìII attcnd to thc day, hII out ourtax dccIaratìon, go to thc
dcntìst. Wcrc wc sayìng that ìn agìng thc worId bccomcs our
dcnìaI?WccouId]ustascasìIyhavcsaìdthatwcarcaIrcadyabout
tobcthcncgatìonoIourscII.DayandnìghtcanccIcachothcrout
ìntwìIìght.
•The Loo k of Others
AnovcItorccommcndtorcadcrsgcttìngonìnycars.La Quaran­
taine byJcan-Louìs Curtìs. !tìsnotagrcatbook,butarcIIcctìvcIy
bcautìIuIoncaboutthcIatc oItwomarrìcdcoupIcsatthcpcakoI
thcìrIìvcs. !ngcnìousIy, ìts tìtIc pIays wìth thc doubIc mcanìng
oIthcwordquarantaine, whcrcbyonthconchandthcdccadcoI
agìngbctwccnIortyandhItyìsmcant, onthcothcrthchygìcnìc
ìsoIatìon ìmposcd upon humanbcìngs, no Iongcr young. thcìr
quarantìnc.
Thc provìncìaI notary Andrc, a dìstìnguìshcdpatrìcìan Irom
thc Pyrcnccs, a man oI mcans and somc cuIturc, hnds hìmscII
aItcrmany ycars oncc agaìnìnParìs, butIorthc hrsttìmc wìth-
outIamìIy dcpcndcnts. Thìs man on thc thrcshoId oI hItyputs
up at thc Rìtz, a smaII, scntìmcntaI, and cxpcnsìvc homagc to
MarccI Proust. !n thc hrst cvcnìng, hc trìcs thc Lìdo on thc
ChampsEIysccs. Thc gìrIs arcattractìvc, thc jazz ìs good, aItcr-
wardhc ìs aIonc ìn hìs hotcI room andIooks down at thc PIacc
Vcndômc, whìch, sìncchc hadIast sccnParìs, hasturncdìntoan
autodromc.
54 I ON A GING
Hcìntcndstodcvotc thccvcnìnghoursoIthcncxtdaytothc
thcatcrwhcrc a crìtìcaIIy accIaìmcdpIay oIthc Brccht schooI ìs
runnìng.!nthcmìdst oIthc pcrIormancc, thc borcdomthatwas
stìIIamorphous ycstcrday andthat hc dìdnot admìttohìmscII
bccomcsmanìIcsI . Vcxcd, hc Icavcs thcthcatcraItcrthc sccond
act. Thc vcnturc oI a waIk turns ìnto a dcbacIc. Thc oIIcnsìvc
smcII oI cxhaust Iumcs takcs away hìs brcath and makcs thc
ffmerie hc hadIookcdIorwardtoIorwccksìmpossìbIc. Hcsccks
rcIugc ìn a caIc,butcvcnthatprovcstobchopcIcss, ncìthcrìn
thcFIorcnorìnthcDcux-MagotsìsapIacc tobcIound. A. couId
acccpt aII thatìIhcdìd notìncrcasìngIyhavcthc IccIìng thathc
ìs invisible. No onc notìccs hìm. !t sccms, hc thìnks, that you
don´tcxìstìnthìscìtyìI you´rc oIdcrthantwcnty-hvc.Thc ncxt
momìnghc takcshìsdcparturcìn dccpdcprcssìon. AIcwwccks
Iatcr, hc suIIcrsa hcartattack.
!tcanbcsaìdthatA.scascìsavcrypcrsonaIonc,notvaIìdIor
thc ìmmcnsc majorìty oIhìs comradcs ìn agìng. hìs IccIìngs oI
ìnvìsìbìIìtyorìnsìgnìhcanccarctobccxpIaìncdIroma totaIIyìn-
dìvìduaIandìncìdcntaImoroscmood,pcrhapscvcnIromscnsìng
ìnadvancchìsphysìcaIcondìtìon.Butasarcjoìndcr, onccanraìsc
thcobjcctìonthathìsdcIcatatParìshasonIyaIìttIctodowìththc
contìngcncyoIhìspcrson, thatìnstcadìtìsìnscrìbcdìnthcsocìaI
andcconomìcstructurcoIancraìnwhìchapcrson,bothdrìvcn
and Iashcd ìntomcrcmattcrbythcdcmandsIorproductìonand
cxpansìon, has rtcognìzcd that onIy youth ìs ht Ior work and
pIcasurcandthatìngcncraIwhatìspopuIarIyknownasìdoIatry
oIyouthìs thcprcvaìIìngdìsposìtìon.Thc argumcnt haswcìght.
ThcIactsoIsocìctvspcakIorìt, thoscIactsthatcanbcrcadoutoI
such sìmpIcpubIìcatìonsasthcjob-oIIcrìngsìnthcncwspapcrs.
thoscwhoarcsought-thccdìtors-ìn-chìcI, dìrcctors, chìcIcngì-
nccrs, andwhatcvcrthc tcrmìnoIogy oI thc sccond haII oI thc
55 The Look of Others
twcntìcthccnturycalls ¨managcrs" -arcnotsupposcdtobcoldcr
thanIorty. But wc´rcnotconccrncdhcrc,notyctatlcast,wìththc
proIcssìonal Iatc oIthc agìng and old pcoplcwho arc bccomìng
morc and morc numcrousìna worldìn whìch cvcrydaylcssìs
known about what to do wìth thcm. Wc want to consìdcr thc
problcmoIsocial age ìngcncral, mctcd outto usbythclookoIthc
othcrs. Bcyond that, wc want toconsìdcr our dcstìnyasìndìvìd-
ual human bcìngs whocanlìvcncìthcrwìthout othcrs norwìth
thcmoragaìnst thcm, andthcabsurdandcontradìctory basìc con-
stìtutìon oIhumanbcìngswho, asìndìvìduals, wouldlìkctorcìgn
ovcrthcìrpropcrty-thc worldl-andatthc samc tìmcknowthat
worldandpropcrtyonly cxìst whcrc othcrs dìsputc thcìr rìghtto
placc and posscssìon. Evcn thìs contradìctìon, lìkc mostoIthosc
thatmarourcxìstcncc, onlybccomcsIullyconscìoustothcagìng
pcrson.
Whatdocs¨socìalagc"mcan?!nthclìIcoIcvcryhumanbcìng
thcrcìsapoìntìntìmcor, tobc morcmathcmatìcallyprccìsc, Ihc
vìcìnìtyoIapoìntwhcrc cach dìscovcrsthatoncìsonlywhatonc
ìs. All at oncc wc rcalìzc that thc world no longcrconccdcs us
crcdìtIor ourIuturc, ìtno longcrwantsto cntcrtaìn sccìng usìn
tcrms oIwhatwccould bc. Socìctynolongcrbrìngsthcpossìbìlì-
tìcs ìnto Iocus that wc stìlI thìnk arc vouchsaIcd to us ìn thc
pìcturcthatìt makcs oIus. Wchndoursclvcs-notthroughour
ownj udgmcntbutasthcmìrrorìmagcoIthclookoIthc othcrs
thatwc ìmmcdìatclyìntcrnalìzc-tobccrcaturcswìthoutpotcn-
tìal. No onc asks usanylongcr, ¨What doyouwantto do?"All
dcclarc, dìspassìonatcly and unIlìnchìng, " That you'vc alrcady
donc. "Thcothcrs,sowchavctolcarn,havcstruckabalanccand
laìdbcIorcusabottomlìncthatwe are. OncoIusìs anclcctrìcal
cngìnccrandwìllrcmaìnso.AnothcrìsapostoIhccadmìnìstrator
who maybc can stìllbccomcthcdìrcctoroIhìs oIhcc wìth somc
56 I ON A G ING
cIIort andIuck,butthatìsaII.Anothcrìsapaìntcr, unsucccssIuI
orsucccssIuI. ìIsucccsshascongcaIcdìna sumoIIìvìngandcrc-
atìvc cvcnts, ìt wìII rcmaìn IaìthIuI to hcr cvcn ìI thcrc arc
dcvìatìonsìnthcartmarkctandthcprìccsquotcdIorhcrpìcturcs
today arcpossìbIynot as hìghas ycstcrday, howcvcr, ìIsucccss,
thatwhìchIoIIowsIromhcrcIIorts, thccIIcctoIhcrart,hasnot
bccnIorthcomìng, thcnìt ìs thcIackoIsucccss,thcncgatìonoI
hcrartìstìccxìstcncc,thatcharactcrìzcshcr.WhocvcrA. ìs,A. wìII
not bccomc a bìg gamc huntcr ìI hc or shc has not donc so aI-
rcady, nor a poIìtìcaI Icadcr, nor an actor, nor a proIcssìonaI
crìmìnaI.Thatwhìchwc caIIour¨IìIc, "thcsumoIwhatwchavc
donc andIcIt undonc, dchncswhatwc Iìkcwìsc stìII rcgardcd as
ourIìIc ycstcrday, thatìs, thcycarsthatarcatbcststìIIIcIttous.
ThoscwccanaIrcadyIorcsccasthchomogcncousandmonoto-
nousrcpctìtìonoIourwastcdtìmc.
!tìsprobabIy Iruc that onIy dcath makcs a cIcanbrcak, onIy
thc cnd oIaIìIcgìvcsthctruthtoìtsbcgìnnìngandaIIìts stagcs.
Thcgamc-thcorctìcaIIy-ìsncvcrpIaycdbcIorcìtìspIaycdout.
Thcrc maybc brcak-ups, ncwbcgìnnìngs, uphcavaIs, and out-
bursts, sothatìn!hc cnda stagcIìvcdìnnumbncssandpctrìh-
catìoncanunvcìI ìtscII asa mcrc transìtìonaIphasc.Cauguìn. A
bank cmpIoyccrcIuscsthcbottom-Iìnccgothat socìctyprcscnts
tohìm.hìsdcathonLaDomìnìcacxprcsscsthctruthaboutthccx-
ìstcncc oIthcbankcmpIoyccandmakcsìtnothìng.Howmany
Cauguìns canbcbroughtIorth aswìtncsscs? !nthc Iuturc, ìna
worÌddcñning itscÌfbysociaÌ function through intcraction and
ìntcrdcpcndcncc,thcrcwìIIbccvcnIcwcrwhocanbrcakout.Thc
bottom-Iìnccgos,rcsuItsoIthcbaIanccstruckbysocìaIIusìon,wìII
bcacccptcd,ìntcmaIìzcd, andcvcntuaIIyrcquìrcd.Humanbcìngs
arcwhatthcysocìaIIyaccompIìsh. Thcagìng, whoscaccompIìsh-
mcntswcrcaIrcady countcdandwcìghcd,havcbccncondcmncd.
57 The Look of Others
Thcy havc lost cvcnìI thcy'vc won, that ìs, cvcn ìI thcìr socìal
cxìstcncc, complctclyconsìstìngoIthcìrconscìousncssandcon-
sumìngìt, ìsasscsscdatahìghmarkctvaluc.Brcak-upsandup-
hcavalsnolongcrlìconthcìrhorìzon,thcywìlldìcasthcylìvcd,
cacha soldìcrandbravc. '
Onc has to ask about what ìt ìs that ìnhcrcs ìn thc vcrdìct oI
socìctyandwhatchanccs oIIcr thcmsclvcs to dìsmìss ìt.Thcjudg-
mcnt passcd durìng our actìvc lìIc by a conscnsus takìng shapc
unnotìccablyìn ourmìndsìs ncvcrhnallygìvcn. Oursocìalcxìs-
tcncc, whìch ìs our cxìstcncc plaìn and sìmplc as soon as wc
havc cntcrcd thc phasc oI agìng, ìs rccordcd ìn a dìaloguc. Wc
spcak, socìcty answcrs. Whatwc do andpcrIorm ìs thc hrst act
oIa socìal rcalìty. Thc sccond act, radìatìngbackto thc hrst and
ìn that way gìvìng ìts dìmcnsìon, ìs a rcplyto, or actìon agaìnst,
thc hrst. Wc thìnkwc spcakaspocts-ìt canbc assumcd-and
challcngc socìcty wìth our poctìc word. Whcthcr wc wcrc cI-
Icctìvc cnoughtobcpocts ìn rcalìtywìlldcpcnd uponwhcthcr
socìcty acccpts ourchallcngc.
Thìsgamc, ìnthcmanymcanìngsoIthcword-aplayìnthc
thcatcr oIthc world bascd onìts cndìng, purc /udus, a gamc oI
chanccwìththchìghcststakcs-ìsncìthcrwonnorlostaslongas
wcarcyoung.Wcbcatonthcdoorstodayandnooncrcsponds,
buttomorrowthcywìll opcn uptous-sowc hopcandbclìcvc,
sìnccthcbclìcIandhopcoIsocìctyarcpartoIus, andnoIcllow
humanbcìngswouldlìkctobcdcaItothcknockìngonthcìrdoor.
OnccwcarcagìngandhavcalrcadygathcrcdìnalargcnumbcroI
answcrs, oncc socìcty hasalrcadyapplìcdanìnvcntory oIthcrc-
joìndcrsìssucdtous, onlythcn docsthatsamc socìcty Iccl ccrtaìn
oIìtsncwlyìmpartcd ìnIormatìonandcalculatcsìtautomatìcally
accordìng to thc ìnvcntory sum. Thosc who do not opcn thcìr
doorsthcnnolongcrrìskthcrolcoIbcìngdcaIto othcrs. Atthc
58 I ON A GING
samctìmc,ìtìsct�rtaìnthatthcyhavchcardìnourknockìngthc
voìccoIwhathasbccn.NowthcdìaIoguchasossìhcdìntoa unì-
IormIìtanythatwìIIonIycndwìthourcnd.WcaskthcctcrnaIIy
samcqucstìonsbccauscwcgctthcctcrnaIIy samc answcrs, and
wcprcscrvcthcIattcrbccauscthcIormcraIwaysstaysthcsamc.
!twouIdbcgoodtoknowwhcthcrìtìsnotpcrhapspossìbIcto
cscapc thcjudgmcnt oI socìcty (whìch, bccausc oI ìts opaquc,
quantìtatìvcIydcmonstrabIcmassìvcncssìsaIsoavcrdìct) , cvcnto
cIudcìtìnagìngandìnoIdagcwhcrcìthasthìckcncdtobccomc
ìmpcnctrabIc. ¨Who arc you?" thc mcntaI doctor ìs askìng thc
patìcnt. ¨TaIIcyrand."TaIIcyrandshakcsìnthcprìsoncIothcsIIut-
tcrìngaroundhìsbodyIìkca IooI´sdrcss,shuIIIcsìnhìssIìppcrs,
spoonshìssoupoutoIhìswoodcnbowI.HcìsstìIITaIIcyrand. thc
vcrdìctoIsocìctydocsnotconccrnhìm.OrthcgrcatpaìntcrA.ìn
thc CaIc duDômcatMontparnassc.Hìsnamc cannotbcIoundìn
anyrcIcrcncc work, hc hasnotcxhìbìtcdanythìngìntcnycars,
art gaIIcrìcs do notIìkc hangìng hìs pìcturcs cvcn ìn thcìr sìdc
rooms. ¨Who arc you?" ¨! am a grcat artìst, but you havc to
undcrstand, thc markctpIacc, ìndustry, Iashìon, cvcrythìng ìs
agaìnstmc. "ThcvcrdìctoIsocìctycanbcdìsmìsscdthroughthc
totaIccIìpscoIthcwhoIcsccnc,thatìs,throughdcnyìngthcsamc
rcaIìtyprìncìpIc thatTaIIcyrandrc]cctsìnthcmcntaIìnstìtutìon.
Onccancvcnarrangconc´srcIusaIbyobscurìnga scctìonoIthc
stagc as thcpaìntcrA. docs wìththcnarrowworIdoIhìsproIcs-
sìon.ButncìthcrTaIIcyrandìnthcmadhouscnorthcpaìntcrA.
hasasocìaIagc.Tncybcatondoors,ìndcIatìgabIy, anddon´tcarc
ìnthcIcastthatnooncopcnstothcm.ThcytaIkìntothcvoìdand
gìvc upaII cIaìmItO a rcsponsc. SocìctytcIIsthcm, ¨!Iyouwcrc
what you cIaìm to bc, grcat paìntcr andTaIIcyrand, wc wouId
havctoknowìt."Thcydon´thcaranythìng, thcvcrdìctdocsnot
rcachthcm.
59 The Look of Others
Thc numbcroIIunatìcs ìs sIìght. Evcnthoscwho arc a haII or
a quartcr crazy arc not many. Most arc ¨normaI. " !n our casc,
thatmcans that at a ccrtaìn agc thcyacccptsocìcty´sjudgmcnt.
Whcnthcywcrcyoung, thcyagaìnandagaìntcstcdthcmsclvcs,
morc orIcss couragcousIy (thatìs a mattcroIìndìvìduaI dìsposì-
tìonj , ìngoìngbcyondapossìblcIìmìt,possìbIc prccìscIybccausc
socìcty stìII rccognìzcd ìt as such. But ìn agìng, thcìr rcaIìty ìs
thcìr agc, thc socìaI agc that conccrns thcmjust as much asthc
agcoIIaycrs oItìmc storcd upìnthcìr mcmory orthatothcragc
thatìs cxpcrìcnccdbythcm as loss oIthcworldthroughthc toìI
andtroubIc oIa dchcìcntphysis. CcncralIy, thìs socìaIagc cannot
cvcrbc dchncd, ìt dcpcnds onthc cpochs, thc socìaI structurcs,
thc rcspcctìvc hcldoIrcIatìonshìpstowhìcha pcrson ìs yokcd.
WhcnKcnncdybccamcPrcsìdcntoIthcUnìtcdStatcsatIorty-
thrcc, hcwasyoung, aIorty-thrcc-ycar-oIdassìstantproIcssorìs
not young. Or thc othcrway round. ScnatorThomas Buddcn-
brook ìn Thomas Mann´s novcI Buddenbrooks, who gaìncd hìs
scnatorìaIrankwhcnhcwasaroundIorty,wasprccìscIybyvìrtuc
oIthìsdìgnìty andìtspatrìarchaIaura avcry maturcman, aImost
agcd.HìsdìssoIutcbrothcrChrìstìan, wìth thcìndchnìtcpaìnìn
hìsIcgandthcpropcnsìtyIorchampagncbrcakIasts, was, cvcnon
hìsdcathbcd, aboywhohadbccomc scnìlctoocarIy. SocìaIagcìs
dchncdbyanctworkoIcausaIìty, much toocompIìcatcdtobcdìs-
cntangIcd hcrc. Ourvcry own socìaI ambìtìons Iorm onc oI ìts
numcrousskcìns.A subordìnatcoIhcìaI, Iorcxamplc, ìs socìaIIy
anoId man at Iorty-hvc whcn, and onIy whcn, hc has trìcd to
attaìnahìghcrposìtìon. Aslongashcncvcrtrìcstorìscìnthchì-
crarchy, has ncvcr spokcn oI hìshopcsIoradvanccmcnt cìthcr
wìthhìsIamìIy,wìthhìsIrìcnds, orwìthhìs supcrìors, hìssocìaI
agcìsnotdchncdandnot dchnabIc. !nhìssubordìnatcposìtìon,
thcrcìsno socìaIrcIcvanccìnbcìngthìrtyorhIty. HcIìvcsonìn
60 ON A G ING
hìsposìtìonwìthouthìstory, amanwìthoutbìography-andonIy
thc wcìght oImcmoryorhìsburdcnsomcbody Icts hìmbccomc
awarconcdaythathcìsagcd.lnagrccmcntwìthhìsownmodcst
ambìtìonsocìctyhadaIrcadypasscdj udgmcntonhìm whcnhc
was stìIIvcryyoungìnycars.Tobc socìaIIyagcIcss orcvcnoId
IromcarIy on, thatdocsn´tmattcr now, rìght up to hìs cndhc
takcsthìngsasthcycomc.
!IthcrcarccrìIcrìaìnourtìmcIorsocìaIagcthatgobcyondalI
structuraI, natìonaI, andìndìvìduaIdìIIcrcnccs, ìIwc candcIìmìt
thcvìcìnìtyoIthcpoìntatwhìchoursocìaIjudgmcntrcccìvcsìts
IuIIvaIìdìtyandthcworIdnoIongcraIlowsustogobcyondwhat
wc havcj udgcd to bc possìbIc, wc hnd our orìcntatìon ìn thc
rcaImoIpossession, towhìchthcmarkctvaIucwcmayrcprcscnt
aIsobcIongs. ForourhomcIandìs nota worIdoIbcìngbutonc
oI havìng, morc cxactIy, a worId oI bcìng that ìs onIy gìvcn
through havìng. Whatoncìs, what onc standsIor, ìs dchncdby
whatonchas. Humanbcìngsarc rcquìrcdtohavc, accordìngto
commonandacccptcdprìncìpIcsoIordcr-a computablcposscs-
sìon or a posscssìon rcprcscntìng and guarantccìng markct
vaIuc-and thcy cntcrìnto thc phasc oIsocìalagìngas soonas
thcydo have. !Ithcydon´thavcanythìng, thcy´vcpcrhapsbccn
sparcd socìaI agìng. StìII thcyhavc to Icarn thatncìthcr socìaI
csscnccnorhumanccxìstcncchasbccnconccdcdtothcm.Born
dumb, nothìngmorcIcarncd, bornpoor,nothìngmorc carncd.
ThcythcnhavcncìthcrsocìaIstandìngnorpcrmancncc, thcy´rc
anìmagìnaryTalIcyrandorgarrctgcnìus. Thc socìctyoIhavìng
ncutraIìzcsautonomous ìndìvìduaIswho, undcrprcssurc oIthc
rcquìrcmcntoIhavìng, cannolongcrhoIdupagaìnstthcIookoI
thcothcrsthcprospcct oIapcrsonaIìtywantìngtobcìtsclI.
Oncmaytakc onc´s orìcntatìonIromthcsìgnsandmarkìngs
aIongthcpathoIhavìngposscssìons-andthcnhavcahardtìmc
61 The Look of Others
Iocatìng thc poìnts oI rcIcrcncc Ior agìng. Forthc IactoIhavìng
posscssìonsorthcrcquìrcmcntIorthcmaIIcctsusatquìtcdìIIcr-
cnt phascs oI our IìIc. For onc pcrson, thc Iatc oI havìng pos-
scssìonsbcgìnsvcrycarIy,ìnthccradIc, ìIhc´sbornasanhcìrand
thcpatcrnaIIactoryorIcgaIchanccIIcryawaìtshìm, prcsscsupon
hìm, Iong bcIorc hcìsyctconscìousoIhìmscII. Foranothcr, thc
proccss bcgìns ìn thc hìghcr IcvcIs oI schooI whcrc a gìIt Ior
mathcmatìcs urgcs hcrìnto thc carccroIa physìcìst orancngì-
nccr, ccrtaìnoIhcr markctvaIuc. For a thìrd onc, ìt happcns at
thcunìvcrsìtyorìnthchrstycarsoIproIcssìonaIpractìcc. !nany
casc,howcvcr,havìngdìctatcsancxìstcnccthatstructurcs onc´s
conscìousncss andìs ìn two ways a dcstìny. on thc onc handìt
robs us oI ourown dìsposabìIìty, oIthc possìbìIìty oIbcgìnnìng
ancwanymomcntatpoìntzcroanddcsìgnìngourIìvcswìthour
ownwìIIwìthoutsocìctyorcvcnagaìnstìt. Onthcothcrhand,by
wìthdrawìngorgathcrìngìtscIItogcthcrasthcposscssìonoIcco-
nomìcrcsourccsorasa dchnìtcabìIìty, a ¨know-how, " rcquìrcd
bysocìctyandhonorcdthroughìtsmarkctvaIuc, ìtcondcmnsus
torcmaìnancmptypIaccìnsocìcty,ahoIIowIormwìthoutcvcn
thcabìIìtyto pIan Iorour zcropoìnt, socìcty aIrcadyhavìng dìs-
poscdoIthatabìIìty.
Wìth cvcry day, thc worId oI havìng admìts Icwcr andIcwcr
outsìdcrswho canpIanIorthcmscIvcs.
Thc ìntcgratìngpowcroIhavìngìs vcrygrcat.Thcposscssìons
orthc markct vaIuc oIa sìngIc ìndìvìduaI makcs that pcrson aII
thc morcIIcxìbIc, sìncc thoscthìngsarcchaìnswornasagrccabIy
asjcwcIry ìs worn.
A.ìsaIorty·ycar-oIdjournaIìstwhocomposcsartìcIcsoncon-
sìgnmcnt. Hìs skìII, hìs aIcrt pcn, as hìs customcrs caII ìt wìth
approvaI, hasassurcdhìs wrìttcnproducta dchnìtc commcrcìaI
vaIuc.HcìsIìvìng.NotcxactIyìnIuxuryorìnsccurìty,butaIsonot
62 ON A GI NG
ìnnccdandnotìnanxìctyaboutabjcctmìscry.HcwrìtcsandscIIs
whathc´swrìttcn.hasaIaìrIydcccnthousc, drìvcsacar,takcsva-
catìontrìps. Somctìmcs, bcIorcIaIIìngasIccp, hcìspIagucdwìth
mcmorìcs. hcwaºsìttìngìnagarrct,azcro. Hcdìdnotthìnkany-
thìnghcwrotcwouId cvcr hndabuycr, andthcrcIorc hcnotcd
downwhatcvcrhcwantcdandhowhcwantcdìt.Whatkcpthìm
aIìvcwasthcwìdchorìzon. sìncc hcwas nothìng, hcwascvcry-
thìng.HìspotcntìaIìtywasthcwhoIcworIdandaIIoIspacc.!nthc
rcaImoIthcpotcntìaI,hcwasworIdrcvoIutìonaryandclochard,
pìmp andphìIosophcr.Hcwasyoung. Hcwasyoungìnhìsycars
andìnhìsbody, andìIhchadspaccbcIorchìm, thcnìtwasbc-
causcnotvcrymuchtìmchadbccngathcrcdupìnhìmyct.But
hcwasaIsoyoungìnhìssocìaIcxìstcncc, youngcrthanthcM. D.
oIthcsamcagcwhowasjusttrcatìnghìshrstpatìcntstodcathor
thcactorwhowaspastìnghìshrstcrìtìcaIrcvìcwsìnascrapbook.
Nowhcìsnotthatanymorc.Nowhcis bccauschchas, nomattcr
howIìttIcìtmìghtbc. SocìctyhasaIIocatcdhìssocìaIagctohìm
aItcrìthrstIcthìmknowthatìtonIytoIcratcsanctcrnaIyouthìn
thcmadhousc.HchashìssocìaIagc,andsomctìmcshcIccIswìth
dccp horrorhìsagrccmcntwìthìt. Tobcataxpaycrandacìtìzcn
whoscgrcctìngthcncìghborsrcturnonthcstaìrsoIhìsapartmcnt
buìIdìngl Thc sum oIa numbcroIhumìIìatìng capìtuIatìonshIIs
hìmIorthcmomcntwìtha sìIIyprìdc. Hcìsashamcdthathchas
comctothìspoìn!andthathìscxìstcnccwìthouthavìng, thccx-
ìstcnccoIpcrmancntbccomìng, hasbccnstoIcnIromhìmbyan
cxìstcnccprcscrìbcdbyhavìng.ThcnhcaskshìmscIIwhcthcrìtìs
possìbIctothìnkoIasocìaIordcrìnwhìchhìs rìdìcuIousvìctory
(whìch ìs a sad dcIcatj couId havc sparcd hìm. !t wouId bc a
systcm ìn whìch cxìstcncc ìs not havìng somcthìng, not cvcn
havìngknowIcdgc (pcrhapsbccauschavìngknowIcdgcwouIdnot
bctransIatabIcìntoacatcgoryoIposscssìonj, butwouIdrcmaìnan
63 The Look of Others
cxìstcnccoIbccomìng.tobc andtobccomcwìththcothcrswhosc
IookwouIdnotovcrpowcrhìm,butìnstcadwouIdhcIphìmagaìn
andagaìntobczcroandtoconstìtutc hìmscII ancwstartìngIrom
thczcropoìnt.A.askshìmscIIaboutthìsandhndsnoanswcrand
knowsthatìtìsvcryIìkcIythathìs nothndìngan answcr was aI-
rcadydctcrmìncdìnthcsucccssìvcactsoIhìs capìtuIatìons andìn
whathchashadaIIaroundhìm.HchasaIrcadybccomccngrosscd
ìnthcscthìngs,nomattcrhowsIìghtthcymaybc,andbccauschc
hasthcmhccannoIongcrnotwanttohavcthcm.LìkccountIcss
othcrswìththcsamcIatc, hchaschaìnstoIoscthatcanbcworn
ascasìIyandagrccabIyasthcadornmcntoIadcstroycdcxìstcncc
thatruìnsìtscIIhumanIycvcnasìtbuìIdsìtscIIupsocìaIIy.Hchas
agcd. Socìcty bcars thcbIamc.Hcbcars thcbIamc hìmscIItothc
samccxtcntthathcaccommodatcshìmscIItowhatsocìctyhassct
ìnstcadoIbccomìngaIooIorbIccdìngtodcathIìkc Chc Cucvara.
Cucvara,Cauguìn,thcmcgaIomanìacìnthcmadhouscandhìs
dìstantrcIatìvcìnthc CaIc du Dômc, thcyarc not aIIcctcdby thc
IookoI thc othcrs, thc Iookthatrcprcscnts thc worId oI havìng
posscssìons.Nor,Iorthatmattcr,arcthcnabobswhoscpropcrtyìs
sogrcatthatìtdocsnotmcananythìngtothcmanymorcanddocs
notdctcrmìncwhothcyarc. AIìKhandrovctohìsdcathyoung,
andthc Dukc oI Wìndsor wìII dìc Iìkc Chrìstìan Buddcnbrook,
boyìshandscnìIc. Thc othcrs rcacha socìaI agc, sooncrorIatcr,
mostoIthcmatapoìntìntìmcatwhìchthcyprcscntthcmscIvcs
tosocìctyasproduccr-consumcrsworthyoIìnvcstmcnt.Atsomc
tìmc,thcyhavcsomcthìngthcyowntodcIcnd,acquìrcdknowI-
cdgc to oIIcr, a marrìagc partncr tocarc IoraswcIIas chìIdrcn.
Dchncdbywhatthcyhavcandwantìngtoìncrcascorprcscrvcìt,
both cxhaustìngthcwhoIcpcrson, thcy stìckìtout andbccomc
oncdayawarcoIturnìngacorncrbcyondwhìchthcìrcxìstcncc
bascdonhavìngcannotbccaIIcdback.thcnthcyarcagìngpcr-
64 I ON A GING
sons. ThcdoorswìIInotbcopcncdanymorc.Whocvcrdìrcctsa
qucstìontosocìclygcts ananswcr. kccp onwìthwhatyouwcrc
doìngycstcrdayandthcdaybcIorc,dowhatcvcryourpastcom-
pcIsyou to do-or donothìng. Wantcd. cxpcrìcnccdbankcr to
takc ovcrourbranch oIhcc, maxìmumagc. 40; busìncsspcrson
wcII vcrscd ìn tcxtìIcs wìth knowIcdgc oI EngIìsh capabIc oI
rcorganìzìng our busìncss, no oIdcr than45; young, dynamìc,
Iorward-movìng and cncrgctìc ìndìvìduaI, Iìkcs to work, good
pcrsonaIìty,travc¦ìngagcnt,Iaboratorymanagcr,cngìnccr,cdìtor,
pubIìcìtyagcnt.ThchcadsoIpcrsonncIhavcthcIookoIthcothcr,
rcquìrìng not only a socìaI agc that corrcsponds to thc Iogìc oI
ìnvcstmcnt,but,ill ìscIcar, cxpcrìcnccìnapartìcuIarproIcssìon.
Thcywon´tcmpIoyabcgìnncratthcagcoIIorty.Thcìrcontcm-
poraryX.,whoIromtwcnty-thrcctoIortyhascomputcdIorcìgn
cxchangc ratcs, caIcuIatcdworkìnghoursIorpìcccwork, draItcd
advcrtìsìngpostcrs,orwrìttcnartìcIcsonconsìgnmcntwìIIdothc
samcIortwototwoandahaIIdccadcsmorc.HcaskshìmscIIsomc-
tìmcswhcnhcIooksupIromhìswork, !sthìstogoonIorcvcr?
andIccIshìsanxìcty.!twìIIgoonIìkcthìs,notcxactIyIorcvcr,but
stìIIIoranctcrnìtyoIhìscxìstcncc,asIongashìsIorgctIuIbraìn,
hìshcavyIìmbs,andthcvaIìdIcgaIrcguIatìonspcrmìtìt.
AItcrthatcomcswhatsocìctycaIIs onc´s wcII-dcscrvcd rc-
tìrcmcntandwhaIIoroncpcrsonmcansanampIcadmìnìstrator´s
rctìrcmcntìncomc, IoranothcramìscrabIc pcnsìon, butIorboth
ìt mcansbanìshmcntIromarcaIìtybcìngIormcdhìstorìcaIIyand
conIrontìng thc vcry uncanny qucstìon. Whcn havc ! actuaIIy
Iìvcd?Whcndìd!stopIcadìngmyIìIcasaproccssoIconstantrc-
ncwaIandpcrmancntcontradìctìon?FortunatcIy, suchmomcnts
oIqucstìonìngarcrarc.
Thcsccontcmporarìcs,whcthcraIrcadypcnsìoncdorcxcìtcdIy
gcstìcuIatìng ìndìvìduaIs ¨ìn thc mìdst oI IìIc, " ìncrcasìng what
65 The Look of Others
thcy havc ormaìntaìnìngìt, acccptthcjudgmcntpasscdonthcm
bysocìcty, thcìrsocìaIagc. Thcyarccontcntwìthancgothatno
IongcrtrìcstogobcyondìtscIIbut thatìs notyctrcstìng ìnsatìs-
IactìonwìthìtscII, bccauscthccxìstcntìaIdcathcontaìncdìnsocìaI
rcsìgnatìonìsjustasunacccptabIcasphysìcaI dcath.!tìs stìIIday,
thcysayasthcytaIktothcmscIvcsandwanttobcactìvcIìkcmcn
and womcn. But thc nìght has aIrcady sct ìn, cvcn bcIorc ìts
actuaI cntrancc, andnowthcyarconIyabIctohavcancIIcctas
socìctyrcquìrcs,aIIows,orIorbìds.
Somcthìng nccds to bc addcd hcrc, cspccìaIIy about thc
mctaphoroIthcnìghtbrcakìngìn.ìtìsamaudIìncIìchc,worsc,ìt
docsn´tappIy at aII. !sìtnotso thatthcIcadcrs and pìIIars oIso-
cìctyarcvcncrabIcpcrsons, cvcnaIItoovcncrabIc, andthatthc
ruling gcncratìon ìs that oI thc hIty-hvc-to scvcnty-ycar-oIds?
Prcsìdcntsandcabìnctmìnìstcrs,ìnIIucntìaIunìvcrsìtyproIcssors,
hcads oIboards oIdìrcctors, mcmbcrs oIIcarncdsocìctìcs, thcy
arcaIIgcttìngonìnycars. Onthcothcrhand, whatcvcrmaycon-
ccrn aII thc othcr tìny namcIcss cxìstcnccs, socìcty ìs aIrcady
makìngìts pIaccs rcadyIorthcm.Thìsìsjusta qucstìonoIsocìaI
cngìnccrìng. A¨mcanìngIuIIìIc" andanoIdagcworthIìvìngwìII
bc guarantccdìn thc Iuturc oratIcastmadcpossìbIc, ìnaccord
wìththcìncrcascìnIìIccxpcctancy.
Onc shouIdn't wax hcroìc about mctaphors oI twìIìght and
thc drama oI agìng. Thc days do gct Iongcr and Iongcr Ior thosc
who gìvc ordcrs, but aIso Ior thc othcrs who run aIongsìdc as
IcIIowtravcIcrs.!n ourIathcr'shouscthcrcarcmanyapartmcnts
and somc oIthcmIookIìkc wcII-Iurnìshcd homcs Iorthc agcd.
Butayoungphysìcìstsays, ¨ThcoIdcrmcnandwomcnìnour
hcIdcnjoyoIhcìaIhonorsandthcgIorìousdìgnìtythcy'vccarncd,
butwc, pcopIcbctwccn twcnty-hvcandthìrty-hvc,we makcthc
dìscovcrìcs . " Bchìndthc sìIvcr-haìrcd captaìns oIìndustrywìth
66 I ON A GI NG
thcìrìncxhaustìbIccapacìtyIorwork-whìchthcgoodoIdprcss
tcIIs us about-s:and thcìrpromptcrs, thc brìIIìant youngmcn
uponwhomìtaIIdcpcndsandbcIorcwhoscsharpcrìntcIIìgcncc
thcoIdbowìnmorcorIcssgoodcomposurc.Morcthanordìnary
pcopIc,thcapparcntIypowcrIuIarcsubjccttothcvcrdìctoIsocìcty
and arc condcmncdby ìtto rcmaìn whatthcywcrc.Thc tìtuIar
chìcI cxccutìvc oIhccr oIanìndustrìaI hrm who has Iong sìncc
handcdovcrhìspractìcaIcontroItoagroupoIyoungcoworkcrs,
thcIamousproIc:sorwhohasaIrcadybccnovcrtakcnìntcIIcctu-
aIIybyathìrty-ycar-oIdassìstantandnowcoIIcctsonIydìstìnctìons
and honorarydoctoratcs, thcy pIay thcìrprcscrìbcd roIcsj ustas
prccìscIyasanyol dmanoImagnìhccnccspcakìngaboutgrcatna-
tìonaIqucstìonsìnwordsoIpowcrprcvìousIyhcardandthcrcIorc
casìIymanìpuIatcd.thcIattcrandthcIormcrarcprìso
_
crsoIthcìr
past. Thoscìnoncgrouparcno IongcrcIIcctìvcataII,thchack-
ncycd nìght has ìn Iact brokcn ovcr thcm aIrcady, onIy thcìr
sccrctarìcsstìIIIawnovcrthcm.ThoscìnthcothcrgroupmaysuIk
IìkcabunchoICormCrymmcsandIIashIìkcJupìtcr,thcìrspccch
anddccdsarctìcdtothcpoIìtìcaIroIcsthroughwhìchthcyhavc
actcdprcvìousIy.I wasaIrcadynìghtabovcthchcadsthcycarrìcd
hìgh,too, cvcnìIbrìghtcncdbythcstarsaswcII.
But whatdothc anonymous stìII hopc Iorwhcn thcìr socìaI
agc,thcìrhavìng·agcd,ìsdrapcdovcrthcmbysocìcty?ThcIcttcr
carrìcrrcmaìnsa Icttcrcarrìcrj ustasdc CauIIcrcmaìnsl'homme
historique, cxccptthatìtìscasìcrandbcttcrtoportrayonc´sown
monumcntthanonc'sownnothìngncss. Butassoonasoncìsno
Iongcrcvcna IctIcrcarrìcrandhasIostthcabìIìtytorcgardthc
dcIìvcryoIarcgìstcrcdIcttcrasanactoIìmportancctothc statc,
thcn nothìngìs Icft cxccpt waìtìng to scc howto dcaI wìth thc
ycars oIputtcrìng around ìn a IìttIc gardcn. A ¨mcanìngIuI cx-
ìstcncc. "Surc.SocìctymaycarcIorthcagìngwìthwcIIarcorcvcn
67 I The Look of Others
byprovìdìngpart-tìmcworkthat docsn´trcaIIynccdtobc donc.
Thcy arc not so stupìd that thcy wouIdn´t know cxactIy that
othcrsarconIyIcttìngthcmdoasthcyIìkc,thatthcyarcburdcns
anduscIcsscatcrs.Pcrhapsthcy´IIbc carcdIor, that ìsoIcoursc
bcttcr than Icavìng thcm to thcmscIvcs and thcìr mcagcrpcn-
sìons.!Iìtdìdnotsoundsoprcsumptuous, ìIìtdìdnotsmackso
pcrvasìvcIyoIrcactìonaryìnsoIcncc, ìtcouIdbc addcdthatthcìr
mìscryandthcìrsocìaIìsoIatìonarcstìIItheir ow wrongs, constì-
tutìng Ior thcm an cgo-oI grìcvancc and accusatìon-whìIc
carìngIorthcmandprovìdìngIorthcm makc thcmìntoanothcr,
cvcnìnthcìrowncycs.ThìsmìscryandìsoIatìonmakcthcmìnto
crcaturcs oItotaI socìaIdctcrmìnatìon, pcopIc whoarcnoIongcr
abIcto gìvc cvcn a bad conscìcncc to thoscwho arc wìth thcm
andthosc agaìnstthcm.
NooncmaydoubtthatsocìaIagìngìscsscntìaIIydctcrmìncd
by thc worId oI havìng. But ìt wouId bc quìtc ìnadmìssìbIc to
rcduccthcphcnomcnonoIagìngandbcìngoId,asìtìsdctcrmìncd
by thc Iook oI othcrs, to a Icw IundamcntaI probIcms oI socìaI
structurcandoImarkctandprohtcconomìcs.Agaìnandagaìnwc
mcctthc Iact oI thc body-thcIraìIbodyìnthìs casc-whìchnot
onIygìvcsa spccìhccoIortothc subjcctìvc quaIìtyoIagìng, but
whìchhrstoIaIIìmmcdìatcIyrcIcascsthccIIcctsìnsocìctyaswcII.
Youdon'tgctprcttìcrwhcnyougctoIdcr,saìdErìchKastncroncc
ìnaharmIcsspocm.ThìstrìvìaIobscrvatìon, whìchcanncìthcrbc
surpasscdnorIurthcrrcduccd, ìsvaIìdìnaIIcascs. Onc docs not
gct morc attractìvc, morc agìIc, not cvcn morc cIcvcr, and thc
worId-undcrstoodhcrcasa statìstìcaIIyrccordabIcsumoIìndì-
vìduaIopìnìons,IccIìngs,rcactìons-knowsìtandmakcssurcthat
ìt´s wcIIundcrstoodbythcagìngand thcoId, whotodayarcnot
vaIucd as rarìtìcs and thcrcIorc cannot bc consìdcrcd vcncr-
abIc ìmagcs oIdìvìnìty. AgìngpcopIc gctugIy. ìn Gcrman, ugIy
68 I ON A G ING
( hij/ich) ìsthatwhìchonchatcs (hajt) . Thcygctwcak,whìchìn
coIIoquìaIspccchìsthcsamcasavaIucquaIìhcatìon,cvcnanìn-
vaIìdatìon.oncspcaksoIawcakpIayorawcakcxchangcratcand
bcstowsuItìmatcIyonthcwcakhumanbcìngjustasIìttIcsìnccrc
sympathyasonaIaìIcddramaorasIumpìnsccurìtìcs.Numcrous
adjcctìvcs, aIIbcgìnnìngwìththcsyIIabIc¨un, " arcattrìbutcdto
agìngandoIdhumanbcìngs. thcyarcunabIctopcrIormmuch
physìcaIwork,uncoordìnatcd,unhtIorthìsandthat, untcachabIc,
unIruìtIuI,unwckomc,unhcaIthy,un-young.Thcncgatìvcprchx,
asan cxprcssìon oIa ncgatìonwcIIìngup Irom dccp cmotìonaI
Ioundatìons, canbctakcn, ìIonc Iìkcs, as thc negation consum-
matcdbysocìcty thcan-nìhìIatìonoIthcagìnghumanbcìng. But
thconIythìngtÌatìsan-nìhìIatcdhcrcìswhataIrcadybcarsthc
sìgnoInothìngncssonìtsbrow, anothìngncsswhoscgraphìchar-
bìngcrìsphysìcaIdccIìnc. ThcundcnìabIcavcrsìon,convcrtcdìnto
rcspcct, oIyoungpcopIc towardthcoIdturnsthcrcspcctIorthcsc
cIdcrsìntoamcrcconvcntìon.!tìsquìtcpossìbIyaIcaroInothìng-
ncss, rcsìstancc toawayoInotbcìngthathasaIrcadyìnsìnuatcd
ìtscIIìntocxìstcncc.
Thc¨worId"an-nìhìIatcsagìnghumanbcìngsandmakcsthcm
ìnvìsìbIconthcsìrccts,asìsthccascwìththcprovìncìaInotaryA. ,
whowouIdIìkctostroIIthroughParìsbutcannotbrìnghìmscIIto
doìt anymorc bccausc hcìs rcjcctcdby thc crowd thatìgnorcs
hìm.ThcIookoIthcothcrs,whìchgocsrìghtthroughhìmasìIhc
wcrca transparcntsubstancc,shattcrshìm. HcIcavcsthc capìtaI
cityandrcturnshomctohissmaÌÌtowninthcPyrcnccs,bccausc
ìnthcIong run!ìs ìnconspìcuousncssbccomcsìnsuIIcrabIc. !tìs
thcnaturcoIhumanbcìngstoaspìrctocxìstIorothcrs.-Thatìs
aIIhìsIìtcrarycrcator, thcnovcIìstJcan-Louìs Curtìs,ìntcndcdto
sayabouthìsIaìlcdtravcI advcnturc. Thcbook, La Quarantaine,
saysnothìng about thc dìsconccrtìng spcctacIc thatthc ¨worId,"
69 The Look of Others
whìIc condcmnìng A. toìnvìsìbìIìty, stìIIdocsnot consìstonIy oI
youngpcopIc-thcrc arc aIso quìtc cnough agìngpcopIccrossìng
thc bouIcvards on whìch thc notary ìs annìhìIatcd by cmpty
starcs. !tìsgoodIorthcagìng to rcaIìzc that socìcty, rcgardIcssoI
howìt arrangcs thcdcmographìcsoIìts agcpyramìd, acccptsthc
annìhìIatìngjudgmcntoIthcyoungandthcmostrcccnt. Evcnthc
honors rcndcrcd to thc agìng, both prìvatc andoIhcìaI honors,
changc nothìng about that. An agìng pcrsonìs oId not onIy to
youth but aIso to thosc oI hìs or hcr own agc who Iook at thc
young, too, cvcnwhcnthcyarousc noIookìn rcturn. Thcydcny
soIìdarìtytothcìrcomradcsìndcstìny, trytomaìntaìnthcìr dìs-
tanccIromthcsìgnsoIthcncgatìonoIcxìstcnccthcyrcadìnthcìr
Icaturcs. That ìs not to say that thcy Iovc thc young, onIy that
thcy cIìng to thcmìnanabsurdIongìng and wìth an cnvy thcy
cannotadmìttothcmscIvcs. Agaìnstthcjudgmcnt, passcdovcr
thc agìngbyyoung andoId, butaIways accordìng to thc IawoI
youthandìtsdrcadoIdccay, thcrcìsnoappcaI.Honorsthatscrvc
asabundanttcstìmonìcs toagìngandoIdhumanbcìngsarcIccbIc
andprovcnothìng.
Nothìng, cvcnwhcnthcvcncratìonoIthcgrcatoIdmanìsIuII
oI pomp and ccrcmony and cvcn whcn thc Iong appIausc oI
younghands cIappìngaccompanìcsthìscurìosìty oIagìnguponìts
cntrancc.
A.vìsìtsoncoIthcIccturcsoIJcan-PauISartrc,somcthìngthat
hasbccomc ararccvcntthcsc days.Twcntyycars agohcwasthc
godoIyouth, andcvcntodayhcIovcscspccìaIIytoappcarbcIorc
youngpcopIc, sìncc Iorhìmthc Iuturchas aIways bccn thcau-
thcntìcdìmcnsìonoIthchuman,andhc dcspìscsthcscarchIor
IosttìmcjustasmuchasthcromantìccrotìcìsmoIdcath. ¨LcIaux,
c´cstIamort" (IaIschoodìsdcath) , hchadwrìttcn. Hìswords ad-
drcssthcmscIvcsnottothoscIorwhomthcIaIscaIrcadycorrupts
70 I ON A GI NG
thcIookandroughcns thcvoìcc,buttothcyoungwho stìIIarc
whatthcypromìsctobccomc,whostrìdctowardwhatìscomìng,
towardthccvcnIìnworIdandspaccagaìnstwhìchthcymcasurc
thcìrcgoandIorwhìchthcyhavctoconstìtutcìt.Sartrcìsspcak-
ìngtothcstudcntsìnthcgrcathaIIoIaIargcWcstcrnEuropcan
unìvcrsìtyaboutIhcRusscIITrìbunaI.A.hadcomcIcssonaccount
oIthcthcmc-aboutwhìchhcìsadcquatcIyìnIormcd¬thanIor
thcsakcoIthcspcakcrhìmscII.Formanyycars,hchashcIdhìm
ìngrcat rcspcct. dcvcIopìng thcrcbya strongìntìmacy, thconc-
sìdcdncssoIwhìchhcwasscarccIyconscìousoI. Hchadagcdwìth
Sartrc. OnIya shabbyscvcnycarsscparatchìm,thcyoungcronc,
Iromhìsmastcr,butscvcnycarswhìch, asthctwooIthcm, thc
phìIosophcrandhìsrcadcr·pupìI,wcrccIìmbìngdownthc rungs
oIthcIaddcr,hadshrunkìnscaIctoanìnconscqucntìaItìmc-span
sothatA.couIdgraduaIIyIccIhcwasthcsamcagcasthcIccturcr.
Hchadsccnhìmabouttwcntyycarsago.Atthattìmc, Sartrcwas
youthpcrsonìhcd andspokc not onIyìntothc Iuturc but quìtc
rìghtIycvcnìnìtsnamc.Hcstoodbothatthcbcgìnnìngandatthc
pcakoIhìsIamc,hìscxìstcntìaIìsmwasthcIastwordìnthchìstory
oIìdcas.ThatìsonIyaIìttIcmorcthantwodccadcs ago. !n 1 946,
ìnspìtcoIhìsmuchdìscusscd¨ugIìncss,"cvcndcscrìbcdbySartrc
hìmscII ìn hìs autobìography, thc phìIosophcr cxudcd a strong
physìcaIIorccoIattractìon, somcthìngvìrìIcandpowcrIuI. But,
myCod,nowhchasbccomcaIraiI,tìrcdgcntIcman,ascnìIcman
wìthIIaccìd,paIc·grayIacc,ancmacìatcdbody,andancxhaustcd,
rattIìng voìcc, hc has bccomc oId wìth tìmc wcìghìng ìnsìdc of
hìm,andIoraIcWsccondsA.hndsìtdìIhcuIttorccognìzcagaìn
thc SartrcIromthcsprìngtìmcoI 1 946.
Hc ìs most dccpIy movcd about somcthìng IundamcntaIIy
sìmpIcandconstantIyknown,butwhìchagaìnandagaìnìstotaIIy
ncw. thatahumanbcìngcancomc to such astatc.A. knows, as
71 I The Look of Others
cvcryonc knows, thatthcgrcatphìIosophcrìnwhoschonorthc
studcntsarcnowrìsìngtothcìrIcctìsquìtcsìck,cnoughsothathìs
bìoIogìcaIagcmustbcrcIatìvcIyhìghcrthanhìschronoIogìcaIagc
andhìsphysìcaIdccaythcrcIorcwìthoutcxcmpIaryvaIucIorthc
agcoIasìxty-thrcc-ycar-oId.But whìIcthcIccturcrspcaks, Iogì-
caIIyvcryrìgorousasaIways,wìththcIorccoIhìsowndìaIcctìcaIIy
sharpcncdIormuIatìons, naìIìngthcpoIìtìcaI dcvcIopmcntsdown
ìn brìIIìant poìnts as hc phìIosophìcaIIyj ustìhcs thc RusscII Trì-
bunaIagaìnstthcAmcrìcanVìctnamWar,A.,whoìsonIyIìstcnìng
abscnt-mìndcdIytothctcxtoIthcIccturc, grows awarcthatìtìs
notncarIyasmuchthcphìIosophcr´sbodìIyIragìIìtythatshìItshìm
ìntothcpsychoIogìcaIstatcoIpaìnIuIand rcsìgncdtcndcrncssas
ìtìsSartrc´ssocial agc.EvcnthcphìIosophcroIbrcakìngthcIìmìts
oIthcscIIhasbccomcaprisoncr-notoIhìsIamc andrcputatìon,
asthcspcakcrwhoìntroduccdthc Iccturc saìd, sìncc Sartrc has
j ust brokcn out oI that-but ìnstcad thc prìsoncr oI thc tìmc
stackcdupìnsìdchìm,stìIIonIyspcakìngthctcxtsoIhìsroIcìnIìIc,
stìII onIybcìngwhat hcaccompIìshcdandthcrcIorcbcìngcondì-
tìoncdbythcsocìctythatstruck thc baIancc oIhìsIìIcandwork
andcompcIshìmtobcnoothcrthanjustJcan-PauISartrc,who
wrotcccrtaìn books andnotothcrs,whoìn 1 948 IoundcdapoIìtì-
caIpartythatdìdnotcvcnbccomcascct, whorcIuscdthcNobcI
Prìzc, andwho, asthcphìIosophcrwhobrokcdownboundarìcs,
scthìsownIìmìts,IìmìtsthatatthìsstagccannoIongcrbccrosscd,
cspccìaIIybya manwho has aIrcady agcd, whomayIìvc hItccn
morcycarsorj ustascasìIyonIyhvc.
Thc unIortunatcIy somcwhatraspìngvoìcc spcaks, appcaIs,
anaIyzcs, cxcrcìscsanundìmìnìshcdhìghIy sharpcncdìntcIIcct,
gìvcsordcrs.TwoandahaIIthousandpcopIchangoncvcryword
wìthcxtrcmcIyanxìousattcntìon.!tìsquìtcobvìousthatstanding
ìsnot casyIorthcspcakcr.PcrìodìcaIIy, hcbraccshìshandsvcry
72 I ON A GING
hìghagaìnsthìshìpsa s ìItohcIphìsbodycarryìtsownwcìght.Hìs
haìr,twcntyycar:agocoppcr-coIorcdandthìck,ìsnowstccI-gray
andscantandonIycovcrshìsbaIdìnghcadìnsìngIcstrands.But
A. ìsthìnkìngthaIcvcnthatìsnotthccsscntìaIthìng, aIthoughìt
ìntcnsìhcsthcpaìnIuItcndcrncsshcIccIsasthoughhcwcrc stand-
ìngdownthcrch¡mscIIandhadtosupportthcwcìghtoIhìsown
burdcnsomcbodywìth hìs arms braccd agaìnst hìs hìps. What
touchcs hìm, morc than thc physìcaI dccIìnc oI thc grcat man,
cvcnmorcthanthcknowIcdgcthatSartrchastorcmaìnSartrc
cvcnasanagìngman,cvcntopromotcthcmcmoryoIChcGuc-
varawìthoutbcìngabIctobccomcanothcrChc Gucvara,what
makcshìm,A. ,IccIthchardshìpoIhìsownsìtuatìonasanagìng
pcrsonìsthcìnsìghtìntothcwaythctwoandahaIIthousandat-
tcntìvcandrcspcctIuIyoungpcopIcarcstcaIìngIromthcoIdman
downbcIowthc Iastycars oIhìs IìIc-through thc mcrc Iact oI
thcìrbcìng youngand goìng Iorthìnto a worId that bcIongs to
thcm and only thcm. Thcy wìII rcadothcrbooks than thosc oI
Jcan-PauISartrc,othcrthanthoscthatJcan-PauISartrcrcad.Thcy
wìIIpopuIatcaworIdwìthoutSartrc. thcantì-SartrcworId,whìch
wìIIcxpandcvcnisìmagc,word,anddccdoIthc,bythcn,aIrcady
dcccascdSartrcwìIIbcaspctrìhcdandrìgìdashìsgravcstonc.Thc
IuturcoIthcscyoungpcopIcìs sct wìthìnthcmasaIactoIthcìr
bcìng young. ln thìs contcxt, that mcans that thcy arc rcady
bothtoscìzcthcworIdandtoIIowcIIusìvcIyìntoìt.Butsìnccthìs
IuturcworIdwìthoutSartrcìswìthìnthcm,ìnthcìrpro]cctstodo
thìsandthat,tovrìtcbooks,tomountpIatIorms,towatchmovìcs,
and to go to thc Congo, sìncc thcy carry thc antì- Sartrc worId
wìthìnthcm,thcyarcbccomìngthcmscIvcsSartrc´sadvcrsarìcs.
-NowthcygctuponccagaìnIromthcìramphìthcatrìcaIbcnchcs
