January 16, 2022

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‘On Comfort’ Searches for Solace within the Face of Grief and Distress

‘On Consolation’ Searches for Solace in the Face of Grief and Misery

Tips on how to go on then, and why?

“On Comfort” takes the erosion of organized faith as a given, and is directed at secularists who nonetheless search that means and objective: nonbelievers, not nihilists. Nonetheless, Ignatieff believes that holy texts of all denominations will be mined for consolation and perception even by the faithless, for a spirituality as personalized as a kind of Sweetgreen salads. The crux of the Psalms shouldn’t be their conviction that the Messiah will seem, however their depiction, over frequent revisions, of frequent human expertise: “The worst of despair,” their creators knew, “is to really feel alone.” Possibly, in opposition to Sartre, heaven is different individuals.

However then once more, maybe the purest solace is discovered solo, Ignatieff suggests, doing what moderns would name journaling (not the productivity-centered bullet kind) or trying autobiography — as Aurelius did; additionally Boethius, imminently to be strangled by barbarians “with a twine till his eyes stood out from their sockets, after which clubbed”; and Albert Camus, who survived tuberculosis to win a Nobel Prize, solely to find it had a chilling impact on his writing, after which perish in a automobile accident. At occasions “On Comfort” looks like Edward Gorey’s “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” with out the photographs.

Ignatieff will be droll, re-enacting conferences between previous friend-philosophers like Adam Smith and David Hume — the latter, ailing from “a dysfunction in my bowels,” joked that Charon may let him revise his work yet another time earlier than foraying throughout the river Styx. However humor shouldn’t be considered one of Ignatieff’s really useful solace staples. Extra satisfying to him is the poetry that abject distress and grief can encourage. When phrases fail, as they so typically do, there are love messages to decode within the visible arts, as when El Greco embedded a portrayal of his younger son into his portray “The Burial of the Rely of Orgaz,” a parish fee completed in 1586 that attracts crowds to at the present time. (Although I’m undecided they flock, as Ignatieff asserts, due to an ineffable longing “that point shouldn’t slip so irrecoverably into forgetting, that the current shouldn’t be so fleeting, that the longer term wouldn’t be so shrouded and so unknown”; some could have simply seen it on TripAdvisor.)

Most transcendently, Ignatieff says, for these in a position to hear, comfort is offered in music — although “within the demise of a kid,” he acknowledges, recounting a bereaved Mahler pacing the Dutch canals with Freud, “music met its match.” Sitting amongst a teary viewers at a live performance dedicated to the Psalms, the place Ignatieff lectured, impressed this undertaking, which gathered additional momentum following the coronavirus, when he noticed a symphony orchestra break from isolation into Zoom squares to play Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Happiness this wasn’t, however one thing deeper and extra enduring.

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