The Most Extravagant Possibilities

In this city they nonchalantly abandon themselves to the most extravagant possibilities. In their usual existence they constantly confuse what is extraordinary with what is forbidden, so that the expectation of something marvelous, which they now permit themselves, appears on their faces as an expression of coarse licentiousness.

The awareness that I knew this city overcame me among all these self-deluding people and filled me with such a sense of opposition that I looked up, wondering how I could communicate what I was feeling. Was it possible that in these rooms there was not one person who was unconsciously waiting to be enlightened about the nature of his surrounding? Some young person who would immediately understand that what was being offered here wasn’t an enjoyment, but rather an example of willpower, more demanding and more severe than could be found anywhere else? I walked around; this truth of mine made me restless. Since it had seized me here among so many people, it brought with it the desire to be expressed, defended, proved.

Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

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