Sunday, September 28, 2008

Constellation No. 5

As a boy I was a dreamer and dwelt with loving care on the dark and radiant images traced by my restless, eager fancy. And what did it bring me? Weariness, as though I'd spent a night wrestling a phantom, and a vague, regretful memory. In this fruitless struggle, I wasted all the ardour and drive that are needed in real life, and when I came to life itself, I had been through everything mentally before and found it boring and disgusting, like reading a poor pastiche of a long familiar book.

Mikhail Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time, (Paul Foote, translator [Harmondsworth, 1966]), p. 180.


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He who matures early lives in anticipation. His experience is a-prioristic, an intuitive sensibility feeling out in images and words what things and people will realize only later. Such anticipation, saturated, as it were, with itself, withdraws from the outer world and infuses its relation to it with the colour of neurotic playfulness. If the early maturer is more than a possessor of dexterities, he is obliged to catch himself up, a compulsion which normal people are fond of dressing up as a moral imperative. Painfully he must win for the relation to objects the space that is occupied by his imagination: even suffering he has to learn. Contact with the non-self, which in the alleged late-maturer is scarcely ever disturbed from within, becomes for the early maturer an urgent need. The narcissistic direction of his impulses, indicated by the preponderance of imagination in his experience, positively delays his maturing. Only later does he live through, in their crude violence, situations, fears, passions, that had been greatly softened in imagination, and they change in conflict with his narcissism, into a consuming sickness. So he relapses into the childishness that he had once surmounted with too little exertion and which now exacts its price; he becomes immature, while the mature are the others who were at each stage what they were expected to be, puerile too, and who now find unpardonable the force which gains disproportionate ascendancy over the erstwhile early maturer. He is struck down by passion; lulled too long in the security of his autarky, he reels helplessly where he had once built his airy bridges.

Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia (E. F. N. Jephcott, translator [London, 1974]), p. 161.

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