Friday, June 7, 2024

Tristan and Isolde

Ludwig and Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld as Tristan and Isolde

For a moment when the dragon is no longer breathing down your throat you experience a sigh of relief. Desire lies at the heart of all suffering, Buddhists say and there are people who elevate the level of discomfort and pain they're willing to experience, if only to increase the after effect. Maintaining the feeling of gratitude that comes from getting your breath back is another matter. Compulsive ultra marathoners seek this kind of ultimate relief. Where does happiness stand on the graduated cylinder of pleasure? Is there a line at which relief shifts to exhilaration? And is there a form of happiness that doesn't require a cold bath? Satori or nirvana salves consciousness from turbulence but are not states that would serve the thrill seeker. The German for "passion" is "leidenschaft." "Leiden" is sadness. Wagner's great lovers Tristan and Isolde sing their famous "Lisbestod." Is the flame of happiness a super nova, a dying star that explodes magisterially before turning into a black hole?

listen to Joan Baum's NPR review of The Kafka Studies Department

and listen to "A Wonderful One" by Marvin Gaye

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