The Truth of Trauma


Today’s post contains three brief entries I wrote last winter in my philosophical journal, and all of which pertain to an issue I have raised more than once before at this website.  That is the issue of just what response trauma elicits from those whom it strikes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Susan Cheever, Desire:  Where Sex Meets Addiction (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2008), p. 35, on trauma:

The human balance that enables most people to live without mind-altering substances [with which she’d include sex as the sex addict relates to it] every day is fragile. It can be upset by trauma or by witnessing trauma.  Once you see what people can do to each other, it’s hard to go back to the level of trust in strangers and the human community that makes life bearable.

How true–especially and paradigmatically for Holocaust survivors.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jean-Louis Chrétien, The Ark of Speech, translated by Andrew Brown (London and  New York:  Routledge, 2004), p. 146:

Affirmation forms the sole place of struggle against evil.  To say no to the no means to say no again, leading back one way or another to what one is opposing and making one dependent on it.  To resist evil is to carry with one, permanently, the Trojan  horse that contains it.  To struggle against it can only mean attacking it, and only the diamond of the yes can really attack all negation, at its heart, without having to deny it.

It would be necessary to think that through in relation to [(among other similar things)] Jean Améry’s defense of suicide, as well as the resistance that surfaced in the uprising that destroyed the crematorium stack at Auschwitz.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Reading Alex Ross, The Rest Is Noise:  Listening to the Twentieth Century.  Late in the book, discussing Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, written and first performed in Stalag VII, when Messiaen was imprisoned there by the Germans [during World War II], Ross writes:

Messiaen expects paradise not just in a single awesome hereafter but also in the scattered ecstasies of daily life.  In the end, his apocalypse–“There shall be time no longer”–may have nothing to do with the catastrophic circumstances under which it was conceived.  Instead, it may describe the death and rebirth of a single soul in the grip of exceptional emotion.

That links up not only with Franz Rosenzweig’s earlier [i.e., before World War II] emphasis on the  quotidian character of redemption  in the Star of Redemption, but also with the issue I’ve been raising in various earlier journal entries about the “truth” of Auschwitz being found in the affirmation expressed in, for example, the  “unsuccessful” rebellion that blew up  one of the crematoria smoke stacks there:  the issue joined in the Psalms that sing of the transitoriness of worldly power.

Published in: on July 17, 2009 at 1:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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