Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Church II (Mario)

Before I had reached my first pivoting point I had never felt sorry for myself, in fact the first time I did I should have been old enough as not to be able to feel sorry for myself anymore, it was just a way to feel things that had been already forsaken, it wasn't for the sake of rememberance, but more for the sake of time. On my way to the pivoting point I came back to the church, in a place so entirely different than my own; there I couldn't experience much of a religious feeling, not the hypocrisy or the common misery of all, the songs were a little empty and even the choir director resembled more a summer camp swimming instructor than an actual choir director. As you entered the church you immediately felt betrayed, the squared building (which looked more like a government building) had several tiny classrooms in the ground floor and a chapel upstairs adorned in a very Protestant style, wearing no other jewelry than a large wooden cross and refusing to host in any mysteries.

Right outside the church there was a large fence and a small concrete yard used often to play basketball, in short there was nothing there that could inspire one to think about anything other than submission and punishment, not even salvation would occur to you in a sudden sinking bliss. Yet at the social time this church did mean a significant social improvement and sooner than I had expected worldlessness and hypocrisy returned as though they had been disguised into something else just not to spare me the surprise to find them anew. The community had rather puritan leanings and it befit me just so well right in a period in which I had left all my puritan longings behind, so in order to confirm myself as a Catholic properly I used to escape the services to hide in the toilet and smoke and self-please myself soon thereafter returning immaculate to the service, almost proud of my mortal sins. Because of my boredom at school and time wasted in libraries reading serious books I enjoyed the church also because of Sunday School for Youth Ministry; there we had first Mr. Lunnen, one of the many American diplomats that would be part of our church and a rather wealthy man, very well built but already in his fourties. The class wasn't very interesting and there was but little one could learn, time in which I might say I could have missed the brothers at the French School but such a thought didn't occur to me at the time.

The Lunnens invited me over very often and I ate the most delicious food I can remember from the whole of my childhood, with the only exception of my aunt's mother-in-law's Christmas cooking. I enjoyed their company very much because it felt a little homely and not exceedingly artificial like when I sat with my father to watch TV, they weren't the most intelligent people but at least I could practice my English and well somehow play the pariah again, with all my "respectable" acquaintances. Their sons stroke me as rather stupid and tasteless except the middle one but I can't remember his name, I think he was the closest to a friend I had from the Lunnen's yet I put up with my act so that I could visit often enough without raising suspicions of being almost homeless in the spiritual and familiar sense. That as long as they didn't watch movies, then I had to run away and spend some time at the park or watching young people passing by and imagining someone would come to talk to me and "enact" a thoroughly revolutionary friendship or I could as well find my way down the hill to the German Institute and watch a movie or spend sometime in the library; there were two people I have some memories of: Sabine Ringler was first the secretary at Goethe's and then became an official at the Swiss Embassy where one of my first and most loyal penpals worked, Frau Christine Fischer, the cultural attache; of course she wouldn't be as helpful and patient as Herr Oliver Urban, who had the same position at the German Embassy.

The other person was Maik Mueller, who happened to be a friend of Till from Germany and someone I actually happened to admire at the time. This turns a little comic because years later my friend Daniel had an internship for his law studies in Haifa and he happened to be a friend of this Maik who comes from a god-forsaken place called Rostock in the East of Germany. Had I met this Maik only a couple of years later I could have said he belonged to one of those categories of people I would even refuse the privilege of sociability; it shows how funny young people can be sometimes. Not only this Maik became an outspoken faggot but quite a simple and pointless character, one of those that are often deleted from plays in later editions of the original script. But then again I might have got this wrong too because it seems to me I was acquainted with him while I was still at St. John's and way before my second partnership with Rome, nonetheless these details fit in perfectly in speaking about Lunnen. His wife was a pretty neurotic character and tireless chatterbox, possibly never becoming intimate with anybody and rather a saver of the humanrace herself, certainly not in the fashion field I can attest. I think their home was one of my first attempts at renewing my vows with the consumption of pork which I had broken since severing ties with my father, it wasn't long lived though.

Robert Lunnen was the first person I spoke to about my sexual orientation but of course, like most young people do, I did it using this "a friend of mine asked me that...." which might have been revealing of everything at the time, but I couldn't know this too well. This was also the time when I became knowingly aware of my Jewishness but that's a story I still can't write because there're many details missing and I shall speak to my parents before I can reconstruct this story and in any case, I didn't think there was any connection between one's religion and aggresive church attendance, because the church after all was about sociability and not about religion. It was about double morality, not about vocations. Yet at this point it becomes important only in order to show that contingency and the unpredictability of one's telos can down upon you very early in life.

At the church I met Mario (not my good friend of later years, that was when I entered the International School) and I can't exactly remember how; he was presumably a very snobbish kid and perhaps a year younger than me, a Mexican too. I believe we became acquainted at some youth group and the first memory I have from spending time together was a certain day climbing up the walls of a church to go and smoke pot right after Sunday school, a third guy might have been there with us but I can't remember that too well. I don't recall many details from those days but I know they were terribly intense and confusing, perhaps I was in fact in love but I don't know. He used to be a rather wild character and not very good at school but very popular everywhere and one of those kernels of sophistication I would form in my mind for long years. He used to have a girlfriend but I can't remember her name at all, and I do remember well his apartment in downtown and his parents; it was a very small apartment and his room was very warm and typical of a guy his age, so totally unlike mine, so large and cold and bookish yet totally lacking personality and overlooking nothing more than a very old grocery store and a very pauper street.

He had two friends who became my friends too, two sisters from another city and one of them extremely beautiful and not very devoted or intelligent. Mario and me had the most spectacular conversations you can think of, perhaps it wasn't like my days with Till but there was something really whimsical about it other than him being an extremely beautiful man. Only two scenes remain that can't be washed by the weight of the years of adulthood; once we had been late at night in the house of the two girls playing games and throwing pillows at one another, for some reason (perhaps part of a game) they closed themselves in the room and both of us stayed outside in the dark. I can't recall anything about the conversation but it might have been something rather embarrassing and at least for me frightening but I do remember myself standing up in the dark and having a long kiss with him even though I was self-assured about him having a girlfriend and not sure at all about myself; that was my first French kiss. I had been very hopeful there would be a continuation but soon thereafter I think his mother called and we ought to return to his flat and there I slept but nothing happened other than a very bitter conversation which slept away in disappointment.

From that point on I think I saw him more often than I would have expected but less than I wished, and even one day I simply went away with him and his family to their countryhouse and had one of the happiest times in several years (we didn't go for holidays too often and when at all, it was rather lame and pained), I remember his mother wasn't around at the time and only his father looked after us, which was like having a statue look after us. We didn't go to the city I believe but we ate together everyday and even play in the pool until very late at night. One day (which is the source of my second story) his father thought it would be really nice to take a mud bath; he was an homeopatic pharmacist and a rather exquisite and large person, in the social meaning of the word. That day we slept in a different wing of the house and I remember coming downstairs to shower and wash off the mud; perhaps I had a terrible argument with Mario and as I walked into the shower he did as well and tried to calm me down and kiss me again; not sure what came out of it but that's all I can remember. That night we listened to music until very late (I still have some favourite songs from him) and fell asleep, can't recall if perhaps I shed some tears that night, it's very possible. Nor I remember the letters that I wrote him or he to me, but I knew there are more than a few; I had always been a prolific writer, and he had also presented me with a copy of Shakespeare's "Midsummer's Night Dream", but this also might be false, perhaps it was another play. The day after the mud episode we returned back to the city.

I think it should have been fun with him in the city too but don't have memories of what we did that day, perhaps sooner or later I found myself in his home giving him another present, maybe a bottle of maple syrup I got from Canada and then I had this delicious meal which reminded me of the Lunnen's but in a totally different context because at the time I think I was definitely in love with Mario, and he was to blame. Next I betrayed my household and escaped back to his countryhouse expecting to spend both Christmas and Silvester with him but he treated me quite badly at the time and I felt obligued to return only two days later with his brother, I remember not liking him too much but he had been very generous in inviting me to share some pot. Before the trip back we also had pizza together, the three of us in some large restaurant in the town and I can very well remember having said something about the way Germans eat their pizza, perhaps something I learnt from Till or I just had invented it. I might have seen Mario perhaps very scarcely after that and one day he just disappeared; I went to this home and rang the bell many many times, but I never received an answer. One day I met his father (I might have taken a ride in his car, he really liked me, this old man) and he told me he had returned to Mexico with his mother. I wasn't heart broken though, and for some time we emailed; I remember well this e-mail about the movies he had seen which had been exactly my same favourite movies of the time, "La Vie Revee des Angels", a Spanish movie about a love story between Spain, Finland and Germany in a town called "Rovaniemi", whereby the Polar Arctic Circle starts, and also "Magnolia", whose music I listen listen to today.

One day I received a phone call from his friend, that beautiful girl, telling me that he was in town and had wanted to see me very much but he never contacted me. A couple of years later when I was already through my pivoting point and on my way to Israel I happened to meet a certain guy from the church who was perhaps who introduced us formally in the beginning; he told me at the time he heard Mario had "become" Jewish in Mexico. This wasn't a very weightful thing to hear at the time but now in retrospective it holds all possible meaning in the world, because contingency in human beings keen to make their own life choices, can be something so daunting that it might be perhaps shared from far away in the distance by friends and loves of younger years.

