Saturday, September 30, 2006

(sketches) דרור יקרא

דרור יקרא לבן עם בת
וינצרכם כמו בבת
נעים שמכם ולא ישבת
שבו ונוחו ביום שבת

He shall summon freedom
For the son and the daughter
He shall guard over you
As the beloved one
Pleasant are your names
They shall never cease
For in the seventh day
They shall dwell and rest
(free translation is mine)

Last night when I was in the middle, I lost my post on the Midrash of Love because of some power failure, and then unlike other times I thought perhaps I'll write now entirely something else, but without deleting the previous stekch. I want to speak obviously about the philosophers, the connection between Rose and Arendt and Rosenzweig in the thread of St. Augustine I believe is the pivotal focus of my idea, which is the writing of a Midrash that can't be told, that of the philosopher's Love in Modernity. Because the writing itself is a "Love's Work" it isn't meant to be a theoretical essay, and I believe it will be ready by the end of next week or even a couple of days from now. The translation into English of the "piyut" is mine, and it is in itself the text in which I want to base my writing on, for this reason I will necessarily rely on a great deal of Jewish literature to be interwoven with Athens and from within the wombs of their belligerance to write my Midrash about... about that. I start to see Aviva's idea of the dreamtext and I believe I hinted at it previously when I spoke about dreamweaving, possible realities and photographs. The choice of the "piyut" wasn't a deliberate one, after I listened to it last night from a song of an Indie-New Era band from Britain that sings Hebrew music in a very original way I asked my friend about that song, and the people in our company informed me that it is one of the songs for Shabbat day.

I found the piyut in my after-meals blessing book, and thought it would be much more personal to start writing about the Midrash of Love from a piyut rather than from St. Augustine, in particular because this piyut doesn't have a Midrash. Other explanations will come later; I'm quite certain of what I want to write in the end but I'm a lot more certain about my willingness to journey there.

Biblical sources for דרור:

דרור is a biblical word almost unique in its kind, coming an unused root (very ancient) meaning to move rapidly, [Greek]; freedom, deliverance, spontaneous outflow, clarity, libery, pure. The root is undoubtedly דרר. I can think of several Greek words with a similar root (as used by Plato) that denote movement, which usually means "through the air". According to Rashi (this interpretation is rather allegoric) the word is derived from דור "to dwell", this immediately reminds me of Heidegger and Lessing (from the essay "Dwelling, Building, Thinking"): a person may then reside wherever he pleases. According to Ibn Ezra it is the name of the swallow which sings while free, but, when captive, refuses to eat until it dies. Nachmanides connects it with דור "generation", as in Ecclesiastes. It is mentioned as a "swallow" in Psalms and Proverbs; there's some responsa literature of rather modern times on whether it is a bird fit to eat. Rashi doesn't seem to provide more information that the Bible commentary does, which relies often on him.


Leviticus 25:10
וקדשתם את שנת החמשים שנה וקראתם דרור בארץ לכל-ישביה יובל הוא תהיה לכם ושבתם איש אל-אחוזתו ואיש אל-משפחתו תשבו.
"You shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim freedom through the land to all the dwellers thereof, it shall be as a shofar's blast for you; thereby shall return every man to his estates and a man unto his family you shall return"

Midrash - ילקוט שמעני
וקראתם דרור אין דרור אלא חירות. אמר ר' יהודה מה לשון דרור כמדייר בי דיירא כאידרא ומסחר בכל מדינה.

Exodus 30:23
ואתה קח-לך בשמים ראש מר-דרור חמש מאות וקנמן-בשם מחציתו חמשים ומתאים וקנה-בשם חמישים במתאים
"Take thou unto thee the choicest spices, of pure [flowing] myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinammon half as much, even two hundred and fifty, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty"

Midrash - ילקוט שמעוני
ואתה קח לך בשמים ראש, מנין למרדכי בתורה שנאמר ואתה קח לך בשמים ראש מר דרור ומתרגמינן מרי דיכי.

[] Tanhuma gives very little information on this section of the Bible, I have the impression Rashi's reading comes mainly from Midrash Rabba on Leviticus but the text makes a very difficult reading. I'll try to inspect it again some other time.


Isaiah 61:1
רוח אדני עלי
יען משח יהוה אתי
לבשר ענוים
שלחני לחבש לנשברי-לב
לקרא לשבוים דרור
ולאסורים פקח-קוח
"The spirit of the Lord God is upon me
Because God hath anointed me
To gladden the humble;
He hath sent me to bind up the
broken hearted,
To proclaim liberty to the
And to those bound
A complete opening of the eyes"

Jeremiah 34:8
הדבר אשר-היה אל-ירמיהו מאת יהוה אחרי כרת המלך צדקיהו ברית את-כל-העם אשר בירושלים לקרא להם דרור.
The word that came unto Jeremiah from God, after the king Zedekiah had covenanted with all the people that were in Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them.

Jeremiah 34:15
ותשבו אתם היום ותעשו את הישר בעיני לקרא דרור איש לרעהו ותכרתו ברית לפני בבית אשר-נקרא שמי עליו
And you had by now returned and had done what is righteous in my eyes, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and you had covenanted before me in the house whereon my name is proclaimed

Jeremiah 34:17
לכן כה-אמר יהוה אתם לא שמעתם אלי לקרא דרור איש לאחיו ואיש לרעהו הנני קרא לכם דרור נאם-יהוה אל-החרב אל-הדבר ואל-הרעב ונתתי אתכם לזועה לכל ממלכות הארץ
Therefore thus said God: You have not hearkened unto me, proclaiming liberty, every man to his brother, and every man to his neighbour; behold, I proclaim for you a liberty, said God, unto the sword, unto the pestilence, unto the famine; and I will give you away to the terror of the kingdoms of the earth

Midrash - ילקוט שמעוני
מקץ שבע שנים תשלחו איש את אחיו העברי אשר ימכר לך ועבדך שש שנים, שנו רבותינו משגלה שבט ראובן וגד וחצי שבט מנשה בטלו יובלות שנאמר וקראתם דרור בארץ לכל יושביה בזמן שכל יושביה עליה ולא בזמן שגלו מקצתם.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Writing Love's Midrash: Augustine, Arendt, Kundera, Rose

What was so impressive about Hannah Arendt as a person?

Her immense vitality and curiosity. She used to say you had to think with body and soul or better not at all. She was distinguished by this complete engagement of her person for that which she thought and that which she did. -Joachim Fest.

... At times one has to ponder for long enough if he really wants to write, because writing contrasted to living contains the desire of not having, the striving of not-being-as-yet; one usually doesn't write out of pleasure but rather of sheer necessity. Some might exercise a very dumbfounded criticism of this enterprise, but for some of us gaining a voice anew outside the entanglements of our lively encounters with others is a compelling task, that most likely is never achieved. That's how one never talk about Love with the Bible, because it's all written in such a way that it becomes written anew in every motion of one's body, and therefore one turns aside and finds the Midrash not merely for inspiration, but more in order to find that thick concrete of words that are bodily in the conversation between God and man, men.

Some other times you hear a story from a friend, particularly one that has to do with love and because you know it is certainly not a dream - it lacks a certain amount of realism, you discover yourself hearing a Midrash, Love's Midrash. In the quest of Modernity this particular tale has a two-fold meaning, one in which the Beloved (what is being told) escapes the writing as a Phoebus while the Beloved experiences the loss and desires, his words desire him with the contempt of impossibility. Modernity is a Midrash about love, in which the Beloved can't hear and the Lover can't write.... It's a recurrent human story in which the divorce between words and worlds can only be mended by the mystic, not by that who can explain the world with its intricacies but by the one that can add some meaning to the moment being experienced as though it were unique in its kind and irreparably solemn. Man experiences the solitude of God in mute pangs of despair, yet when he jumps into the Ocean he's unable to swim finding himself anew chained to both his heavenly home and his earthly soil; he's only free to desire.

And because the Rabbis can't be trusted in the age of doubt, since stories no longer mend the world... one turns to the philosopher and discovers himself by means of wisdom his life thought, but his mind never did. He discovers that thinking is in itself loving, but it isn't love at work. He laughs, because that's what God would do in his place. The laughter of embarrassment, of the ageing man who can no longer laugh about death, he can only laugh with her. She experiences anger too, because of mistrust... how could you, philosopher, distrust your older sister? And you who read Pirkei D'Rabbi Nathan and prayed for a winged-world, you can't trust her, it's not about doing philosophy anymore. It's all about speaking, about wilderness; dont you remember that Midrash on the Song of Songs? It's a book about two lovers, about creatureliness, yet lovers that can't speak. The desert itself is your language, your uniqueness. We can't trust death as philosophers because it no longer holds true to hope, from our unearthly homes the world seems less dense, less sore. "It is memory and not expectation (for instance the expectation of death in Heidegger) that gives unity and wholeness to human existence" (H. Arendt, "Love & Augustine").

