Pierre Yves Trémois
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Quest for God, a vast question

by Francis Benoît Cousté

Quest for God or one of his countless substitutes born of despair in the face of death and, above all, of the empty sky! Without supreme jurisdiction, hopeless is, indeed, our loneliness … “The only excuse from God is that he does not exist.” Stendhal

Also, man has always told good stories, reassures himself with pleasant ersatz – hoping to survive, who by his posterity, who by his creation [artistic, scientific or literary] , who in the memory of his loved ones or his disciples! And other nonsense…

Derisory consolations – of which nobody is ever, moreover, totally fooled … But the horrible prospect of having to pass from the status of subject to that of object (was a corpse ever something else?) Is so unbearable for us that everything is good for hiding this abomination from us!

If God does not exist, everything is permitted, » professed Dostoevsky Surely, apart from God, how could there be any absolute? Therefore only relative values ​​remain – necessary social contract, since we have to live well with our fellow men …

Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko. Composition 1959. Leopold museum, Vienne.

Good and Evil are never – unlike good and bad – that seen from the mind …

Plato himself was under no illusion: “the virtuous man is content to dream what a wicked man really does“. The good would be – according to the philosopher – the chilly, the timid, those who do not have the courage to take action, to agree to their dreams …

And François de La Rochefoucauld (French moralist of the 17th century), to add: “Old people like to give good advice, to console themselves for not being old enough to give bad examples“. Such wisdom would therefore be, for our moralist, like daughter of helplessness …

The eternal trial of any incorporated society towards the anarchist tradition, against these men of desire who refuse any compromise, vomit the lukewarm and usually take action: nihilists, lonely wild beasts, sometimes in couples (Bonnie & Clyde …) or in groups ( The Bonnot gang in France mafiosi…). Asocials intimately convinced that there will never be for them – apart from problems of low police – neither reward nor punishment!

Doesn’t every man just have to be there – hic et nunc? Caught in a narrow network of causalities, ontologically conditioned … Illusory freedom, therefore! And even if he were free, would that change the tragedy and the absurdity of his condition? However, nature ignores disasters – which remain only in the memory of the survivors …

Few, however, are those who, at least in the West, dare to confront this ontological solitude – dazzling evidence of nothingness! To limit ourselves to the only writers, let us quote: Nietzsche, Dostoïevski, Darien, Montherlant, Yourcenar, Klíma, Cioran… So dazzling evidence that there will never be – at the discretion of lukewarm, timid or self-righteous – enough screens to hide it … Isn’t death the ultimate taboo of our society?

It is often said that around their seventh year, children have a dazzling intuition of nothingness. Age of all horror, of the worst nightmares that fortunately succeed in warding off fairy tales – certainly frightening and bloody, but so reassuring since they return the horror to the realm of fiction, chimerical, fabrication. Adolescents and immature adults preferring, for their part, to shoot themselves, to mithridize themselves to the hyperviolence of American series …

In any case, aren’t we all fundamentally innocent? Can we not always, in our genes or our infancy, find a justification for our actions? Were they the worst … “Everyone has their reasons” argues a wise saying. Justify yourself, of course, but before which body? We had once created God in our image for this. But Nietzsche told us about his death…

Les Yeux clos 1890. Odilon Redon (1840-1916). Huile sur carton, 44 cm/36 cm. Paris, musée d’Orsay

[Pleasant revenge: a few years ago, I read (written in chalk on the Pont des Arts): “Nietzsche is dead, signed by God”.]

And Nietzsche hit the nail on the head: “Be sincere! Do not say that you believe in the need for religion, rather say that you believe in the need for the police!

One of the primary functions of any religion, is it not, in fact, of the police? Morality police in particular (cf. The Ten Commandments), combined with judicial functions: ordalies, Inquisition courts, confessionals, etc.

In their final moments, many of our strong minds “crack” and appeal to “help from religion”! As illustrated by the lexicographer and freemason Émile Littré who – as free-thinker as he was – yielded, in articulo mortis, to the instances of his pious wife, agreeing to be baptized then to receive extreme unction… On the brink of death , it may indeed seem unfair not to have to appear! However – whatever their age – any dying soldiers would murmur, they say: “Mum …”, desired intercessor, last resort in the face of the horrible emptiness …

Art, Love, Religion and Philosophy differ only in form. Their object is identical: the quest for eternity – ie against the immanent injustice of fate, a quest for meaning, for transcendence (cf. André Malraux: “Art is an anti-fate“).

