my disease, my lover

Alas, LI seems to have a non-Darwinian cold. I’ve been kind to my microbes – I’ve taken the aspirins and robuttuson so I could get out and about and spread them, just like a good American. I reduced my diet to soup and bread. I spend ungodly amounts of time hacking my lungs out and slumbering on my bed. Any fair observer would say I was doing my part. But my microbes seem to have some kind of jihadist philosophy. I mean, they seem to want to kill their host!

By killing me, you are killing yourselves, silly microbes, I say. And they reply by giving me another coughing fit.

This is a crying shame, since I went and checked out Mann’s essays and was all prepared to be an ambassador of sweetness and light. Damn. I have some vague plan of applying that notion of imitatio to Goethe himself – for Goethe is a unique case in world literature of a man who quite happily made himself his own monument. There is a biography of Henry Miller entitled, I believe, always happy and bright, and Miller did love to go on about his happiness, but who doesn’t see that this was guff? Not that I mind. But Goethe seemed to have decided, very young, that there was nothing better than being Goethe.

… Which is unfair. The tone of the above. LI is expressing that impression that Goethe gave, and gives. And who among us can be Goethe? I’d even grant that it is the best thing you can be. Much better than being Jesus, or Nietzsche, or even Thomas Mann, god help us. If one of LI’s eternal bitches is that the sage has been driven out of the culture, then we do have to explain Goethe.

Now, I realize my leaping about and cavorting from Lady Ray to Goethe might strike some as highly undignified, or perhaps a sign of my present feverish state. Mann, in his essay about Freud, wrote that Freud showed us how much we owe to disease – how disease is a form of knowing. Mann loved diseases, the slight fever, the restlessness, the brilliant flashes, the highly specialized eros of convalescence.

“L’humanité,” says Victor Hugo, “s’affirme par l’infirmité.” A saying which frankly and proudly admits the delicate constitution of all higher humanity and culture and their connoisseurship in the realm of disease.”

So writes Mann. Above, I wrote that Goethe was his own monument, an unoriginal and sarcastic jibe. A better image comes out of Puysegur. Puysegur was one of the disciples of Mesmer, or perhaps it is better to say that he was an independent researcher in the field of animal magic. In the book, Magic as a Science, Carl du Prel wrote:

“Since Puysegur, the student of Mesmer, it has been known that the somnambulist has the ability to perceive the inner processes of his body, i.e. to take his autodiagnosis. For the sake of briefness I will call this self-seeing (Selbstschau).”

Actually, even Caligari’s somnambulist could not do any such thing. But Goethe seemed to have that magical ability, so perhaps I should say he was his own mesmeric subject, and out of of his autodiagnosis - reading his own entrails - he became a prophet.


Anonymous said…
I vow that if in the next week I'm faced with something confusing or difficult I'll try to remember to ask myself 'what would Goethe do?' I can't guarantee anything, but may I report back to this comments box with any results that I think are interesting?
Scruggs said…
The cold sounds Dawkinsian to me, Roger. The wily selfish gene, having established the reproductive virtue of a non-cooperative strategy, has decided you can stay alive just long enough for it to inflict itself on another human. Only god botherers and Stephen Jay Gould would disagree.

Being the weepy and sentimental sort, I hope you get better soon.
roger said…
Thank you, Mr. Scruggs.
LT, PLEASE report back on this experiment. What an excellent idea!