Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hungry for Sincerity

Less than twenty-four hours make the difference between life and death, between choices and spades, between fate and strike. The post-mortem of a strife, longer than the life of a book being written and perhaps just as much pained. I cannot help the feeling of looking at those pasts as though they were lost forever, as though no repair or atonement was possible. But just as shamelessly I could say that I do not have regrets, because the choices were not as simple or as blackened but rather hued in between angry morning and tar-coloured nights. Days during which every sort of possible pleasure made the difference between being me and somebody else, between losing my sanity and recovering it for a couple of hours, or for a day even sometimes.

Two years endlessly trying to recover my pasts and my persona, and by detour committing more betrayals than one could count with the hands of a hundred people, so many of them as fall into oblivion. It hurts, I will never deny it. It is a stone in your shoe for as long as one has lived, it is a lack of repair and a restless nightmare. Those faces all pass in front of me today, this very morning as I feel myself shiver before the end of this chapter. Before being into the world again. I would have never missed these two years, had I had the choice to do so. Sooner or later I might come to regret it, even this afternoon as well. I might have strived so long for nothing, I might have committed all possible mistakes on earth only in order to see this day dawn on me, but I cannot think about that anymore. I cannot think about that world whereby I shall be so comfortable at home. I prefer the striving. The journeys. The lack of wisdom and excess in witty.

Those journeys in which I created worlds of my own, as a Semitic God only in order to destroy them all over again. Most of those worldly buildings were not even of my own liking, and they succeeded in displeasing me all the more, in destroying my speech, my manifold forms to translate myself into spaces and times. They blurred my history. But I carry no shame to this very day, I do not feel sorry for myself or anybody else. I only did what I had to do, in order to remain alive and to wear this caffeine-tanted smile that deliberately surrounds me. Perhaps I will never stop feeling guilty and feeding my disappointment in small bits of glowing anxiety. But I remained alive. I lived through the most intense years struggling with God, but above all with myself. Struggling to find out whether my limits had any working powers no more, whether I could bring myself to make the right decisions. Small everydaily choices in between potatoes and beans that helped me keep unwounded. The roads wound before me. I became mute and unable to move invisible spaces, unable to make real choices.

Life will take its share due of time, but as long as I can be eternal enough as to build my own worlds it no longer matters. I have different tools to look at myself. To loath myself. But it is not important. The worlds were at stake, when the chips were down.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Into the world again
As though the fringes would cover me up
When the hinges uncovet my recklessness
Sailing away in a urban boat
That contains more fear than love
That contains an unknown form of comfort

The city is seemly overtly illuminated
And tirelessly I shiver into the motions of machines
In plastic-wrapped dreams
That resemble being childish
And sometimes even queer
Living in a phone-boot

The summer rains frentically on me
With smiles packed in vertigo
The pleasure of regret
The surrounding voices
That cut through the flesh not unlike leaves
Falling from within a signal of no-life

Too many things run in front of me
My pasts, my sorrows, my shame
The days of old, always fresh anew
In the darkest alleys of a book
Whose author feared, whose author murdered himself unto
A certain morning, over the dread of cold paper

I let myself go loosen
As though all this had no repair
Had no substantial condition
Untrodden paths marked by empty glasses
By highways stricken with silences
That spring from within a sore wall

I no longer suffer from his ailments
Which once meant life a whole
Then turned into dust
And awoke to a forest three weeks ago
But it isn't important
After all, he's no longer an oak.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ofer's Table & The Hours


I thought about this note ever since Friday, day in which I contemplated the possibility of devoting sometime to this stream but the heat, the smells of Shabbos and the contemptuous glittering eye of Tel Aviv made it impossible. One should not write this kind of postings as though one is writing memories from a long-forgotten childhood among nuns and strict grammar teachers but rather as a journal diary, very different from the impressions you get when entering St. Stephen's and more in the spirit of Bergson, it's difficult to shape styles intentionally though unless one's writing satire, and because of an underlying discussion over a poem of Vater Goethe (as Rahel called him) that's very far from possible.

