Essay on Rilke and the Animals

Essay on Rilke and the Animals

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In the opening of Rilke's "Duino Elegies" the first mention of the animal is a as a creature that sees "at once how little at home we are in the interpreted world." (5) What are the sources of discomfort for humans and how are mere animals able to perceive it? The answer lies in the depths of human consciousness and its many constructs. I begin with the main points of Rilke's view of human consciousness and the implications this has for our way of existing such as our limitations. In contrast to the human consciousness I will describe the existence of animals and from this model show how Rilke suggests a consciousness attainable by humans that parallels with the animal consciousness.

In Rilke's "Duino Elegies" there is one vital component that guides the multiple elegies to their fruition of the alternative consciousness and that is the implications and subsequent critiques of our human consciousnesses. The duality of conscious in opposition to the subconscious existing within all humans is the source of the dichotomies that are drawn in the interpreted world. These dichotomies include: father and mother; pain and joy; up as opposed to down; the internal and external; self and not-self; the exclusive responsibilities of our senses and so on. Internal division is fundamental in describing the two selves; one the actor and the other the observer of the actor leaving the self who knows he is being watched self-conscious and therefore distracted from the moment, the present. Humans are absorbed by the evaluation of the self and subsequently don't take notice of the freedom that lies in moving outside ones-self. The eyes of perception are compared to traps at every exit from our body blocking us from a kind of freedom. (47...


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...to an alternative consciousness. The animals don't live by dichotomies or the constructs of humankind that make us fear pain and time - animals live in the present. While we are constrained by language, this construct also gives us the opportunity to break down the dichotomies we have created. With the breakdown of dichotomies, once separated things have the opportunity to join again together and within ourselves - making the world disappear. This is the eventual goal of humans in the struggle against our consciousness, to become or to interiorize the external.

"Duino Elegies" begins with a critique and moves through to analyze our consciousness in relation to other special creatures. The analysis points to what may be helpful for humans to achieve the alternative consciousness where we are not directed by uncertainty but are contented in the "real world."

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