Being-in-the-World: Selected Papers of Ludwig Binswanger

By Ludwig Binswanger; Jacob Needleman | Go to book overview

Dream and Existence

I

When we are in a state of deeply felt hope or expectation and what we have hoped for proves illusory, then the world—in one stroke —becomes radically "different." We are completely uprooted, and we lose our footing in the world. When this happens we say later— after we have regained our equilibrium—that it was "as though we had fallen from the clouds." * With such words we clothe our experience of a great disappointment in a poetic simile that arises not from the imagination of any one particular poet, but out of language itself. In this respect language is every man's spiritual root. For it is language that "envisions and thinks" for all of us before any one individual brings it to the service of his own creative and intellectual powers. But, now, what of this "poetic simile"? Is it a matter simply of an analogy in the logical sense, or a pictorial metaphor in the poetic sense? To think either is utterly to bypass an understanding of the inner nature of poetic similes. For this nature lies, in fact, behind that to which logic and contemporary

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*
[TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: The idiom in German is aus allen Himmeln fallen (to be bitterly disappointed or utterly disillusioned) and wie vom Himmel gefallen sein (to be astounded). English contains many similar linkages between falling and disappointment, such as, "The ground gave way beneath my feet," "I came down to earth with a thud," and "The rug was pulled out from under me." The interesting —but for Binswanger's point unessential—difference between the two idioms is that the German locates in the sky any person with deeply felt hopes, while the English reserves this place for a person with exhorbitant or unrealistic hopes. The primary point here, however, concerns the falling itself, which is expressed by the idioms of both languages. The phrase "to fall from the clouds," which I have used here, should not, therefore, be understood as implying anything about the reasonableness of the shattered hopes.]

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