But the effect is inevitable, mortality is the only driving force to poetize a world; that's why the divine haute-societe of the Pantheon resembled Auschwitz much more than Auschwitz resembled itself; the Gods also remind me of Thereza's mother, for whom life was nothing but a sequence of farts and sweat... That brilliant woman, who didn't think like Eve, who didn't know the serpent and never loved Mephiboshet. She might as well have been a Greek goddess, not unlike those pre-enlightened beautiful men in the shores of Tel Aviv, who always remind me of death, not of any death but that of Stalin's son, who died out of the mere inability to clean his own shit in the most literal sense of the word; he experienced a metaphysical death; not unlike that of the lawyer in my story, who jumped from that tall building in New York, I felt very sorry for having assassinated my best friend in literature, but once I discovered Virginia Wolff would have done the same about herself and then comit suicide, I started to think it wouldn't be fair to myself or to the world, therefore I decide to replace my errings with a sin; being a good Christian instilled on me the conviction to take upon my brother's sin.

The Philosophical Madonna: Cohn-Bendit on Arendt

December 3, 2005. DIE WELT.

The philosophical Madonna

Daniel Cohn-Bendit recalls his relationship with Hannah Arendt and reflects on her and his generation

Die Welt: What did Hannah Arendt mean to you, when you were still a real, radical leftist 68er?

Daniel Cohn-Bendit: That's complicated, because she was a friend of my parents. I knew her and was aware of her theses as a child. After emigrating in 1934, she belonged to a group of intellectuals in Paris along with my parents, Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt's husband Heinrich Blücher. My father and Blücher were interned together at the beginning of the war, and that resulted in a deep friendship. But you make a point in your question: Hannah Arendt was not the most influential thinker for me at that time.

Fred Stein
When did you meet Hannah Arendt?

When she held a laudatio for Karl Jaspers in 1958, when he received the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels. My father had just died and she visited my mother. The second time I saw her was at the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt. I was there with my school class – and she happened to be there too.

When did you begin to get interested in Hannah Arendt's work?

In the 1970s, as the discussions about totalitarianism became more and more pressing. I was a leftist anti-communist and when I came to Germany in 1968, I was perplexed by the reluctance to compare communism with national socialism, which was rooted in German history.

Did your referring to Hannah Arendt's "The Origins of Totalitarianism" lead to conflicts with your colleagues?

There was conflict from the outset, because when I was expelled from France in 1968, I was absolutely certain that, despite my revolutionary convictions, I would prefer to live in West Germany than in the GDR. I saw in France and the GDR bourgeois societies – that's what we called them back then – that needed reform but not totalitarian systems.

What does Hannah Arendt's still controversial book "Eichmann in Jerusalem" mean to you?

That the demonisation of the Nazis doesn't help us in the long run. The most insane thing, that has to be understood is that the Nazis were "normal people"! Eichmann was a nobody who was only to achieve the status and commit the annihilation he did in a totalitarian, totally racist system.

But some of the claims that Hannah Arendt makes in "Eichmann in Jerusalem" don't hold up historically. Take for example her complete condemnation of the Jewish councils...

Nonetheless, the question that she asks with the Jewish council remains relevant: when does one accept developments and at what point does one put up resistance? It's possible that Hannah Arendt was not fair on the Jewish councils. But her basic question is still legitimate: Was it right to collaborate in the first place? Because it wasn't just the Jews who didn't want to see the annihilation that was facing them. When the western democracies signed a treaty with Hitler in Munich in 1938, they didn't see the annihilation potential that was being developed in Germany. It's basically this question that is still being asked in Israel. The injustice that Israel is doing to Palestine is related to the feeling that one doesn't want to ever end up in the same situation again. That's a problem that, in my opinion, has not been dealt with adequately – but it's a real problem.

Hannah Arendt's position on Zionism was complicated in an interesting way; she vacillated between agreement and rejection. Do you see your own position reflected in that?

Hannah Arendt realised that Jews wanted to have a place somewhere where they could live in peace as Jews. That's a kind of primary Zionism that I can understand for the generation of people who lived through the Holocaust. I was born later. And I am A-Zionist. That means I am neither pro nor anti Zionist. I can understand Jews wanting to live in Israel – but I want to remain a Jew of the diaspora. Hannah Arendt sensed in 1947 and 48 that the violent-military assertion of the state of Israel would lead to a permanent state of conflict. At the same time, the Six Day War represented a reality: there was only one state of Israel and despite all criticism, she stood in solidarity with the people of Israel. She did not want to do away with Israelis.

On another subject: Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger. Can you explain that for us?

No! But that's the nice thing about life: love and sex cannot be explained rationally, philosophically. I always say: Hannah Arendt is the philosophical Madonna. Put it this way - Madonna is the woman who said: I'll take the man that I want. Whether that's Christ - who she takes down from the cross in her famous music video – or her sports teacher, or whoever else. And Hannah Arendt is a political philosopher who can think radically, who takes on her teacher Heidegger with her radical thinking, who falls totally in love with this man – and the love was enduring. It was buried deep in her head and in her body. Some relationships are not to be explained; one has to accept that.

Back to politics...

We've been talking about politics the whole time. It's crazy to assert that Hannah Arendt should only have politically correct relationships. By the way, she also had a politically correct love. The interesting thing about her life is these two men. The other one was her husband, the former radical leftist who remained leftist later. Heinrich Blücher influenced Hannah Arendt a great deal in her book "The Human Condition". She always had a leftist understanding of the social. She thought in liberal terms about democratic institutions but she was very left in the social realm. She said America was politically democratic, and socially totalitarian. That's true! If you go into an American suburb, you see communism realised. Communist levelling is fully achieved. One identical row house after the next, for kilometres.

Since we're talking about America... how do you think Hannah Arendt would respond today to Islamicism?

She would say that Islamic fundamentalism is a form of totalitarianism. And that we need to have the power to fight this totalitarianism while at the same time considering Islam as a religion as equal to others. But she would also say that all religions have totalitarian moments in them. That our democracies developed in the emancipation from religion. And that's what Islam has to address: the emancipation of Muslims from their religion, through which a changed Islam and a Muslim atheism would emerge.

Joachim Fest on Hannah Arendt

This is an interview published by the Goethe-Institut with the late historian Joachim Fest (who passed away Sept. 11 2006) on Hannah Arendt. Quite revealing.

Thinking with Body and Soul

How and where did you become acquainted with Hannah Arendt?

The acquaintance came about through our publisher. He sent Hannah Arendt a copy of my first book The Face of the Third Reich (Das Gesicht des Dritten Reiches, 1963). She liked it and expressed herself positively about it in letters, for example to Karl Jaspers. Our publisher then arranged for a meeting: Arendt came to Germany in 1964 to present her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. During a podium discussion, she then simply called to me to join the circle because an historian was needed to clarify some question. That was her inimitable unconventional manner. The next day she invited me to join her on a trip to Baden-Baden for an interview. There we got to know one another better, went often for walks together. She spoke a lot about herself and about people she had once thought highly of and then later despised.

She spoke, then, of Martin Heidegger?

Yes, of course. But not, I think, out of her deepest feelings. She said many things disparaging of Heidegger. And yet I think she loved him to the end. She said of him that he was mendacious, sly, unreliable and disloyal, a quite crooked character. But in 1964 as we boarded the train from Baden-Baden to Frankfurt, she said she would so much like to head in the opposite direction, to Freiburg. To Heidegger, that is. To the end she was deeply divided about him. She never got over it.

Over the years your acquaintance with her became closer?

Quite cordial, quite relaxed. She visited me often when she was in Germany, and I her when I was in New York or Chicago. I ate very often at her place. I recall she once fried some scrambled eggs and said: "Anyone can do this much house-keeping!". She couldn't understand the whole feminist movement that was then making so much about these things. She was a human being in the most real, truest and fullest sense that this concept can have. That always impressed me immensely.

What was so impressive about Hannah Arendt as a person?

Her immense vitality and curiosity. She used to say you had to think with body and soul or better not at all. She was distinguished by this complete engagement of her person for that which she thought and that which she did.

You followed of course her work and discussed it with her.

Yes, naturally. I've always thought The Origins of Totalitarianism, the book which after all gained her world-fame, was a little over-rated. I read Eichmann in Jerusalem and of course Vita Activa. But her best writing are the portraits. They evince such a rich humanity, are so full of loving attention, that they are deeply moving.

From your personal acquaintance with Hannah Arendt and your knowledge of her work, how would you judge her public influence?

Back then her influence was very great, no doubt about it. Today, unfortunately, she has been forgotten. In general, it has been the fate of the generation of promising thinkers who began their careers at the time of Hitler to be treated unjustly. Only those are always highlighted who co-operated with the Nazis. People with not so strong a character have an enormous popularity. That holds for quite a few, not least Heidegger. But people like Dolf Sternberger, Friedrich Meinecke or Hannah Arendt – these members of the generation have been eclipsed by those who worked with the Nazis. Sometimes I think, cynically enough, that actually the others chose the right side. It has brought them at any rate a posthumous fame which they would not have otherwise had, and which they do not really deserve.

That sounds somewhat embittered.

