Constellation Blues

Tag: Literature Review

The Death of Butterflies

…in a slow, prolonged, torturous death they had struggled in agony for hours, days, perhaps weeks. And they were the children of Ziedonis [the god of Spring, literal translation: blossom time]: flowers that had come to life and separating from their stems had risen to the sky. But then tormenting man had come and ended that in the most brutal manner. Is there a more unmerciful being than man? I shook with sobs, and I felt as if someone had grabbed my shoulders and was shaking my whole being. Was the Ziedonis himself that now cried with my tears? Had not he taken me by the hand and led me here so I could see what kind of injustice was being done to him? Didn’t he want to tell that behind all beauty hides death, suffering and dread? I too felt as if I had a pin stuck through my heart and I would have to bleed slowly, perhaps my whole life long… What I felt was not only my personal pain but the pain of all nature with which we are organically bound.

And quickly gathering the butterflies in her apron, she tossed them into the blazing furnace. Sudden death was far better than prolonged torture, she reasoned, and she went out to accept her punishment.

-The Latvian writer, Aspazija. Translated by Astrida B. Stahnke.

You are completely free of affectation:
silent you sit, watchfully tense,
just as silence itself pretends to nothing
on a starless night in a fire-gutted city.

Consider that city–it is your past,
wherein you scarcely ever managed to laugh,
now raging through the streets, now sunk in self,
between your insurrections and your calms.

You wanted life and gave it all your strength,
but, sullening spurning everything alive,
this slum of a city suffocated you
with the dreary weight of its architecture.

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Suicide and the Dream of a Ridiculous Man

“The consciousness of life is higher than life, the knowledge of happiness is higher than happiness”—that is what we have to fight against! And I shall, I shall fight against it! If only we all wanted it, everything could be arranged immediately.”

From The Dream of a Ridiculous Man by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I stumbled upon an audiobook version of this short essay by Dostoevsky purely by chance. Seeing the title alone and being a fan of his other works, I couldn’t resist. I’ve always thought that when you’re ready for answers to your own personal questions, you’ll find them in literature, always by chance. True gems!

Anyway, to the story: essentially the Ridiculous Man has always known he was a “madman” and was laughed at by his peers. Growing older and making his way through his studies, he realizes the more knowledge he gains, the more he is consciously aware of his predicament:

Dostoevsky writes:
“I suddenly felt that it made no difference to me whether the world existed or whether nothing existed anywhere at all. I began to be acutely conscious that nothing existed in my own lifetime. At first I couldn’t help feeling that at any rate in the past many things had existed; but later on I came to the conclusion that there had not been anything even in the past, but that for some reason it had merely seemed to have been. Little by little I became convinced that there would be nothing in the future, either. It was then that I suddenly ceased to be angry with people and almost stopped noticing them.”

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