Avinu Malkeinu. Barbra Streisand

Art, in other words: “Courage, let’s flee away ! “Let’s take refuge in a universe that satisfies us fully – an ideal certainly utopian … Didn’t Nietzsche (even himself!) declared:” We have art in order not to die of the truth. “?

From this point of view, isn’t Music the most perfect refuge – since it evokes a meaning without commitment ( in French : « signifiant sans signifié » ), pure language, free of any concept? This explains, no doubt, why composers are so rare in committing suicide. Having at their disposal this abstract universe, this possibility of withdrawal, this ideal “schizophrenic niche” that is musical creation …

But let’s also talk about Love, “great discovery of the Middle Ages” (according to the medievalist Gustave Cohen). Sublime attempt [sometimes pitiful] to gain access to the enchanted domain of tales, legends, poems and novels … How many people, indeed, would they exalt this feeling if they had not first heard of it, if they had not read, seen or heard Tristan and Isolde, the Passion according to Saint-Matthew, The Princess of Cleves, Gone with the wind…? [This is, of course, Love with a capital « L” – a value deemed transcendent, for which no well-born man would hesitate to give his life … And not, fi therefore! of sexuality.]

Couple à l’ADN 1981. P-Y Trémois. cuivre découpé en 2 parties- 53×38 cm

Philosophy, finally! We certainly unwind with pleasure, revitalizing ourselves, cocooning ourselves in this pleasant “ecological niche of chattering” (as sociologists say) … But to philosophize as we usually do, is it not to flee before realities, our responsibilities, even… Xanthippe!

[Thus Socrates repudiated his wife Xanthippus so that he could calmly discuss death with his disciples. However, one of them, the merry Callicles, bitterly noted: “Philosophy is a charming thing, provided you stick to it moderately when you are young. But when you’re old enough, philosophizing is a ridiculous thing – men who philosophize babble like children. »]

As for the noble values ​​which we all debate with compunction, do they not allow us to easily acquire a good conscience? Allowing us, moreover, to forget the patient gloomy shadow, to ward off (as Jacques Brel said) “the clock in the living room” …

But back to our incoercible need to be judged – and if possible absolved, loved, if not preferred! And doesn’t this quest for admiration express the need for a higher authority which – at least potentially – would judge us, give us meaning, recognize us? Admiration is an act of faith, an impulse towards someone which is indulged, surrendered … A form of love, of lost confidence – which can instantly turn into hatred, if only the object of this devotion ignores us…

William Blake – Ancient of Days (1794) 23cm x 17 cm – The British Museum

Are we not all looking, more or less, for “a master over whom to reign” (Lacan)? Like the paranoid who is never – for his happiness – in want of a judge, sees meaning in everything, in any event and first, of course, in himself! Impermeable, therefore, to any form of humor, self-deprecation – consented power, meaning leprosy …

Unlike Don Juan by Molière – fundamentally perverse – Mozart’s Don Giovanni – being of pure desire – does not feel the need to be judged! Living in the moment, he has no past and no future; when he declares his flame, he is always sincerecomes up to him, he is simply amazed. All feeling of guilt being foreign to him, he refuses to be judged by any Supreme Being – whom he will have, moreover, the incredible strength and privilege to despise … But Don Giovanni is not, alas! that a myth – fantasy projection, “pure woman’s dream” has been suggested.

Here is what Emil Cioran wrote: “One is and one remains a slave as long as one is not cured of the mania for hope“. Perhaps … Although, fortunately, Eros and desire, the drive for life and self-preservation encourage us to always move forward, even to surpass ourselves. “Momentum towards the worst“, quipped our philosopher! The fact remains that, although suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, this suicide bomber never took action, hoping – doubtlessly, probably – to survive in the admiration of his present and future readers!

Rubbish, this hope of course, if one is willing to consider what Ferdinand Céline wrote: “To invoke one’s posterity is to make a speech to the maggots“!

But, as long as one’s libido survives, how can we prevent our body, “this rag,” from hoping? Alone in the animal kingdom, Man knows he is going to die. It’s his only certainty! Although armed with his sweet dreams, he is fortunately free to escape his fate [Clocks and Clouds] … Unless he wants to explain “the incomprehensible by the absurd » (Gustave Flaubert)

Header illustration: Pierre-Yves Trémois. The Human limits, Blood Network. Etching and aquatint. Edition 180. Vélin de Rives. 1971. 58cm / 46cm. Printer: Lacourière and Frelaut, Paris. From the book: The Human Limits by Jean Rostand illustrated by Trémois.

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