No, not embittered; realistic. It can't be denied that Heidegger has received enormous publicity. Not, for instance, because of Being and Time or Off the Beaten Track, but because of his joining the Nazi Party in 1933. As a thinker, he has received little publicity; that doesn't interest people. And then ask about Hannah Arendt at the universities. Absolute silence. I've done the test several times. Or Gerhard Ritter, who even in Freiburg has been nearly completely forgotten. And he was imprisoned after Stauffenberg's assassination attempt against Hitler and only narrowly escaped execution. If he had only really failed in his principles, then the Germans would have taken him into their hearts.

You mean that the public bestows its love rather on the shady and dubious characters?

No, one recognises oneself again, sees the similarities. Opportunists with each other. That's the reason. There is something reassuring for the average normal opportunist in seeing that others, that "great minds", can be just as small-minded and weak as himself. Why aren't the works of Dolf Sternberger read any longer? Why is Hannah Arendt hardly read any more?

Should Hannah Arendt still be read? Does her work still make a contribution to the understanding of totalitarianism?

Certainly. Totalitarianism was then one of the great subjects and still is today in modified form. Hannah Arendt was the first to discuss the comparability of communism and Nazism. As far as I can see, her book on totalitarianism is still today the best in the field, with a broad survey taking into account other dictatorial movements in the world. The generation of 1968 have attempted to discredit it. But, you know, they are all spoiled and lazy. They would never have even picked up a book of six hundred pages. I've spoken to so many of these people who make judgements about things that don't even understand. Scholarship, however, is a severe discipline, demanding many renunciations.

Was Hannah Arendt prepared to make the renunciations required by scholarship?

Quite prepared. She thought with body and soul. It's such a shame that there is still no good biography of Hannah Arendt. If I were twenty years younger, I'd do it. Now I can't. But someone really ought to do it; hers was such a great life. I was once asked in a television interview to name the greatest person whom I had met in my life. And although I've known people like Konrad Adenauer, Herbert Wehner, Willy Brandt and so forth, I answered without hesitation: Hannah Arendt.

The German historian, journalist and author Joachim Fest was born in Berlin on December 8, 1926 and died on September 11, 2006. He was editor-in-chief of North German Broadcasting (NDR) from 1963 to 1968, and co-editor of the features section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from 1973 to 1993. In the latter capacity, he published Ernst Nolte's article Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will (i.e., History that will not pass away), whose appearance started what became known as the "historians' dispute" (Historikerstreit). Fest became known mainly through his biography of Hitler. In 2003 he was awarded the Einhard Prize for biographical literature. In 2004 he received the Eugen Bolz Prize for his journalism dealing with the German resistance against the Nazi regime.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Last night I dreamt the dream of my death, but it was an appaling opaque photograph in movement in its bursting joy and trembings of flourishing happiness raining from cemented ceilings, it was a dream unlike any other.... not unlike Rahel's. In the dream although it nevertheless was interwoven with a re-interpretation of another past dream there was a yellowing light hovering on the sights from all the possible oblique angles and the photograph didn't remain static in black and white, it seemed to be moving all the time as though being watched from a stellar moon, quite far outside in the universe and free from the quintessential chains of the human condition yet bounded by the dread of nearness.

It was the disease that killed Jim in his New York apartment and that seemed to vanquish those readers of Virginia Wolff, it was the hourly being of Goethe in which he has given her only enough time to live as to mourn in the disguise of a witness. As he jumps out of the window he fails knowingly to find the waters and drowns in the asphalt as though one of many representations has failed at the time, he lived only in the imagination and therefore is himself become real, turning Augustine into the shade of an angle, unable to grasp the spirit of motion in which all truths are weaved as though a tapestry covering the skies even above God's prayer shawl extending all over the slies of heaven, man's chain-home in the companion of a lover, of a solitary lover that is unable to count the hours, he's mourning eternity and regretting not having been Greek. He is himself stupefied.

As I discovered the cause of my death I wasn't still there, but preferred to stand still in that room without weeping, without yearning for Rome, it was a dream so powerful that it was seemly being experienced in the third person, in the perspective of Descartes, devoid of any human touch and almost unable to link the feeling to the expression. I had choosen to open my phylacteries bag and pray, not the way we were taught to pray but in a more Kafkian fashion; I had learnt to pray by means of attentiveness. It wasn't a dream about death, it was a dream about love and about freedom. It wasn't a dream that can be described in philosophical terms and broken down to sequences of phenomenae, dissecting each and every second of it would have shattered it to pieces. It wasn't a dream about fear, bur rather about sureness of the self. It was an island that destructed all possible forms of prayer, that ransacked the imagination and remained aloof in a petrifying form of movement, so candid and yellow that it was impossible to follow through, a million different pathways showed me open doors with words stained in invisible skin and weary from travelling, from being passages themselves.

"I've told the tale. The Midrash isn't beautiful, is difficult" [G. Rose]. It was a watery phrase that compelled one to a very Stoic form of contemplation, some form of belligerant skepticism that wasn't laughing about death at all nor about the comedy. It was just laughing at the tangible world because it had become unbearable, it had become silent. In the dream moments before the deadly sweeping of orgiastic proportion I had been talking to my father, trading modernity for innocence, for unawareness. The dream is just queing a shadow and a half before objectivity, before mind-informed obsessions, before illuminations. It awoke me to a very sunny morning, as though I were a passanger on a bus-tour of the earth. I heard all those voices screaming in the silence of blood, singing epiphanies as though the war were over, we are all returning home. In the unearthened situation I didn't experience any familiar faces, I didn't experience familiarity at all. It was such a lonely dream. It was a dream only in that it used the narrative of the present to postpone a foreseen future, in every other respect it was just a photography of earthly life. Not even dreams can speak their own words these days. They need tiny crystal houses to navigate in the waters and swiftly undie themselves into a different form of fear. A childish voice screaming outloud love, the love of the philosopher, that became possible once again only since Auschwitz. If we knew what or who we are, there would be no literature, that's why the scripture needs to re-write itself anew at any given moment, because knowledge has been transformed in deceive and falsehood, it's become translated with subtitles in bodily movements. The world can only be translated into irony and laughter, into paradoxes, into rootlessness from the origins of everything, into the immanent reality of mystery which is allegedly and cruelly more real than reason. One sin has been replaced by a murder.

Mitchel Verter, Ph.D Thesis 1996 (Notes)

Throughout his work, he attempts to overcome the possibility of doubt in order to secure control over the contingencies of his cognitive world. Descartes does so by creating a spectatorial position for a detached subject, separating it from the external world. [Where's that subject located to be more specific?]

Descartes distinguishes between two visual faculties which the mental eye employs: the power of imagination and the power of understanding. Descartes explains this distinction: “When the mind understands, it in some way turns towards itself and inspects one of the ideas which are within it; but when it imagines, it turns towards the body and looks at something in the body which conforms to an idea understood by the mind or perceived by the senses.” [Philosophical Writings]

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In between the lines (notes)

I've decided not to make the Galli's posts fit into an essay for the time being, as my intuition tells me that by the time I will be able to return to "Kafka unplugged" it will be necessary to rewrite the thing from scratch. I thought erroneously she might become the start, of course that is not undermining her achievement but simply stating that once I've entered the dialogue with Rose by hand it is impossible to reduce the categories; nonetheless the piece on Kafka must be finished, next step will be the input from LM. I believe the essay can be concluded with Kafka himself but I can't arrive there at face value, it requires certain hermeneutic tools that are in process of being constructed.

I want to set to work on Rose's thought on Rosenzweig, which seem to me flirtatious in their sobriety but before I can return there I must dwell on Athens & Jerusalem for a while. It proves undoubtedly necessary because the Critique of Reason she exercise is something previously unexperienced, an unintoxicated wording. It is also in tune with Eveline's book that while great can be significantly improved upon, not in philosophy (for it contains almost none) but in discoursiveness. Perhaps I err also in this point being heavily halted from my concerns by Benjamin and Rosenzweig's ideas of translation. Moreover one should never lose from sight that Eveline has her own Grittli, namely her lectures and the writings on the Jewish stuff. People will have to look for it themselves, I can only become the footnotes she never wrote.

On other thoughts I believe those of us dealing with German scholarship often neglect the Anglo-Saxon eye with its cool sobriety; if more of us would be familiar with people like Steiner, Rose, Canneti, Harvey Cox and the modernist Americans (like Arendt did) I think it could only enhance our quest for the lost language, for a philosophy of the experience. It's important to realize these thinkers are not analytical philosophers of any kind, and many of them unwittingly have turned to the "Abendland" for inspiration. The only sources I can make use of to find these gateways are Barbara and Aviva, that must be read carefully in order not to miss important authors. This becomes particularly important for discoursiveness, at least for those like me who are attempting an "exiled writing", namely not ever writing in the German language. The English literature shows how far-sighted the idea of exile is, for the rootlessness from the world is as old as Homer and is only slightly ameliorated by the modern literature. But obviously if one could define the German-Jewish literature of modernity as anything, it would be the literature of the exiles. Kafka from all peoples returns in the German language to a model that astounds Rosenzweig, "narrating along with them, translating, interpreting, transmitting the shifting temporal templates for living life" (Galli). His writing contains the impatience of prayer. It is the style of those who thought the Bible.

