Sunday, February 25, 2007


I'm so beautifully depressed, just reading G.R. and soaking so completely in the delight of desperate mourning which is at times the beginning of a new life.

I'm listening to Mahler's "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen". Unknown singer. Drawing this Protestant garden on and on, imagining that all life began in the garden. Musing about all the parties I had in my life before...


"Central to the theorizing of Gillian Rose is the actuality of protest. In her work, protest is not only a speaking against, a contra-diction, it is also a recognition that to speak against is already to be part of that which is opposed. This logic is Hegelian but what Gillian found in this logic was passion, faith and failure"-Nigel Tubbs on Gillian Rose

To contradict onelself is not a matter of logical argumentation, it is not the edging roaring of being more interesting than wrong or of being more wrong than interesting, it is "to mind the gap" of being in itself, it is to speak to oneself by speaking contra-himself - the only form of communication available that embraces the reality of freedom not in its real essence but in its actuality.

A contra-diction is not a rhaetoric play, it is merely play and therefore the only source for humanity available from within the ruins of dark times when the whole set of banisters has been lifted in order to reveal the purest content of existence - an empty canvas both in terms of the form and of the content; the source of this delicious madness that leads from logic to folly and from folly to thinking.

But the philosophers were certainly right in arguing that this "negativity" that is the very essence of thinking is not available anywhere in nature and therefore not "permissible" to man under the aegis of the natural sciences and technology - the dominant world view of the modern world. Only in technology there's progress, and if society and morals would find their workings bound with the concept of the technological this should never constitute a human problem, but the case is strangely otherwise.

Because of its progressive nature, technology or the "technologicum" can hardly grasp the principle of contingency because there's a goal that has turned technological imagination into a form of consciousness and perhaps no one better to describe this than Foucault. The success of this misunderstanding is its very failure, the only reason why it actually remains at the core of what is meaningful in humanity, namely the telos that is never reached but the process by which the contingency is endlessly being transformed into this telos by the Will, lest it be too strong to become an "spherical" aspect of worldly life such as philosophy, economy or education.


To my painter

"I hear the roaring and the roasting and I know that it is I"
-Gillian Rose

I thought I had seen me in the roaring
On a Friday night, over tears
When I was returned,
Turned back, turned away too
It had thick walls that unveiled things
All the more beautiful as I moved
But the path had been only broken then
So that in the despairing pain of my rib
Of my leg
I can see the middle just breaking apart
Continuously and in an ecstasic festival
Of disagreements with the others
But with you, only whiskeys and ryes
You know my death from close by
Have heard her smile too
But fool yourself not!
That's not at all the end
And not even the broken middle
But a paving way moving toward
That unrecognition of the mistake
Of the failure
That contains a whole life
Only for a while
And then there's a broken middle
With names and letters
Never answered perhaps
Unsorted telephone calls
And a misery of such degree
That can never discussed
Nor you could ever paint it
And at that I'm your artist
The painter of your images
The seer
That breaks the middle paths
Never reaching the broken at all
Everytime he cuts my flesh
Into tiny little pieces of delight
I feel my body ache more strongly
And I enter the mourning again
Whereby you can be no companion at all
At most your witnessing
Is all what I can take
Your care
Which is only time
Temporality, language
And altogether dead nature too!
But this is my will
To will this toll even more fiercely than I wish my death
When the chips turn adverse
And no communication is possible
Between us and the Gods
Between the arts and us
Shall this hurt too much
I should give up
And untimely
Before my time
Yet but never
Before I make sure
That the Chair of Redemption remains empty
And that he, only he
Awaits nothing
So that he could at least embrace the world
The only possible honour
Of the passing away
In which thinking makes sense at all
And in the company of others
Moments of eternity
In Jerusalem
The only eternity available to us
That crude reality
That rips the flesh
And trades pleasure for salvation
This roaring I hear
And what I see
Is not him
But that it is I
Distancing even more.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Phoebus

Some letters even older but not too much wiser, from another sunk boat.


...Ari. What wonder to hear from you again,
Or perhaps no wonder at all,
I resisted the temptation to write most fervently
My life is far more dilute than yours,merely work and days in the sun
It's a comfort not to feel the responsibility
To learn of and comprehend the whole extent of
Human misconception; but I suppose that is your due
Always weaving another thread; and you believe that
Soon, you'll step back and see it, eh?

