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Overwhelming Lou

Sunday, 20 October 2019 at 21:18

Rilke and Salome on Dr John Dunn. Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Salomé


Lou Salomé’s question in the last weeks of her life:

I've worked my whole life, worked hard, and just worked - why, why?

She had chosen art and theory over love. She saw form first and love second in Rilke’s love poetry.

Nevertheless, Salome’s domineering attitude caused Rilke to grow as an artist.

Rilke wrote in his Florence Diary, which he kept for Lou in 1898, a year into their relationship:

I hated you. You were overwhelming. It was my turn to play the rich man, the philanthropist, the businessman, the aristocrat, and you should accept my concern and love, and indulge in my generosity. But when I confronted you I became the smallest beggar, dependent on you, reliant upon you as a pillar of strength.

We witness the struggle of the love-sick youth to find his own voice, which he so desperately wanted to present to his protector and mentor, who was older than him by fifteen years.

Nietzsche went before him of course, artistically and philosophically, but also as Salomé’s lover and confidante. Rilke was preoccupied by this.

By the time of Rilke’s first encounter with Salomé in 1897, she had already written a book about Nietzsche, such was the intellectual and sexual chemistry between the philosopher driven insane and the obsessively independent domitrix.

She who tamed and subdued both men must have transferred her intellectual influence over them also.

Nietzsche died in 1900.

One year later, Salomé became fearful of Rilke’s over-dependence and asserted her infamous independence, breaking off their love relationship along with any form of contact for four years.

Nietzsche and, for now, Salomé were gone.

The freedom imposed upon Rilke was not accepted. He would always write for Lou.

Rilke’s encounter with Salomé had been one with Nietzsche also.

Rilke would carry the scars of the encounter for the rest of his life, hopelessly trying to forge a similar (meaning dependent) relationship with other women.

He may have viewed Nietzsche as a fellow willing-sufferer at the hands of Salomé. He certainly carried forward the Salomé-Nietzsche chemistry intohis own poetry.

© John Dunn.

Salomé Circle

Monday, 14 October 2019 at 10:53

Rilke and Salomé on Dr John Dunn. Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Salomé


First line of Rilke’s Eighth Elegy.

The creature gazes into openness with all its eyes.
But our eyes are as if they were reversed…


Rilke drew here upon Nietzsche’s understanding of the ‘internalisation of man’ as a sickness.

In his On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche asked the question:

…how should such a courageous and richly endowed animal not also be the most imperilled, the most chronically and profoundly sick of all sick animals?


The most profound symptom of this sickness is the internalisation of man

All instincts that do not discharge themselves outwardly turn inward – this is what I call the internalisation of man: thus it was that man first developed what was later called his ‘soul.’

In the Eighth Elegy,Rilke wrote as though the animals are doing something right, something healthy, and that man has lost this rightness in the descent to something that is unhealthy.

And the connecting link between Nietzsche and Rilke? She was Lou Salomé, who notably worked too with that other explorer of the interiority of man, Sigmund Freud.

What was original to Salomé or Nietzsche, and what product of the Nietzsche-Salomé relationship was passed on to Rilke and Freud, remains a topic of continued study. What seems common to all of them, and remains a symptom of our times, is the diminishment of humanness to a sickness that is to be overcome in some way.


© John Dunn.

Lawrence and Rilke

Wednesday, 9 October 2019 at 21:20

T. E. Lawrence on Dr John Dunn. If there was ever a quintessential evocation of living in the present it is to be found in the famous description of a motorcycle ride by T. E. Lawrence in Part 3, Chapter 16 of his autobiographical book, The Mint.

I can relate it to the passage from one of Rilke’s elegies quoted by motorcyclist Ted Bishop in his Riding with Rilke.

He quotes from Rilke’s eighth Duino Elegy.

…the beast is free
and has death always behind it and God before it,
and when it walks it goes toward eternity,
as springs flow. Never, not for a single day
do we have pure space before usin which the flowers
are always unfolding.


Bishop writes that ‘Rilke speaks of the pure space that animals and children move into, that flowers bloom into: a space without the consciousness of death'.

By implication, living in the present means shedding the adult consciousness of death, and this is what I believe Lawrence found in the exhilaration of riding a big fast Brough Superior. The irony is,of course, that it was when riding the Brough that Lawrence met his untimely death.

I ask again - is being in the present losing yourself or being yourself? And in either case, is exchanging human consciousness for animal consciousness too big a price to pay for moving into the space identified by Rilke?

In my opinion it is.


© John Dunn.

Thoughts prompted by motorcycling

Sunday, 6 October 2019 at 21:07

Lawrence on Brough Superior on Dr John Dunn. It is said of motorcycling that it is living in the moment, not in the past, not in the future. You are only in this moment. This I think was the experience of T. E. Lawrence when he was riding his mighty Brough Superior - he was, so to speak, in the present.



Is being in the present losing yourself or being yourself?

You can lose yourself in many ways... there is always a siren call.

What is being anyway?

Do I embody it, impose it, or remain subject to it?

I’ve lived my life alone.

I never engaged in the game or the job.

Never had a friend.

Sought friendship through relationships.

Barriers have to be down, or forget it.

Defined myself by joining, but never engaging.

My sports/pastimes are solitary - cycling and motorcycling.

Solipsist am I.

Well I suppose the others will always criticise the solipsist.

They’re defending their right to a separate existence. But their grounds are weak.

Hell is indeed other people, and yet, on reflection…

But you need me…

No I don’t need you
I don’t love you
It’s over.

What’s over?
I was alive in the relationship.

It’s over.

Life is over.


© John Dunn.

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