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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (part 1 chapter 16)

2006-08-22 19:24

  16

  Unlike Parmenides, Beethoven apparently viewed weight as something positive. Since the German word schwer means both difficult and heavy, Beethoven's difficult resolution may also be construed as a heavy or weighty resolution. The weighty resolution is at one with the voice of Fate ( Es muss sein! ); necessity, weight, and value are three concepts inextricably bound: only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value.

  This is a conviction born of Beethoven's music, and although we cannot ignore the possibility (or even probability) that it owes its origins more to Beethoven's commentators than to Beethoven himself, we all more or less share, it: we believe that the greatness of man stems from the fact that he bears his fate as Atlas bore the heavens on his shoulders. Beethoven's hero is a lifter of metaphysical weights.

  Tomas approached the Swiss border. I imagine a gloomy, shock-headed Beethoven, in person, conducting the local firemen's brass band in a farewell to emigration, an Es Muss Sein march.

  Then Tomas crossed the Czech border and was welcomed by columns of Russian tanks. He had to stop his car and wait a half hour before they passed. A terrifying soldier in the black Uniform of the armored forces stood at the crossroads directing traffic as if every road in the country belonged to him and him alone.

  Es muss sein! Tomas repeated to himself, but then he began to doubt. Did it really have to be?

  Yes, it was unbearable for him to stay in Zurich imagining Tereza living on her own in Prague.

  But how long would he have been tortured by compassion? All his life? A year? Or a month? Or only a week?

  How could he have known? How could he have gauged it? Any schoolboy can do experiments in the physics laboratory to test various scientific hypotheses. But man, because he has only one life to live, cannot conduct experiments to test whether to follow his passion (compassion) or not.

  It was with these thoughts in mind that he opened the door to his flat. Karenin made the homecoming easier by jumping up on him and licking his face. The desire to fall into Tereza's arms (he could still feel it while getting into his car in Zurich) had completely disintegrated. He fancied himself standing opposite her in the midst of a snowy plain, the two of them shivering from the cold.

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