The Human Condition – Hannah Arendt, 1958

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The University of Chicago Press

p. 50 “Indeed, the most intense feeling we know of, intense to the point of blotting out all other experiences, namely, the experience of great bodily pain, is at the same time the most private and least communicable of all.  Not only is it perhaps the only experience which we are unable to transform into a shape fit for public appearance, it actually deprives us of our feeling for reality to such an extent that we can forget it more quickly and easily than anything else.  There seems to be no bridge from the most radical subjectivity, in which I am no longer “recognizable,”  to the outer world of life.  Pain, in other words, truly a borderline experience between life as “being among men ” (inter homines esse) and death, is so subjective and removed from the world of things and men that it cannot assume an appearance at all.

Since our feeling for reality depends utterly upon appearance and therefore upon the existence of a public realm into which things can appear out of the darkness of sheltered existence, even the twilight which illuminates our private and intimate lives is ultimately  derived from the harsher light of the public realm.  Yet there are a great many things which cannot withstand the implacable, bright light of the constant presence of others on the public scene; there, only what is considered to be relevant, worthy of being seen or heard, can be tolerated, so that the irrelevant becomes automatically a private matter.  This, to be sure, does not mean that private concerns are generally irrelevant; on the contrary, we shall see that there are very relevant matters which can survive only in the realm of the private.  For instance, love, in distinction from friendship, is killed, or rather extinguished, the moment it is displayed in public.  (“Never seek to tell thy love / Love that never told can be.”) Because of its inherent wordlessness, love can only become false and perverted when it is used for political purposes such as the change of salvation of the world.”

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