The next essay by Galli is that one on music, but I feel it's a little too much for the time being. Because I have to travel through Rose and Goodman-Thau in order to return to Kafka and through him to Rosenzweig, that only in order to start with the cultural writings! Music though, is a topic I've never good writing about, perhaps because I haven't read Adorno and Bloch on those topics, together in my brutality and vulgarity when it comes to interpreting music. Nonetheless at least the thing should be read carefully. Poetizing the world is perhaps what knocks on the door of time, what compels me to this study. It's an alleged recovery in a foreign language.

Such recovery is in the spirit of Benjamin's thoughts on language. It isn't a utilitarian projection but a symbolic one, whereas reality remains asymbolic, objective and edge-cutting. It becomes a theological epiphany and it's revealing only in that it's to be found only "in between" many other things, it isn't bound to a discipline or a method of analysis. Just as when Aviva speaks of Rashi with Freud... When we try to reconstruct the images we're slowly unmaking ourselves into the dust of the many and soon thereafter from the dust of the one (creatively speaking) we remake ourselves, we scrutinize our own earthliness in order to unearthen an slightly used image of ourselves, used only enough as to contain plurality. We reunderstand ourselves.

This thematic orientation proves very useful, for it allows us even to engage Aristotle and the Classics, showing no more than an universal problem that is simply hands-on-experienced by the Bible. It is something that provides a better understanding of bodiliness and embodiment. Whenever we speak about metaphysics of the experience by sheer force we're already speaking of "making" and therefore following the Greek we're engaged in ποιεσης, we're creating and in order to do so it's necessary to build spaces for ourselves both in time and space; as soon as this creating is on-going we're not only alive in a reflexive fashion but our eyes see constantly in a shifting present that trades templates every so often with a series of freedoms, such as dreamweaving, possible realities and the photographs of the memory that feed not our imagination, but our reality in that it creates it anew from a common source we share with the rest of our fellow-men in transversally-cut ways.


Our dreamweaving isn't unfamiliar at all to Hesiodus and Homer, nor is it to Joseph in Egypt or to Miriam in the wilderness. We're dreaming in the same way Kafka provides for us, chained to both the earth and the heavens... with only two possible escapes, the waters and prophecy. But the prophet isn't only that of Jerusalem even though as Rose often points us in our rebellion against reason we've turned to Jerusalem to look for prophets instead of philosophers, to make up for broken promises of eternity.

The waters drown us so that we need to protect from them by building houses of safety, this protects us from freedom but also from any possible knowledge, for once the water is experienced (Oddyseus' journey, The parting of the Red Sea, The Flood) language and thought (that is philosophical) are not merely unnecessary but have lost their power to imagine in that they've become rooted in truthful representations, those that are unavailable to us and force us to poetize the world, or in the case of Kafka poetize the universe from different oblique angles of the photograph in a way that is impossible to improve upon from both earthliness and worldliness.

It's a scripture being written as events unfold, unconceptually laid out. Nakedness in the waters is transformed into a rapture, through which we unveal our sexuality and our blood ties in the open, like the sons of Noah find him drunk and naked in the tent and the Midrash speaks about a rape. The secret of Western morality: An alleged attempt to keep ourselves from the water, but in that we've divorced word and world (Steiner) as the greatest intellectual achievement of Western mankind that gifted us consequently with Modernity, we're able to override those rules with readings of our own "dramatis persona" in the world that are separated from the magic power of creation - speech.

We dissect open the dreamweaving map of the human body in the quintessential heavenly boredom of speechlessness, but in the chains of time. Our models resemble the ancients all the more, and even our safety houses of steel and concrete are closer to Athens than they're to the French Revolution even; even though Athens remains deserted and the wilderness has been turned into speech, or speech representations (Midrash). Our surgerical abilities seem to be hindered by an acquired incapability to move in the invisible, dreams cannot be dissected like nations and human bodies, even though they wear our own bodies. We need to turn to the prophets, which nowadays wear boxing sweat and hot red glue for a skin.

The prophets are those who poetize the world in order to make it a little unreal, a little difficult to believe. Modern prophets are in strait needs to act differently though, they need to unmake our world in order to make it possible, that is, unreal. Prophets no longer speak in tongues, they utter pegs that joined together make up for the world of ideas lacking in the tangible, in the extreme philosophies of the experience that have summoned the demise of pronouns. Our sexuality has changed shoes and shifted the template of desire from the world, where not having was the underlying principle, to the earth - where every desire can be satisfied, but the violence of this relationship is paramount to desire itself; we return to the world before the Flood and therefore bound our destruction, not as individuals or nations but as a world. We need to summon prophecy and revelation, not in the way known to our forefathers.

[tomorrow possible realities and photographs of the memory]

Gillian Rose [sketches]

In these following chapters I will cross-examine perspectives drawing on the following sources: Essays by Gillian Rose included in "Judaism & Modernity", different writings by selected people from "Ethics after the Holocaust: Perspectives, Critiques and Responses", lastly I will examine as well different writings by Eveline Goodman-Thau. Thereafter I might be able to turn to Levinas for re-interpretations of the problem, but I will refrain to do so in order to retrieve the threads left in Kafka through the eyes of Arendt and Rosenzweig, of particular interest I shall add as well an index from the correspondence between Benjamin and Scholem on Kafka and other citations from Rosenzweig. I believe that these writing should undoubtedly lead me to Adorno, despite myself, whenever we will face the world alienation of Kafka of which Arendt's "The Human Condition" is only the throughway. Nonetheless sufficient amount of time and space will be spent on Rose, of whom I had no knowledge prior to my interaction with the writings of Barbara Galli.

"The Question of Language has returned" - thus starts the book of Goodman-Thau, and this is a question that doesn't trouble the stranger or the impaired, but rather those speakers of the German tongue (but not exclusively) that first became aware of the estranged world of speech, and set on an enterprise to create but only a philosophy of language but a science of linguistics itself. Our failure to "translate", that is to make any speech rendered comprehensible by anyone in the community of speakers contains meta-linguistic questions; those of identity and memory.

"I have not arrived at Judaism as the sublime Other of modernity - whether as the moment of divine excess from Kant's third Critique, as the living but worldless community from Rosenzweig, as the devastating ethical commandment from Levinas, as a trace and writing from deconstruction. Nor I have discovered Judaism waiting at the end of the end of philosophy, Judaism redivivus out of the ashes of the Holocaust: as the Jewish return into history for Fackenheim, as the issue of modernity for Bauman, and as the terrible essence of the West for Lacoue-Labarthe.

No. I write out of the discovery that both recent philosophy, in its turn to what I name new ethics, and modern Jewish philosophy, in its ethical self-representations, are equally uncomfortable with any specific reflection on modern law and the state, which they assimilate to the untempered domination of Western metaphysics.... Philosophy and Judaism want to proclaim a New Testament which will dispose of the broken promises of modernity"

"If I knew who or what I were, I would not write; I write out of those moments of anguish which are nameless and I am able to write only where the tradition can offer me a discipline, a means, to articulate and explore that anguish."

"Jerusalem against Athens has become the emblem for revelation against reason, for the hearing of the commandments against the search for first principles, for the love of the neighbour against explanation of the world, and for the prophet against the philosopher. When the common concern of Athens and Jerusalem for the establishment of justice, whether immanent or trascendent, is taken into consideration, these contrasts of form and method lose their definitive status. Yet, suddenly, in the wake of the perceived demise of Marxism, Athens, for a long time already arid and crumbling, has become an uncannily deserted city, haunted by departed spirits. Her former inhabitants, abandoning her justice as well as her reason, have set off on a pilgrimage to an imaginary Jerusalem, in search of difference or otherness, love or community, and hoping to escape the imperium of reason, truth or freedom.

This exodus, originally prepared by Nietzsche and Heidegger, had ben led over the suceeding decaded by thinkers across the spectrum of philosophy. From Buber and Rosenzweig to Weil, Benjamin, Adorno, Arendt, Levinas, and Derrida, all are Jews with a deeply problematic relation to Judaism and to philosophy".

"The Future of Auschwitz"

"To Plato, doing wrong could only occur if one lacked knowledge of what was right - one could not intend wrong; to Aristotle, it was possible to intend and act rightly but unwittingly to incur wrong - a dilemma, but not one of malicious foresight. To modernity this dilemma of contingency acquires a systemtic twist: for, it is possible to mean well, to be caring and kind, loving one's neighbour as oneself, yet to be complicit in the corruption and violence of social institutions. Furthermore, this predicament may not correspond to, and maybe not be represented by, any availale politics or knowledge."