I think of you, rarely; when I do it's uncommonly painful,it is, as you said 'it's just a joy of a great great height. It isbetween erotic and dreadful and sweet and irresponsible'

Shalom dear one,
I hope you find good moments of peace


Dear one,

It seems that you've misplaced your letter Ari....or perhaps yourintentions?....I wonder how your Shabbat went. I finished 1984 a fewdays threw me a violent curve into agnostic thought...I readyour Philologist blog at times...many things are hard for me tounderstand...but naturally you write them to be thus, so it isn'tsurprising. My thoughts wander to you at the most sporadic moments.,they are usually accompanied by a wave of sensation that I can only describe as longing...they've dimmed since the first days of my return however, cloaked by wordly matters and flippant desires. Perhaps youare wise in questioning your decision to come here Ari, despite my desire to see you I don't know what it is that I can offer many ways I wish that I could hand it all over, but it's almost impossible nowadays. You stirred me from selfish chauvanist tendencyin a way that I've never known, really. In an exciting, dangerous way. I got your postcard was a most pleasant surprise....afresh wind through the stagnancy of my afternoon. I wonder where your thoughts wander...and whether your heart folllows. I wonder whether you remember my touch, as you remember so many things so well; for I've almost forgotten yours. I truly do seek that sense ofrighteousness, of justice, of validation, I suppose...but it seems tobe fleeting from me, even the concept of it at time seems foggy and far-fetched. The air has cleared here, losing it's heavy leaden quality. The sun seems to shine and to warm my flesh....but I take nojoy in it; everything has taken a mechanical if I'm anight sentry...doing rounds that I've done a thousand times. The only times I feel like my soul speaks are the times that I write to you....and even then a shadow hangs over me that I cannot describe...and I long to be write to you as would a man of brilliance; and when I fail I write and write, only to delete thatwhich was said and write nothing at all. You've lit a fire inside of me Ari, deep inside of my belly I feel it stir and flicker endlessly... but when I search for a sight of it consciously, it evades me most mercilessly.

And yet I write; and at times it is for myself; but at others it is most undoubedly, for you. I spent last night on the beach drinking and musing with Alex on the dilemma he seems to have found himself in. He's quite in love, inundeniable, reckless, overwhelming love. And yet he's terrified; terrified that she won't be faithful, that she'll betray him as he's been betrayed in the past. He came close to taking his life the firsttime such pain was inflicted ....he's afraid for his very existence in this. It seems neither one of them wants to relocate countries, and I laugh when he tells me this because it's such a paradoxal conflict; one's love for another human...and one's love for a country. I don't know what to tell him; he seems to be quite set on indecision, his mood flittering from optimistic swooning to the most negative I've yetto see him. I heard that he spoke to you the other day; I somewhat envied him that --- I wonder if me and you shall ever meet again Ari; I wonder if much will change, till then.


Dear Ari,I don't know how long it has been since I've written; my life hastaken the form of nights home on the train and waking at two pm toride back to work once more. I'm well but substantially desolate; thegood news of this week is that I can take my EMT test on the 18th,instead of in November as I suspected; hopefully this means that mydays of mind-numbing work packing food into plastic bags are somewhatnumbered. I truly must apoligize for not writing back; It would seemodd of me to do so considering how inundated my family has become toyour name; it seems as if you have been speaking more with them thenyou have with me. I was passing by a Jewish Bookstore and picked up anitem that caught my eye from the discount used book cart outside. Itwas the picture of a boy standing atop of a rock, hair tousled by thewind, staring down at a group of people. It ended up being the storyof a Judeo- German boy, whose family relocated to Israel early in hisyouth. Who grew up on Kibbutz and fought in Israel's war forexistence. He later attended Hebrew university and taught at Columbia;a sociologist by education; he branched that concern that he had forthe state of humanity and the seeming futility of our beaurocracies infulfilling our most essential needs into other forms of study; this isthe story of how this self-proclaimed "intellectual" set out to changethe world that we live in, with the firm belief that it was possible.I'm halfway through this personal memoir; and it took my (extremely)high stupor yesterday to bring about the clairvoyance to understandhis essential message behind it all. I've yet to discover whether myassumption will ring true; but, I'm enjoying this journey through hislife, nonetheless. I have not been keeping Shabbos and Kosher hasfallen with it, as well; I eat the pork ribs and sausage at the staffmeals that we have after work, shrugging it off to very Christianconcepts of all or nothing. Perhaps I should be building up my Mitzvahpoints; I have the feeling that when you get here, I'm going to needall of the credit that I can get; you fatal, beautiful troublemaker.
I think he should be happily married by now, elsehow... and once I found the old picture it could only remind me this was actually the painting I had envisaged in my mind. "In proportion to the intensity of feeling, the expression of the features is intensified, and nothing is easier than to express extremes" (Lessing).