andappIaud.Thcycannotknowthatthc cstccmthcydìspIayIor
thcagcdmanwhosnatchcsuphìspapcrsandmakcsIorthccxìt
73 The Look of Others
on hìs tìny Icct ìs ¨dìs-cstccm" and a maIìcìous condcmnatìon.
ThcywouIdhavctobcoIdthcmscIvcstorcaIìzchowthcrcspcct
oIIcrcdtothatwhìchwas andis bccomcsdìsparagcmcnt.Iorthcrc-
spcctIuIvìcwoIwhathasbccndocsnotaIIowanyIongcrthcbcIìcI
thatthcIattcrcanstìIIbecome. Thcìrtrìbutcìssombcr,Iìkcanobìt-
uary. !n ìt thcy antìcìpatc thc phìIosophcr's dcath. AppIausc.
Bravo, bravo. Butnowto ourscIvcsandthcworId! Agoodand
grcatoIdman.AItcrhìmgrcatcrandbcttcroncsarccomìng and
wc, thc young,wìIIbc thcrcwìththcm.-ThcgìgantìchaII cmp-
tìcs.
OnhìswayhomcthroughthccoIdcìty,whoscncwstrcctsand
buìIdìngs havc changcdsomuchthatìt´sa daìIy cIIort Iorhìmto
hndhìsway and notdrìvc ìnto aonc-waystrcct, A. ìsaIonc.But
hcìsmcntaIIywìthJcan-PauISartrc,whoscsocìaIagcìshìs,cvcn
thoughhcìshìmscIIashrìnkìngscvcn ycars youngcr.UnIìkchìs
grcatcomradc,whoatthìsmomcntìsprobabIyrctìrìngcxhaustcd
ìnhìshotcIroom,hcìsnotaIamousphìIosophcr.ButhcìsaIsoaI-
rcadywhathcwas, andIromhìm, too, thcyoungpcopIcIcavìng
thcIccturcandcrossìngthcstrccthavcstoIcnthcworIdthatthcy
arc rcadyto makc Irom hìs ìnto thcìrs. Thcy arc pIcasìngtoIook
at. Thcyarcahorror. Onc can, onc must,ìnstructthcm.ButIor
cvcrandcvcr, oncmustbcashamcdìnthcìrprcscncc,bcIorcthcìr
cmbraccs, bcIorcthcbooks thcypIan,thcpoIìtìcaIpartìcsthcywìIÌ
cstabIìsh.JusthowsìmpIcìt ìs. socìctyascrìbcsa socìaIagc tous.
!t dcstroys us onIy whcn thìs socìaI agc has rcachcd a IcvcI at
whìchthcworIdtakcsstockoIwhatwchavcdoncornotdonc.At
that poìnt, socìctyIoIIowsthc unwrìttcnIaws oIyouth,dcvcIopcd
ancwcvcryday, byhumanbcìngswhohavcboththcstatcoIbc-
comìng and thc Iuturc cntìrcIy to thcmscIvcs. Our socìaI
cxtìnctìonìnagcìsaIrcadyscttIcd,rcgardIcssoIwhcthcrournamc
ìs Sartrc or X. , rcgardIcss oI whcthcr wc arc accompanìcd by
74 I ON A GING
appIauscandthcIìghtoI IIashbuIbsordrìvcthroughthcstrccts
anonymousIy. Wc arc constìtutcdas bcìng such and such and
havìngthìsandthat-andthcrcbyIockcdoutoIthatwhìchbc-
comcs.ThcIutur:ìsaIrcadyatancnd. OursocìaIcgohasbccn
gìvcntousnomittcrhowmuchwcmaybcìncIìncd ìn IoncIy
hourstocoddIca hctìtìous¨truc" onc.!Iwc canonIystìIIchoosc
tobcTaIIcyrandìnthcmadhouscorthcgrcatpaìntcrìnthcCaIc
duDômc?Butno.
Wccan]ustas casìIy rc]cctboththcacccptancc oIthcvcrdìct
and ìts opcn rcIusaI-as most try to do, gìvìng thcìr oId agc ìts
appcarancc oI rìdìcuIousIy sunny good Iortunc. Thcnwc wìth-
drawìntoa scII-dcccptìonthatccrtaìnIyncvcrrcaIIytakcs usìn.
wc arc ncìthcrthc ncgatcd northc mcntaIIyìII,]ustagìngand
oIdpcopIc, anybody and cvcrybody, Iostìn thc ìndìIIcrcncc oI
normaIìty. Howarcyou?Fìnc, thanks, O.K.Iormyagc,]ustrìght
undcr thc cìrcumstanccs. And a IaIsc smìIc on thc Iacc oI thc
pcrson askìng thc qucstìon, a bashIuI onc on thc pcrson qucs-
tìoncd.That canbchandIcdIaìrIycasìIy, who´dwanttodcnyìt?
Thc worId, agrceabIy touchcd bccausc ìt docsn´t havc to bc
scrupuIous, taIks oIaposìtìvc attìtudc.Thatwc agcìn dìgnìty, as
ìt´scaIIcd, wìthoutrcvoIt, wìthoutIamcnt, ìs rcquìrcd-and such
a dcmand madc oI us, ìnaIIìanccwìth our own wcakncss and
Iassìtudc, cvcntuaIIy satìshcs.
A posìtìvc atIìtudc and dìgnìhcd agìng wìthout compIaìnt
havc two aspccts. Onc can pursuc changc and, as a Iavorìtc
prank oI scII-dcccptìon, ¨stay young wìth thc young. " Socìcty
wìth ìts cconom.c ìnstítutìons hcIps vìgorousIy. LìIc bcgìns at
Iorty, at hIty. ¨Howto rctìrc happìIy at hIty-hvc ìn CaIìIornìa. "
¨WomcncanbcscxuaIIyhappyaItcrmcnopausc. "CIothcsmakc
thcman, ìIyouwcarthcmyoung, thcnyouarcyoung.Thc samc
socìcty thatannìhìIatcs thc agìngbyputtìngthcmìnthc straìt-
75 The Look of Others
jackct oIan unchangcabIc cxìstcncc orcvcn cxpcIs thcmIromìts
cconomìc proccss rcquìrcs thcm to consumc thcìr agc as thcy
onccconsumcdthcìryouth.Thctcmptatìonìsgrcat,Iorwhocvcr
gìvcsìntoìt cvcntuaIIy rcaIIy catchcs hcrc and thcrc a IcwsmaII
crumbs oIthc worId. onc carrìcs hìmscII young andIashìonabIy,
marrìcsayoungwoman, and, whìIc whcczìng, danccsthcjcrk at
sìxty, thc othcr buzzcs aItcr tìmc, possìbIy ahcad oI ìt, appcars
cmbarrassìngIy wìIIìng to bc cnchantcd about thc conqucst oI
spacc, waywardkìds, andthcIatcstnovcIs,thìngssupposcdIyhII-
ìng hìm wìth cnthusìasm cvcn thoughìntruthhc hankcrsaItcr
hìs pcacc andquìct andwants to rcadFontanc.²Wìth thìs attì-
tudc, thosc who try to rcmaìn young ìn spIcndor do not hnd
thcmscIvcs ìn agrccmcnt wìth socìcty, but no doubt ìn accord
wìth ìts cconomìc and pubIìcìstìc Iacadc. Thcy do what ìs prc-
scrìbcdIorthcmbyadvcrtìscmcnts,postcrs, popuIarncwspapcr
artìcIcs, and cvcn scrìous socìoIogìcaIìnvcstìgatìons, IormuIatcd
ìnthcìrownwaytoscrvcthcapparatus oIsocìctyandpubIìshcd
Ior ìts purposcs. !t sccms to bc vcry pIcasant whcn onc ìs pcr-
mìttcd to obcy. And ìt docsn´t amount to anythìng whcn thc
commandìs gìvcnagaìnstthcbcttcrjudgmcntoIthccommandcr
andoncbows ìn obcdìcncc agaìnst onc´sownrcasonabIcìnsìght.
A ¨posìtìvc attìtudc" to agìng can aIso havc a compIctcIy
dIIIcrcntaIIurc. ThIswIIIccrtaInIynotbc sanctIoncdbythc cco-
nomìc apparatus, but through convcntìon It has rìscn to an
honor. wc arc spcakìng oIthc rctrcat oIthc agìngìnto an ìdyII.
Socìcty's annìhìIatìon ìs not ncgatcd by thcm bccausc thcygasp
Iortìmcbut, on thc contrary, bccausc thcyaIhrm ìts rapìd pacc
bywIthdrawìngIromìt. !tIs attractIvc andgoodtoagc.!´vcbccn
youngandcanaIsojoìnìnthc convcrsatìon, !´vcgottcnoId,and
thuswhat!saycounts.LongsìnccthcagìnghavcIcathcrcdthcìr
ncsts and arc tcndcrIy cuItIvatIng thcm wìth ¨Lct, ohworId, oh
76 I ON A GING
Ictmc bc."'Thcyarcsatìshcdthatsocìctygrantsthcmthcpcacc
oInothìngncssbyIcttìngthcmbcwhatthcyarc andwcrc. ltno
IongcrcxpcctsmuchIromthcm,onIythatthcyrcpIaywhat´s dc-
partcdIromthìs'ìIc andbccndccIarcddcad-aproIoundrcIìcI.
Thcysaythcyartharvcstìng.Thcy sìtwìthasunnyvìsagcatthc
wìndow and takc a Iook at thc worId as ìI through a rcvcrscd
opcra gIass. Whatcvcr raccs and struggIcs around ìn ìt ìs vcry
smaII to thcìrcycs.Les jeux sont faits (thc chìpsarc downj . thcy
don´tnccdtopIayanymorcandcanshìIttokìbìtzìng andgìvìng
dctachcd advìcc, thcy´vc donc thcìr part, now thc othcrs can
show what thcy can do. Wìthout cnvy thcy watch thc othcrs
wcarthcmscIvcsout.BIcsscdtìmc,lhavcaIrcadysccnsomuch,
throncsIaII, countrìcsarìsc,phìIosophìcs scìzcthcworIdandIadc
aItcr two dccadcs, Iashìons comc and go, pcopIc arc born and
dìc,you´vcgottostìcktothcgrcatandctcrnaIthìngs andtothc
strongbox you cantakcwìth you. OIdpcrsonsìdyIIìcaIIy agìng
takc as IìttIc noticc oI socìcty´s annìhìIatìonas thosc who stay
young and anìmatcd. thc Iattcr convìncc thcmscIvcs thcy can
catch upwìththc tìmc that roIIs ovcrthcm, thc Iormcr sìmpIy
dcny ìt by scttìng thcìr conccptuaI pocm oI ctcrnìty agaìnst ìt.
BothIìvcìn untruthanda mauvaise foi (badIaìthj .
Butthoscwho trytoIìvc thc truthoIthcìrcondìtìona s agìng
pcrsons, thoughthcy dìspcnsc wìththc Iìc, don´tcscapc thcam·
bìguìty that ìncvìtabIy has to turn out ìn thc cnd as an opcn
contradìctìon.Thcyacccptan-nìhìIatìon, knowìngthatìnthìs ac-
ccptanccthcycanonIyprcscrvc thcmscIvcsìIthcyrìscupìnrc-
voItagaìnstìt, butthatthcìrrcvoIt-and hcrc thc acccptancc ìs
anaIhrmatìon oI somcthìngìrrcvocabIc-ìs condcmncdto IaìI-
urc. Thcy sayno to an-nìhìIatìon andat thc samctìmcycs toìt,
IoronIyìnthìsIutìIcdcnìaIcanonc prcscntoncscIIataII as one­
self to thc ìncvítabIc. Thcy do not Iosc thcmscIvcs ìn thc
77 I The Look of Others
ìt´s-aII-thc-samc-to-mc oIa normaIcy wìthout scII, nor do thcy
IookIorrcIugc ìnthc madhousc, nordothcydcccìvc thcmscIvcs
wìtha maskoIyouth, norwìtha dccpIydcccìvìngìdyIIoIagìng.
Thcy arc as socìctyprcscrìbcs. what thcyarc, a nothìng, and yct
ìn thc rccognìtìon oI bcìng nothìng stìII somcthìng. Thcy makc
thcìrncgatìonìn thc Iook oIthc othcrs ìnto somcthìng oI thcìr
own and rìsc up agaìnst ìt. Thcy cmbark on an cntcrprìsc that
cannotbcaccompIìshcd. Thatìsthcìrchancc andìs, pcrhaps, thc
onlypossìbìIìtythcyhavc oI truly agìng wìthdìgnìty.
Not to Understand
the Wo rld Anymo re
Whocvcrgcts to thc thrcshoId, onc carIicr in ycars, thc othcra
IittIc Iatcr, somc armorcd with honcsty, othcrs snarcd in scII-
dcccption, aIIoIthcmturningout to bcIcss soIid, thcyaII havc
toIcarnata ccrtainpointthatthcydo not undcrstandthcworId
anymorc. This aspcctoIsociaIaging-gcttingculturally oIdinthc
widcstscnsc-usuaIIybccomcscIcarinarathcrsIow,undramatic
proccss oI succcssivcinsights. At hrst thcrc is oItcn onIya numb
IccIing oIavcrsionagainstwhat a particuIaraging pcrson might
caII thc ¨cuIturaIjargon" oIhis cpoch. With this IccIing, hc cuts
himscII oII Irom asking whcthcr hc docsn´t aIso spcak such a
j argon, aIbcit supcrannuatcd, and not, as hc thinks, a purc Ian-
guagc, the Ianguagc pIain and simpIc. Thcn sIight discomIort
accompanics him whiIc rcading ccrtain pcriodicaIs and books,
and hc wiII bc incIincd to taIk with a disapproving, rcsigncd
shrug oI thc shouIdcrs about Iashion, snobbism, isms, vcrbaI
pomposity, taIk hc oItcn dcnics himscII, sincc no onc Iikcs to
stand oII inbackward spitcIuIncss. This thoroughIytriviaI rcsis-
tanccagainstthc ncwand unusuaImaybc rccognizcdby thosc
79 I Not To Understand the World Anymore
cducatcd ìn thc hìstory oI ìdcas as a constantIy rccurrìng phc-
nomcnon. Thcy may knowwhat transpìrcdìn Parìs at thc hrst
cxhìbìtìonoIthcìmprcssìonìstsìn 1 874, why ìthadtohappcnas
ìt dìd, onwhatbasìsthc rcsìstancc agaìnst Monct and hìs Irìcnds
cvcntuaIIy grcw Iamc ìn cmbarrassmcnt.
Buttoday,ìtwìIlstìIInotbccasyIorthcmtoconvcrtthcìrdìs-
pIcasurc wìth Icttrìsm ( or ìnIra· and uItra-Icttrìsm) ' ìnto a
dcmonstratìonoItoIcrancc-Iorthcm onIya IormoIìncomprc-
hcnsìon anyway. ThcìnsubordìnatìonoIthcagìngconhncsìtscII
hcrc not onIytothosc cuIturaI phcnomcna that rcquìrc an cx-
pcndìturcoIìntcIIcctuaIcIIort,arcadjustmcntoIonc´sscnsìbìIìty,
buttothcmostìncìdcntaIdcvcIopmcnts, suchascIothìngIashìons.
NomattcrhowoItcn A. IcaIsthroughthcIashìonmagazìncs,
knowìngprccìscIythatshcwìIIhavchcrcIothcsprcparcdwìtha
modcratc downpIayìng oI IashìonabIc rcquìrcmcnts, thc ncw
modcIsarcapronounccddìspIcasurctohcrandsccmtobcabsurd.
Thìstìmc, too, A.ìsdìsagrccabIystìrrcdbywhatìstohcrthcbla-
tantIyìdìotìccxtravaganccoIthcmodcIs.AsshchasaIrcadydonc
somctìmcsonsìmìIaroccasìons,shcgctsouthcrphotoaIbumwìth
ìts oId pìcturcs ìn ordcrto hnd oncc agaìnwhat shcthìnkswas
rcaIIyattractìvcandbccomìngìncontrasttothcìrrìtatìngcrcatìons
thcdcsìgncrsarcburdcnìnghcrwìththìsycar.But wìthhcrhrst
IookatthcIìttIcpìcturcsIromthcIatcthìrtìcs,somcthìnghappcns
thatshchadaIrcadyantìcìpatcdcvcnbcIorcshcgotoutthcaIbum,
somcthìngshchadstìIIdcnìcdcvcnìnthcmìdstoIhcrIorcbodìng
and agaìnst a bcttcrjudgmcnt bascd on past cxpcrìcnccs. rìght
bcIorchcrcycs, thcIashìonoIhcryouth,her Iashìon,ancsscntìaI
partoIthccgobuìItupbyhcrmcmory, bccomcssomcthìngcom-
pIctcIyìmpossìbIc,atIcastasgrotcsqucasthcmodcIswìthwhom
shcwìIIhavctomakcIrìcndsìnthccomìngscason.Thcrcshcìs
hcrscII,standìngundcratrcc. SuppIcwavcsoIhaìrrcguIarIyun-
80 I ON A G ING
duIatìngìntohcrchccks,a skìrtrcachìngaImosttohcrankIcs, a
j ackctwìthcomìcaIIycutconcavcpaddcdshouIdcrs,anìndcscrìb-
abIc sIouchhat, cycsturncd upìnawaythat, shakìnghcrhcad,
shccannotdcscrìbcasanythìngbutaudacìous.HowcouIdshcand
cvcnthcothcrscvcrhavcIìkcdanythìngIìkcthat?Furthcrmorc,
shchastoIcarnhowcvcnthcmostbanaIconscqucnccsoIcvcnts
ncvcrturnoutsìmpIy.lIìtwcrcsoIcIywhatpcopIcsayandtaIk
aboutwìthoutthìnkìng-oId-IashìoncdthìngsarcIunnyandcm-
barrassìngbccauscthcyhavcbccnknownIoraIongtìmcandwc
wcrcthcrcwhcnthcywcrcovcrtakcnbytìmc,ìncontrasttothc
hìstorìcthìngs,unknownIoraIongtìmc,atwhoscsadcapìtuIatìon
wcwcrcnotprcscnt-ìIthìngsrcaIIybchavcdthatway,wccouId
notcxpIaìnhowthcoutmodcdìmmcdìatcIyIoscsanyrìdìcuIous-
ncsswhcnìtìsnoIongcrmcrcIyIookcdatbutremembered. A.cIaps
thcphotoaIbum>hut, cIoscshcrcycs, sìnksìntothcpast: shchas
trackcddownthcIìttIchat,paddcdjackct,ankIc-Icngthskìrtand
Icrrctcdthcmoutashcrown,nowshcrcconstructsthcgcsturcoI
turncd upcycsandìsagaìntotaIIyccrtaìnoIìtscharmìngcIIcct.
ThoscIormcrwavcsoIhaìrIaIIìngìntohcrchccks,now,sìnccA.
thìnksshccantouchthcmagaìnwìthhcrhands, havcrcgaìncd
thcìrgraccoI 1 938. ThcIcsìonhashcaIcdovcr.A.mayonccagaìn
trustthcantìpathyshcIcItIorthcncwmodcIandhadtogìvcup
ìncmbarrassmcntwhcnshcIookcdatthcoIdphotos. OIcoursc,
shcwìIIrccommtndthcIashìonabIccrcatìonstohcrdrcssmakcr
asanìnspìratìon,butshcwìIIwcarthcsccIothcsagaìnsthcrown
convìctìon asan unIortunatcIyncccssary conccssìonto socìcty.
ShchcrscIIwìIIrcmaìnthcgìrIoIthattìmc,bcyondsuchup-to-
datc costumcs-and wìll protcct hcrscII Irom thcpìcturcs that
qucstìonhcrscII-cstccm.thcscshowhcrthcIashìonoIthattìmc,
brokcn,corruptcd,transIormcdbythcIookoItoday,thcwardrobc
oIycstcrdayrcgaìnsìtsauthcntìcìtyìnmemor. ThcunrcaIìtyoIan
81 I Not To Understand the World Anymore
cvcntthat cannotbctransIatcdIromthc obj cctìvcphysìcaIìtyoI
thc ccrcbraIproccssìnto thc subjcctìvccxìstcnccoIarcmcmbcr-
ìngpcrccptìonìsmorcrcaIthanthctangìbIcrcaIìtyoIapìcturc.
ThatconcIusìonstìIIhasnotcxprcsscdanythìngaboutthccuI-
turaI aIìcnatìon oI agìng human bcìngs, about thc stubborn
ìndìgnatìon,wcIIìngupìnsìdcthcmagaìnstthcìrbcttcrjudgmcnt,
ataIIthatìsncwcomìngtowardthcm. Butmaybcìt sìgnaIsthata
starthasbccnmadc. WccanabstractIromA. ´ scxpcrìcncc, thìs
thoroughIybanaIcxpcrìcnccthatcachandcvcryagìngpcrsoncan
rcproducc atwìII, andshìIttothcbasìcIactsthatarchìddcnìnìt.
WhcnshcIcaIsthroughthcphotoaIbum, A. sccs thcIashìonoI
thc past Iromwìthìnthc sìgn systcm oIthc prcscnt, whcrc shc
anxìousIyrcmaìnsìnspìtcoIhcrrcsìstancc. !nhcrproccssoIrc-
mcmbcrìng, shc rcIatcsthc samc data about Iashìontothc sìgn
systcm oIIormcrtìmcs, towhìch shc ìs Iìkcwìsc bound, havìng
noncthcIcss constructcd hcrcgooutoIhcrrcmìnìsccnccs.
Thc cuIturaI aIìcnatìon oI thc agìng pcrson cannot bc ìn-
tcrprctcd cxccpt as thc dìIhcuIty oI hndìng onc´s way ìn an
unknown array oI sìgns, cvcn among compIctcIy ncw sìgnaIs.
Justas anautodrìvcrwhowas travcIìngthroughEngIandIorthc
hrsttìmc bcIorc thc traIhc sìgnaIs had bccnthoroughIy coordì-
natcd wìth thosc on thc contìncnt Iost aII scII-conhdcncc and
was onIy ablc to contìnuc slowIy, wìtha IccIìng oI constrìctìon,
thc agìng crr through thc cuIturaI sìgns oI thcìr cpoch. ForA. ,
whcncvcr shc IccIs dìstrcsscd by thc Iatcst Iashìon, thc haII-
cxposcduppcrthìghoIa womanaIwayshas thc sìgnìhcancc ìt
hadìnhcryouth. a provocatìvcacknowIcdgmcntoIcrotìcrcadì-
ncssandconscqucntIy-agaìnaccordìngtothcsìgnsyntaxoIthc
past-ìndcccncy. !nthcsystcm oIthcprcscnt, howcvcr, thcsìgns
havc bccn arrangcd dìIIcrcntIy. Thc nakcd uppcr thìgh ìsnotan
acknowIcdgmcnt oIcrotìc rcadìncss any morc, ìt ìs no Iongcra
82 I ON A GING
provocatìon, andprovocatìon can no Iongcrbc assìgncdtothc
conccptoIìndcccncy.As ìthappcns,whatwcspccìhcaIIycaIIthc
mcanìng oI a sìgn ìs pcrhaps not uncondìtìonaIIy thc sìgnìhcd
ìtscIIbutìnstcadthcrcIatìonshìpoIoncsìgntoothcrs, sothatthc
mcanìngIuI systcm consìsts ìnthcrcIatìons oI cach sìngIc sìgnto
cvcryothcr onc.
To thc cxtcnt that thc agìng try to sìtuatc thc cuIturaI phc-
nomcna oIthìscurrcnttìmctoaccordwìththcrcIcrcnccpoìntsoI
thcìrpast-whìch was their tìmc bccauscìtpromìscd thcm thc
Iuturc, thc worId, and spacc-thcy bccomc morc and morc
strangcrs to thcìr cpoch. Thc strangcncss bccomcs manìIcst to
thcmasunccrtaìnty,andìtobjcctìhcsìtscIIìnìIIhumorandìmpo-
tcntrcjcctìon.A :ìxty-ycar-oIdmanwhoIoIIowsthcìntcIIcctuaI
dìscussìon oI thc day wìII IrcqucntIy tcnd to vìcw thc conIIìct
bctwccnratìonaIìsmandìrratìonaIìsm, thcBcrgson-Bcndaargu-
mc nt,asthccardìnaIqucstìondìvìdìngthcìntcIIcctuaIIcadcrs.!I
hc thcn bccomcs awarc that thc Marxìsts, whom hc has con·
sìdcrcdnotwìthoutjustìhcatìontobcatIcastthcarms-bcarcrsoI
thcratìonaIìstìcIorccs,arcnowpartIydccIarìngaIIcgìancctoHcì-
dcggcr, thcìntcIIcctuaIspìrìtoIthcagcwìIIncccssarìIysccmout
oIpIacctohìm, cvcnIìtcraIIyoutoIìtsmìnd. thcphìIosophìcaI
mathcmatìcsoIhìscpochìsturnìngìntoawìtch´sonc-tìmcs-onc.²
Thc samc Icar, cvcnpanìc, scìzcs hìm whcn thc IIashback ìna
contcmporarymovìcdocsnothavcanysìgnìhcanttcmporaIIogìc
and, ìnthcmìdstoIthcncwordcroIsìgns, hcìsnotonIyunabIc
to contìnucto cvaIuatcthc hImacsthctìcaIIy but musttakc thc
grcatcstcIIortjus|toIoIIowthcactìon-whìchìnthc scnsc oIan
carIìcrsìgnsyntaxìsìnmanywaysno suchthìnganymorc. Just
asthcagìngcannothndthcìrwayìnacìtythatchangcsìtstopog-
raphyIromycartoycar,Irommonthtomonth,justasthcìrworId
atIasìs oI no usctothcmanymorc sìncc thc IormcrBrìtìshand
83 I Not To Understand the World Anymore
Frcnch coIonìcs havc Iong sìnccbccomcncwscII-suIhcìcntstatcs
whoscnamcsthcycanonIyrctaìnwìthdìIhcuIty,sothcywandcr
dcspcratcIythroughthcundcrbrushoIncwtoncscrìcsìnmusìc-
ìt makcs no dìIIcrcncc whcthcr ìnstrumcntaI or concrctc-and
ncwstructurcsoIwordsandscntcnccs. Onchastohavcpatìcncc
wìth thcm, asmuch wìththcìrrcactìonaryand obduratcIackoI
undcrstandìngìnthcIaccoIncwpoctìcstructurcsaswìththcìr
toIcrancc, condìtìoncdbythc samc non undcrstandìng, andthcìr
prccìpìtous, but ìIIcgìtìmatc, aIhrmatìon oI cvcrythìng thc day
brìngsthcm.
HcrcabovcaII wc nccdtobcarìn mìndthatwìthìn ourcon-
tcmporaryworIdthcsìgnsystcmsarccxtrcmcIydìIIcrcntìatcd. A
supcrsystcm ìs no doubtconstantIycstabIìshìngìtscIIasthcrcsuIt
oIa compIìcatcd proccss by whìch ìmportancc ìs dìstrìbutcd. !n
our days, thìs supcrsystcm ranks structuraIìsm, Ior ìnstancc,
ahcadoIcxìstcntìaIìsm, thcNcwNovcI, ìndcpcndcntoIchronoI-
ogy and no Iongcr obIìgatcd to thc dcIìncatìon oI charactcr,
ahcad oI thc rcaIìstìc onc; thc Marxìsm oI a Marcusc, drawn
cspccìaIIy Irom HcgcI, as morc progrcssìvc than thatoIthc Kan-
tìan MaxAdIcr. Evcnconccpts Iìkc ¨Papa´s cìncma" havcaIrcady
madc thcìr way ìnto thc daìIy prcss, thc agìng thcmscIvcs usc
thcmand thcrcby acccpt thc vaIuc systcm contaìncd ìn thcm,
cvcn ìI wìth mìstrust and dìscomIort. Wìthìn cach prcvaìIìng
supcrsystcm, partIy ìn contradìctìon to ìt, but ncvcr compIctcIy
ìndcpcndcnt oI ìt, spccìaI systcms arc Iormcd. Thcsc spccìaI sys-
tcms, unstabIc arrangcmcnts oItastcìnthc acsthctìcrcaIm, no
Icss sIack and uncIcar ìntcIIcctuaI schcmata ìn thc ratìonaI-
ìntcIIcctuaI rcaIm, ovcrIap cach othcr. Anyonc whoIìvcs mcn-
taIIywìthìnthcsystcmoIncoposìtìvìsmconIormstopoìnts oIor-
ìcntatìon dìIIcrcntIromthoscoIthcstructuraIìst, whìIcthcIattcr
ìsrcIatcdtodìIIcrcnt rcIcrcnccs, dìIIcrcntnotonIyIromthoscoI
84 I ON A GING
thc Iormcr, but aIsoIromthosc oIa Marxìst, an cxìstcntìaIìst, or
a phcnomcnoIogìst. Butcommontothcmìsthcìrìndcpcndcncc
Irom outmodcd systcms: what was caIIcdthc phìIosophyoIIìIc
around thc turn oIthc ccnturyìsIorcìgnand a mattcr oIìndìI-
Icrcncc to thcm, ìnthìsrcspcctthcyaIImovcwìthìnthccompIcx
oIthcìr cpoch. Thc morc cncompassìnga systcmìs, thc morc ìt
ìs both abstract andundìIIcrcntìatcdIorthc subjcct. Thc supcr-
systcmorthcsystcmsoIthccpochhavcaIcssìmmcdìatcgrìp on
thc ìndìvìduaIthanthc narrowcr structuraI dìsposìtìonìnwhìch
cach Iìvcs. Thc conccpts oIthc phìIosophy thcy´vc scIcctcd con-
ccrn thc structuraIìsts morc than thosc oI Marxìsm, but ìn
common wìth thc Marxìsts thcy havc an casìcr acccss to thc
structuraIdìsposìtìon oIMarxìsmthantothat oIaThcodorLcss-
ìngoraLudwìgKIagcs.'Thcnarrowcstandmostconcrctc systcm
ìs naturaIIy aIways thc ìndìvìduaI onc whosc ccntcr ìs thcn no
Iongcrthc ¨spìrìtoIthctìmcs, " norcvcnthìs orthatdoctrìnc, but
thc individuals thcmscIvcsìnthcìrownpcrson.hcrcthcnthcrcI-
crcnccsbccomcpsychoIogìcaIdata.lIthcyappcaras cmotìonaIIy
coIorcd, thcyhavc cxìstcntìaI dcnsìty.
BccausccvcryìndìvìduaIìsthcccntcroIaspccìhcsìgnsystcm,
bccauscthcmìddIcrcIcrcnccpoìntoIthcsystcmìshìsorhcrown
cxìstcnccandhasarrangcdaIIothcrpoìntsoIrcIcrcnccasthcyarc
andnotothcrwìsc,ìtìsthcrcIorcsocxtraordìnarìIydìIhcuItIorthc
agìngtograspthcsìgnsoIanagcwhìch, comìngìntobcìng rìght
bcIorcthcìrcycs,ìsstcadìIyccasìngtobcatthcìrdìsposaI.ltmìght
bc dìIhcuIt, IorcxampIc, IoramangcttìngonìnycarstodccIarc
anythìngIìkcUIrìch´sconvcrsatìonswìthhìsIrìcndWaItcrìnThe
Man without Qualities, thcoperationes spirituales oIMssrs.Naphtaand
ScttcmbrìnììnThe Magic Mountain, orthcantìcIcrìcaIìsmoIthctìtIc
charactcrìnMartìn du Card´sJean Barois asìnsìgnìhcantor]ust
hìstorìcaIIyìntcrcstìng.Orhc´IIhavcthcsamccxpcrìcnccasA.ob-
85 I Not To Understand the World Anymore
scrvìnghcroIdphotos.hcmìghtsmìIc ovcrthc argumcntscarrìcd
onbythcJcwìsh Jcsuìt andthc!taIìanFrccmasonìnthcthìnaìr
oIDavos, but whcn hc swìtchcs dìrcctIyto thcm aItcr rcadìnga
modcrndìaIcctìcìan, hcwìII,justIìkcA.wìththcIashìonoI 1 938,
assoonashchaspushcdhìsdìaIcctìcìanawaycvcnIoramìnutc,
exerience them as he remembers them, asthe stìIIcsscntìaIdìscussìons,
andwìII hnaIIy dccmtoday's dìaIcctìcaIwìt tobcsupcrIIuousIy
ovcrproIound or hìgh-hattcd babbIìng. For thc narrowcst oI
systcms ìs that partìcuIar onc whìch, gìvìng powcr and makìng
ordcr, ìsthcmìddIcpoìntoIonc'scgo, thcconstìtucntoIthìscgo.
cvcryrcIatìon,cvcryIìgurcoIthìssystcmìsapìcccoIoncscII.!Iìt
ìsnowthccascthatIorthcagìngthcsupcrsystcmoIthcìrcpoch
and thc majorìty oI thc ìnIrasystcms Iormcdwìthìnthc supcr-
systcmstìII onIy contaìn grcatIy transIormcd cIcmcnts oI thcìr
pcrsonaIsystcm,thcìraIìcnatìonwìIIbctotaIandthcwaysoutrc-
maìnìngtothcmwìIIonIyIcadìntostìIIdccpcraIìcnatìons.!Ithcy
answcr thc gìvcn systcm wìth a curt rcIusaI-"Ah, ycs, aII that
caIIsìtscIIphìIosophythcscdaysìscmptytaIk,hopcIcssdrìvcIìs
oIIcrcdusaspaìntìng,anarchìcaIquackcryprcscntcdaspoctry"-
thcn thcy stcp out oIthcìrtìmc, bccomc strangcrs to thc worId
and downrìght cranks. !I thcy try, howcvcr, to acccpt thc ncw
systcms, Iorwhìch thcy mustaIways pay thc prìccoIthcdcmo-
IìtìonoIthcìrìndivìduaIsystcm,thcythcnIorcgowhatwasycstcr-
day stìII thcìrown, bccomc (ìn thc cxact mcanìng oIthc word)
ìnauthcntìc, andcannotwìththìsdubìousbusìncsscvcnbargaìn
IorthcrccognìtìonoIthcrcprcscntatìvcsoIthcprcvaìIìngsystcm.
Quìtc rìghtIythcIattcrwìIIsaythat, tobc surc, suchoIdpcopIc
mcanvcrywcIIand, thoughoId,arcatIcastaIways ¨rcccptìvcto
ncwìdcas,"butncccssarìIyIackthcrìghtundcrstandìng.Wìththat
rcmarkìtaIIIaIIsìntopIacc. ThcncwsìgnsandthcìrrcIatìonshìps
aIwayshavcIuIIvaIìdìtyandacccssìbìIìtyonIyIorthosc whoarc
86 I ON A GING
thcmscIvcs a part oI thcìr ìnvcntìon and dcsìgn, thcy arc onIy
Icarncd whìIc bcìng crcatcd. Thc strangcrs who arc gucsts oI
IormcrtìmcswìIIconstantIyhndthcìrwayaroundìnthcmonIy
wìthdìIhcuIty, Iìkc thcdrìvcroIa carìnthc mìdst oIunknown
traIhcsìgns.
Fora Iongtìmc, A. hasbccntryìng to kccp upwìtha cIcvcr
andvchcmcntmodcrnIìtcrarycrìtìcwhowìthoutmuchadohas
dccIarcdonc oIthcIavorìtcwrìtcrs oIhìsyouth, thcSwìsswrìtcr
bornìn Swabìa, HcrmannHcssc, tobcaproduccroIkìtsch. O.K. ,
cvcnhc, A. , hasnotrcmaìncd uncondìtìonaIIy IaìthIuItopoor
Hcssc,andnowìIhcwcrctorcrcadthcpartwhcrc Dcmìanand
hìs Romantìc Irìcnd Pìstorìus starc togcthcr ìnto thc gIowìng
coaIs, cvcn hc wouId probabIy hnd ìt tcdìous rcadìng. Pctcr
Camìnzìnd´sIovcIorthcIìttIcbourgcoìsdaughtcrRösì Cìrtanncr
strìkcs hìm as rathcrnarrow and stodgy. !Ihc happcns to opcn
Steppenwolf agaìnandrcadaboutthcpassìonoIHarryHaIIcr,thc
StcppcnwoII, Ior hìs androgynous Hcrmìnc, A. admìts thcrc ìs
dchnìtcIysomcthìngbothpompousandcomìcaboutìt. ForCod´s
sakc, anoIdIcIIowoIhItyhasbcIatcdIyIcarncdthatìt ìs OKto
sIccpwìth an attractìvc womanl Hcssc shouIdnot havc madc
such a Iuss about thc trìvìaI story. But to dcaI wìth thc word
kìtsch asbrìskIy asthccrìtìc docs sccms toA. to bc a somcwhat
rìsky busìncss. Hc´d Iìkc both to puII hìmscII togcthcr to a
modcrn crìtìcaI vchcmcncc and to rccommcnd tothc crìtìc thc
kìnd oI toIcrancc Ior thc oId wrìtcr that hc hìmscII ìs rcady to
oIIcrthc ncw, knowIngìnthcproccss thattoIcranccìnthatpIacc
ìsnotcxactIytoIcranccandthatthcncwìsaIwaysrìghtquìtcsìm-
pIybccauscìt ìs Iurthcr aIong ìn tìmc. How docs ìt aII rcIatc to
kìtsch and cuIturaI agìng, A. asks hìmscII. Docsìt happcnìn thìs
casc thc wayìt docs wìth Iashìon, whcrc ycstcrday´sstyIc ìs cm-
87 , Not To Understand the World Anymore
barrassìng and rìdìcuIous and a paìnIuI shamc soIcIy Ior thc
thoroughIy suIhcìcnt rcason that ìt ìsunIortunatcIy ycstcrday´s
styIc? ApparcntIy. !nany casc, ìt ìs strìkìng howbothìn Iashìon
andìn Iìtcrary acsthctìcs thc hìstorìcaI-and cvcn whcn ìt was
notsanctìhcdbytradìtìonaIcducatìon-docsnotsuccumbtothc
proccss. baroquc wrìtcrs Iìkc Lohcnstcìn and HoImannswaIdau
arc curìous, but no Icss rìdìcuIous than thc pcacock-Iìkc mcn´s
Iashìons oI thc Rcnaìssancc. Laughtcr and ashamcd dìstrcss,
thcrcIorckìtsch-A. ìs thìnkìnghowthatìsconstantIywhatwas
experienced yesterday as somcthìngfashionable. Hcsscandthcadjcc-
tìvc ¨comcIy,´' thcy´vc had ìt now bccausc thcy bcIong to
ycstcrday and wcrcpopuIarycstcrday, thatìs, thcywcrc worn
out by mass usc, dcvaIucd. KaIka, who was wrìtìng hìs coId
pìcccs oI horror at thc samc tìmc Hcssc gavc hìmscII ovcr to
comcIìncss, was not caughtbythc kìtsch-makìng proccss, a hìs-
torìcaI proccss, cvcn whcrc ìt has to do wìth contcmporary
kìtsch. That´s not bccausc hìs work ìs constructcd oI cIcmcn¹s
thatarc sovcrydìIIcrcntIrom thosc oIHcssc-by thc way, arc
thcyrcaIIyvcrydìIIcrcnt, andìsìtpurccoìncìdcnccthatprccìscIy
Hcsscwas onc oIthc hrstto rcIcr toKaIka wìth cmphasìs?-but
bccausc thc man Irom Praguc, contrary to thc Swabìan Swìss,
hadncvcrbccna contcmporaryIashìon.ThcrcwasonIya KaIka
IashìonwhcnKaIkanoIongcr cxìstcd, ìtthcrcIorc couIdmakc ìts
appcarancc wìththc aIIurc oIanantìIashìon, constìtutìng ìtscII as
both hìstorìc and poìntìng towardthc Iuturc.
No mattcr how hard hc trìcs, A. hnds nothìng morc than a
thcorctìcaIand purcIy abstract rcIìcIìn tryìng to rcmcmbcrhow
acsthctìcandìntcIIcctuaI transIormatìons havc runthcìr coursc
orìntryìngto Icgìtìmìzc hìstorìcaIIyhìs cuIturaI outmodcdncss.
For hc ìs outmodcd ìn anìncurabIc way, sìncc hc undcrstands
thc kìtschoIthc word ¨comcIy" wìthhìs hcadbut notwìthhìs
88 I ON A GI NG
scnscs.Thus hc docs notathrst doubt thathìs crìtìcaI mìndhas
Iound ìtscII on wìId goosc chascs, bccausc hc ncvcr took thc
troubIc toqucstìonthcrcIatìonshìps ¨comcIy"mìghthavchadto
thcothcrsìgnswìthìnthc sìgnsystcmìnwhìchHcsscwasIìvìng.
How dìdthcìncrìmìnatìngad]cctìvc´sIìncs oIrcIcrcncc conncct
tothc sìngIc acsthctìc componcnts oIthc cvcrydayIanguagc oI
thctìmc, tothcIashìonsíndrcss, tothcIanguagcoIpoctryìnthc
schooIrcadcrs,andtothc othcrIanguagcthatwas at thattìmc
¨modcrn, " tothccurrcntsoundandímagc structurcs?Thcyoung
gìrIs a Ia Rösì CìrtanncrpIaycd Sìndìng´s ¨RustIc oI Sprìng" on
thcpìano. LìIìcncronwasrcad. Stormhadnotyctbccn dcadIor
Iong. ComcIywasnotyctcomcIy,HcsscwasnotHcsscanymorc
thanthcHöIdcrIìnoI 1 800 hadbccnHöIdcrIìn. `-A. ìsthìnkìng
howhìs cncrgctìccrìtìcdìdnotconsìdcrsuchthíngswhcn stcmy
passìng ]udgmcnt, rìghtIy or wrongIy, about sìgns that had
mcanìngonIywíthìn a cIass oIsìgns. Howcvcr, thccrìtìcaI]udgc
oIHcssccannotbc dìsposcd oIso casìIy. hc hasmadcusc oIhìs
compctcnccasa man oIhìstìmctobuìIdon thc sìgn systcm oI
hìs tìmc aIong wìth othcrs and has pIaccd thc Hcssc sìgns ìnto
ncw rcIatìonshìps, thcrcby rcvaIuìng and changìng thcm. Thc
crìtìc´s actìon was not ìIIìcìt, Ior thc systcms arc ccrtaìnIy not
statìcbutarc ìna proccss oIpcrmancntrcncwaI. ¨ComcIy" and
Hcssc, HöIdcrIìnandthcwaIIsthatstandspccchIcssìn thcwìnd,
cvcn DchmcI and hìs djagloni gleia klirrla, 6 ìt aII gocs Irom onc
ycartoanothcrìnto a ncwsìgnsystcmandchangcsìtsmcanìng.
Thìs crìtìc has actcd as a stcward oI sìgns and thc gìvcr or thc
takcroImcanìng. Onc hasto Icthìm do ashcIìkcs.
Asthc cascmaybc.A.ìsnotaskcdataIIwhcthcrhcconscnts
to a proccdurc or not. Hìs dcIìbcratìons, thc thought scqucnccs
oIanagìngpcrson,brcakapartonathrcshoIdoIthìnkìngwhcrc
hc must rccognìzcthathchìmscIIcan never be right in opposition to
89 I Not To Understand the World Anymore
that sharp critic, cvcnìI thc Iattcrìs not aIways thoroughIy rìght
about cvcrythìng. That´s bccauscIorA.thcrcìs a spccìaI ìncxtìn-
guìshabIc statc oIaIIaìrs rcgardìng outmodcdphcnomcna. thcsc
phcnomcna arc sìgns wìthìn hìs ìndìvìduaI sìgn systcm. Thcìr
rcIcrcntìaIIìnksarc tìcdnotonIyto ìntcrsubjcctìvcIy hxabIc rcI-
crcnccpoìnts-thus ¨comcIy" docsnotcxcIusìvcIybcIong tothc
gìrIspIayìng Sìndìng´s ¨RustIc oI Sprìng" orto thc cssays ìn thc
Neue Rundschau at that tìmc-but to dchnìtc, hìghIy pcrsonaI
cìrcumstanccs, toapartmcnts, strccts, cìtìcshcIìvcdìnwhcnhc
rcad oI comcIìncss and djagloni, gìrIs hc Iovcd, oI coursc, but
much morc trìIIìng thìngs as wcII. suìts hc worc, caIcs hc Irc-
qucntcd. !t ìs sìmpIy ìmpossìbIc Ior hìm-or anyonc cIsc-to
brcak out oI thc ìndìvìduaI systcm whosc vìtaI aroma hc has
draggcd wìth hìm through thc ycars. A. suddcnIy has somc
undcrstandìngIorthc Iormcravant-gardìstErncstAnscrmctwho
wrotc a totaIIy rcactìonarybook agaìnst scrìaI musìc. Hc grasps
thc humìIìatìng sccnc hc wìtncsscd, whcrc thc Iormcr rcbcI,
OskarKokoschka, nowgrown oId, pourcd Iorth vcrìtabIc cnor-
mìtìcs about modcrn paìntìng. !t ìs no morc possìbIc Ior hìm,
muchyoungcrthanKokoschka andAnscrmct, to gctawayIrom
¨comcIìncss, "ì. c. , to arrangc thìs ¨comcIìncss" ìn a ncw cIass oI
sìgns÷÷bccausc, as sìgns oIhìs ìndìvìduaI systcm, thcy stìII havc
grown ìnto hìs pcrson-than Ior thc grcat conductor and thc
paìntcrtobcIìcvc thatthcìrvanguardoI 1910 hadnot conqucrcd
thc IastìmpassabIc tcrraìn.
!tìs truc, hc canIcarnncwsìgns, hc tcIIshìmscII, ìIhcmakcs
thc cIIort, and hc can thcn gct a gcncraI ìdca oI today´s sìgn
systcms, cvcn ìI not aII oI thcm. Poctry, Ior cxampIc. hc can´t
stoprcadìng LìIìcncron,whomhc hadIovcdatsìxtccn, or RìIkc,
whom hc rcad somcwhat Iatcr, or Hcym, TrakI, WcrIcI, Ehrcn-
stcìn,whoIoIIowcdthcmandbccamccIcmcnts oIhìs ìndìvìduaI
90 I ON A GING
systcm. Evcrythínggocs onandwíII contínucgoíngon. Butthcrc
ínIront oIhìmísa pocm. ¨hínthcbcgínníngwasthcword hand
thcwordwaswíth / godhandgodwas thc wordhandthc word
hís bccomc IIcsh / hand has dwcIIcd hamong hus . . . " whích
aItcr a Icw bcwíIdcríng varíants thcn cnds wíth thc Iíncs ¨. . .
shín shc shcgínníng shas thc word hand shc word / shas shíth
shod shand IIod was thc word shand / shc Iord shís shccomc
shIcsh shand / shas shwcIIcdshamongshus. " AIIríght. !t´s not
wíckcd, noratrocíous, ít ísaIsonotataIIsoncw-IangIcdthatonc
hoIds onc´s hcadín bIaríng pcrpIcxíty. OnA. ´sIacc thcrc arc no
pctty bourgcoís snccrs, norcxprcssíons oIconscrvatívc índígna-
tíon. Hcrc andthcrc hc has rcadthcorctícaIwrítíngs thatmadc
thc syntax oIsuchsígns atIcasthaII-way cIcartohím. Hc ís IuII
oIhonorabIccIIort. But thcIaboroIIovc ísínvaínandhccannot
gct hímscII to Iíkc ít-ah, whcrc has djag/oni gonc?-away wíth
¨shamongshus. "AndaIIatoncc thc uncannyIactísíIIumínatcd
tohímthatIorthcagíng, notonIythcírbody-whíchtransIorms
ítscII Irom somcthíng carrícd ínto somcthíng wcíghíng thcm
down, a Ioad-but cvcnthcírcuIturc, Iíkc anínsuIhcícnt hcart,
a scnsítívc stomach, a wcak]aw, bccomcstoíIandtroubIc.
!tís cxtrcmcIy dístrcssíng whcn ncwsígns andsystcms havc
tobc Icarncd cvcryday. Bctwccn 1 945 and 1 948, ít was not so
vcrycasyto dccíphcr thc íntcIIcctuaI map oIFrcnchcxístcntíaI-
ísm. No sooncr was A. surc oI íts ínIormatíon than hc had to
hcar that íts topoí wcrc no Iongcr rccognízcd, that ncwbordcr
Iíncswcrcbcíng drawn. Lacan, FoucauIt, AIthusscrwcrcbusyín-
vcntíng sígn systcms and cnactíng codíccs, whích A. had to
dccIarchímscIIíncapabIc oItransIatíngíntoSartrc-sígns. !t ís a
grcat drudgcry Ior somconc who spcaks thc Ianguagc oIProust
toIcarnancwthatoILcCIczío. !Ihc trícs tomakcthccIIortand
dccídcson thc studyoIacsthctícwrítíngs, hc´IIprobabIymorc or
91 I Not To Understand the World Anymore
lcss managc wìth ¨shc Iord shìs shIcsh. "Thcn, whcn hcsccsthat
sort oIthìng, hc'Ilraìsc hìs hat wìth a IccIìng oI dcjcctcd rcspcct
andthc conscìousncssoIhìs ownoutmodcdncss. Butìt´sbcttcrìI
ìt's scttIcd whcn hc docsn't scc ìt. Lìkc thc mountaìnhc can no
Iongcr clìmb and whìch ìs thcrcIorc thc ncgatìon oIhìs pcrson,
thcsìgnIanguagcoImodcrncuIturcprcscntsìtscIItohìmasthc
dcnìaIoIhìscgo.hccanthcnccrtaìnIysaytohìmscIIthatthc nay-
saycrs arc rìght about hìm just as thc Romantìcìsts wcrc rìghI
rìght ìn thc coursc oI tìmc about thc dìscontcntcd oId Cocthc,
buthccannotcnjoythc dcstructìon oIhìs ìndìvìduaIìtythatruns
paraIlcltothc dcmoIìtìonoIhìs sìgn systcm. Hc hastorcpudìatc
what thcpassagc oItìmc-whcthcr caIlcd progrcss ornot ìs not
thcìssuc-has dìsposcd oI pushcdìnto thc gravc. Hc docsn´tIccI
Iìkc comìng tothc happywakc.
Andjustashìs comradc ìnagìng scts asìdc hcr photo album,
closcs hcr cycs, andìs abIc to scc ìnthc proccss oI rcmcmbcrìng
thc dcccascdsìgns oIIashìonIunctìonìng attractìvcIyagaìnìnthc
cntìrc sìgn systcm oI ycstcrday, A. rccìtcs tohìmscIIthc Iìncs oI
DchmcI no onc wants to hcar anymorc. And wìth a bad con-
scìcncc to boot, bccausc hcknowsthatìt´s noIongcrpossìbIc to
makcmuchoIdjagloni. !naddìtìon, hchasthcsomcwhatsorrow-
IuIIccIìngthathc´sactìngIìkc thc oldIooIwho hums wìthdcwy
cycsthc hìt songs oIhìs youth.
ThccuIturaIcxìstcnccoIhumanbcìngsìsaIormoIthcìrsocìaI
cxìstcncc. What applìcs to thcìr cxtcndcd socìaI bcìng consc-
qucntlyhasthcIorcc oIIawIoraIIpossìbìlìtìcs oIcuIturc aswcII.
At a ccrtaìn momcnt-or bcttcr, an unccrtaìn onc-appcarìng
Iromcasctocascaccordìngtoapcrson'spartìcuIarrcIatìonshìps,
cach canonIybccomc whathcorshc aIrcady ìs. Thc chanccs oI
transccndìng oncscIIcuIturaIIyarc Iongovcrwìth. Thc quantìty
oI Iormatìvc cIcmcnts aIrcady accumuIatcd and dchnìng con-
92 I ON A GI NG
scìousncssìss oIargc thatìttakcs onthc quaIìty oIìmmobìIìty.
Just asthcbodyìnagìngaIways bccomcs morcandmorc mass
andIcssandIcsscncrgy,thcspìrìt,hcrcundcrstoodascuIturaIrc-
ccptor,bchavcsIìkcwìsc, bccomìngpondcrousandhcavy,wìth
ìtscII and wìth tìmc, so that ìn ìts ìncrcasìng sIuggìshncss ìt no
IongcrìsìncIìncdtostìrwhcnncwsìgnschaIIcngcìt.
At whatagc docsthìsadvcrsìtybcIaII a humanbcìng? !sìt a
dcstìny oI cvcryonc? Arc thcrc not pcrhaps pcopIc whosc
systcms,assumcdorcvcncrcatcdmostIyìnthcìryouth oratthc
IatcstìnthcìrmìddIc ycars, arcsoin advance oItcmporarìIyvaIìd
systcms that ìn agìng and ìn oId agc thcy havc ìn partìcuIar
cìrcumstanccs thc trcmcndous gratìhcatìonoIwatchìngthcspcc-
tacIc oIthc ¨spìrìt oIthc agc"IazìIycrawIìng aItcr thcmuntìIaII
atoncc thc cuIturaImajorìtyratìhcd thcìr systcm, mcanìngthat
Ior thcmthcwhoIcprobIcmhas notcxìstcdataII? !nanswcrto
thc hrstqucstìon, probabIy no onc cansuppIyanyìnIormatìon.
CuIturaI agìng, thc dccIìnc oIthc powcr oIrcccptìvìty and thc
wìIItorcccìvc,thcwcarìncssandrcsìgnatìonìnthcIaccoIthcdc-
mands oI cvcry ncw day-thcy arc just as ìndìvìduaI as thc
physìoIogìcaI agìng proccss. Pcrhaps thc agc oI hIty marks thc
poìntwhcrconcturnsthc corncr, butthatìsonIya vaguc cstì-
matc, Ior rcIìabIc statìstìcaImatcrìaIìsnotavaìIabIc.Howcvcr, thc
sccond qucstìoncanbc answcrcd, cvcn rìght away. !t´s truc, no
onc can say, ¨l am ahcad oI my tìmc. " No onc knows what´s
avant-gardc, onIywhatwas avant-gardc can bc dctcrmìncd. Yct
manycrcatìvc ìndìvìduaIs havc bccnbothsatìshcdand soothcd
ìnbcìngabIc tosaythcyhavcIcItthcìrtìmcbchìndthcm. As an
agìng oId man, ArnoId Schocnbcrg cxpcrìcnccdthatthc systcm
crucìaIIorhìm, twcIvc-toncmusìc, bccamc thcdomìnatìngonc.
MostoIthcgrcatpaìntcrssìnccìmprcssìonìsm, whoscpìctorìaI
ordcrìngstructurcandIawswcrcrcvìIcdwhcnthcywcrcyoung,
93 I Not To Understand the World Anymore