"Franz Rosenzweig - From Hegel to Yom Kippur"

"Walter Benjamin - Out of the sources of Modern Judaism"

"Architecture to Philosophy - the Post-Modern Complicity"

"Architecture after Auschwitz"

Notes on B. Galli & Rosenzweig II

The term happens is important to Rosenzweig. His primary philosophical question is not "What is the essence of a thing?" but instead "What happens? What story is being told? What world story is unfolding?"-B. Galli

I think this should be contrasted to what was laid out by Heidegger in "Was ist das - die Philosophie?". The cycle of Kafka's "The Castle" is not unresembling of Rosenzweig system: The World, man, God equated to the village, K. and the Castle. Kafka even though keeps the sight of man from the outside universe, the redeemed world of Adorno, he is aware of Steiner's divorce between word and world, and this inescapable situation becomes Rosenzweig's main concern. At this point I owe to mention what I wrote in my diary a couple of months ago: It seems to me Kafka opposed the ontological freedom of Heidegger, because he found it to be extremely difficult in a world whose reality is entirely unreal instead of surreal, since it is not an attempt at a representation of any sort but the presentation itself, in a way so cruel that one needs to engage in some sort of poetization, and by means of poetization we can find the only channels available to re-unmake the world and make it anew; here I'm not speaking of deconstruction, because it isn't an experiment from within the possibilities of language and readerships, it's a multi-layered quest for relationships and events.

In these chains of relationships from within the critique one owes to return to Husserl, and more specifically to Edith Stein, not the one who wrote the philosophy of the human person based on Aristotle and Aquinas (time by which she already entered the sphere of ontological freedom) but the doctoral dissertation on "empathy" improving upon the second volume of Husserl's Logic Investigations; particularly her concept of relationships within the field of experience. Most of her philosophy is of little use for us particularly in the light of the "Spaetere Schriften" of Husserl when he tuned up with Cassirer on a philosophy of the cultural sciences, but it is worthwhile having a glimpse into Stein's "Philosophy of Psychology and the Cultural Sciences", the idea of the I in relationship to the human body might have been improved upon by Merleau-Ponty who stands already outside my field of inquiry and obviously far beyond the tradition I'm willingly diving into, that after WWII might have been taken up by nobody except Levinas and by detour (that is accidentally) by Hannah Arendt.

Unwittingly I keep return with Galli to the Critique of Auschwitz (that has somehow come to the fore of my hermeneutic questions in the disguise of a quest for a continental philosophy of language, or rather for a philosophy of language based on human culture finding a kernel out of the Western dialectic process through continental philosophy into the provenance of "thinking", an "Ausgang" that shall be parallel to an "Ingang" which lies beyond analytical and critical analysis). The post-Auschwitz world brings me closer to Hannah Arendt again, to the need not for a philosophy or for a philosophical language, but for a "common" language that will permit us once again to navigate in our traditions anew:

"Hence the possible advantage of our situation following the demise of metaphysics and philosophy would be two-fold. It would permit us to look on the past with new eyes, unburdened and unguided by any traditions, and thus to dispose of a tremendous wealth of raw experience without being bound by any prescriptions as how to deal with those treasures. Our inheritance comes to us by no will-and-testament. The advantage would be even greater had it not been accompanied almost inevitably, by a growing inability to move, on no matter what level; in the realm of the invisible; or to put it in another way, had it not been accompanied by the disrepute into which everything that isn't visible, tangible, palpable, has fallen, so that we're in danger of losing the past itself with our traditions." (R&J)

This text obviously goes in hand with a poem of W.H. Auden, to whom the essay "Moral & Thinking Considerations" was addressed:

"All words like peace and love
All sane affirmative speech
Had been soiled, profaned, debased
To a horrid mechanical screech"

Sinning in being a modernist Auden can but show us how impossible the language of man has become, so that a prior de-poetization of the world with a stoppover in reality is necessary in order to become anew. This phenomenon isn't unique to Auden, I believe Kafka was the precursor following the poets of the late 19th century France (symbolism and thereinafter), followed by others as Joyce, Elliot, Nelly Sachs, Grass and the literature of Eastern Europe along the lines of Utopian and Dystopian thought, for an example we obviously have the historical philosophy of Patocka (heavily influenced by Arendt's readings of history) and the writings of Milan Kundera that by close rub their elbows with Kafka but unearthing the world of unreality and portraying it swiftly with those petty obsessions of everyday life that inform the minds of the contemporary readers, since the contemporary speakers have been lost along the way.

Kundera is essentially important in this process: [Quotation to be found]

At this stage before turning to the philosophers I need look into Galli's essay once again:

"The difference brought along by WWII is the difference of an arguably absolutely unprecedented event: the Holocaust. No linguistic reference points seemed to exist in the resources of language for the survivors, for witnesses, for those others of us who have learned and are learning of an event involving six million Jews, in an aim of the total eradication of a people on earth, and involving as well another five million murders, of gypsies, of homosexuals, of Nazi dissenters (Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an illuminating example of the poetics of exile from a non-Jewish eye, this note is mine)."

"Thus for the post-WWII thinkers, the affirmation of language was an agonizing task burdened with a painful process of impossibilities that in their hands was made possible".

From the impossibility of language we step into revelation, which seems to be the point in which Rosenzweig and Arendt weren't simply concerned, but pained and bewildered in their readings of Kafka, for entirely different purposes. Galli expounds the prophetic power of language when attempting to build relationships, namely of bridging that gap between the word and the world.

"Neither Rosenzweig or Benjamin experienced WWII. Those who inquired into language before the second great and terrible World War that raged in Europe -too dreadful anywhere- in important ways can be claimed to be foreseers, through language, of impending further dangers in Europe. There were to occur unless contemporary philosophical errors were addressed". We'll look at some insights on language from Kafka, Rosenzweig and Benjamin through Hannah Arendt.

The wrong sentences lie in wait about my pen, twine themselves around its point, and are dragged along into the letters. I am not of the opinion that one can ever lack the power to express perfectly what one wants to write or say. Observations on the weakness of language, and comparisons between the limitations of words, and the infinity of feelings, are quite fallacious. The infinite feeling continues to be as infinite in words as it was in the heart. What is clear within is bound to become so in words as well. This is why one need never worry about language, but at sight of words one might often worry about himself. After all, who knows within himself how things really are with him? This tempestuous or floundering or morasslike inner self is what we really are, but by the secret process by which words are forced out of us, our self-knowledge is brought to light, and though it may be still veiled, yet it is there before us, wonderful or terrible to behold. -Kafka to Felizia, 1913

"Inadequacy of language, "limitation of thought", "our sensory experience", finally as a highlight the "God" formed by man in his image -this is how a theological problem is solved today! Even if we grant the soundness of these theoretical-knowledge imperfections (I frankly do not understand with which language, which thought, which experience we can compare our language, our thought, which experience in order to be permitted to confer upon them the grade of unsatisfactory). Even if we do grant that, in which other science is it permitted to put "theoretical-knowledge" lamentations in the place of honest striving after the understanding of the facts themselves. Rosenzweig, Kleinere Schriften

Thus there is "a language of truth, the tensionless and even silent depository of the ultimate secrets which all thought is concerned with" and this is "the true language" whose existence we assume unthinkingly as soon as we translate from one language into another. That is why Benjamin places at the center of his essay... the quotation from Mallarme in which the spoken languages in their multiplicity and diversity suffocate, as it were, by virtue of their Babel-like tumult, the "immortelle parole", which cannot even be thought, ... and thus prevent the voice of truth from being heard on earth with the force of material, tangible evidence. Whatever theoretical revisions Benjamin may subsequently have made in these theological-metaphysical convictions, his basic approach, decisive for all his literary studies, remained unchanged: not to investigate the utilitarian or communicative functions of linguistic creations, but to understand them in their crystallized and thus ultimately fragmentary utterances of a "world essence". What else does this mean that he understood language as an essentially poetic phenomenon? And this is precisely what the last sentence of the Mallarme aphorism, which he does not quote, says in unequivocal clarity: ... all this were true poetry if poetry did not exist, the poem that philosophically makes good the defect of languages, is their superior complement. -H. Arendt, footnote on her English edition of Benjamin's Illuminations

At this point we confront of a totally different perspective which unfortunately leaves the works of most of the exile thinkers allegedly incomplete, and calls for a reinterpretation of language. Perfunctorily we need to return to Gillian Rose, who in not belonging to the continental tradition and living in the world of post-Auschwitz bleeds with more information that we are able to digest. We will proceed to examine the cultural criticism of Auschwitz in light of the Athens & Jerusalem paradox, before proceeding onto the cultural writings of Rosenzweig. Thanks are due to B. Galli for her excellent introduction that engages us in the thematic discussion on language, which is by the force of necessity the first step back into the world of Kafka and Rosenzweig.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Quelle u. Versuch Uebersetzungs

The priest desires. The philosopher desires

And not to have is the beginning of desire.

To have what is not is its ancient cycle.
It is desire at the end of winter, when
It observes the effortless weather turning blue
It knows that what it has is what not
And throws it away like a thing of another time
As morning throws off stale moonlight and shabby sleep.
-Wallace Stevens, "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction"

I owed to myself this post, dealing with the old question of translation - as it seems that for some of the "critical" philosophers translation was the only possible way to understand a poem and most of them were particularly concerned with poetry, more than they were with philosophy. Quoting statements by them will no longer help our discovery. But if we return to A. "not to have is the beginning of desire", and following her a little closer one can only suspect bridges to a manifold truth (instead of "to many truths") and unearthen a timely vessel containing many encounters that find themselves aloof from us only along the lines of time.