Old Letters from the Pythagorean

(he remains as yet anonymous)


I began to miss you already before we said goodbye,and I could do nothing else on the plane but stareinto space thinking of you.

Talk about infinite night...I think I experiencedsomething like 19 hours of darkness, since I arrivedat the airport until I landed at JFK. The whole timethinking of you.

I am sorry I didn't reply earlier, I am staying withfriends in Brooklyn and my access was spotty. But I doenjoy receiving your letters, please do not be so cruel as to deny me the pleasure of receiving and reading them, over and over again. If, when I check myemail, I have not received a new letter from you, I simply go back to the last one and reread it. I am happy to hear your dinner was such a success. I, too, wish I could have attended for no other reasonthan to eagerly await its end when I could finally bealone with you.In a few hours I will have lunch with some formercoworkers from three years ago when I was a mathteacher at a high school in Queens. It will be good tosee them after so long.


Well you haven't written me back yet and now I am theone getting antsy. What's taking so long?! Have you been really busy? Or are you mad at me? Throw me a bone, I'm going nuts here! Anyway, today was rather uneventful. My brotherfinally left. My friend Maya came to visit. My parents are on my case to paint my car. It looks like somekind of blue and gray leopard with spots where thepaint has been peeling off for years. Please write me soon. Don't leave me hanging likethis. I need your senseless ramblings. They sustain me.


Well I hope this last email was not a sign of things to come. Reading it did not get me nearly as hot underthe collar as your previous narrations. Are you trying to make me jealous? Constantlymentioning your former lovers and current prospects?Well it is working...but really, how rude. You don'tsee me talking about every fling I have had past and present.

The wedding was delightful, and I looked quite dashingin my suede sports jacket, polyester tie, and Egyptian leather shoes, if I do say so myself. Too bad you weren't there to see it, and even worse that you don'tseem to want to rendez vous avec moi in Mexico City.Though I can't blame you really, what could be worse for an overeducated bourgois Jude than a tropical metropolis full of twenty million unrefined proletariat and one half-civilized peasant. Perhaps a jet-setter such as yourself would prefer to meet in Cancun instead?

Back to the UK, eh? Good old Oxford is it? You know Ihave never been to the Isles, though I have always wanted to visit. Perhaps your return will be a good excuse to finally board a plane in that direction, if you would be so kind as to extend an invitation of course.

Wish me luck as I exit this land of enlightenment. Anex-Yeshiva bachur must no doubt know a myriad prayersand blessings for the traveler, feel free to spare onefor me. I pray to Allah that another installment from you willbe in my inbox the next time I find internet.


I think this should be pretty much enough, most of the letters I sent are lost by now and so is the old thrill. The dialectics of love can only be dialectics of damage and I should not proceed quoting lest I win a law suit.

My encounter with Pythagoras

This is an excerpt from that day when I came across the Pythagorean, actually I want to reproduce two excerpts from my journal in those days, Christmas and Sylvester 2005.


"For Arendt her Jewish looks were undeniable, they ensured that she would have an essence of Judaism where RELIGION FAILED." (L. Weissberg)

And can any home once lost, ever be regained? And once the home rejected, can any other be attained?

Christmas Night

On the way here many a thought crossed my feeble mind, after the Sabbatical disappointment over the already forsaken faith. Somehow I'm utterly nervous and not knowing why, perhaps experiencing the contempt of my solitary selfness, and taking great pains to overcome the failures of my friendship with Levy, witnessing our uttermost modern failure. But that's something I wouldn't like to reduce to terms right now and right away. Some thought I lost from yesterday's clouded night. The thinking activity (in the context of the vita activa) should be barred from the legal professions in all its forms, and perhaps religious dogma finds this activity harmful ever since there's no philosophical activity, but a philosophical tradition.