Journeys always take unexpected turns, as though one were to turn asides and inspect ants alongs the way just for long enough as to miss the last bus; turning aside like Moses, "for whose works are praiseworthy?"; the sentence in itself has a very Christian flavour which challenges the limitations of the English language, the only language I claim fit for my writing. There are journeys through the most diverse natural phenomena; journeys through Italian churches, through Orthodoxy, through self-discovery, through philosophy, and perhaps above them all is Plato's, the journey of the "good". The latter takes for me a rather different form than the bi-partite worldness of the Athenian and I feel much closer to Abraham, as though it were all a travailing with God's designs and desires, particularly with desire... as though the world were created at every moment of the day.

I've journeyed through two different cities and even as many wonderful men in the course of my life as an adult, one that remains as a pistol-shot in the middle of mass and the second as a thief that abducts you at night and disappears with the waving of the skies, all camouflaged beneath the tallith of the Eternal wafting in manifold blues down a flu-striken highway. It all must have started in a church I suppose, perhaps the Liturgy of the Hours after the Easter somewhere in Emmanuel.

I remember Ofer's table then too, with a little bit of regret and a very very saddled happiness that always intoxicated me to the point of physical pain yet sparkling with circles of vicious tenderness and the most whimsical of all possible moments. Almost lifeless enough as to become a dogma for a new creed. Those weren't happy days, I saw myself obliged to lie too often, to covet my father's nakedness and my own as though the gravest of all possible sins had been committed. Days in which the world trembled underneath with each posession, each achievement and each day of life. A punishment that could only be ameliorated by iridiscent cups of coffee in a cafe that no longer exists, whereby you could see a very long street of Tel Aviv and yet hide from within tall well-brushed plants.

I used to write some rhymes there, all of them truely bad. Plus it was worse than that, Ofer couldn't understand the language. We seemed to have been educated in different worlds and I felt envious with rage. I for one in the Classics, the Victorian literature next to Goethe and Heine, the New Testament and Existentialism. He in the other hand in things I had never uttered before out of shame - utility, leisure, amusement, credulity, security, trust, restlessness, reckless. My education all seemed to have been decided upon only in order not to provide absolutely any skills for life, an education that could have been useful only had I been born in a different social class, either very low or very high. And since I am a Jew I remained chained to the burgeoisie. All what my education could provide was a possibility to write.

That of course in a very narrow view, for even when I no longer yearn for a home with the Lord of the Cross and the whimsies of virgins and mythologies that was the only possibility for my mind to have been born as a thinker. It was in the Gospels, the Mysteries, the Hymns and the Saints that my curiosity sparked one day during my early adolescence never to let its voice down. At the time it seemed as though he was just trying to humiliate me about every single detail, and accordingly I couldn't help the necessity for hurting cynical answers to the least troubling and most everydaily of questions. He was one of my first journeys to adulthood, and by that I do not mean the people whose nakedness I uncoveted, but those with whom I uncoveted an own nakedness that can be frentically and morbidly observed ever at the table.

I would lie by saying that I didn't miss him, but truth is he had fallen into the most absolute oblivion. He's still in oblivion, and I know it because the blistering thorns became entirely painless... at most very exciting and sweetening to the extreme, but certainly painless. But he's not been the only journey, which makes me rather happy. It makes me even more so that he hadn't been around as to see me, because then I could have felt I loved him just like Franz loved Sabina and the disappointment before the nihilism inherent to the enterprise would have poisoned me. He didn't meet Vitaly, in whom he would find very little pleasure other than the plastic one through which he takes delight in being Greek. He doesn't know Vitaly also made me tremble, so hard that I was willing to atone him for the silence, because somebody wrote me letters that were harder to read than Aquinas. Not because they were overtly wordly and complicated for the language was rather cheap and almost systematically excerpted from a couple of novels.

But somehow those were the letters of a man who wrote honest things, who truely hated me with uttermost respect and who never took pride in silence, but rather self-shame. That makes it quite yellowed when weighed against somebody who never wrote a simple word. But that was the design of the Providence, perhaps a single word or touch about 6 months ago would have killed me in the fashion of Theseus, not because I hurted at him but because I hurted at hyself exceedingly. He just decided to rain one day when I had wanted nobody. That's Norrine's... A man who calls you only when he's by no means needed. And for a change, I never wrote to him honest things, only perhaps I discovered literature isn't quite like rhaetorics only very late in life. Late in my adolescence I mean. Perhaps in every line I wrote him even the "and" or "," were some sort of disguise, a lie, a meant-to-be metaphor for an immediately necessary form of Angst.