Sometime before or after (it might be years even) I went out to rollerskate with the Lunnens and found myself resting in front of the synagogue; I couldn't bother to look into very much but it had some power to attract me with the madness of drunkenning tiles. I had seen a boy standing there with a skullcap that very much reminded me of Mario, but it wasn't him. Digging into my memories I remember him showing me a framed picture of his father's grandfather who had been an immigrant from England - a very rare thing at the time; I also remember his curls, his eyes and some kind of dark irresponsible sensuality about him all. This is not precisely what I've found in myself but I look into him now by remembering my friends of later years and it no longer strikes me with oddity him being a Jew, like me. As I said, contigency can be sometimes so burdensome that it can be even shared by friends; the most powerful memory I have of him isn't the stories I just accounted for, but his smell... which years later I found in F., and then in Ofer and lastly on myself, as though it had been accursed on me by our common telos. I can only help myself by remembering all this precisely when the chips are down and we're summoned for judgement, for the care of the world, for responsibility, for accountability even. While I was in yeshiva in Jerusalem I might have prayed a certain night while he uttered the same prayers somewhere else, the idea that such could be possible, saved me from endlessness and recklessness and unknowingly sealed my pivoting point once again.

The Pivoting Point from Jesus to Nietzsche

Sonnets to Orpheus, Book II, XII Rainer Maria Rilke

Aspire to transform. O enraptured be by the fire wherein
something elusive flames with brazen tidings of change;
that generative spirit, master of earth and all therein,
holds nothing dearer than the pivoting point of the evolving image.

The mantle of conservatism is of itself a shroud;
who could be truly secure beneath those folds of gray?
Beware, from afar the hardest warns the hard aloud.
An absent hammer swings high : --wehe. . .

Who pours forth like a spring is by knowledge herself known.
She leads him enthralled through the benign creation
which often ends in beginning and in beginnings ends.

Every astonishing space of joy through which they roam
is child or grandchild of separation. Daphne in mutation,
changing to laurel, requires your transformation into wind.

A poem like Rilke's could be the most exquisite piece of earthliness to continue my musings of the lyrical age, and at saying that perhaps claiming too that it isn't quite over as yet and even as the shadow of a memento remains so vivid as to become often fleshy in that flight from reality at the end of which Hegel awaits patiently for me, we share nectars of differently seized colours and share in the delight of Gods, because our childhoods might have been slightly similar under the spell of Plato and Hoelderlin. While writing, at the same time I discovered a little bliss of almost sensuous happiness, that of being happy not about I wrote but that in fact none of my characters had been fictions and that the turning points of my life in the most Biblical style hadn't been even turning points at all but rather stumbling blocks that shatter one era behind another irreparably and forever as though hiding before a thick concrete wall, yet seen in the light by any pedestrian, if pedestrians could be considered novelesque enough to be accounted for; my general feeling is that in my idea of Utopia they could certainly have, but this is no befitting circle of events for such indelicate musings.

Somehow it seems I might have not spoken enough about my days in St. John's, nor I spoke at all about the material aspects of my home or my own mother; this I did perhaps intentionally or with the innermost wishful desire to hide something, as though I tried to hide from Hermes in the twilight of morningness. At that tender age I experienced nevertheless great triumphs and disappointments, my first escapades to the big city - certainly the Northern Mall, I could spend hours at the bookstore leafing through the most diverse magazines. I was interested in very earthly things, like house construction (perhaps a copycat of my father), automobiles, videogames and obviously male bodies. Yet in being such hypocrite I couldn't bring myself to fancy the naked figures or the adult magazines, I preferred to stare into very discreet underwear advertisements and even more so I loved the gentlemen faces, with ties and elegant jackets, even a little bohemian and untidy, resembling a certain abandonment and the hypocrisy of sensuous piety. I also remember myself peering into the English books but never being interested enough... Later on I also had a very keen interest on music but I couldn't know too much about it and usually wound up buying for a lot of money basically the cheapest music one could think of. The kind of things whose even "ownership" would symbol my intellectual suicide.

But I was pretty happy with my possessions, never to forget when my father bought my first stereo which sadly and surprisingly was stolen only a couple of weeks later; the fate of such an expensive present remains a mystery of the world to this very day. I didn't read too much but as I mentioned before I was hooked on the French writers and the incredible amounts of knowledge I would draw from the Encyclopaedia. I used to chew a lot of candies at the time as well, perhaps because they were hardly available at home; they were also a symbol of infantile prestige to contrast my father's unbalanced weekened menus at the park with dripping fat and cheap paper to wipe your hands. Up to the 7th grade my Catholic hypocrisy turned me into a militant self-righteous Calvinist, an attitude I think everyone despised; I cound never break a plate, rise unearly or leave my homework undone but it was everything an immense facade, a charade to my own life, so unbeknownst to itself and so thoroughly irreligious. Still I was pretty unaware of sex proper but I did give myself away to the older guys (I was by far one of the youngest and certainly the smallest kid) and their sickly ways, untucking my shirt as soon as I left home, smoking cigarettes and every once in a while sipping down some local cheap bear. I guess there was an element of acceptance there and also one of rebellion - of the metaphysical kind, typical of the agnostic believer. I think at that turning point I would cure myself from my scorning protestant inclinations, how I always prached my father about his smoking and his drinking and even though offered, in the most Italian of styles, the usual glass of wine in family celebrations (I was thinking of some French word but it eludes me now) I always refused and sticked to my orange juice, a favourite delicacy. Although I do remember some gathering with a friend D. in 6th grade including vodka and orange juice and waffers.

In the 9th grade I was already owner of the place, and no longer too attached to either J.C. or J.C., unthinking of my own desires and only recently acquainted with the practice of self-satisfaction which rather scared me specially because I feared my father would suspect the reasons behind the cold sweat and fast heart beats. I couldn't bother to study much and often spent the whole day at the Mall or just walking around streets unknown before. Perhaps it is from this period when I knew Jochen Ploetz, the old professor of German literature at the local university who gave me those books I treasured for quite some years, but I never got through the 4th book. It was also then which I had my first contact with an homosexual person proper, firstly through a support group to which I phoned and left a voice message; my call was returned one certain day but my father's presence just a couple of meters away scared me and my interest would end there, right before I knew of any magazines or other spots. I also had my first sexual experience proper, which for me was undoubtedly refreshing and right before my 14th birthday. At the time it looked like the most daring and exciting thing I had done, but looking back at it now he was quite older than I am now and it seems he just had been a sickly pervert, in fact he could have spent quite some time in jail on my account; obviously I would have been too afraid to speak about it with anybody and never again I wished to see this man again.

Only a young woman, tenant of my grandmother's house (she had several) knew about the affair because she had been watching TV with me when the man in question called; she tried to spread the news but certainly no one believed her. At the time one certain day while crossing a bridge on the way to school (for some reason I loved this bridge, therefrom you could see a big lake, the wonderful villas up the hills and a great part of the city's west quarters) I found rip apart pieces from an adult magazine for gays with naked bodies in situ, which of course I would grab and treasure for a long time. Not long thereafter I dared to stand in a very filthy corner of town (whereby no one would know me but it would be close enough to find my back) and asked somebody in the street to buy an adult magazine for me; and what an experience it was!!! Then after I had it in my hands while finding my way back a certain young man approached me wanting to see it as well, but I was so afraid! I just ran away.

I can't exactly remember if it was from this period when I started visiting often the fancy German Mall, but it is very possible... actually I'm right. I used to spend hours listening to music in a Tower Records, in particular Paula Cole and reading the magazines from the stands in all kind of foreign languages; I also remember listening to Monserrat Caballe, the famous opera singer. Thinking again, from this period I might have also met my good friend Ximena that was some 18 years older than me and the first person to introduce me to the world of "night life" of some sorts; it was at the British Council of which I would become a permanent visitor, having bought a membership with the money I earned working as an interpreter at some silly education fair representing a certain American evangelic college. I borrowed a lot of English books which I enjoyed, even though I hadn't been too interested in literature then; I also spent hours using the internet and by e-mail I actually came out to Adriane, who at the time was no longer living nearby, she was the sister of another friend who had become a hardcore mormon, and who happened to have been the neighbour of a certain German I knew. But this is getting ficticious here, this happened only in the 10th grade when I was already at the French School.

The French School... I would remain there only for less than a year, and quite hated it... the teachers seemed taken from some mediaeval tale but I quite liked the religion around there even though I experienced another epidemic of puritanism for some time (it soon came to an end), I hated each and every single class and I doubt I understood anything at all or even learnt. Yet I liked the religion class and computers, the latter was taught by a very warm lady called Elizabeth and she and me became frequent conversation partners; there was also a philosophy teacher, one of the most intelligent men I had met up to that point and who was very fond of me and treasured my knowledge of German and philosophy. I was perhaps the person with the highest social standing in the whole school and had even been very much loved by the dean, a certain Brother Julius. The parish priest wasn't too fond of me, but he was an old-schooler and similar to my father's wife local parisher, very uncivilized and almost stereotypical of that provincial Spanish Catholicism I hated, so different from my aunt's and granny's Italian and German churches full of splendour and hypocrisy. This brother Julius was actually a very wise man and we often had private conversations, some of which I can remember to this day with a certain daunting feeling. One of my classmates gave me as a present once a certain little book in Italian about the Nazi Holocaust, only because it contained an awful lot of texts in German; I didn't know too much about the Holocaust was, so I gave it away to Angela, but I do remember it contained very silent pictures with endless lines of dead bodies and formless corpses. I couldn't know at the time the image of Auschwitz would become the source of an almost political religiousity and individuality that would set me at odds with Rome forever.