The afternoon was winterly clouded, like the feebleness of my spirit in being. But then again I can hardly remember a day when Christmas' eve wasn't rainy and utterly cold. I left the house underneath the blithering drops of rain, which filled me with a strange comfort of regaining momenta from the past. The sky seemed to me rather broken in some grey-pinkish pale, as though the Jerusalem sky would hang somewhat loose on the top-rooves of the almost miniature houses and stone-weary walls. Perhaps Jerusalem wept her wars and her suicide attempts staring at the empty chair of a king, awaited for too long but nonetheless awaited. Even amidst the blissful cold my mind is painted with desire and with the unusual conversation with the stranger, to universalize my ethos and come bluntly undone unto myself, redeemed and ameliorated as not to lose sight of my own humanity, deeply embracing it individually.

"You're the eternal motif behind all my paintings"

So said Sabrina the communist painter to Thomas, and perhaps also to Franz, dead unto the humanly spoken craving of an American actress in Vietnam.

And Thomas? What about him? Yes, the one who died in life, not unto life, waiting to bring the kingdom of God on earth, perhaps not unlike me, as I've been left waiting.

And my painting can never be seen for it's all blood-bathed in pangs of uneven desire. Across me almost wearing my chivalrous smile and eating his dinner alone, just like a death can only become died alone. An orange shirt protects his unknown body in the distance from my venomous night sailing.

Perhaps all the strangers are barely different, and there's nothing that can be atoned for. His sight no longer finds mine and I feel ridicules in my attempts to conceal my loneliness in the sight of any stranger, like trying to escape from a plane that already took off.


Can faith be found?

The last days have passed without major events, yet full of thingness that once put together leaves you with the sense of making a puzzle, and the more you advance the easier you realize more pieces are missing everyday. The most festive days of the Jews brought upon me a sense of comfort rarely experienced as of late, but my growing questions and my dying faith killed all its magic so that in the late afternoon I was already just waiting to disappear in my nightly banalities. I found my way to the Old City without detours, not even to think about the unfortunate circumstances of my life. I think that without this diary I would feel to die everyday, and somehow though, I do manage to avoid and escape my own eschatologies... there's still something deeply person about it. In a deconstructed and non-historical way though, but that doesn't make it less intimate and less mine. The Sylvester soiree was very charming, and although inadequate to Jerusalem, full of some beauty this city lacks for when the Jews came this was replaced with the sad monotony of madness. Like Amos Oz said, everyone's been uprooted here, except Hitler and the Messiah. Perhaps the Mutfi still lingers around.

Some old quotes:

Arendt: "These conscious pariahs gain the honesty that makes life worth living, a clear view of reality and a place in both European and Jewish society"

Rahel Varnhagen: "The thing which all my life seemed to me the greatest shame, which was the misery and misfortune of my life -having been born a Jewess, this I should on no account now wished to have missed".

"Anyone who'll understand how happy I am, needs to be blind to see that I can't be happy at all".

Love's Work

The elegance of the empty space can only be fulfilled by the mythology that comes immediately after the mourning when the creation stories are all over and they turn into birth oracles. It is the irony and the humour what contains all the sufferings in the world and the obiquous line in which death and life are one and the same bequesting immortality to the world only. In the dark pangs of the waters I feel faltering behind the beauty that is supported on the edifice of anger and anxiety, it is only in this oblivion of the traumatic events that the story-telling makes sense, it is only in the total givenness to the present tense that this can at all look toward anywhere.

And today sitting by myself and composing autobiographies for epic anti-heroes, with only the necessary charm to make up for disappointments, such irrational fear at the world-encompassing pain that dares not look out the window lest it can hear that voice coming from a far and yet one can still cry, for the only thing still worth crying for, for his own place in the next world. The twilight of the empty space can be filled only this precarious and sacred anxiety, with this longing that unfolds no less than it disappears in the nihilistic line of the conversations, of the loving misunderstandings that cause more sorrow than illusion.

This is love's work. The security that everything can be lost tomorrow and that the only possibility for this moment is a blend of loyalty intimately bound with unpromising present tenses. The blind adherence to this foundational principle by which the empty space does make sense only because it knows not to differentiate between a thought, a being and a feeling; and only human person and not grandiose narratives can make this possible. Thinking can only be the totality of one's being or never be at all, even if you can never succeed in communicating with anybody so that your life navigates away in describing paintings and in setting boats and times into the right paths... the paths of no direction.

