“John Cage tells the story somewhere of going to a concert of music composed by a friend of his. The composer had also written the programme notes for the music in which he said, among other things, that he hoped his music might go some way to diminishing the suffering in the world. After the concert his friend asked him what he thought of the event and Cage answered, ‘I loved the music but I hated the programme notes.’ ‘But don’t you think there’s too much suffering in the world?’ the friend asked, obviously put out. ‘No,’ Cage replied, ‘I think there’s just the right amount.’”
Edvard Munch, Scream, 1893
Here, as always, Proust is completely detached from all moral considerations. There is no right and wrong in Proust nor in his world. (Except possibly in those passages dealing with the war, when for a space he ceases to be an artist and raises his voice with the plebs, mob, rabble, canaille.) Tragedy is not concerned with human justice. Tragedy is the statement of an expiation, but not the miserable expiation of a codified breach of a local arrangement, organised by the knaves for the fools. The tragic figure represents the expiation of original sin, of the original and eternal sin of him and all his ‘soci malorum,’ the sin of having been born.
‘Pues el delito mayor
Del hombre es haber nacido.’
In der That ist die Ueberzeugung, daß die Welt, also auch der Mensch, etwas ist, daß eigentlich nicht seyn sollte, geeignet, uns mit Nachsicht gegen einander zu erfüllen: denn was kann man von Wesen unter solchem Prädikament erwarten? — Ja, von diesem Gesichtspunkt aus könnte man auf den Gedanken kommen, daß die eigentlich passende Anrede zwischen Mensch und Mensch, statt, „Monsieur“, „Sir“, u.s.w., seyn möchte „Leidensgefährte, Socî malorum, compagnon de misères, my fellow sufferer.“ So seltsam dies klingen mag; so entspricht es doch der Sache, wirft auf den anderen das richtige Licht und erinnert an das Nötigste: an die Toleranz, Geduld, Schonung und Nächstenliebe, deren jeder bedarf und die daher auch jeder schuldig ist.
In fact, the conviction that the world and man is something that had better not have been, is of a kind to fill us with indulgence towards one another; for what can one expect from being in such predicaments? — Indeed, from this point of view, we might well consider the proper form of address among men to be, not “Monsieur”, “Sir”, and so on, but “Leidensgefährte, Socî malorum, compagnon de misères, my fellow-sufferer”. This may perhaps sound strange, but it is in keeping with the facts; it puts others in a right light; and it reminds us of that, which is after all the most necessary thing in life — the tolerance, patience, regard, and love of neighbor, of which everyone stands in need, and which, therefore, every man owes to his fellow.