I would miss school for several days at a time and spent the whole day speaking with Ximena about life, I also met Nelma Krieger in those days and with whom I would drink a lot of beers in expensive restaurants and prepare for my first authentically Existential flight: The pivoting point from Jesus to Nietzsche that would end up today in Jerusalem. I think I was a very ugly kid but quite immaculate and "anadiomenus" as in the poems of Rimbaud but slowly I started to notice my own inner desires and sooner than I could expect, I turned out confessing it to Ximena and Nelma, who took it with so much lightness! Ximena I saw years ago while coming out of a library but never heard from her again, and the same with Nelma; she moved into a flat by herself after she got herself a job at the Academy of Sciences and promising to invite me over disappeared forever. Still I remained unacquainted with the topic of sex but I saw myself often wooed in public places, which stirred on me an awful mixture of pleasure and shame. From the British Council I also met David, and what a great friendship that would be! So much earthly pain of youth and courage, so much struggle, drunkenness, and how beautiful he seemed to me at the time! We could spend hours and hours speaking about ourselves in cheap cafes.

I also think I started to frequent a certain gay bar but hardly ever drank more than one beer, perhaps I just didn't have enough money... yet I kept smoking menthol cigarettes but not too much. Those days were so important to me because at the time I met Nicolas, my big frustrated love story... It taught me important lessons about the society I lived in, about cruelty and also about passion. He was such a beautiful young man, from St. Carl's School and with a very very sad smile, a little feminine at times but so often too masculine as well. I only saw him at the German Mall almost everyday and we looked at each other from afar; I lost my innocence in those days in the social regard, I learnt about the social clubs, the elitism, the power of money and prestige, the power itself! Which in our childish society was represented by us much more than by our parents, for we were the projected representations of their own frustrations. In the end I just quit school almost officially and spent all day long craving for lustful encounters which never really took place, after all I thought about Nicolas all day long. We actually never spoke and I only know his name from having overheard it, perhaps I invented this but I can't be sure at all, I really don't think so.

There was another young man obviously homosexual and who always kept him company, perhaps he might have even noticed me and always dragged him away from my sight. I can't remember what his name was, but I do remember he was friend to Julianna and perhaps Veronika? No! Something like Kathleen or so, two of the most "prestigious" girls in our "society"; both at the wealthy American school and apparently too well-known. Whenever I saw Nicolas I discreetly ran after him to catch a closer glimpse and despite my endless fear of rejection this made me very happy. A few times we were very close to one another and I believe he stared at me too many times, but always somebody would come and fetch him away from me, so I would just light a cigarette and ail my disappointment in conversations with strangers, all of them so totally uninteresting. Sometimes I would go as far as the Old City to find strange books at the library and watch sad films, specially French and Spanish.

I think it was at this time (perhaps I'm mistaken by a year or so) when I became a permanent guest at the Goethe Institut and never missed their movies, two of them I remember very well, "Nach 5 im Junge" and "Abgeschlossenes Vom Paradise", one of them I might have seen with Till, there was also a film by Fassbinder about a male prostitute which marked me very deeply and then was followed by a short talk with this old German woman and her maid; I haven't seen too many of his movies and in this age of sophistication in which me and my friends consider ourselves to be part of some "intellectual elite", Germany is perhaps the largest section of my mental map and the discussions on German things are as endless as are the stories I'm unraveling here, yet despite the harsh criticism Fassbinder received from all my acquaintances almost unanonimously, I can't bring himself to hate him too much and that's perhaps because I'm a Jew, and a German Jew at that; the portrait of the middle class "Sturm und Drang" German has for me a lot of Romantic biffurcations and remains perhaps one of my self-vantage points into irreality. I also remember a German Independence Party at Goethe, and also having spent almost the whole night in the company of a Spanish woman, her name was Amparo I think, who couldn't have anything but wonderful things to say about the Netherlands; topic that bored me terribly.

I think the story of Nicolas I never really got over, years later I saw him while wandering in between my Greek uncle's shop and the Israeli internet cafe, I also had a serious relationship at the time with a man some twelve years older than me. Then I saw him walking hand in hand with a woman in the most beautiful and elegant clothes, like those of the magazine men I used to stare into while a little younger. I preferred not to call his attention, but the sight of his own sights was a very profound experience to me, even though at the time there was little left of the little boy who would chase after him in the most abject embarrassment through the ice-cream shops and fast-food stands in the corridors of the elegant German Mall. That picture remains with me as though I had been kissing good-bye to my adolescence that day, but it was a very happy picture and even when a less than happy adolescence, I had only a mortal pleasure from its dim images of pale opaqueness.

I had been such a fighter! Somehow else I also had been a very keen climber up the social ladder, much better than any of my parents or relatives. They craved for money and a little social power but me as a mere teen, couldn't be any less concerned about the money yet the world was open to me with the delight of a summer breeze, I walked myself into all the social clubs and venues, events, expositions, presentations. Wherever there was a place where you could make important contacts I had to be there even wearing borrowed clothes or my father's. Then when I became a self-aware intellectual I turned a little bohemian and pathetic and naturally despiseful of this scenario properly speaking, but it was an incurable disease, I had earned for myself a prominent position in the social scale and I could never again drift away from it, if not in the clubs at least in my mind. This position, attained by a person who made himself from scratch and out of the ashes of a broken past, has been earned with sweat and at a point of my life when I no longer need it, it remains there in silence, as though it were a birthright. If at all this must be said, I don't owe this position to anybody in the world but my talents not only as a thinker but also as a human person, and this is the free gift I've received from the divine providence perhaps as a compensation for the darkness that surrounded me with mystery during my early years.

I would never even dare to think of "becoming" into this social norm nor I passed myself forcibly as parvenu, I did it with so much naturality and charm that it almost hurts with longing today; thinking back I had been a pariah since the age of 14 or 15. I exchanged letters with Swiss and German diplomats, found myself in cocktails for politicians, charity events, also corresponded with people abroad, paving the way for my encounter with Nietzsche later on. Simultaneously my parents watched TV and complained about the weather, I for one set myself for the reconquista of the world, for the love of the world; the first expression an image of my friend Ralf, the second the strongest of all Arendtianisms. Right now at this very moment I would name it using a phrase of my teacher Agnes Heller, a great philosopher: "Para cambiar la vida". ["To change the life", mind you I didn't mean "a life" or "life"]. Ever since those purple days with all their endless dark and shadowing twilight I knew I had chosen myself to change the life, knowing so little about the weightful character of the decision that not many years later would throw me into life (Geworfenheit in Heidegger) and choose myself for philosophy. One of the only existential choices that equates with everyday life in that it isn't chosen at all; it simply dawns upon you when the chips are down as the only possible alternative, in choosing yourself for it you are actually choosing your own life and life at all - it makes all pasts seem irrelevant and outmoded (like it's the case in the structure of modernity) but important insofar as you have it, as you own it.

This is the pivoting point of Rilke and of the Bible; the end is a beginning and the beginning is only an end, just like the Israeli writer Amos Oz wrote once "The sky is the limit, but the limit is only the first step". Because you've chosen yourself, you've also lost yourself totally but it can only be a gain because the walls and spiderwebs of your past never disappear while at the same time remind you that there's no sureness of the self at all; you can at best guess things for your own good but the knowledge of life is only therein at the place where you can't obtain any further knowledge about anything at all, in the toil of everyday's life. That is your pivoting point.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

St. John's Eudist School

This would be my next step, one that would significantly increase my dangers and my worldly preoccupations; other alternatives were the Military Academy which would have made my life look so different, and unfortunately I can neither regret or gladden at the fact I eventually didn't go there. I think during my first days there I could exactly tell I was no longer a child, and of course having failed a whole grade leaves you with a benchmark you can't avoid, you belong to a select clan of underworld people. I don't have too many memories from my first year there other than the classroom and some of my mates, I had also been the class' president (even though I had been democratically elected only by one-vote extra and it became a reason for endless annoyance about me and towards me); I can't exactly remember if that had been the year when I started smoking but perhaps it wasn't, I still embraced self-righteousness at the time. I do recall some of the teachers, Luty had taught me the Biology I failed from the 6th grade (she had at the time a love affair with a man that later became the school's dean), there was also Marcela, the language teacher with whom I would spend a Christmas Eve in the countryside, for my dad was at the time working in some project out there... I can't

I shall continue my Midrash now a few hours later. I'm making a lot of effort not to mix the real characters with the ficticious ones fearing that the former might often be not too much more real than the later and entering the coffin of heirlooms stirrs in me some sort of happiness unknown before, that of the Achaeans having reached their harbor. I used to wake up not too early in the morning, specially in the rainy days and unless I had fought with my father the day before he wouldn't bother to wake me up on his way to work, he also left sometimes very very early or arrived just too drunk early in the morning and couldn't bother with me no more. Upon awakening I remember often going on errands of different sorts wearing adult clothes, from my father of course, looking for a more interesting life.

