Art, Books, Philosophy

The Affective Moment – A Draft Introduction

‘Art and nothing but art! It is the great means of making life possible, the great seduction of life, the great stimulant to life.’ (Nietzsche, ‘The Will to Power’)

A former teacher of mine at university, whose wife of nearly thirty years had been killed in a road accident, once told me of how he had subsequently developed an obsession with Faure’s ‘Requiem’. He told me of his regular compulsion to listen to this particular piece of music as he sat alone late into the night. I remember saying something to the effect that it must be a great comfort to be able to listen to a piece of music that so reminded him of his wife. No, he replied, it wasn’t a reminder of her or any kind of comfort, I have other things for that, other pieces of music, photographs, memories of being together, and our children. Why then do you listen to it at night, I asked. His answer changed how I thought about art and the world, and has stayed with me in the years since our conversation. His grief at his wife’s death was, he said, like an hourglass filled with sand. At first he had been filled with an almost incalculable amount of grief, but over time that grief had, like the grains of sand in an hourglass, simply begun to drain away. As the habitual routine of his everyday life inevitably returned, little by little, any remaining sensation of grief had subsided. As it began to fade he was able to return to living his life, but he also began to feel increasingly numb, empty and less alive. Less alive to the memory of his wife and her loss, and less alive to the fact that he continued to live. Listening to Faure’s ‘Requiem’ had the effect of inverting the hourglass of grief, and helped him to recover an almost overwhelming sensation of intense sorrow and, by virtue of such a sensation, return him to a sense of life. The momentary restoration Continue reading

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