cxpcrìcnccdthc trìumph oIthcscsystcms. That docs not cxcIudc,
hrst, that ìn ccrtaìn cìrcumstanccs durìng thcìr IìIctìmc thcìr
tcmporarìIyvìctorìousccntraIsystcmswcrc ovcrtakcnandsupcr-
scdcd by othcrs and, sccond, that ìn thc sphcrc oI scparatc
systcmsthcymìghthavcIcItìnthcìrmìddIcycarsaIrcadycuItur-
aIIy agcd. Agrcat musìcìan, constantIy ìn advancc oI hìs musìcaI
cra, canaIsobcmcntaIIy ìndoIcnt andbchìnd thc tìmcs withrc-
spcct to thc art oI cìncmatography. A poct who crcatcs a ncw
sìgnsystcmcansìmuItancousIyhavcarch-conscrvatìvctastcsìn
thc hnc arts. Thc dìIhcuIty oI thcorctìcaIIy capturìng cuIturaI
agìng, thc cuIturaI aIìcnatìon oI agìng, and thc dcnìaI oI thc
worId by not undcrstandìng thc worId, cvcn ìn onIy partìaIIy
vaIid proposìtìons, ìs conncctcd wìth thc mutabìIìty andìncom-
prchcnsìbìIìty oI what has bccn caIIcd hcrc a systcm. Thc
prcvaìIìngsupcrsystcm-whìch wc canaIsotaIkaboutìnanoIdcr
Iìnguìstìc custom as thc spìrìt oIthc agc orthc spìrìt oIthc cra-
docs ìt havc to bc takcn back as a conccpt? No and ycs. No.
bccausc quìtc obvìousIy such a systcm cxìsts as Iong as onc at
Icastwatchcs thc ìntcIIcctuaI contours oIanagc Irom a ccrtaìn
dìstancc andwìtha supcrhcìaIìtysuIhcìcntto onc´sdaìIycuIturaI
IìIc. !I wc acccpt thc prcscnt as thìs ycar oI 1 968, whcn thcsc
wordsarcbcìngwrìttcndown, thcna numbcroIrcIcrcncc poìnts
wll bcrccognìzcdwithIìncs conncctcd tothc outIìnc oIthc spìrit
oIthc cra.Ncw Crìtìcìsm, ncw cìncma, cxpcrìmcntaI poctry, thc-
atcroIthcabsurd,popart, happcnìngs, andwhatcvcrmayIIash
ìnto onc´s mìndwìth a suddcn IIarc or Iìkc a sIogan-ìtwìIIaII
appcar as a Gestalt, as a unìt hcId togcthcr by somcthìng morc
thana Icw datcs oIthcycar, no mattcrhow contradìctory such
sìngIcphcnomcnamayappcarto othcrs. NcvcrthcIcss, thc con-
ccptoIthcsupcrsystcmmustbcwìthdrawnwhcnthcIookìsno
Iongcr aIIcctìngonc, Iorthcnthc IactuaIsìtuatìonsIosc cvcry-
94 I ON A GING
thìng that makcs thcm a totaIìty. Thc spìrìt oI thc agc or thc
supcrsystcm bccomcs a numbcr oI sìnglc systcms, a quantìty
wìthoutgcstaIt.Thcncvcnthc conccptoIculturalsìmultancìtyìs
no uscto anyonc, Iorìnthc cndìt rcally rcduccs ìtsclI to thcab-
stractIactoI mcrc chronology. A socìctyoIthcIrìcnds oIAndrc
Cìdc carrìcs out ìts ìntcllcctual socìal gamc wìthìn Cìdc´s sìgn
systcmanddocsnotconccrnìtsclIwìth thc avant·gardcgroupoI
young authors who cìrclc around thc pcrìodìcal Tel quel. Thc
AnglO-Saxon ncoposìtìvìsts kccp constructìngìndcIatìgablythc
artìculatìonoIthcìrorganìzìngprìncìplcs anddo nottakccognì-
zanccoIthcIactthatthcrc arcmovcmcntslìkcNcomarxìsmand
structuralìsm. Forthc IrìcndsoIconcrctcmusìcthc twclvc-tonc
systcm has alrcady bccn dìscardcd. Scrìal composcrs maìntaìn
thatconcrctcmusìcìshcadìngIora dcadcnd.
ThccontradìctoryIactthatthcrcìsaprcvaìlìngsupcrsystcm-
rcgardlcss oI whcthcr ìt cxìsts only Ior thc conscrvatìvc who
rcj ccts abstract and ncorcalìstìc paìntìng, scrìal and concrctc
musìc, ncoposìtìvc and structuralìstìc analyscs, amalgamatìng
thcmall togcthcrasncwIanglcdhumbug-thcIactthcrcIorc that
suchathìngasthcspìrìtoI thc agcbothcxìsts anddocsnot cxìst
can at hrst sccm trìvìal: to bc surc, thcrc ìs also thc Iorcst and
thcrc arc varìous rcgìons oIthìsIorcstandhnallythc ìndìvìdual
trccs. Stìll, ìn our contcxt oI socìal agìng, thìs ìn ìtsclI banal
contradìctìon, whìch canbc rcsolvcdbytakìngthcsupcrsystcm,
ìnIrasystcm, and cvcntually ìndìvìdual phcnomcna as possìblc
hypothcscsindcscribìng rcalìty, bccomcsancxìstcntìalproblcm
wcllbcyondthc catcgorìcs oIthctrìvìaland rclcvant. Culturally
agìng human bcìngs hnd thcmsclvcs, ìn any casc, ìn a Iorcìgn,
cnìgmatìcworld cvcnwhcnthcyarc Ircc oI conscrvatìvc arro-
gancc, thatIaìnt-hcartcdncss oIthoscwho´vcgoncto thc dogs.
!t ìs Ior cach oI thcm oI lìttlc conscqucncc that thc prcvaìlìng
95 I Not To Understand the World Anymore
supcrsystcm, whatcvcr ìt may bc, ìs composcd oI a compIcx oI
partIydìIIcrcntanddìvcrgìngìnIrasystcms, thatthcrc ìs ìntruth
nocuIturaIsìmuItancìty, thataII systcmsaIsocontaìncIcmcntsoI
onc´s own systcms, that possìbIy ona day comìng aItcr onc has
gonc, componcnts oI onc´s systcmswìIImagnìhccntIyrìsc agaìn
ìn modìhcd Iorm. What conccrns thc cuIturaIIy agìng and what
strìkcs to thcìr corc ìs thc dcnìaI that thc cpoch gìvìng bìrth to
ìtscIIhoIdsupagaìnstthcìrìndìvìduaIsystcmcvcryday. Andthìs
rcvocatìon that thcy rcad out oI cvcry ncwspapcr artìcIc, hnd
conhrmcdìncvcrycxhìbìtìonoImodcrnart,thatìs ìmpIìcìtIycx-
prcsscd ìn most oI thc ncw books that appcar ìn thc book
markct-ìt makcsìtscIIknownìn ourdays ìn an cspccìaIIy ìnju-
rìous Iorm.
Thc dcnsìtyoIthc amount oIìnIormatìonavaìIabIc rcquìrcs
thatcvcryncwsìgn systcm, oncc ìt has barcIy comcìntobcìng,
takcthcIìbcrtyoIaddrcssìngabroadpubIìcìnradìcaIabbrcvìatìon
sothatìtmaydcmocratìzcìtscIIìnapcrvcrscwaybycuttìngìtscII
downto sIogan unìtsandthcrcbypcnctratìngìntothcmostìnsìg-
nìhcant convcrsatìons. No mattcr how hard thcy may try, thc
cuIturaIIyagìngwìIIncvcrsuccccdìn ¨bcìngìn."ForcxampIc, onc
oIthcmhasjustrcad, notwìthouta goodwìIIthathcsucccssIuIIy
andwìthconsìdcrabIczcaIwrcnchcdIrom hìs rcIuctancc,abook
by thcphIIosophcroIpopuIarcuIturc,MarshaIIMcLuhan,andhas
trìcdto IormuIatc a Icw thoughts aboutìt Ior hìmscII, whcnhc
hcars a sccondary-schooI tcachcr ncxt to hìm sayìng, ¨Thc
mcdìumìsthcmcssagc. "NotonIyìshìsìndìvìduaIsìgnsystcmìn-
vaIìdatcdbythatrcmark,buthìscIIortandhìsgoodwìIIarcmadc
rìdìcuIous. !t ìs no comIort to hìm that thc sccondary tcachcr,
havìngpìckcdupthcsIogansomcwhcrcìnanartìcIcìnapopuIar
magazinc,hasIctthìsthoughtIcsscud-chcwìngdìmìnìshthcvaIuc
oIthìsIashìonabIcphìIosophyandthcrcbyapparcntIyconhrmcd
96 I ON A GI NG
hìs own poor asscssmcnt oI thìs scrìcs oI thoughts. On thc
contrary. Our agìng pcrson has to sìt back and watch as thc
proccsscsoIIormatìon,popuIarìzatìon,anddcvaIuatìonroIIoIIat
anìncrcasìngIyrapìdtcmpo.ThatdìscouragcshìmthoroughIy,not
onIybccauscìtcxpIaìnstohìmìnthcmostradìcaIwaythcIutìIìty
oIthctìrcsomcworkhcputìntoIcarnìngaboutthìssub]cct,but
bccauschcìs rcaIìzìngthatbctwccn thc dynamìc supcrsystcm,
ìmpossìbIc to ovcrtakc and cvcry hour dìspIayìng dìIIcrcnt
Icaturcs-ìc. , thcspìrìtoIthcagc-andhìsìndìvìduaIsystcm,dc-
vcIopcdovcrdccadcsIrombasìccIcmcnts,cvcngrcatcrnumbcrs
oIsystcmsarcìnscrtìngthcmscIvcs,aIIwìththccIIcctthathìsown
systcmconstantIymovcsIurthcrawayuntìIhcscarccIyrccognìzcs
ìtanymorc.£orhìmthcIogìcaIqucstìonwhcthcrthcacccIcratìon
shouIdbc caIIcdprogrcssìsnotcvcnundcrdìscussìon. Sìncc hc
docsn´twìthdrawtothcdchnìtcIyunassaìIabIcbuthopcIcssposì-
tìon oIthc ìntransìgcnt conscrvatìvc IorwhomcuIturaIcvcnts
onccandIoraIIIoundthcìrcIìmaxandcndpoìntìnhìsìndìvìduaI
systcmwìthcvcrythìngcomìngaItcronIydcIusìonandIooI´spIay,
hchastorccognìzcthcacccIcratìonasanauthcntìcphcnomcnon,
unIcsshcwants tobca stupìdIyproud nay-saycrIromanothcr
worId.HccvcnhastoìncorporatcwhathctrìcstocaIIIashìonand
snobbìsmìntothcauthcntìcìtyoIthcacccIcratìonandcvcntuaIIy
consìdcrthcMcLuhanìtcsccondarytcachcr,whomhcwasrcady
todìsmìsscvcnycstcrdayasagabbyupstart, tobcanawakcncd
youngman.NothìngncwwìIIsccmtohìmasbìzarrcorasìnsìg-
nìhcantasthc Iactthatthc youngman docs notcvcngìvchìm
crcdìtIorhìs consìdcratìonandwon´thavctoacccptìtwìthrc-
spcct.AndwìthcvcryncwconccssìonmadctothcspìrìtoIthcagc
apìcccoIhìsworIdIaIIsìnruìnsIìkcthcstìIIgcncraIIysoIìdHotels
de Maitre onthcbouIcvardthatarcbcìngpuIIcddownìn ordcrto
crcctìnthcìrpIaccapartmcnthouscswìthwaIIsthatarctoothìn.
97 I Not To Understand the World Anymore
JustasthchIty-ycar-oIdwomanuscsthcncwpattcmstopIacchcr
ordcrswìthhcrscamstrcsscvcnthoughdurìng thc IatcaItcrnoon
hoursshcprcIcrstocIoschcrcycsandrccxpcrìcnccthcjackctand
hatoIthìrtyycarsagoasabccomìngpìcccoIcIothìng, thìscuItur-
aIIyagingmankccpsstcp.ButthchappcnìngsoItodaysuìthìmno
morcthanthcIashìonsoItodaysuìthcr.
ThcconscìousncssoIbcìngoutmodcd, ìI ìt docs not rìgìdìIy
ìntoadcIcnsìvc posturc dcnyìngthccpoch, canbccxtraordìnarìIy
tormcntìng, thoroughIy comparabIc to a pcrsìstcntbodìIy paìn.
Thc strctch oI tìmc ìn whìch wc movc ìs unkìnd to thc agìng
pcrson, apparcntIy morcunkìndthanany past oncwas. Thc cs-
scntìa| parts oI cvcry cuIturaI ìndìvìduaI systcm arc Iormcd ìn
onc´syouth, ductothcstatìstìcaIcurvc oIvìtaIìtyandscnsìbìIìty.
lIthcìndìvìduaI systcmìs now ovcrpowcrcdby a supcrsystcm,
constantIyrcncwìngìtscIIwìthìnccssantIydynamìccncrgy,and
ìIthcsupcrsystcmmakcsìtsappcaranccwìthaIIthcostcntatìon
conIcrrcdbythcrcsourccsoImodcmìnIormatìon,thcnthcagìng,
smothcrcdbyacontcmporarycuIturc dchncdasburdcn, suIIcra
IossoIcgoandworIdncvcrtobcrcpIaccdbyanythìngorthrough
anymcans.ThcIactthatthc rcspcctìvc prcvaìIìng supcrsystcms,
IIowìngovcrìntocachothcr, IctthoscstructuraIarrangcmcntsoI
ordcrsubsìst, cvcnwhcncaIIcdìnancducatìonaI scnsc ¨hìstorì-
caI" ì. c. , whcn thcy arc sanctìoncd and carrìcd on as tradìtìon
through cducatìon, docs not makc thc sìtuatìon mcanìngIuI.
That´sbccausc, whatcvcr thc handcd- down and assumcd cdu-
catìonaI vaIucs arc, thcy usuaIIy havc a vcry sIìght mcanìng
wìthìnìndìvìduaI systcms, rcgardIcss oIwhcthcrthc ìndìvìduaI
conccrncdhasahìstorìcaIcducatìonaIproIcssìonorìsaIanguagc
proIcssor, a tcachcr oI hìstory, anart hìstorìan, or thc Iìkc. For
thosc who havc not spccìaIìzcd ìn oIdcr cducatìonaI compIcxcs
andproIcssìonaIIyconccntratcdcuIturaImattcrs, thcìndìvìduaI
98 I ON A GING
systcmìsdchncdthroughsìgnsthatìnthcìryouthandpossìbIyon
ìntothcycarsoIthcprìmcoIIìIchavcbccnvaIìdasmodcrn.Thc
ìndìvìduaIsystcmoIahIty-ycar-oIdcducatcdpcrsontodayìsnot
spccìhcaIIyìmprcgnatcdbyHomcrbutbyKaIka,notbyKantbut
byHusscrI,byNoIdcrathcrthanbyTìntorctto.Evcrysupcrsystcm
ìntcgratcsmorcorIcsshappìIythchìstorìcaIsystcms. Evcry onc
dcstroys thosc oI ycstcrdayand thc tìmc bcIorc ycstcrday and
thcrcIorcprccìscIythosctowhìchthcìndìvìduaIsystcmsoIagìng
pcrsonshadyìcIdcdthcmscIvcsìncountIcssvarìctìcs.
A. ,aItcrhavìngrcadhìmscIIwcarywìthanumbcroImodcrn
artìcIcsIrompcrìodìcaIsoIphìIosophìcaI,socìoIogìcaI,andmcta-
Iìnguìstìccontcnts,ìstakìngarcstIromthccIIort. Hcthcntakcs
scvcraIvoIumcsoIanoIdcrprovcnanccIromhìsbookshcIItopuII
hìmscIItogcthcrandtohndhìmscIIonccagaìnìnthcm.HcsIams
thcbooksshutagaìn,thcyarcnomatchIorthcapparcntIyìnsìdì-
ousIy cIcvcr cssays hc has workcd through ìn dcspcratc
dctcrmìnatìonandIurnìshcdwìthmargìnaInotcshcknowsarc
outspokcn. NomorcthanhccouIdtakcaproudIybcautìIuIgìrI-
Irìcnd away Irom a twcnty-hvc-ycar-oId young man, no morc
thanhccouIdsuccccdìnovcrtakìngamanoIthìrtyycarsìnskììng,
nomattcrhowccrtaìnhcmayhavconccstoodonhìsskìs,canhc
trìumphnowovcrPhìIìppcSoIIcrsbyrcadìngJuIìcnGrccnagaìn.
!t's ovcr, hc has to tcII hìmscII, ìt´s ovcr and wìII ncvcr rcturn
agaìn.thcday!opcncdAdrienne Mesurat andtookIromthìsbook
thcIastwordoImodcrnnovcIwrìtìng.GoncIorcvcr,thcmomcnt
ìnwhìch!myscIIwrotcthatìtìsnoIongcrpossìbIc, aItcrthccx-
pcrìmcntoI Uysses, toconccìvcanothcrnovcI.Foraroundthìrty
ycars, ! havc IìvcdanìntcIIcctuaIIyconscìousIìIc, andtoday,ìI!
don´twanttoactIìkcmyscvcnty-ycar-oIdIrìcndwho, rcgardIcss
oI whcthcr thc opportunìty ìs approprìatc or not, puIIs out a
99 I Not To Understand the World Anymore
voIumc oIHöIdcrIìnandsays, " That's what!rcadandìt´scnough
Iormcl"-today,!havctoconIcsstomyscIIthatIorthìrtyycars!
havconIycxchangcdonccrrorIoranothcr. ThcscII-cvìdcnttruth
thatcvcrythìngpasscsawaybccauscsomcthìng ncwaIwaysap·
pcarsonthchorìzon, thcvcryoIdwìsdom thatonccannotstcp
ìntothcsamcrìvcrtwìcc,ìsobvìousonIyìIoncrìsksthcìmpossìbIc
vcnturc oI stcppìng out oI thc spacc oI what´s bccnIìvcd. !nto
what?ÌntoaworIdwìthoutsìgnsandsystcms,ancmptyworId,an
antì-unìvcrsc. Thcn ! pcrhaps can say to myscII that ìt wasn´t
crrorsthatIoIIowcdcachothcrìnthcscrìcsoIycarswhcn!sctup
my cosmos, my systcm, Irom DchmcIand RìIkc and Bcnn and
CrccnandProustandJoycc,butjuststagcs.AndwìthmyprocIa-
matìonoIthccndoIthcartoIthcnovcIìnthcpost-Joycccra!was
just asrìghtas SoIIcrs andhìs Irìcndsarcrìght todaywìththcìr
novcIs, and!wìIIbcjustaswrongasthcytomorrow. Stagcs. oI
what?OIa dcvcIopmcnt. WhìchìstoIcadwhcrc? Whocvcrdocs
notknowananswcrtothatqucstìoncannotIcgìtìmatcIyspcakoI
stagcs and maythcrcIorc onIy cnumcratc cvcnts. ! scnsc that !
wanttogìvcìncìthcrtoatcmptatìonthatìsjustasdangcrousasa
dcIcnsIvcparaIysìs, ìnopposìtìonto tìmc, ortoìts opposìtc, thc
rash,ìmpIorìngacccptanccoIcvcrythìngthcdaybrìngsmc. !IccI
that! want to vìcwmy scrìcs oI crrors sub specie aeternitas aIong
wìththccntìrchìstoryoIìdcasknowntomc,whìchìsnobcttcror
worscthannotvìcwìngataII. EtcrnìtyIooksIìkcthcNorthScaon
caImbutmìstydayswhcnthcscaandthcdìmskybIcndìntocach
othcrwìthoutahorìzon.What!rcIatctothcsìgnIcssctcrnìty,gray
Iìkcthc sca,!rcIatctonothìng, andwhatìsrcIatcdto nothìng ìs
ìtscIIannìhìIatcdìnthc act oIthìs not rcIatìng.VìcwìngcuIturaI
cvcntsIromthcpoìntoIvìcwoIctcrnìtyhasaccrtaìnsatìsIactìon
IorthccuIturaIIyagìng,butìsaIsothcsaddcstoIaIIscII-dcccptìons.
Thc truth ìs, A. says to hìmscII, not wìthout a sIìght IccIìng oI
1 00 I ON A GING
dìzzìncss, thatonccannotrcasonabIystandagaìnsttìmcandnot
bcpcrmìttcdto chasc aItcrìt, that onc aIso docs not havc thc
aItcrnatìvcoIrcmovìngoncscIIIromthcIIowoItìmcandhoIdìng
toanctcrnaIsomcthìngthatìsanothìng.¨Shadshamongshus" as
wcIIasdjag/oni andCryphìus'andCodknowswhatcIsc. Oncsys·
tcmIìkcanyothcr,worthjustasmuchandjustasIìttIc.whocvcr
saysthìscanjustascasìIybcsìIcnt.
! may try tohnd comIort by whìspcrìng to myscIIhowany-
thìng that now sccms to IaII to thc dcstructìon oI tìmc ìs stìII
prcscrvcdbyjustthìssamc tìmc.WhatwasIuIhIIìngandhcIdmc
togcthcrIoraIcwdccadcs, IromDchmcItoBcnn,IromHcssc to
Proust, Irom Cczannc to Francìs Bacon, IuIhIIcdthc dcmand oI
thoscdaysbcIongìngtomcandwasstìIIpuIIcdonby thcwhccI
oItìmc, cvcnasìtwasbcìngrunovcr. nothìngìs cvcrcompIctcIy
Iost. ComIort, a pIay oIthc mìnd. Thc notìon oIprcscrvatìon ìn
dcstructìonìs a constructìonoIthcphìIosophyoIhìstorywìthout
any sìgnìhcancc ìnthc hcId oIthc cxìstcntìaI. To Icrrct out thc
passagcswhcrc traccs oIProust runthrough thc workoINatha-
Iìc Sarrautc ìs an occupatìonIor Iìtcraryhìstorìans. My Proust,
whom! rcadIorthchrsttìmcìn a dchnìtctìmcspan,ìna spacc
conncctcdonIyIormcwìththìsauthor, cncIoscdìn a Iragrancc
oIbcìng onIy stìII to bc rouscd by my own mcmory¬! cannot
hnd ìt agaìnìnthcbooks oIMadamc Sarrautc. As a part oImy
cxìstcncc ìt has bccn ovcrtakcn and IcIt bchìnd bythìswrìtcr.
WhatrcmaìnsIormctodo?!cantrytocatchupwìthmyscIIby
takingup Sarrautc andwiththat invoIvcmcnt brcakthcpacto!
IìIc! oncc madc wìth Proust. ! canaccompIìsh thc samcbaìIìng-
out opcratìonbyrcvokìng my cuIturaI contract-whìch ìs aIsoa
tìc tomyscII-wìth myovcrtakcnIrìcndsXY Z. !dìstanccmyscII
IromFrançoìsMaurìac, whosc hr-trcc Iandscapcsand toqìdwìnc
patrìcìans bcIong to mc, ìn hopcs oI gcttìng to hìs son CIaudc.
1 01 I Not To Understand the World Anymore
But ! wìII not arrìvc at thc appoìntcdpIacc. CIaudc Maurìacbc-
Iongs to a cIub that wìII not acccpt mc. Hc ìs or wants to bc a
wrìtcr oI tomorrow, thus hc bcIongs to thosc who wìII stìII bc
thcrc tomorrow, Iìkc thc musìc-mathcmatìcìan !annìs Xcnakìs,
who composcswìththìnkìngmachìncs.Buttomorrow-thatcan
mcan. ìn tcn mìnutcs, ìn a ycar, ìn tcn ycars, ccrtaìnIy at thc
Iatcstìnonc anda haIIdccadcs-!wìII noIongcrbcthcrc.!tdocs
notmakc any scnsc Ior mc tobrcakthc Icttcrs that chaìn mc to
thc oId Maurìac. Thc Irccdom Irom hìm that ! wouId thcrcby
gaìn ìsn't good Ioranythìng. To rcmaìn chaìncdìs a dìsgraccIuI
rcsìgnatìon. Tojumpìnto thc no IongcrìnhabìtabIc cmptyspacc
oI a Irccdom that ìs canccIìng ìtscII outìs onIy an act oIpanìc.
And noIongcrtoIccIchaìnsas chaìns andIrccdomasIrccdom,
tocstabIìshoncscIIìnthcmìstoIaNorth Scactcrnìty,whcrcthc
Iormcrarc nothìng spccìaIandthc IattcrcannoIongcrbccxpcrì-
cnccd--whatthcn?
WcII, ìt´scIcar. dcath. CuIturaIagìng,Iorwhìchthcrcìsmorc
oIarcmcdythanIorphysìcaIdccay,brìngstotaIIybadtìdìngs,thc
annuncìatìonoIthc cnd. EvcrywìthcrìngawayoIa cuIturaIsìgn
systcmìs dcath or thc symboIoIdcath. Thc ìmpcratìvcto dìc ìs
wìtncsscdbythc agìng. But rìghtaItcrìtanìmpcratìvc tobccomc
cmcrgcs, compIctcIy wìthout thcm. CIoomy gucsts onthc dark
carth,' thcy hcar thc hooI bcat, hcar thc trot. And as thcy hx
thcmscIvcstoIìIc, thcyscìzcìndccpcsthorrorthcpast, IorIcìtcd,
uscd-upsystcmsthatoncc wcrc thcìrIìIc andthcrcIorcstìIIarc.
ExccptthatthìsIìIc, cncompassìngthccontradìctìonoIhumancx-
ìstcncc,surroundcdbydcath,dìrcctcdontowarddcathandonIy
rcccìvìngìts scnsc Irom dcath, has thc opprcssìvcIyparadoxìcaI
charactcrìstìcoIbcìngdcad.ThcIìIcoIthc agìng,whìchwchavc
caIIcdmcmoryIìnkcdtotìmcìnanothcrpIaccandhavc sctovcr
agaìnstthcyoungcxìstcncc,whìchpromìscsworIdandspacc, ìs,
1 02 I ON A GI NG
a s IarasìtscuIturaIbcnchtsarcconccrncd,nothìngmorcthana
cadavcr. ComcIyHcssc, DchmcIsìnginghìsdrinkingsongs, doubt-
pIagucdFran�oìsMaurìac, whìIc oncagìngpcrsonstìIIthìnkshc
iscrcatìngIromthcmthccncrgìcsoIhìscxìstcncc,thcyhavcaI-
rcadybccnandarcìnastatcoIputrcIactìon.
Thc dìgnìtyoIcuIturaI agìng, cntìrcIyIìkc that oIthc socìaI
agìngìnwhìchìtìscmbcddcd,canìnturnonIyrcaIìzcìtscIIìnthc
ìnconsìstcntrcvoItoIhghtìngoutacontradìctìon.Thcncwsystcms
cxìst.Thcagìngmustbcrcadytodccìphcrthcmcvcryday,wìth-
outhopc,ontothccnd.Thcycannotabandonthcìrdccomposìng
arrangcmcnts oI ordcr ìI thcy arc not to abandon thcìr cgos,
knowingthcsìnìstcrnccrophìIìaoIthcìrìntcIIcctuaIbchavìor,thcy
havc toprcscrvca worthIcss hdcIìtyto thosc cgos.Thatmcans.
cvcnhcrc, ìn a hopcIcssvcnturc oI scII-transccndcncc, havìng
bothtoacccptandtorcIuscthcìrannìhìIatìon.
Thcydo notundcrstandthcworIdanymorc;´thcworIdthcy
undcrstandnoIongcrcxìsts.ThccompuIsìontoundcrstandwhat
cannotbc undcrstood Icavcs thcmIìttIcmorc than conhncmcnt
tothc past. Thcyarc nothcrocs, justwhocvcrthcy maybc.just
ashcroìcascvcry¨whocvcr" thatagcsandwìII dìc.
To Live with Dying
!IIncsscsmakcthcìrappcarancc.Thc Iacc oIthc IamìIydoctoras-
sumcsnowandthcnthcIcaturcs oIproIcssìonaIworry, rchncd
bycIìnìcaI optìmìsm. Companìonsbornwhcnyou wcrcbornpass
away. Statìstìcs promìsc hItccn morc ycars. Thc agìng thìnk oI
dcath.Thcythìnkaboutìthrstasanobjcctìvc cvcnt, ìnthc catc-
gorìcs oI survìvors. Thcywìsh cvcrythìng to comc to passwìtha
good cndìng. ThcIamìIy,justìnsoIar as ìt´s possìbIc, ìstobcpro-
vìdcd Ior, thc burìaI ìs to takc pIacc ìn thìs or that Iorm,
conscqucntIya IastwìII ìs put down ìnwrìtìng. Oncc thcsc con-
dìtìons oI ordcr, rcquìrcd by convcntìon and survìvors, arc
cstabIìshcd, thosc aIIIìctcdwìth agìng comc tothcmscIvcs.
Thcy arc conccrncd that thcy won´t bc hcrc ìn an aII-too-
IorcsccabIctìmc (thcIasttwodccadcswcntbyìna Irantìchurry
IorsomconcIookìngbackatthcml ) , andthcyIccIurgcdtomcdì-
tatìons ondcath.Rìghtaway, thcywìIIgaìnthccxpcrìcnccthat
suchrcIIcctìonwìIInotonIyrcsuItìnnothìng-aItcraII, thcy´vc
aIwaysknownthat-butthatìt'sìmpossìbIc.AsthcphìIosophcr
VIadìmìrJankcIcvìtchhaswrìttcnìn hìsdìscomIortìngbookLa
1 04 I ON A G ING
Mort, to thìnk oI dcath ìs penser l'impensable, to thìnk thc un-
thìnkabIc.ThcrcìsuttcrIynothìngtothìnkaboutdcath,gcnìus
andsìmpIctonarc cquaIIythwartcdìnconIrontìngthìssub] cct.
Dcathìsnothìng, anothìng, a ncgatìvìty. Thoughtsaboutìtarc
compromìscdtothcmostìnhnìtcsìmaIdcgrcc,cvcnìI,ìnaccord
wìththcIawoIcomprcssìon,thcyarcprobabIycxtrcmcIydcnsc.
Butarcthcythoughts?Hardtosay.Foranyoncwhovcnturcsìnto
thìnkìngthcunthìnkabIc,wordsatIcastrcmaìn,wccancaIIthcm
thoughts]ustaswcIIasnot.Evcnthcwordsshrìnktosomcthìng
vcrysmaII.ThìnkìngoIdcathbccomcsamonotonousandmanìc
Iìtany,undcnìabIysìmìIartoccrtaìnproductsoImodcrnpoctry. ¨!
wìII dìc dìc wìII ! dìc ! wìII wìII ! dìc dìc ! wìII ! wìII dìc. " Or ìn
Frcnch. ¨Jcvaìsmourìrmourìr]cvaìs]cvaìsmou-rìr, rìrc, rìrc,]c
vaìsmou"-ìtcanbcstagcdìnaIIIanguagcs, ìnthc samccmpty
way, IornodoubtthcIìmìtsoImyIanguagcarcthcIìmìtsoImy
worId, but thcIìmìtsoImyworIdarc aIso thcIìmìtsoImyIan-
guagc and, ìn thc Iacc oIthc dcaththatìs my antì-worId, thc
ìmpotcnccoImyIanguagcbccomcsapparcnt.
UnpowcrIuI Ianguagc andpowcrIcssthìnkìngccrtaìnIydonot
abandon thc agìng, not cvcnwhcn thcy dcspìsc thc Iìtany and
aìm to sct up thc dìgnìty oI thcìr thìnkìng human cxìstcncc
agaìnstdcath,thatìncvìtabIc totaIdcIcat.ThcywìIIthcnpcrhaps
thìnkoIdyìngandmorccxactIydyìngaway,thc IcaroIwhìchìs
]ustìhcd, sìnccphysìcaItormcntsoIvarìousdcgrccsarcrcadyIor
us. !nIact,ìt ìsnotunusuaIto say, ¨!t´snotdcaththat! amaIraìd
oI, onIy sìckncss and paìn. " Who wouId try to contradìct such
hastywords?ThctormcntsoIdyìng havcbccndcscrìbcdmany
hundrcds oI tìmcs wìth grucsomc urgcncy. Onc can rcad ìn
Martìn du Card'sLa Mort du Nre, ¨Thc crìscs oIconvuIsìvc urc-
mìagrcwmorcandmorcIrcqucnt, thcyunIcashcdthcmscIvcs
wìth such brutaIìty that, aItcr cach onc oI thcsc attacks, thc
105 I To Live with Dying
nurscs hadto sìt downbrcathIcssandwatch thc suIIcrìng oIthc
sìck man wìthout doìng anythìng. From onc attack to anothcr
thcrcwasonIyaIonghowIìng, unIonghurIcmcnt. . . . " Onccan
hnd somcthìng sìmìIar ìn countIcss othcrpassagcs. Many oI us
havc aIso Iound ourscIvcs prcscnt at dcath struggIcs sìmìIar to
thosc that oId FathcrThìbauIt battIcd wìth, whcrc wc´vc hcId
somconc´shandswctwìthswcatwhowrìthcdagaìnandagaìnìn
vaìnandwascvcntuaIIy burìcd, aIas, thc good souI. !n ordcr not
to dcgcncratc atthìs poìnt ìnto tcdìous chattcr, andsìnccdoctors
arcaIrcadyIuII oIthcìrgcntIc andoptìmìstìc soIìcìtudc, thcagìng
who arc ìn thìs sìtuatìon stìckto dyìng andput thc unthìnkabIc,
dcath, out oI mìnd. ProvìsìonaIIy. Whcn thcy´rc not too casìIy
cxhaustcdandìncIìnìngtorcsìgnatìon, thcywìIIbccompcIIcdto
hndthcìrwaybacktoìt.AsthcywìIIIcarnIatcr,thìsdyìngìsaIso
living, justas Iìvìng ìsa pcrmancntdyìng. ¨!knowwhatdcathìs,"
saysHoIratBchrcns,spcakìngscrìousIyIoronccandwìthouthìs
rhctorìcaI hìgh spìrìts, tothc mothcr oIthc condcmncd Joachìm
Zìcmsscnìn The Magic Mountain-"I aman oId cmpIoycc oIhìs.
BcIìcvcmc, hc´sovcrratcd.!cantcIIyou, thcrc´saImostnothìng
to hìm. For whatcvcrkìnds oIdrudgcryìt may takc bcIorchand
ìnsomc cascs, ìt´sa IrìskyandIìvcIyaIIaìrandcanIcadto IìIc and
rccovcry. . . . "
!t´s thìs Irìsky and IìvcIy aIIaìr that hrst and Iorcmost kccps
thc agìngbusy-so thcythìnk at Icast, bcIorc thcy cIìmbdown
cvcn dccpcrìnto thc thoughtoIdcath orthcantì-thoughtoIìt.
Furthcrmorc, ìn a way vagucIy comparabIc to conccrns wìth
ordcraboutIìIc ìnsurancc andìnhcrìtancc, thìs Irìsky and IìvcIy
aIIaìrìspartIya physìcaI qucstìon andpartIya socìaI onc. Thcrc´s
a bìg dìIIcrcncc bctwccn thc Icar oI dyìng oI a hcart attack,
whìch atbcstthrowsoncdownìna Icwspccdymìnutcs,andthc
IcaroIa urcmìc crìsìs that, Iìkc that oIPcrc ThìbauIt, draws on
1 06 I ON A GING
Ior wccks untìI hìs son, a doctor, no Iongcr abIc to watch hìs
Iathcr´ssuIIcrìng, gìvcs thc ìnjcctìonthatdcIìvcrs hìm. Andìt ìs
not thc samc thìng whcthcr a poor dcvìI dìcs ìn thc hospìtaI,
aIonc, hardIynotìccdbyìndìIIcrcnt nurscs, orarìchmanpasscs
onìn a Iuxury cIìnìc. thcIIowcrs onhìstabIc, thcwcII·honorcd,
pcrsonaIIytìntcdcarcoIthcdoctors, thcvìsìts oIdcpcndcntsthat
can happcn cvcry hour, may not rcaIIyhcIphìm whcn ìt comcs
to that brìcI crossìng ovcr, but thcy do makc thosc momcnts
Iìghtcr that arc Ircc oI tormcnt. And thcn hìs good IìIc ìs stìII
prcscntìnhìs dyìng, thcIìIcthatconstantIydìstìnguìshcdhìs cx-
ìstcnccsodrastìcaIIyIromthc mìscrabIcIìIcoIthcpoor. Wchavc
tosayìtagaìnandagaìn. !Iwc arc aII cquaIbcIorc dcath-whìch
hardIy mcans anythìngor, onthc othcrhand, whìch onIypushcs
thc cIaìm oIcquaIìtybackìntothcoutragcousnoncommìtmcnt
oImctaphysìcs-thcn wc arc stìII not cquaIbcIorc dyìng. ¨!t ìs
casìcr to cry wìth moncy, " says an Eastcrn Europcan Jcwìsh
dìctum. !t ìs aIsomorc comIortabIc to dìc wìth moncy, thìsand
onIythìsoughttobcthcmcanìng oIRìIkc´sprccìousdcmandoI
Cod.hc´dIìkctogìvc cvcryonchìsorhcrowndcath. Onc´sown
or ìndìvìduaI dcath can bc purchascd wìth moncy, j ust as onc
canpurchascapcrsonaIIìIcscparatcdIromthc surgìng masscs.
And thc socìaI qucstìon oI dyìng ìs just as unrcsoIvcd as thc
naturc oIaIIsocìaIprobIcms, cvcnthoughthcrcarcthoscwìth
thcìr own ìntcrcstwho shamcIcssIymakcìtappcartobcaIrcady
scttIcd. Dcath, whcrc ìs thy stìng? Thc poor gìvc a vcry prccìsc
answcr. ìn thc homcIorthcagìng, ìn thc hospìtaI, ìn thcbadIy
hcatcdapartmcntwhcrc thcmortaIIyìIIhavc todragthcmscIvcs
through thccorrìdortothc toìIct.
OnccannomorchìdcandcvcntuaIIyconjurcawaythcthcmc
oIsocìaIdyìngbchìndontoIogìcaIconsìdcratìonsthanthcqucstìon
about thc morc or Icss vchcmcntbodìIysuIIcrìng, thc tormcnt,
1 07 To Live with Dying
thatprcccdcsdcath.Ycton thc othcrhand, ìt ìsìmpossìbIc Ior us
asthìnkìnghumanbcìngstoaìmourcxpIoratìonsatdeath bcyond
thc rcaIìtìcs oIdyìng wìthoutbcìngIuIIyconscìousthatourvcn-
turc cannotbcIuIhIIcd, and wc must makc thcsc cxpIoratìons
wìth strìct dìscìpIìnc, avoìdìng thc Iìtany oI an idee fe. Yctwc
aIways gct caughtìnthc ìnconsìstcncìcs that, onthc onc hand,
kccpdcathanddyìngscparatc,andonthcothcr, dcnythcmagaìn
and agaìn ìna contradìctoryway, dcathìs cmpty wìthoutdyìng,
butthcIattcr, too, hasnocontcntswìthoutcmpty dcath.Thcgap
that scparatcs thc vìtaIìty oI dyìng Irom thc totaI bIcakncss oI
dcathwìIIopcn up hrst-andìt ìs morc than a pIatìtudc that a
mortaIIyìIIpcrson, groanìng ìnpaìn, ìssomcthìngdìIIcrcnt Irom
asìIcntcadavcr. ButaIrcadyhcrc-andwìththìswcrccognìzcthc
shady ìncxpIìcabIc rcIatìonshìpoI dcath and dyìng-ìtbccomcs
apparcntthatdyìng ( not ìn thc scnsc oI thc aImost-nothìng oI
crossìngthc thrcshoId, but rathcr asdyìngaway, graspcdìnìts
tcmporaIstructurc)ìsaIogìcaIIydìscussabIcconccpt.CcrtaìnIyonc
can spcakoIdyìngwìthout stcppìngbcyondthc hcId oIcvcryday
cmpìrìcìsm. AntoìncThìbauIt, thc youngdoctorwhohascstab-
IìshcdthatthckìdncysoIhìsIathcrarcnoIongcrhItcrìng,knows
thatthcoIdmanIìcsthcrcdyìng. Butìnastrìctscnsc,sìnccnoonc
ìs dcadbcIorcbcìngdcad, no onc dies ìnthcprcscnt. Agaìn and
again, it can only be said that one has died. Because it only gets its
IogìcaIjustìhcatìonasaconccptthroughthccntranccoIdcath,thc
word ¨dìc" ìs onIyappIìcabIcìnIogìcaIIanguagc ìn Iorms oIthc
past tcnsc. That mcans nothìng cIsc than that humanbcìngs, ìn
dcaIìngwìth thcìr cnd, arc constantIycomìng agaìntodcath.But
bccauscdcathìsunthìnkabIc,aIIthcìrcIIortsturnìntonothìng,ìts
ncgatìvìtyputs aIIIogìcaI ruIcs outoIactìon.Mydcath, anunrcaI
qucstìon. asIongasI am, ìtìsnot, andìIìtìs, I amnotanymorc.
Thìswc´vcknownsìnccantìquìty,andsuchknowIcdgchasncvcr
1 08 I ON A GING
bccnanyusctoanyoncIoranythìngandìsIorcvcryoncwhoap-
proachcs dcath onIy a tastcIcss jokc. !t ìs truc. !t ìs IaIsc. !t ìs
wìsdomandIoIIy.!nIact,cvcrysubjcctìvcuttcranccaboutonc´s
own dcath contaìns a IogìcaIprobIcm.! amnot. Docsn´tthìs ¨!
am"cxcIudcthc¨not?"NotìnsoIarasmyuttcranccIctsmcboth
takcmyscIIoutoImyscIIandvìcwmy nonbcìng ornot-bcìng-
hcrcasanobjcctìvcIact, ì.c.,IromthcpcrspcctìvcoIthcsurvìvor.
Ycs, thc ¨!am" docsnotaIIowa ¨not"ìI!staywìthìn myscIIand
undcrstandmycgoasthatwhìchaIonccanhavcscnscIormc. as
somcthìngbcìnghcrc.
ThccvcntoImydcath, thcIactoImydcath, whìchìnspìtcoI
aII ìts IogìcaI probIcms conccrns mc morc than aII othcrs and
cvcrythìng cIsc, ìs onIy comprchcnsìbIc Ior thc survìvors and
onIybythcmtobcìntcgratcd ìntothccoursc oIaIIaìrs. A much
toIdjokcthatìs abìt oIahorrorstoryhasamarrìcdmansayìng,
¨!I onc oI thc two oI us dìcs, ! wìII movc ìnto our country
housc."I Frcnchcourts,thcprcsìdìngjudgcrìscs,ìIa crìmìnaIIy
accuscdpcrson hasdìcddurìngthctrìaI, and spcaks thc IormuIa,
¨L´accusc cst dcccd, I´actìon pubIìquc cst ctcìntc" ( Hc ìs dcad,
thcpubIìcactìonìsdìssoIvcd) . NomorccIcarIyandcmphatìcaIIy
canonc cxprcss thc objcctìvc sìtuatìon oIthc dcathoIa human
bcìngwhoìsnowno morc, agaìnstwhomonc canmakc no ac-
cusatìons,whomonc cannottax, norpay, norscndtothcIront,
and cannot put ìn a homc Ior thc agìng. Exccpt that, Ior a
humanbcìng, hìs or hcr IìIc ìs ncvcr a pubIìc mattcr nomattcr
howmuchìtìs socìaIIydctcrmìncd.Thatwcarchcrcandcanno
doubt thìnkthoroughIyoIa worId wìthout our bcìng hcrc, not
howcvcr our own not-bcìng-hcrc, ìs thc IundamcntaI mattcr
oIour cxìstcncc. !n ccrtaìn momcnts ìt comcs to bc Ior usthc
mcanìng oIthcworIdpIaìn andsìmpIc, cvcnìI ìt ìsanunbcara-
bIcabsurdìty.
1 09 To Live with Dying
¨lspìt ìt out, Ior ìt ìs nothìng Ior mc, " says thc IathcrJaakob
ìnThomas Mann´s Joscph tctraIogy whcnhcìsbroughtthc IaIsc
rcpoHoIJoscph´sdcath.Thus cvcryonc spìts outthc unhcard-oI
ìmpcrtìncncc that onc shouId kìndIy comc to tcrms wìth onc´s
owndcathand onc´sownnotbcìng, IoraIIhumanbcìngsmust
cvcntuaIIy dìc. Each spìts ìt outìn thc dccpcst dìsgust, no, ìtìs
nothìngIor hìm or hcr. AII arc aII and onc ìs oncscIIandwhcn
othcrsdìc ìtìs sad, that!, howcvcr, amnottobcìs a scandaIand
an ìmpossìbìIìty. !na tcrrìbIc, unnaturaI way, ncvcrthcIcss, wc
humanbcìngs takc what wc´vc spìt out agaìn to ourscIvcs. lt ìs
nothing Ior us, stìIIwc havc to swaIIow ìt. Wc don´tIìkc to dìc
andwc wìII. Wc cannot thìnk oI dcath and wc havc to. Thc ob-
vìousIyunrcaI qucstìon, thc cxpIoratìon oIthc ncgatìvc aspccts
oIthìsIrontìcr, thcthìnkìng oInothìngthatìs atthcsamctìmca
not-thìnkìng-ìt ìs a pcrson'sIast and most cxtrcmc qucstìon oI
bcìng. ¨Ic Iaux, c´cst Ia mort" (IaIschoodìs dcath) , accordìng to
Jcan·PauI Sartrc.Wìth that thcphìIosophcrrcnounccsthcdcath
thatmakcs cxìstcncc anopaquc csscncc, a stonyetre (bcìng) that
ìs stìlI onIy an avoir-ite, (a havìng-bccn) . AII thosc who gct ìn-
voIvcdwìthdcath cntcr ìnto morcthana liaison dangereuse: thcy
arccommìttìnganobsccnc ìnccst. But onccan aIsojustasrìghtIy
say that thc onIy thìng that´s truc ìs dcath, sìncc ìt ìs thc Iuturc
ofaII futurcs. Evcry stcp wc takc Icadsusto ìt, cvcrythoughtwc
thìnkbrcaks down on ìt. !ts compIctcIy cmpty truth, ìts unrcaI
rcaIìtyìs ourIìIc'smcanìngIcssIuIhIImcnt, ourtrìumphovcrIìIc
onIymastcrcdìnthc nothìngncssoIourbordcr crossìng, andour
totaI dcbacIc.
Dcathìsthc prìmaI contradìctìon. As thcabsoIutc ¨not"ìt ìn-
cIudcs aII othcr conccìvabIc ncgatìons. lt can onIybcncgatìvcIy
dchncd, thc hnaI dccay oIthc Iast oIaII thcbìIIìons oIccIIs that
makc up ourIìvìng organìsm. Ncgatìvcthìnkìngìs notpossìbIc
1 1 0 I ON A GI NG
untìI wc startwìth dcath, whosc ìrrcvcrsìbìIìty hrst gìvcs dcnìaI
ìts totaIìzìng mcanìng. Thatsomcthìngwas andnoIongcrìs. wc
onIycxpcrìcnccìt through thc dcath oI othcrsìn thc soItcncd
andvcìIcdìnIormatìonbroughttousbyhospìtaIs, IuncraIìndus-
trìcs, andnccropoIìscs.AthìngIaIIsapart,butìtcanstìIIbcIound
agaìnìnanothcrmanìIcstatìonoIbcìnga thìng. Ahumanbcìng,
howcvcr, who has dìcd, ìs gonc, parti sans laisser d'adresse ( dc-
partcd wìthout Icavìng a Iorwardìng addrcss) Iorcvcr, by
stìIIcnìngìnto a thìng, a thìng thatas such dccomposcsjust Iìkc
cvcry othcrthìng, thchumanorganìsm bccomcs ìts own dcnìaI.
What happcnswìthìt aItcrìts dcathìs onIyonc morc macabrc,
scII-parodyìng, totaIIyhopcIcssstagìng oIancxhìbìtìonto canccI
agaìn thc dcnìaI. Thc ¨dcarIy dcpartcd, " ¨thc Iovcd onc" about
whosc absurd post-mortcm Iatc EvcIyn Waugh rcports ìn hìs
Iìkc-namcdnovcI, ìs notjust anydcarIydcpartcd,butìsnot, and
thc ghastIìncss oIthatprcparatìonbywhìcha cadavcrìs trcatcd
wìthcosmctìcsandIaìd to rcstamongthc cyprcsscs-a rcst that
ìs no rcstataII sìncc thc conccpt oI rcst prcsupposcs that IìIc' s
unrcstwìII soonrcappcar-ìtì s mutatis mutandis part andparccI
oIcvcryccIcbratory ìntcrmcnt.
Now, thc cxpcrìcncc oIthc dcath oIothcrsas thc no-Iongcr-
bcìngoIsomcthìngthatwasmaywcIIprcsupposccvcryncgatìvc
and thcrcIorc dìaIcctìcaI kìnd oI thìnkìng. Howcvcr, ìtìs at thc
samctìmcthcrcjcctìonoIaIIdìaIcctìc.thcncgatìonoIa ncgatìon
oI a ncgatIon. Our dIsconsoIatc Insìght Into not bcIng Is not a
gcnuìnc InsìghtbutstìIIonc thatIcts usrccognìzc Iroma dìstancc
a puzzIìng and IIcctìng shadow. !t opcns up a path to us Ior
ncgatìvc-dìaIcctìcaIthInkìngbutcIoscs ìt to usno sooncrthanwc
havc cntcrcd upon It, Ior dcath Is thc ncgatìvc that carrIcs
nothìngposìtIvc wìthIn ìt. WcundcrstandanabsoIutcncgatIon,
nccdcdìn ordcrto usc a rcIatìvc ncgatìon, onIy Irom dcath, but
I I I I To Live with Dying
ìndoìng so wccomprchcndthìs ncgatìonìtscII no morcthanwc
comprchcnd dcath. Dcath as a contradìctìon, not onIy oI cvcry
posìtìvcbutaIso oI aII ncgatìvc thìnkìng-ìt ìs thcnonscnscthat
strìkcsbackat cvcry scnsc, ìt ìs mystcryandtrìvìaIìty, ncccssìty
oIthoughtandìmpossìbìIìtyoIthought,dcnìaIoIIìIc ìnaIìIcthat
wou|dbc unìmagìnabIc and worthIcss wìthout thc boundary oI
dcath, but whìch at thc samc tìmc Ioscs cvcry vaIuc sìncc ìt has
to cnd. Othcrthan thc physìcìan dctcrmìnìnga cIìnìcaI dcath-
thcsc days no Iongcr casy to dchnc-or thc pubIìc prosccutor
whohas to haIt thcpubIìcaccusatìonoIa pcrsonwho has dìcd,
no onc cantaIkaboutdcathwìthoutcìthcrtaIkìng contradìctory
nonscnsc or IIccìng ìnto mctaphor. Thc mctaphorìcaIuttcrancc,
whìch wc too cannot cscapc hcrc, not cvcn whcn wc aspìrc to
avoìd ìt ataII costs, ìs thc morc commodìous and attractìvc way.
Thc dcadpcrson rcsts or sIccps. ¨Hc´shappynow," says thc dc-
pcndcnt oI a man who has just dìcd, ìn an anccdotc by AIIrcd
PoIgar, and somconc wìthaIotoIncrvcasksthc coarscqucstìon,
¨Howdo you know?"Thc rcIatìvc comIortìng hìmscII and othcr
IamìIymcmbcrs wìthhìs assurancc oI wcII-bcìng ìn dcath hasno
ìdcawhcrc hc gcts ìt Irom. Thc dcad pcrson-butwhat docsthat
mcan, thc dcadpcrson? Thc nothìng wouId havc bccna morc
corrcctwayto sayìt, cvcnìI ìt ìs morc cmpty, sìncc thc cadavcr
thatwìII quìckIy dccayìsccrtaìnIy not a ¨dcad" thìng. Thc dcad
pcrson, ìI Ianguagc usagc wants ìt thatway, ìs ncìthcrwcIInor
unwcII. !t ncìthcr rcsts nor sIccps, Ior aItcr rcst, unrcst must
comcandaItcrsIccp, awakcnìng. ¨Thcnotìs not"wouIdbcthc
onIy, thoroughIytautoIogìcaI, wayto asscrtìt, andthatwc can
drop.
Not onIy do thc dcad sct thc Iìmìts oI thcìr Ianguagc wìth
thcìrdcath, butaIsothosc oIoursovcrthcìrbcìng dcad. Requies­
cat in ¡acc-that ìs ccrtaìnIy a nìcc soundìng phrasc and quìtc
I l 2 I ON A GING
rìghtIymuchmorcsympathctìctoHans CastorpthanHoch sol er
leben, ` whìchsoundsmorcIìkc raìsìng thcrooI.Butìt ìs a mcta-
phorìcaIIycmptyphrasc,Iornooncrcstsìnpcaccnomattcrhow
muchwcmaywìshìt.Dcathdocsnotwcara SpanìshIrìII coIIar,
nor ìs ìt thc bcautìIuI dark woman namcd Marìa Casarcs Irom
Coctcau´s Orphee, but ìt ìs cmpty and unrccognìzabIc. No mat-
tcr how oItcn onc starts to taIk about dcath, ìt ìs IaIsc. ¨Not
cxprcssìbIcìnIogìcaIIanguagc."That´showRudoIICarnapruIcs
aItcr scmantìc anaIysìs oI onc oI Hcìdcggcr´s scntcnccs about
nothìngncss-andhc´srìght.I mctaphorìcaIspccchonIybabbIc
ìspossìbIc.thusanyoIuscanpassjudgmcntwhcnwchcarsomc-
thìngabout thc ctcrnaIpcaccìntowhìcha pcrsonwhohasj ust
dìcd ìs supposcd to bc cntcrìng hnaIIy aItcr a hard IìIc-and
cvcryIìIc ìs doubtIcsshard.TotaIkoIthcpcaccoIdcathìs noth-
ìng cIsc thanbcìnghorrìhcdaboutthc strìIc oIIìIc. But bcyond
that, thc mctaphors oI dcath can no morc bc omìttcd than thc
corrcct uttcrancc, madc whcn somconc has dìcd, that onIy a
ncgatìvc that ìs notìs thcrc. UnIcss . . .
Ycs, unIcss thc mctaphorìcaIIyhappysurvìvor, convìnccdthat
thc dcad pcrson ìshappynow, bcIìcvcs ìnanctcrnaIIìIc and has
dchncdthìsbcIìcI.ThìswrìtcrcannotrcIatc to thcabsurdìtyoI
Iaìthìn a IìIcthat contìnucs aItcrdcath, a IaìththatonIygaìns
somcscnscthroughthcmcdìumoImythoIogy. Rìghttothccnd,
hc rcmaìns cntìrcIy on thc sìdc oI Jcan Rostand, who saìd so
sìmpIyandso cmphatìcaIIy, ¨!bcIìcvcthatwhcnwcIaIIìt ìs Ior-
cvcr and wc don´t gct up agaìn aItcrwards Iìkc thc murdcrcd