I also had my study corner which used to be my father's, but in a very minimized fashion. I can't remember myself doing homework too often, unless it was something I enjoyed a lot like European History; I do remember myself trying my luck at English books, writing a few unfinished diary entries or learning German. Often I had to cook lunch for all of us and sometimes I wasn't very successful, then later I had to find my way to school. To be in school was something that made me very very happy, I could sit in the classrooms for hours and in the late afternoon I never wanted to go home. I had had a perfect and typical Catholic upbringing, specially in that we only upheld the traditions without much belief in God whatsoever, so that at my father's table to doubt the existence of God wasn't considered something heretical, but dare you speak something against the Virgin or Christmas - then it was considered offensive.

I do remember spending a lot of my free time (actually most of it) at the Pastoral Office, speaking about life's toil with the priest and two or three theologians I still remember. There was no moralizing or judgementalism there, reason for which we really loved to be there. We spoke a lot about God of course but much more about salvation, about happiness, about family values; I can even remember a certain conversation about Ruben Dario's oeuvre and Modernism, about that certain Dutch film "Antonia". The Pastoral Office was indeed my home and the only intermediary in between me, life and my father; we didn't have to go to church often or at least I can't remember that. My Catholicism found expression in an alleged form of double morality, for after all this had very little to do with religion but sometimes could be discussed in a religious context. I can't remember who were my friends in the first year, but I do clearly remember two... M. with beautiful curly red hair and sights abundant in pimples of the red-haired people's kind, we used to play very innocent games and I felt strangely attached to him, in fact he belonged to a totally different group than I did. I spent most of my time visiting the library and reading about poetry, Rimbaud more than all the rest I think, and also reading theological tractates for adults and drawing exotic informations from encyclopaedias that later on I'd share with my teachers.

Now I do remember the religion teacher, she was an old woman by the name of Angela and the class was a little boring, very soft Cathecism and some philosophy as well, ethics and all sorts of mysteries and churchities. I was very innocent in those days, at least emotionally and even though I had never been too much attracted to women I couldn't consider myself to be an homosexual, I was simply not very outgoing or beautiful and considered my male friendships to be very special. M. might have been my first crush but one of a very soft type, I can't even remember how we became friends but it wasn't long-lived and most of the time we spent it playing a game in which we would ask sex questions to each other in a notebook and the other would get pleasure from reading his soulmate's answers. I remember him leaving school that year, I can't remember exactly what happened, it might have been something with drugs or whatever, perhaps I'm speaking about somebody else, actually I am. I really can't remember anything else, I remember speaking on the phone to him a long time thereafter and after promising to meet each other again I believe they moved houses and we lost contact ever since.

There was also J.C. who was my first serious crush on somebody, I truely loved this boy and we exchanged letters every so often, I used to write in the mother tongue very beautifully at the time and a very flowery language, with metaphors and Latin expressions. He was the president of another class and therefore we were to meet more often than the eyes of the classmates would perceive. He wasn't much taller than me but very sophisticated and sophistication I knew, was something I needed to achieve; I don't know how I got at this conclusion but it was something so obvious to me that I couldn't help it. With J.C. also came my first disappointment of the heart and one that would last for a very long time because it came in the loud company of rejection; I don't think he rejected me himself but some of his mates were under the strong suspicion that I was not "normal" and our friendship vanished immediately. Hardly ever again we crossed a word, except for one time over the phone I think, it was a very cold and punctual conversation regarding our class presidency. He had a girlfriend, I think she might have been beautiful too.

At the time I had a friend, Johanna, who was much older than me to whom I used to wooe with letters and presents I bought with money I stole from my father discreetly and in small amounts over long periods of time. It was usually things I wanted to buy for myself but that my father never agreed to. People might have thought I was in love with her but this was totally untrue, I only had eyes for J.C. at the time, of course not calling it homosexual love. One day I spoke to Johanna about my troubles with the younger kids and I remember one day while escorting her home we encountered J.C. in the car with his family; she immediately hugged me, we crossed arms and then she kissed me and called me "honey". Now when I think about it this was very very silly, anybody could tell I was in love with him (I think some of my teachers even) but at the time it saved my life for quite a while. When I think about myself in Johanna's age I had had a very important love story and found myself in libraries and bohemian cafes studying Greek and meeting literati, what a different world! I heard she was dating a pilot about my age now and that he gave her a very bad life, she also went on to study engineering or something like that. I loved to spend time in her house when we were late for school and were not let in, that is how the discipline was at the Eudist School. She had a friend about my height but a little older called M.J., with her I kept contact for a very long time and hers is the only phone number from those days I can still remember, it has been some years since I last spoke to her. She was a very intelligent girl and perhaps one of the few real friends I had.

My life was full of intrigues and gossips, unrequited loves, fantasies and a lot of loneliness. There was another friend, Nicolas, we lived closed by and I think I also loved him in my own way, we spent so much time together! But I wasn't in love with him because he was very uninteresting, but his sweetness! Such a delicate character, often acted as a little kid and got easily embarrassed. I also liked the food in his home so much better and his house, in such a beautiful neighbourhood with gardens, not like my ugly bungalow with a garage full of manly things like tools for mechanic repairs and houseplans. If I'm not mistaken his mom's name was Nancy, and I loved her even as much as I loved Nicolas. I tried to escape home several times, the first one I ran to Julian, the friend I spoke about from 5th or 6th grade, but I hated his mother because she looked like a witch. Nico had a funny cheek in which a little hole appeared as he closed his mouth and his face was so beautiful! We used to study together a lot and I think I was much smarter than he was. Any opportunity I had to be out of home and far from J., I would do it immediately; that's how religion had so much interest for me at the time, not because I believed in anything but because it was a social club.

There were other friends, but these friendships became real and almost daily only in the next years, for example Maria, Jennifer, Diana, Judy and David... We were such a group! By the 9th grade we had shared so many things, cried so many times, enacted so many revolutions and failed in mathematics almost one after the other. The 7th grade was very painful, all of it, trying to adapt to my new situation plus I was a terrible puritan and teacher's pet, a bootlicker in the most absolute sense. Then the 8th grade was different, my friendships started to flourish (even though I had often fights with my beloved Nicolas, but through one friend or the other we always bound back together) and my admiring relationship to Betty became perfect almost, she was the English teacher and a rather beautiful woman with a very long nose. I was the best student in religion and ethics, at the time though I hadn't completely got over J.C., while I didn't become popular I did make friends even though I had already left my puritan ideals behind and joined the bad crowd. I think it was in this grade when I started smoking, but I didn't do it well since I smoked like a girl and some of the bullies that used to make my life hell in the 7th grade became friendly with me, no more fights or insults and they taught me how to smoke properly, but I didn't really learn until much later. The teachers became suspicious of me as they saw me late at night in the streets around the school and of course they informed my father I think, but it didn't become a major issue. Not much later he found cigarettes in my pockets and what the bastard did? He believed my lies that the cigarettes were Johanna's!

His ways to educate me were rather absurd, because I received extreme punishments for very silly things like refusing to eat my food or not cleaning my bad properly. He used to hit me with his belt and I would be embarrassed for days even though I never really learnt to respect him, first because I thought of him as a primitive abuser no matter how much he loved me, which he did; later on because he became for me the antithesis of the intellectual and therefore of my own life, I wanted to be everything unlike him so that I would want to change my secular name (which I did) even though I had been always called otherwise, then later on I would forever drop my father's family name, but I'm planning now to add it up. I didn't learn to respect him, but now I do honour somehow his love because his naive form of stupidity might be despiseful in my eyes, but it's a lot more honest than any feeling I ever harbored for anybody. I hated to be hit with the belt and the more he hit me the more disrespect I showed and the worst I behaved, totally careless, loveless and disattached and for my father there could be no worse treat than the lack of my love, because he did no longer love his wife and she couldn't care too much about him, except to make sure the family was properly fed. I also remember him crying on my account, that didn't anger me or made me feel guilty, I was quite indifferent to the feeling. Only because I knew as a kid that there was a lot of hipocrisy flying on the air and that I wasn't the son he wanted, which in fact was his wife's son but I couldn't feel sorry about it.

In the other hand I did terrible things like stealing, submitting feigned exams in school and beating my classmates (the female ones). This went largely unpunished, which created in me a very cynical attitude towards wronging my father. It was ok to wrong my dad, but not other people. It was ok to be mean to him, but not to others; it was ok to keep my secrets for myself with him cynically and with pride, not so with other people... whenever outside the home I always wanted to make a good impression and to speak eloquently about my feelings. Everything in our house was ceremonial and ritual but empty of pathos, which made me suspect my father's Marxism was of the Protestant kind, I needed something more spiritual so in fact I always looked up to his sister whom I've loved more than any other of my relatives, my both parents included. I think it was from her I learnt any ethics or good behaviours, she and me had real conversations about life; not like with my father that always wound up speaking about his debts and then I became depressed, so I stopped speaking to him at all about anything that wasn't, how much money I needed. The day I left him to get on a plane to Germany, I didn't pain at anything or looked back at all, I didn't cry, I didn't feel anything at all while he cried very dramatically. Today I feel very bad that I couldn't feel any bad at the time, today I feel very bad that I never miss him and feel bad of having made him the source of my deepest embarrassments for several years. He only got to know bits about my life from my own accounts through internet chats since I've lived in Israel and that happens only a few times a year; I know about his love for me, but some things I can't forgive as yet, specially lies.

