Selfhood, the Crucible of Identity, and What Makes Life’s Transience Bearable


Selfhood, the Crucible of Identity, and What Makes Life’s Transience Bearable

“Transience makes a ghost out of each experience. There was never a dawn that did not drop down into noon, never a noon which did not fade into evening, and never an evening that did not get buried in the graveyard of the night.”

“All great truths are obvious truths”

“One remembers the sentence which won the contest of wisdom in ancient Greece: “This too will pass.” The pain of transience haunted Goethe’s Faust; he implored the beautiful figure who appeared to him: “Verweile doch, Du bist so schön!” Linger a while, for you are so beautiful!”

“Taking experience seriously must make it equally necessary to take the destiny or future of experience seriously. This is a particularly poignant necessity, given that the future of each experience is its disappearance. The destiny of every experience is transience.”

“but not all obvious truths are great truths.””

“There is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, a thought that rises, independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining eternal,””

“Selfhood is not an imperial possession of the human orphan. It is not exclusively human. Selfhood is more patient and ancient, a diverse intimacy of the earth with itself.

If the earth has the most ancient networks of selfhood, then the memory of the earth is the ultimate harvester and preserver of all happening and experience. In modern life, experience enjoys privileged status as the force which awakens, enables and stabilizes human growth. The significance of experience is intimately bound up with the urgency of modern individuality. This sense of individuality achieved its classical contour through the metaphysical scalpel of Descartes’ “Cogito” which cut the individual free from the cosmic webbing of scholasticism.

This concept of individuality was further intensified in German Idealism and Existentialism. Life is seen to be woven on the loom of individual experience.”

“Out of the fiber and density of each experience transience makes a ghost. The future, rich with possibility, becomes a vacant past. Every thing, no matter how painful, beautiful or sonorous, recedes into the silence of transience. Transience too is the maker of the final silence, the silence of death.

Is the silence which transience brings a vacant silence? Does everything vanish into emptiness? Like the patterns which birdflight makes in the air, is there nothing left? Where does the flame go when the candle is blown out? Is there a place where the past can gather? I believe there is. That place is memory. That which holds out against transience is memoria.”

“Memoria is always quietly at work, gathering and interweaving experience. Memoria is the place where our vanished lives secretly gather. For nothing that happens to us is ever finally lost or forgotten. In a strange way, everything that happens to us remains somehow still alive within us.

[…]

It is crucial to understand that experience itself is not merely an empirical process of appropriating or digesting blocks of life. Experience is rather a journey of transfiguration. Both that which is lived and the one who lives it are transfigured. Experience is not about the consumption of life, rather it is about the interflow of creation into the self and of the self into creation. This brings about subtle and consistently new configurations in both. That is the activity of growth and creativity.

Viewed against this perspective, the concealed nature of memoria is easier to understand. Memoria is the harvester and harvest of transfigured experience. Deep in the silent layers of selfhood, the coagulations of memoria are at work. It is because of this subtle integration of self and life that there is the possibility of any continuity in experience.”

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