There's only one aim in sight... the Augustinian manifold sense of the desire for everything of this world as it is nowadays and such pessimistic devise is the only possible expectation, that of the return to the original creation story that can uncannily pierce through the traumas and the dreams in order to realize a human person that doesn't necessitate to think exclusively in negative terms and only there he can be at home. Yet this should never happen, it must only become a possibility among many. Love's work is this memory but in exclusively human terms, in allegoric and festive terms. Love's fate however, is the expectation that makes sure the work is never completed and when the lover dies the show of the world must go on lest he was no lover at all.

Images of Christianity: Cain and the Pythagorean

Images of Christianity: Cain and the Pythagorean

In memory of the teacher of the least but builder of the most
Dedicated to
The Painter Sabrina
The Pythagorean
The Philosophers and the Lives

"It is memory and not expectation that gives unity and wholeness to human existence"
H. Arendt on St. Augustine

Left: "Golgotha", Govert Flinck, Belgium XVI cent.
Right: "The Crucifixion", Assissi, Lower Basilica, XIII cent.

A) "The church is the community of God in the future eternally disatisfied with the present". E. Bloch.
B) "What is important is to be completely and entirely present". K. Jaspers.

1) If she, the painter, would set herself on a pilgrimage from Mt. Olives to the Holy Sepulcher (as in the festivities of Eastern but in reverse) the only striking images of the world would be Golgotha and the Crucifixion. She would have then to produce an Oriental painting, atavic, incomprehensible, a painting of the scenes that unfold constantly as a present. However when looked at from the vantage point of the redeemed future, Hamlet's untimely moment of death would have to be looked at as two different mirrors of the Christ's eyes. The insignificant callous discrepancy would reveal two differing philosophical encounters, that of the Nietzschean Death of God (the definitive exodus of Zarathustra toward the ego, without arks, burning fires or parting waters) and its Hegelian counterpart (the death of the Greek gods. The sharp glittering of the jaded green in the eyes of the Christ can be seen only with the cross, the suffering on the cross that became possible only long after the death of Jesus, the Jew. The cross summons Abel and Apollo, the winners of civilization, but they're uninteresting. We want Sabrina's painting because it shatters the cosmic order, summoning Cain and Korach, ecstasic festivities of fools, drunkards and puppets with their parents... Endymion, Diana, Bacchus.
2) The crucifixion is the history of salvation and Golgotha is just the memory. Yet very little distances Golgotha and the Crucifixion, it is the metamorphosis of a third eye, Hamlet's. Only a philosophical flight back into the world in its rawest leafing turn the eyes of the Christ into two different highways: That of Cain and that of the Pythagorean. Lessing and Goethe knew this; how it's possible to juxtapose Greece and Christianity and overcome both thereafter and at the same time in one person. The Pythagorean is a Greek lover and Cain's already turned into the Hebraic melody of the Psalms of Brecht. Thus tells the Talmud in the Tractate "Berakhot" that King David knew in advance the day of his death, on the Holy Shabbat and he then studied the Torah without taking his eye off for a second until he stumbled upon a branch and fell to this Shakesperean untimely death. The Greek lover didn't understand too much about time on the other hand and was prepared, not unlike Socrates, for Cato's pleasing defeat. O fallacy of truth! King David and Cain are very best friends. And poor Jonathan, the lover and poet, fell in a war like Abel because poetizing the world was never enough lest someone bear the whole burden of a life that knows no soothsaying or prayer other than despair; the Pythagorean hearkened to the oracles everyday while Cain only unheard the distancing God. That's the mark of Cain, his love for the world - the most negative commandment. That's why his mother Eve and the mortally wound Abel can never find him, because the mark of Cain is in every form of humanity.
3) The painter prefers Cain, the unfinished weeping of the town women in Golgotha, the endless mourning before the law. Antigone! The godless Myriam of the Kabbalists. She loves Cain because as the Hungarian poem goes, "Every newborn is a Messiah, only later he turns into the scoundrel". Cain chooses to be the fugitive, the liar, the sufferer and he sits "amidst the tent of Ya'akov" next to the flames of Auschwitz staring into the Rabbis teaching the Talmud to Helen of Troy. His beauty happens suddenly and as an accident and in the confirmation of the disappointment shines the commandment. Sabrina hates the security of the Greek, because it clashed with her art. She doesn't believe in the Christ or in the history of salvation because if so then Cain should die, for the sake of humankind, for the sake of all and how stupid it could be to die for something that can never be thought; it's only available in nature, in life, in the questions asked by human beings, in simple dinners. Sabrina and Hamlet learn that only on account of Cain's falsehood he wears the eyes of the Christ in the painting while the Pythagorean is already the Messiah and consequently the false one and only because he speaks the truth, like Homer. And it is Hamlet, the resultless philosopher who paints this genesis, always sketching impossible scenes attempting to capture the present, but he knows not how to paint.
4) Letter of Abel to his mother Eve:

"Dear mother,
I've stood at the fair boots today in the festivities of the Christians and a little painting on an icon stole away my attention, at first it looked rather Byzantine and Greek and displayed the Christ in his whole splendor, this is of course badly unsurprising. Yet from a far it looked like a philosophical book, yet as I drew further I could envisage this painting, I must attempt or rather dare describe it to you. The painting was so small that it could cover an entire wall and at the same time half the canvas was left blank! The woundrous art work depicts a stale and smokeless room where two young men have dinner next to a large window, and a wall is the only thing in sight... thus you can examine from their table the whole of Jerusalem as only God sees it while it's at any rate the most impressive and clear sight of Jerusalem since her last suicide attempt. Small threads for hanging laundry extend from one end of the world to the other and the air is charged with noises from the Mosques, it's the earthliest Jerusalem I saw ever since we looked for Cain in the train waggons. The atmosphere all filled with such beautiful serenity... It was a painting about Cain! I think now that we've searched for him effortlessly because with the painting I realized that Cain and the Christ aren't quite the same, Cain is the whole of humanity but not of humankind and because he's already arrived in this world he can hardly live with himself. He wants to desire but not the desire at all, you see? He's so Hebraic and Oriental that you could hardly distinguish him from the Greek statues and that's how we must search for him there, in a world where all faces are alike but the intentions differ; it's the dead nature of Kant's aesthetics. Yet no matter how impressive, the painting shows very little love while surrounded by an unbearable of it. My brother wants nothing from this world and that's why he must live it, so entirely unthrilled and falsely hopeful, he wants to change the life and for that very reason it's impossible to see him because that's in fact the turning point of the whole of humanity. Only one person can see Cain in this painting... the painter Sabrina and this is so only because she didn't draw it at all, she could at most just endanger the vision. The work itself is the handicraft of a philosopher and I know this because no matter whether the Christ is on the cross as the only visible language unconcealing therein, and even though it speaks much about salvation the scene occurs all the time prior to the Messianic age therefore it can't be a crucifixion, it's a painting of Golgotha. I can't quite tell you who the intriguer is behind this unfinished Last Supper but I can only suspect very few and by no means need mention them to you. I think there can be one intriguer, that one, because he's already deserted the waiting and has made himself too much at home in the estrangement of Cain, he would never let the ark of Noah go astray and because this is the only moral available from the story the boat must sink before Cain be at a long last seen. Yet this isn't bad at all, because the intriguer knows of no compromises, he doesn't promise anything at all. You see? It's true, ""This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live".
5) Sabrina's signature: "You've become the eternal motif behind all my paintings.... And he wanted the kingdom of God on earth. Title of the work: Jesus the Unchrist.

Friday, February 23, 2007

On the Life of the Mind

On a certain lecture of Agnes Heller I attended recently in the companionship of the painter and Eve's son, I heard some interesting remarks about Arendt that can only come and complete a picture I've myself drawn from the beginning of my acquaintance with her when I read the book "Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin" a good number of years back. What is most striking about Arendt is actually her originality albeit philosophically speaking this gives just too little information about anything in particular; the issue presented here is that what (this sounds a little too metaphysical) or the point "where" Arendt is at stake the best is never in the development, the content or even the accuracy with which she presents her thoughts, the results are unimportant (probably living up to her own remarks of the "fallacy of truth" made to Mary McCarhty), she's the strikingly original thinker only in the questions she asks and at that one might better comprehend her life-long love story with St. Augustine. Arendt thought uncannily in the poetic sense just like the Christian saint thought in the rhaetorical mode. This is how I can find myself at home in her thinking space - because the questions are all phenomenological from within the innermost cradle of the ego's imprisonment with itself, namely saying that the Arendtian questions are asked so thoroughly independent from traditions and philosophers that at times they strike a certain banality and lack of concreteness. But only because they are produced in the extraordinary milieu of purest consciousness and the flux of the ego with itself they're so profoundly important.