During school after I got over J.C., I had another crush with another J.C., this time my teacher of ethics and philosophy, my favourite subjects. I remember having heard M.J. (Johanna's friend) speak about reading Kant in the class with J.C., but I couldn't tell at the time that reading would be for me the most important thing in life, that I would choose myself for philosophy like one chooses himself for life or for love, some irreversible, beautiful, dangerous and intimate. He was a very handsome man but it didn't seem to me he was like the other teachers, he was certainly not a person of religious feeling or of moral correctness neither tidy enough to fit in the model. His informality was puzzling to me but I loved the class, I think in the first year we read Erich Fromm and little else. I remember giving my first public presentation because of him, a long lecture about Holy Mary and feminine values, that only a couple of days after I had a surgery in my toe of which I still have a mark. The most important thing for me wasn't the presentation or the whatever Mary, but to make my teacher happy and proud; I used to write him long letters that I would leave in his desk without a signature but soon enough he knew for a fact they were mine, he never made mention of it personally but I knew he took some sort of pleasure in receiving them and that for sure he read them. I made a fatal mistake in commenting in front of him something very inpolite next to Betty, the English teacher; then he was no longer as friendly as he had been but I kept writing and he kept reading. I was never in love with him like I had been with my other J.C., but I found him attractive even though not as intelligent for conversation as some other English teacher I befriended, not as sweet as my Nico or as masculine as my first J.C. or M. or David. During all this time I don't think I came out to anybody, not even to myself... but I supose Nicolas knew me well enough, he knew about my feelings for him and also for other people. Somehow the bullying stopped perhaps on account of pastoral intervention, you might not want to believe this, but a whole bunch of teenagers sort of grew used to some lonely, small and weakly gay classmate and that's how the story ended.

Already at that time I was very intellectually provoking, no one could beat me in History or English or Religion while my math never improved, I was always among the last ones to be left for remedial and post-remedial courses at the end of the school year. I remember Maribel very well, she was one of the best teachers, and with her I explored all my political aspirations which soon turned into radicalisms; first Christian anarchism (that is atheistic anarchism) and then Existentialism. I'm still a radical. In one of her classes I played a movie about an homosexual priest and this caused such a revolution at the school, that the pastoral priest had to come and give some talks I believe. I was left unharmed because I had fame of being mature and knowledgeable about things, but this was only a very external projection of intellectuallism; deep inside I was perhaps the most insecure person, specially because I believed myself to the only bad Catholic, and had my suspicions that my "special friendships" weren't as harmless as I thought, but I couldn't ask any questions and the books didn't give me any answers.

I read many books at the time, specially at home and when I was permitted to escape to the National Library for a few hours (even though often I stayed there the whole day). I can well remember my father's shelves and my readings; the most important of all was the big red encyclopaedia from which I would extract knowledge about any possible thing on earth, it was the most important book for me in the whole of my life; I would read about all the European languages, the philosophers, the saints, small villages in Spain and Germany and history of European cultures. That encyclopaedia was my first lecture in linguistics, even though I understood but very little I memorized everything by heart and discussed it before school with Betty. Then there were other books, the most important of them "The Little Prince" and "A Massachussets Yankee in King Arthur's Court" of Mark Twain I believed; Arthur was one of the most important characters in my imagination those days, therefore I praised the Scandinavians but condemned their religion because it resembled my granny's new ways in Protestantism. I also read a very fat tractate on Economics and another one on Psychology, the "Origins of Life" of Oparin and something about Communism I believe, a book of poems by Neruda, some German erotic novel of some woman with the surname "Schroeder", I think the title was "Memories of a German Singer". There was Russell's "The Conquest of Happiness" and Sartre's "No Exit"; I was always puzzled on why my father would have such books but I think now I understand, my hatred for Sartre and Russell doesn't come from him, but rather from my distaste first for Hegelian French Existentialism and second for left-wing Positivism; yet both books fit well in his views about life. I had a little book by some Michael Sokolov, one of my first steps into Existentialism perhaps at the age of 13 or 14, can't recall the title. A famous "Manual of Urbanity" which was my guide into all the behaviours adults expect from you but it was so terribly boring.

Yet so the real stuff was a collection of three books, one blue, one green and one red... standing respectively for selections from French, American and Russian literature; the American ones were not interesting for me except "Rip Van Winkle" and since the name sounded Dutch I liked him, the Russians weren't too interesting either but the French!!!! Oh! how many times I read those; my father couldn't suspect the reading to be any harmful but how mistaken he was. There I was a young kid of some 13 years old reading Voltaire, Yourcenar and Sade. Their short stories became almost a philosophy of life, and there I first became acquainted with things like sex, alcohol, misery, conspicuousness, transexuals, betrayals, etc. but at the time they couldn't have been much more than literary fictions. Then when I was at the library I look for Sade's books and read in one go my first homoerotic novel, a French one and about a young boy at that. I lost this book in lending it to a friend who never returned it, but in replacement I received a book about Aesthetics by Goethe and Ortega-Gasset, yet this happened only a few years later. Today I hold some dislike for the French and quite detest their version of Existentialism affiliating myself more in line with German Existenzphilosophie, but at the time that knowledge meant the world to me; it meant not being like my dad and it also meant sophistication, the thing I yearned the most for, a break way from provincialism, from Catholicism and also a way to explore my desires, if there were books that spoke about male attractions to others of the same gender perhaps some of the books had the answers. Later on in life when I left the books in order to live a little I realized real life doesn't have the answers either, yet I didn't return to the old books or turned myself over to piety; I just allegedly decided to remain "in between" and therefore to poetize my world and the world at large in not making it too clinical or too lyrical.

Some Jewish teaching says than whenever a Jew cannot answer a question, even if he's a rabbi, he can always tell a story, ever since then I've been telling stories, some of them about me, some others about humankind, others about the world, about other people, about my old loves, my regrets, my frustrations... But always stories weaving themselves into the tapestry of life and making all this possible. At this time I wrote my first serious poems, and learnt about the night and about the greatness of the city life, I learnt about this avant-garde that would later on condemn me to sophistication, to world alienation, but I can't regret any of this, it was all part of philosophy's choice. I might want to retrieve only my friendships from those days, and the pure lust I felt over people like J.C. or Nicolas. At times I also want to retrieve my Catholicism but in having chosen Judaism over the Church, I've obliterated any possible world to live in and can at best surface on the waters to keep myself from drowning and this is what I call Angst, the only source for a philosophy into which one can put both his mind and his body when thinking.

My father told me when I was 14 that only rich people could become Existentialist, because under the toil of everyday life this was hardly a possibility; I think now he was totally wrong, only those oppressed by the toil of everyday life to an extreme in which they can no longer see their pivoting point and moreover lose themselves together with it as Rilke taught, only those can experience the pathos of life and choose themselves out of the system with an Existential question which can be soon be furnished with the necessary tools for philosophical discourse by reading the right books and feeling the right feelings, obviously not without having experienced proper human bodies and having bittered and crouched before the disappointment that comes freely and willy-nilly with living at all. In that they first experience their free will and "die with Adam" as Augustine would say and then start to become as Goethe taught "Stirb und Werde". This choice is the first experience of Freedom, and can happen as early as the lyrical age, which is one's adolescence. Being born in Freedom is boring and deadly for one's mind, and life, like remembering is always about an escape of some form. That's why most adolescents never feel totally free, and that's a good thing, because you can't be made happy at that age with anything and that is your first lesson of humanity. This escape from life is not suicide, is simply becoming with life itself, and being afraid too.


It seems as though some of my undercurrents have been laid to waste, preposterously even. A lot of time to be devoted to writing, perhaps the only way in which I can truely speak, most often I write only for myself, yet not so much about myself... topic I just as often avoid in writing or speaking. It does not mean to uphold a self-righteous claim of any kind, because there's a difference between speaking about your Angst not interested at all in that "zweigespraech" and some kind of relaxed chatting about your life; the latter is reserved for one's maturity and without having reached mine, I do find the redemptive power I lust for, in the writing itself once again and for ever upholding Schlegel with all the pathos necessary but along the way in slightly modified version sophisticated by Kierkegaard and the sadness of Modernity.

The story of my years (3 to be exact) at the Eudist School can be told only in many installments but perhaps I'll knock on the door and woo myself for the sake of temporary clarity; it is not easy to remember all those names in a foreign language and in so little reference to your current position as though the vantage point of one's life had been totally replaced in the most deconstructed and worldless manner. At the same time everything remains a feature of speech, a mode, sometimes antiquated and sometimes too poignant or recalcitrant. Those days in fact carry a lot less suffering and hatred than my childhood did, they sweat in irresponsibility and carelessness, even banality; more banality than one could express in simple words. They also held in store unsurmountable amounts of happiness and a sort of criminally chosen innocence that has remained with me to this very day, their yellowing motions nonwithstanding.

But I wouldn't like to speak about it yet. There's a general feeling in me since last night that demands other recollections, some generalizations as to make the picture fit into the mold of earthliness in broken clay. It troubles me philosophically that those days held so much meaning and inner clarity because they were almost unreflected, whenever I adopted the philosopher's withdrawing I experienced a form of loneliness that was seemly empty and quiet, boredom, frustration, an event of eventlessness. I can't quite remember my body at the time but somehow I laugh at the pangs of desire that I hosted during those days.

