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Freeman, M. (2020). The Sacred Beauty of Finite Life: Re-Imagining the Face of the Other. Psychoanal. Inq., 40(3):161-172.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40(3):161-172

Original Articles

The Sacred Beauty of Finite Life: Re-Imagining the Face of the Other

Mark Freeman, Ph.D.

With Freud’s brief 1915 meditation “On Transience” as a point of entry, the present article draws on the author’s relationship with his mother during the ten years of her dementia as a vehicle for exploring the process by which “sacred beauty” may be revealed amidst the inexorable movement of psychophysical decay and the inevitability of death. As the author avows, the capacity to discern such beauty may be long in coming; owing to both the ravages of dementia and the ego-driven needs and wishes of the caregiver, it may be all but occluded. The task, therefore, is to become present enough to the afflicted person to let her be in her otherness. Doing so is not a matter of effort or will; it is a matter of allowing what the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas refers to as “the face of the Other” to assume priority and to thereby displace one’s needs and wishes by attentive care. At the center of this inquiry are the terms “sacred,” “beauty,” and “finite life.” By examining them one-by-one and discerning the nexus of their interrelationship, we may be better poised to re-imagine the face of the Other and to recognize, in life’s transience, what is most precious and enduring.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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