actorsìn thcthcatcr. "
AII thosc whohavcbanìshcd thcbìomorphous andmythìc
hopc Ior a contìnucd cxìstcncc bcyond thc boundary oI dcath
wìIInotbc abIc toabstaìnIromthc attcmpt, condcmncdtoIaìI-
urc Irom thc start, oIthìnkìngabout thcìr dcath. !t ìs probabIy
1 1 3 To Live with Dying
truc, what Frcud saìd, that partìcuIarIy ¨ìn our unconscìous
cvcryonc oIus [ìsj convìnccdoIhìs ìmmortaIìty"-andthìs, wc
wouIdIìkcto suggcst, not somuch Iromrcasons oI a crcaturcIy
cIìngìng to IìIc, but rathcr bccausc onc´s own dcath ìs so un-
thìnkabIc. On thc othcr hand, our convìctìon ìs wcak, just as
shakyasthchopcoIIìvìng onhcIdbythoscwhocaIIthcmscIvcs
bcIìcvcrs ìn Cod. Pcrc ThìbauIt was a pìous man, ìnìtìator and
honorarychaìrmanoInumcrous CathoIìccIubs. Butwhcnìt got
scrìous, thcn hìs Cod and thc ìmmortaIìty ìn thìs Cod wcrc
cIcarIynoIongcrworthmuch. Hcknows thatthc cndìscomìng.
¨For thc othcrsdcathìs a common, ìmpcrsonaIthought. Forhìm
ìtìs nowcvcrythìngthatìs prcscnt, ìt ìs rcaIìty. Hcìs dcathìtscII."
Andsohchashìs conIcssorcomc.Thcprìcstsayswhathìsmetier
caIIs Ior. OId ThìbauIt ìs no Iongcr wìthìn hìs rcach. ¨For a
momcnt, IoIIowìng thc routìnc, hìs thìnkìng trìcs to cvokc thc
ìdcaoI Codìn ordcrtoIIcctoìt. But hìselan ìs ìmmcdìatcIycrìp-
pIcd. EtcrnaI IìIc, thc gracc oI Cod-an unìntcIIìgìbIc Ianguagc.
cmptyvocabIcs Iackìng any common mcasurc agaìnst thc tcrrìIy-
ìng rcaIìty. " No onc bcIìcvcs ìn hìs or hcr dcath. Frcud ìs rìght.
Whcn thìngs comc to a hcad, no onc trusts thc hopc Ior a bc-
yond. Martìn du Card, thcwrìtcr oIThe Thibaults, ìs rìght.
At onc tìmc or anothcr, cvcryonc has to acccptthìnkìng thc
unthinkable. At one timc oranother. OIcoursc, thcpoìnt oItìmc
at whìch thìs cmpty cxpIoratìon, thc cxpIoratìon oI cmptìncss,
bcgìns ìs unccrtaìn. StìII, though conscìous oI sayìngsomcthìng
vaguc, onc can spcakoIaging as thc strctchoItìmc ìnwhìchwc
mcctwìththc thoughtoIdcath. Fora youngman-andwc Iìmìt
bcìng young no morc prccìscIy than wc spccìIy thc poìnt at
whìch a humanbcìng bccomcs awarc oI hìs agìng-dcath ìs oI
noconccrn, cvcnìIhcaIrcadyhastoburycIoscrcIatìvcs. Hcgocs
to war, ìI not happìIy, at Icast wìthout grcat Icar oI dcath, hc
1 1 4 I ON A GING
hardlyIccls thc dangcrous spccd oIdriving thc caron thc high-
way, cvcn a scrious illncss usually docs not causc him horror.
¨WisdomoIthc body, " conhdcntoIhisabilityto rcsist? That is
onlya qucstionIorbiologists. Trust inglobalcxpcricncc, gathcr-
ing itsclI up as onc statistic ahcad oI cvcry othcr statistic, that
youngpcoplchavca longcrliIcahcadoIthcmthanold pcoplc?
Plcasc hnd an answcrIrom psychology. What thc aging think
thcyknowistwoIold. that on thc onc handthc IcaroIdcath or
thc urgcncy oI thc thought oI dcath havc diIIcrcnt gradcs ac-
cordingtowhcthcronccxpcctsdcathIromoutsidc-by accidcnt
or Irom thc hand oI an cncmy-or dcath Irom within, that on
thc othcrhand cvcn this dcath oI a youngpcrson Iromwithin,
cvcn iIhc or shc is hcavily suIIcring, has onlya slightvaluc in
rcality. !t rcquircs an cxtcnsivc cxpcricncc oIphysical downIall,
dwindling bodily powcrs, wcakcncd mcmory, dccay, and diIh-
culty in all Iorms, Ior dcath to changc Irom an objcctivcly
impcrsonal subjcct into somcthing authcntic. !t may only bc a
logically untcnablcanalogyandmctaphorto saythings likc, ¨Wc
livc in a longproccss oI dying, " ¨Wc dic without ccasc," ¨Dcath
grows upinsidc oI us"-in thc rcgionoIlivcd cxpcricncc such
mctaphoriccharactcrizations oIdcatharccxpcricnccd rcality.As
long asthcagingdo notpursuc thc busincss oIsupprcssingthis
awarcncss without a bad conscicncc andwithonlya littlc suc-
ccss, iI thcy do not alicnatc thcmsclvcs with somc kind oI
opcrational ñtncssIorliving, thcyscnscthatthcyarc dyingmany
ycars bcIorc thcy actually pass away. Thcir physical, social, and
culturalloss oI thcworldmakcsthcmccrtainoIsomcthingthcy
had onlybclicvcd carlicrandwithoutIccling to bc a thcorctical
truth. thatthcy arc moribundi. Thc tcmptation to rccitc a manic
litany appcars to thcm. ! will dic, ! will dic, dic, dic. Thcy arc
nowdcpcndcnton dcath, on somcthingthatdocs notIormany
1 1 5 I To Live with Dying
part oI thcìrpossìbìIìtìcs. Butsìncc thcy vcry quìckIy rccognìzc
thatbcsìdcsaIyrìcaIdcath-stammcrthcrcìsnothìnganyonccan
do wìth anannìhìIatìng nothìngncss, thcyarrìvcagaìnandagaìn
atthc horrìbIc Irìsky vìtaIìty oI dyìng.
NothìngwìIIbctakcnback.thcvcrbdìccanonIybcuscdIogì-
caIIy inthc past tcnsc sìncc ìt docs notrcccìvc ìts Icgìtìmìzatìon
untìI dcathhas aIrcady takcnpIacc. StìII, sìnccthc contradìctìon
oIdcathovcrshadowìng ourcntìrcIìIc makcs aII Iogìc-whìchìs
surcIyaIwaysthc IogìcoIIìIc-andaIIposìtìvc thìnkìngìnvaIìd,
ìdcas oIdcath havc to takc thcìr shapc ìn opposìtìon to Iogìcìn
thoughtsoIdyìng.ThcaIIIìctcdmaythcn saytothcmscIvcs,thcy
havc to thìnk around dcath, sìncc thcy cannot thìnk about
dcath-and constantIy try thìs roundabout way ancw cvcn
thoughthcyconstantIydcscrìbconIyhaII-cìrcIcs.I wìIIdìc, saythc
agìngto thcmscIvcs. Whcn?Whcrc?How?AbovcaII.how?
AIcwycarsagoìt wasA´s turn. bìrthdayswìthunbcIìcvabIy
hìghhgurcsandbodìIyìnconvcnìcnccsoIaIIkìndsnoIongcrpcr-
mìttcd hìm to Iìvc Ior thc day Iìkc a nìcc brutc or hìs pIucky
ncìghbor. Hcwassupposcdtobc IamìIìarwìthdcath-notwìth
thatoIthcothcrs, IìkcthcchìcIphysìcìanPrìvy CouncìIorBchrcns
whointhcBcrghoISanatorìumìsdcath´soIdcmpIoycc,butwìth
hìs own. A. had IìvcdIorycars undcrdchnìtc, thoughhcrc not
pcrtìncnt, cìrcumstanccs ìnwhìch cvcry dayand cvcry hour hc
hadto cxpccthìs dcath. Hchadsccn thosc Iìkchìm dcpartìnjust
aboutcvcryconccìvabIcway.Hìscomradcs (ìtcan´tbccxprcsscd
othcrwìsc)hadcroaked, asìtturncdoutcxactIy,Iromtyphus,dys-
cntcry, hungcr, IromthcbIowswìthwhìchthcywcrc torturcd,
cvcnsnappìngIorbrcathìnZykIonB. HchadcarcIcssIycIìmbcd
ovcr pìIcs oIbodìcs, strìddcn through undcrgroundcorrìdors ìn
whìch somc had bccn strung up onpowcrIuI ìron hooks. How
1 1 6 I ON A GING
wasitwith mcatthattimc,A. askshimscIIandgivcshimscIIan
answcr,knowingthatothcrswiIIacccptitwithdistrust.!wasnot
aIraid.!wasnotbravc,bccauscthcrcwasaIotthattcrrihcd mc. !
was young. AndthcdcaththatthrcatcncdmccamcIromoutsidc.
thcrc is no niccr dcath in thc worId than bcing kiIIcd by an
cncmy.!t camcIromoutsidc, cvcnwhcn itwas notthc dcathoI
a cudgcl or gas. Dyscntcry and phIcgmon wcrc attacks by an
cncmyworId, tcrriIyingassuchbutnotcausingIcarIikcthatsIow
dying, assigncd to mc in my dccay Irom within as a IamiIiar
cncmywithwhom!havctodcaI,nowthat!havcagcdandhavc
bccn madc to undcrstand by not cxactIypIcasant diagnoscs oI
physiciansandaIcwnumcricaIhgurcsthat!amgoingdownhiII.
Dying by murder, which in my casc couId cvcn havc bccn con-
ccivcd at that timc as a dcath Irom within, is an attack oI thc
worId against my pcrson. A stccI pipc strikcs, a shot is hrcd, a
suddcnIcvcrthrowsmcdown.!standthcn-stood, asI prcciscIy
rcmcmbcr-in thcconditionoIa humanbcingwhohaslosthis
trustinthcworIdbccauscinhisdistrcsshc cannotchcrishanycx-
pcctationoIhcIp. Dyingwastcrror.
Now it is horror and angor, horror and anguish. ! had to
cxpcctquitc IitcralIythata boot wouId kick mc topicccsorhaII
kick mc topicccsand no onc wouId cvcn givc my mashcdbody
as much as a gIancc, Ict aIonc bring it activc assistancc. Such
Irighthas somcthing prccipitous, incomprchcnsiblc, somcthing
thoroughIyaIicnaboutit, but cvcn iI ! wasunarmcd, thcrc had
stIÌÌpcrsIstcdanIrratIonaÌbasIcstatcoIaIIairs in which agcrm of
a possibIc dcIcnsc Iay cmbcddcd.
Today? ! dcny myscIInothing. Onaccount oI a triIlc ! go to
thc doctor. Hc is IricndIy, his instrumcnts and his prcscription
pad arc thcrc to scrvc mc. ! draggcd around Ior days at twcnty
dcgrccs bcIow zcro Cclsiusand across ! don´t know how many
1 1 7 To Live with Dying
kiIomctcrs oI snow-covcrcdhighways, and cvcrynowandthcn
! hcard thc whip-snap oI a shot that brought a comradc down.
Thc strangc Iright madc mc pcrhaps trcmbIc a short timc pcr-
haps, but!was sparcdIromIcar.
Whcn!amtircdanddo notwanttodrivc myowncar, !takc
a taxí, it´saIIrathcrcomIortabIc, and no onc dcnics good scrvicc
to anyonc who can Iay out a Icw picccs oI moncy. But Icar is
withmc, a dcaIIccIingthatncvcrmakcs mc trcmbIc, just an cx-
trcmcIy pcrsistcnt onc, which ina sIow kind oIwaybccomcs a
part oI my pcrson, so much so that ! cannot actuaIIy say any
Iongcr that ! have any Icar. !nstcad ! say that ! am Icar, cvcn
thoughthis scnsc oIbcing Icar docs not hindcrmc indoingmy
work, cvcnthoughothcrs know nothing oI it, and cvcnthc good
mood!wcarIor appcarancc hardIy suIIcrsanydamagc. ! chcrish
thc strong suspicion that it is no bcttcrwith othcr aging pcopIc
who, iI nccd bc, organizc happy picnics, go to thc thcatcr, and
havcIashionabIccIothingmadcIorthcmscIvcs. As Iormc, aman
oIthc Iong dcath march oIa Iormcr agc who is not any bravcr
but aIso not cspcciaIIy Iaint-hcartcd, ! know in any casc that !
bccomcaIraid oIdying tothc dcgrcc that thc hopcs oI IiIc aban-
don mc.Thc onticdcnsityoImycxistcnccgctsthin andthc Icar
oIdyinghIIs upthccmpty spaccaspurcncgativity. Thc sIowad-
vancc of whatwiII cvcntuaIIy bc my dcath has givcn my IiIc its
particuIar, vcry ugIy, and to mc prcviousIy unknown coIor. ! do
not know cxactIy anymorc how it happcncd whcn ! hrst bcgan
to pcrccivc thc stcp, thc hooI bcat, and trot. Gctting tircd too
quickIyinoncpIacc, hcavybrcathing, a startIingpaininanothcr,
cvcn without bcing abIc to rcmcmbcr it, it bccomcs rcaIity in
rctrospcct. Not untiI aII sorts oI inj ury had aIrcady grown
strongcrwcrc aging and cxpcctation oI dcath prcscntas consti-
tuting cIcmcnts. Fcar, angor, angustiae, constriction, anguish. !
1 1 8 I ON A GING
oItcn think aboutthc snow-covcrcd highways oI 1 944 and thc
good dcath by murdcr that didn´t want to know mc at aII. No
niccrdcath, asa mattcroIIact-not cvcryonc hasthc chancc.
AnunacccptabIcthoughtwhcnoncconsidcrsthcrcactionary
vuIgariticsIorwhichitcouIdprovidcanaIibil AndwhatIoIIyto
wishIoradcaththat'saIrcadyhappcncdoutoIIcaroIdyinglBut
it isonIythc IoIIy oI dcath´s contradiction, which cxtinguishcs
cvcryrcIIcctivcthought.!trcmainstruc, !amccrtain, that,iIno
timcwaspassing,itwascasicrtodicandcasicrtobccomcintimatc
withsomcthingsounavoidabIcandunthinkabIc. OriIitdidn´tgct
thatIar, thccvcnt,incvitabIyapproachingandinconccivabIcinits
spccihcity,couIdbcinthccourscoIthcincxorabIcagingproccss-
how docs onc compIctc this prcdicatc? !t won´t work with
¨pcrccivcdinadvancc, " sinccwc´rcdcaIingwithsomcthingcom-
pIctcIy unknown. Can cvcrything cvcntuaIIybc rcduccd to thc
wordºIcarcd?"!amIrightcncdoIdying,againstwhich!argucdin
IamiIiarhostiIitywhiIcagingandtowhich!bccamcaccustomcd
in dcccptivc intimacy. ! don´t know it-how couId any Iiving
pcrson knowit?-andthcrcIorchavctoticitto cxpcricnccs oI
IiIc,iI!amtosayanythingmorcthanrcpctitioustaIkaboutanxi-
ctyand ¨Icar," knowingbythcwaythatthis morcIor which !
ycarncanonIybcaprctcxt.!think!amaIraidoIconstriction.!t´s
probabIynotvcrymuchoutoIIinctoputdyingonthcsamcIcvcI
asthcconstrictionoImyIiIc.ThcbodyintcrIcrcsjustthc samc. To
bcabandoncdby IiIc, to takc thc Iastbrcath, ¨to sighaway, " asit
is caIIcd in a passagc vcry dcar to mc, mcans suIIocating as !
undcrstand it, cvcn iImcdicaI scicncc dismisscs this conccpt as
cIinicaIIyimprccisc.Forwithbrcathing,whichwiIIthcnbcdcnicd
tomc, !amjustasIamiIiarascvcryonccIsc. !havchadshortncss
oIbrcath as much asanyonc. that madc it cIcar to mc thatthc
wish Ior Irccdom canbctakcnback to thc impuIsivc dcsirc Ior
1 1 9 To Live with Dying
Irccdom to brcathc. But in dying thc amount oI oxygcn ! so
thoroughIy want IormyscII is no Iongcr grantcd mc. With thc
Irccdom to brcathc dcnicd, aII Irccdoms withdraw thcmscIvcs
Irom mc. Anxious Ior air ! havc to go on-that is thc bascst
thing÷withaIcarthatwithgrcatIikcIihood!'IIgcttoknowmorc
andmorcprcciscIy.
Fo A. , who thinks hc knows somcthing about dcath and
dying, thc prcscncc oI dcath in IiIc is thc sIow withcring away
thatcomcstobcknownwithaging, andthishcagainascribcs to
IcaroIconstriction and suIIocation. Hcthinksthcrcissomcthing
pccuIiarabout this shortncss oIbrcath. !t turns cvcry rcIIcction
into thc absurdity oI thc anti-thought oIdcath, asis obvious to
anyoncIonginghopcIcssIy to cscapc Iromthrcatcningconstric-
tions. Oncdocs nothavctobcaphysicianandapaticnttoknow
that shortncss oI brcath makcs anyonc opprcsscd in this way
want to brcathc cvcn morc dccpIy instcad oI ycarning Ior thc
dupcry oI a saIvation through dcath. This saIvation docs not
cxist. A suIIcring pcrson can aIways bc rcIcascd Irom his orhcr
tormcntintoaIiIcIrccoItormcnt, intothcgratihcationoIancgo
Ircc oIdistrcss, butncvcrfrom this cgo. OnIy whcn a pcrsonno
Iongcr has painbutinphysicaI andpsychic totaIity is pain, as in
the case of a carcinoma with bone metastases, may the absurd
dcsirc Iorncgation, Iorthc anti-cgooInothingncss, appcar. But
cvcn inthismostcxtrcmctorturc, inIIìctcd onthc sickby thcir
own bodics, thc suIIcring individuaIs wiII stiII dcsirc to brcathc,
cvcn iI thcy havc impIorcd thcir physician to makc an cnd to
thcirmiscrywithaninjcction.
ThcrcIorc,inspitcoIaIIIogicaIcontradiction, itsccmsthatthc
IcaroIdying, madc concrctcinthc shortncss oIbrcath, isinthc
cndstiIIthcIcaroIdcath.WhiIcthinkingoIdyingwccannotstick
120 I ON A GI NG
to thc vìtaIìty olthc hnaI cvcnt but arc aIways dìrcctcd to thc
thoughtoldcathìnìtsìmpossìbìIìty,partIybccauscìtìsonIylrom
dcath that dyìngactuaIIybccomcs dyìng, partIy howcvcr-and
hcrcA.´s,oranyonc´s,cxpcrìcnccolshortncssolbrcathhcIpsus
lurthcr-bccauscnosullcrìngpcrsoncvcracccptsasìngIcbrcath
asthcIast, ¨dcIìvcrìng"onc.Thclcaroldyìngorolsullocatìngac-
cordìngIybccomcsthchorror oldcath,whìch, on authorìtyol
ancìcntwìsdom, ìsno conccrnolours.Andnowthcncxtstcpìn
thìsìnquìryìntothcunknowabIccanbctakcncasìIy,aIItoocasìIy
pcrhaps,makìngìtbcttcrtoapproachasaqucstìonrathcrthanan
answcrthatsoundsìnsoIcnt. Can´twcconcIudcthatnotonIythc
lcaroldyìngbutcvcrylcaractuaIIygocsbacktothclcaroldcath?
Not to dcduct anythìng lrom thc vìndìcatcd Icgìtìmacy ol A. ´ s
broodìngdìstìnctìonbctwccntcrroronthconchand,horrorand
anguìsh onthcothcr, bctwccnthcdcaththatìsìnIIìctcdupon us
lromwìthout,assomcthìnglorcìgn,andthcdìlhcuItoncwhìch-
to spcakmctaphorìcaIIy-grows on us lrom wìthìn ìn thc most
cvìIolaIIìntìmacìcs. lt ìs ccrtaìn, howcvcr, thatìnour sìghìng
awayhorrorandtcrrorcombìncagaìnasthclcaroldcath-and
thc qucstìon about rcducìngcvcrylcartothc lcarolsullocatìon
ordcathmaybcaskcdbutnotprccìscIyanswcrcd. Whcnwcgo
tothcdoctor, wccaImdownwhcnhcorshcdìagnoscsthcpaìns
thatwccndurcasharmIcss. OpprcssìvcandthoroughIypaìnluI
rhcumatoìdsullcrìngs,whìchoncknowswìIInotIcadtodcath,
canbcabsorbcdby thcpcrsonolthcpatìcntbcttcrthanìnìtìaIIy
paìnIcss but Iìlc-thrcatcnìng ìllncsscs ol thc cìrcuIatìon or thc
bIood. !n hìs ìncomparabIy thoughtlul book, Wohlbefnden und
Mijbefnden ( FccIìngwcIIandlccIìngsìck), thcCcrmanphysìcìan
andphcnomcnoIogìstHcrbcrtPIüggctcIlsusaboutaso-caIIcddy-
namìclorty-hvc-ycar-oIdìndustrìalìstwhogocstohìmwìthwhat
hc, thc patìcnt, bcIìcvcs tobc rhcumatoìd paìns ìnhìslcltshouI-
12 1 To Live with Dying
dcr andbrìskIycxcuscshìmscIIìn thc proccss Ior troubIìngapro-
Icssor oI mcdìcìnc wìth such a trìIIc. Whcn thc cxamìnatìon
rcvcaIsthatìt ìs ìnnowaya qucstìonoIrhcumatìsmbutoIcIcar
symptoms oI angina pectoris and thc physìcìan Icts thc patìcnt
knowhìs dìagnosìs, arcmarkabIcchangctakcspIaccìnthc man.
Evcn though hc ccrtaìnIy docs not suIIcr physìcaIIy any morc
thanbcIorc, hìsvìgoranddynamìsmarcaII gonc. ¨£ourtccndays
Iatcrhc actcdasthoughhchadgrownoId, "wrìtcsHcrbcrtPIiìggc.
¨Hìs manncr was ìnhìbìtcd, hìs cIastìcìty gonc. Hc now Iìvcs
IastìdìousIy, hasgìvcnupsmokìng, hashìmscIIdrìvcnbya chauI-
Icur.Hc 'notìccs´hìshcartnowandìs dcprcsscd. "Hcìs, oncmay
wcIIadd, aIraìd, aIraìd oIdyìng, aIraìd oI dcath, aIraìdtohoIdhìs
brcathìnIcarthatìtmaybchìs Iast. ¨L´angoìsscdìIIusc,I´angoìssc
uItìmc, cnhn, s´ appcIIc Ia mort" (AII·pcrvasìvc Icar, thc hnaI
Icar-ìn short-ìs caIIcd dcath) , wrìtcs VIadìmìr JankcIcvìtch.
Evcry Icarìs Icar oI dcath, cvcry carc ìs to kccp usIrom dcath,
whatwc¨doIorourhcaIth"ìsdìrcctcddcIcnsìvcIyagaìnstdcath.
OurcntìrcIìIc passcsawayìn thcabsurd cIIortto avoìd thc un-
avoìdabIc. thcmorcwc ¨dìc" and thc cIoscrwc comcto our Iast
brcath, thc morc dcspcratcIy wcstruggIcagaìnstsomcthìngwìth
whìch, ìn ordcrtobc scnsìbIc, ìtìs ourbusìncsstorcconcìIc our-
scIvcs.ScnsìbIc?Wchnd ourscIvcsìnapIaccwhcrcìtìsaIIovcr
wìth cvcry Iorm oI bcìng scnsìbIc, whcrc wc´rc dcaIìng wìth
dcath, whìch ìs absoIutcnon- scnsc. To rcconcìIc ourscIvcs. that
mcans to acccptdcath. ButthatwouIdmcanrcIusìngIìIc onthc
spot. Ncìthcrthconc northc othcr ìspossìbIc. Evcry rcIusaI has
toguarantcc uscvcn thc most mìscrabIc aItcrnatìvc. Dcath ìn ìts
totaIaIìcnandìncomprchcnsìbIc naturc ìs noaItcrnatìvc.!tìs thc
IaIsc, sìncc wc cannotthìnkìt, andthctruc, sìnccìtìs IuIIyccrtaìn
Iorus. BcIorc thcopacìtyoIthcNothatìssctagaìnstusandgìvcn
tous, wccomc tobcnothìngcvcn bcIorc wc comc nottobc.
122 I ON A GING
Howdowcconductoursclvcs?Dowcmurmuramonomanìac
lìtany? Dowcmakcourpcacc wìththcncgatìvìtycncompassìng
us? Dowc IlccIromdcathìntodcath?Dowccontìnuctolìvc on
asìIwcwcrcn´talrcadypromìscdtodcath?
Whcn ìt comcs to ìndìvìdual psychology, answcrs to such
qucstìonswìllalwaysvaryIromoncpcrsontothcncxt.Wcknow
cxamplcsoI¨carcIrcc"ìndìvìdualswholìvconìntoagìngandold
agc wìthout a carc. Thcy lìvc ìn cquìlìbrìum, so ìt sccmsìn any
casc andsothcyassurcus, dyìnganddcathdonot conccrnthcm
atall.Thcrcarcothcrs-wccallthcmdìsturbcd-who, ìnrunnìng
awayIromdcath, runtodcathandìmagìnc, Codknows, thatthc
act that scals thcìr lossoIIrccdombcyond rccall, suìcìdc, ìs thc
conhrmatìon oI thcìr Irccdom. !I mcntal dcrangcmcnt hadn't
bcatcnhìmtoìt, Nìctzschc mìght havcactcdthìsway, sìncchc
wrotc, ¨DcathìsonlyadcaththatìsnotIrcc undcrdcspìscdcon-
dìtìons,adcathatthcwrongtìmc, a cowardlydcath. OutoIlovc
IorlìIconcoughttowantdcathdìIIcrcntly, Ircc,conscìous,wìth-
outsurprìsc. "AIool´sstoryoIavoluntarydcath.
WchcaroIthcbravcwhopcaccIullylookdcathìnthccyc (as
ìIthcrcwas onc, asìIthcrcwasanythìngatalltosccthcrc) and
dìc uprìght ìn opposìtìon to thc gcotropìsm, thc gravìtatìon oI
agìng that pulls thcm carthward. Thcrc arc rcports oI chccrIul
typcswhoapproachthcìrcndìn scrcnìty, oIthoscwhoarcagì-
tatcdìnpanìcandraìscupaclamorassoonasthchrstharbìngcr
oIthc cnd comcs to thcm and who ncvcr stop howlìng so that
cvcnthoscwholovcthcmturnawayfromthcm, thcìrhcartsfuII
oI ìmpatìcncc, and hcavc a sìgh oIrclìcIwhcnhnallydcath rc-
lcascs, not thc onc who ìs waìlìng, but thcm. Bcyond cvcry
ìndìvìdualpartìcularìty, howcvcr, thcrcìspcrhapsstìll-andwìth
thìsthc rcalm oIpsychologyìsabandoncd-a Iundamcntallysìmì-
larIormoIconductìnthcIaccoIdcathanddyìng, condìtìoncdby
1 23 To Live with Dying
thc sìmìIarìtyoIourIundamcntaIdcstìny, ìn whìchthcbravcand
thc cowardIy, thc robust andthc sìckIy, thc chccrIuIIy atpcacc
wìththcmscIvcsandthcdìsturbcdncurotìcshndcachothcrìnIuII
cquaIìl y.
!nagìng,thcyaIImakc acompromìscwìthdcath. Notpcacc,
j ustacompromìsc, abadcompromìsc,nomattcrhowunpIcasant
thatmìghtsound.!ndoìngso,ìt'snotasìIthcy'vcIcarncdhowto
dìc. !t ìsn'tIcarncdìn IamìIìarìty. !tcomcsaboutrìght whcn onc
rcaIìzcsthatìtcan'tbcIcarncd, whcnonc's¨advanccdscnsìng"ìs
rcduccdto Icar, ìnthc uncndurabIc IccIìng oI constrìctìon, ìnthc
absoIutc horror oIthc Iast brcath. Thc bad compromìscìsaprc-
carìousIy standìng, but Irom casc to casc morc or Icss dccpIy
dìsturbcd,butncvcr,cvcntothcncurotìchypochondrìac, cntìrcIy
IackìngbaIanccoIIcar and conhdcncc, rcbcIIìonand rcsìgnatìon,
rcIusa¦andacccptancc.Thcagìng, Iorwhomdyìng changcsIrom
aunìvcrsaIand obj cctìvcmattcrtoapcrsonaIonc, trytoncutraI-
ìzc thc proxìmìty oI thc Bìg Momcnt, a ncarncss that ìs cIcarIy
cvìdcnt ìn statìstìcs and mcdìcaI hndìngs, by mcans oI a conh-
dcncc thatìs not conhdcntìnìtscIIandthatcvcrydaybccomcs
morcìrratìonaI.EvcrydcIcrmcnt-aItcrascìzurc,ascrìousìIIncss,
adangcrousopcratìon-ìs Iorthcm Iìkc anappcaI to a Iawcourt
thatcanactuaIIyacquìtthcm.!IIusìon.Iorhcrc mattcrsarcrcaIIy
dcIaycd, notsuspcndcd, andthc] udgcsdonotthìnkataIIoIcas-
satìon. Butthatdocs nothìndcrthcagìngIrombcìngtakcnìnby
thc haIIucìnatìonthcyknowtobcj ust that. !n Fìnnìsh, thcrc ìs
apparcntIyan cvcnìngpraycrìn whìchìt ìs saìd, ¨Lord, ! gIadIy
want to IoIIowyou ìI you caII mc, butnot ìnthìs nìght. " Thosc
whoknowthcy'rcgcttìngcIoscrto dcath act asìIthcy'rc ìn an
unstabIc cquìIìbrìum, IìkcpcopIcprayìng. Thcy aIrcady wantto
dìc (thcy don't, thcyj ustknow thatthcy havctoandthcrcIorc
saythcy'rcgcttìng rcadyj-butnottonìght,j ustnotatthìshour.
1 24 I ON A G ING
Evcrynìghtìstonìghtandcvcryhourìsthìshour,andcvcrytìmc
anappcaI ìsmadctothccourt.
To Iìvcwìthdyìngìs not ìntcndcdtomcanthatwc graspthc
knowIcdgc oIourownhnìtudc.!t aIsodocsn´tmcanthatwcha-
bìtuatc ourscIvcsto thc nonscnsc oInothìngncss. Habìtuatìon ìs
onIya ccrtaìn cxcrcìsc ìncmptyandIaIsc cxpcctatìon, ìn thc scII-
dcccptìon oI bcìng a vìctìm by not bcìng that vìctìm sìncc onc
cvcntuaIIyknowsthatatsomctìmc, and probabIyvcrysoon,thc
j udgmcnt wìIIbccomcIcgaIIybìndìng andbc cxccutcd.
ThcastonìshìngcapabìIìtyoIthc agìngtoadaptthcmscIvcsto
a IccIìng Ior tìmc approprìatcIy rcquìrcd by thc cìrcumstanccs
makcs ìt casyIorthcm tocstabIìsha baIancc. As wc saìd at an-
othcrpoìnt, thcybccomc tìmc morc and morc ìn mcmory, Ior
worIdand spacc wìthdrawIromthcm. Wc aIso saìd oI tìmc-ìn-
thc-IuturcthatìtshouIdnotbc dìscusscd, dcath, dcnìaI oIcvcry
contìngcncy, is thcgoaI oIcxpcctation and canccIs thc scnsc oI
thc conccptoIthc Iuturc. Wc arc not gìvìng upon thìs posìtìon.
Yct ìt sccms ncccssary to rcpIacc ìt wìth somcthìng ncw and
dìIIcrcnt, cvcnìIwc arcnotgoìngtoìntroducc agaìnthcdìmcn-
sìonoIthcIuturcthathasbccomcscnscIcssIorthcagìng.Futurc,
whatcvcrìs comìngto us, wc saìd, ìs spacc ìn thc rcaIìtyoIthc
Iìvcd, thc agìng Iosc thc Iormcrwìththc Iattcr. What thcy cx-
changc Ior ìt ìs a IccIìng oI ìndìstìnct and dchnìtcIy sIoppy
tcmporaIìndìIIcrcncc. !t docs notcxcIudcthcìrIcar, but onthc
contrary ìncIudcs ìtandmakcsìtcvcnbcarabIc.ThcyIookback
ìntoa pastoImovingbackgrounds oIycarsandstagcsoIIìIcthat
changc thcìr quantìtatìvc vaIuc ìn thc proccss oI rcmcmbcrìng.
But ìt ìs aIways thc casc that cvcryarbìtrary tìmc spanIromthc
past sccms tìny to thcm, whìIc thcy cannot cvcn Iorcscc thc
samc strctch oItìmc ìn a shadowyand dubìous Iuturc. PrccìscIy
bccausc thcyhavc torcckonwìththcpossìbìIìty oIbcìngaIìvcIor
1 25 I To Live with Dying
onIy a Icw morcycars, thcy Iìkcwìsc Ict thc CoodLordbc agood
manwhowìIIccrtaìnIycxtcndthc spanìnto ìnhnìty. Fourycars
ago onc oI thcm wasìn somc oId cìtyonvacatìon. thatwasycs-
tcrday.!noncycarhcwìIIno Iongcrbchcrc.buthowIong docs
a ycar Iastl Thc dìsìntcgratìngcxtcnsìon oI a postcrìor pcrìodoI
tìmc,ontìcaIIyIosìngìts dcnsìty, bcIongstothcproccssoIbaIancc
andaccommodatìonjustasthcìIIusory appcaItothc court. Wìth
thìs conccpt wc wouId gìvc ourscIvcs away to thcoIogy, to any
sort oI transccndcntaI thìnkìng whìch, as CabrìcI MarccI cx-
prcsscs ìt, Iooks at ¨hopc" as thc stuII ¨oI whìch our souI ìs
madc. " Lct´s avoìd that kìnd oI guìIcIcssncss. Whcnthc agìng
makc :hcìr bad compromìsc, thcy act as crcaturcs oI Icar who
havc to stand up ìn that Icar and agaìnst ìt.
CrcaturcsoIncgatìon,contaìnìngnokìndoIposìtìvìtythatcan
bc dcscrìbcd dìaIcctìcaIIy, thcy cvadcwìthabadconscìcnccaNo
thatconstantIytakcshoIdoIthcmagaìn. ThcypIayhìdcandscck
wìthdcathcvcnwhcnthcytryto dcaIwìthìt.PcrcThìbauIt, tor-
mcntcd by thc paìn oI hìs urcmìc attack, rcccìvcs an ìnj cctìon
Iromhìs son. ¨HcIccIsakìndoIrcIcascoItcnsìon, " wrìtcshìsìn-
vcntor, RogcrMartìnduCard, ¨a nccdIorrcstthatwascxquìsìtc
bccausc thcrc was no Iatìguc aIongwìth ìt. Hc had not stoppcd
thìnkìngoIhìsdcath,butnow,sìncchc hadstoppcdbcIìcvìngìn
dcathundcrthccIIcctsoIthcìn]cctìon,ìtbccamcpossìbIcIorhìm,
cvcnagrccabIc, to spcakaboutìt. " AII agìng pcrsons, cvcn whcn
IccIìnghcaIthyand robust, arcaPcrcThìbauIt, acccptìnghìs dcath
as anobj cctìvc cvcntwhcncvcrìt docsn´tthrcatcnhìm dìrcctIy
andsayìngto hìmscII, ¨NaturaIIy, !wìIIdìcbutìtwìIIstìIItakca
goodwhìIc Iorthat"÷whìch mcans thc samc thìngasa vast, un-
ìmagìnabIyIongtìmc. Hc gocs ìnto convuIsìons, wìthouthopc,
whcncvcrhcrcaIIythìnkshcìsstandìngatthcIrontìcranddcath
ìnìtsncgatìvìtyìsthconIyauthcntìcthìngrcmaìnìngtohìm. ¨Just
126 ON A GING
a IìttIcmìnutcIongcr, Mr.Exccutìoncr, " ìmpIorcdthc Countcss
DubarryonthcscaIIoId.Hcrrcqucsthasthcsamcmcanìngasthc
Fìnnìsh praycr. !tìs ancxprcssìonoIthc samc tragìccrror, that
postponcmcnt mcans canccIIatìon and that thc ncxt momcnt
couIdn´tjustascasìIy,ìnthcsamcradìcaIandìrrcvocabIcway,bc,
Iìkcthìsonc,hcrIast.ThctìnystrctchoItìmcIromoncmomcnt
tothcncxt, whcnonIyanothcrrcspìtcìsgrantcd,hasthc samc
mcssyìnhnìtyasthc ycarorthc dccadcthathumanbcìngsstìII
hopcIorthcmscIvcs.
ThcagìngIìvc onìn a IaIsccompromìscwìththc ìnabìIìty oI
cscapìngthcìrcondìtìon, rcaIìzcdatwhatcvcr occasìonthcyhrst
IcIt thcmscIvcs to bc agìng. But ìn tcIIìng thcmscIvcs thcsc taII
storìcs oI thcìr compromìsc, thcy arc not dcspìcabIc Iìars, and
thcìrmauvaise foi ìsnotthatoIcommonswìndIcrs.Tobcsurc, thc
untruth wìth whìch thcy compIy, thc bad compromìsc ìnto
whìchthcycntcr,ìsonIythcpsychìccountcrpart oIjustthìscon-
stìtutìon
´
Iorccd Irom thc absurdìty oI thcìr IundamcntaI
condìtìon. thc morcproIoundIythc Ialsc, orpcrhapsbcttcr. thc
morc thatwhìchIaIsìhcs-dcath-ovcrshadows thcm, thc IaIscr
thcìr IìIcwìIIbc. Thc closcr thc No gcts to thcm, thc morcdìs-
tortcd and ìnsìnccrc thcìr Ycs bccomcs. Whcncvcr thc rìng oI
constrìctìon, oIanguìsh, cIoscsaroundthcm, prcssìng hardcrand
hardcr, somcthìng compcIs thcm, cvcr morc hopcIcssly and
thcrcIorc morc dcspcratcIy and dìshoncstIy, toward cxplosìon
and dìstancc. Thcy sayto thc momcnt. ¨Stayl "-andknowthat
ìt's not bcautìIuI and that ìt won't comc to a stop wìth thcm.
ThcypIaymanydìIIcrcnt roIcs-thc bravc oncs, thcquìctIy sur-
rcndcrìng, thc stìrrcd up ìn panìc, thc proud rcbcIs-and thcy
can'tmakcany oIthcìrìntcrprctatìons bclìcvabIc, sìnccthcyarc
rcgìstcrcdìnaIltcxtsas unbcIìcvablc and unpIayabIc.Thcythìnk
about dcathanddyìng, puIIìngthcm apartandthcnputtìng thcm
1 27 I To Live with Dying
back togcthcr agaìn, thcy scparatc thc aIìcn dcath by murdcr
Iromthcìrìntìmatc cncmy, sIowIy accruìng to thcm,thcybrood
ovcr thcìr Icar and thc tìmc pcrìod accordcd to thcìr dcccptìvc
soIacc. !tìs aII ìn vaìn. Thc absurdìty oI dcath ncgatcs whatcvcr
thcy thìnk up Ior thcmscIvcs but urgcs thcm on wìth thcìr
thìnkìng. Thccarcs thcyconsìdcrarcthc uncIcarmìrrorìmagcoI
thcìrcarcs oI dcath, sìnccno onc canIcadaIìIcwìththc Iormcr
andsupprcss thc Iattcr. OncagìngmanthìnksoIhìs grìppc, oIhìs
dcbts, oI hìs unIaìthIuI Iovcr. And hc´s not to thìnk oI dcath,
cvcn ìI thc grìppc ìs stìIIcurabIc, thc dcbtpayabIc, thc IaìthIcss
woman rcpIaccabIc, whìIc wìth dcath, whìch cnds cvcrythìng,
nothìng canbc donc? A. ìs up to hìs ncck, up to hìs mouth, ìn
thoughts oI dcath, whìch won´t rcIIcct much Iìtcrary crcdìt on
hìm. Onc shouId Icavc hìm aIonc. Hcìs anA. , anagìng human
bcìng, crcdìt docsn´tmattcr to hìm.
¨Whocvcrdocs notwanttodìcyoung, has todìc oId, " thatìs
oncoIthoscpIatìtudcsìnwhìchnonscnsc,proIundìty, andcIarìty
arcaIIìnagrccmcnt.Nooncwantstodìc young, nooncwantsto
gct oId. thcrc wc havc thc compIcmcntary banaIìty that onIy
hcìghtcnswhatìssuppIcmcntcdbythcunIathomabIc dìmcnsìon
oIthcunacccptabIc aspccts oIascII-consumìng cxìstcncc thatwc
aIvays acccpt.Agìng, throughvhìchthcNotand thcºun"oIour
cxìstcnccmakcthcmscIvcsknownandbccomccvìdcnttous,ìsa
dcsoIatc rcgìon oI IìIc, Iackìng any rcasonabIc consoIatìon, onc
shouIdnotIooIoncscII. !nagìngwcbccomcthcworIdIcssìnncr
scnscoIpurctìmc.AsagìngpcopIcwcbccomcaIìcntoourbodìcs
andatthcsamctìmccIoscrtothcìrsIuggìshmassthancvcrbcIorc.
Whcnvchavc passcdbcyondthcprìmcoIIìIc, socìctyIorbìdsus
tocontìnuc toprojcctourscIvcsìnto thc Iuturc, and cuIturcbc-
comcs aburdcnsomccuIturcthatwcnoIongcrundcrstand, that
1 28 I ON A GING
ìnstcadgìvcsustoundcrstandthat, asscrapìronoIthcmìnd,wc
bcIongtothcwastchcapsoIthccpoch.!nagìng, hnaIIy,wchavc
toIìvcwìthdyìng,ascandaIousìmposìtìon,ahumìIìatìonwìthout
comparc, thatwcputupwìth,notìnhumìIìty,butasthchumìIì-
atcd.AIIsymptomsoIthcìncurabIc sìckncsscanbctakcnbackto
thcìncomprchcnsìbIccIIcctsoIthcdcath-vìruswchavcwhcnwc
cntcrthcworId.!twasnotvìruIcntwhcnwcwcrcyoung.Wcccr-
taìnIykncwoIìt,butìtdìdn´tmattcrto us. Wìthagìng, ìtcomcs
outoIìtsIatcncy. !tìs ouraIIaìr, ouronIyonc, cvcn whcn ìt ìs
nothìng, andthcmanìcIìtany,thcpoctìcprattIcoIdcath, ìsstìII
bcttcrthanthcIundamcntaIIyugIykìtschoIthc ìdyIIìc cvcnìng
sun. ¨OIdagc shouIdburnandravcatcIosc oI day," saysDyIan
Thomas.
HasA.doncsomcthìngtodìsturbthcbaIancc,cxposcthccom-
promìsc,dcstroythcgcnrcpaìntìng, contamìnatcthcconsoIatìon?
Hchopcs so. Thc daysshrìnkanddryup. Hchasthc dcsìrctotcII
thctruth.
NOTES
TRANSlLATOR
'
S I NTRODUCTI ON
1. .A Leopardi Reader, ed. and trans. Ottavio M. Casale ( Urbana: Uni­
versity of Illinois Press, 1 98 1 ) , p. 2 1 5. The comment from the Pensieri
occurs on p. 1 89.
2. At the Mind's Limit: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and
Its Realities, trans. Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P. Rosenfeld, with an af­
terword by Sidney Rosenfeld and a foreword by Alexander Stille (New
York: Schocken Books, 1 990), p. 20.
3. Der integrale Humanismus: Aufsatze und Kritiken eines Lesers,
1966-1978, ed. with an afterword by Helmut Heissenbiittel ( Stuttgart:
Klett-Cotta, 1 985) , pp. 21 9, 22 1 .
4 . Radical Humanism: Selected Essays, ed. and trans. Sidney Rosenfeld
and Stella P. Rosenfeld (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1 984), p. 3 .
5. Jenseits von Schuld und Suhne: Bewiltigungsversuche eines Uberwiltigten
(Munich: Szczesny, 1 966); frst published in English as At the Mind's Limits
in the translation of Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P. Rosenfeld by Indiana
University Press in 1 980.
6. Radical Humanism, p. 5.
7. Charles Bovary, Landarzt: Portrat eines einfachen Mannes ( Stuttgart:
Klett-Cotta, 1978) .
8. Hand an sich legen: Diskurs aber den Freitod ( Stuttgart: Klett, 1 976) .
9. Text ¬ Kritik 99: Jean Amery (July 1 988), p. 67.
10. "Jean Amery's essay Uber das Altern: Ein Dialog mit franz6sischen
Dichtern und Denkern," in Uber Jean Amer, ed. Irene Heidelberger­
Leonard ( Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1 990), pp. 79-90.
1 1 . Text ¬ Kritik 99, p. 69.
PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITI ON
1 . Allusion t o the play Der Verschwender (The spendthrift) by Ferdi­
nand Raimund ( 1 790-1 836) .
1 30 Notes
PREFACE TO THE FI RST EDI TI ON
1 . Vladimir Jankelevitch: La mort (Paris, 1 967) . Herbert Pliigge:
Wohlbefnden und MiJbefnden (Tiibingen, 1 962) ; Der Mensch und sein Leib
(Tiibingen, 1 967) . Andre Gorz: Le vieillissement, in Les Temps Modernes, nos.
1 87 and 1 88. [Amery's note]
EXI STENCE AND THE PAS S AGE OF TIME
1. Allusion to the poem "Tristan, " by August von Platen ( 1 796-
1 83 5 ) .
2. Allusion to Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ( 1 749-1832) :
according to his pact with Mephistopheles, Faust would forfeit his soul
if he ever became satisfed and asked time to stop for a moment,
saying, "Verweile doch, du bist so schon" (Tarry a while, you are so
lovely) .
3. The frst line of a poem by walther von der Vogelweide ( c.
1 1 70-1 230), written late in his life.
4. Allusion to the opening of Joseph and His Brothers by Thomas Mann
( 1 875-1 955) .
5. Eugene Ionesco, Exit the King in Plays, vol. 4, trans. Donald Watson
( London: John Calder, 1 963) , p. 35.
6. Allusion t o the poem "Hyperions Schicksalslied" (Hyperion's song
of destiny) by Friedrich Holderlin ( 1 770-1 843) .
7. Monk of Heisterbach: Caesarius von Heisterbach (c. 1 1 80-1 240), a
monk who wrote moral tales.
STRANGER TO ONESELF
1. This quotation and the two that follow, from Simone de Beauvoir,
Force o!Circumstance, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Putnam, 1 965) ,
p. 656.
2. Apparently Herbert Pligge.
3. Signor Settembrini and "life's young problem child" (Hans Cas­
torp) : characters in Thomas Mann's novel The Magic Mountain.
THE LOOK OF OTHERS
1 3 1 Notes
1 . Allusion to the title of a chapter in The Magic Mountain about the
death of Hans Castorp's cousin, a soldier.
2. Theodor Fontane: German novelist ( 1 81 9-1 898), all of whose
novels were written after he turned ffty-nine.
3. The frst line of a poem "Verborgenheit" ( Seclusion) , by Eduard
M6rike ( 1 804-1 875) .
NOT TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD ANYMORE
1 . Lettrism: a literary movement that tried to fnd poetry in the let­
ters of the alphabet by emphasizing graphic sequences, often without
apparent meaning.
2. Witch's one-times-one ( Hexeneinmaleins) : Goethe's Faust, line
2, 552, where the witch in the scene "Witch's Kitchen" declaims nonsense
verse about the magic use of numbers.
3. Theodor Lessing ( 1 872-1 933) and Ludwig Klages ( 1 872-1 956) :
German thinkers well known i n the German-speaking world i n the
1 920s.
4. The German word here is hold, meaning "lovely" and "sweet. " The
English word "comely," with its combination of poetic, archaic, and
morally proper connotations comes as close as possible to hold, which
contains all those connotations with perhaps greater intensity.
5. Christian Sinding ( 1 856-1 941 ) : Norwegian composer. Detlev von
Liliencron ( 1 844-1 909) and Theodor Storm ( 1 81 7-1 888) were poets
widely read in the German-speaking world during the early years of the
twentieth century. After 1 800, HOlderlin's poetry underwent a dramatic
transformation that has defned his modern reputation.
6. Allusions to HOlderlin's poem "Halfte des Lebens" (Half of life) and
the use of an imaginary language by the poet Richard Dehmel
( 1 863-1 920) .
7. Andreas Gryphius ( 1 6 1 6-1 664) : German poet and dramatist.
8. Cf. Goethe's "Selige Sehnsucht" (Blessed yearning) .
9 . Allusion (also in the title of this chapter) to the fnal words of the
play Maria Magdalene by Friedrich Hebbel ( 1 81 3 -1 863) .
1 32 I Notes
TO LI VE WITH DYI NG
1 . "Hoch solI er leben" i s a German equivalent of "For he's a jolly good
fellow," but it contains in it the suggestion that one should live to a ripe
old age (ein hohes Alter) and is therefore actually less of a "metaphorically
empty" phrase than "Requiescat in pace" (Rest in peace) .
Jean Amery was born in Vienna in 1 91 1 as
Hanns Mayer. As a young man, he studied philoso­
phy and wanted to be a novelist. When the Nazis
<:ame to power in Austria in 1938, he fled to Bel­
gium and joined the resistance there. He was caught
distributing leaflets, tortured, and sent to Auschwitz.
He survived, and after the war he made his home in
Brussels, changing his name to Jean Amery. In 1966,
he published Jenseits von Schuld und Sihne (At the
Mind's Limits), a series of essays about his experi­
ences in Auschwitz, which made him famous.
John D. Barlow is Dean of the School of Liberal
Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indi­
anapolis. He is a professor of English and German
and author of German Expressionist Film.