This is what my generalizations would like to point to right now: Last year upon having read Bloch (because of a little article by Harvey Cox) his language interested me, almost concerned me, quite natural and lyrical. Yesterday it occured to me remembering Heller's dictum that "Revolution is like Young Love, it remains forever beautiful". Arendt thought at some point that Revolution and the question of Civil Courage had become a political tools paramount to warfare that could determine the "Telos" of the 20th century, the entirely human ability to create beginnings anew from within the cradles of history, yet there's a very problematic point to be made here: An ideological revolution comes undeniably tied to a redemption of some sort even when this might not be exclusively dualistic or religiously oriented, it comes in hand with the idea of Utopia. I don't want altogether discard hope as a powerful human source of imagination, nor I want to do away with memory. While for me the memory remains the most pivotal element I want to leave hope and memory (or technology and history in the language of modernity's theoreticians) in an eternal state of tension, enjoying each other's vertical "agrandement" and horizontals diminishment. I want a Modernity that can easily dwell on a crossroad of history and technology without wanting to exclusively apply either bind to elaborate meaningful world-pictures.

I'm not sure if at this I'm being Hegelian even though a couple of months ago it seemed to me that I wasn't, it is a troubling fact when reading the Bible actually because the philosophical interpretations of our day might have been not too distant from the spell of the prophets and even "philosophers" like King Solomon; but the speechlessness of Modernity makes me think how it is possible to glimpse at that but hermeneutically? This is obviously what the Sages did as well but yet they "spoke" the language of the "Sages" and narrowly limited their interpretive scope in a way not too different from that of the early Biblical exegetes in the Christian world. I can only deal with this language after extreme and burdensome toils and soon it disappears again into irrational and mythological musings that I don't understand yet I know it is very important to understand; not without facing the limitation imposed upon me by my Christian concepts, for example the philosophy of love and that typically Catholic moral hipocrisy that I've thought to be distinctive of the avant-garde of 19th century Germany, while this remains a very sound attitude in the whole of the Western tradition.

I've found only one way to solve this problem. Bonhoeffer and Rosenzweig (drawing on Schelling) spoke about a totally irreligious and secular "Gospel" that would proclaim the "good tidings" in a language so powerful and yet irreligious that it would be exactly like the language of Jesus, this is called the "Johannine Age"; My solution partly draws from Midrashic sources (the form of imagination I believe to be best fit to describe the modern mind) and from our traditional philosophical readings, such being that a world like this (like the Talmud says) should never be redeemed, for how could one? At the same time for me this is in itself the redeemed world and the reason for which the sphere of everyday life remains an impossibility for philosophy and a hair-splitting challenge for moral theories is that this everyday life is UTOPIA itself. I can't provide the whole rationalization on this point nor I want to be a rationalist, however I prefer the language of the Enlightenment to speak about these phenomena and that language is not that of our form of Modernity or that of the Biblical heroes.

Sometimes when I listen to music and ride on the bus I experience this kind of anomality that philosophers describe arbitrarily as the "everyday life", this remains outside the scope of my existential choices because it can't be chosen as it is imposed on me. I can make choices on how I deal with it, I might swingle in between solitude to write and reflect and loneliness to embrace the toil. At the same time this everyday life grows tender in inequalities and miseries, people do not often look happy and even more, they seldom do. But that is where I think the utopian nature of this world is, because a world of eternal happiness would be unbearable for any modern men and women in the age of contingency. I shall stop here as this hasn't been very organized, but I'll keep returning to this point soon.


I just received a letter from Claudia Henzler, an old acquaintance from the Theological Seminary and a prominent one at that. She says that I shouldn't swallow his struggles alone, but rather let them sink and share the burden, a quintessentially Christian saying so unessentially Christian, at least politically. It makes me think Christianity is just like the Torah in a way, Jesus is not Christianity just like the Torah is not Judaism, it is all about traditions and meaningful world-pictures. This is nonetheless unimportant and whatever I write hereunder even when necessary should not be taken for a fact, obviously I am doing a great effort to remember and not to invent anything even for the sake of literary artistry. It is also not factual because these stories are being written in the wrong language and with a bitter feeling that because of not having returned to my former home I lack much of the information to furnish this tale with accurate details, like oral records from parents and neighbours, pictures, school certificates, the touch of old clothes, of childhood books, or even speak to my sister.

Last time I spoke about 1990 and 1991; what scares me about writing this is not the nudity of my own person but the Augustinian idea that the search for one's origin is an anticipation to one's end, therefore I try to be careful and find myself somewhere in the middle of the way. I had never authentically thought about death philosophically until I read Rosenzweig and only in the last couple of months product of an unpleasant infection I harvested the idea I might actually die in a decade or so, perhaps tomorrow. But this is in fact not true. At the same time I also remembered Gillian Rose and her deathbed's biography, which I found to be a great source of inspiration when one wants to speak about philosophy, about Christianity and about love. Perhaps the three kernels of what one needs to ponder for a whole lifetime in order to become a sound Western philosopher. At around this time I also receive an invitation of Paul Mendes-Flohr to a certain personal meeting, and I follow suit with the only hope that this will not lead to a Gillian Rose chapter II, in which the old sickly teacher remains and the young philosopher dies. But I can't tell you what will be, nor have I any interest on such. I can only pray that Augustine will have a less dramatic foresight for me, which only means I should read some other of his books or even draw inspiration from the Bible, except for the Ecclesiastes.

Now I shall return to my story, but before I just want to mention as well some memories left out from 1990 and 1991. Firstly I had a small room in the basement apartment which I loved, and then moving to the larger house was just the prelude of all my sufferings. I also remeber my family meeting my aunt and her husband almost every weekend and perhaps I can recall also a visit to my beloved uncle John, who would be at the time in some evangelic institution to recover from drug abuse; after several years in between drug addiction and evangelic cults, his life was taken in 1997 or so I believe. I didn't cry at the funeral until I was almost forced to do so, I didn't understand much about death; years later when I used drugs myself I never stopped for a a second to think about my uncle, after all I belonged to a different social class and had different affections, unlike my grandmother's, my own social class did not condemn drugs, in fact many people there were socially acceptable addicts. The trick was not to speak about it ever, specially not in the steam room of the business club, in the country club it was a different story. But I never became a member of that club, because of being a Jew, at most I could be invited yet never a member. It shows how little attachment people can have to their destinities, as though they had anything else to be attached to, but what is at stake here is not the real feeling but the deliberate choices which in imprisoning us also bestows us with that kind of freedom one needs in order to break away from a marriage to escape with a maid or with another man. The result is consequentially unimportant and most likely very unhappy and shameful, like the death of Franz and the wife's most elegant dress at the wedding; Franz was a character in a novel I love. It is impossible not to bring some art into the picture when one speaks about his own life, otherwise I could see my family doctor.

The change of residence also meant a separation from my grandmother and a new school, even more provincial if such is possible at all. The name of the school had something to do with "The Holy Ghost" and we wore a turqeoise uniform with darker strips, the director of the school was a very tall black man and I would remain there for about four years. Let me remember a few things, this period was quite immaculate and eventless while at the same time quite interesting, for I experienced a lot of desire at the time. My first class teacher was named Myriam, a very short woman with a couple of wrinklings here and there and so far I can't remember much else, perhaps next year there was a teacher called Fabiola if I'm not mistaken, then Elsa and finally Sandra. I wasn't very popular among the kids perhaps out of being a weakling and not too interested in sports, even though I did have some attraction for the teacher but this might have been in another year.

Obviously no friendships are left from this period, I might have had a good friend called Julian and I can even recall his house and mother, perhaps one day when running away from home I believe I hid in his house for a few hours. I also sent him love letters I think, without knowing what it all meant at all. There was also Louise who had been my first girlfriend indeed and quite a sweet harmless and not very witty character, also quite poor, poorer than me at that. She had no siblings and her mother was seemly a countrywoman, long hair and a really typical sight for a little girl, there's little else I can tell. There might have been someone else named William, but we were friends only for a very short time and I remember he treated me to biscuits on his last day before their move out of town. There was another boy, the modern guy of the class, that wore his hair like Elvis and loved all kinds of modern music. To me that was a little heretical and had I had the chance, I would have denounced him with the local parish. I might have fancied him too but I can't remember.

I also remember myself cutting out male bodies in underwear from magazines and keeping them in a red notebook, that could have been my first homoerotic experience. One day I also felt weird, cynnical and sinful when I had erotic dreams with my sports teacher and with my father, it took me a long time to stop worrying about that terrible dream, that of course way before a long history of abuse which I shall only refer to at a later stage in life. I can't remember any other people, perhaps another friend named Willy and the computers teacher whose name I can't recall but who was the directors' son and a very strict teacher. I don't remember the religious lessons from this period and barely have a memory of Christmas, that was a period I hated because my father always punished me for something, it always ended up in a fight plus my presents were always so boring and lame, I never got what I wanted and since I never had believed in St. Klas well I knew there was no democracy in my family. I can't remember the church too well, at least from school.