Translation plays a pivotal role in the question about the metaphysics of the experience (Benjamin) which in itself is dialectical and therefore tautological at one of the many open-ends. For Rosenzweig translation "transforms" the world - were we to have one of course, and for Steiner I think it is so much more beyond a transformation, it is not just a making of the world but simultaneously making it and unmaking it, just like the God of the Midrash created worlds and destroyed them over and over until he met Adam, but in creating the world he alienated himself, he stood in his throne all alone without all the beasts of the soil and waters to accompany him. From here we travel to Kafka's paradox: "Wirkliche realitaet ist immer unrealistisch".

Translation doesn't arise as an scholarly question, it isn't a quest for knowledge not for unconcealment - for it is only God who needs to unconceal himself, isn't it so? Translation is the desperate struggle for a contingently human response, translation isn't even a necessity, it is a photograph of an earthly life from a multi-dimensional plane in which the author can convey only one of the many hues possible which often turns into a white and black and blurry copy, it is not even a representation of reality but a copy of the representation. As soon as we speak of the representation it is temptatively symbolic therefore real, taking away all possible charm in the scene, for reality in order to become itself must de-realize itself into symbols which are possible only in nature, and seldom in language.

The language of "Modernity" recognizes its divorce from reality, "word from world" in terms of Steiner; and in this lies the struggle of Modernity, whose whole structural concept can be defined merely in terms of this struggle. This intellectual achievement is recognized as an achievement only in that is revolutionary, only that is a ground-breaking phenomenon in the whole of Western history; the dialectic divorce of God, men and the world provides us with the ground for one of the most generic terms to define "Modernity": The concept of "Krisis". In this sense Jaspers and Heidegger must have been right when they spoke about "The Age of Doubt", in which we're much closer to the Ancient Greeks - the root of the uninterchangeability and ever-recurring spontaneity of human action according to Jerome, idea with which I'm in the most absolute disagreement (and by using "absolute" sinning in being Hegelian), the early analytical and continental concern with a linguistic philosophy and the rise of linguistics itself is the most flamboyant proof of this awareness.

In the turn of a couple of decades following the fin-de-siecle and Weimar we find ourselves in Auschwitz; thereby language has no longer those creative properties to begin "anew", language must be re-invented instead of anti-invented - namely dialectically destructed and built anew from structural patterns, that are semantically empty units of worldliness, that is of artificial communication.

Here we turn to Goodman-Thau for some explanation about the quest of language after Auschwitz:

"Complaining to God is pointless here. There's no place for God in a world like this. He was banished, condemned, repudiated a long time ago. Here no voice is heard, no lamentation, no cry, everything is silent".

And with those lines Goodman-Thau carves an orifice in the enterprise of communication that is better expounded by Rachel Hodara:

"In general, in order to sleep, we long for silence. Yet there are certain kinds of silence that preclude sleep, silences that are cries of terror which – suffocated by pain and shame – strain to be heard. Among those who have suddenly been assaulted by this discovery, there are some who have chosen to quickly plug their ears; they cannot be blamed: they only wish to protect their sanity. Others plunge into the sounds, but do not perceive the words they are composed of. A few, very few, dare to decipher the words, to become participants not only in the pain but also in the knowledge and, thus, in the terror that unavoidably accompanies it, hand in hand."

As yet, reading into 1948 we're unable to go beyond the first suggestion - quickly plug our ears in order to protect our sanity. In that moment we're speaking in a language that isn't a language or a chain of symbols, we're speaking from within the impairedness of our mute symbols. Romain Rolland wrote to Stefan Zweig "Art can bring us consolation as individuals but is powerless before reality". This becomes the only possible reality, a de-poetized world. A world in which it isn't possible to turn to Rashi's dreamtext - which contains also realities that do not exclude the dreams, at least not immediately.

This despair can be journeyed through as though we were to enable what Barbara Galli said, firstly "denote an accessible or inaccessible throughway" and then "eyes that insistently see in the present", but we can't journey all alone, we need the help of the witnesses, first we'll turn to dawn with A.J Heschel and then to the twilight of dusk with Nelly Sachs. I will keep the original languages (Yiddish and German) in order to remain tightly bound to their impossibilities.

אין גאט נאך גלייבט גאט אליין...
מענטשן ליבן נאר זיך אליין.
חיות נעמען זיך דאס לעבן.
און ביי אלעמען צו שפאט איז עניוות און פארגעבן.

איז א ליד אזא דען מעגלעך?

מיליאנען ארבעטער אין גרובנס ראסטן און -- דולדן.
תהילים - קיינער בלעטערט, באקסערס ווערט פארגעטערט.
מענטש פארמשפט מענטש צו טויט.
מערדער מארדן, קינדער ליידן נויט.

איז א ליד אזא דען מעגלעך?

גאט, ס'איז אזוי טרויעריק-שלעכט!
ס'זענען דורות געגענגען פאר אונדז
און געזייעט בלאנדזשעניש אויף וועגן.
איצט ווייסט מען נישט, וואס גוט איז, וואס רעכט...
(A.J. Heschel)

In this poem (because we're attempting to turn to poetry in order to infere philosophy) we can only read the stated problem, and now we can turn to a more prophetic verse with as little hope but with some sort of encouragment:

"Schweigend spricht der Stein
vom Martyrium der sechs Millionen
deren Leib verwandelt in Rauch
durch die Luft zog.

Schweigen, schweigen, schweigen.

Ihr Nachgeborenen
Gedenket der Maenner, Frauen, Kinder,
die in einer Zeit der Gewalt
Maertyrer wurden.
Neigt euer Haupt in Demut".
(Nelly Sachs)

Both of them are deliberately occupied with silence, Heschel is tragic and Sachs is prophetic or rather exhortative. As we awake into the province of language, I can add my two cents. But I need to start with Aviva again:

"... The worse thing you can do to somebody is not to make her scream in agony but to use that agony in such a way that even when the agony is over, she can't reconstitute herself. You can thereby "unmake her world" by making it impossible for her to use language to describe what she has been".

This is what she writes when speaking about the biblical Sarah, which doesn't differ much from Wang and Frankel, two Holocaust-psychotherapist; this gives A.'s reading a rather powerful insight which travels back and forth along the threads of time. Thus, when we read into the Rashi we forcefully unmake ourselves in order to be made anew, but in order to be made and not dis-unmade we need to recover the language from its exile.

It causes me terrible pangs of fear when at times I read old diaries of mine, I'm able to plunder into the words and search myself among those symbols. I'm very seldom able to speak about my own exile, but in particular attention to philosophical discourse I'm able to interact with the world-alienation of the thinker when I'm able to recognize his exile, his estrangement. I'm only reading into myself. That causes me extreme forms of frustration because I've most irreparably lost the mother tongue, it's gone forever with a good number of pasts; I've forcefully exiled her and exiled myself from her, because I'm unable to hearken to her kernel of murmurs about an unmade somebody, which could have been me as a child or toiling in puberty. The question of the language attacks me and deals me deadly blows every so often, so that translation is necessary, a translation that will enhance any possible communicability. Accordingly my skin has replaced the mother-tongue, in such way that I'm alienated from everything else. My desire is basically one of translation.

When I desire him only the signals of his vitality can call my attention and throw me despite myself into that pit of the waters that is just one step before the Ocean but never letting me totally drown, for the sake of the memory. As I walk past the same olden streets without quotations I seemly find those conversations fabricated in tissues in every corner, relentlessly I repeat them to myself, tirelessly even. I don't want to forget my lines, to obliterate the signals of my body that are representations of love and lust, anger and vision, but never the original feelings that have astrayed already for long with the mother tongue.

I drown into that pole of desire, I search after him through screens as though wistfully vanquishing from the symbolic imagination, wanting to make him so real that he can devoured with teeth and gawns by beasts with names given by Adam. In the impossibility and unwillingness to communicate we're building little worlds of glue that vanish soon thereafter and outlive themselves as to command a little resurrection, that often resembles an earthly redemption. I anger at myself. Impossibility is the only known root and channel for desire, at least until we will be able to re-marry world and word and to live in either.

But the impossibility of desire brings us to closer to re-write ourselves, as though his thighs were unseen pieces of lapilazuli available only under heavenly conditions and prayer shawls that cover the whole of the country side and uplift themselves around the city to allow our ashtreys to empty their clothes and our smells into the vacuum of sympathetic syntagms. This is the only way we have out of Auschwitz, the impossibility of desiring, the impossibility of the world.

"You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world: this is something you are free to do and is in accord with your nature, but perhaps this holding back is the only suffering that you might be able to avoid" -Kafka

We await him in our timely erodes, in our time-bound homes. And as though this suffering were unavoidable (which Kafka has proved it is not) we cling onto the pattern and curdle into. Appropriating the events with the friendly attitude of nature:

Ερος δαυτ᾽ετιναζεν εμοι φρενας
ανεμος κατ᾽ορος δρυσιν εμπεσων. (Sappho)

In appropriating our suffering we haven't obliterated Auschwitz or created language anew, but we remain striving, witnessing, waiting, hoping. Like Korach, nude from dialectics and being heroes and villains at one go. In our language prisons we can read Levinas before we go silent totally:

"A man in prison continues to believe in an unrevealed future and invites one to work in the present for the most distant things, of which the present is an irrefutable negation... There's a very great nobility in an energy freed from the strangehold of the present".