This is especially clear in the fluctuation of the contradictions that feed the life of the mind in the non-historical space of hermeneutics and of earthly existence. "Quaestio Mihi Factus Sum" said Augustine, and this mistrust of the traditions which lift up the banisters of the worldly artifacts reveal a very serious problem that concludes in Arendt's uncompromising mistrust of metaphysics. Ring explained this by arguing that Arendt applied "specific" Jewish ways of thinking (yet with a totally different content) by relating the life of the mind to the life of the community. My experience is a very similar one, in that I find it very difficult to think when not in the company of others or with the pre-conditioned thought of answering an specifically human question asked by a real person or by a narrative set in motion. My distrust for metaphysics lies on the hierarchical purity of the ego that in finding a comprehensive world-view that aims at a system it works on the assumption of syllogisms and logical processes that eventually lead the path to the gate where truth lies behind at the end of a long road. I believe this hardly to be so and adhere to Arendt's "fallacy of truth" that might be as old as Plato.

The ego can't leave his very own companionship and therefore is imprisoned in a rather claustrophobic dense space where the system is fully constructed on the basis of movement toward itself along which it develops all kinds of human faculties believed to be absolute. I shall argue that there're unaccountable number of "facts" that remain unthinkable in the totality and this is the only foundation criticism that can be ever set upon the grandiose enterprise of dialectic and negative thinking. The Hegelian reconciliation can't be completed unless the world of the everyday in which humans live could be an abstraction of heterogeneity and homogeneity in constant flux back and forth. Negative thinking remains the only possibility available to the ego, it's a "destruction" of all the knowable for the sake of the known, yet this is hardly the case in the world of "realia" within which everyday life reproduces itself. Here I can argue that the only serious critic of the Hegelian thinking of the absolute by negative destruction is Henri Bergson in expounding how the "negative" isn't available as a phenomena or as an experience anywhere in nature. The totality limits strictly the possibilities of thinking but never the possibilities of philosophy, but what we're concerned with here is the "activity", whereby in the world of contingency (namely the one "proposed" by Hegel in the Philosophy of Right) whose base in "all men are free" the authority of the tradition as an all-binding structure is suspected, yet this is where it can become truely enlightening, that the "thinking" is condemned to live on the doubt of the authority and therefore its possibility for communicability in the Jasperian sense relies once again the power of negative thinking eo ipse.

Lastly I want to comment on another Hegelian problem; Hegel has a problem (a major one actually) in the "way" to the absolute spirit to tackle the difference between Logic and Metaphysics which is rooted in Kant's destruction of the metaphysical possibilities for the sake of a rational logic that can derive all the principles of knowledge (and its limit) from the sources of reason, including the problems of religion, art, ethics and the individual. Hegel does Phenomenology and that's why his reconciliation is never possible in metaphysical terms, in the absolute. This is an idea I'm indebted for to Gillian Rose and her pupil Nigel Tubbs, the broken middle is what actually matters in Hegel and not the Absolute which if it cannot be thought there's no possible social import to any philosophy at all. The broken middle if at all, is the only secure foundation of modern philosophy and its good friend, Modernity... because it lives on the rupture of time, the broken middle is this broken time itself. Phenomenology proves a much reliable method than metaphysics in arriving but it can never arrive, reason for which Phenomenology could only understand itself in furnishing social import at all at the stage of Existential Philosophy where the discovery of the pure ego pilgrimaged from the sources of reason to revelation. The creation stories from thereinafter can never start at the "totality" but rather travel to the whole of the broken middle until they dissolve themselves in the unthinkable which is the greatest objectivation of the world, the Heideggerian averageness and the Kierkegaard-Weber-Heller "everyday" that can never be experienced in a phenomenal sense because the heterogeneous quality of its movement. These are just mere pegs, I shall refine this along the way in my work.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The room

My dear Katharina

The clear evening has a light that shines but doesn't talk at all, it's seemly a picture of our earthly life from a vantage point in the universe that happens or unfolds in the instant just before the redemption. If you would share this scene with me, you would understand it makes the perfect painting, the most beautiful painting you could ever think of because it presents everything we've talked about without representing anything at all.

It's a very everyday scene which takes place right before love, right before creation as in the Biblical sense, a story of origins. The place isn't spectacular or evocative, but it is a house like one of those in which you and me have never lived, everything seems to be comfortably in place as though arranged by the conspicuous hand of a motherly care or at least of guilt it comes with. The room could be anybody else's but it's not and that's the source of the amazing mystery.

