Thursday, September 04, 2008

Milan Kundera

The unbearable lightness of being

The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum! What does this mad myth signify?

Putting it negatively, the myth of eternal return states that that a life which disappears once and for all, which does not return, is like a shadow, without weight, dead in advance, and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime, its horror, sublimity, and beauty mean nothing. We need take no more note of it than of a war between two African kingdoms in the fourteenth century, a war which altered nothing in the destiny of the world, even if a hundred thousand blacks perished in excruciating torment.

Why don't we need to take note of something unless it affects us? Why is the past of consequence only if has affected how we live today? And does the present count only to the extent that it affects the future? Is a day less significant than the light or shadow it casts on a subsequent day?

Now that I have it out of my system, maybe I can move on to the second page.

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