April 28, 2009

Rilke on Torture

An epigraph in The Heaven Virus by Cliff Pickover, read last night. Dick Cheney has this quote framed on the wall in his office. I imagine.

For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us

—Rainer Maria Rilke, “Duino Elegies”

There’s more power to bringing someone to the edge of death than actually killing them, because then they’re safe. That’s not what Rilke is saying, but that’s how someone like Cheney would read it. Reminds me of this quote:

The job of the interrogator is to safely help the terrorist do his duty to Allah, so he then feels liberated to speak freely.

Torture is liberating.


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