And at that time, when we'll be able to return to language, we'll speak of our own speech just in the same way Adorno spoke of Kafka to Benjamin: "I claimed he represents a photograph of our earthly life from the perspective of a redeemed life, one which merely reveals the latter as an edge of black cloth, whereas the terrifying distance optics of the photographic image is none other than that of the obliquely angled camera itself".

But for those living in the world after Auschwitz it is perhaps a good thing we can't redeem this world, could you imagine this world being redeemed? What about our silences? Where will they go?

Perhaps when they themselves will become impossibilities before speech we'll be able to scream aloud the following poem of Gottfried Keller:

"When, someday, this misery
Like ice at length is broken,
We will speak about it
As we do the black death.
Children will set straw men
Upon the plain to burn;
Joy will come from this pain
And light from olden dread"

Notes on B. Galli & Rosenzweig

Plundering through the commentary on the cultural writings of Rosenzweig, I am startled to find more information that one would have desires; firstly the comparison between Rosenzweig hermeneutics and Gadamer seems to me of very little value to the issue, simultaneously I read the book of Allen Scult "Being Jewish/Reading Heidegger: An ontological encounter" which deals mainly with the early lectures on Aristotle and that often turns back to Gadamer for information and inspirtation.

Yet Barbara's writing "constructs" and "trusts" once again a bridge of impossibilities, that which connects the Anglo-Saxon thought with the German, and those of us who are entangled in the German even when writing in the English language seem out of touch with these realities. Her use of Steiner brings me to the fore of a rather Biblical question of hermeneutics. And Bible is precisely what one of the many channels of the New Thinking is concerned with. Let me turn for a second to the biblicist Aviva Gottlieb-Zornberg and Steiner, in order to return with a fresh light (paradoxically somebody explained to me last night how much there's to do with light in the idea of "Erloesung" in German) to Barbara and Rosenzweig.

Dr. Gottlieb-Zornberg speaks a few words on her methodology in one of the opening chapters of her book ("The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis) discussing Rashi:

"It seems to me that Rashi usually writes in such a multivalent way, transforming the reader's comprehension of the biblical text, even in his most -apparently- fantastic citations from the midrash. His commentary works as a dreamtext, suggesting many alternative -but not exclusive- facets of reality. In both the cases I have discussed, the feedback loop radiates a field of energy that includes both the reader, with his/her life situation, and the text. For to understand Isaac, Sarah and Rebecca through a Freudian reading of Rashi is, of course, to reunderstand ourselves.

This field, or circle of understanding, yields endless illumination. If at first the text seems familiar, while life is strange, needy of privileged guidance, at a later stage of reading the situation may be reversed: life acquires a new familiarity, a new intelligibility, in the light of Rashi's deployment of midrashic sources, while the original text suddenly seems alien, uncanny , needy of reinterpretation.

This dialectic of strangeness and familiarity is the gift of art; in t his sense, I would regard Rashi and his midrashic precursors as poets. George Steiner alerts us to this paradoxical effect of art: on the one hand "all representations, even the most abstract, infer a rendezvous with intelligibility or, at least, with a strangeness attenuated"; or on the other, "much of poetry, music and the arts aims to.... make strangeness in certain respects stranger". It is the tension between these two readings that underlies my readings of Genesis [Firstly she used hermeneutic dialectics, the quotation is from "Real Presences" of G. Steiner].

This cycle of desire, which is generated, paradoxically, by the experience of "not to have":

the priest desires. The philosopher desires
And not to have is the beginning of desire.
To have what is not is its ancient cycle.
It is desire at the end of winter, when
It observes the effortless weather turning blue
It knows that what it has is what not
And throws it away like a thing of another time
As morning throws off stale moonlight and shabby sleep.
-Wallace Stevens, "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction"

Now my familiarity with this reference is what helps to enter from the backside in a transparent and heavy gown the world of Galli, who herself plunders violently into Rosenzweig's intimacy by her attenuated but steel-like use of Steiner. She speaks about "translation" and it seems to me her direction to regard "translating" is not unlike that of Itamar Gruenwald (biblicist) when he defines "Midrash" as a of cognition, just as is philosophy, science and literature. In her opinion Rosenzweig's quest for "interaction" from within the possibilities of language itself, is shared by Steiner (who was born the year Rosenzweig died) as a rare voice in the intellectual world. She speaks through Steiner of a "breakdown between the correspondence of word and world".

"It is this break of the covenant between word and world which constitutes of the very few genuine revolutions of the spirit in Western history and which defines modernity itself" (Real Presences, G. Steiner)

Galli speaks about the commonality in both Rosenzweig and Steiner in that poets and music are the medium to the unprovable metaphysical. This idea is also close to Hannah Arendt from the well-known passage from the Denktagbuch, "Nur von den Dichtern erwarten wir Wahrheit (nicht von den Philosophen, von denen wir Gedachtes erwarten" and obviously doesn't distance itself very much from the distancing God of Kafka, like in that story he writes upon returning from the Yom Kippur services, in which a son received a sentence from his father to drown in water and performs it allegedly. The text used during the liturgy reads: "On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted". The precise choice of water seems to be an struggle against ontological freedom, idea that came to me after I read a part of Aviva's book, point at which one could say that Rosenzweig wasn't the only one who felt that Kafka wrote in the style of the same person who composed the Bible. But I won't be the one to expound upon this point, I think the idea of "the mighty waters" (from Aviva Zornberh) and "Aufstand der Wasser" (from Eveline Goodman-Thau) have more than sufficiently clarified the issue at stake.

In regard to music I'm not at all knowledgeable on Kafka but I can simply infere from what we know about him, in the case of Arendt the quest for music toward truth reminds of that story mentioned in her biography when she discussed views on illness with her students shortly before her death and she spoke about Nietzsche soothing beneath his sister playing the piano.

Galli claims that the relation among God, man, world (tantamout to Heidegger's "Divinities, Mortals, Earth, Heavens in "Building, Dwelling, Thinking", the triada is called "elements" by Rosenzweig and "freedoms" by Steiner, I believe Dr. Gottlieb-Zornberg is more comfortable with the latter because it adds a certain deliverance from hierarchies) is a requisite through time, "in order to arrive at truths", I'm in complete agreement with this idea, which calls for "encounters" that I believe aren't possible unless one's recovered the language that lost itself among "the crowds and groups" (Canetti) with the sounds of trains and artillery in between the two World Wars. Perhaps I might agree by detour with Steiner, on what truely defines modernity. I heard once T. Meyer speak about Simmel and say that the typically modern concept of "crisis" is what has given us modernity, in negative dialectics understood as that which is opposed to a philosophy of culture or a philosophy of human culture (this later phrasing is as old as Cassirer). But from within "thinking spaces" is perhaps this encounter not possible? One is forced to look into Buber and Rosenstock, the first I don't like and the second unfortunately I haven't "encountered" enough, but it's clear somehow from Rosenzweig attempts as a philosophy of speech in the Star.

In my opinion Galli sees Rosenzweig quest for translation as a transformation of the world, and for Steiner I believe it is a "becoming essentially", this of course reminds me too of Harvey Cox and the definition of humanity in terms of urbanization. Rosenzweig believes that all speech is a translation of reality. How is one then meant to translate when the reality has almost blurred away behind thick walls of time behind which our pasts and traditions hide? In answering this question I think one has to follow Galli's path toward Finkielkraut, Rose and Steiner; needless to mention despite of how removed they are from our traditions, at least for those of us with roots in Idealism and Existentialism.

I think I'll stop here for today, anyway I think that as long as I'm not intending to present a paper I could type these notes out in series with numbers, and I'm going to try to work on this only while I'm at the library because there's so much reading I owe to make, but nevertheless tonight I hope to write something about D., whom I've been missing for about a week. At least now I have the reference to W. Stevens. Perhaps tomorrow after the storming that awaits at CY I shall devote some more time to the cultural writings of R., it's truely amazing. The last week I've realized that most of those German-Jewish thinkers come in one only group, they can be inspected as though one were dissecting frogs, with the same prism but they all run in altogether different directions. They must be read in groups and never spoken about alone.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Kafka's Suffering (in process)

"Man has no nature -no simple homogeneous being. He's a strange mixture of being and nonbeing. His place is between those two opposite poles".

"For nature is such, that it everywhere indicates a God lost, both in man and out of man".

-E. Cassirer

The question of the colours is an old aesthetical struggle, since both Goethe and Kant [the discovery of the judgement faculty through "autonomy", Kant's being "eternal" -following Aristotle, and Goethe's being developmental, in tune with Biblical humanism, Kaufmann].... The idea of black and white, that can be gained and retained only from within the experience. Problematic enough is nevertheless out fascination with twilights and in-betweens that remain at the core of our creative force, the power of description. "Die Frage der sprache ist wieder da", thus starts Eveline's book on the Critique of Reason, I could even dare say the question is once again "darin"; and perhaps Cassirer more than others help me to understand why Rosenzweig wouldn't "take pleasure" in the reading of Kafka, claiming his novels were written in the same style that the author of the Bible had in mind when writing that book, a writing on the wall.

