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the golden temple

Yes, the Golden Temple appeared before me - that strange building which, when one thought it was near, became distant, that building which always floated clearly in some inscrutable point of space, intimate with the beholder, yet utterly remote. It was this structure that now came and stood between me and the life at which I was aiming. At first it was as small as a miniature painting, but in an instant it grew larger, until it completely buried the world that surrounded me and filled every nook and cranny of this world, just as in that delicate model which I had once seen the Golden Temple had been so huge that it had encompassed everything else. It filled the world like some tremendous music, and this music itself became sufficient to occupy the entire meaning of the world. The Golden Temple, which sometimes seemed to be so utterly indifferent to me and to tower into the air outside myself, had now completely engulfed me and had allowed me to be situated within its structure.

From 'The Temple of the Golden Pavilion' by Yukio Mishima. Based on historical events, the novel explores the Dostoyevskian obsession of a young monk for the Golden Temple in Kyoto, which he ended up burning to the ground in 1950. The temple has since been rebuilt (glimpsed here before), as a new incarnation of beauty's eternity...

In life, an instant that assumes the form of eternity will intoxicate us; but the Golden Temple knew full well that such an instant is insignificant compared with what happens when eternity assumes the form of an instant, as the temple itself had now done. It is at such times that the fact of beauty's eternity can really block our lives and poison our existences. The instantaneous beauty that life lets us glimpse is helpless against such poison. The poison crushes and destroys it at once, and finally exposes life itself under the light-brown glare of ruin.

For an introduction to Mishima's life and work check out Paul Schrader's documentary 'Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters', which also contains scenes from the book.

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