On Aging
REVOLT AND RESIGNATION

Jean

Amery

TRANSLATED BY JOHN D. BARLOW

Indiana University Press
BLOOMINGTON AND INDIANAPOLIS

Originally published as Ober das Altern. Revolte und Resignation. CO 1968 Ernst Klett Verlag fiir Wissen und Bildung GmbH. Stuttgart English translation CO 1994 by John D. Barlow All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by .my information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Pre:;ses' Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984.
MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

€9™

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Amery, Jean. rOber das Altern. English] On aging : revolt and resignation I Jean Amery; translated by p. cm.

John D. Barlow.

Includes bibhographical references. ISBN 0-253-J0675-2 (cloth) 1. Old age-Psychological aspects. aspects. I. Title. 1994 99 98 97 96 95 93-41804 BF724.8.A4813 155.67-dc20 2 3 4 5 2. Aging-Psychological

Through a gap he catches a glimpse of the lake. and he takes up his brushes. -Proust. Time Regained . Mais deja vient la nuit ou l'on ne peut plus peindre et sur laquelle Ie jour ne se relevera plus! -Proust. Par une breche il l'apen. the night in which he will not be able to paint anymore and upon which no day will follow. with its whole expanse before him.J'avais vecu comme un peintre montant un chemin qui surplombe un lac dont un rideau de rochers et d'arbres lui cache la vue. But already night is coming. Le Temps retrouve I had lived like a painter climbing a road overhanging a lake. il prend ses pinceaux. il l'a tout entier devant lui.oit. a view of which is hidden from him by a curtain of rocks and trees.

Contents ' TRANSLATOR S PREFACE I ix ' TRANSLATOR S INTRODU CTION PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION I I I X xix xxi Existence and the Passage of Time Stranger to Oneself The Look of Others 27 53 1 Not to Understand the World Anymore To Live with Dying NOTES 78 103 I 129 .

I would like to thank three persons in particular for their assis­ tance in this project: John Gallman. . conversational style that might not be present in writings never intended to be read aloud. . but also because I find fre­ quent uses of generic singulars and nominal adjectives clumsy. Even though it is Amery's practice in German to use generic singulars. Norma Drake. Furthermore. or dated. all seven of Amery's self­ contained books came into being originally as radio talks. even in those occasional passages that seem less con­ vincing. In translating. partly to avoid the implied gender preference. in English. I have tried to use them only occasionally. . Director of the Indiana University Press and editor of this publication. . . I have tried to retain this tone as much as possible. basically what Amery could read over the radio in just under an hour. " sounds less sweeping than "the aged person is likely . or more dependent on stereotypical examples. even pompous.TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE In making this translation I have been mindful of the fact that. for his assistance and encouragement and for being such a superb editor and uni­ versity press director. Each essay or chapter in each one of them is about twenty-five pages long. beginning with At the Mind's Limits. to say "aging persons are likely . " I hope readers do not feel this to be an unnecessary violation of Amery's intentions. Anyone who has heard Amery read over the radio or heard recordings of his readings knows the particularly melancholy and reflective precision of his voice and the hold it can have on the listener. for clerical assistance. . and especially Pat Barlow. They have an intimate. for many forms of help and advice.

who suffered from numerous physical ailments before his life ended at the early age of thirty-eight. could tell from the experi­ ence of his youth. our pains Increase. our hopes become extinct. Furthermore. still wrote in his Pensieri that old age was the greatest evil. 1 This is not a very happy or consoling view of old age. old age stripped human beings of their pleasures. far worse than death. psychologi­ cal. but left them their appetites and brought them every kind of sorrow. that fit Creation of unaging souls-old age: The state in which desire Remains intact. think­ ing that the human condition would be too blessed and full of joy if youth could last and that an early death would be too mild. It is too hopeless and gloomy. In what was om' of his last poems. in so­ cieties where old age is becoming more and more the norm rather than an exception. and good comes not again to us. Yet most social. while never experiencing old age chronologically. he wrote how the gods. it is necessary to resist the debilitating effects . and it is made even more dismal by the fact that its author. and religiou:> programs of consolation try to overcome this view of old age. To Leopardi.TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION Giacomo Leopardi. wracked with pains and miseries similar to those of old age. The sources of our joy run dry. what it might be like. de­ cided to introduce "a stronger doom than terrible death itself" : And so the eternal ones Invented the worst evil known. He was perplexed that anyone would fear death and want old age.

perhaps 197 3 in which Amery contrasts Elias Canetti's remark.'" In any case. after all. as Amery states in the pages that follow. more humane. To this can be added a fascination with death. You do not observe dehumanized man committing his deeds and misdeeds without having all your notions of inherent human dig­ nity placed in doubt. disoriented . more human. emptied out. . that he believed "that in Auschwitz we did not become better. He wrote. except that Amery wrote his book when he was fifty-five. We emerged from the camp stripped. spite of surviving the Holocaust. .xi Translator's Introduction of a propensity to depression and sorrow that could afflict the largest proportion of the population. he found the terror of his experi­ ences at Auschwitz to be qualitatively different and. It is possible that his Auschwitz experience made him exceptionally susceptible to even the slightest indications of the deciduousness of aging. Furthermore. "I hate death. and internment in Auschwitz. he retained scars that left him especially impatient with the onset of the inconveniences ex­ perienced by human beings in their fifties. Nonetheless. He was not suffering from a debilitating disease. Leopardi's view is not much different from that presented by Jean Amery in the pages that follow. de­ portation. in . less filled with internal horror and anguish than the experience of aging. " with his own "fearful longing" for death and his "having little desire to live long. and he had survived the worst social nightmare imaginable: torture. Amery intentionally wrote the essays of On Aging to disturb his listeners (they were broadcast over the radio before best acknowledged in an essay written in being published in book form) and readers. incredible to say. and more mature ethically. robbed. His aim was to mince no words about the unpleasantness of the experience of growing old and to demonstrate that existentially one can never know . "2 It is also plausible that.

Rather than trying to say what aging could or should be in a more humane society and a more understanding world. On Aging is a most honest book. changing his first name to its French equivalent and rearranging the letters of his last name to become Jean Amery. In spite of its starkness. Die Schi f f­ bruchigen (The ship-wrecked) . which he sent to Thomas Mann and Robert Musil. after being tortured and having his iden­ tity discovered. The latter said that it was "gifted. since his father was a Jew. was caught distributing leaflets. and various newsworthy matters. When the Nazis came to power in Austria in 1 938. writing in German mostly for Swiss publications. it may provide a way of coping with old age based on a recognition of what is coming and being prepared for its arrival. Amery wanted to describe what it is. was sent to Auschwitz. joined the resistance there. He survived the brutality of the Holocaust and returned to Belgium after the war. ." but Amery was never able to publish it. the quintessen­ tial model of the opportunistic German writer under both the Nazis and the Marxists. including Winston Churchill. Jean Amery's life began in Vienna. His first piece of writing was published in 1 928. however. One of the books. knowing that. and eventually. He actually published six books of journalism about jazz. Amery fled Vienna. completing a novel. famous contemporaries.xii I Translator's Introduction what aging is like until one experiences it. At the university. published in the early sixties. was about Gerhart Hauptmann. intentionally eschewing an at­ tempt to make readers feel better. he studied philosophy and continued with his aspiring literary efforts. He made his home in Brussels and became a journal­ ist. He moved to Belgium. he would be persecuted if he stayed. where he was born in 1 9 1 1 as Hanns Mayer. But he never thought of this journalistic activity as anything more than writing on consignment.

His interest is to discuss human mortality from the inside. social science. when my first manuscript was printed in Vienna.' As he put it later. The things that Amery describes as "weighing on my soul" all turn around the frail mortality of human life : aging. Hand an sich legen ( literally: "To lay hand on oneself" ) . "My iden­ tity as a writer. Amery tries to get inside the character. In a book about the fictitious character Charles Bovary. without calling on moral indignation. Amery felt that he was a failure as a writer. his trust. or psycho­ logical analysis. deceived love. Death haunts them all. exile. 7 The most controversial o f these books was his discourse on suicide. in order to defend him against attitudes that mock his simple-mindedness. even to defend him against the author who in­ vented him. I accustomed myself to the situation of a failure or a 'rate. tor­ ture. treating him as a real human being who had suffered the loss of love and had been duped by the one he loved. had vanished."" All of this changed with the publication in 1966 of Jenseits von Schuld und Siihne (At the Mind 's Limits). failure. which I had been seeking since my sixteenth year. some of which have been gathered together in several book-length collections. he wrote shortly before his death. I could contemplate writing about the things that were weighing on my soul. as it were. that make fun of him because of his spouse's behavior. a series of essays about his experiences in Auschwitz. husband of Madame Bovary in Flaubert's novel." . "I had escaped the drudgery of writing articles in 1966."6 He went on to write six more books like At the Mind's Limits as well as numerous essays on various subjects. suicide. Thus the chapter on being tortured in At the Mind's Limits. establishing the absoluteness of the experience and its permanent impact on the constitution of one who has been tortured. Looking back.xiii Translator's Introduction Throughout this period.

because the former is not judgmental but merely descriptive. In addition to the melancholy contemplation of suicide as a potentially positive action in some circumstances. It was also the first he published with the publishing firm of Klett in Stuttgart (later Klett -Cotta) . instead of the more common Selbstmord ( self-murder). which would publish all subsequent books of his as well as reissue the German text of At the Mind's Limits. On Aging: Revolt and Resignation. published in 1 968. nothing psychological in the narrow sense . using the German word Freitod (voluntary death). that the feelings of well-being of those who are not suicidal make them ultimately indisposed to understand the suicidal and their state of mind. or a fundamentally unhappy person."9 These reflections are pertinent to considering On Aging. he presents a sympathetic view of suicide. without making the political claim of being a victim. Therefore: nothing socio­ logical. In this book. As he wrote in a letter. to which Amery thought Hand an sich legen should be a companion. Amery seeks to demonstrate that the kinds of experienc(�s that drive one to suicide cannot be under­ stood from outside the individual experiencing them. two years before Amery took his own life. Just as the suicidal state is one that resists understanding by those who are nonsuicidal. "It is to be a book that entirely pre­ sents voluntary death from within so that the author completely enters the closed world of the suicide. Hand an sich legen offers a probing delineation of Amery's basic concern about what it is and feels like to be within oneself a failure. . was the first of Amery's books after At the Mind's Limits. Starting from Wittgenstein's aphorism "The world of the happy person is a dif­ ferent world from that of the unhappy person." which serves as an epigraph for the book.xiv I Translator's Introduction published in 1 976. so the terminal state of aging cannot be fully ap­ preciated until one is already aging oneself.

xv Translator's Introduction When On Aging was published. or an idyll of serenity and satisfaction­ or opt for being a crank. along with Simone de Beauvoir. It naturally leads into the fourth essay. it is Marcel Proust. first pub­ lished shortly after On Aging. as well as the novel La Quarantaine by Jean-Louis Curtis. As Monique Boussart points out. The body becomes a burden they carry around with them. The third essay deals with social aging. Each of the essays of On Aging covers a particular complex of issues about the experience of growing old. the condition of real­ izing that it is no longer possible to live according to one's potential or possibilities. This essay draws on Jean-Paul Sartre and Andre Gorz. in fact. Amery was becoming astonished at-and gratified by-his sudden success in his late fifties. In the first. or else fall back on a pretense of normality. and Amery's reflections. . lived time as opposed to calendar and clock time or the time of physics. Time Regained. even as they come to know it better and to identify with it more. although it seems that each book was written independently of the other. especially the last. who not only pro­ vides much of the reflective commentary with his series of novels In Search of Lost Time. a meditation on the ways the aging are alienated from themselves.IO an aspect of each is essentially a dialogue with French intellectuals. had a strong influence on him immediately after the Second World War. whom he has written about in other essays and who. and the way aging makes the elderly pro­ gressively perceive time as the essence of their existence. a number of similarities between de Beauvoir's Old Age. There are. The last pages of Simone de Beauvoir's Force of Circumstance provide the underpinnings of the next essay. but that one must live in sober recogni­ tion that one is what one is. the way time passes. but who also appears in Amery's discussion. on cultural aging. eternal youth. where Amery again calls on Sartre. The subject here is time.

pub­ lished in 1 966. shows the impact of Amery's reading of Vladimir Jankelevitch's La Mort. His use of their insights is based on an unusual alliance of French . on the nearness of death and its effect on the lives of the aging. even if they often do so in abstract terms that are foreign to Amery. whose phenomenological studies of dis­ ease and the body Amery has written about elsewhere as well. demonstrates the utter misery of many endings of life. such as those cited above. or otherwise observed from outside . Amery argues that everyone makes a compromise with death in old age. made surveys. The novel Les Thibaut (The Thibauts) by Roger Martin du Gard. the loss of the ability to understand new de­ velopments in the arts and in a changing society's values and the feeling of becoming useless and out of touch with the world become everyday aspects of one's existence. for whom death and dying are companions. The fifth and last essay. It is a compromise that affects our behavior and influences our demeanor. that physical condition in which we feel the death that is in us. rather than to those who have done studies. When he turns to scholars. In addition to French backgrounds. Amery also calls into play his readings in German literature and thought. whose meditations on death and disease in The Magic Mountain are frequently cited. especially Thomas Mann. it is to philosophers like Jank ele vit ch and Sartre or to practitioners like Pliigge who try to describe the way humans feel the experience of aging. d1escribing the death of the old father of the Thibaut family. Amery's intention becomes most clear in this essay: to disturb easy and cheap compromises and to urge his readers to their own individual acts of defiance and acceptance. Amery prefers literary and cultural references for evidence in sup­ porting his views because he does not want to be systematic and because he approaches aging in terms of experience.xvi I Translator's Introduction In cultural aging. and the physician Herbert PHigge.

from which there is no re­ covery. un­ healthy. a virus we carry with us from birth. Resigned to the inevita­ bility of aging and all its concomitant discomforts. his essays are often reminiscent of the memento mori of medieval writers and their emphasis on the necessity of death. Amery calls it a disease. He wants to "disturb the balance. and the wasted effort of trying to be something they are not by revolt­ ing against this condition and refusing to play the social and psychological games: the little jokes and passive sentimentalities. It is a terminal experience. only without their theological underpinnings and purpose .xvii I Translator's Introduction existentialism and Viennese positivism. What the reader finds here is a desire to describe old age as it is. well aware of the contradictory nature of his prescrip­ tion. Indeed. In this. unwelcome. Amery. unfit for this and that." as Amery describes it. contaminate the conso­ lation. expose the compromise. in terms of how it is felt and sensed rather than in medical and psy­ chological terms. refuses to back off from it because of the absurd nature of aging itself. benign community activities. stress. unfruitful. He does not want to make people feel better. unteachable. toward being nothing. destroy the genre painting. The only way to deal with this condition is for the aging to cast themselves in an attitude of simultaneous revolt and resignation. they can save themselves from embarrassment." as he writes at the end of the book. frustrations. toward the negative. un-young. an alliance that is evident in his analytic approach to many of the culturally accepted ideas and metaphors about old age and death in On Aging. and social service outings that define the old as helpless victims. being "unable to perform much physical work. and losses. Implied in Amery's book is the idea that consolation is a form of victimization . uncoordinated. without consolation and without external support mechanisms: a condition in which human beings tend toward ceasing to be.

. Amery had neither faith nor conviction. Amery's suicide.. he notes the role of religious belief and sentiment in preparing for death and in thinking about it. or mincing words about the horrible nature of what he sees.. to ameliorate old age and death in comfortable formulas. when I was still relatively young. aims to expose. I did not decide to become a French writer. no ¥----.-. are all part of a "vile dupery" that his book. C_onsolation could come.. ---- -'"'--�-"""�"""-""-� matter what the extent of personal suffering. ---�..'--.. in his analysis of suicide. In On Aging."" When he was still relatively young: with this kind of regret. he wrote in At the Mind's LimitS. --'-. in his attempt to imagine what it would be like to be Charles B ovary.. to assess it without sentimentalizing. an analysis determined to be as much with­ out compromise as possible.--. seems to have been the o nly road he thought was left to him.. and in his meditations on the fate of intellectuals in Auschwitz. Amery was venturing into a merciless reflection on his own condition. It is similar to the stance he took in his autobiographicall writings. about which he could do nothing." To Amery. .. . as he wrote in one of his last let­ ters barely a week before his suicide. and he even reflected that it may have been "something like an error of fate that in 1 945. . especially in such " metaphorically empty" phrases as "Rest in peace . . It is not surprising that it led eventually to his study of suicide.. in a very personal way. he could not avoid a feeling of superfluousness and irrelevance. . With On Aging.xviii Translator's Introduction and with a different motive.ilone had a religious faith or an ideological conviction about the inevitability of history C in which one's fate could be seen as ultimately redeeming. his voluntary death.. The key to Amery's book is his determination to look at the phenomenon of aging without blinking. the horror of aging was tri­ umphing over him. -.. He is not trying to convert or teach morality. consoling. attempts to console and cheer up. Moreover.

especially that of a gentleman definitely getting on in years who reproached me something like this: what. sensed as a burden. Not withoutpl �(l ­ �ure do I remember the strong criticism when my book appeared.."_==-=- understood my subject.. at the very point where I wrote that bad phrase. If I have learned anything in the last ten years.A. alas! I had __ ." Here new insights and learnings have forced me into an­ other direction. I have to say to my own deep regret that the cheerful old man is wrong-and I'm right. At one single point I will make a revision. it has lead me instead to accentuate what I said at that time rather than to modify it. though indeed capable of being somewhat soothing-thus also being harmless analgesics-are still not capable of changing or improv­ ing anything fundamental about the tragic hardship of aging. cultural aging. Today as much as yesterday I think that society has to under­ take everything to relieve old and aging persons of their un­ pleasant destiny. And at the same time I stick to my position that all high-minded and reverential efforts in this direction. have given my reflections an extension that I ."". the daily approach. understand about aging and age? What does he think he's doing? As I read the text again.o:. . Everything has been a trace worse than I had foreseen: physical aging. the "fool's story of a voluntary death . "1 . "Come. . could this "young" person of 55 years.PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION In the decade that has passed since I recorded this experiment I could have learned much more about aging. J. so he thought. of the dark journeyman who runs along at my side and urgently calls to me as to Raimund's Valentin with the uncannily intimate phrase. little friend .

By One 's Own Hand-A Discourse on Voluntary Death. Spring 1 977 Jean Amery . which. Brussels. I felt myself bound to write my book on suicide. can be considered a continuation of the work before us. Thus. in a certain sense.xx I Preface to the Fourth Edition could not have imagined at �hat time.

I have still tried. I used es­ sentially a method of introspection. to civilization. had to be abandoned. Readers who expect remarks of a positiye scientific nature on the subj ect. the subjective character of such notes has been self-evident to me from the beginning.PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION . but in that of looking for something whose undiscoverable nature was obvious to analytic reason from the start. on the one hand. even logical stringency.£r(ictice being so. to their own bodies. the kind of knowl­ edge that could assist them in preparing their lives for a particular condition-that of aging-will be disappointed by this book: I cannot aspire to anything like that. But any hope for scientific method. In making this effort to record as faithfully as possible the developments in which the aging person is ensnared. added to that was a striving for observation and empathy. They deal with aging human beings in relation to time. I submit here experimental essays about the aging of human beings. In an era when intelligence is turning away not only from what is immediately given by consciousness but from the human being in general-in whose place systems and codes appear as the subj ect of inquiry-I have kept entirely to what has been lived: Ie vicu. Experi­ mental-not in the sense of a scientific experiment. and perhaps to'. to direct the process toward observations that are more than subjective. These meditations about my subject have nothing to do with geriatrics. ultimately to death. Compelled by nothing more than an inclination to be contem­ plative. to society. on the other hand. If. I have constantly tried to mirror from every visual angle the ideas I've formed by means of a thought process .

in quality more like searches. about the value of my work or the lack 0. Whatever there is in consolation that is recommended to the aging-how to come to terms with one's de­ cline and fall.[ it. nobility of resignation. are left entirely to my readers. it is still only too obvious that I have been subject to numerous influences. valid for the typical human being of our civilization. whose contradictory premise was the total acceptance of inescapable and scandalous things. Readers can recognize . I was only carried along by the uncertain hope that I might succeed in illuminating a few fundamental facts. while consciously deviating from the goals of obj ectivity or intersubj ectivity. In addressing my readers. Out of that came a wager: decisions about whether I was making sense or not. it is true. late tranquility-it all stood before me as a vile dupery. since that third authority that makes a judgment of truth could not be in­ voked. Thus. I had to give up the hopes always evoked by the aging. my experiments. if they accompany me on my way through these contradictions. I had to invali­ date consolation. even if possible to be able to gain assets from it. evening wisdom. I am requesting them to join with me in something that was revealed to me only while I was writing it down. I can only wait and see if the readers I am addressing answer me. went from being an analysis to being an act of rebellion.xxii I Preface to the First Edition that constantly contests and corrects itself. as I felt my way forward. Specifically. even though I neither planned nor even s urmised in advance how they would turn out. one that never shies away from contradiction-all of this. against which I had to charge myself to protest with every line. Even if I dispense with every allegedly scientific instrument and base my point of view entirely on myself and the uncertain ground of my questioning. step by step.

Books do not only have their own destiny: they can also be a destiny. the French publicist Andre Gorz. occasionally structured into the text and as such not expressly indicated. When one writes about the most per­ sonal things in the hope that. Summer 1 968 Jean Amery . they could be transformed into something uni­ versally binding. Brussels. the German physician and phenomenologist Her­ bert Pliigge.' No author can bring out the results of his restless hours without being anxious. despite every self-restriction. But there are three authors from whom I have learned much and whom I have to introduce explicitly since they are possibly not sufficiently well known: the Sorbonne professor Vladimir Jankelevitch. here and there.xxiii I Preface to the First Edition them as easily as they can my quotations. the dread is even greater.

'"' " actual number of years will be just as indefinite as the person who is aging.. let's introduce one of them as a man scarcely fifty years old. in another place she will be a pure abstraction drawn from the imagination. we will recognize an aging person as a figure well known to us from a work of literature.-. whose early death would certainly j ustify that at this age he already felt he was an aging person. in many different kinds of dress.Existence and the Passage of Time " The aging human being-the aging woman. At one point. they will enter as human beings in their sixth decade. In other examples.. just as it is in reality and in the way we use language. where we are dealing with existence and the passage of time.-' .--. because in certain circumstances the process we are going to try to describe announces itself early on. .._-.--------_.e will. fLnallyy h.tJ. We will see the aging when they are only around forty. therefore requiring us also to accept him . presentingJh�mselves to �s in many variants.�.� � will frequently meet such persons h�re. Here. each therefore actually be ­ coming a senex. according to a vague statistical objectivity. .e-re­ vealed in his contours as the autgoLQ! this seriesQJ ess_�JThe -. the aging man---l.-_.

if the inspec- . bluish rings. and his orientally melancholy eyes are with­ out luster. A. he had withdrawn from this vanity fair in which he had once played a significant part. This time. He is dressed in a frock coat. like a mask. strangely pronounced "Pruh" in his home departement Loir-et-Cher. by his civil name. as an exception that is. If the servants knew the situ­ ation better and could express themselves more clearly. Hat in hand. the person we know as Proust-Marcel Proust. these people say-and since he has no son." j ust as we'll designate all those of his comrades in destiny whom from time to time we intend to introduce to our considerations. especially be­ cause in his unmoving yellow-white face rigor mortis is already anticipated.: both the most mathematical and abstract specification imaginable and one that leaves to my readers the most extensive free space to think imaginatively and concretely. our first A. -Marcel Proust-enters the home of his hosts and discovers while doing so that the servants of the house recog­ nize him again in spite of years of absence. looks. in a way that is hard to define.2 I ON A GING as such. but his pale face above his high collar is as rigid as wax. still more precise. -We meet him a s he appears once again at a morning re­ ception for the first time after many years. A long time ago. and his mustache are still their natural color. let's call this. lying down the nape of his neck. he knows that "father" can only relate to his age.. resting in the shadow of deep. they would say that the scarcely fifty-year-old man. very upright. -The narrateur sees people again who. however. His thick black hair. by the name the world gave him: the narrateur or. A.aging man by the cipher "A. older than his years.. still in good posture even if his chest and belly appear arched forward in a not quite natural and somewhat uncanny way. We'll call this . There comes father Proust. in spite of his un­ bleached hair and his standing there so straight and tall.

the narrateur's intimate enemy of some time ago . once haughty and superb. are worse off than he himself is. such tiny nodules and reddish-blue capillary vessels that they arouse even more violent aversion and deeper horror than those whose age announces itself without concealment in their colorless hair.1 Sclerosis has thoroughly restructured others and made them into stone-like Egyptian gods. and dragging legs. whose face. querulous. The narrateur even finds some who seem hardly changed as long as they are observed from a distance. has become a tragic drawing-room Lear. the companion of earlier times. it-an "it" about which we will speak long and much-had happened to him. Who is the fairy-tale king with the cotton beard. and through their sclerosis and dehydration. But it also happens that someone ad­ dresses him. seen up close in conversation. however. dragging him­ self along as though his shoes had leaden soles? The Prince de Guermantes." A. Bloch.3 I Existence and the Passage of Time tion of his eyes were not deceptive. spoken with them a long time ago at some diner en ville. The guest recognizes most of them again. A fat lady greets him with her "bonjour. their apparently still-smooth skin reveals such swellings to the observer. The Baron de Charlus. and figure leave him helpless . no doubt. he has seen them. whose white beard no longer looks like an actor's prop on an amateur stage but like the beard of a beggar? Monsieur d'Argencourt. diligently removing his hat to people who in his better days were not even worthy of his raised eyebrow. crooked backs. is now called Jacques du Rozier and wears a formidable monocle to relieve his aged face of the task of showing any kind of expression. And who's the old man. he can decode the features of the past. voice. . looks at her. whose constantly murmuring lips seem to be uttering the prayers of those already singled out for death. -The visitor comes upon human beings whose eyelids have the sealed rigidity of those about to make their exit.

flowed by. when asked in such a banal form. Russell's paradox can be solved. blown away. -But what has really happened to these people that Proust's narrateur has found again at this reception of the Prince de Guermantes? Not much. in sounding . -A few exploratory experiments with the idea of time throw us into total confusion: just exactly what that very old and clever bird­ headed Englishman says. and sufficiently sharp and well-trained thInkers have tried to find them. Does the past exist? No. Correct: it doesn't exist. rolled on. we are threatened by dull ruminations and dilettantish brooding. which is always only ours. On the other. whom he had loved in Com­ bray as a boy and on the Champs Elysees. following Zeno. which. our lived time. in an amusing paradox. Every­ thing. Then is there only the present? Of course. Answers exist to many questions about time. We ask ourselves what time might actually be. But isn't it so that this present contains no stretch of time? It is so. we have the technical language of the specialist in the discipline of philosophy.4 I ON A GING and begs her pardon: i t is Gilberte. when we are not talking about the time of physicists. but about our time. Time has passed. and we pass with it-what am I saying? -like smoke in a strong wind. we step forward between two dangerous zones. and then are taught by those thinkers who are so adroit in logical play that the question. On the one hand. Time has passed. our temps vecu-in such thinking. Does the future exist? No. because it is already gone. both of which are equally fatal. for whom it is something quite different than it is for us. about which we say that everything glides and runs by with it-ask ourselves with a tenacious naIvete that borders on total ridiculousness. In thinking about time. because it has not yet come. is deceptive . But what they've come away with has little to do with our concerns. Then there is no such thing as time at all.

Now he . even if only j ust a little. that would be a foolish enterprise. as we struggle to do. Down from the magic mountain we hear: can time be narrated. had been concerned with the tormenting questions of aging. -It would not only not be a story. in the space between the two danger zones. running on. When we talk of time. " as one might say to sound scholarly. Time is hardly narratable. experienced visibly or at least as a consequence of what is seen. this time itself. and the passage of time . our only totally exclusive possession and. such things take place in space. as such.5 I Existence and the Passage of Time learned. or. Flowing away. our pain and our hope. time streamed along. Thomas Mann. and on and on-no one could sensibly call that a story. we have to try to press on. A story that proceeded to tell that time flowed. We say "hardly" and not unnarratable . it ran on. smelling offensively of printer's ink. Otherwise we would have to remain silent instead of still eventually saying something. For a long time A. lived time. thought. we use figures of speech from the world of space. if you will. in and for itself? Defi­ nitely not. And yet. which is our most urgent problem. "spatiomorphic metaphors. strives to prove its own significance more than the value of its knowledge. as that famous magician. even those without epistemological value. subjective time. streaming along. Time is our arch enemy and our most intimate friend. And we can employ our considerations. time does not do these things. Figures of speech may be useful as long as their fig­ urative nature is constantly acknowledged. when we succeed in describing things in which others can discover themselves again. because it is time. but it would also have nothing more to do with time than the fact that it would take a little time. Problem? Once again a word from the news­ paper. It is diffi­ cult to speak of it. as we never seem to realize. existence.

for which for God's sake there was still plenty of time. as it was in reverse for the year 1600. The position of the moon. However. the physicist would concede that one could also speak of a "biological" time which. hoping the latter would be able to give him some advice in making sense of these impenetra. Popularly and briefly formulated: thermodynamic time is not reversible because it tends toward the decay of all being. biological time would not concern him. of memories that suddenly appeared and deceptively suspended time. nor of heat death. Then. even in a slightly questionable way. would cause the construction and not the disso­ lution of structures. irreversible time.6 I ON A G ING was visiting one o f his friends. Once we had the classical physics of Newton in which time was not yet really time. but it was. nor even a question of time deduced from the facts of evolution.ble things. That is. None of this was very "clear" to our troubled A. for instance. and things quickly became lofty and high­ spirited. the extreme case of which is so-called heat death. rather than for the professor. at least not until statements about it can be translated in their entirety into a mathematical-physical language. reversed. time tied to the concept of entropy. came the time of thermodynamics. with modern physics. a famous physicist. something he could latently deal with. somewhat intuitively. of the . time. Nonetheless. since it was only a matter of the movement of bodies in space.. so that he partly knew what his friend was talking about. a measure­ ment for the improbability of the order of molecules resulting by chance. Time? A problem of physics . could be reversed. a tendency that leads to a generally increasing disorder. was just as easy to predict in advance for the year 2500. however. This man of science immediately took over the conversation. For him. it was not a question of movements of bodies in space. on the basis of accept ed data. He was speaking of years passing away.

brooding in his unclear head as he was wont to do. even familiar with that other cultivated person whom we met at the Guermantes'. this the physicist did not say anymore. the man of positive knowledge indicated with a nodding gesture that he was disinclined to proceed in this vein. he said. duree vecue. but a culturally circumspect human being. space and time insofar as they are of course de­ finable and capable of being wrapped up in formulae?" What was it in fact to him? A. with the intellect of a generalist. " said the scholar. philosophically well read. to spend time-". And what I would still like to finish if only I were granted the time. what is all that to me. and he parted yet once more from his friend. not even able to forgive himself for having dared to engage such a serious in ­ vestigator with such undeveloped half-thoughts. Long after that he happened to meet his friend again. words he had heard so often. "I know. Bergson. This time the man was discouraged and tired. irrationalism. phenomenological mental games. without consolation. "How long has it been that we have known one another? Twenty years? My God. mi­ raculous time. oh. what all didn't I want to do that I still haven't done.7 I Existence and the Passage of Time weight of death sensed in the plain results of time. A. somewhat mechanically. But too much time has already gone by and I have so little time left. I who deal with space and time in my equations. words that had been familiar to him since his youth." " Oh. "How time has run away from me. Minkowski. With con­ ceptual impatience. what plans I once had. as if he were neither capable of it nor appointed to it. But I ask you. Once again he heard the words of Immanuel Kant. Since he was not just a brainy and rigid specialist. thanked him and slinked off humbled. in which he again and again rediscovered himself and his meditations . was thinking thus within. no longer predisposed at all to sticking arrogantly to the subject. however. I'm right in the picture.

Wasn't that obvious? At any moment A. " But how. in spite of all attempts of modern philosophy to construct a spatio­ temporal solidarity. but A. could he make his feeling for time acces­ sible to another? For that. The time of which we become aware in aging is not only something we cannot grasp. The outer sense was the sense of our senses.8 I ON A GING on time. a bitter mockery of every intellectual precision we have aspired to. a nd those who dared to go inside themselves to look for its traces and its objects found no reward for their courage and were threatened by an intellectually desolate nothingness. becomes our enemy. Some of us expect something good: but the time of good expectations. there was no index finger pointing to anything that could be perceived intersubjectively. the form through which we perceive ourselves and our condition. What is blue? That can hardly be explained. one could still carry out actions that replaced those words. this "good" time. when asked about the color blue. we want to get it behind . on the other hand. Wherever reality was spatial and words failed. One had to wait until others came by themselves to the subj ect of time and spoke of it. because even he was no longer a young man. spurned as banal equally by science and by the discipline of philosophy-in "idle talk.. alien to one another. what took place in space was discussable . Space and time were. it is also filled with absurdity. That's what had j ust happened. could still point to his folder and say. Out of his own need and with the same words. " as it would be called by Martin Heidegger. that is. regardless of the fact that even modern logic and dialec­ tics had already made short shrift of them. Time is the form of an inner sense. "Here-now-is blue . dressed in a waistless jacket in a ski hut sur­ rounded by a roaring wind-the physicist had spoken of time. could pace off space and find himself within it. But whatever happened with the "inner sense" left little of itself to communicate.

the mass of time for the . want to "expel" it or even "kill" it. then two more. our time. when the steps outside can already be heard. has gone through the war. Feeling healthy in his body. after all. S tretches of time or masses of time are relative. he doesn't need to know anything about it at all. He is in the process of living on for a vast period of time with the good knowledge and conscience of his twenty years. which. he is so sure of himself he doesn't even need the statistics that grant him. A. Their relations thereby do not remain the same. parceled out and defined with clocks and calen­ dar pages. Then he will have lived falsely with his plans and vague hopes. seconds. and its ex­ pulsions from the homeland. it's just a few minutes. and this early end now throws its pale light on all phases of the young life gone by. not only with regard to intersubjective physical time. but also with regard to each other. finally. its loss of relatives. For him. And something bad threatens others : here the "bad" time becomes our only friend. and the poor sinner would like to make this most horrible moment tarry a while because it is so lovely.9 I Existence and the Passage of Time us as quickly as possible.2 -0r take a young man with a great deal of time before him. is still immense. does not make sense to us. its bombings. fifty more years of life-an unfathomable stretch of time. its wounds. because for a life that has come to an end. to whom we hold ourselves like a man con­ demned to death: he still has five hours till his execution. the twenty-year-old. when we reach an age that corresponds even halfway to our expectations and our statistically measured time. the end-the early end in this case-is the truth of the beginning and all its stages. But even then. so much that he doesn't want to bother with it. bound-less in the real meaning of the word. But tomorrow he will drive his car into a plane­ tree and lie dashed to pieces on the route nationale. World War II with its service at the front.

The clock ticks regularly. Furthermore. Time that was entertaining because it was eventful we recognize as a long time and a great time. Nevertheless. but a frighteningly short one. Today I tear off the page of a calendar just as I did yesterday and just as I will do to­ morrow when it--an "it" about which � still need to talk-does not interrupt me unexpectedly. if not a brave marcher of this life. within time and with time. However. no longer having any time value at all. the pace of time does not keep in step. at least . five years are a longer. that brought with them an al­ ready half-forgotten love affair. very far away.10 I ON A GING years 1 939-1 945 is opaque and heavy. The ten years preceding the war experience have become just as lifel�ss. which still constitutes our entire ego. which has continued to take place under the grass. We never establish a reasonable relationship with clock and calendar time. which suddenly appears now to be leveled. thin. reviving itself com­ pletely shriveled up and null in our memory. not a very long while at all that we spent in the boredom of monotony. It was. pears as a mass of time. we discover that something's not right. and slight in his memory as the two postwar decades. casually and with­ out embarrassment. We did spend boring and amusing days. becomes manifest: then the time of the war is no more tedious than the time after it. Grass has been growing over the entire past. to be sure. like a mountain. if we try once again to acclimatize ourselves to those long and short periods of the time of our former days. Until·-one usually discovers it with a blow-the dis­ placement of the quanta of the past. we never even get along in our own time. at least that's what we say. and what now ap­ . is perhaps just a few summer weeks. But without being no­ ticed. the temporal weights have now become distributed in a new way. and imagine that I am. I do it myself. weightier time than ten or twenty.

. and the . and bank account. I arranged myself to fit into a world that I had wanted to be different but which in its way wanted me different and in that very unequal battle carried off the victory. car. only for the sake of an occasional remittance. But can't we still take possession of it? We can. like A. At the time we were blindly running on the Left Bank in total rage toward that future. a car. and now I'm tired and feel compelled to rest a bit by the side of the road. Yesterday-when the blood and the death were over. attained at a tiring trot. small. come to the same witty and paradoxical observation that our bird-headed. from the resistance to the revolution. Sartre. entertain the poetic illusion that we have made up for it as temps retrouve in our memory. But still: apart­ ment.11 I Existence and the Passage of Time an orderly one-: until I recognize that at one time I raced breathlessly around. So-would we. small. Saint-Germain-des-Pres. I thought a great future was coming toward me. a la�ybones and a malingerer. I've been running at a trot through time since the end of the war. But time ordered things differently. The enticement of a false bourgeois respectability. placed it in suspension. starting from a different point and by com­ pletely different paths. A bank account. thinks A. We can no more talk time away than we can our existence. La Rose Rouge. discerning Englishman came to-that time does not exist? Nonsense! Time is always within us. de chez Guermantes. and he wipes his brow with his hand. the latter perhaps more tiring than the former. while in another I dragged myself sluggishly along. even if it is something that no one com­ pletely thinks through. We find time in aging-even if we do not. and thereby insinuated ourselves into eternity. and out of the wild gallop there grew a regu1ar trot. How I've been running. An apartment. just as space is around us.

Y . you can still think about existence and the passage of time and the aging process marking your brow." Is that meant to be something like thinking is only fo intuitive knowledge? Heavens.. my brain more ridiculous.- are still supposed :to give way to disorder. I am taking time to catch my breath and to think things over. by which "right" won't mean "correct. is gone-with time and in time. unlike space. You've got to make it your intellectual ambition." just "honest.. You may be satisfied even if whatever comes out of it is bad as long as it is right. my muscles weaker. A. for the streets are becoming longer and longer and my legs shorter and shorter. Rigorous reason. Past. we pass over certain rules of conventionally logical thought.. whatever happens. the third before me: such are the claims of the way we speak and ordinarily think.. the first behind me. A. the second beside me and with me. and they are good for nothing at all in i this l. My breath is getting heavier. to be sure. the only one that is qualified to pursue positive knowl­ edge.... How I have been running. That they cannot be correct with regard to the present is the first and most trivial . the freedom of one who totally had counted on nothing. In keeping track of time... but correct.-- matter.. thinks in exhaustion. proves itself to be useless wherever fundamental contra­ dictions exclude the complete justification of something. is not acquainted with the logic of reality. better even than with a highly sharpened intellect. present. since the latter is always creating order whHe you. no ! This kind of bad. if you really want to keep track of time. and now. But even with a ri­ diculous brain.. There are no valid regulations even for what we want to express because time. thinks. �ribing e' lw The rest would be 1 GS �p 0w!1 ill liteJCiture or philqZ2£hy. future. a worthwhile instrument of thought and.12 I ON A GING freedom of the garret. to try to find out about time.

-I oneself. " I lay out a field of time that includes a fu­ ture and a past and call it the present. since. and it stays there. when one becomes aware of what has disappeared and gone beyond recall. it can be the moment of a sensual impulse or the instant when I burn my finger with a cigarette. as A. I am in the midst of it in weeks or in a year. We talk about a appealing expression.: strues from a class of data a system. '" Only then. settling down by the wayside. of course. a "field. since it still mirrors the everyday reality that it all comes down to-ordinary language has known all along that J11ft 's "eE. Very suddenly neither line nor field are sufficient. In a particular context. The present is constantly j" \ J ( . We've been helping ourselves along with artificial concepts: time cannot be a line from the past that connects by the shortest path a start­ ing point to an end. does.l1\fi�ay il. And thus time is not a personal problem for anyone who is living for the world-until. the moment when one realizes. where have all my years gone . r�_:'n() w�: This _ "now" contains in itself certain past and future quanta. nologist and has not needed to. the present does not contain a stretch of time. as well as the four weeks of vacation I am now spending by the sea or the current year in which my career takes a new turn. but is instead a "field <?� inte �tionalities . which has not listened to the phenome. Depending on how that which is said and done fit together to define it. But the present and the future lose their character as time. " if that's a more --="" \ ' j rp���.esent" and certainly never mean an ideal point that cannot be I extended. The past is there. Whoever talks about the present unconsciously con.. as we said already in agreement with Russell. "Alas.-ll. but I say "now. Attempts to find an answer to this question come to a stand­ still. in the present.13 I Existence and the Passage of Time idea that gets in our way. " Ordinary language usage. does one understand time as a question directed at .

It is not C7 *" u . and in the yes-and-no that serves as an answer to this question the no carries more weight than the yes. in­ creases its proportion of reality every day CL any other reward nd f� :V5liting c�r. for the work that he is planning as his own. kL. ."��J�!2 . On the contrary..Il. To wait for death and therefore be in time-that won't lead any­ where. . Death ""' . as aging persons they are still only time: which they are completely as persons who are time.ct Fn is not a something .�hl�}.:::u the bony man wi.'J .sn't. as the expected.16 I ON A GING What is in store for them is death. for the landscape he wou. . wait for it is not a being -toward-it because it is nothing. anyway? It is the re - . through the complete debacle that cannot be rescinded and that is its meaning (insofar as we can still even speak of meaning. where. this death. But doesn't that make life a kind of being-toward-death? Just because time has to make death grow to fruition and because in that process its pure temporality becomes transparent. their selves and whatever remains of their bodies. For when I wait. for the aging...:ne tll compa�i�?� t� no ing..?f�. ----:---------. - . through its total negativity. " ... For the death that w�e.3L To . t�'�. \vr�P I does not save the future as a dimension of time.. (I home"-and where would that home be. . isn't there­ fore the real dimension of being human precisely the future as time? It is and it i.. it will take them completely out of space. J� "..th his scythe and hourglass who "takes us . . Thus. it will take life and the world from them and abduct them from the world and their own space. '\ <'\ • �v\c oJ.-. the arrival and future of which fulfills the time of my waiting. WC :... possess time. ­ � _ sible to speak of time-in-the-future. ---. death cancels the sense of every kind of reason. Thus the young man waits... waits for the woman he loves. -. then there is always something...�:�!J2m!." . " .!..]it is Il? longer p()s.. . which is only conditionally admis­ sible ) .�-.� WI.ld like to see. But where death comes into play as the goal of one's expectation. it will de-space them. and know time.. + �.

not objectively enumerated. since they still measure the seasons against those that have passed and gone into them. Autumn. summer. But. in the year after next. seasons that will still be preparing world and space for them. contradictory in itself. after that once again a spring and then a summer.17 I Existence and the Passage of Time sult.!h�--p_��� . �igio�)A. in any one of the following springs. and autumn once again.!&e of time as _ a!l irreversibility-too horrible to complain about. We speak of the "autumn of life"-charming metaphor! Autumn? After autumn comes a winter. a number of illusionary comforts appear to them. The young are never presented with ti!lle's irreversibility in its complete inexorability. In addition. Many such seasonal changes lie before them. however. who all at once know how to count the autumns and the winters with horrifying exactness. muf­ fled up in wool scarves. besides even the greatest and most beguiling illu­ sion of all. yet in a subjective way genuinely appearing to be innumerable. it is not until one is aging that one experiences time as irreversible in its entirety. What won't turn up in the early part of this year will come in the next. when he came to his last breath and he was torn from the world in agony. Once the aging realize that they are only just time and will soon be removed from space. a great work of literature came into being. of my being taken out of space in the most literal meaning of the word: my an-nihilation. l!!lder­ Jit�nd_. As a result. since so much has slipped by and already run past. thought he could take possession in memory of a more real reality and along with it something like "timelessness or even eternity. Only the aging. spring. to be sure. -P� ":when asthma plagued him and ust he scribbled away on the Recherche in bed in his sealed room. For the aging. his achievement was no longer . the autumn of life is the last autumn and there­ fore not an autumn at all. winter.

and tomb. with rats nesting in them. everything will be like the nights of love and pain of the deceased: as good as if they had never existed. a rate or failure dispossessed of all illusions. will testify for them.. He has always possessed only a little bit of space. The rate A. In the Parisian cemetery Pere-Lachaise one can see mausoleums. book. picture. or. But the house will deteriorate and the grandchildren will be scattered to all the winds. It may be that the pa�sClg� olti_rne in agingjs most intensely felt by a person whose life always seems to be foundering. calculates instead that it would be best to sell his own cadaver to the anatomical institute-he knows more fundamentally than others that he is only a bundle of time. better. who will not have his own gravestone e rected. a tombstone. just as lack of success. gray and powerful. House and home." He is accustomed to let himself slide into the well of the past and to look for himself there in time. falling apart and neglected. cosmic fail ure. alone in a cafe. who has no children and cannot claim to the mirage of fame after death. he is taken out of space before he even has . His neigh­ bor with the big car and many rooms races noisily around until one day a pain in his chest seems to tear him open as if he had been hung on a meat hook and the doctor talks softly to his wife of cardiac infarction. and does not even have to make a will. as if a bourgeois fortune could at least acquire a pseudo­ eternity in space . their books will be on shelves or their paint­ ings will hang on museum walls. ever since nothing came of "casting him­ self into the world . I ON A G ING usefufio h� Others look into their space to see what it will be m. and the books and the pictures will quickly be forgotten. like after them: a house where children and their children's chil­ dren will be active and will work. Words are written on them in faded gold: "Concession a perpetuiti" (plot purchased in per­ petuity). opens a person up to ultimate questions.18 .

. Instead of " waiting forr"'. . a nonsense when he looks at it exactly.pd the value it would hold..' and let another be.. He regrets that he has dawdled... The real has washed over what was once possible. even if he does not really "know" in the sense of having useful insights for his future in space.. A. emerge from resistance. What has happened should unhappen.revolution . the substance to be dealt with can no longer be molded. lie at the basic source of the fear of death.. One thing that validates what we are presenting here as almost being humanly correct-though not true! -that time and its irre­ versibility are only fully realized in aging. has regrets. which for all its hopelessness still maintains a trace of absurd hope.. B ut the aging rate has a good idea about where he has come to and. . the sense of his life. death not only removes us from space but it also de­ stroys the time that has been stacked up inside us.)'0'" . Perhaps this regret and this "never again. is able to exist any more.1 of time. what has not happened should take place. He should have done one thing . Consequently.. maybe he shou'ld have work�great " eXe'rtlon iii tne years after 1 945.. With time. . " both of which one can be certain about even without completely and uncondition­ ally believing in them.. After all. But now it is too late. ... not even our regret. Now he has already missed the boat...19 I Existence and the Passage of Time the intention of finding the time to think about time. is the burning and j ust as hopeless wish of those getting on in years for the rmr§a. on nothing else but developing his language. . even ]h . -. because he no longer recognizes the meaning he would formerly give ita.. is already gathered up in him as a mass of time. Wherever he looks he sees on the wall: never again.. but he has to realize that doing and not doing are no longer rescindable: he cannot bestow to his past life the sense and the value that he would want to give it now.. he still experiences it-more than the loud man in the house next door...

it is an attribute of even a healthy person's being in time.'- more exactly w e experience time in its irreversibility. '''' �� ' .. -. and at the same time and in the same breath the more intimately we belong to it. The ____ c" .pt ' from "fifteen-year�. that one can be the lord of one's time. They are not always sure that it was five years ago or four. . in the course of the year. when they plunge down into time. That doesn't mean that one can take the bundle apart and put it back together at will. .h'iie the individual layers of time �.c. -ih-. tomorrow.d. is the fact that the grid the aging use to communicate with others when they itemize periods of time doesn't concern them. it really doesn't matter anymore. Of greater conse­ quence. fall. . and they hesitate in giving the exact time when telling the story. The aging.iJf<:. . in ten years.'. . We were saying that an aging human being is a bundle of time or a stratified mass of time. no .�'_ . although even that is not always successful.6 With relative certainty. " Let time turn back in its tracks-let us be as we were twenty years ago-let it be last week-let it be yesterday evening! " say King Beranger and Queen Marie.' ' . they can read the past in the tabulations of physical time.s But time does not turn back-et Ie rai se meurt.. Psychiatrists teach us that the mentally ill are disoriented in space and time. like water from rock to rock. into something uncertain. It is everything that we still are : we can no more give it up than we can give our­ more definitively we recognize ourselves as aging persons. such a change has ".rt:. the more in despair we fight against it. even though we know that we will lose it and ourselves. that one can feel through the layers. in five." that--. that "five-years�?go" feel.' '''. may change their specific gravity for them.s.-ago. selves up. however.��. Whatever kind of space is valid for those suffering from mental illness.20 I ON A G ING our longing for its reversal has to disappear.

A. did not matter to him any more than the time dissipated by the other brothers did to the monk of Heisterbach on his return home to vespers. looked for it in the levels of intensity of what had died away. because it was moreover only lived time and as such independent of bio­ graphically fixed dates. had lost his way in time. days.eJl1S. he himself stepped out of spaciality and the world given in the present. of which he said that he had seen it previously only through his "de­ ceitful senses . he became himself in remembering. A. who intends to re . because it did not j ust remove the body from space but also withdrew from this body its time..i�"ti�� at the home of the Prince de . But they were also changing in time and with time .he". weeks. all differentiate themselves through degrees of intensity without gaining any sig­ nificance for him. to become himself: he remembered what was stratified in him as time. the world understood here as both phenomenal field and "elegant society. and the memory of a dress of the Duchess Oriane. no chronological order.members have . the �y.7 Because the time that he found again did not have a chronological structure. time in which he alone had been able to find that self to which he.. It took from him the time he had lived through. be­ cause he was too tired to keep wanting to express himself. A. Just like the rest of us. It is in this sense that those who have discovered their time live completely unhistorically. ' For A. Intervals.21 I Existence and the Passage of Time nothing to do with chronology. Even before he was taken out of space.. remembered and reminded himself: i. Guermantes. the taste of the madeleine cookie. the sound of the iron garden gate shutting when Swann came to visit. What he didn't tell us about in his notes about . living dans Ie monde (in the world) . an evening with Saint-Loup in Doncieres. years.e. " He gave up the world to become time. " had not been granted any right of possession.t:e. The face of his mother over his bed. All he had was the fear of death.