It has taken me more than a year to forget those days, except that one when we went out for breakfast after which I wrote that poem I threw away and that happened to have come true to the detail in the last week. I wasn't thirsty to flee but in little circles I defined Zeno and tip-toed all the way to Jerusalem in the most timid of all fashions. It took me a lot of ennui, and not enough alcohol. But I stopped feeling guilty for a change, because I simply saw the contigency in the idea of survival to such an extent that I wasn't even open to any discussion about it. After that day shortly following our dismise when I found myself at Adam's table for a whole day... after that morning suicide attempt and that letter I wrote him pasted on a postcard of the Swiss landscape, quotations from the prophets and a passport-size picture of Anne Frank. I lost mostly everything I had but my books, even my old faces and my old eyes and my old mouth. But I have no regrets, and were I to be in such state of despair, I would do it again. Again would I journey so far down the mind to places so dark that not even Ofer can look at.

And even when for some death would be a preferable option, I couldn't make that choice. More than anything I wanted to live and couldn't care less about the price. If this price was unhappiness, then I was willing to pay. The thought of life and death, specially death. It doesn't escape me anyway, that very same thought, but I'm no longer swollen by the fear. I thought I just had to live to remember the world; to remember Tel Aviv and my father, my little tiny apartment with the old Polish cushions and the dinners I made out when my salon guests would be around. The past would crouch before me and ask for a time out in some holiday resort, in the fashion of Etienne Gilson.

I thought the struggle would end one day, until I stopped struggling. It lost worth, I gained life. And I kept waiting and waiting on and on and praying... I prayed for happiness, for freedom, for joy. As my struggle halted I saw happiness coming from somewhere and I began to think that was perhaps the beginning of happiness. But I deceived myself, perhaps because the waiting had taken too long. I didn't want answers any longer, for they were too simple as to attain the meaningfulness of the questions and my world became Lessing's; at least thus said my friends during my birthday dinner which was rather lame.

One day I just woke up slightly older, thinking that it wasn't the beginning of happiness or of anything. That this life itself was happiness and that for nothing in the world I would have traded Ofer or Vitaly, my days in yeshiva and my nightly escapades, James's gloom and Stephan's varsities. How could I trade on the hills of Beit Jamal and the nightly views of the ancient towns? Perhaps the Vesper and Lent? No. Even the Liturgy of the Hours so much not. The fact that I have received a past not as a willy-nilly but as a testament tells me only the examination of it can be contraceptive to the future suffering, not to prevent it but only in order to be able to live with it as though you were living with an old maid that betrays you from time to time but always lovingly turns to you.

It was in the weeks, the days and the hours. It was in them that my happiness was, everyday in simple living. In the life that I gained by splitting my thinking space into being a person and being a thinker. Happiness can never mean completion or fulfillment, at least for the Biblical man. I returned to the table and found it not unlike the day before, because I had been there that day too. The walls belong to my past as much as the dust and the untidiness and the man. I could sit at the table and tell the truth, I could even show anger.

I smoked a cigarette, and it was the same old little plate. He looks much older - not the plate, but that's an irrelevant thought. Before I left I was no longer afraid it would be the last time I saw him, because if it were even so he's one the treasures of my past and that unlike Sylvia I'm not any willing to bury with untimely memoirs, trying to build new layers of concrete and paviment for a new season stage; I suffer from stage fright. I thought that day I loved him a little bit, I hated him a little bit. Just enough to be good to him, just enough to be good to me. Just enough to find happiness in the hours, in the hour. "I'm hourly" said Goethe, and for a change I no longer counted the hours and mourned over him in my sleep like Tereza. How inscure! but how beautiful too. I didn't read Homer this time, for perhaps I'm too one of the moderns:

"All words like Peace and Love
All sane affirmative speech
Had been soiled, profaned, debased
To a horrid mechanical screech" (W.A. Auden)

