Goethe’s last words

white paint sloshed on all
four walls — as though the one thing
needed were more light

Secondhand admiration is a peculiar thing. It makes sense after all to want to learn from discovering who were the heroes of one’s heroes. But then if hero-worship is intrinsically suspect, isn’t the whole thing in danger of being doubly meaningless? Carl Jung hero-worshipped Johannes Goethe — and believed he was descended from a bastard of Goethe’s. Goethe’s last words were more light. The existence of ‘the unconscious’ which Jung regarded as a scientific fact is accepted as such only by a small minority of people. But the existence of light is beyond doubt. If anything in this universe is ‘true’, it’s that there is light and there is dark. You don’t need to be a scientist, if anything, you need to be a poet — in order to recognise light and dark as metaphors for known and unknown (called by analysts conscious and unconscious). My mother went through a house-decorating phase in the early seventies when she sloshed white paint on everything. What kind of darkness was she in, that she needed ‘more light’? What kind of darkness am I in, that I should dream of painting the walls white?

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