Sunday, May 25, 2008
New Connections and Robert Musil
"The mind has learned that beauty can make things good, bad, stupid or enchanting. The mind dissects a sheep and a penitent sinner and finds humility and patience in both. It investigates a substance and observes that in large quantities it is a poison, in smaller quantities a stimulant. It knows that the mucous membrane of the lips is related to the mucous membrane of the intestine, but knows too that the humility of those lips is related to the humility of all that is saintly. It mixes things up, unravels them again and forms new combinations. Good and evil, above and below, are for it not relative ideas tinged with scepticism, but terms of a function, values dependent on the context in which they appear. It has learnt from the centuries that vices may turn into virtues and virtues into vices, and actually regards it as sheer clumsiness if one does not in one lifetime succeed in turning a criminal into a useful citizen. It does not recognize anything as in itself permissible or impermissible, for anything may have a quality by which it some day becomes part of a great new relationship. It secretly has a mortal hatred of everything that behaves as through it were established once and for all, the great ideals and laws and their little fossilized imprint, the hedged-in character. It regards nothing as firmly established, neither any personality nor any order of things or ideas. Because our knowledge may change with every day, it believes in no ties, and everything possesses the value that it has only until the next act of creation, as a face to which one is speaking changes even while the words are being spoken."
--from The Man without Qualities by Robert Musil