I wasn't sufficiently embarrassed as not to have my own thoughts and my fears. I stopped fearing that he would find me one day down the street and would think me unbeautiful. How venomous it was to hold my own thoughts about him, but how radically truer. I discovered the most important thing to know about Ofer, he isn't an Oak as I had thought. He's a desk-man. For I discovered late in history he's got one, just like I became acquainted with Marx. It's beautiful to think he's travailing somewhere out there, and I no longer see fit the writing of riddles and puzzles as not to let some name in or out. He's already a Writing on the Wall. He can't be an Oak, "Nature is dead, mein Kind".

Monday, August 07, 2006

Letters from Jerome Kohn to me

It's weird after all this time I've been unable to put a note about Hannah, and so it remains. But as a consolation I can publish two letters I received from Jerome.


Dear Ari,

Thank you very much for what you wrote. I've read your letter over morethan once, and want to say how interesting I find it, and how sensitiveand intelligent I think the writer of this letter must be. "Wohl dem,der keine Heimat hat, er sieht sie noch in Traume" -- what a wonderfulway to understand Pariahdom.

I don't know if Hannah ever felt fully athome in the world. In 1954, when she was here in America, relativelysafe, and relatively well off, she wrote this poem:

Ich lieb die Erde
so wie auf der Reise
den fremden Ort
und anders nicht.

Somehow I think you will appreciate that. Weimar-like letters--yes, the Internet has done away with that sort ofthing for the most part, yet not entirely! I don't know if there is anyway to study Hannah's ideas on judgment other than by entering into athinking dialogue with her.

When I try to do that, on the one hand,there is a lot of time spent reflecting on specific works of art; on theother hand, it sometimes seems absolutely clear to me that the thinkingego has to go through willing to come to judgment, which makes herremarks on Kant and the French Revolution so very meaningful.

With all good wishes,



Dear Ari,

Thanks for writing again, and so quickly, and so late at night. I am impressed by what you say about the "banality" of goodness--bywhich, I take it, you mean good works. About that, I think Hannah wouldagree. Do you remember in THE HUMAN CONDITION how she differentiatesbetween goodness and good works? Following Jesus of Nazareth, she saysthat the goodness of good works--however useful they might be for avariety of puposes--vanishes as soon as the works appear in the world. She goes farther than Jesus when she says that the attempt to makegoodness appear in the world is not only fruitless in itself but is alsodestructive of the space of appearances.

We might discuss this a bit more, in time, and if you like.



Dear Ari,

Thanks for writing. I'm about to leave on a trip and don't have the time to respond to the many different things you say. I had no idea that the goodness of good works would prove so complicated. That in itself is interesting. First, the goodness of good works is not comparable in any way to evil and evil deeds.Second, it is the pure, transcendent quality or idea of goodness (thus Jesus says: Why do you call me good? God alone is good) that cannot appear in the phenomenal world. In one sense that is a tautology, but it has political implications that Machiavelli, for example, saw clearly: If you turn the other cheek to him who strikes you, you unleash evil in the world. Thus he found it necessary to "teach princes how not to be good," which doesn't mean at all that he taught them to be evil--he never did that, which is a wild misinterpretation of this most subtle of Renaissance political writers. And it is thus that Hannah says: the doing of good works is destructive of the public space in which everything appears to everyone. This is where one has to begin, I believe, in discussing these matters.



The Philosopher & The Film-Maker

... In the world of image semiotics, which beyond mere representations brings along a heavy political burden it is quite impossible to separate the world of the philosopher from that of the film-maker. That reminds of Marcuse's remarks on the rise of analytical philosophy and the struggle of the continental schools to overwrite it; it wasn't a mere struggle of philosophical schools and tendences but rather a struggle for philosophy itself, for the making of philosophy.

Having very little to inherit from traditions in my day, I affiliated to continental philosophy not only out of existential concerns (not existentialist) but as a part of a legacy which I bestowed upon myself being a guest in continental culture; for as a Jew living in the age of postmodern criticism it was the only resource available in order to save myself from the completion of the Heideggerian prophecy of "De-struction or De-structuration, to which I've returned to and fro endless times.