I do remember myself preparing for my First Communion, and doing those long pilgrimages to the Central Cathedral. I don't think any of my parents' miracles-to-be materialized from those long hours standing to hear the Holy Mass; in fact my father was the most ineffectual Christian educator in world history, because he barely knew anything at all himself. He only cared about that being good I spoke whereof before, but to me that was all boring. I can also recall being a few times in church with him on Sunday evening just next to the school, me wearing a red jacket and leafing from my terrible boredom. I don't think I read any good books or listened to any good music during this period, in fact it was only after my move to St. John's Eudist School that I became thoroughly reformed: I embraced a very philosophical form of Catholicism that relied extensively on the writings of saints and even when I didn't quite believe the Virgin I had some Marian tendences just to go against the Kantianism of some of the teachers there, all theologians and priests in the make. Somehow I might not have even believed in God at all (and I don't think I ever did until 2004 - my first and only suicide attempt, and even when this sounds almost bone-chilling it was a rather childish one) but the social and intellectual aspect of religion was to me salvation from the stiffness of my father's intellect. Then I also had people to discuss religion with, I left for good all provincialisms and chose myself for modernity a little bit before the Greek. But this wasn't possible willy-nilly, I could only move on in life by failing a whole grade, the first one in the secondary. It was biology, never liked that bastard. I almost forget about the music teacher (only time when I studied music, and at that with very little success), he was a blond pervert-looking "educator", and today I would bet my brains that he's an homosexual. Failing a grade was the first metaphysical rebellion among many but a very trascendent one. My father didn't know that by trying to save my academic name in sending me forth to the Eudist School, he had in fact signed the termination of his contract as a father and turned me over to "the human race's education" to use the style of Lessing. Now I can remember two other friends or even three from this period up to the 5th grade, but not their names.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Church

In attempting to write about myself and my earliest life I feel ought to make a proper division into chapters, starting with the fourteen years of life I had before the Greek, which I shall call childhood proper; then I could speak about that period of some five years in between Greek, Heidegger and poetry - this is the lyrical age, "Post-Graecum". Lastly I could speak about the Jewish philosophy which comes into this very day, but about the latter I shall refrain from speaking in the years to come, this I do only in order to safeguard myself from travails. The first period is very difficult to retell, since I am left with very little to recount and do not rely on photographs or the corrections of my parents to set it straight; I shall rely only on my very own memories which are very difficult to unearth.

This part of my life is exceedingly rich in characters, some of magnanimous importance and bitter humouristic hues which I shall only clumsily be able to describe. The problem is that I haven't thought about these years ever since they came to an end, in a sort of metaphysical rebellion that dawned upon me for as long as I have known Giorgia, my first Greek teacher. These accounts should not necessarily sound interesting or marvellous like those of my later years but I am not writing this for anyone's sake but my own. A chronological account would be indeed faulty and very tedious, therefore I should only speak of things I consider of major importance. Many years will go by for me to understand what the real meaning of these persons and events have been for my life proper, which has barely started as an adult; I shall say moreover that this account can be written afresh many times in a man's life, but I will grant myself the privilege to be able to compare one version in another until the old age, or at least the last age. Something tells me that the older one gets the more honest these accounts might be, specially when I will be able to encounter again those characters as an adult and conversate (if there's anything worthwhile to discuss over) with them about the unknowing paths of our lives since that early childhood.

I remember myself writing as early as 11 or 12 and always in a foreign language. I had this red notebook with clumsy English verses (before I had actually seen an English poem at all) and I believe myself to have exceedingly spoken about some cousin-in-law; I collected a good number of bad writings which one good day (at the age of 13 or so) I burnt in the backyard of the house a certain night, inside a huge metallic bowl with other things like notebooks from the previous years. I believe to have kept some of those writings for a few years hidden inside yellowing envelopes containing also my mother's documents inside my father's desk. At some point I should have taken them out and then finally in 2002 or so they were lost forever in a carton box in the storage room with other belongings. Among them some highly treasured books, my school books, Greek, Literature, German, and some other obscure texts about things I often read about like clinical sociology, psychology, and hardly much else, oh perhaps I also can count a certain book of Euripide's "Bacchants" and "Medea" in a green hard-cover bilingual and critical edition that should have been worth a lot of money, but I had not bought this book, I simply stole it from my Latin teacher Maria Jesus at the Spanish School.

My theft package also included some interesting book (impossible to find these days) about the sexual morals of the Greeks and a travel guide of modern day Athens. From my own belongings I can recall an orange Greek textbook (now available under the name of "Athinaze" by OUP) for first-year Classics, a very large English dictionary (which I only used to read Shakespeare in a class with Mrs. Simmonson), cheap editiongs of Macbeth and Midsummer's Night Dream, perhaps an unread copy of George Elliot's "Scenes of Clerical Life", some Jewish book I believe (not the Sephardic prayer book which I had sold for a few bucks). Also a Finnish dictionary, some fabulous novel about our local aristocracy whose name I cannot recall now, the texts for Prof. Noel's Greek seminars with notes and vocabularies (Plato's "Phaedrus" and Sophocles' "Antigone"), the "Lingua Latina" but perhaps only the first volume; Greek and Latin dictionaries, a brief grammar (actually two of them), a book of Kafka I received from Phillip and that I never read (Metamorphosis), George Elliot's "Middlemarch" in a two-volume set.

A small children's book in German (of some famous children's author but I can't remember now), a Book of Mormon, perhaps a German novel about some Rabbi, a school's yearbook (I can't be sure about this one), books of Chemistry and Physics for "Abitur", college Mathematics (I had always failed at that), the Diary of Anne Frank, my favourite book as a child: one of Mijail Sokolov, but can't remember the title. Maybe a couple of unread novels from the Spanish school but not my most beloved: "The Tree of Science" by Pio Baroja, this I had given away to a friend. I did not keep either the book of Goethe and Ortega-Gasset on Aesthetics or that beautiful book in Italian about the Nazi Holocaust, both I gave away to Angela. For sure a small book by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (a Spanish saint and mystical poetess), I can't remember any other titles. I forgot (perhaps with intention) all this at a certain cheap hostel in the old quarters of the city. Those books marked the end of a beautiful lyrical age that ended not without a lot of sorrow and new beginnings, radical ones at that even.

Now a brief account: The earliest memory I have of myself I should have been two or three years old travelling in a very tropical setting on a truck with my own mother and with Alicia, granny's maid of many years. I cannot tell for sure whether this is something I imagined or if it happened matter-of-factly. I do remember being in kindergarden you know... it was a very small place with a very kind and loving teacher and I also happen to remember how I loved climbing up some small tree, but cannot remember exactly why. I also remember my uncle John teaching me to write and reminding me all the time what a great poet my mother had always been without having been a humanist by education; he always told me about endless notebooks of poetry she wrote in perfect rhyme, these notebooks never reached me or their whereabouts. Perhaps dad lied about them, perhaps they never existed. But I do remember having been taught to write at least a year or two before my class, also the foreign languages I had been learning since that age.

That place shows how early one can be already a professional Catholic, even as a Jew, the kindergarden is my first memory of St. Francis of Assissi after whom the place was named, if I go on to describe my images of the saint I should be lying or simply inventing details. I simply know for a fact he was present somewhere, perhaps a statue? I don't know, and this is so because I can't remember the classroom, simply can't. But the picture of the courtyard is vividly fresh in my mind even when I cannot remember any of the other children, I also remember it was only a stone's throw from where I lived and that after two happy years therein I was forced to start growing up and move onto the elementary school. I can only dimly remember my parents in those days or my beloved aunt, perhaps the only people I have some faint images of are my grandmother in the kitchen or watching TV in her room and hidding me from my father's strict discipline. I also remember my father and my uncle John, who had taught me reading, fighting with fists and curses, but I was too young to be allowed an opinion about these things of grown-ups.

My room had a hideous carpet and a very big bed, where as my father tells, my mother used to sleep at distimes, perhaps facing a depression or something in that spirit of things. It wasn't the room of a young child, but rather a shrine of order and discipline and except for a chaotic array of lego blocks one could never tell someone under the age of six dwelled therein, specially because I spent most of my time in granny's room. My father gave me at that age one of my only presents: a chess set, I can't remember how much I liked the game or not, but I think I was forcibly compelled to play with him and since my ties with him severed I have hardly set an eye on a chess set at all. My first disappointment with my father wasn't exactly his strict attitude towards me (he always expected me to behave as an adult), but the fact that he was a honest man and irreligious, I would have been very happy to trade him for my aunt, who was allegedly hypocritical but deeply religious, elitist and anti-democratic. My father had too much justice, too much righteousness, too much goodness, those traits I despised since the age of five or six. It was unthinkable for me to be around people who couldn't lie or that if they did, it were only for a "common good". I always preferred to lie to make people falsely happy, and the reason why I lie less these days is perhaps only because I don't have too many intimates acquaintances, I've become too cynical and if not quiet yet reserved outwardly.

I never thought highly of my father, specially in the social aspect. Not because he lacked authenticity or manners, just because he lacked that natural ability to lie in public, to wear masks, to uphold social mythologies, something I did since the earliest of my days in society. Up to this day he still lives, fortunately, yet I've learnt to love him only because I don't live with him, because I don't have to be naturally good, righteous, honest. I think his sense of morality wasn't at all religious and in that sense he might have been a modern Rousseau and also a little Marxist, he believed in money more than God, unless this God could bring the money. For me it is different and has always been, morality for me always had to do with brilliant theatrical performances, with mythologies, public shows and more than anything with immorality itself. I think my father might have actually been the first Protestant I knew, and at that in quite a disgraceful manner.

