Saturday, December 24, 2011

Number Twenty-Five

Wie kann man sich über die Welt freuen, außer wenn man zu ihr flüchtet?

How can one be glad about the world except if one takes one's refuge in it? [Kaiser/Wilkins]

How is it possible to rejoice in the world except by fleeing to it? [Hofmann]


This is not a rhetorical question.

Hofmann's "fleeing to" is closer to the German than Kaiser/Wilkins' "taking refuge in." The pronoun "ihr" is in the dative, which is usually locative in sense, but the combination of the verb "flüchten" and the preposition "zu" gives us a sense of motion better translated as "fleeing to."

This is important because it underscores the idea that one rejoices in the world while separate from it and seeking to join with it, rather than simply from within it. Kaiser/Wilkins conjures a Buddhistic image of self-identification with the world, while Hofmann emphasizes instead the notion of someplace to be reached.

What is there to flee or to take refuge from, if not the world? Taking refuge in the world is like renouncing the idea of refuge; it means being as tranquil in the midst of the flames as you would be in your mother's lap.

Escape and rejoicing are linked. To rejoice in something is to escape to it. One has to take the approach one is normally encouraged to take in escaping from the world into the mystical beyond, but use it to escape to the world.

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