to be or not to be

by Andrea Elizabeth

This point makes me think of narcissism.

“for the very secret of this opera is that its hero is also the force in the other characters. Don Giovanni’s life is the life principle in them. His passion sets in motion the passion of the others.” (p. 119) I think I posted earlier another person’s quote of the specifics.

Firstly, is a vice a worthy subject to set all others’ actions in motion? If one believes in the U.S. intervention in WWII, then yes.

Secondly, let’s say that one is very self absorbed and does not consider how his actions affects others. Let’s say he reflects on this and makes a very conscious effort to consider others, but against his natural gravity towards self. Thus he studies with his mind how to consider others. His thoughts go, I’m not thinking of myself even though I am having a very negative reaction to thinking about this other person. I will to think of them, though. ‘Other, other, other, other’ he screams to himself. By this seeking to drown out self, he is desperately trying to convince himself not to be affected by the conscious shifting of his center of gravity. If he despises that it takes such an effort, he then pretends he does not have to do so. He assumes a calm, ‘other, of course’. He pretends he does not exist. Does this pretense then become the elephant in the room? Is there another option?

Don Giovanni would not assume a false demeanor, as that would be death to self. He refuses the spirit’s admonition to repent or die. He’d rather die than die. Probably because he believes in eternal life. That he will not really die, even if he will suffer torment for being true to himself.

The antidote, I am thinking, is to love the other, not just to consciously think about the other. Love identifies with the other as self. It is a psychic transference that is genuine, not pretended. This cannot be faked or instantaneously attained. One has to genuinely recognize self in the other. And be right. Don Giovanni probably mistakenly assumed that the women were as pleasure seeking as he was. And maybe they were, and that is why they were seduced. But they wanted to be his one and only, and not an inconsequential number. Maybe that is the difference between men and women. So for love to occur, either the woman has to become like the man and not be monogamous, or the man has to become like the woman and be monogamous. I think what each woman is hoping is that the experience with her would be greater than the other women and thus inspire him to choose only her. He would then recognize himself in her as the greatest. But that would take reflection and thus take him out of the immediate, and would violate his character as seducer in the opera. Kierkegaard thinks that the spirit who carts him off is triumphant, but that is only because he makes him suffer for his committed pursuit and denies him access to pleasure, not that he stops the commitment. Don Juan is more committed to his pursuing than to the object. To stop desiring is to die.

I suppose the Orthodox response is that our passions are not to be cut off, but redirected. He didn’t really have a worthy alternative. Elvira and the Commandatore were the voice of guilt and stifling/death, not of a higher desiree in whom one can find oneself more completely. And if this is Christ, then there are the Saints who are like him, and then there is forgiveness for those who fall short, and the recognition of self in those who fall short. But that takes reflection, which takes a pause in pursuing temporal desires.