With that it becomes pure time. . to try to the drowsy and very �ld�Ieel the weight of time strata even when they are not fumbling after them in memory. He had no space. the possession of which gets me through the spatial form of intuition. In order to symbolize it in language. .22 I ON A GING his actual recherche du temps perdu. even my space. find themselves. is likewise and always the spa�� of others: an intersubjectively understandable phenome ­ non. .:�. There is nothing immediate about it. as a pure feel. The weight of time rests even in someone who can still remember only a few incidents that give it substance. more authentic to us than the "outer sense. if we are to say anything at all about it.�ilize the p�stin �heir me . Space. partly because his' bonds kept him from mov­ ing. making the "inner sense" present. we have to bring in metaphors from the world of space. nor is there any incommensurability between lived space and the measurable space of science. " the perceptual form of spaciality. --The aging-not just to speak of the old or even I � 'II ing. we know well lay tied down for six months in a half­ dark solitary cell. the feeling of time has a dramati:c aspect that is not in the least comparable to that of the feeling of space. A time -past is present. In the long run. But with my time I am aloqe. he did not lack space once . or lack the strength. an immediate and incommunicable quality. he got used to it. even without each memory. is that kind of time that even those people sense weighing inside themselves whose memories fade away and who are not inclined. partly because the cell was tiny and only slightly lit. Thus. An A. no matter how much I may be required to communicate it. The feeling is constantly present within them-and not only because of the di\ minishing powers of their bodies or the increasing sufferings these bodies cause them-that they carry time inside themselves and ' ' therefore do not even need to .

and he discovered at that point. But then it transpires that every die is obliterated by another.23 . Only when our all-toostrenuous medi�ations about existence and the passage of time. In the end. nor to taking pos­ session of the world. but by the latter he was constantly duped. condemned to futility from the start. have driven us into madness or suicide. are the contradictions finally resolved in the absurdity \ . and this shadowy ego-in-time has the emotional quality of inert mourning and resignation. by being cast into the world of space. And yet all of us are still real and a part of reality as long as we remain in space and carry time within us. It is only a breathless losing of ourselves to foreign powers that are overpowering us. that by the time an ego has consolidated itself in one's mind. He was already half removed from space. From minute to minute and second to second. we hope to engrave our seal upon the world. A.. that eventually neither the ego­ in-the-world nor the ego-in-time can be reality. time without world. it so thoroughly became the past inside him that the supper of soup he had enjoyed an hour earlier was no less distant from him than the childhood ex­ perience he had just remembered. came to realize the one great fact that all other am­ biguities and contradictions hold enclosed in themselves : that by being-in-the-world. once and for all. an ego will only come into being in the struggle against the world and in gentle play with it. that lived time in certain circumstances has to compensate for world: the former was entirely his possession and his authenticity. in his cell in the midst of the many paradoxes and absurdities he bumped into while reflecting on existence in space and time. A potential will does not lead to becoming an ego. But his lived time manifested itself with a much greater density. an ego is not yet possible. When we take up the prospect of self-realization. Existence and the Passage of Time he had accepted the fact of his withdrawal from the world. it is time run by.

I a ''' •• :. We rack our brains in a search that leads to deep brooding and from . Therefore.. ' . . .'s state of mind in his cell was different from that of some of the comrades with whom he later discussed the nature of time spent in such solitary con­ finement under a threat of death. themselves and to the world. Many of them had not given up the hope that comes from the desire to cast themselves into the world. " '''' �: ����� �����::��.. ' -.E �:: e es t i t I . • � .�. -" . and the only forms of relief remaining to them are those like A... One hangs between death and madness in a balance in which a spatializ ed chronological time and lived time have ap­ proximately the same weight and where the brain's inertia acts as ..\ �' '.�. A.. looked ahead to his expected end without great fear. but the most deceitful one.'s late search for his lost time.��.'. Not because he was courageous-he wasn't-but because he had become as tired as the guest of the Guermantes when he left the prince's matine to go to work in his cork-paneled room.there to pondering ncm­ ' " sense. :�� ���. just because others say so and act like people who really believ�} t hey live in a really hg � . . necessarily transformed into broodings.. had worn him out..' � -"--. A. To be sure. " . -". All his meditations. renewal.:..". since they still wish to think th ttun­ thinkable. They are in a bad way. this relief was only needed by those who actually came from the absurdity of existence in the passage of time to the edge of a madness that is perhaps the only answer to what is not only the most tormenting question of being that can present itself to us. . . . Not to do-Sl) is to live in time and reality like Everyman: one is liIUe'(fiiito a kind of equilibrium that cannot be destroyed by anything but usu ally reconstructs itself in a kind of spiritual cell­ ' .:.24 I ON A G ING of lunacy or self-destruction.. Those who are not satis­ fied that we exist in reality and really are.."" -" . . . since what he was trying to think up was inconceivable and could not even be brought to mind.'J'.

derived from the science of reality. waiting at the dentist is boring and time-consuming. With this feeling. Perhaps one claims to have a "natural feeling for time. and future. the wound. It can be assumed we have a wound." we could argue. becomes more and more a lived time and lived nature. may still be different from comfort and acquiescence to the law of the functional. With each day that passes. Existence within society forces us to own a watch. i. which we only fully possess when we don't. it oozes pus and causes us pain. when we're not aware of it. we do indeed speak fluently of time as if we knew all about it: tomorrow we'll see each other at twelve. Because we live. to vary a concept familiar to us.. It actually has much more to do with "nature. are we simply withdrawing from the danger zone of mental work into the comfort of convention? When we're not eavesdropping on ourselves. At first.e. it is time that wipes out the injury. what's not questionable to us. all at once. to re ­ serve a place on the ferry for a trip on a particular day across the English Channel. as they are expected of us because we are meant to be functional . but with lived nature. so that we notice it first as an attack from space outside of us. The struggle with the infection is won by the organism. and not only with the nature of physical and mathe­ matical order. it will not close. nature vicue. a year ago I visited the Loire castles. But then it gets better. certainly. up to the day of time's triumph. on . " a guarantee of a healthy mind and the strength to endure. healing up with new tissue. But in the end. on our body. present. the wound closes-and now. we have a past. to write down appointments in a notebook. precisely that "natural feeling for time" that we boast about and in whose certainty we know our­ selves to be superior to anyone pondering nonsense. In the peace that comes with freedom from thinking.25 I Existence and the Passage of Time a form of self-protection.

one that goes beyond conventions that are operationally necessary.. . th�y are still only creatures of time.xe. after which no tissue renews itself any more? Is it because they cannot come to terms with the fact that they are now present in space and time but. no longer at peace with themselves because their disquiet does not leave them in peace and they would like to find themselves by abandoning themselves.. . -'-" '� " .. thanks to that time-said to heal all wounds. but simply a part of the body. .panl}!:left. it does not do at all-this wound in fact no longer exists. .e!1.�hQ .. and even to those sharp-headed others who impose upon time the order of their well-functioning minds. the!ll.. But to meditate about time is not natural and is not intended to be'''"''::':-1 It is the work of human beings who are horrified.�".. since beyond every convalescence there stands waiting for them and everyone else the ultimate disability. .� . Each of them says "I" and means "my time. find themselves in the time whose secret one day distresses them in their aging and stirs them up.�I:v�s��L!his <!is�X:. pave in Cl!ly' C5tS�jijr..�X. 17 . no longer noticing itself and belonging to the world.. The wound has become a scab..'M-'· Vh ' .. � �· �'''' '''' <·_'''''' ''' _"". While their time. v � "''''�_·4<' "'.sl�rigg. space i n which they can remain a bit longer..26 I ON A GING which.e � �����rme"lwmk1rng . .thgp.gj.. So obviously there really is such a thing as a natural feeling for time..'- �T. " And more and more they are becoming strangers to the others-to those who simply let time tick away.' .tb. and is itself not time any more nor even a spatial exterior.cings.time aJ ­ U ready gathered up in.aQUlthe . Is it be­ cause they've recognized that the healing of every wound is deceptive..a short haW" of meditaliOll. who are so. on a certain day getting nearer and nearer they will no longer be there? T��b. taken care of by time.«. . something which on the contrary.

even though it was known to her that the reputation of the quarrelsome tempera­ ment. only noticeable by others if they are explicitly pointed out. something caused by certain de­ posits.• Stranger to Oneself For the past few weeks. to her own chagrin. They're not even particularly ugly. with which she concerns herself. clinging to the wife of Socrates. without panic. more and more often. has been noticing. don't hurt when touched.ea§i!1ess that has turned up in recent years. they add to a kind of l. They cause no further discomfort. yet still tor­ menting in a delicately insidious way. which her organism is apparently producing in increasing quantity. was unjustified. Xan­ _. and concluded that she was afflicted with xanthelasma. which intensified A:s discomfort. especially the otherwise hated substance cholesterol.lIJ. for a moment. when she stands in front of the mirror in the morning. thelasma also engenders. . an association with Xanthippe. a new kind. She consulted her small popular handbook of medicine. just disfiguring in a very limited degree. that little yellow nodes of skin or excrescences can be seen on her eyelids. A. B ut for A. and can clearly be judged harmless.

flabbergasted." her friend writes. with "ravished" eyes.. she has not de­ scribed what still happens beyond or beneath the justified occa­ sion for the complaint: that's what matters to A. hence a manifestation of old age. a writer she considers a friend even though they have never met. I see my face as it was. Since she is untrained in the work of the mind and feels both reduced and excited by this new hostility. calling herself with unbecoming hu­ mor Xanthippe because of her yellow disfigurements. it's still a question of the failure of the metabolism. " ! A. and that air of sadness around the mouth that wrinkles always bring . mumbles: poor Simone. fifty years old. you who suffer without being a Xanthippe like me. and she turns for advice to Simone de Beauvoir. especially the condi­ tion of aging. because although the latter has certainly complained. -But she is still not entirely satisfied with her friend. who has written so thoroughly and beautifully about la f orce des chases ( the force of circumstances). at the sight of this incredible thing that serves me as a face. just as A. What is the basis for the delicately sawing pain that had al­ ready overtaken A. . every morning in front of the mirror long before the yellow flecks appeared on her eyelids? It may be that somewhere. as she some­ times pompously says of herself. the excessive fullness of the cheeks. .28 ON A GING Thus A. stored deep within her. . practices in front of her mirror a business of self-assessment and illumination of the dark state of affairs of both alienation from herself and self­ enrichment. has. attacked by the pox of time for which there is no cure . even a resistance. One can look at it from whatever angle one likes. "I loathe my appearance now: the eyebrows slipping down toward the bags underneath. even if full of sympathy. "I often stop. of an aversion. to the ego flecked with yellow and looking back at her from the mirror. there is a horror that for the . it is understandable that she at first looks for assistance.

so that constantly. Self-disgust? Not even that: for A. not only in the mirror but also by touching it. perhaps tells herself like her friend that what now has to serve as her face has become a dreadful thing. as it were. the hand that feels itself becomes in an uncanny way a feeling hand as well. Yet perhaps the strongest weapon should still be kept in reserve along with "horror" and "fright" and the dramatic bombast that is immediately superseded for the aging by a disinclination for an­ other kind of drama. and one in which the bombast is also dissolved. and present oneself to the day. But the thin everyday layer is ruptured whenever the aging human creature. Self-hatred always has a moral quality that cannot possibly be extended to an aversion for withered skin. She does not like herself anymore. isn't the necklace just a nuance too indiscreet?)-so that one can step away from the mirror. A. This shudder. isn't the fashionable hairdo a little too bouffant. a deep fear of her ego. even in youth. to the cells of the tissue that gradually lose their soluble substances so that eventually the almost insoluble fundamental substance pre­ vails. knows very well that the xanthelasma and the withering skin have always been considered disgusting and probably even remembers dimly the aversion she . Thus. part of our basic human condition. less metaphysical. the most primally familiar thing comes before us as something alien. which at the same time is a non­ ego . can still observe it. remains fixed in front of its mirror image: then we are suddenly confronted with the horror that we are both ego and non-ego and as this hybrid can call our customary ego into question. -Self-hatred? That would be going too far. is indeed disguised by everyday life-(how bright or dark the new lipstick is. tolerably poised. seeking after the traces of its aging.29 I Stranger to Oneself present can't cope with aging and the organism's deterioration it causes. A:s eye fixes on the yellow skin excrescences. the non-ego. but therefore no less distressing.

30

I

ON A GING

herself had felt earlier for the decrepitude of others. B ut that knowledge has come to her essentially from outside, from the world in which her yellow flecks are those of a stranger, while this stuff is for her, even if she considers having it removed by a surgeon (by the way, how much does such an operation cost? is a competent expert available? ) . The flecks are still her flecks, her own, intrinsically hers, against which disgust can no more revolt than it can against her own metabolic discharge. Shame? Maybe. Although it would naturally be conceivable for all women and men, young and old, to go through the world with dried-out skin and soft colored nodules on their eyelids. Something like that would no longer be ugly, since it would be impossible in such a case for everyone to detest everyone. B ut being tired of oneself: as an expression, it is comparable to "tired of life, " a phrase that never conveys total hatred of life and disgust with life, even if it now and then leads to suicide, but always conveys
a

desire for life or a desire for a specific form of

life that life has denied us. Tired of oneself, that's it. The more she repeats the morning mirror experiment, which has become a ritual, the more A. discovers a parallel between being tired of herself and having a kind of self-satisfaction that re­ sists acknowledgment. Something appears in her that is like the pride of having already endured for a long time so that, deeply mired in her weaJiness, she wears her brittle skin like a brave war­ rior wears his scars. Aging people have a narcissistic relationship with their bodies, except that the infatuation with the mirror image is no longer unequivocal but is precisely a weary love in which the weariness loves itself and the love is deeply weary of it. Like everyoll<� in her situation, A. wishes to throw light on this dark state of affairs, and she is astonished by th which she is transfixed and which has no chance of ever bein

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31

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Stranger to Oneself

reconciled to anything unambiguous. For the ambiguity extends not only to the paradoxical way she is both weary and satisfied with herself in front of the mirror; even the dissonance caused by the combination of alienation from, and familiarity with, her­ self, having come to be the total harmony in her life, causes her trouble. She has become a stranger to herself, for sure: what she wit­ nesses in her morning ritual has nothing or only a little to do with the external self she drags along with her from her earlier and even later better days, for she still always likes to say of her­ self in a j ustifiably lofty level of consciousness that she "feels young." Her name, when she reads it on an envelope, brings to her the association of a not yet aging woman. She refers to her friend and finds herself again: "When I read in print 'Simone de Beauvoir: it is a young woman they are telling me about, and who happens to be me . . . . " It is no different with A. Perhaps the strongest component of her weariness is just this alienation from herself, this discrepancy between the young self she has brought along with her through the years and the self of the aging woman in the mirror. But in the same breath and in the same tick of time it becomes obvious to her, if she j ust perseveres in front of the mirror and does not turn away from the glass, irri­ tated as only a stranger can be, that she, along with all the yellow flecks and lackluster eyes, is closer to herself, with all her weari­ ness and intimate familiarity, than ever before, and that in front of her mirror image, now a stranger to her, she is condemned to become more and more oppressively herself. -"I had the im­ pression once, " wrote her friend, "of caring very little what sort of figure I cut. In much the same way, people who enjoy good health and always have enough to eat never give their stomachs a thought. While I was able to look at my face without displeas-

32

I

ON A GING

ure, I gave it n o thought, it could look after itself. The wheel eventually stops, I loathe my appearance now." A., however, different from her friend or at least different from the way she described it, knows that she not only detests her face, that it is not

only alienated from her. For once, when this countenance that one could not look at without pleasure was a matter of course, when one could "forget" it-did it exist for her at all? It had been a part of the world to which she belonged and which belonged to her, part of a seU that, without contradiction and without ambi­ guity, was both ielf and world, one that did not doubt itself since it was not yet alienated from itself. Only now, in this transfor­ mation which, It seems to her, sometimes goes as far as being unrecognizable, only now is this strange visage, no longer fo­ cused on the world because it's been expelled from the world, completely hers : this discovery of the clasping together of alien ­ ation from oneself and an increased sense of self, whose extreme case may be a narcissistic melancholy, is the fundamental experi­ ence of all those aging persons who simply have the patience to persevere in front of the mirror, who can summon up the cou­ rage not to let themselves be chased away by yellow flecks and dehydration, who do not internalize the conventional judgment of others and submit to it. -A. will continue to carry out her ceremony before the mirror until the day in which she will either be removed from space or have become, instead of an aging woman, an old woman who no longer preserves any ego from her earlier life and who must look for her former appearance in r: :' r: her photo album. i It is th<Gi:I!tbigu f aging that A. is discovering and in which she is establishing herself, not just a matter of self-exploration in front of the mirror. The relationship of an aging human being, of a woman or a man, to his or her body is ambiguous in every

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Aging is an in­ curable sickness. just as she did not wish to get old and to die. age and death being events that affect others. said. and because it is a form of suffering it is subject to the same phenomenal laws as any other acute hardship that .ill after we have recovered: we are never as healthy as we were before. "Why. who do not adapt a general opinion-which is really only an opinion about opinions-aging is no more of a normal process than rheumatism was for the old lady. For all those who do not let themselves blend into a social con­ sensus. and when did you actually want to have your rheumatism if not now?" The lady did not understand the joke at all: she did not want to have rheumatism. in the sense of medical science. she explained in tones of angry indignation that she had never had the disease before and now the doctor should please charm it out of her body. Again and again.33 I Stranger to Oneself situation of life. We find it in good order if our neighbor ages and dies: ourselves we always remove from the course of life and death. who was in a joking mood. as we age. not at any stage of her life. Yet. indeed a form of suffering from which there is no hope o! recovery. yes. which for every other person is also j ust a fact and nothing else. That applies to aging just as much as to death. become "healthy" again. It is probably true that we also get sick as aging human beings and then. The physician. For aging is not a "normal condition" for the aging person: a norm is a matter of objective insight. gracious lady. Actually. no matter how gratifying the information of the doctor might sound. we constantly find our­ selves at a l()wer ppint Qf lbg Plganic spir. Today we are somewhat less healthy than we were yesterday and a measure more healthy than we will be tomorrow. it is quite defi­ nitely a sickness. A seventy-five-year-old lady whose body was still in good condition went to a specialist about the rheumatism that was tormenting her.

34 I O N A G ING afflicts u s at some particular stage of life. which at this . be­ cause as long as we are actually in full possession of our powers and continue to live in the certainty of a healthy bodily condition. in front of the mirror-even when she avoids her mirror image like the many aging people who have accepted the value judgment that the wizening of age is ugly-: she perceives her body. we are conscious of our condition. we don't think about how we "feel.> we are "there. Of course. partly becoming time through the past gathered up by memories of mind and body. however. aging establishes the same relationship with our body that a specific in­ disposition has. anyone who needs to say. as a whole and even during phases of relative physical well-being." We are not with ourselves­ but. while still. having the character of the hardship that characterizes every lighter and heavier sickness. we are. Indeed: it's a rather cheap truth to say that our condition generally gets noticed only when we are out of condition. bringing us illnesses in increasing number and of growing destructive power. outside ofourselves. come more and more to a worldless ego. In aging. which still allows us to be ready for revolt even while the age we've already attained is disparaged in resignation. Whoever thinks about feeling good or bad cannot really be in very good shape. that is intimately and inseparably bound up with our egos. " is not entirely comfortable with himself. In that they fare just like our A. B y incorporating fa­ miliarity with one's own body and estrangement from it. in space that is part of us and belongs to us. The aging. and partly becoming more and more their own body. just as the man who maintains that he feels young can never be a really young man. to add to the physician's re­ marks." along with the things and happenings of the world. "I feel good. as we can read in the writings of a great German physician and anthropologist.

but cuts us off from world and space with its heavy breathing. was once Ie neglige and under­ stood itself by not understanding-this body. we cannot get out of our skin. to him. no matter how much we would like to. and at the same time as something that is actually hers. as part and portion of our ego. scaly skin. has been disturbed b y the cooling off of what he once called his feeling for landscape. as something exter­ nal and done to her. which is no longer the mediator between the world and us. the stomach that is getting flabby and foldy. But we cannot keep from seeing the hands on which our veins protrude. A. Whatever was earlier world. Mountains. since in the end it is what is finally right. It is becoming what remains. . the feet whose toenails have become thick and cracked. There's no doubt he has good enough reason to be skeptical about interpreting nature as an aesthetic land­ scape: at certain times very close to the present. We like to sidestep the mirror. For a few years. We cannot run away from our body. to which she is more and more reduced and to which she devotes increasing attention. even if blind. as a shell. and the arthritically plagued articulation of our bones. a club into which he has not been admitted. forests he once loved are now. as Sanre has said. valleys. but also our last shelter. shrinks with and through the withering body: it becomes the clear negation of us ourselves . forests. valleys.35 I Stranger to Oneself stage is present to her as her ego. painful legs. which. whenever we touch this flaky. The body. is becoming our prison. a shell-the phrase "mortal remains" probably suggests itself to every aging person who reflects upon what is happening to his or her body-but becoming in the same breath of thought the most extreme human authenticity.

The hostility of the landscape. strolled about in the valleys: he was expelled and thrown back on himself. . charming but full of flies that had never both­ ered him at all in his youth but now irritated him with rage. a loss that was about to coalesce nega­ tively in a pronounced displeasure in landscape. The others climbed the mountain. The mountain. a most suspicious kind of aesthetics of the landscape and mystification of nature had existed. had become the denial of this person. the Italian friend of the intelligent word is a pleasant literary memory. The water in which he wanted to swim. was by this time his anti-ego. Yet for A. which we present here only metaphorically. he became conscious in nature more than in the city of how the world. but which at the same time is a reality and an immediately given fact of consciousness in the monde vicu-it was only conscious to A. became the negation of his expansive desires. said no to him. even if it was to be climbed at all. swam in the lakes. Specifically. but which he only endured when it had a quite specific temperature that it certainly would not have. laborious to climb. and he knows very well how senseless it would be to deny himself the pleasures of the contour of a mountain or the undulations of a forest slope just because a short but still histori­ cally very distant time ago. Those who once called themselves "tied to nature" and sang of the landscape with rather rasping voices were the enemies of the human. The valley. would have a reason to stick with Signor Settem­ brini when he explained to life's young problem child' in his graphic words how nature in its relationship with the mind is the evil principle and belongs to the devil. which he still had possessed as a part of his person. A.. It lasted a good while before he got to the bottom of his loss of a feeling for landscape. but no authority.36 I ON A GING and mountains were the butt of bad poetry and even worse poli­ tics.

Now he has become thoroughly alienated from it and withdraws to where the challenge of a world that has come to be his denial no longer humiliates him every hour: to his room. sooner or later. The one is a little sicker than the other.'s case is an individual one and. what we were saying in trying to describe the essence of aging without going into either the sturdy nature of common sense or the objectivity of medical terminology is still true: that specifically the world does not only withdraw itself from those who are aging. but it becomes their adversary. the result of a deficient state of his health that does not allow him to pursue athletic or partly ath­ letic activities. Beyond such self-evident truisms. gives up the unequal struggle and becomes disengaged. to speak in medical categories. Reasonable scientific method or even just plain everyday observation will teach us that A. -And isn't there also the example of the married couple. already deeply descended into age. still taking walks for substan­ tial distances and feeling " good" and "young"? Certainly: the robust old ladies and gentlemen are still around. of the total defeat by a world that's . while everything else we are saying is overrefined drivel. and that everyone. It doesn't make sense to match yourself against an opponent that incessantly increases in strength and superiority while you steadily decrease. He began to avoid nature.37 I Stranger to Oneself now as the contradiction of his person. however. When friends invite him to Sunday excursions or sojourns in the country. thanking them indifferently. still an­ other remains so dauntless on her sixtieth birthday that her acquaintances find she hasn't changed at all and toast the sixty­ year-old young lady. he declines. bestirring them­ selves for a little world and space. another is already aging noticeably at forty-five so that his erstwhile student colleagues hardly recognize him. The day of the re­ treat with flags flying. afflicted with more or less deep bodily travail.

of self-weariness and self-seeking. and troubling the certainty. . " Toilsome i s the torpid half consciousness o f the incurability o f a malady. we do not mean to speak of a transcendental ego but. however. In a deeper layer of what has been lived. that after each acute illness. comes for everyone-as certain a s the death it heralds. prior to speech. " both clothing them and disrobing them from within. or climbing that the world is becoming their adversary. A peculiar course of events consummates itself there. run­ ning. ourselves. the search for the ego and the addiction to it is preemi­ nent. The aging. while we may indeed perhaps regain our health in the medical sense. and familiarity with. on the contrary. whose physiques have forbidden them the world and ma­ liciously compelled them to deal with this body itself. which has carried them and their selves.38 I O N A GING become hostile. The first stage of the dissociation of the ego in the aging process concerns the mental ego. those sick with aging and sick of it as well. it can be approximately concentrated in words like " toil" and " trouble. must inevitably ex­ perience the husk that will become their "mortal remains. In using that expression. even ultimately to become body and nothing else. whenever they look into the mirror or realize again and again while walking. Here as well we are con­ stantly in the clutches of the ambiguity of alienation from. The former always drowns out the latter initially at the point where thought turns into speech: That's supposed to be who I am? they ask. If there is something like a basic condition of aging. we still get up from the bed in terms of living our lives sicker than we were before. is becoming a corpus that weighs upon them within and is itself a weight out­ side. that their body. not entirely acknowledged in most cases but always filling our existential space. as an externality­ and the death threatening them as a murder.

in the exact meaning of the word. a deeply suspicious symbiosis of memory linked to time's ego and the present of the body's ego emerges. An uncanny tenderness of the aging for their . The old ego. The metabolism. Still. as the hostile new ego. for example. According to its feelings. functioning more and more poorly. it rebels against a false ego.e. If only the damned cadaver would leave one in peace !-by which he thinks he can disengage himself from what is weighing upon him within and from what.39 I Stranger to Oneself are referring to one that consists of collected time. odious. i. stands in resistance to the old self. an aching stomach or a disturbed heartbeat. constantly becomes more and more absorbed in time ( since world and space do withdraw) and enters into a kind of suspicious "gentlemen's agreement" with the new ego materi­ alizing in the burdensome body. one might perhaps say that in aging the body becomes more and more mass and less and less energy. this husk that consists naturally not only of an external husk but of inner elements as well. foreign and. that which it has constituted itself to be through memory. is wasting him away outside. Finally. After a respectful dis­ tancing from the world of physical concepts. the odious being engulfing us from within cannot always remain what it was. thoroughly perceived within them as such by those diseased with aging. into which our husk is trying to make us. And in fact the aging process is just such a materialization and substantiation. which has been preserved by time and has been constituting itself in time. This mass. if it continues to exist as accu­ mulation of time. and subjectively noticeable . causes the entire organism to turn to dross in a process that is all-encompassing. visible for everyone to see.. such as. preserving its identity through memory-this ego of our consciousness would like to shed its husk in order to become itself again. says at that time. Perhaps A. externally recognizable.

and gas pedals! Now you've been taken from time and work and can't do any more.40 ON A G ING new ego turns up. for our considerations. just like my heart that won't allow me anymore to go upstairs two steps at a time. one can say: in aging. mountains. a language incapable of holding its own against scientific investigation. I will be. rebellious stomach: you hurt me. I would like to touch you and look after you and commiserate with you and also to tear you out of my body and replace you. What he indistinctly notices in deep ambigu­ ity and contradiction and is scarcely able to advance to thoughts in words is something like this: You poor stomach that served me faithfully and digested what I took in so that I did not notice or even possess you. my heart. touches a sore spot or look s hard and pensively at the way the skin on his leg is getting rough. you're both tired. I am becoming a stranger to myself the more I approach them and. my stomach. In the vague metaphorical language we have chosen. you've been carry­ ing me through a world of streets. cobblestones. a tenderness that in no way excludes their being tired of themselves but even accentuates it: A. as soon as my sub- . that I am all my living cells as well as those only sluggishly renewing themselves-and at the same time I am still not those cells. for better or for worse. wayward heart. becoming nonetheless myself. still only body and nothing else. while doing so. I was myself when I was young without my body and with it. body as progressive de­ crease in energy and increase in substance. Miserable leg. you who were concerned that the stream of humors in my body not run dry! You poor leg. once I have passed ove r the stage of aging and enlisted in the army of the old. I am myself through my body and against it. until I become eventually no longer myself or anything else. you're my adversaries. My head swims with the thought that I am my leg.

give me my teeth. he gives in. Apparently a periostitis. But what are we human beings? A dwelling place of excruci­ ating pain. something that is unfortunately professionally impossible even though it would probably be the most comfortable solution. "All right.. And then a skillful dental construction will collapse . A. Aging is-now let us overlook for once the fashionable word-the moment of the dialectical turn: the quantity of my body as it moves toward an­ nihilation becomes the new quality of a transformed ego." -So much for the witty joke. j ust comic. the denture is not tragic. perhaps next to the tooth­ ache ) . who murmurs something about his hard day at the office and is not disposed to the calamity of conjugal pleasure. but when she continues to seduce and demand that he once again become her seducer. He finds that a den­ ture is tragic like Lear on the heath and that anyone who cannot bite into meat anymore is sinking into a filthy misery. thinks A. following which bacteria penetrate the jawbone. and says. while something compels him urgently to want it somewhere else. himself now feels in his jaw ( so that he scarcely still knows where the drill has actually been applied. all right. as he wakes up one night with a toothache. "In our youth you liked to bite me. So life is obviously not only a dwelling place of the excruciating pain A. An ex­ cruciating pain attacks me so that the tooth supporting my bridge will probably be extracted. if I don't want to mumble my way through the world. Just as poverty is a . I'll have to have a dental prosthesis: extreme materialization of my already strongly materialized body.41 I Stranger to Oneself stance is ready to fall apart into its elements. As I know from countless more or less witty jokes. with a caved-in mouth. " the lecherous wife says to her husband. brought forth by the flattening of the gum pockets. is not in agreement with the person telling the joke. After that. prematurely senile. resigned. but also a grim place of mockery.

meant here as a social complex. While getting out of bed to get a glass of water and an analgesic. I can try to do without world. who don't want to know anything of their pain and want to dismiss it with a manly firm or a womanly enduring wave of the hand-not so bad. Those who are brave. so A:s decay is obviously disgraceful: the world. valley. Consequently. Especially aging. in the way it heaps its burdens upon us more frequently every day. does not forgive us that the process of materialization is consummated in us right before its eyes. both having come into being in society's wish to keep us off its back. A. is thinking. moun­ tain. himself suspended between torment and hope for relief. neighbor.42 I ON A GING disgrace and the majority of tourists find the sight of tattered fel­ lahin unpleasant. and joke-telling and commit myself more deeply to the pain that the deterioration of my body heaps upon me. it is only interested in giving us good medical service and a cruel joke. We only discover our body in pain and aging. making his confidence in being free from pain the only thing at all that opens up to him the possibility of reflective thought. But nevertheless. and street. when A. To act as if it were nothing to wake up at night with a penetrating toothache and worry about having a denture does not work. It is. Since in its suffering it no longer transcends itself to dissolve in world and space. he is determined to make use of the minutes of suspen­ sion and enter into a relationship with his toothache. this body is just as much a true ego as the stratified time the aging have built up inside themselves. they never succeed in dis­ covering themselves. now swallows the pain-soothing remedy and find:. not so important!-they are assured of the respect owed to them by a so­ ciety that does not want to be bothered by the spectacle of their demise . as he tells . in denying their pain and failing to recognize something that is their own.

The analgesic has its effect. is once again the feeling of alienation from his own self through physical deterioration. like everyone who has been liber­ ated from torment. through the inflammatory process. he thinks. does not mourn after the gain in ego passed on to him by the toothache. exists. had drunk the hope for freedom from pain. I will probably entrust to the dentist. though certainly reduced in my ability to function. I gain in ego. the signal of which was the pain in his tooth. A person with defective teeth. will be world. What has become of me. specifically the forced sacrifice of a conventional. rather abstract ego that painlessly falls asleep and tomorrow will belong to the world. like everyone else. since his closed eyelids are already becoming heavy for him and he senses the approach of sleep. only took possession of him at the moment when he had already washed the remedy down and. it is good to be free of it. Their purpose is to ensure that I am ab­ sorbed in the body and consequently. He has been saved. A. What now sets in. A. along with it. in the moment of relief.43 I Stranger to Oneself himself. relief sets in. an organism unable to . or to be next to it or to shove it on to his healthy neighbor through the crack in the door of the apartment. who can possibly save me by tearing something away from my ego with his hand armed with forceps and fit me out as a replacement with a res extensa of alien material. the pain is in my jaw. an increased feeling of my own self. It is bad to have bodily pain. Pain and sickness are the festivals of decay the body organizes for itself and for me. the pain that tomorrow. I am increased in what immediately belongs to me. a realization of my flesh in the self-denial of my flesh: it is both an addition to my ego and a loss of ego. my toothache: the desire to be rid of it. still. besides. He falls back into the reactive realm of normality. breathes in deeply and escapes the problematic euphoria of pain which.

Let's let this tooth-plagued person fall asleep. An aging person. Then. Tomorrow the dentist. in the search for words to constitute the feeling of alien­ ation. whether he as­ sumes the unpleasant custom of thoroughly telling others at length about his sufferings. apprehensively feels his aching limbs. to say "death is better" is senseless. In other words. alienation is in the foreground. his thinking. the aging may well think that the res extensa is gaining power over them and may side with the res cagitans rebelling against it. more evil ones that will certainly still afflict me? Am I still that one? "Give me my teeth": that's how it will end before it ends.44 I ON A G ING put u p any resistance to the penetration of microbes and their spread throughout his system. for the most part. even if it can forever and ever be in­ terpreted from specific symptoms. beyond the nocturnal experience of our imagined person. they think perhaps that the "mental . Sleep is good. or whether he quietly gives himself over to his aversion and becomes it. the forceps. With respect to the new ego that has just come into being. the extreme materialization of my body in the form of a dentist for whom I will have to lay out a lot of money. because the increase in ego ef­ fected by a painl'ul substantiation of the body is experienced as such only at rare times. what can be noted. In any case. Am I stiJll that person who falls asleep here. be­ coming uncertain and giving itself up on the threshold of sleep. What an awful debacle. be intellectually realized. both of which the aging person experiences in toil and trouble. cannot help us further. saved from aches and pains but given over to other. the best would have been never to have been born: that is an empty formula that logic can easily dispose of. is this: in the silent dialogue between self-gain and alienation from oneself. whether a particular person called A. only the feeling of being alienated can.

which also considers the decaying body as a non-ego and therefore loves to speak of the "damned stomach" and the miserably painful leg. we want to know we are young. One would need to inquire whether the ego arrogantly re­ belling against a non-ego. the only thing to investigate would be whether the Cartesian dis­ tinction between res extensa and res cagitans corresponds to a reality lived at the deepest level or whether it is not instead the case that they are both inseparably one and the same and precisely in their souf france vicue victoriously resist every attempt at dissociating them. resists the assumption of power by the physis and is supposed to resist it. not old. In fact.45 I Stranger to Oneself ego. gave him­ self over entirely to his toothache as his. for example. "I still will not let my asthma forbid me life . eventually becoming totally engrossed in its inflammation. and normally we don't care in the least for the chance of gaining a greater sense of our ego through pain. At this point. These assertions clearly contradict everyday experience as well as the entire emotional infrastructure of the concepts of sick­ ness and health. and does not accept his body. and determine whether this was the authentic moment of truth. " Then he stands-but who is this "he" anyway?-against this asthma. But it is only a self-evident truth that this is not the case. I confess that I am moving forward in these considerations only with great uncertainty. the "true" one. One of them. " as their true ego. such considerations would have to result in human beings aspiring to the condition of sickness. We want to be healthy. placed between quo­ tation marks. doubting my ability to make a thorough investigation. not sick. the ego of the res cagitans. Otherwise. takes a provocative stance and proclaims in high spirits. One would have to shed light on the tormenting and festive minute in which A. really is more than just this stomach and just this leg. But the reliance on a . repudiates the res extensa.

not knowing where to start with a fellow who. at least according to society and everyone's demand for social self-preservation. We know that A. . which is supposed to belong to the world. threatened by forceps. even though every young person can obviously be afflicted with a toothache. oper­ ational.. became alienated from himself at this hour. has helped him to his. or at least a new. The small and harmless torture that stands here as an example of the burdens inflicted upon us by aging.e. wanted to get rid of his piercing discomfort (otherwise he certainly would not have taken the soothing medication). ego. waking up at night with a toothache. a possession that from now on is no longer to be shared with others. and that as res cagitans opposes the bodily ego absorbed in the res extensa? T he question is hardly answerable . The pain has made his own body. Normality is after all a socially operational concept. Who has the last word? The body that brings to the aging a new familiarity with themselves? Or the society that imposes on every human be:ing an ego that has to stay healthy. We can also be just as sure that with his toothache he became himself in a new way.46 I O N A G IN G normality of thinking and feeling obvious to everyday experience can be of little use to us here. looking as it did like a surrealistic sculpture. while we are actually making a possibly morbid attempt.. regardless of loss of world and gain of ego. In this case. is not capable of filling out his income tax declaration because of his toothache. and a thoroughly material false tooth. i. We know that A. Put differently. to approach a lived subjective reality. it has given him to understand in a crescendo that the world is his negation. In any case. still indispensable to our argument. it is society that is left in the lurch. we know that he was afraid of the dentist's intervention. extraction. still more so of the denture itself. It has taken away from him one more piece of the world.

however. referred to above in its limitations. A. and this bit of abandonment was a part of the ego she later re­ called in memory along with her earlier days of triumph when the man-cheri letters she wrote were j ustified and were granted their rights by the ma-cherie letters from her friend. but also more determining. Furthermore. for even the body of suffering. That's because the mental ego. grew pale and expired. For we do not escape the look and the judgment of the others. A. and we eventually come back by detour to the results of superficial everyday experience and to the concept of normality. and has. an effect. if that's the way it is. is entrusted to them. since it can't happen without them.47 I Stranger to Oneself we have to limit energetically what we have said about the moment of truth in which the bodily ego is unveiled to us by pain as the true one. was essentially an abandoned woman. the loved one was a t that moment n o longer the man who loved her.'s disgust with the . " placed in the world without any social. As a young woman. fellow-human. has in fact constituted itself through the reaction of fellow human beings to our existence. or communicative legitimacy. What we were saying is true-and let nothing be taken back from it-: that A. which the aging carry within them and which in memory is lived time. Since there is no choice now but to accept the ego as a social coordinate. It had an effect thanks more to the others than to the body. the effect one has clutches after the others. that mental ego always turns out to be the stronger. more real. But in the end." Since. since it is the real that has had. the alienation from oneself felt by the person sick with age is ulti­ mately not only more persistent than the gain in ego achieved through the pain and materialization of the body. re­ gardless of how it might have been with her body and her mind. especially. once began a letter with "man cheri. the "man cheri.

A. The social ego. suspended between torment and the hope for relief. The ambiguity of alienation from oneself and familiarity with oneself in aging-by which we must not forget for one minute that aging is a form of suffering and that we experience it as such-this ambiguity therefore consists not only in the fact that we feel our body as a mortal shell while at the same time this shell is taking new root in us more and more. is j ust as much something of our own as anything that immediately and physi­ cally experiences itself. He must comply. it also becomes manifest in our social ego's contradiction of every­ thing else that is formed from our suffering body. The imposed ego is in the end simply the ego pure and simple. Its ego-building force does not release us as long as we exist. and reactions.. he can start a relationship with his pain and acquire something he could perhaps call his "knowledge. and it takes an ego dissociation of an unusual kind to discover beyond our socially defined ego the one given by the body and only by the body.48 I ON A GING yellow flecks is imposed upon her from outside. even while the deformity is still her pos­ session." But such is only possible during the night: not only because society demands that he fill out the . What we call reality is a force field of social tensions. To be sure.'s. actions. B ut world and life would add that it is not a question of primacy. he euphorically experiences his ego's moment of truth. which to her cannot be primarily abhorrent. of the body-ego that is both our clothing and what we clothe. even if imposed upon us by society. A. Society does not know what to do with a person like A. does not know where to go with the decrepit body that causes him toothache and from which eventually his tooth will fall out. plagued by a toothache till his thoughts are confused. Little avails him when. from learning specifically that such disfigurements appear disgusting to those who are not disfigured.

" Which ego do we carry over out of the past into aging? We were sitting on the school bench at ten. Even here there is nothing to take back. The ego that we set as our own against the deterioration of aging. and he sees himself with the latter's eyes. For he is "world" himself. she still prefers. he wants to preserve the ego of fresh teeth he's dragged with him from his youth and at any price get rid of the other ego he called in the middle of the night his "authentic ego. he wears the graying tufts remaining under his bald pate on the sides of his temples as a picturesque hair or­ nament. into our profes ­ sion. knowing or only imagining that only in this one we were more ourselves than in any other afterward or before? One person had rich wavy hair as a young man. refused by the world and expelled from it. he is society. this . Accordingly. in the act of remem­ bering. It is true that the ego we carry with us is a creation of society. and as forty-year-olds. Another thinks she remembers that at thirty she was charming to the world of men because of her well-developed bust. At each time we were an ego. but also because he cannot accept the ego of toothlessness. we have remodeled and newly interpreted our social ego. Now. and the decolletee lady once owed her successes not to her well-built breast but to her intelligent. at fifty-five. Still. but for his witty conversation. we advanced. A. In truth. envied by our colleagues. that threatens him. even though the skin at the top of her cleavage is already flaccid and brownish. deep. the man with the dishev­ eled tufts was not admired as a young man for his natural undulations. himself thinks he senses that society senses him: therefore. lively eyes.49 I Stranger to Oneself income tax declaration free of pain and with a clear mind. low-necked decolletages. we discovered that the other sex still liked us. di­ sheveled but proud. To what kind of ego do we cling in aging. We kissed at twenty. At thirty.

which we preserve as lived time. The reality of the social ego we experience as such every day and to which we sub­ mit is in the end just as questionable as A. The question about the reality of the ego is a sham question-: just as E rnst Mach's proposition that the ego is a bundle of feelings was a sham propo- . It may sometimes seem to agree approximately with statistics unknown to us. What's bad about all this is that we do not know the statistics . a true identity. and into the daily changing ego of aging-the absurd consequence of trying to find out in this manner about our most inner conditions would be that a lived ego. yellow-flecked or dentally endangered." the subject is as little known to her as the predicate. In aging. ego has sometimes not existed in reality at all. only a minority of fifty were in­ clined to put up with us: therefore we were disliked only in a "reality" written in quotation marks. for ego dissociation is in every moment counterbalanced by ego association.'s nocturnal toothache ego. since it is still multifariously dissociated in the suffering of aging­ dissociated into the body I have. even foreign and of­ fensive.50 I ON A GING ego that we believe we have to look at and sense in relation to our new. doubled and inscrutable. does not exist. into the res cagitans and the res extensa of my own self. the "other" that painfully has me. but there is no relying on that. for when A. We don't know that our social ego was not only built up by the others but for the most part may have come into being through mere supposition. questionably deduced from the reactions of my fellow human beings. The consequence of such considerations would be that an ego. we be­ come alienated from ourselves. The alien image of ourself is a vague statistical reality: five hundred others showed their antipathy toward us. into the ego. One can set that aside as a bare and worthless mental game. says. "That's not me any more. shaking her head in front of the mirror.

It is true that at the level of what has been immediately lived we are both "we" and "world. By this time. have to take upon ourselves absurdity and the risk of every mental confusion when we meditate on our condition. the world whose image is logic is already clear­ ing out. A phenomenological way of perceiving. When we have crossed the top of a mountain and begin to go down the other side and it quickly becomes steeper and steeper. strikes at the core of what has been lived and yet aims right on past it. The primal . faster and faster. Finally.51 I Stranger to Oneself sition because the very act of bundling canceled the individual ele­ ments of the bundle as such. And yet: we have to take logical contradictoriness upon our­ selves. it is no longer our place to think in a way appro­ priate to the conquest of the world. In the monde vecu and in the attempt to reconstitute it mentally." It is just as true that at that same level we constantly make distinctions . even if at night we like to entrust ego-building power only to pain. even if we recognize that the image of ourselves we've carried with us is imposed upon us by society without us ever knowing in this case whether this too is a hallucination of our speculation. It is aging that exposes us to that kind of consciousness and makes us capable of it. the basic propositions of logic no longer hold. eschewing the opposition of inner and outer and adapting space to us and us to space so that I am myself as much as my world of space. feeling compelled to demon­ strate for ourselves an image of the world in logic. it is still the case that our skin surface demar­ cates us: what transpires on this side of the boundary is what we are. We refer to the ego when we say "!. what happens beyond it is other. that's the misere. " and we say "I" with good reason and good sense even if we like to stand in front of the mirror shaking our heads and doubting our­ selves. The ambigu­ ity becomes an antinomy.

making room for equivocation and contradiction. go to the dentist. . "When I no longer am. awaits us and compels u s to form logically unclean propositions such as. The evidence is no longer believable.52 I ON A G ING contradiction. no matter how faithfully we still attend to the day. Day and night cancel each other out in twilight. Were we saying that in aging the world becomes our denial? We could j ust as easily have said that we are already about to be the negation of our self. Alienation from oneself becomes alienation from being. We become more alienated from ourselves and more familiar with ourselves. We possess an ego enclosed in our skin and may at the same time find out that the limits always were fluid and stayed that way. fill out our tax declaration. death. Nothing is self-evident any­ more ." Death is al­ ready in us. We become I and not-I.

sentimental. since he had last seen Paris. the jazz is good. after­ ward he is alone in his hotel room and looks down at the Place Vendome. a distinguished patrician from the Pyrenees. he tries the Lido on the Champs Elysees. finds himself after many years once again in Paris. Ingeniously. and expensive homage to Marcel Proust. on the other the hygienic isolation imposed upon human beings. a small. but for the first time with­ out family dependents.• The Loo k of Others A novel to recommend to readers getting on in years: La Quaran­ taine by Jean-Louis Curtis. no longer young: their quarantine. The provincial notary Andre. It is not a great book. The girls are attractive. . has turned into an autodrome. a man of means and some culture. whereby on the one hand the decade of aging between forty and fifty is meant. but a reflectively beautiful one about the fate of two married couples at the peak of their lives. This man on the threshold of fifty puts up at the Ritz. its title plays with the double meaning of the word quarantaine. In the first evening. which.

he leaves the theater after the second act. He seeks refuge in a cafe. that instead it is inscribed in the social and economic structure of an era in which a person. It seems. has recognized that only youth is fit for work and pleasure and that in general what is popularly known as idolatry of youth is the prevailing disposition. The argument has weight. The offensive smell of exhaust fumes takes away his breath and makes the flfmerie he had looked forward to for weeks impossible . those facts that can be read out of such simple publications as the job-offerings in the newspapers: those who are sought-the editors-in-chief. not valid for the immense majority of his comrades in aging: his feelings of invisibility or insignificance are to be explained from a totally in­ dividual and incidental morose mood. The facts of society speak for it.54 I ON A GING He intends to devote the evening hours of the next day to the theater where a critically acclaimed play of the Brecht school is running. No one notices him. both driven and lashed into mere matter by the demands for production and expansion. The venture of a walk turns into a debacle. one can raise the objection that his defeat at Paris has only a little to do with the contingency of his person. A few weeks later. he suffers a heart attack. The next morning he takes his departure in deep depression. he thinks. In the midst of the performance. could accept all that if he did not increasingly have the feeling that he is invisible. chief engi­ neers. But as a rejoinder. Vexed. the boredom that was still amorphous yesterday and that he did not admit to himself becomes manifest . but even that proves to be hopeless. A. perhaps even from sensing in advance his physical condition. directors. neither in the Flore nor in the Deux-Magots is a place to be found. It can be said that A:s case is a very personal one. that you don't exist in this city if you're older than twenty-five. and whatever the terminology of the second half of the .

What does "social age" mean? In the life of every human being there is a point in time or.55 The Look of Others twentieth century calls "managers"-are not supposed to be older than forty. with the professional fate of the aging and old people who are becoming more and more numerous in a world in which every day less is known about what to do with them. " The others. the vicinity of a point where each discovers that one is only what one is. meted out to us by the look of the others . not yet at least. have struck a balance and laid before us a bottom line that we are. so we have to learn. But we're not concerned here. like most of those that mar our existence. to be more mathematically precise. it no longer wants to entertain seeing us in terms of what we could be. All at once we realize that the world no longer concedes us credit for our future. Even this contradiction. as individuals. Another is a post office administrator who maybe can still become the director of his office with some . would like to reign over their property-the world!-and at the same time know that world and property only exist where others dispute their right to place and possession. Beyond that. No one asks us any longer. We find ourselves-not through our own j udgment but as the mirror image of the look of the others that we immediately internalize-to be creatures without poten­ tial. "What do you want to do?" All declare. we want to consider our destiny as individ­ ual human beings who can live neither without others nor with them or against them. " That you've already done. and the absurd and contradictory basic con­ stitution of human beings who. Society no longer brings the possibili­ ties into focus that we still think are vouchsafed to us in the picture that it makes of us. We want to consider the problem of social age in general. dispassionately and unflinching. One of us is an electrical engineer and will remain so. only becomes fully conscious to the aging person.

have been condemned. that is. and eventually required. nor a professional criminal. nor an actor. the years that are at best still left to us. Human beings are what they socially accomplish. That which we call our "life. that which follows from her efforts. if success. The game-theoretically-is never played before it is played out. defines what we likewise still regarded as our life yesterday. the negation of her artistic existence. Those we can already foresee as the homogeneous and monoto­ nous repetition of our wasted time . upheavals. has not been forthcoming. there will be even fewer who can break out. but that is all. however. whose accomplish­ ments were alread y counted and weighed. new beginnings. and out­ bursts. Another is a painter. A. will be accepted. nor a political leader. only the end of a life gives the truth to its beginning and all its stages. is. will not become a big game hunter if he or she has not done so al­ ready. then it is the lack of success. A bank employee refuses the bottom-line ego that society presents to him: his death on La Dominica expresses the truth about the ex­ istence of the bank employee and makes it nothing. the effect of her art. that characterizes her. in a world defining itself by social function through interaction and interdependence. unsuccessful or successful: if success has congealed in a sum of living and cre­ ative events. so that in the end a stage lived in numbness and petrifi ­ cation can unveil itself as a mere transitional phase. There may be break-ups. How many Gauguins can be brought forth as witnesses? In the future.56 I O N A G IN G effort and luck. Gauguin . results of the balance struck by social fusion. Whoever A. it will remain faithful to her even if there are deviations in the iJlrt market and the prices quoted for her pictures today are possibly not as high as yesterday. The aging. internalized." the sum of what we have done and left undone. . The bottom-line egos. It is probably true that only death makes a clean break.

57

The Look of Others

They have lost even if they've won, that is, even if their social existence, completely consisting of their consciousness and con­ suming it, is assessed at a high market value. Break-ups and up­ heavals no longer lie on their horizon; they will die as they lived, each a soldier and brave. ' One has to ask about what it is that inheres in the verdict of society and what chances offer themselves to dismiss it. The judg­ ment passed during our active life by a consensus taking shape unnoticeably in our minds is never finally given. Our social exis­ tence, which is our existence plain and simple as soon as we have entered the phase of aging, is recorded in a dialogue. We speak, society answers. What we do and perform is the first act of a social reality. The second act, radiating back to the first and in that way giving its dimension, is a reply to, or action against, the first. We think we speak as poets-it can be assumed-and challenge society with our poetic word. Whether we were ef­ fective enough to be poets in reality will depend upon whether society accepts our challenge. This game, in the many meanings of the word-a play in the theater of the world based on its ending, pure /udus, a game of chance with the highest stakes-is neither won nor lost as long as we are young. We beat on the doors today and no one responds, but tomorrow they will open up to us-so we hope and believe, since the belief and hope of society are part of us, and no fellow human beings would like to be deaf to the knocking on their door. Once we are aging and have already gathered in a large number of answers, once society has already applied an inventory of the re ­ joinders issued to us, only then does that same society feel certain of its newly imparted information and calculates it automatically according to the inventory sum. Those who do not open their doors then no longer risk the role of being deaf to others. At the

58

I

ON A G ING

same time, it is ct�rtain that they have heard in our knocking the voice of what has been. Now the dialogue has ossified into a uni­ form litany that will only end with our end. We ask the eternally same questions because we get the eternally same answers, and we preserve the latter because the former always stays the same. It would be good to know whether it is not perhaps possible to escape the judgment of society (which, because of its opaque, quantitatively demonstrable massiveness is also a verdict) , even to elude it in aging and in old age where it has thickened to become impenetrable. "Who are you?" the mental doctor is asking the patient. "Talleyrand." Talleyrand shakes in the prison clothes flut­ tering around his body like a fool's dress, shuffles in his slippers, spoons his soup out of his wooden bowl. He is still Talleyrand: the verdict of society does not concern him. Or the great painter A. in the Cafe du Dome at Montparnasse. His name cannot be found in any reference work; he has not exhibited anything in ten years; art galleries do not like hanging his pictures even in their side rooms. "Who are you? " "I am a great artist, but you have to understand, the market place, industry, fashion, everything is against me . " The verdict of society can be dismissed through the total eclipse of the whole scene, that is, through denying the same reality principle that Talleyrand rejects in the mental institution. One can even arrange one's refusal by obscuring a section of the stage as the painter A. does with the narrow world of his profes­ sion. But neither Talleyrand in the madhouse nor the painter A. has a social age. They beat on doors, indefatigably, and don't care in the least that no one opens to them. They talk into the void and give up all claim ItO a response. Society tells them, "If you were what you claim to be, great painter and Talleyrand, we would have to know it." They don't hear anything, the verdict does not reach them.