From these years in between the nursery and the elementary school, are my first memories about the church. I might have gone there with Alicia, the ugly house maid. She had a curly hair more resembling of barbwire and always smoked non-filter cigarettes; I can't recall her voice now or her language but I do remember well the news playing outloud from her room and her smoking endlessly. It might have been obviously Sunday and rather dawning, I remember walking into that half-empty church and sitting by one of the left wings unpatiently waiting to return home. But something I glimpsed into at that age might have stayed with me forever and sealed my marriage to Catholicism so late as now, it was actually the notion that the world is never egalitarian, that one is always expected to act in one way or the other, that one can never be really something but only be becoming that.

More than anything I treasured the hypocrisy of Catholicism and I don't say this with more despise than admiration; even when I had found that years later also at the modern Orthodox synagogue it impressed me deeply as a child and prevented me from embracing any form of Protestantism which I found so terribly distasteful and boring since the most innocent childhood. I might have seen myself rewritten in Mary McCarthy's memoir of her Catholic upbringing, in that it had been the church that saved her, the religion. I had never been religious in any form until my teens and I couldn't care any less for prayers unless I had wanted to pass myself for self-righteous and witty in front of my father's wife, who to me represented all kernels of wordly ignorance and classlessness.

She, like my father was also a lapsed Catholic, but entering the parish in her neighbourhood was a traumatic experience for me in some way. None of the fancy and blatant lie found in the old church where I had been with Alicia, none of the beautiful music and long Sunday sermons, people there really seemed to believe in the stuff and equated in a very mediocre way their religion to their forms of morality. Even their Easter processions only resembles the most pauper shadow of the Italian and German Catholicism I had known before, I think it was called (and still is) Neo-Catecumenal Movement, some cheapened Protestant Roman church. But Alicia didn't take me to church often nor did my father until I had grown up to be an adolescent (and then he grabbed me there almost by force at times), so what I enjoyed the most was attending Holy Mass with my aunt and her husband because the theatrical performance presented was so perfect and sensitive and musical that I could stay there for the whole hour without complaints. Moreover my aunt expected a certain behaviour from me as though I were being introduced to society right there at Mass, my father could never relate to this, he only wanted me to be good and to be myself, but that wasn't my creed. One had to be like Aristotle, a political animal, whereas my father was some sort of Epicurean.

The religion saved me from my father and brought me closer to my mother, because I could sin and mistreat people, be mean and lie, among other things, house the most obscure thoughts, yet at the same time I could just walk into the church, sing, listen carefully to the sermon and laugh people and their confessions. Then just walk back home and be a "new man". My father was all about correctness and ethics, always the "good guy". What attracted me the most about the sermons is that they promised heaven on earth to the believers, they gave you a stronghold, and couldn't be any less concerned with the miseries of everyday life, they were not serious or honest but rather unbefitting always and very intellectual, academic, with beautiful words and phrasings, having nothing to do with real life. I loved how much Catholicism allowed you to lie in public. Only until I turned 22 and I happened to find myself at a Catholic Mass around 1 am in the Holy Sepulchre and in the mother tongue I could experience how much inspiration and philosophical "pathos" I had derived from those early experiences.

Mary McCarthy was right indeed, as a Catholic you know a whole deal of world history and history of ideas by the time you are 13. Also later on when I was a teen I read the Bible a lot but the Old Testament seemed to me always boring, we all knew the creation story and even the dumbest school books for 1st grade natural science spoke about other things, it was all silly and tasteless. The New Testament was very different, even poetical despite of me not knowing (and understanding only in my 20's) that this Jesus guy was but mocking the Rabbinical authorities and speaking to a Jewish audience. I treasured much the reading of John's Apocalypse, because there was around my milieu a well-known provincial assumption that whoever reads the Bible from cover to cover will go mad, and I loved the idea of going mad. This taboo might have stemmed from my Spanish roots and those notions that only the priests could read the Bible, but I was heretical and heterodox by nature, even in my ethical system. I liked to study ethics and books of religion but only in order not to practice anything, you can say it was a childish metaphysical religion of rebellion.

Then early in my adulthood when I embraced the "Protestation" of the philosophers I rejected altogether the eschatological Jesus finding him to be a rather strident antisemite, this of course I learnt from Bultmann. It is not a requirement to be a Protestant to own this Protestation in your own person, you can do it as a Catholic, as a Jew, as an Atheist or as anything you like. It is on account of this Protestation that I allegedly became of myself a "Modern" man in the philosophical sense, but pathetically enough the first "Protestant" of my family was my grandmother and by detour the first "Modernist" even though when she doesn't exactly rejoice in my lifestyles these days, of course herself being the kernel of worldless love and therefore of primitiveness and declasse attitude. I remember myself being a little sophisticated as early as 2nd grade or so and refusing completely to embrace any pauvre-moi attitudes in clothing or eating, I hated the masses and that's why I loved the priests, which my granny detested and as a consequence turned herself over to the pastors and the most existential forms of Protestantism, the evangelic cults and house-worship, product of her life-long illness of course; her mother, a strong and cultivated French woman (the first person to know foreign languages in her town) delayed her betrayal of Catholicism as early as her 80th year when she was no longer of clear mind. In embracing this comic spirituality my grandmother might have been a lot more Modern than I could ever aspire to be. But then again I chose myself for philosophy and she chose herself for Christ, so we could not compete too well.

Remaining in the Catholic Church also assured my social prestige as a kid! and kept me aloof from those unreflected existences of the evangelic; it provided me with an education in things of the spirit and the flesh, with mythologies and folk-tales. Reality proved to harsh at any given time and the church always provided relief. It saved me from the anti-intellectualism proper of my father's worldviews and of his mother's comformism. That family was too used to unremarkable lives, and if at all perhaps it was only in me being a Jew that I could achieve the salvation necessary as not to believe in any salvation at all. I was a very nicely decorated atheist and therefore fit perfectly for Roman Christianity.

I can't remember any of the religious lessons from 1st to 5th grade, but I'm sure it should have dwellt extensively on the topic of Mary's virginity and all other taboos of the Catholic mind which were just as easily broken in the restrooms and in the parties my friend threw for friends and acquaintances, in which alcohol replaced virtue and every woman became quite ownerless for a night. I do remember religion lessons from secondary school but that is something I shall not return to for a while; I think I had been the most brilliant theologian in the class and of course the most poignant advocate of liberalism and hedonism at the same time. Then my father tried to teach me some religion, but I could see in his face how he hated getting up early to go to church and be a witness to that antiquated show, you cannot lie to children when it comes to spirituality and emotions, they always know better. But I played my part just as well. I attended first a very exclusive school for the first and second grade, from the La Salle brothers, and there I excelled in English and religion, always hating mathematics and literature. I was quite lazy and not very organized, and I also remember having a friendship with a boy four grades ahead of me who liked football very much, something I hated.

I do remember a couple of things from that school.... there was a very big courtyard for the boys to play soccer, it was after all an all-boys school, I also remember pissing on my pants many times specially during the English class that took place sometime in the afternoon and as a punishment to my father for dressing me up with jeans, whenever he did so I faked illness and threw up my whole lunch and had to be fetched home immediately. I only wanted to look elegant, with a blazer and wool trousers, a tie, a perfectly ironed shirt. Whenever this wasn't complied with, I rebelled, and threw up my lunch or in the middle of a class made on my pants. I also remember Ashes Wednesday, which remains in my mind as one of the most vivid experiences of Christianity, also because it gave you a free morning without some lessons, perhaps math or something I should have hated. I also remember a very long trip to a place with a big pool, I was happy to get away from home, to be among friends and manage my own time, no homework, no obligations. I can't remember the books I read at the time (for this accounts for age 6 and 7) but for sure it wasn't anything religious and perhaps I didn't read much beyond the school textbooks. My father wasn't too fond of buying me books (an addiction I've kept for the whole of my independent life even at the expense of food, but never at the expense of alcohol or tobacco unless it was something entirely unique like Lev Shetov's "Athens and Jerusalem"), I should have read newspapers sometimes and also women's magazines, or anything I could grab for free at the church, usually not very interesting. I did look into my cousins' books at my aunt's house where I liked to remain for hours and hours.

Her maid was also named Alicia and she taught me writing in the cursive style, but for many years I had been embarrassed of admitting it to my parents so I just told them it was given to me by a teacher whose name I couldn't remember. I believe I should end this account here, without forgetting that these two years in that school speak only for 1st and 2nd grade. I was slightly fat at the time and an outright blond which called to question my origins all the time, specially a friend (already in 3rd grade) by the name of Louise always laughed about my accent when pronouncing certain words and then many of them called me "American", but it would be only several years later that I would come to understand this. I was pretty slow for sports and very much a lover of music but not very good one, only stuff like oldies and ballads, even though soon (at the age of 12 or so) I would cure myself from all possible provincialism except religion. As soon as I entered the school I became aware of my own father's provincial ways and there was a friend of mine (perhaps his name was Cesar?) who happened to have close relatives at president's house and would treat me for presents and house parties. I loved his mother, which somehow resembles my own or at least how I used to think of her, perhaps this boy did grow up to be a militant queer, you could tell from those days already. I have not told everything of course, most of it remains mine and only mine, as far as I can or want to remember much of it, but for now it should suffice for the years 1990 and 1991.