Saturday, July 29, 2006

Au-dessus de la mêlée [Romain Rolland & Herbert Marcuse]

Civilization, Madness, Eros?

As though these three words could be anyone epitaphy of death or a verbal phrase one really seems to wander slily in between those, seemly trying to find desperately a home one could call his own somewhere in between the ashes of Athens and Jerusalem, perhaps the oldest intellectual struggle from which that hermentic super-structure known as the Western world has sprung forth in order to take us over, since the very beginning of a world never old and never new. "In between past and future".

I can untie the wires without finding a fashion to recompose the painting and our whole wealth of traditions, pasts and within them our thoughts are laid bare before me in a nakedness that produces more disdain and sadness than courage of amazement. Jewishly speaking it reminds me of my conversation with Einat Ramon regarding Heschel and Bialik on the issue of Halacha and Aggadah. After my remarks on Franz Rosenzweig and Hermann Cohen (which I no longer remember) Einat pointed out that the divisions within the realm of the worldly not only no longer existed but they have never existed. As such the burdenproof is supplied by the Biblical man, in its very one world. One in which the secular and the holy were certainly not one (excluding any talk on the Ancient Near Eastern canons of law where no prescriptions for ritual practices were presented that carried a punishment upon the lack of their fulfillment), the two extremes most certainly existed and their combination is what led these men of old into their "wanderings". This insight was provided to me this evening by the legendary Jacob Chinitz.

Our problem in defining the secular realm is that we're navigating on waters that were more Aegean and Dorian than Phoenician. We're living in a world whose secular view is not the product of this formally casual dialectics that the Biblical man experienced but rather the deterministic attitude of the Classical Greek man in which he rejected all the mysteries, mocking Homer and the Pre-Socratic philosophers with their natural dogmas, even more so the Pythagoreans. This we can clearly read into the dialogues of Plato.

Harvey Cox sheds light on the problem by pointing out that the Greek world only contained space, and as long as our world is a Greek one most certainly Motzkin might have been right when he pointed out that the Marxist idea of progress in fact has no base (in an Augustinian sense coming to the same conclusions as Cox through a different perspective). Such not being the case with the Biblical man. The Hebrew man built his identity on the premise of time, and then the world instead of being empty space populated by the human race become immediately history, containing the dual dimensionality of man that my teacher Avivah has pointed towards while quoting Kafka. Cox's analysis goes way too far but I lack the tools to furnish evidence.

[damn computer crashed and what I wrote hereunder had to be redone.... angrily and with a slender and hindered muse]

It's unclear to me how well Rolland knew Heidegger, but from his biographical information I know he studied philosophy at the ENS which he later on dropped not wanting to be poisoned by the ideology of the times, ideology... such a characteristic word of the 19th century. But in his very own work it seems to me as though his "public statement" (that which every genius makes when his talents bring him to the fore of the public world) wasn't too much different from Marcuse's. Rolland must have known at least Hegel, Brentano and Husserl if not Heidegger. That same statement Marcuse made in 1945, the year when Rolland died and 3 years after the suicide of Stefan and Charlotte Zweig in Brazil. We can't attach an exclusive value to their purpose, as Rolland wasn't a Jew.

A philosopher could be deceived about political matters and then simply recognize his error- wrote Marcuse in 1945, but he couldn't be deceived about a regime that murdered six million Jews and that turned error into an everyday event. This same concern that drove Marcuse outwardly to the world of politics and Rolland inwardly to the world of literature. Both might seem today as part of the same driving force (in the post-archaic and already abstract sense) that springs forth human freedom and the quest of otherness. Rolland's interest in India might have been well different from Heidegger's contact with the Kyoto school, in which he betrayed two millenia of Western moral and metaphysical thinking, and beyond that - obliterated it for the posterity. Murderously erradicating the traditions that contained our pasts and with them our thoughts and per force our consciousness.

Marx and Heidegger might not have worked in opposite directions, but wore the same thin force of the pre-rational man, with whom the Biblical man was in itself rescinded to an other-wordly status that excluded his contingengy. Perhaps Rolland sinned in not being critical enough, and it only reminds me of Zweig's accounts of his travel in India.... clearly attacking Cox at least 40 years before "The Secular City" and moreover didn't sin anymore than Marcuse. But those are after thoughts that must be left for the posterity, for I can only clumsily pose the questions trying to follow the steps of my teacher Arendt, in a world in which it is no longer possible to "Be" in the sense that it was before this realm of dread that wiped out any possibility to de-atrophy the senses in order to come to the fore of the catastrophe and exercise our judgement. In that very realm is my distrust of Christianity and of any sort of theology that doesn't clean itself from Aristotle, but therein I'm being Heideggerian at the very top of my energies.

That's why perhaps Zweig and Rolland might have been the last "men" in the sense of Goethe, even beyond Rachel and Rousseau. Marcuse I don't trust or distrust because my opinion about the making of politics is rather ambiguous. I do not want to obliterate the metaphysical world but in my concern to do politics in order to de-estrange the world and bring it forth so that it can gain a dual dimensionality again, I do obliterate the need and importance of philosophical undertakings. Wasn't it in any case that duality what we've been attacking Hegel for? I've written in my journal already a few times that we quite didn't understand Hegel. Perhaps our misunderstanding is that of being Kantians. In that sense we have to find the truth within our earthly prison and therefore eliminate the "travail" of the Biblical man and exchange it for a rather provincial view, perhaps a little bit burgeois.

Bottom line is... there's so much to learn from Zweig.

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