“Many ideas turn into lifelong disfigurements” (Thomas Bernhard)

“Many ideas turn into lifelong disfigurements,” he said. The ideas often surprised one years later, but sooner or later they would always make the one who had had them look ridiculous. The ideas came from a place they never left. They would always remain there, in that place: it was the place of dreams. “The idea doesn’t exist that can be expunged or expunge itself. The idea is actual, and remains so.” Last night, he had been thinking about pain. “Pain doesn’t exist. A necessary illusion,” he said. Pain wasn’t pain, not in the way a cow was a cow. “The word ‘pain’ directs the attention of a feeling toward a feeling. Pain is overplus. But the illusion of it is real.” Accordingly, pain both was and was not. “But there is no pain,” he said. “Just as there is no happiness. Found an architecture on pain.” All thoughts and images were as involuntary as the concepts: chemistry, physics, geometry. “You have to understand these concepts to know something. To know everything.” Philosophy didn’t take you a single step nearer. “Nothing is progressive, but nothing is less progressive than philosophy. Progress is tripe. Impossible.” The observations of mathematics were foundational. “Oh, yes,” he said, “in mathematics everything’s child’s play.” And just like so-called child’s play, mathematics could finish you. “If you’ve crossed the border, and you suddenly no longer get the joke, and see what the world’s about, don’t see what anything’s about anymore. Everything’s just the imagining of pain. A dog has as much gravity as a human being, but he hasn’t lived, do you understand!” One day I would cross a threshold into an enormous park, an endless and beautiful park; in this park one ingenious invention would succeed another. Plants and music would follow in lovely mathematical alternation, delightful to the ear and answering to the utmost notions of delicacy; but this park was not there to be used, or wandered about in, because it consisted of a thousand and one small and minuscule square and rectilinear and circular islets, pieces of lawn, each of them so individual that I would be unable to leave the one on which I was standing. “In each case, there is a breadth and depth of water that prevents one from hopping from one island to another. In my imagining. On the piece of grass which one has reached, how is a mystery, on which one has woken up, and where one is compelled to stay,” one would finally perish of hunger and thirst. “One’s longing to be able to walk through the whole park is finally deadly.”

—From Thomas Bernhard’s novel Frost.

 

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