Decadence by Remy de Gourmont

La Physique de L’amour

…but this commentary is so shot through with the light of his searching intelligence, and with his sensual irony, that there is little in the ramshackle structure of accepted truth capable of resisting its implications. Victor Hugo, seeing a cable wrapped with rags at the point where it crossed a sharp ridge, saw, at the same time, the knees of tragic actresses padded to break the dramatic falls in the fifth act; and these two things so remote – a rope anchored on a rock, and the knees of an actress – are evoked, as we read, in a parallel which takes our fancy because the knees and the rope are equally ‘furred’ (technical term), the first above and the latter below, at the bend; because the elbow made by a cable thus cast bears a certain resemblance to a leg that is bent; because, even while perceiving the logic of these comparisons, we perceive, no less clearly, their delicious absurdity. Very simple ideas lie within the reach of very complicated minds only. (La simplicite est l’extreme de la complexite.) Nothing exists save by virtue of disequilibrium, of injustice. Every existence is a theft practised upon other existences. No life flourishes except in a cemetery. (decadent) The idea of liberty is perhaps only an emphatic corruption of the idea of privilege. Definitions, which are indispensable for dictionaries only, contain of reality precisely what a net, raised at the wrong moment from the sea where it awaited its prey, contains of obscure, squirming life. The definition is a sack of compressed flour contained in a thimble. What can we do with it, unless we are Antarctic explorers? Genius is a catastrophe. Decadence: A very convenient word for ignorant pedagogues; a vague word behind which our laziness and lack of curiosity concerning the law seek shelter. -Baudelaire, Letter to Jules Janin. Consciousness, which is the principle of liberty, is not the principle of art. It is possible to express quite clearly what has been conceived in the unconscious shades. Intellectual activity, far from being intimately allied with the functioning of consciousness, is more often disconcerted by it. We listen badly to a symphony, when we know we are listening. We think badly, when we know we are thinking. Consciousness of thinking is not thought.

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