59

The Look of Others

The number of lunatics is slight. Even those who are a half or a quarter crazy are not many. Most are "normal. " In our case, that means that at a certain age they accept society's judgment. When they were young, they again and again tested themselves, more or less courageously (that is a matter of individual disposi­ tion), in going beyond a possible limit, possible precisely because society still recognized it as such. But in aging, their reality is their age, the social age that concerns them just as much as the age of layers of time stored up in their memory or that other age that is experienced by them as loss of the world through the toil and trouble of a deficient physis. Generally, this social age cannot ever be defined, it depends on the epochs, the social structures, the respective field of relationships to which a person is yoked. When Kennedy became President of the United States at forty­ three, he was young; a forty-three-year-old assistant professor is not young. Or the other way round: Senator Thomas Budden­ brook in Thomas Mann's novel Buddenbrooks, who gained his senatorial rank when he was around forty, was precisely by virtue of this dignity and its patriarchal aura a very mature man, almost aged. His dissolute brother Christian, with the indefinite pain in his leg and the propensity for champagne breakfasts, was, even on his deathbed, a boy who had become senile too early. Social age is defined by a network of causality, much too complicated to be dis­ entangled here. Our very own social ambitions form one of its numerous skeins. A subordinate official, for example, is socially an old man at forty-five when, and only when, he has tried to attain a higher position. As long as he never tries to rise in the hi­ erarchy, has never spoken of his hopes for advancement either with his family, with his friends, or with his superiors, his social age is not defined and not definable. In his subordinate position, there is no social relevance in being thirty or fifty. He lives on in

For our homeland is not a world of being but one of having. to which the market value we may represent also belongs.60 O N A G IN G his position without history. In agreement with his own modest ambition society had already passed j udgment on him when he was still very young in years. what one stands for. One may take one's orientation from the signs and markings along the path of having possessions-and then have a hard time . If there are criteria in our time for social age that go beyond all structural. a world of being that is only given through having. Still they have to learn that neither social essence nor humane existence has been conceded to them. they've perhaps been spared social aging. if we can delimit the vicinity of the point at which our social judgment receives its full validity and the world no longer allows us to go beyond what we have j udged to be possible. nothing more learned. national. is defined by what one has . To be socially ageless or even old from early on. they're an imaginary Talleyrand or garret genius. nothing more earned. more exactly. can no longer hold up against the look of the others the prospect of a personality wanting to be itself. according to common and accepted principles of order-a computable posses­ sion or a possession representing and guaranteeing market value-and they enter into the phase of social aging as soon as they do have. under pressure of the requirement of having. What one is. and individual differences. They then have neither social standing nor permanence. Born dumb. right up to his end he takes things as they come. The society of having neutralizes autonomous individuals who. a man without biography-and only the weight of memory or his burdensome body lets him become aware one day that he is aged. born poor. that doesn't matter now. Human beings are required to have. If they don't have anything. we find our orientation in the realm of possession.

if he's born as an heir and the paternal factory or legal chancellery awaits him. has assured his written product a definite commercial value.61 The Look of Others locating the points of reference for aging. For another. it condemns us to remain an empty place in society. the fate of having pos­ sessions begins very early. For a third one. presses upon him. having dictates an existence that structures one's consciousness and is in two ways a destiny: on the one hand it robs us of our own disposability. " required by society and honored through its market value. society already having dis­ posed of that ability. A. the world of having admits fewer and fewer outsiders who can plan for themselves. He is living. his alert pen. Not exactly in luxury or in security. of the possibility of beginning anew any moment at point zero and designing our lives with our own will without society or even against it. by withdrawing or gathering itself together as the possession of eco­ nomic resources or as a definite ability. as his customers call it with approval. For one person. the process begins in the higher levels of school where a gift for mathematics urges her into the career of a physicist or an engi­ neer. On the other hand. certain of her market value. it happens at the university or in the first years of professional practice. in the cradle. a hollow form without even the ability to plan for our zero point. In any case. however. but also not . The possessions or the market value of a single individual makes that person all the more flexible. His skill. long before he is yet conscious of himself. since those things are chains worn as agreeably as jewelry is worn. With every day. a "know-how. is a forty-year-old journalist who composes articles on con­ signment. For the fact of having possessions or the requirement for them affects us at quite differ­ ent phases of our life. The integrating power of having is very great.

the ex­ istence of permanent becoming. before falling asleep. he was world revolutionary and clochard. then it was be­ cause not very much time had been gathered up in him yet. He writes and sells what he's written. It would be a system in which existence is not having something. He was young in his years and in his body. He was young. no matter how little it might be . pimp and philosopher. and sometimes he feels with deep horror his agreement with it. But he was also young in his social existence. In the realm of the potential. Now he is not that anymore. Society has allocated his social age to him after it first let him know that it only tolerates an eternal youth in the madhouse. takes va­ cation trips. He did not think any­ thing he wrote would ever find a buyer. and if he had space before him. has been stolen from him by an existence prescribed by having. but would remain an . he is plagued with memories : he was sitting in a garret. younger than the M. He has his social age. He is ashamed that he has come to this point and that his existence without having. His potentiality was the whole world and all of space. has a fairly decent house. not even having knowledge (perhaps because having knowledge would not be translatable into a category of possession). he was every­ thing. of the same age who was just treating his first patients to death or the actor who was pasting his first critical reviews in a scrapbook. Now he is because he has. To be a taxpayer and a citizen whose greeting the neighbors return on the stairs of his apartment building! The sum of a number of humiliating capitulations fills him for the moment with a silly pride. Sometimes. Then he asks himself whether it is possible to think of a social order in which his ridiculous victory (which is a sad defeat) could have spared him. and therefore he noted down whatever he wanted and how he wanted it. drives a car.D.62 ON A GING in need and not in anxiety about abject misery. a zero. What kept him alive was the wide horizon: since he was nothing.

He has already become engrossed in these things. but instead would help him again and again to be zero and to constitute himself anew starting from the zero point.63 The Look of Others existence of becoming: to be and to become with the others whose look would not overpower him. a marriage partner to care for as well as children. Society bears the blame. are the nabobs whose property is so great that it does not mean anything to them anymore and does not determine who they are . At some time. Defined by what they have and wanting to increase or preserve it. they stick it out and become one day aware of turning a corner beyond which their existence based on having cannot be called back: then they are aging per- . He has aged. Gauguin. the megalomaniac in the madhouse and his distant relative in the Cafe du Dome. they are not affected by the look of the others. they have something they own to defend. acquired knowl­ edge to offer. Guevara. Nor. asks himself about this and finds no answer and knows that it is very likely that his not finding an answer was al­ ready determined in the successive acts of his capitulations and in what he has had all around him. Ali Khan drove to his death young. the look that represents the world of having possessions. boyish and senile . and because he has them he can no longer not want to have them. no matter how slight they may be. The others reach a social age. and the Duke of Windsor will die like Christian Buddenbrook. sooner or later. most of them at a point in time at which they present themselves to society as producer-consumers worthy of investment. he has chains to lose that can be worn as easily and agreeably as the adornment of a destroyed existence that ruins itself humanly even as it builds itself up socially. He bears the blame himself to the same extent that he accommodates himself to what society has set instead of becoming a fool or bleeding to death like Che Guevara. Like countless others with the same fate. both exhausting the whole person. A. for that matter.

He asks himself some­ times when he looks up from his work. The doors will not be opened any more. as long as his forgetful brain. no older than 45. but for both it means banishment from a reality being formed historically and confronting the very uncanny question: When have I actually lived? When did I stop leading my life as a process of constant re­ newal and permanent contradiction? Fortunately. Is this to go on forever? and feels his anxiety. editor. whether already pensioned or excitedly gesticulating individuals "in the midst of life. requiring not only a social age that corresponds to the logic of investment. business person well versed in textiles with knowledge of English capable of reorganizing our business. for another a miserable pension. good personality.64 I ON A GING sons. The heads of personnel have the look of the other. calculated working hours for piecework. ill is clear. Their contem­ porary X. likes to work. maximum age : 40. Whoever directs a question to society gets an answer: keep on with what you were doing yesterday and the day before. They won't employ a beginner at the age of forty. forward -moving and energetic individual. travelling agent. and the valid legal regulations permit it. but. These contemporaries. " increasing what . or written articles on consignment will do the same for two to two and a half decades more. It will go on like this. his heavy limbs. Wanted: experienced banker to take over our branch office. dynamic. but still for an eternity of his existence. do whatever your past com­ pels you to do-or do nothing. drafted advertising posters. engineer. such moments of questioning are rare.. young. experience in a particular profession. who from twenty-three to forty has computed foreign exchange rates. laboratory manager. After that comes what society calls one's well-deserved re­ tirement and what for one person means an ample administrator's retirement income. publicity agent. not exactly forever.

" Behind the silver-haired captains of industry with . B ut the night has already set in. Is it not so that the leaders and pillars of so­ ciety are venerable persons. allows.65 The Look of Others they have or maintaining it. even all too venerable. On the other hand. worse. Something needs to be added here. society is already making its places ready for them. This is just a question of social engineering. it doesn't apply at all. members of learned societies. A "meaningful life" and an old age worth living will be guaranteed in the future or at least made possible. The days do get longer and longer for those who give orders. One shouldn't wax heroic about metaphors of twilight and the drama of aging. whatever may con­ cern all the other tiny nameless existences. they say as they talk to themselves and want to be active like men and women. they are all getting on in years. accept the judgment passed on them by society. even before its actual entrance. influential university professors. because the existential death contained in social resignation is just as unacceptable as physical death. It is still day. but also for the others who run alongside as fellow travelers. They are content with an ego that no longer tries to go beyond itself but that is not yet resting in satis­ faction with itself. "The older men and women in our field enjoy official honors and the glorious dignity they've earned. but we. people between twenty-five and thirty-five. and that the ruling generation is that of the fifty-five-to seventy-year-olds? Presidents and cabinet ministers. in accord with the increase in life expectancy. we make the discoveries . or forbids. especially about the metaphor of the night breaking in: it is a maudlin cliche. and now they are only able to have an effect as society requires. But a young physicist says. heads of boards of directors. In our father's house there are many apartments and some of them look like well-furnished homes for the aged. their social age.

The titular chief executive officer of an industrial firm who has long since handed over his practical control to a group of young coworkers. It was already night above the heads they carried high. A "meaningful ex­ istence. the brilliant young men upon whom it all depends and before whose sharper intelligence the old bow in more or less good composure. Those in the other group may sulk like a bunch of Gorm Grymmes and flash like Jupiter. except that it is easier and better to portray one's own monument than one's own nothingness. then nothing is left except waiting to see how to deal with the years of puttering around in a little garden. But what do the anonymous still hope for when their social age. More than ordinary people. Those in one group are no longer effective at all. even if brightened by the stars as well. Society may care for the aging with welfare or even . the hack­ neyed night has in fact broken over them already. their speech and deeds are tied to the political roles through which they have acted previously. their having-aged. too. only their secretaries still fawn over them.66 I ON A GING their inexhaustible capacity for work-which the good old press tells us about-stand their prompters. they play their prescribed roles j ust as precisely as any ol d man of magnificence speaking about great na­ tional questions in words of power previously heard and therefore easily manipulated: the latter and the former are prisoners of their past. the famous professor who has already been overtaken intellectu­ ally by a thirty-year-old assistant and now collects only distinctions and honorary doctorates. " Sure. the apparently powerful are subject to the verdict of society and are condemned by it to remain what they were. But as soon as one is no longer even a letter carrier and has lost the ability to regard the delivery of a registered letter as an act of importance to the state. is draped over them by society? The letter carrier remains a letter carrier j ust as de Gaulle remains l'homme historique.

it could be added that their misery and their social isolation are still their own wrongs. people who are no longer able to give even a bad conscience to those who are with them and those against them. One does not get more attractive. even in their own eyes. But it would be quite inadmissible to reduce the phenomenon of aging and being old. who today are not valued as rarities and therefore cannot be considered vener­ able images of divinity. said Erich Kastner once in a harmless poem. Aging people get ugly: in German. to a few fundamental problems of social structure and of market and profit economics. They are not so stupid that they wouldn't know exactly that others are only letting them do as they like. that they are burdens and useless eaters. if it did not smack so pervasively of reactionary insolence. reactions-knows it and makes sure that it's well understood by the aging and the old. feelings. ugly . consti­ tuting for them an ego-of grievance and accusation-while caring for them and providing for them make them into an other. not even more clever. and the world-understood here as a statistically recordable sum of indi­ vidual opinions. Perhaps they'll be cared for.67 I The Look of Others by providing part-time work that doesn't really need to be done. If it did not sound so presumptuous. more agile. You don't get prettier when you get older. This trivial observation. as it is determined by the look of others. is valid in all cases. but which first of all immediately releases the effects in society as well. which can neither be surpassed nor further reduced. This misery and isolation make them into creatures of total social determination. Again and again we meet the fact of the body-the frail body in this case-which not only gives a specific color to the subjective quality of aging. No one may doubt that social aging is essentially determined by the world of having. that is of course better than leaving them to themselves and their meager pen­ sions.

as an expression of a negation welling up from deep emotional foundations. He leaves the capital city and returns home to his small town in the Pyrenees. can be taken. which in colloquial speech is the same as a value qualification. La Quarantaine. resistance to a way of not being that has already insinuated itself into existence." . a nothingness whose graphic har­ binger is physical decline. unfruitful. The look of the others. which goes right through him as if he were a transparent substance. even an in­ validation: one speaks of a weak play or a weak exchange rate and bestows ultimately on the weak human being just as little sincere sympathy as on a failed drama or a slump in securities. unhealthy. The "world" an-nihilates aging human beings and makes them invisible on the streets. the an-nihilation of the aging human being. because in the long run his inconspicuousness becomes insufferable. -That is all his literary creator. Numerous adjectives. It is quite possibly a fear of nothing­ ness. uncoordinated. as the negation cons urn mated by society. as is the case with the provincial notary A.. shatters him. all beginning with the syllable "un. unwekome. the novelist Jean-Louis Curtis. " are attributed to aging and old human beings: they are unable to perform much physical work. But the only thing that is an-nihilated here is what already bears the sign of nothingness on its brow. intended to say about his failed travel adventure. The book. It is the nature of human beings to aspire to exist for others . un-young. The undeniable aversion. who would like to stroll through Paris but cannot bring himself to do it anymore because he is rejected by the crowd that ignores him. of young people toward the old turns the respect for these elders into a mere convention. unteachable. unfit for this and that. says nothing about the disconcerting spectacle that the "world. They get weak. converted into respect. The negative prefix.68 I O N A G IN G ( hiij3/ich) is that which one hates (haj3t) . if one likes.

It is good for the aging to realize that society. change nothing about that. An aging person is old not only to youth but also to those of his or her own age who look at the young. there is no appeal. accepts the annihilating judgment of the young and the most recent. Even the honors rendered to the aging. Twenty years ago he was the god of youth. visits one of the lectures of Jean-Paul Sartre. and he despises the search for lost time just as much as the romantic eroticism of death. His words ad­ dress themselves not to those for whom the false already corrupts . A. Honors that serve as abundant testimonies to aging and old human beings are feeble and prove nothing. They deny solidarity to their comrades in destiny. passed over the aging by young and old. even when the veneration of the great old man is full of pomp and ceremony and even when the long applause of young hands clapping accompanies this curiosity of aging upon its entrance. both private and official honors. Nothing. "Le faux. he had written. something that has become a rare event these days. and even today he loves especially to appear before young people. Against the judgment. regardless of how it arranges the demographics of its age pyramid. to invisibility. That is not to say that they love the young. still does not consist only of young people-there are also quite enough aging people crossing the boulevards on which the notary is annihilated by empty stares. too. even when they arouse no look in return. only that they cling to them in an absurd longing and with an envy they cannot admit to themselves. c'est la mort" (falsehood is death). but always according to the law of youth and its dread of decay.69 The Look of Others while condemning A. since for him the future has always been the au­ thentic dimension of the human. try to maintain their dis­ tance from the signs of the negation of existence they read in their features.

But. and for a few seconds A. his existentialism was the last word in the history of ideas. my God. pale··gray face. something virile and powerful. the one­ sidedness of which he was scarcely conscious of." even described by Sartre himself in his autobiography. For many years. toward the event in world and space against which they measure their ego and for which they have to constitute it. but to the young who still are what they promise to become. but which again and again is totally new: that a human being can come to such a state. He is most deeply moved about something fundamentally simple and constantly known. in spite of his much discussed "ugliness. knows. the philosopher exuded a strong physical force of attraction. as . a senile man with flaccid. In 1 946. an emaciated body. Only a shabby seven years separate him. from his master. as the two of them. he has become old with time weighing inside of him. developing thereby a strong intimacy. rattling voice. but seven years which. That is only a little more than two decades ago. Sartre is speak­ ing to the students in the great hall of a large Western European university about the Russell Tribunal. could gradually feel he was the same age as the lecturer. he has held him in great respect. finds it difficult to recognize again the Sartre from the springtime of 1 946. A. the philosopher and his reader-pupil. had come less on account of the theme-about which he is adequately informed-than for the sake of the speaker himself. the younger one.70 I ON A GING the look and roughens the voice. At that time. tired gentleman. He had aged with Sartre. A. who stride toward what is coming. He stood both at the beginning and at the peak of his fame. had shrunk in scale to an inconsequential time-span so that A. now he has become a frail. and an exhausted. He had seen him about twenty years ago. were climbing down the rungs of the ladder. Sartre was youth personified and spoke not only into the future but quite rightly even in its name.

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everyone knows, that the great philosopher in whose honor the students are now rising to their feet is quite sick, enough so that his biological age must be relatively higher than his chronological age and his physical decay therefore without exemplary value for the age of a sixty-three-year-old. But while the lecturer speaks, logi­ cally very rigorous as always, with the force of his own dialectically sharpened formulations, nailing the political developments down in brilliant points as he philosophically j ustifies the Russell Tri­ bunal against the American Vietnam War, A., who is only listening absent-mindedly to the text of the lecture, grows aware that it is not nearly as much the philosopher's bodily fragility that shifts him into the psychological state of painful and resigned tenderness as it is Sartre's social age. Even the philosopher of breaking the limits of the self has become a prisoner-not of his fame and reputation, as the speaker who introduced the lecture said, since Sartre has j ust broken out of that-but instead the prisoner of the time stacked up inside him, still only speaking the texts of his role in life, still only being what he accomplished and therefore being condi­ tioned by the society that struck the balance of his life and work and compels him to be no other than just Jean-Paul Sartre, who wrote certain books and not others, who in 1 948 founded a politi­ cal party that did not even become a sect, who refused the Nobel Prize, and who, as the philosopher who broke down boundaries, set his own limits, limits that at this stage can no longer be crossed, especially by a man who has already aged, who may live fifteen more years or j ust as easily only five. The unfortunately somewhat rasping voice speaks, appeals, analyzes, exercises an undiminished highly sharpened intellect, gives orders. Two and a half thousand people hang on every word with extremely anxious attention. It is quite obvious that standing is not easy for the speaker. Periodically, he braces his hands very

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high against his hips a s if to help his body carry its own weight. His hair, twenty years ago copper-colored and thick, is now steel-gray and scant and only covers his balding head in single strands. But A. is thinking that even that is not the essential thing, although it intensifies the painful tenderness he feels as though he were stand­ ing down there hImself and had to support the weight of his own burdensome body with his arms braced against his hips. What touches him, more than the physical decline of the great man, even more than the knowledge that Sartre has to remain Sartre even as an aging man, even to promote the memory of Che Gue­ vara without being able to become another C he Guevara, what makes him, A., feel the hardship of his own situation as an aging person is the insight into the way the two and a half thousand at­ tentive and respectful young people are stealing from the old man down below the last years of his life-through the mere fact of their being young and going forth into a world that belongs to them and only them. They will read other books than those of Jean-Paul Sartre, other than those that Jean-Paul Sartre read. They will populate a world without Sartre: the anti-Sartre world, which will expand even .as image, word, and deed of the, by then, already deceased Sartre will be as petrified and rigid as his gravestone. The future of these young people is set within them as a fact of their being young. In this context, that means that they are ready both to seize the world and to flow effusively into it. But since this future world without Sartre is within them, in their projects to do this and that, to write books, to mount platforms, to watch movies, and to go to the Congo, since they carry the anti- Sartre world within them, they are becoming themselves Sartre's adversaries. -Now they get up once again from their amphitheatrical benches and applaud. They cannot know that the esteem they display for the aged man who snatches up his papers and makes for the exit

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on his tiny feet is "dis-esteem" and a malicious condemnation. They would have to be old themselves to realize how the respect offered to that which was and is becomes disparagement: for the re­ spectful view of what has been does not allow any longer the belief that the latter can still become. Their tribute is somber, like an obit­ uary. In it they anticipate the philosopher's death. Applause. Bravo, bravo. But now to ourselves and the world! A good and great old man. After him greater and better ones are coming ties. On his way home through the cold city, whose new streets and buildings have changed so much that it's a daily effort for him to find his way and not drive into a one-way street, A. is alone. But he is mentally with Jean-Paul Sartre, whose social age is his, even though he is himself a shrinking seven years younger. Unlike his great comrade, who at this moment is probably retiring exhausted in his hotel room, he is not a famous philosopher. But he is also al­ ready what he was, and from him, too, the young people leaving the lecture and crossing the street have stolen the world that they are ready to make from his into theirs. They are pleasing to look at. They are a horror. One can, one must, instruct them. But for ever and ever, one must be ashamed in their presence, before their embraces, before the books they plan, the political parties they will establish. Just how simple it is: society ascribes a social age to us. It destroys us only when this social age has reached a level at which the world takes stock of what we have done or not done. At that point, society follows the unwritten laws of youth, developed anew every day, by human beings who have both the state of be­ coming and the future entirely to themselves. Our social extinction in age is already settled, regardless of whether our name is Sartre or X., regardless of whether we are accompanied by and we, the young, will be there with them. -The gigantic hall emp­

And a false smile on the face of the person asking the question.K. without lament. then you are young. if you wear them young. lost in the indifference of normality. O . for my age. We are constituted as being such and such and having this and that-and thereby locked out of that which be­ comes. giving their old age its appearance of ridiculously sunny good fortune. at fifty. Our social ego has been given to us no matter how much we may be inclined in lonely hours to coddle a fictitious "true" one.74 I ON A G ING applause and the light o f flashbulbs or drive through the streets anonymously. as a favorite prank of self-deception. How a re you? Fine. "How to retire happily at fifty-five in California. Life begins at forty. as it's called. a bashful one on the person ques ­ tioned. is required-and such a demand made of us. thanks. That we age in dignity. That can be handled fairly easily. just aging and old people. anybody and everybody. A positive attitude and dignified aging without complaint have two aspects. If we can only still choose to be Talleyrand in the madhouse or the great painter in the Cafe du Dome? But no. just right under the circumstances. agreeably touched because it doesn't have to be scrupulous. " Society with its economlc institutions helps vigorously. The same society that annihilates the aging by putting them in the strait- . in alliance with our own weakness and lassitude. talks of a positive attitude. without revolt. We can just as easily reject both the acceptance of the verdict and its open refusal-as most try to do. The futune is already at an end." Clothes make the man. who'd want t o deny it? The world. Then we with­ draw into a self-deception that certainly never really takes us in: we are neither the negated nor the mentally ill. eventually satisfies. " "Women can b e sexually happy after menopause. One can pursue change and. " stay young with the young.

It is attractive and good to age. appears embarrassingly willing to be enchanted about the conquest of space.75 The Look of Others jacket of an unchangeable existence or even expels them from its economic process requires them to consume their age as they once consumed their youth. This will certainly not be sanctioned by the eco­ nomic apparatus. I've been young and can also join in the conversation. possibly ahead of it. those who try to remain young in splendor do not find themselves in agreement with society. The temptation is great. dances the jerk at sixty.' With this atti­ tude. And it doesn't amount to anything when the command is given against the better judgment of the commander and one bows in obedience against one's own reasonable insight. wayward kids. for whoever gives in to it eventually really catches here and there a few small crumbs of the world: one carries himself young and fashionably. Society's annihilation is not negated by them because they gasp for time but. and thus what I say counts. marries a young woman. and. Long since the aging have feathered their nests and are tenderly cultivating them with "Let. while wheezing. because they affirm its rapid pace by withdrawing from it. oh world. on the contrary. but no doubt in accord with its economic and publicistic facade. formulated in their own way to serve the apparatus of society and published for its purposes. popular newspaper articles. I've gotten old. and the latest novels. but through convention it has risen to an honor: we are speaking of the retreat of the aging into an idyll. and even serious sociological investigations. A "positive attitude" to aging can also have a completely different allure. posters. the other buzzes after time. It seems to be very pleasant when one is per­ mitted to obey. things supposedly fill­ ing him with enthusiasm even though in truth he hankers after his peace and quiet and wants to read Fontane. They do what is pre­ scribed for them by advertisements. oh .

It no longer expects much from them. I have already seen so much. only that they replay what's de­ parted from this Ilife and been declared dead-a profound relief. countries arise.76 I O N A GING let m e be. they've done their part. for only in this futile denial can one present oneself at all as one­ self to the inevitable. They say they are harvesting. though they dispense with the lie. Les jeux sont faits (the chips are down ) : they don't need to play anymore and can shift to kibitzing and giving detached advice. thrones fall. you've got to stick to the great and eternal things and to the strongbox you can take with you."3 They are satisfied that society grants them the peace of nothingness by letting them be what they are and were. now the others can show what they can do. They sit with a sunny visage at the window and take a look at the world as if through a reversed opera glass. But those who try to live the truth of their condition a s aging persons. Blessed time. but that their revolt-and here the acceptance is an affirmation of something irrevocable-is condemned to fail­ ure. They accept an-nihilation. They do not lose themselves in the . Without envy they watch the others wear themselves out. Both live in untruth and a mauvaise foi (bad faith) . don't escape the am­ biguity that inevitably has to turn out in the end as an open contradiction. philosophies seize the world and fade after two decades. Old persons idyllically aging take as little notice of society's annihilation as those who stay young and animated: the latter convince themselves they can catch up with the time that rolls over them. Whatever races and struggles around in it is very small to their eyes. the former simply deny it by setting their conceptual poem of eternity against it. people are born and die. They say no to an-nihilation and at the same time yes to it. knowing that in this ac­ ceptance they can only preserve themselves if they rise up in re­ volt against it. fashions come and go.

and yet in the recognition of being nothing still something. That is their chance and is. perhaps. They embark on an enterprise that cannot be accomplished. nor with a deeply deceiving idyll of aging. nor do they look for refuge in the madhouse. They are as society prescribes: what they are. the only possibility they have of truly aging with dignity. nor do they deceive themselves with a mask of youth.77 I The Look of Others it's-all-the -same-to-me of a normalcy without self. They make their negation in the look of the others into something of their own and rise up against it. a nothing. .

With this feeling. all of them turning out to be less solid. the language plain and simple. At first there is often only a numb feeling of aversion against what a particular aging person might call the "cultural jargon" of his epoch. Then slight discomfort accompanies him while reading certain periodicals and books. undramatic process of successive insights. they all have to learn at a certain point that they do not understand the world any more . resigned shrug of the shoulders about fashion. snobbism. albeit superannuated. a pure lan­ guage. verbal pomposity. talk he often denies himself. This thoroughly trivial resis­ tance against the new and unusual may be recognized by those . others snared in self­ deception. one earlier in years. some armored with honesty. and not. the other a little later. isms. as he thinks. and he will be in clined to talk with a disapproving. This aspect of social aging-getting culturally old in the widest sense-usually becomes clear in a rather slow.Not to Understand the Wo rld Anymo re Whoever gets to the threshold. since no one likes to stand off in backward spitefulness. he cuts himself off from asking whether he doesn't also speak such a j argon.

a readjustment of one's sensibility. at least as grotesque as the models with whom she will have to make friends in the coming season.79 I Not To Understand the World Anymore educated in the history of ideas as a constantly recurring phe ­ nomenon. This time. the fashion of her youth. something she had still denied even in the midst of her foreboding and against a better judgment based on past experiences: right before her eyes. Supple waves of hair regularly un- . As she has already done sometimes on similar occasions. standing under a tree. A. it will still not be easy for them to convert their dis­ pleasure with lettrism (or infra. But with her first look at the little pictures from the late thirties. too. she gets out her photo album with its old pictures in order to find once again what she thinks was really attractive and becoming in contrast to the irritating creations the designers are burdening her with this year. the new models are a pronounced displeasure to her and seem to be absurd. But today. into a demonstration of tolerance-for them only a form of incompre­ hension anyway. There she is herself. No matter how often A. something happens that she had already anticipated even before she got out the album. but to the most incidental developments. is disagreeably stirred by what is to her the bla­ tantly idiotic extravagance of the models. why it had to happen as it did. They may know what transpired in Paris at the first exhibition of the impressionists in 1 874. becomes something com­ pletely impossible.and ultra-lettrism) . an essential part of the ego built up by her memory. leafs through the fashion magazines. her fashion. such as clothing fashions. The insubordination of the aging confines itself here not only to those cultural phenomena that require an ex­ penditure of intellectual effort. on what basis the resistance against Monet and his friends eventually grew lame in embarrassment. knowing precisely that she will have her clothes prepared with a moderate downplaying of fashionable requirements.

padded jacket. a j acket with comically cut concave padded shoulders. the wardrobe of yesterday regains its authenticity in memory. Those former waves of hair falling into her cheeks. transformed by the look of today. we could not explain how the outmoded immediately loses any ridiculous­ ness when it is no longer merely looked at but remembered. in contrast to the historic things. The unreality of an . thinks she can touch them again with her hands. How could she and even the others ever have liked anything like that? Furthermore. a skirt reaching almost to her ankles. at whose sad capitulation we were not present-if things really behaved that way. have regained their grace of 1 938. since A. ankle-length skirt and ferreted them out as her own. eyes turned up in a way that. an indescrib­ able slouch hat. she will recommend the fashionable creations to her dressmaker as an inspiration. may once again trust the antipathy she felt for the new model and had to give up in embarrassment when she looked at the old photos. she cannot describe as anything but audacious. unknown for a long time. shaking her head.80 I O N A G IN G dulating into her cheeks. corrupted. Of course. but she will wear these clothes against her own conviction as an unfortunately necessary concession to society. A. now. claps the photo album shut. sinks into the past: she has tracked down the little hat. now she reconstructs the gesture of turned up eyes and is again totally certain of its charming effect. she has to learn how even the most banal consequences of events never turn out simply. closes her eyes. A. If it were solely what people say and talk about without thinking-old-fashioned things are funny and em­ barrassing because they have been known for a long time and we were there when they were overtaken by time. broken. She herself will remain the girl of that time. The lesion has healed over. beyond such up-to­ date costumes-and will protect herself from the pictures that question her self-esteem: these show her the fashion of that time.

's experience. this thoroughly banal experience that each and every aging person can reproduce at will.81 I Not To Understand the World Anymore event that cannot be translated from the obj ective physicality of the cerebral process into the subjective existence of a remember­ ing perception is more real than the tangible reality of a picture. the signs have been arranged differently. welling up inside them against their better judgment. For A. Just as an auto driver who was traveling through England for the first time before the traffic signals had been thoroughly coordi­ nated with those on the continent lost all self-confidence and was only able to continue slowly. it is no longer a . The cultural alienation of the aging person cannot be in­ terpreted except as the difficulty of finding one's way in an unknown array of signs. We can abstract from A.. the aging err through the cultural signs of their epoch. whenever she feels distressed by the latest fashion. sees the fashion of the past from within the sign system of the present. about the stubborn indignation. with a feeling of constriction. That conclusion still has not expressed anything about the cul­ tural alienation of aging human beings. having nonetheless constructed her ego out of her reminiscences. and shift to the basic facts that are hidden in it. however. But maybe it signals that a start has been made. to which she is likewise bound. In her process of re ­ membering. In the system of the present. at all that is new coming toward them. where she anxiously remains in spite of her resistance . When she leafs through the photo album. the half­ exposed upper thigh of a woman always has the significance it had in her youth: a provocative acknowledgment of erotic readi­ ness and consequently-again according to the sign syntax of the past-indecency. A. The naked upper thigh is not an acknowledgment of erotic readiness any more. even among completely new signals. she relates the same data about fashion to the sign system of former times.

the Bergson-Benda argu­ ment. from month to month. A sixty-year-old man who follows the intellectual discussion of the day will frequently tend to view the conflict between rationalism and irrationalism.2 The same fear. As it happens. the world. seizes him when the flashback in a contemporary movie does not have any significant temporal logic and. The strangeness becomes manifest to them as uncertainty. he is not only unable to continue to evaluate the film aesthetically but must take the greatest effort just to follow the action-which in the sense of an earlier sign syntax is in many ways no such thing any more. are now partly declaring allegiance to Hei­ degger. and provocation can no longer b e assigned to the concept of indecency. To the extent that the aging try to situate the cultural phe ­ nomena of this current time to accord with the reference points of their past-which was their time because it promised them the future. even literally out of its mind: the philosophical mathematics of his epoch is turning into a witch's one-times-one. and space-they become more and more strangers to their epoch. in the midst of the new order of signs. just as their world atlas is of no use to them anymore since the former British and . Just as the aging cannot find their way in a city that changes its topog­ raphy from year to year. so that the meaningful system consists in the relations of each single sign to every other one. If he then becomes aware that the Marxists. the intellectual spirit of the age will necessarily seem out of place to him. and it objectifies itself in ill humor and impo­ tent rejection.82 I ON A GING provocation. what we specifically call the meaniqg of a sign is perhaps not unconditionally the signified itself but instead the relationship of one sign to others. even panic. whom he has con­ sidered not without justification to be at least the arms-bearers of the rationalistic forces. as the cardinal question dividing the intellectual leaders.

conditioned by the same nonunderstanding. Here above all we need to bear in mind that within our con­ temporary world the sign systems are extremely differentiated. the New Novel. the aging themselves use them and thereby accept the value system contained in them. A supersystem is no doubt constantly establishing itself as the result of a complicated process by which importance is distributed. affirmation of everything the day brings them. One has to have patience with them. even if with mistrust and discomfort. independent of chronol­ ogy and no longer obligated to the delineation of character.83 I Not To Understand the World Anymore French colonies have long since become new self-sufficient states whose names they can only retain with difficulty. special systems are formed. and their precipitous. so they wander desperately through the underbrush of new tone series in music­ it makes no difference whether instrumental or concrete-and new structures of words and sentences. as more progressive than that of the Kan­ tian Max Adler. drawn especially from Hegel. as much with their reactionary and obdurate lack of understanding in the face of new poetic structures as with their tolerance. Within each prevailing supersystem. Even concepts like "Papa's cinema" have already made their way into the daily press. overlap each other. ahead of the realistic one. These special sys­ tems. the Marxism of a Marcuse. Anyone who lives men­ tally within the system of neopositivism conforms to points of or­ ientation different from those of the structuralist. but never completely independent of it. this supersystem ranks structuralism. partly in contradiction to it. for instance. different not only from those of . In our days. while the latter is related to different references. ahead of existentialism. but illegitimate. unstable arrangements of taste in the aesthetic realm. no less slack and unclear intellectual schemata in the rational­ intellectual realm.

Or he'll have the same experience as A. coming into being right before their eyes. for a man getting on in years to declare anything like Ulrich's conversations with his friend Walter in The Man without Qualities. for example. but in common with the Marxists they have an easier access to the structural disposition of Marxism than to that of a Theodor Less­ ing or a Ludwig Klages. But common to them is their independence from outmoded systems: what was called the philosophy of life around the turn of the century is foreign and a matter of indif­ ference to them. it is therefore so extraordinarily difficult for the aging to grasp the signs of an age which. or the anticlericalism of the title character in Martin du Gard's Jean Barois as insignificant or just historically interesting. Because every individual is the center of a specific sign system. they have existential density. It might be difficult. the more it is both abstract and undifferentiated for the subject. the operationes spirituales of Mssrs. or a phenomenologist. The concepts of the philosophy they've selected con­ cern the structuralists more than those of Marxism. but also from those of a Marxist. an existentialist. The more encompassing a system is. because the middle reference point of the system is his or her own existence and has arranged all other points of reference as they are and not otherwise. ob- . If they appear as emotionally colored. " nor even this or that doctrine. Naphta and Settembrini in The Magic Mountain. but the individuals themselves in their own person: here then the ref­ erences become psychological data. in this respect they all move within the complex of their epoch.3 The narrowest and most concrete system is naturally always the individual one whose center is then no longer the "spirit of the times. The super­ system or the systems of the epoch have a less immediate grip on the individual than the narrower structural disposition in which each lives .84 I O N A G IN G the former. is steadily ceasing to be at their disposal.

experience them as he remembers them. however. giving power and making order. for which they must always pay the price of the demo­ lition of their individual system." but necessarily lack the right understanding. as soon as he has pushed his dialectician away even for a minute. If it is now the case that for the aging the supersystem of their epoch and the majority of the infrasystems formed within the super­ system still only contain greatly transformed elements of their personal system. If they answer the given system with a curt refusal-" Ah. as the still essential discussions. With that remark it all falls into place. just like A. is the middle point of one's ego. to accept the new systems. all that calls itself philosophy these days is empty talk. yes. become (in the exact meaning of the word) inauthentic. they then forego what was yester­ day still their own. and cannot with this dubious business even bargain for the recognition of the representatives of the prevailing system. For the narrowest of systems is that particular one which. he will. Quite rightly the latter will say that. hopeless drivel is offered us as painting. though old. If they try. The new signs and their relationships always have full validity and accessibility only for those who are . the constituent of this ego: every relation. but when he switches directly to them after reading a modern dialectician. and will finally deem today's dialectical wit to be superfluously overprofound or high-hatted babbling.85 I Not To Understand the World Anymore serving her old photos: he might smile over the arguments carried on by the Jewish Jesuit and the Italian Freemason in the thin air of Davos. become strangers to the world and downright cranks. every figure of this system is a piece of oneself. are at least always "receptive to new ideas. their alienation will be total and the ways out re­ maining to them will only lead into still deeper alienations. to be sure. anarchical quackery presented as poetry"­ then they step out of their time. such old people mean very well and. with the fashion of 1 938.

knowing in the process that tolerance in that place is not exactly tolerance and that the new is always right quite sim­ ply because it is further along in time. they are only learned while being created. like the driver of a car in the midst of unknown traffic signs. For God's sake.. Hermann Hesse. even he. to be a producer of kitsch. and now if he were to reread the part where Demian and his Romantic friend Pistorius stare together into the glowing coals. Does it happen in this case the way it does with fashion. A.86 I ON A GING themselves a part of their invention and design. The strangers who are guests of former times will constantly find their way around in them only with difficulty. If he happens to open Steppenwolf again and read about the passion of Harry Haller. How does it all relate to kitsch and cultural aging.K. A. But to deal with the word kitsch as briskly as the critic does seems to A. has not remained unconditionally faithful to poor Hesse. A. an old fellow of fifty has belatedly learned that it is OK to sleep with an attractive woman! Hesse should not have made such a fuss about the trivial story. asks himself. for his androgynous Hermine. has been trying to keep up with a clever and vehement modern literary critic who without much ado has declared one of the favorite writers of his youth. A. He'd like both to pull himself together to a modern critical vehemence and to recommend to the critic the kind of tolerance for the old writer that he himself is ready to offer the new. the Steppenwolf. Peter Caminzind's love for the little bourgeois daughter R6si Girtanner strikes him as rather narrow and stodgy. the Swiss writer born in Swabia. For a long time. O .. even he would probably find it tedious reading. admits there is definitely something both pompous and comic about it. where yesterday'S style is em- . to be a somewhat risky business.

even where it has to do with contemporary kitsch. was not caught by the kitsch-making process.87 . For he is outmoded in an incurable way. since he understands the kitsch of the word "comely" with his head but not with his . devalued.'" they've had it now because they belong to yesterday and were popular yesterday. is thinking how that is constantly what was experienced yesterday as something fashionable. A. Hesse and the adjec­ tive "comely. Kafka. it is striking how both in fashion and in literary aesthetics the historical-and even when it was not sanctified by traditional education-does not succumb to the process: baroque writers like Lohenstein and Hofmannswaldau are curious. but no less ridiculous than the peacock-like men's fashions of the Renaissance. that is. There was only a Kafka fashion when Kafka no longer existed. In any case. contrary to the Swabian Swiss. it therefore could make its appearance with the allure of an antifashion. No matter how hard he tries. they were worn out by mass use. who was writing his cold pieces of horror at the same time Hesse gave himself over to comeliness. had never been a contemporary fashion. constituting itself as both historic and pointing toward the future. and is it pure coincidence that precisely Hesse was one of the first to refer to Kafka with emphasis?-but because the man from Prague. therefore kitsch-A. That's not because his work is constructed of elements that are so very different from those of Hesse-by the way. a his­ torical process. Laughter and ashamed distress. Not To Understand the World Anymore barrassing and ridiculous and a painful shame solely for the thoroughly sufficient reason that it is unfortunately yesterday'S style? Apparently. finds nothing more than a theoretical and purely abstract relief in trying to remember how aesthetic and intellectual transformations have run their course or in trying to legitimize historically his cultural outmodedness. are they really very different.

5 -A. Storm had not yet been dead for long. the thought sequences of an aging person. for the systems are certainly not static but are in a process of permanent renewal. is not asked at all whether he consents to a procedure or not.88 I ON A GING senses. because he never took the trouble to question the relationships "comely" might have had to the other signs within the sign system in which Hesse was living. The critic's action was not illicit. Hesse was not Hesse any more than the H6lderlin of 1 800 had been H6lderlin. However. the critical judge of Hesse cannot be disposed of so easily: he has made use of his competence as a man of his time to build on the sign system of his time along with others and has placed the Hesse signs into new relationships. How did the incriminating adjective's lines of reference connect to the single aesthetic components of the everyday language of the time. thereby revaluing and changing them. Thus he does not at first doubt that his critical mind has found itself on wild goose chases. and to the other language that was at that time "modern. rightly or wrongly.6 it all goes from one year to another into a new sign system and changes its meaning. break apart on a threshold of thinking where he must recognize that he himself can never be right in opposition to . even Dehmel and his d jagloni gleia klirrla. to the language of poetry in the school readers. H6lderlin and the walls that stand speechless in the wind. " to the current sound and image structures? The young girls a la R6si Girtanner played Sinding's "Rustle of Spring" on the piano. His deliberations. is thinking how his energetic critic did not consider such things when sternly passing judgment. A. Comely was not yet comely. One has to let him do as he likes. As the case may be. about signs that had meaning only within a class of signs. This critic has acted as a steward of signs and the giver or the taker of meaning. to the fashions in dress. "Comely" and Hesse. Liliencron was read.

even if the latter is not always thoroughly right about everything. Their referential links are tied not only to intersubjectively fixable ref­ erence points-thus "comely" does not exclusively belong to the girls playing Sinding's "Rustle of Spring" or to the essays in the Neue Rundschau at that time-but to definite. as signs of his individual system. and he can then get a general idea of today's sign systems." i. they still have grown into his person-than for the great conductor and the painter to believe that their vanguard of 1910 had not conquered the last impassable terrain. It is simply impossible for him-or anyone else-to break out of the individual system whose vital aroma he has dragged with him through the years.. Werfel. A. he tells himself. He grasps the humiliating scene he witnessed. cities he lived in when he read of comeliness and djagloni. to get away from "comeliness. That's because for A. whom he read somewhat later. poured forth veritable enor­ mities about modern painting. where the former rebel. Trakl. suddenly has some understanding for the former avant-gardist Ernest Ansermet who wrote a totally reactionary book against serial music. now grown old. who followed them and became elements of his individual . highly personal circumstances. streets. if he makes the effort. cafes he fre­ quented. of course. much younger than Kokoschka and Ansermet. or Rilke. Oskar Kokoschka. girls he loved. to apartments. whom he had loved at sixteen. It is true. even if not all of them. Ehren­ stein. for example: he can't stop reading Liliencron. there is a special inextin­ guishable state of affairs regarding outmoded phenomena: these phenomena are signs within his individual sign system. Poetry.e.89 I Not To Understand the World Anymore that sharp critic. to arrange this "comeliness" in a new class of signs--because. or Heym. but much more trifling things as well: suits he wore. It is no more possible for him. he can learn new signs.

Lacan. If he tries to make the effort and decides on the study of aesthetic writings. . It's not wicked. "hin the beginning was the word hand the word was with his become flesh / / god hand god was the word hand the word hand has dwelled hamong hus . Althusser were busy in­ venting sign systems and enacting codices. " which / after a few bewildering variants then ends with the lines " . . Foucault. On A. a weak jaw. it was not so very easy to decipher the intellectual map of French existential­ ism. He is full of honorable effort. nor expressions of conservative indigna­ tion. which A. " All right. had to declare himself incapable of translating into Sartre-signs. it is also not at all so new-fangled that one holds one's head in blaring perplexity. not only their body-which transforms itself from something carried into something weighing them down. becomes toil and trouble. nor atrocious. that new border lines were being drawn. But the labor of love is in vain and he cannot get himself to like it-ah. he'll probably more or . . like an insufficient heart. It is extremely distressing when new signs and systems have to be learned every day. Everything goes on and will continue going on. a load-but even their culture. . Between 1 945 and 1 948. But there in front of him is a poem.'s face there are no petty bourgeois sneers.90 I ON A GING system. shin she sheginning shas the word hand she word shod shand flod was the word shand shlesh shand / / shas shith she ford shis shecome shas shwelled shamong shus. sure of its information than he had to hear that its topoi were no longer recognized. No sooner was A. Here and there he has read theoretical writings that made the syntax of such signs at least half-way clear to him. a sensitive stomach. where has d jag/oni gone?-away with " shamong shus." And all at once the uncanny fact is illuminated to him that for the aging. It is a great drudgery for someone who speaks the language of Proust to learn anew that of Le Clezio.

In addition. he has the somewhat sorrow­ ful feeling that he's acting like the old fool who hums with dewy eyes the hit songs of his youth. the sign language of modern culture presents itself to him as the denial of his ego: he can then certainly say to himself that the nay­ sayers are right about him just as the Romanticists were right right in the course of time about the discontented old Goethe. The quantity of formative elements already accumulated and defining con- . recites to himself the lines of Dehmel no one wants to hear anymore. Like the mountain he can no longer climb and which is therefore the negation of his person. " Then. The chances of transcending oneself culturally are long over with. because he knows that it's no longer possible to make much of d jagloni. each can only become what he or she already is. he'll raise his hat with a feeling of dejected respect and the consciousness of his own outmodedness. What applies to their extended social being conse­ quently has the force of law for all possibilities of culture as well. and is able to see in the process of remembering the deceased signs of fashion functioning attractively again in the entire sign system of yesterday. He doesn't feel like coming to the happy wake . when he sees that sort of thing. The cultural existence of human beings is a form of their social existence. At a certain moment-or better. He has to repudiate what the passage of time-whether called progress or not is not the issue-has disposed ot pushed into the grave. but he cannot enjoy the destruction of his individuality that runs parallel to the demolition of his sign system. A. an uncertain one-appearing from case to case according to a person's particular relationships. closes her eyes. And with a bad con­ science to boot. And just as his comrade in aging sets aside her photo album. But it's better if it's settled when he doesn't see it.91 I Not To Understand the World Anymore less manage with "she ford shis shlesh.

becoming ponderous and heavy. As an aging old man. Arnold Schoenberg experienced that the system crucial for him. probably no one can supply any information. the decline of the power of receptivity and the will to receive. with itself and with time. but that is only a vague esti­ mate. . for reliable statistical material is not available. Just as the body in aging always becomes more and more mass and less and less energy. twelve-tone music. Most of the great painters since impressionism. However. Perhaps the age of fifty marks the point where one turns the corner. assumed or even created mostly in their youth or at the latest in their middle years. C ultural aging. behaves likewise. the spirit. no one can say. whose pictorial ordering structure and laws were reviled when they were young. the weariness and resignation in the face of the de­ mands of every new day-they are just as individual as the physiological aging process . meaning that for them the whole problem has not existed at all? In answer to the first question. here understood as cultural re­ ceptor.92 I ON A GING sciousness is s o large that it takes on the quality of immobility. so that in its increasing sluggishness it no longer is inclined to stir when new signs challenge it. " No one knows what's avant-garde. are so in advance of temporarily valid systems that in aging and in old age they have in particular circumstances the tremendous gratification of watching the spec­ tacle of the "spirit of the age" lazily crawling after them until all at once the cultural majority ratified their system. It's true. only what was avant-garde can be determined. became the dominating one. even right away. At what age does this adversity befall a human being? Is it a destiny of everyone? Are there not perhaps people whose systems. Yet many creative individuals have been both satisfied and soothed in being able to say they have left their time behind them. "I am ahead of my time. the second question can be answered.

the cultural alienation of aging. can also be mentally indolent and behind the times with re­ spect to the art of cinematography. If we accept the present as this year of 1 968. and the denial of the world by not understanding the world. when these words are being written down. second. new cinema. that in the sphere of separate systems they might have felt in their middle years already cultur­ ally aged. that in certain circumstances during their lifetime their temporarily victorious central systems were overtaken and super­ seded by others and. happenings. then a number of reference points be recognized with lines connected to the outline of the spirit of the era. That does not exclude. is connected with the mutability and incom­ prehensibility of what has been called here a system. even in only partially valid propositions. constantly in advance of his musical era. for then the factual situations lose every- . the­ ater of the absurd. A poet who creates a new sign system can simultaneously have arch-conservative tastes in the fine arts. The difficulty of theoretically capturing cultural aging. No: because quite obviously such a system exists as long as one at least watches the intellectual contours of an age from a certain distance and with a superficiality sufficient to one's daily cultural life . Nevertheless. experimental poetry. The prevailing supersystem-which we can also talk about in an older linguistic custom as the spirit of the age or the spirit of the era­ does it have to be taken back as a concept? No and yes. and whatever may flash will into one's mind with a sudden flare or like a slogan-it will all appear as a Gestalt. New Criticism. no matter how contradictory such single phenomena may appear to others. A great musician. the con­ cept of the supersystem must be withdrawn when the look is no longer a fleeting one. pop art. first. as a unit held together by something more than a few dates of the year.93 I Not To Understand the World Anymore experienced the triumph of these systems.

A society of the friends of Andre Gide carries out its intellectual social game within Gide's sign system and does not concern itself with the avant-garde group of young authors who circle around the periodical Tel quel. in our context of social aging. Serial composers maintain that concrete music is heading for a dead end. The spirit of the age or the supersystem becomes a number of single systems. in any case. which can be resolved by taking the supersystem. Still. a quantity without gestalt. The contradictory fact that there is a prevailing supersystem­ regardless of whether it exists only for the conservative who rej ects abstract and neorealistic painting. For the friends of concrete music the twelve-tone system has already been discarded. serial and concrete music. and eventually individual phenomena as possible hypotheses in describing reality. It is for each of them of little consequence that the prevailing . amalgamating them all together as newfangled humbug-the fact therefore that such a thing as the spirit of the age both exists and does not exist can at first seem trivial: to be sure. becomes an existential problem well beyond the categories of the trivial and relevant.94 I ON A GING thing that makes them a totality. Then even the concept of cultural simultaneity is no use to anyone. The AnglO-Saxon neopositivists keep constructing indefatigably the articulation of their organizing principles and do not take cogni­ zance of the fact that there are movements like Neomarxism and structuralism. there is also the forest and there are various regions of this forest and finally the individual trees. neopositive and structuralistic analyses. in a foreign. infrasystem. that faint-heartedness of those who've gone to the dogs. this in itself banal contradiction. enigmatic world even when they are free of conservative arro­ gance. for in the end it really reduces itself to the ab­ stract fact of mere chronology. Culturally aging human beings find themselves.

once it has barely come into being. What concerns the culturally aging and what strikes to their core is the denial that the epoch giving birth to itself holds up against their individual system every day. and has tried to formulate a few thoughts about it for himself. when he hears a secondary-school teacher next to him saying. but his effort and his good will are made ridiculous. components of one's systems will magnificently rise again in modified form. a book the philosopher of popular culture. No matter how hard they may try. It is no comfort to him that the secondary teacher. the culturally aging will never succeed in "being in. not without a good will that he successfully and with considerable zeal wrenched from his reluctance. that all systems also contain elements of one's own systems. is composed of a complex of partly different and diverging infrasystems. " Not only is his individual sign system in­ validated by that remark. take the liberty of addressing a broad public in radical abbreviation so that it may democratize itself in a perverse way by cutting itself down to slogan units and thereby penetrating into the most insig­ nificant conversations. having picked up the slogan somewhere in an article in a popular magazine. find confirmed in every exhibition of modern art. The density of the amount of information available requires that every new sign system. has let this thoughtless cud-chewing diminish the value of this fashionable philosophy and thereby apparently confirmed by .95 I Not To Understand the World Anymore supersystem. that there is in truth no cultural simultaneity. that possibly on a day coming after one has gone. And this revocation that they read out of every newspaper article. whatever it may be. one of them has just read." For example. that is implicitly ex­ pressed in most of the new books that appear in the book market-it makes itself known in our days in an especially inju­ rious form. Marshall McLuhan. "The medium is the message.

impossible to overtake and every hour displaying different features-Le. Since he doesn't withdraw to the definitely unassailable but hopeless posi­ tion of the intransigent conservative for whom cultural events once and for all found their climax and end point in his individual system with everything corning after only delusion and fool's play. . even greater numbers of systems are inserting themselves. and devaluation roll off at an increasingly rapid tempo. O n the contrary. That discourages him thoroughly. For him the logical question whether the acceleration should be called progress is not even under discussion. to be an awakened young man. Our aging person has to sit back and watch as the processes of formation.96 I ON A GING his own poor assessment of this series of thoughts. He even has to incorporate what he tries to call fashion and snobbism into the authenticity of the acceleration and eventually consider the McLuhanite secondary teacher. the spirit of the age-and his individual system. Nothing new will seem to him as bizarre or as insig­ nificant as the fact that the young man does not even give him credit for his consideration and won't have to accept it with re­ spect. but because he is realizing that between the dynamic supersystem. not only because it explains to him in the most radical way the futility of the tiresome work he put into learning about this subject. unless he wants to be a stupidly proud nay-sayer from another world. de­ veloped over decades from basic elements. all with the effect that his own system constantly moves further away until he scarcely recognizes it anymore. whom he was ready to dismiss even yesterday as a gabby upstart. popularization.. And with every new concession made to the spirit of the age a piece of his world falls in ruins like the still generally solid Hotels de Maitre on the boulevard that are being pulled down in order to erect in their place apartment houses with walls that are too thin. he has to recognize the acceleration as an authentic phenomenon.

if it does not rigidify into a defensive posture denying the epoch. flowing over into each other. this cultur­ ally aging man keeps step.. due to the statistical curve of vitality and sensibility.down and assumed edu­ cational values are.e. even when called in an educational sense "histori­ cat " i. apparently more unkind than any past one was .97 I Not To Understand the World Anymore Just as the fifty-year-old woman uses the new patterns to place her orders with her seamstress even though during the late afternoon hours she prefers to close her eyes and reexperience the jacket and hat of thirty years ago as a becoming piece of clothing. For those who have not specialized in older educational complexes and professionally concentrated cultural matters. regardless of whether the individual concerned has a historical educational profession or is a language professor. an art historian. The consciousness of being outmoded. The es­ sential parts of every cultural individual system are formed in one's youth. when they are sanctioned and carried on as tradition through education. can be extraordinarily tormenting. or the like. suffer a loss of ego and world never to be replaced by anything or through any means. and if the supersystem makes its appearance with all the ostentation conferred by the resources of modem information. they usually have a very slight meaning within individual systems. That's because. a teacher of history. does not make the situation meaningful. The fact that the respective prevailing supersystems. let those structural arrangements of order subsist. If the individual system is now overpowered by a supersystem. whatever the handed. smothered by a contemporary culture defined as burden. then the aging. the individual . thoroughly comparable to a persistent bodily pain. constantly renewing itself with incessantly dynamic energy. The stretch of time in which we move is unkind to the aging person. But the happenings of today suit him no more than the fashions of today suit her.

