Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hospitals and Baudelaire's "Anywhere Out of the World"

Originally, hospitals were way stations, stops along the way where pilgrims would stay in order to refresh themselves and prepare for the next part of their journey.

They were given a place to pause and rest in order to restore their strength for a purpose, to honor God.

Now, hospitals are institutions which seek to heal people, but the reason for doing so has been diffused or all but removed.

In the eighteenth century, coinciding with the Enlightenment, philosophers began assuming that they could restructure society in such a way to perfect mankind.

Hospitals then transformed from being transitory locations to ends in themselves.

Churches went from being transitory agencies to ends in themselves, except that the maladies which people suffer from were not getting healed. Hospitals could never heal the spiritual pain that people suffer from because they were not meant to in the first place. Hospitals were originally supposed to be locations of transition to prepare pilgrims for the next leg of their pilgrimage.

Let’s turn this analysis to “Anywhere out of the world,” by Charles Baudelaire.

The world is a hospital where everyone wants to change beds.

Since God has been displaced by the arrogant self-reliance of philosophers, people are still sick, yet they go nowhere because they have nowhere to go. Holy sites have been discredited since man supposedly can be perfected. The cause of ennui, then, is the notion that man as he is is enough, that he is complete as he is, or that means at his disposal can assist him.

This assumption does not withstand scrutiny within the spiritual dialectic of soul and poet. The poet wants to go to different places, but the soul within him remains silent. Ultimately, the soul cries “Anywhere! Anywhere! As long as it is out of this world!”

Because of the notion of man’s perfectibility, He is forever stuck being sick. The world itself becomes a hospital since there is no longer any belief in arriving at the end of a pilgrimage. Why? Because man has made himself God. This is despair.

No matter what Rationalism may claim, the soul knows that its home is not on this earth.


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