Being a little bit of a modernist in the Arendtian fashion I can but ponder on whether this holds any significance for me personally and for the world. Wisely Mary McCarthy phrased the struggle of continental philosophy in America already in the 70's: The philosopher in his activity realizes that he has a common world with the rest of humanity, the common world being in itself the thinking space in which he performs experiments just like the scientist in the laboratory.

If the common world isn't all that common to the philosopher as much as it is to the beggar and to the businessman then philosophy in itself is a dead enterprise with but little to offer other than scholasticism, which we've well worn out and even off from the skin of our de-traditions as they stand today. Karl Jaspers phrased it in a tantamount paradox: Philosophy must become practical and concrete without ever forgetting its origins.

And from my experience I could as well say the European film maker does share this world of the philosopher in which the metaphysical truths even when shattered (just like kitsch and romance) must be kept alive and rather less adrift in order to make space for the world of appearances to exist bodily. Yet the philosopher can't become the film maker or viceversa and that leads us to question what's become of mimesis for both.

In a sorry world like ours at times films carry a weight of reality that has been wiped out from the world, since no possible representation carries a human message if it's not actually an outward drive of an inward need that does exist down there in the world of men's affairs. Does something exist out there in the world of men that has not even a name?- Words of Hannah Arendt. The same applies to continental philosophy, it's an historically conditioned response to human needs. In the Platonic sense (which was also Lessing's) things could only be become in Athens when they would enter human discourse. Things that couldn't be discussed undoubtedly did exist, but they did not become humanized in a sense that they could elevate themselves from the world of "Ideas" and wander somewhere in between.

Contemporary film as a part of the entertainment world isn't only a form of postmodern spirituality but also a philosophical undertaking in a way that philosophy isn't, because its mimesis doesn't find an earthly place among the laymen. Film is perhaps the form of artistic expression I want to devote the most thought to. Film is that which remains untold in between the lines of the poem and the ecstasis of the philosopher. Film isn't only about politics, it is about being slightly more human.

There're only two safe ways to achieve this which are cultural, therefore artificial (we've seen how history and nature have failed us at that): The paradox and the semblance. Philosophy being the first and Film the second.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Abenteuer, Traeume Kriegs.

Trotzdem ist es ja aber so sehr ruehig,
Denn darf ich mich nicht wenn auch in Schweige, na hoeren.
Und momentan wird es nie lange darauf ankommen
In Jedem Fall wird er nicht geboren durch Zeitungen
Und niemals meine Briefe wiederauf wuerdt angewort.

Zweifellos der Kunstler lebt noch darin
Und das Alles wissen gefaellt ihm doch
Aber zu spaet geboren, oh freunde, oh Gott!
Kindes Endymion
Nach Lessing nachgeboren, und dann lustig aber gliklos
Koennte er nicht schon mit Gott anfahren
Oder denken
Vielleicht kvetchen, na
Sein reisebegletter wird gekommen
Mit einer tiefe Tasche, doch aus Prag!
Aber ware er dahin schon glaublos
Und Deutsches Bank darft das nicht vergessen.

"Credit" sagte Heine,
Noch der Lehrer korrigiert:
"La religion, la religion"
Hauptsaechlich Problem des Menschengeschlechts
Zeitlich wir haben gerne Zweifel als Glaube
Und besoneres eben... Zeitlichkeit heisst damals
Der die Heiddeger klaerte auf
Wir meinten "Sorgen".

Und sogar drei Stunde in Erwartung
Wurde ich jemand ganz anders bekommt
Der meister sagt.

Aber noch dann wurde ich den kleines von der Gotten
Eben so wann singt meine Tasche "Jerusalem"
In einem kleines Anschlag
Wenn auch das meint
"Schwierige Frage"
Damit wusst mann machen?
Woran? Wovon?

Nach der Zeitung:
"Bureuacracy is the new form of
Despotism - one in which no one
is to blame"

Wenig traurig, und nur noch halb wahrlos
Ich trinke Jasmintee mit Efraim
Und erinnere mich ueber Grass
Als Peter nie lange schreibt ab.
Er ist nie lange.