He then takes several volumes of an older provenance from his bookshelf to pull himself together and to find himself once again in them. and today. after having read himself weary with a number of modern articles from periodicals of philosophical. after the ex­ periment of Ulysses. it's over and will never return again: the day I opened Adrienne Mesurat and took from this book the last word of modern novel writing. For around thirty years. he has to tell himself. Gone forever. regardless of whether the opportunity is appropriate or not. if I don't want to act like my seventy-year-old friend who.. pulls out a . no matter how certain he may have once stood on his skis. the moment in which I myself wrote that it is no longer possible. to conceive another novel.98 I ON A G ING system is defined through signs that in their youth and possibly on into the years of the prime of life have been valid as modern. No more than he could take a proudly beautiful girl­ friend away from a twenty-five-year-old young man. they are no match for the apparently insidi­ ously clever essays he has worked through in desperate determination and furnished with marginal notes he knows are outspoken. It's over. can he triumph now over Philippe Sollers by reading Julien Green again. Every supersystem integrates more or less happily the historical systems. by Nolde rather than by Tintoretto. I have lived an intellectually conscious life. is taking a rest from the effort. A. Every one destroys those of yesterday and the time before yesterday and therefore precisely those to which the individual systems of aging persons had yielded themselves in countless varieties. no more than he could succeed in overtaking a man of thirty years in skiing. and meta­ linguistic contents. He slams the books shut again. sociological. not by Kant but by Husserl. The individual system of a fifty-year-old educated person today is not specifically impregnated by Homer but by Kafka.

and I will be just as wrong as they tomorrow. I have to confess to myself that for thirty years I have only exchanged one error for another. Eternity looks like the North Sea on calm but misty days when the sea and the dim sky blend into each other without a horizon. A. in opposition to time. Which is to lead where? Whoever does not know an answer to that question cannot legitimately speak of stages and may therefore only enumerate events. Then I perhaps can say to myself that it wasn't errors that followed each other in the series of years when I set up my cosmos. What I relate to the signless eternity. gray like the sea. I sense that I want to give in either to a temptation that is just as dangerous as a defensive paralysis. I feel that I want to view my series of errors sub specie aeternitas along with the entire history of ideas known to me. the very old wisdom that one cannot step into the same river twice. but just stages. not without a slight feeling of . Stages: of what? Of a development. my system. Viewing cultural events from the point of view of eternity has a certain satisfaction for the culturally aging. Into what? lnto a world without signs and systems. I relate to nothing. says to himself. and what is related to nothing is itself annihilated in the act of this not relating.99 I Not To Understand the World Anymore volume of H6lderlin and says. " That's what I read and it's enough for me! "-today. is obvious only if one risks the impossible venture of stepping out of the space of what's been lived. And with my procla­ mation of the end of the art of the novel in the post-Joyce era I was just as right as Sollers and his friends are right today with their novels. which is no better or worse than not viewing at all. but is also the saddest of all self-deceptions. an empty world. The self-evident truth that everything passes away because something new always ap ­ pears on the horizon. The truth is. imploring acceptance of everything the day brings me. from Dehmel and Rilke and Benn and Green and Proust and Joyce. or to its opposite. an anti-universe. the rash.

whom I read for the first time in a definite time span.1 00 I ON A GING dizziness. from Cezanne to Francis Bacon. To ferret out the passages where traces of Proust run through the work of Natha­ lie Sarraute is an occupation for literary historians. One sys­ tem like any other. in hopes of getting to his son Claude. from Hesse to Proust. The notion of preservation in destruction is a construction of the philosophy of history without any significance in the field of the existential. a play of the mind. in a space connected only for me with this author. What remains for me to do? I can try to catch up with myself by taking up Sarraute and with that involvement break the pact of life I once made with Proust. fulfilled the demand of those days belonging to me and was still pulled on by the wheel of time. My Proust. whose fir-tree landscapes and torpid wine patricians belong to me. I may try to find comfort by whispering to myself how any­ thing that now seems to fall to the destruction of time is still preserved by just this same time. that one also does not have the alternative of removing oneself from the flow of time and holding to an eternal something that is a nothing. that one cannot reasonably stand against time and not be permitted to chase after it. I can accomplish the same bailing­ out operation by revoking my cultural contract-which is also a tie to myself-with my overtaken friends X Y Z. from Dehmel to Benn. As a part of my existence it has been overtaken and left behind by this writer.ois Mauriac. What was fulfilling and held me together for a few decades. I distance myself from Fran<. . even as it was being run over: nothing is ever completely lost. enclosed in a fragrance of being only still to be roused by my own memory-I cannot find it again in the books of Madame Sarra ute. Comfort. worth just as much and just as little: whoever says this can just as easily be silent. " Shad shamong shus" as well as djag/oni and Gryphius7 and God knows what else.

encompassing the contradiction of human ex­ istence. But right after it an imperative to become emerges. which promises world and space. It does not make any sense for me to break the fetters that chain me to the old Mauriac. Gloomy guests on the dark earth. brings totally bad tidings. He is or wants to be a writer of tomorrow. To jump into the no longer inhabitable empty space of a freedom that is canceling itself out is only an act of panic. Cultural aging. Every withering away of a cultural sign system is death or the symbol of death. to establish oneself in the mist of a North Sea eternity. certainly at the latest in one and a half decades-I will no longer be there. directed on toward death and only receiving its sense from death. the annunciation of the end. is. . forfeited. And as they fix themselves to life. who composes with thinking machines.101 I Not To Understand the World Anymore But I will not arrive at the appointed place: Claude Mauriac be ­ longs to a club that will not accept me. they seize in deepest horror the past. which we have called memory linked to time in another place and have set over against the young existence. thus he belongs to those who will still be there tomorrow. But tomorrow-that can mean: in ten minutes. The life of the aging. has the oppressively paradoxical characteristic of being dead. To remain chained is a disgraceful resignation. like the music-mathematician Iannis Xenakis. where the former are nothing special and the latter can no longer be experi­ enced--what then? Well. The imperative to die is witnessed by the aging. in ten years. surrounded by death.' they hear the hoof beat. completely without them. in a year. Except that this life. used-up systems that once were their life and therefore still are . The freedom from him that I would thereby gain isn't good for anything. for which there is more of a remedy than for physical decay. it's clear: death. hear the trot. And no longer to feel chains as chains and freedom as freedom.

they have to preserve a worthless fidelity to those egos. That means: even here. just whoever they may be: just as heroic as every "whoever" that ages and will die. doubt­ plagued Fran�ois Mauriac. The aging must be ready to decipher them every day. while one aging person still thinks he is creating from them the energies of his existence. Dehmel singing his drinking songs. with­ out hope. can in turn only realize itself in the inconsistent revolt of fighting out a contradiction. The compUlsion to understand what cannot be understood leaves them little more than confinement to the past. They cannot abandon their decomposing arrangements of order if they are not to abandon their egos. They are not heroes.9 the world they understand no longer exists. They do not understand the world any more. nothing more than a cadaver. knowing the sinister necrophilia of their intellectual behavior. The dignity of cultural aging. entirely like that of the social aging in which it is embedded. Comely Hesse. on to the end. The new systems exist. in a hopeless venture of self-transcendence.1 02 I ON A GING a s far as its cultural benefits are concerned. they have al­ ready been and are in a state of putrefaction. having both to accept and to refuse their annihilation. .

To Live with Dying

Illnesses make their appearance. The face of the family doctor as­ sumes now and then the features of professional worry, refined by clinical optimism. Companions born when you were born pass away. Statistics promise fifteen more years. The aging think of death. They think about it first as an objective event, in the cate­ gories of survivors. They wish everything to come to pass with a good ending. The family, just insofar as it's possible, is to be pro­ vided for, the burial is to take place in this or that form; consequently a last will is put down in writing. Once these con­ ditions of order, required by convention and survivors, are established, those afflicted with aging come to themselves. They are concerned that they won't be here in an all-too­ foreseeable time (the last two decades went by in a frantic hurry for someone looking back at them ! ) , and they feel urged to medi­ tations on death. Right away, they will gain the experience that such reflection will not only result in nothing-after all, they've always known that-but that it's impossible. As the philosopher Vladimir JankeIevitch has written in his discomforting book La

1 04

I

O N A G IN G

Mort, to think of death is penser l'impensable, to think the un­ thinkable. There is utterly nothing to think about death; genius and simpleton are equally thwarted in confronting this subj ect. Death is nothing, a nothing, a negativity. Thoughts about it are compromised to the most infinitesimal degree, even if, in accord with the law of compression, they are probably extremely dense. But are they thoughts? Hard to say. For anyone who ventures into thinking the unthinkable, words at least remain; we can call them thoughts just as well as not. Even the words shrink to something very small. Thinking of death becomes a monotonous and manic litany, undeniably similar to certain products of modern poetry: "I will die die will I die I will will I die die I will I will die. " Or in French: "Je vais mourir mourir je vais je vais mou-rir, rire, rire, je
vais mou"-it can be staged in all languages, in the same empty way, for no doubt the limits of my language are the limits of my world, but the limits of my world are also the limits of my lan­ guage and, in the face of the death that is my anti-world, the impotence of my language becomes apparent. Unpowerful language and powerless thinking certainly do not abandon the aging, not even when they despise the litany and aim to set up the dignity of their thinking human existence against death, that inevitable total defeat. They will then perhaps think of dying and more exactly dying away, the fear of which is justified, since physical torments of various degrees are ready for us. In fact, it is not unusual to say, "It's not death that I am afraid of, only sickness and pain." Who would try to contradict such hasty words? The torments of dying have been described many hundreds of times with gruesome urgency. One can read in Martin du Gard's La Mort du Nre, "The crises of convulsive ure­ mia grew more and more frequent; they unleashed themselves with such brutality that, after each one of these attacks, the

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nurses had to sit down breathless and watch the suffering of the sick man without doing anything. From one attack to another there was only a long howling, un long hurlement. . . . " One can find something similar in countless other passages. Many of us have also found ourselves present at death struggles similar to those that old Father Thibault battled with, where we've held someone's hands wet with sweat who writhed again and again in vain and was eventually buried, alas, the good soul. In order not to degenerate at this point into tedious chatter, and since doctors are already full of their gentle and optimistic solicitude, the aging who are in this situation stick to dying and put the unthinkable, death, out of mind. Provisionally. When they're not too easily exhausted and inclining to resignation, they will be compelled to find their way back to it. As they will learn later, this dying is also

living, just as living is a permanent dying. "I know what death is," says Hofrat Behrens, speaking seriously for once and without his rhetorical high spirits, to the mother of the condemned Joachim Ziemssen in The Magic Mountain-"I am an old employee of his. Believe me, he's overrated. I can tell you, there's almost nothing to him. For whatever kinds of drudgery it may take beforehand in some cases, it's a frisky and lively affair and can lead to life and recovery . . . . " It's this frisky and lively affair that first and foremost keeps the aging busy-so they think at least, before they climb down even deeper into the thought of death or the anti-thought of it. Furthermore, in a way vaguely comparable to concerns with order about life insurance and inheritance, this frisky and lively affair is partly a physical question and partly a social one. There's a big difference between the fear of dying of a heart attack, which at best throws one down in a few speedy minutes, and the fear of a uremic crisis that, like that of Pere Thibault, draws on

on the other hand. but they do make those moments lighter that are free of torment. And the social question of dying is just as unresolved as the nature of all social problems. no longer able to watch his father's suffering. gives the injection that delivers him. . hardly noticed by indifferent nurses. which only pushes the claim of equality back into the outrageous noncommitment of metaphysics-then we are still not equal before dying. where is thy sting? The poor give a very precise answer: in the home for the aging. the well-honored. this and only this ought to be the meaning of Rilke's precious demand of God: he'd like to give everyone his or her own death. Death. And then his good life is still present in his dying. alone. or a rich man passes on in a luxury clinic: the flowers on his table. It is also more comfortable to die with money.1 06 I ON A GING for weeks until his son. "It is easier to cry with money. personally tinted care of the doctors. And it is not the same thing whether a poor devil dies in the hospital. One's own or individual death can be purchased with money. " says an Eastern European Jewish dictum. One can no more hide and eventually conjure away the theme of social dying behind ontological considerations than the question about the more or less vehement bodily suffering. the life that constantly distinguished his ex­ istence so drastically from the miserable life of the poor. even though there are those with their own interest who shamelessly make it appear to be already settled. in the badly heated apartment where the mortally ill have to drag themselves through the corridor to the toilet. the visits of dependents that can happen every hour. may not really help him when it comes to that brief crossing over. We have to say it again and again: If we are all equal before death-which hardly means anything or. the torment. j ust as one can purchase a personal life separated from the surging masses. a doctor. in the hospital.

But already here-and with this we recognize the shady inexplicable relationship of death and dying-it becomes apparent that dying (not in the sense of the almost-nothing of crossing the threshold. Again and died. too. is something different from a silent cadaver. are constantly coming again to death. the young doctor who has estab­ lished that the kidneys of his father are no longer filtering. an unreal question: as long as I am. Because it only gets its logical justification as a concept through the entrance of death. keep death and dying separate. it is impossible for us as thinking human beings to aim our explorations at death beyond the realities of dying without being fully conscious that our ven­ ture cannot be fulfilled. Antoine Thibault. its negativity puts all logical rules out of action. My death. avoiding the litany of an idee fixe. knows that the old man lies there dying. the word "die" is only applicable in logical language in forms of the past tense . groaning in pain. it can only be said that one has is dead before being dead. has no contents without empty death. but rather as dying away. but the latter. Yet on the other hand. Yet we always get caught in the inconsistencies that. I am not any more. But because death is unthinkable. it is not. on the one hand. and if it is. all their efforts turn into nothing. deny them again and again in a contradictory way. in dealing with their end. death is empty without dying. But in a strict sense. and such knowledge has never . no one dies in the present. Certainly one can speak of dying without stepping beyond the field of everyday empiricism. That means nothing else than that human beings. This we've known since antiquity. since no one again. The gap that separates the vitality of dying from the total bleakness of death will open up first-and it is more than a platitude that a mortally ill person. and we must make these explorations with strict discipline.1 07 To Live with Dying that precedes death. grasped in its temporal structure) is a logically discussable concept. and on the other.

It is false. No more clearly and emphatically can one express the objective situation of the death of a human being who is now no more. whom one cannot tax. the "I am" does not allow a "not" if I stay within myself and understand my ego as that which alone can have sense for me: as something being here. nor pay. which in spite of all its logical problems concerns me more than all others and everything else. the public action is dissolved ) ." In French courts. and speaks the formula. "L'accuse est deceM. nor send to the front. It is wisdom and folly. against whom one can make no ac­ cusations. his or her life is never a public matter no matter how much it is socially determined. A much told joke that is a bit of a horror story has a married man saying.e. if a criminally accused person has died during the trial. from the perspective of the survivor. In certain moments it comes to be for us the meaning of the world plain and simple. and cannot put in a home for the aging. the fact of my death. I will move into our country house. In fact. i. is the fundamental matter of our existence. every subjective utterance about one's own death contains a logical problem. "If one of the two of us dies. It is true. even if it is an unbeara­ ble absurdity. I am not. for a human being. The event of my death. l'action publique est eteinte" ( He is dead. the presiding judge rises. That we are here and can no doubt think thoroughly of a world without our being here. is only comprehensible for the survivors and only by them to be integrated into the course of affairs. not however our own not-being-here.. . Doesn't this "I am" exclude the "not?" Not insofar as my utterance lets me both take myself out of myself and view my nonbeing or not-being­ here as an objective fact. Yes.1 08 I O N A G IN G been any use to anyone for anything and is for everyone who ap­ proaches death only a tasteless joke. Except that.

we human beings take what we've spit out again to ourselves. our triumph over life only mastered in the nothingness of our border crossing. Death is the primal contradiction. Its completely empty truth. (a having-been) . It can only be negatively defined. In a terrible. its unreal reality is our life's meaningless fulfillment. All are all and one is oneself and when others die it is sad. however. since it is the future of all futures. " says the father Jaakob in Thomas Mann's Joseph tetralogy when he is brought the false report of Joseph's death. and our total debacle. We cannot think of death and we have to. the thinking of nothing that is at the same time a not-thinking-it is a person's last and most extreme question of being. no. it is nothing for him or her. Every step we take leads us to it. still we have to swallow it. nevertheless. But one can also just as rightly say that the only thing that's true is death. the exploration of the negative aspects of this frontier. The ob­ viously unreal question. that I. every thought we think breaks down on it. am not to be is a scandal and an impossibility. With that the philosopher renounces the death that makes existence an opaque essence. Each spits it out in the deepest disgust. "Le faux. Thus everyone spits out the unheard-of impertinence that one should kindly come to terms with one's own death and one's own not being. for it is nothing for me. It is nothing for us. the final decay of the last of all the billions of cells that make up our living organism. according to Jean -Paul Sartre. Negative thinking is not possible . a stony etre (being) that is still only an avoir-ite. for all human beings must eventually die.1 09 To Live with Dying "I spit it out. As the absolute "not" it in­ cludes all other conceivable negations. We don't like to die and we will. c'est la mort" (falsehood is death). All those who get in­ volved with death enter into more than a liaison dangereuse: they are committing an obscene incest. unnatural way.

but it can still be found again in another manifestation of being a thing. What happens with it after its death is only one more macabre. by stiffening into a thing. A thing falls apart. who has died. is not just any dearly departed. however.1 10 I ON A GING until we start with death. That something was and no longer is: we only experience it through the death of others in the softened and veiled information brought to us by hospitals. We understand an absolute negation. a thing that as such decomposes just like every other thing. totally hopeless staging of an exhibition to cancel again the denial. the human organism becomes its own denial. needed in order to use a relative negation. is gone. for death is the negative that carries nothing positive within it. However. and necropolises. only from death. but . funeral indus­ tries. " "the loved one" about whose absurd post-mortem fate Evelyn Waugh reports in his like-named novel. parti sans laisser d 'adresse ( de­ parted without leaving a forwarding address) forever. self-parodying. A human being. whose irreversibility first gives denial its totalizing meaning. It opens up a path to us for negative-dialectical thinking but closes it to us no sooner than we have entered upon it. and the ghastliness of that preparation by which a cadaver is treated with cosmetics and laid to rest among the cypresses-a rest that is no rest at all since the concept of rest presupposes that life' s unrest will soon reappear-it i s mutatis mutandis part and parcel of every celebratory interment. The "dearly departed. but is not. Now. Our disconsolate insight into not being is not a genuine insight but still one that lets us recognize from a distance a puzzling and fleeting shadow. the experience of the death of others as the no-Ionger­ being of something that was may well presuppose every negative and therefore dialectical kind of thinking. it is at the same time the rejection of all dialectic: the negation of a negation of a negation.

awakening. but also those of ours over their being dead. is the more commodious and attractive way. Death as a contradiction. not only of every positive but also of all negative thinking-it is the nonsense that strikes back at every sense. and someone with a lot of nerve asks the coarse question. since the cadaver that will quickly decay is certainly not a "dead" thing. even if it is more empty. The dead person. Not only do the dead set the limits of their language with their death. thoroughly tautological. Other than the physician determining a clinical death­ these days no longer easy to define-or the public prosecutor who has to halt the public accusation of a person who has died. for after rest. way to assert it. but which at the same time loses every value since it has to end. it is mystery and triviality. "How do you know?" The relative comforting himself and other family members with his assurance of well-being in death has no idea where he gets it from. not even when we aspire to avoid it at all costs. The dead person rests or sleeps. The dead person-but what does that mean. denial of life in a life that would be unimaginable and worthless without the boundary of death. which we too cannot escape here. is neither well nor unwell. no one can talk about death without either talking contradictory nonsense or fleeing into metaphor. and that we can drop. "He's happy now.III I To Live with Dying in doing so we comprehend this negation itself no more than we comprehend death. "The not is not" would be the only. in an anecdote by Alfred Polgar. It neither rests nor sleeps." says the de ­ pendent of a man who has just died. the dead person? The nothing would have been a more correct way to say it. necessity of thought and impossibility of thought. if language usage wants it that way. The metaphorical utterance. unrest must come and after sleep. Requies­ cat in pace-that is certainly a nice sounding phrase and quite .

the metaphors of death can no more be omitted than the correct utterance. Yes. . he remains entirely on the side of Jean Rostand. I which sounds more like raising the roof. believes in an eternal life and has defined this belief. but it is empty and unrecognizable . This writer cannot relate to the absurdity of faith in a life that continues after death. . "I believe that when we fall it is for­ ever and we don't get up again afterwards like the murdered actors in the theater. Death does not wear a Spanish frill collar. In metaphorical speech only babble is possible: thus any of us can pass judgment when we hear some­ thing about the eternal peace into which a person who has j ust died is supposed to be entering finally after a hard life-and every life is doubtless hard. But beyond that. Unless . for no one rests in peace no matter how much we may wish it. it is false. unless the metaphorically happy survivor. that only a negative that is not is there. a faith that only gains some sense through the medium of mythology. convinced that the dead person is happy now. who said so simply and so emphatically. of thinking about their death. But it is a meta­ phorically empty phrase. made when someone has died." That's how Rudolf Carnap rules after semantic analysis of one of Heidegger's sentences about nothingness-and he's right. nor is it the beautiful dark woman named Maria Casares from Cocteau's Orphee. "Not expressible in logical language. No mat­ ter how often one starts to talk about death.I l2 I ON A GING rightly much more sympathetic to Hans Castorp than Hoch soli er leben. To talk of the peace of death is noth­ ing else than being horrified about the strife of life. Right to the end. It is probably . condemned to fail­ ure from the start." All those who have banished the biomorphous and mythic hope for a continued existence beyond the boundary of death will not be able to abstain from the attempt.

following the routine. the exploration of emptiness. he . the grace of God-an unintelligible language: empty vocables lacking any common measure against the terrify­ ing reality. Eternal life. it is reality. but rather because one's own death is so un­ thinkable. For him it is now everything that is present. initiator and hono rary chairman of numerous Catholic clubs. just as shaky as the hope of living on held by those who call themselves believers in God. Old Thibault is no longer within his reach. Of course. his thinking tries to evoke the idea of God in order to flee to it. even if he already has to bury close relatives." And so he has his confessor come. For a young man-and we limit being young no more precisely than we specify the point at which a human being becomes aware of his aging-death is of no concern. The priest says what his metier calls for. our conviction is weak. Freud is right. that particularly "in our unconscious everyone of us [is] convinced of his immortality"-and this. we would like to suggest. At one time or another. Pere Thibault was a pious man. On the other hand. He knows that the end is coming. one can speak of aging as the stretch of time in which we meet with the thought of death. what Freud said. Still. then his God and the immortality in this God were clearly no longer worth much. the writer of The Thibaults. He goes to war. But his elan is immediately crip­ pled. " No one believes in his or her death. though conscious of saying something vague. at least without great fear of death. unthinkable. everyone has to accept thinking the At one time or another.1 13 To Live with Dying true. begins is uncertain. if not happily. He is death itself. When things come to a head. "For the others death is a common. impersonal thought. the point of time at which this empty exploration. "For a moment. no one trusts the hope for a be­ yond: Martin du Gard. not so much from reasons of a creaturely clinging to life. is right. But when it got serious.

weakened memory. It may only be a logically untenable analogy and metaphor to say things like. if they do not alienate themselves with some kind of operational fitness for living. I will die. they sense that they are dying many years before they actually pass away. As long as the aging do not pursue the business of suppressing this awareness without a bad conscience and with only a little suc­ cess. " confident of his ability to resist? That is only a question for biologists. even if he or she is heavily suffering. It requires an extensive experience of physical downfall. that on the other hand even this death of a young person from within. "We live in a long process of dying. I will die. and diffi­ culty in all forms. What the aging think they know is twofold: that on the one hand the fear of death or the urgency of the thought of death have different grades ac­ cording to whether one expects death from outside-by accident or from the hand of an enemy-or death from within." "Death grows up inside of us "-in the region of lived experience such metaphoric characterizations of death are experienced reality. even a serious illness usually does not cause him horror. die.1 14 I ON A G ING hardly feels the dangerous speed of driving the car on the high­ way. and cultural loss of the world makes them certain of something they had only believed earlier and without feeling to be a theoretical truth: that they are moribundi. for death to change from an objectively impersonal subject into something authentic. has only a slight value in reality. gather­ ing itself up as one statistic ahead of every other statistic. that young people have a longer life ahead of them than old people? Please find an answer from psychology. Their physical. die. They are now dependent on death. "Wisdom of the body. Trust in global experience. The temptation to recite a manic litany appears to them. social. on something that does not form any . " "We die without cease. dwindling bodily powers. decay.

But since they very quickly recognize that besides a lyrical death-stammer there is nothing anyone can do with an annihilating nothingness. hunger. though here not pertinent. they arrive again and again at the horrible frisky vitality of dying. like the chief physician Privy Councilor Behrens who in the Berghof Sanatorium is death's old employee. His comrades (it can't be expressed otherwise) had croaked. from typhus. The afflicted may then say to themselves. A. Nothing will be taken back: the verb die can only be used logi­ cally in the past tense since it does not receive its legitimization until death has already taken place. from the blows with which they were tortured. dys­ entery. Still. but with his own.115 I To Live with Dying part of their possibilities. as it turned out exactly. since the contradiction of death overshadowing our entire life makes all logic-which is surely always the logic of life-and all positive thinking invalid. they have to think around death. I will die. stridden through underground corridors in which some had been strung up on powerful iron hooks. had lived for years under definite. He had carelessly climbed over piles of bodies. He had seen those like him depart in just about every conceivable way. He was supposed to be familiar with death-not with that of the others. since they cannot think about death-and constantly try this roundabout way anew even though they constantly describe only half-circles. circumstances in which every day and every hour he had to expect his death. say the aging to themselves. How . When? Where? How? Above all: how? A few years ago it was A:s turn: birthdays with unbelievably high figures and bodily inconveniences of all kinds no longer per­ mitted him to live for the day like a nice brute or his plucky neighbor. ideas of death have to take their shape in opposition to logic in thoughts of dying. even snapping for breath in Zyklon B.

now that I have aged and have been made to understand by not exactly pleasant diagnoses of physicians and a few numerical figures that I am going downhill. Such fright has something precipitous. He is friendly. Dying was terror. but even if I was unarmed. horror and anguish. knowing that others will accept it with distrust: I was not afraid. I was not brave. which in my case could even have been con­ ceived at that time as a death from within. assigned to me in my decay from within as a familiar enemy with whom I have to deal. Dysentery and phlegmon were attacks by an enemy world. even when it was not the death of a cudgel or gas . as I precisely remember-in the condition of a human being who has lost his trust in the world because in his distress he cannot cherish any ex­ pectation of help. because there was a lot that terrified me. On account of a trifle I go to the doctor. And the death that threatened me came from outside: there is no nicer death in the world than being killed by an enemy. A steel pipe strikes. is an attack of the world against my person. Today? I deny myself nothing. his instruments and his prescription pad are there to serve me. a shot is fired.1 16 I ON A G ING was it with me at that time. I stand then-stood. let alone bring it active assistance. something thoroughly alien about it. Dying by murder. asks himself and gives himself an answer. A . I dragged around for days at twenty degrees below zero Celsius and across I don't know how many . I was young. It came from outside. incomprehensible. I had to expect quite literally that a boot would kick me to pieces or half kick me to pieces and no one would even give my mashed body as much as a glance. Now it is horror and angor. a sudden fever throws me down. there had still persisted an irrational basic state of affairs in which a germ of a possible defense lay embedded. terrifying as such but not causing fear like that slow dying.

But fear is with me. and to me previously unknown color. even though this sense of being fear does not hinder me in doing my work. and every now and then I heard the whip-snap of a shot that brought a comrade down. very ugly. a deaf feeling that never makes me tremble. angustiae. constriction. anguish. The strange fright made me perhaps tremble a short time per­ haps.1 17 To Live with Dying kilometers of snow-covered highways. I cherish the strong suspicion that it is no better with other aging people who. it's all rather comfortable. and even the good mood I wear for appearance hardly suffers any damage. it becomes reality in retrospect. and have fashionable clothing made for themselves. if need be. Instead I say that I am fear. I take a taxi. As for me. go to the theater. so much so that I cannot actually say any longer that I have any fear. When I am tired and do not want to drive my own car. angor. I do not know exactly anymore how it happened when I first began to perceive the step. a startling pain in another. a man of the long death march of a former age who is not any braver but also not especially faint-hearted. the hoof beat. even though others know nothing of it. which in a slow kind of way becomes a part of my person. but I was spared from fear. The slow ad­ vance of what will eventually be my death has given my life its particular. and trot. just an ex­ tremely persistent one. heavy breathing. I . The antic density of my existence gets thin and the fear of dying fills up the empty space as pure negativity. Not until all sorts of inj ury had already grown stronger were aging and expectation of death present as consti­ tuting elements. organize happy picnics. Fear. I know in any case that I become afraid of dying to the degree that the hopes of life aban­ don me. and no one denies good service to anyone who can lay out a few pieces of money. Getting tired too quickly in one place. even without being able to remember it.

even if medical science dismisses this concept as clinically imprecise. against which I argued in familiar hostility while aging and to which I became accustomed in deceptive intimacy. Or if it didn't get that far. "to sigh away. could be in the course of the inexorable aging process­ how does one complete this predicate? It won't work with "perceived in advance." knowing by the way that this more for which I yearn can only be a pretext. No nicer death. the event. An unacceptable thought when one considers the reactionary vulgarities for which it could provide an alibi! And what folly to wish for a death that's already happened out of fear of dying! But it is only the folly of death's contradiction. I don't know it-how could any living person know it? -and therefore have to tie it to experiences of life. I have had shortness of breath as much as anyone: that made it clear to me that the wish for freedom can be taken back to the impulsive desire for . I am certain. " as it is called in a passage very dear to me. It's probably not very much out of line to put dying on the same level as the constriction of my life. which extinguishes every reflective thought. it was easier to die and easier to become intimate with something so unavoidable and unthinkable. The body interferes just the same. I am just as familiar as everyone else. which will then be denied to me. It remains true. I think I am afraid of constriction. to take the last breath. if no time was passing. as a matter of fact-not everyone has the chance.1 18 I O N A G IN G often think about the snow-covered highways of 1 944 and the good death by murder that didn't want to know me at all. inevitably approaching and inconceivable in its specificity. if I am to say anything more than repetitious talk about anxi­ ety and "fear. For with breathing. To be abandoned by life. means suffocating as I understand it. Can everything eventually be reduced to the word "feared?" I am frightened of dying. " since we're dealing with something com­ pletely unknown. that.

into the gratification of an ego free of distress. in spite of all logical contradiction. inflicted on the sick by their own bodies. For A. This salvation does not exist. With the freedom to breathe denied. One does not have to be a physician and a patient to know that shortness of breath makes anyone oppressed in this way want to breathe even more deeply instead of yearning for the dupery of a salvation through death. It turns every reflection into the absurdity of the anti-thought of death. is in the end still the fear of death. all freedoms withdraw themselves from me. He thinks there is something peculiar about this shortness of breath. the suffering individuals will still desire to breathe.. even if they have implored their physician to make an end to their misery with an injection. Anxious for air I have to go on-that is the basest thing·-with a fear that with great likelihood I'll get to know more and more precisely. for the anti-ego of nothingness. made concrete in the shortness of breath. A suffering person can always be released from his or her torment into a life free of torment. as is obvious to anyone longing hopelessly to escape from threatening constric­ tions. the presence of death in life is the slow withering away that comes to be known with aging. Therefore. who thinks he knows something about death and dying. But even in this most extreme torture. and this he again ascribes to fear of constriction and suffocation. as in the case of a carcinoma with bone metastases. it seems that the fear of dying. While thinking of dying we cannot stick .1 19 To Live with Dying freedom to breathe. Only when a person no longer has pain but in physical and psychic totality is pain. may the absurd desire for negation. appear. But in dying the amount of oxygen I so thoroughly want for myself is no longer granted me. but never from this ego.

that in our sighing away horror and terror combine again as the fear of death-and the question about reducing every fear to the fear of suffocation or death may be asked but not precisely answered. is no concern of ours. "delivering" one. horror and anguish on the other. When we go to the doctor. between the death that is inflicted upon us from without. or anyone's. It is certain.'s. we calm down when he or she diagnoses the pains that we endure as harmless. And now the next step in this inquiry into the unknowable can be taken easily. which one knows will not lead to death. which. experience of shortness of breath helps us further-because no suffering person ever accepts a single breath as the last. however. making it better to approach as a question rather than an answer that sounds insolent. as something foreign. and the difficult one which­ to speak metaphorically-grows on us from within in the most evil of all intimacies. partly because it is only from death that dying actually becomes dying. believes to be rheumatoid pains in his left shoul- .'s brooding distinction between terror on the one hand. on authority of ancient wisdom. can be absorbed by the person of the patient better than initially painless but life-threatening illnesses of the circulation or the blood. partly however-and here A. the German physician and phenomenologist Herbert Pliigge tells us about a so-called dy­ namic forty-five-year-old industrialist who goes to him with what he. The fear of dying or of suffocating ac­ cordingly becomes the horror of death.120 I ON A GING to the vitality of the final event but are always directed to the thought of death in its impossibility. Can't we conclude that not only the fear of dying but every fear actually goes back to the fear of death? Not to deduct anything from the vindicated legitimacy of A. all too easily perhaps. In his incomparably thoughtful book. Wohlbefinden und Mij3befinden (Feeling well and feeling sick). Oppressive and thoroughly painful rheumatoid sufferings. the patient.

afraid of death. every care is to keep us from death. Neither the one nor the other is possible.sense. we come to be nothing even before we come not to be. one may well add. " writes Herbert Pliigge. the final fear--in short-is called death). afraid. "Fourteen days later he acted as though he had grown old. since we cannot think it. enfin. his elasticity gone. To reconcile ourselves: that means to accept death. . where we're dealing with death. Sensible? We find ourselves in a place where it is all over with every form of being sensible. writes Vladimir Jankelevitch. has himself driven by a chauf­ feur. "His manner was inhibited. afraid to hold his breath in fear that it may be his last. Every fear is fear of death. It is the false. it is our business to reconcile our­ selves. since it is fully certain for us. Even though he certainly does not suffer physically any more than before. l'angoisse ultime. Our entire life passes away in the absurd effort to avoid the un­ avoidable : the more we "die " and the closer we come to our last breath. Every refusal has to guarantee us even the most miserable alternative. his vigor and dynamism are all gone. the more desperately we struggle against something with which. He now lives fastidiously. which is absolute non . a remarkable change takes place in the man.12 1 To Live with Dying der and briskly excuses himself in the process for troubling a pro­ fessor of medicine with such a trifle. Death in its total alien and incomprehensible nature is no alternative. But that would mean refusing life on the spot. has given up smoking. and the true." He is. Before the opacity of the No that is set against us and given to us. When the examination reveals that it is in no way a question of rheumatism but of clear symptoms of angina pectoris and the physician lets the patient know his diagnosis. "L'angoisse diffuse. what we "do for our health" is directed defensively against death. afraid of dying. He 'notices' his heart now and is depressed. in order to be sensible. s'appelle la mort" (All-pervasive fear.

conditioned by . "Death is only a death that is not free under despised con­ ditions.122 I ON A G ING How do we conduct ourselves? Do we murmur a monomaniac litany? Do we make our peace with the negativity encompassing us? Do we flee from death into death? Do we continue to live on as if we weren't already promised to death? When it comes to individual psychology. with­ out surprise. in running away from death. If mental derangement hadn't beaten him to it. since he wrote. the gravitation of aging that pulls them earthward. They live in equilibrium. a cowardly death. not the one who is wailing. run to death and imagine. conscious. dying and death do not concern them at all. of those who are agi­ tated in panic and raise up a clamor as soon as the first harbinger of the end comes to them and who never stop howling so that even those who love them turn away from them. There are reports of cheerful types who approach their end in serenity. their hearts full of impatience. that the act that seals their loss of freedom beyond recall. however. there is perhaps still-and with this the realm of psychology is abandoned-a fundamentally simi­ lar form of conduct in the face of death and dying. a death at the wrong time. We know examples of "carefree" individuals who live on into aging and old age without a care. so it seems in any case and so they assure us. is the confirmation of their freedom. We hear of the brave who peacefully look death in the eye (as if there was one. Out of love for life one ought to want death differently. but them. suicide. Nietzsche might have acted this way. as if there was anything at all to see there) and die upright in opposition to the geotropism. answers to such questions will always vary from one person to the next. God knows." A fool's story of a voluntary death. free. There are others-we call them disturbed-who. Beyond every individual particularity. and heave a sigh of relief when finally death re ­ leases.

but not in this night. it's not as if they've learned how to die. The aging. entirely lacking balance of fear and confidence. Not peace.123 To Live with Dying the similarity of our fundamental destiny. a serious illness. for whom dying changes from a universal and obj ective matter to a personal one. they j ust know that they have to and therefore say they're getting ready)-but not tonight. In aging. try to neutral­ ize the proximity of the Big Moment. in the unendurable feeling of constriction. the robust and the sickly. "Lord. j ust a compromise. It comes about right when one realizes that it can't be learned. in the absolute horror of the last breath. Every deferment-after a seizure. in which the brave and the cowardly. not suspended. But that does not hinder the aging from being taken in by the hallucination they know to be j ust that. rebellion and resignation. In doing so. the cheerfully at peace with themselves and the disturbed neurotics find each other in full equalit y. they all make a compromise with death. a dangerous operation-is for them like an appeal to a law court that can actually acquit them. but never. a nearness that is clearly evident in statistics and medical findings. . a bad compromise. I gladly want to follow you if you call me. " Those who know they're getting closer to death act as if they're in an unstable equilibrium. The bad compromise is a pre­ cariously standing. there is apparently an evening prayer in which it is said. In Finnish. Illusion: for here matters are really delayed. refusal and acceptance . but from case to case more or less deeply disturbed. no matter how unpleasant that might sound. when one's "advanced sensing" is reduced to fear. They already want to die (they don't. by means of a confi­ dence that is not confident in itself and that every day becomes more irrational. like people praying. It isn't learned in familiarity. even to the neurotic hypochondriac. and the j udges do not think at all of cas­ sation. j ust not at this hour.

We also said of time-in­ the-future that it should not be discussed. It also doesn't mean that we ha­ bituate ourselves to the nonsense of nothingness. Future. It does not exclude their fear. What they ex­ change for it is a feeling of indistinct and definitely sloppy temporal indifference. even if we are not going to introduce again the dimen­ sion of the future that has become senseless for the aging. and probably very soon. Yet it seems necessary to replace it with something new and different. the aging lose the former with the latter. but on the contrary includes it and makes it even bearable. is the goal of expectation and cancels the sense of the concept of the future.1 24 I O N A G IN G Every night is tonight and every hour is this hour. and every time an appeal is made to the court. whatever is coming to us. death. We are not giving up on this position. They look back into a past of moving backgrounds of years and stages of life that change their quantitative value in the process of remembering. in the self­ deception of being a victim by not being that victim since one eventually knows that at some time. But it is always the case that every arbitrary time span from the past seems tiny to them. while they cannot even foresee the same stretch of time in a shadowy and dubious future. As we said at an­ other point. they become time more and more in memory. Habituation is only a certain exercise in empty and false expectation. the j udgment will become legally binding and be executed. denial of every contingency. To live with dying is not intended to mean that we grasp the knowledge of our own finitude. Precisely because they have to reckon with the possibility of being alive for . we said. The astonishing capability of the aging to adapt themselves to a feeling for time appropriately required by the circumstances makes it easy for them to establish a balance. is space in the reality of the lived. for world and space withdraw from them.

they likewise let the Good Lord be a good man who will certainly extend the span into infinity. as Gabriel Marcel ex­ presses it. without hope. "a need for rest that was exquisite because there was no fatigue along with it. "Just . " writes his in­ ventor. With this concept we would give ourselves away to theology. They play hide and seek with death even when they try to deal with it. He had not stopped thinking of his death. "He feels a kind of release of tension. belongs to the process of balance and accommodation just as the illusory appeal to the court. "Naturally. He goes into convulsions. " Let's avoid that kind of guilelessness. looks at "hope" as the stuff "of which our soul is made . In one year he will no longer be here: but how long does a year last! The disintegrating extension of a posterior period of time. to any sort of transcendental thinking which.125 I To Live with Dying only a few more years. un­ imaginably long time. to speak about it. they act as creatures of fear who have to stand up in that fear and against it. Pere Thibault. whenever he really thinks he is standing at the frontier and death in its negativity is the only authentic thing remaining to him. I will die but it will still take a good while for that"-which means the same thing as a vast. Creatures of negation. even when feeling healthy and robust. they evade with a bad conscience a No that constantly takes hold of them again. it became possible for him. are a Pere Thibault. containing no kind of positivity that can be described dialectically. since he had stopped believing in death under the effects of the injection. When the aging make their bad compromise. even agreeable. accepting his death as an obj ective event whenever it doesn't threaten him directly and saying to himself. ontically losing its density. but now. tor­ mented by the pain of his uremic attack. Four years ago one of them was in some old city on vacation: that was yes­ terday. " All aging persons. receives an inj ection from his son. Roger Martin du Gard.

the stirred up in panic. of anguish. closes around them. ever more hopelessly and therefore more desperately and dishonestly. toward explosion and distance . or perhaps better: the stitution more that which falsifies-death-overshadows them. her last. realized at whatever occasion they first felt themselves to be aging. pulling them apart and then putting them . the falser their life will be . They think about death and dying. the quietly sur­ rendering. be. is only the psychic counterpart of just this con­ forced from the absurdity of their fundamental ' condition: the more profoundly the false.126 ON A G I N G a little minute longer. The tiny stretch of time from one moment to the next. Mr. They play many different roles-the brave ones. that postponement means cancellation and that the next moment couldn't just as easily. the proud rebels-and they can't make any of their interpretations believable. the more . They say to the moment: " Stay! "-and know that it's not beautiful and that it won't come to a stop with them. pressing harder and harder. To be sure. Whenever the ring of constriction. and their mauvaise f is not that of common swindlers. It is an expression of the same tragic error. since they are registered in all texts as unbelievable and unplayable. they are not despicable liars. dis­ torted and insincere their Yes becomes. But in telling themselves these tall stories of their compromise. something compels them. The closer the No gets to them. has the same messy infinity as the year or the decade that human beings still hope for themselves. the oi untruth with which they comply. " implored the Countess Dubarry on the scaffold. the bad compromise into which they enter. like this one. Executioner. in the same radical and irrevocable way. Her request has the same meaning as the Finnish prayer. when only another respite is granted. The aging live on in a false compromise with the inability of escaping their condition.

credit doesn't matter to him. no one wants to get old: there we have the complementary banality that only heightens what is supplemented by the unfathomable dimension of the unacceptable aspects of a self-consuming existence that we always accept. that . As aging people we become alien to our bodies and at the same time closer to their sluggish mass than ever before. the debt payable. The absurdity of death negates whatever they think up for themselves but urges them on with their thinking. "Whoever does not want to die young. nothing can be done? A. which won't reflect much literary credit on him. an aging human being. When we have passed beyond the prime of life.1 27 I To Live with Dying back together again. In aging we become the worldless inner sense of pure time. No one wants to die young. and clarity are all in agreement. And he's not to think of death. society forbids us to continue to project ourselves into the future. One should leave him alone. and culture be ­ comes a burdensome culture that we no longer understand. of his unfaithful lover. which ends everything. profundity. up to his mouth. Aging. is a desolate region of life. " that is one of those platitudes in which nonsense. He is an A. they brood over their fear and the time period accorded to their deceptive solace. the faithless woman replaceable. they separate the alien death by murder from their intimate enemy. through which the Not and the "un" of our existence make themselves known and become evident to us. The cares they consider are the unclear mirror image of their cares of death. slowly accruing to them. has to die old. in thoughts of death. while with death. since no one can lead a life with the former and suppress the latter. of his debts. It is all in vain. one should not fool oneself. One aging man thinks of his grippe. is up to his neck.. lacking any reasonable consolation. even if the grippe is still curable.

He has the desire to tell the truth. finally. as scrap iron of the mind. is still better than the fundamentally ugly kitsch of the idyllic evening sun. In aging. done something to disturb the balance. It was not virulent when we were young. and the manic litany. expose the com­ promise. we belong to the waste heaps of the epoch. it comes out of its latency. We cer­ tainly knew of it. destroy the genre painting." says Dylan Thomas. a humiliation without compare. not in humility. even when it is nothing.1 28 I O N A G ING instead gives us to understand that. a scandalous imposition. All symptoms of the incurable sickness can be taken back to the incomprehensible effects of the death-virus we have when we enter the world. " Old age should burn and rave at close of day. but it didn't matter to us. It is our affair. Has A. . contaminate the consolation? He hopes so. The days shrink and dry up. the poetic prattle of death. that we put up with. With aging. our only one. but as the humili­ ated. we have to live with dying.

. Irene Heidelberger­ Leonard ( Heidelberg: Carl Winter.A Leopardi Reader. The comment from the Pensieri occurs on p. Rosenfeld by Indiana University Press in 1 980." in Uber Jean Amery. Landarzt: Portrat eines einf achen Mannes ( Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta. 1 97 6 ) . 1 9 7 8 ) . 69. ed. . Casale ( Urbana: Uni­ P R E F ACE TO THE F O U RTH E D IT I O N 1 . Allusion t o the play Der Verschwender (The spendthrift) b y Ferdi­ nand Raimund ( 1 790-1 8 3 6 ) . 5 . 1 89. 3 . 20. p. p. ed. 1 966-1978. Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P. 6 7 . with an af­ terword by Sidney Rosenfeld and a foreword by Alexander Stille (New York: Schocken Books. Der integrale Humanismus: Auf satze und Kritiken eines Lesers. 7 . 1 . Rosenfeld. At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities. p. 3 . Text + Kritik 99. 1 966). trans. 79-90. pp. p. 5. 8. 4 . Ottavio M . 1 98 5 ) . 1 990). and trans. Radical Humanism: Selected Essays. 6 . p . 1 98 1 ) . Charles Bovary.C otta. Jenseits von Schuld und Suhne: Bewiiltigungsversuche eines Uberwiilti gten (Munich: Szczesny. 22 1 . ed. 1 1 . pp. 1 990). and trans. Rosenfeld (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Text + Kritik 9 9 : Jean Amery (July 1 988). 1 984). "Jean Amery's essay Uber das Altern: Ein Dialog mit franz6sischen Dichtern und Denkern. 2 1 5 . 2 1 9. ed. p . 1 0 . first published in English as At the Mind 's Limits in the translation of Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P. 9. with an afterword by Helmut Heissenbiittel ( Stuttgart: Klett. Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P. 2.NOTES ' T R A N S lL A T O R S I N T R O D U C T I O N versity of Illinois Press. Hand an sich legen: Diskurs aber den Freitod ( Stuttgart: Klett. Radical Humanism.

written late in his life. Allusion t o the poem "Hyperions Schicksalslied" (Hyperion's song of destiny) by Friedrich Holderlin ( 1 770-1 843 ) . 1 1 80 -1 240). 2 . vol. Monk o f Heisterbach: Caesarius von Heisterbach (c. Exit the King in Plays. "Verweile doch. Der Mensch und sein Leib (Tiibingen. 5 . Apparently Herbert Pliigge. nos.1 30 PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION Notes 1 . Andre Gorz: Le vieillissement. 7 . by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ( 1 749. a monk who wrote moral tales. 3. you are so lovely) . Richard Howard (New York: Putnam. . " by August von Platen ( 1 7961 83 5 ) . Force o! Circumstance. p. Vladimir Jankelevitch: L a mort (Paris. S T R A N G E R TO ONESELF 1 . 3 5 . du bist so schon" (Tarry a while. Allusion to Faust. trans.1 8 3 2 ) : according t o his pact with Mephistopheles. This quotation and the two that follow. 6 . 1 1 7 0 -1 2 30). 1 967) . [Amery's note] EXISTENCE AND THE P A S S A GE O F TIME 1 . Eugene Ionesco. 1 96 5 ) . saying. 2 . 4. Faust would forfeit his soul if he ever became satisfied and asked time to stop for a moment. Donald Watson ( London: John Calder. from Simone d e Beauvoir. Herbert Pliigge: Wohlbefinden und Mi J3befinden (Tiibingen. 3 . 4. 1 96 2 ) . Allusion t o the poem "Tristan. The first line of a poem b y walther von der Vogelweide ( c. 1 96 3 ) . 1 87 and 1 88. in Les Temps Modernes. p. 656. 1 967) . trans. Signor S ettembrini and "life's young problem child" (Hans Cas­ torp ) : characters in Thomas Mann's novel The Magic Mountain. Allusion to the opening of Joseph and His Brothers by Thomas Mann ( 1 87 5 -1 9 5 5 ) .

by Eduard M6rike ( 1 804-1 87 5 ) . Lettrism: a literary movement that tried to find poetry in the let­ ters of the alphabet by emphasizing graphic sequences. and morally proper connotations comes as close as possible to hold. line 2. 5 52. Witch's one-times-one ( Hexeneinmaleins ) : Goethe's Faust." with its combination of poetic. 3. Goethe's " Selige Sehnsucht" (Blessed yearning) . which contains all those connotations with perhaps greater intensity. ( 1 863-1 92 0 ) . Detlev von Liliencron ( 1 844-1 909) and Theodor Storm ( 1 8 1 7-1 888) were poets widely read in the German-speaking world during the early years of the twentieth century. . 4. meaning "lovely" and "sweet. Allusion to the title of a chapter in The Magic Mountain about the death of Hans Castorp's cousin. Christian Sinding ( 1 8 5 6-1 94 1 ) : Norwegian composer. The first line of a poem "Verborgenheit" ( Seclusion) . After 1 800. 3. 2. HOlderlin's poetry underwent a dramatic transformation that has defined his modern reputation. Theodor Fontane: German novelist ( 1 8 1 9-1 898). 5. 8. Allusions to HOlderlin's poem "Halfte des Lebens" (Half of life) and the use of an imaginary language by the poet Richard Dehmel 7 .131 THE LOOK OF OTHERS Notes 1 . NOT TO UNDER STAND T H E W O R LD ANYMO R E 1 . Allusion (also in the title of this chapter) to the final words of the play Maria Magdalene by Friedrich Hebbel ( 1 8 1 3 -1 86 3 ) . 9 . 2. all of whose novels were written after he turned fifty-nine. " The English word "comely. archaic. Cf. Theodor Lessing ( 1 872-1 9 3 3 ) and Ludwig Klages ( 1 872-1 9 5 6 ) : German thinkers well known i n the German-speaking world i n the 1 920s. where the witch in the scene "Witch's Kitchen" declaims nonsense verse about the magic use of numbers. 6. The German word here is hold. Andreas Gryphius ( 1 6 1 6-1 664) : German poet and dramatist. a soldier. often without apparent meaning.

" but it contains in it the suggestion that one should live to a ripe old age (ein hohes Alter) and is therefore actually less of a "metaphorically empty" phrase than "Requiescat in pace" (Rest in peace ) . "Hoch solI e r leben" i s a German equivalent of "For he's a jolly good fellow. .1 32 TO L I V E WITH D Y I N G I Notes 1 .

gium and j oined the resistance there. he studied philoso­ phy and wanted to be a novelist.Jean Amery was born in Vienna in 1911 as Hanns Mayer. which made him famous. Jenseits von Schuld und Siihne (At the a series of essays about his experi­ Mind's Limits). He is a professor of English and German and author of German Expressionist Film. and sent to Auschwitz. <:ame to power in Austria in When the Nazis he fled to Bel­ 1938. ences in Auschwitz. . Barlow is Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indi­ anapolis. He survived. and after the war he made his home in Brussels. As a young man. John D. In he published 1966. changing his name to Jean Amery. tortured. He was caught distributing leaflets.

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