The days waft in the uneasiness of hueing beneath the tremble of the abyss, and choosing to swim therein has shown me that there's no possible philosophy within, therefore as Heidegger has shown the province of being is manifested through mani-fold channels, "Das Seiend-Sein kommt vielfaeltig zum Scheinen", translating the following passage from Aristotle (I might be actually wrong, because this sounds a lot more akin to Parmenides): τὀ ὂν λἐγεται πολλαχῶς. Accordingly Kafka might be a lot truer to the spirit of thinking than Heidegger, as in the two-fold nature of man reflected in the Midrash -the one and the many; Simmel only adds up with "Kultur ist der Weg von der geschlossenen Einheit durch die enfaltete Vielheit zur entfaltete Einheit". Then Barbara Hahn presents the idea of plurality from Hannah Arendt to us: "Die Eins - ist kein Anfang; sie ist immer schon gegeben, insofern eine Zwei existiert. Erst die Zwei macht die Eins zur Eins.

Then Arendt writes in her Denktagbuch: "Experimental Notebook of a Political Scientist: To establish a science of politics one needs to reconsider all philosophical statements on Man under the assumption that men, and not Man, inhabit the earth. The establishment of political science demands a philosophy for which men exist only in the plural. Its field is human plurality. Its religious source is the second creationmyth - not Adam and rib, but: Male and female he crated them".

This is followed by a long footnote in "The Human Condition" (on whose relationship to the text there's indisputable agreement between Hahn and me); this speaks of the first chapter when she introduces the notion of plurality from the Biblical source.

"In the analysis of postclassical political thought, it is often quite illuminating to find out which of the two biblical versions of the creation story is cited. Thus it is highly characteristic of the difference between the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and of Paul that Jesus, discussing the relationship between man and wife, refers to Genesis 1:27: "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female" (Matt. 19:4), whereas Paul on a similar occasion insists that the woman was created "of the man" and hence "for the man", even though he then somewhat attenuates the dependence: "neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man" (I Cor. 11:8-12). The difference indicates much more than a different attitude to the role of woman. For Jesus faith was closely related to action; for Paul, faith was primarily related to salvation [I know from somewhere this is an insight of Rudolf Bultmann]. Especially interesting in this respect in Augustine, who not only ignores ignores Genesis 1:27 altogether but sees the difference between man and animal in that man was created unum ac singulum, whereas all animals were ordered "to come into being several at once". To Augustine, the creation story offers a welcome opportunity to stress the species character of animal life as distinguished from the singularity of human existence.

B. Hahn mentions morever, the particular choice of Arendt to quote from the Rosenzweig-Buber Bible, and not from the King James or any other edition available in English or German. Particular enough is to notice that apparently this reading of the Bible in general was the only thing Arendt had to do with Rosenzweig. He appears quoted in p.333 of the Human Condition as a footnote; the note is motivated by the following paragraph:

"The reward of toil and trouble lies in nature's fertility, in the quiet confidence that he who in "toil and trouble" has done his part, remains a part of nature in the future of his children and his children's children. The Old Testament, which unlike classical antiquity, held life to be sacred and therefore neither death nor labor to be an evil (and least of all an argument against life), shows in the stories of the patriarchs how unconcernd their lives they were, how they needed neither an individual, earthly immortality nor an assurance of the eternity of their souls, how death came to them in the familiar shape of night and quiet and eternal rest "in a good old age and full of years". -The Human Condition, chapter 3, Labor

Followed by the footnote abovementioned:

"Nowhere in the Old Testament is death "the wage of sin." Nor did the curse by which man was expelled from paradise punish him with labor and birth; it only made labor harsh and birth full of sorrow. According to Genesis, man (adam) had been created to take care and watch over the soil (adamah), as his name, the masculine form of "soil", indicates (v. Gen. 2:5, 15). And "Adam was not to till adamah and He God created Adam of the dust of adamah.... He, God, took Adam and put him into the Garden of Eden to till and watch it" (I follow the translation of Martin Buber & Franz Rosenzweig).....

That was seemly the only connection of Arendt to Rosenzweig, in anycase most of his writings other than the Star remained unpublished by the time of Arendt's death. Nevertheless she maintained a correspondence with both Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem, but did not seem to have known Emil Fackenheim or A.J. Heschel. The case of Kafka was very different, as she often speaks of him in her writings and devoted a very important essay to the novel "The Palace" as the philosophical foundation of what Anti-semitism caused to European Jewry.
Two particularly important references to Kafka in the Arendtian corpus:

The chapter VI of "The Human Condition" starts with a sub-heading paragraph by Kafka: "He found the Archimedean point, but he used it against himself; it seems that he was permitted to find it only under this condition". This stands right before section 35., that speaks of "World Alienation".

The idea of the Archimedean point appears several times through the book, in the following instances:

"On the other hand, the conditions of human existence -life itself, natality and mortality, wordliness, plurality, and the earth-can never "explain" what we are or answer the question of who are for the simple reason that they never condition us absolutely. This has always been the opinion of philosophy, in distinction from the sciences -anthropology, psychology, biology, etc.-which also concern themselves with man. But today we may almost say that we have demonstrated even scientifically that, though we live now, and probably always will, under the earth's conditions, we are not mere earth-bound creatures. Modern natural sciences owes its great triumphs to having looked upon and treated earth-bound nature from a truly universal viewpoint, that is, from an Archimedean standpoint taken, wilfully and explicitly, outside the earth" (p. 13). It follows the prologue from "The earth is the very quintessence of the human condition"; it is interesting to notice how Arendt does not say world instead of earth, for world is included under the rubric of "The Human Condition of work is worldliness. Work provides an "artificial" world of things, distinctly different from all natural surroundings. Within its borders each individual life is housed, while this world itself is meant to outlast and trascend them all". (p.9). She is attaching to the world a meaning of being "humanly created", therefore not related to the earth, the heavens, the waters. Heidegger himself speaks about "deities, mortals, heavens, earth" in his essay "Building, Dwelling, Thinking" and he presents the earth as the dwelling place for mortals; the world isn't mentioned but whenever he refers to "Dasein" which necessitates a temporal and spatial location, namely a world.

Another instance brings us closer to the pained world of Kafka, that shall be extensively discussed thereafter; "The Cartesian removal of the Archimedean point into the mind of man, while it enabled man to carry it, as it were, within himself wherever he went and this freed him from given reality altogether-that is, from the human condition of being an inhabitant of the earth-has perhaps been as convincing as the universal doubt from which it sprang and which it was supposed to dispel. Today at any rate, we find in the perplexities confronting natural scientists in the midst of their greatest triumphs the same nightmares which have haunted the philosophers from the beginning of modern age".

Slowly Arendt penetrates the inner world of Revelation, as though trying to get a grasp of the world from the universe outside the earth, not only dwelling on the old exiles but adding up to it the exile from the earthliness and the human condition itself; which is mesmerizing in being distinctive of Kafka's ambiguous pesimism. Arendt is looking for answers that are nowhere to be found in the Western tradition and through the Rosenzweig-Buber translations (and perhaps the correspondence with Gershom Scholem as well) she unwittingly creates for herself an orifice inside a vacuum; but unlike Nietzsche she's not doing philosophy with a hammer and disturbing the peaceful co-existence of the inhabitants of the philosophical worlds. Her rather innocent criticism develops into an insight that might just as well come in the disguise of nihilism or amorality; but without touching upon it she's entering the world of Kafka, that to my opinion is not necessarily a world inhabited neither by Kafka himself nor by the whole of German Jewry. It is a pariah world, that resembles the "memory" of Lessing's world, which was no longer available to them. Nor Kafka or Arendt and much less Rosenzweig are parvenus in the Western tradition; the weight of Judaism is beared almost with pride but is mimetized into Greek and Christian myths that permit the thinker to un-obliterate the thinking spaces necessary to still remain "beholding a world"; It seems the three of them live in a multi-layered world not unlike that un-paradisiac one portrayed in the Midrash.

The closing pages of "The Human Condition" return to Kafka once again, (section 45, "The Victory of the Animal Laborans"): "If, in concluding, we return once more to the discovery of the Archimedean point and apply it, as Kafka warned us not to do, to man himself and to what he is doing on this earth, it at once becomes manifest that all his activities, watched from a sufficiently removed vantage point in the universe, would appear not as activites of any kind but as processes, so that, as a scientist recently put it, modern motorization would appear like a process of biological mutation in which human bodies gradually begin to be covered by shells of steel. For the watcher from the universe, this mutation would be no more or less mysterious than the mutation that goes on before our eyes in those small living organisms which we fought with antibiotics and which mysteriously have developed new strains to resist us. How deep-rooted this usage of the Archimedean point against ourselves can be seen in the very metaphors which dominate scientific thought today".