Yet this is only the sketch, the preambule before the real ecsatic thread. It was a dinner, similar to the Last Supper in a way yet not quite the same. It was in a present tense so absolute that language had been rapturedly taken away from me and I could only speak little "talk" about anything that comes to mind. An instant soup very different from the ambar we had in my provisorium, rather chalky and smooth but so uncannily "homely". Then a perfectly fried omelette (and remember Agnes' dictum: "it's better not to smash the omelette") and fresh cut vegetables on a plate. Everything dressed with a transparent distancing and hiding, no honest dishes or glasses of wine, everything furnished with plain water and some brief moments of silence together with an almost whispered conversation without any other-worldly meaning at all. Nothing heavy, as it were the day when Tereza and Thomas died and right before Tomas' son would think that his father wanted the kingdom of God on earth.

It's so different from our hotel freedoms and storage houses. But there's very little feeling and perhaps me being uncomfortable about it is what makes sense of it all because in a way I'm so totally unexpecting that if the painting wouldn't be complete at all I wouldn't be disappointed in anyway. I sit on the floor as though untimely mourning before my time and write non sense in my journal with the hope of understanding myself a little better but the air is charged with a smell of distraction directed toward the man in question that can only prove a rather dietetic form of confusion.

But somehow I insist this is the sight of our earthly life in the minute before the redemption that keeps the Messiah from coming everytime anew. In a way I'd like to escape very much and meet you again for the same reasons as before but in a way not. In a way I want to be drunk from this nearing that distances reality so much, at least as we know it: in the most extreme possibility of the consumption. This is perhaps the only form of life where the chair of the Messiah can remain always empty, because it's so terribly abstracted from itself and from anything else that I find myself at odds trying to describe the violent and loving feeling of philosophy coming home I feel right now, because I know it's only one another departure that leaves the finite in order to know itself and to lose itself to be more precise.

Somehow this is not boring because it feels me with terrible fear, the fear of the known and the found. Yet the time is already broken to start with, because no events can be perceived by the searching eye until they crash with the eye itself in a repair that resembles already their passing away more than their coming into being. It's not called happiness or a Hegelian reconciliation, maybe the genius of Augustine would be able to find the contradiction that allows one to lie and hide all the truth away from the world, lest we risk that it shall be found in its barest nudity and then somehow no one would want anything from this world as it is. Then painting and thinking would make no sense at all, there would be no possible creation history and therefore no possible freedom and in turn modernity would pass from being an illusion into becoming the foundation of all possible world, a Christian vale of tears. Which it is at the same time, only that from our searching eye it is the tear what keeps the redemption always a minute late, what makes this world possible at all.

Suddenly I cease to think about my death and without altogether embracing my life or myself to life I can keep myself a minute away from my death so that if it would reach me, no one could say death found me in the wrong moment as in the story of King David in the Talmud. That moment of death, always untimely should be the only turning point in which the actual transformation can take place and "happen" properly. Otherwise we're condemned to this kind of everyday life that shines next to Gillel's knowing smile, and because we have a very extreme kind of freedom we can hardly experience it. It's different because as Agnes said in regard to Genesis, the philosophical grief starts as soon as you discover the time and in using the language you've lost the time again forever. The painting is perfect, that's why it cannot be happy. Oh untimely disappointment, sweeter than death and fresher than bay leaves, continuous revolt and revolution. Yet alive, for the time being. Departure time, rapture time, impossible time.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The 12th Stations of Cain

Cain wears the eyes of time
Before they fall into an abyss
Before he's himself made into green
Jadeing green
Touching the hazelnuts.

The green meadows replace the oaks,
The brooks and much older wisdom
That the Apollinear twilight
Finds no longer turning into the winds
Transforming Daphne into herself.

The silent colours predict evohe
With a certain unnatural pretension
That waters down the dust
Thrown upon the searching eye
In caustic midnight tears.

But the green is outstanding
In a certain loving coldness
That betrays the language of rapture
But leaves Noah untouched
In a tent of a different name.

This miraculous injury
Completely lacking in bliss
Awakens the poet to desire
In delaying his death
At the mourning festivals.

The celebration is completed
By the distant indifference
That can no longer understand itself more
Than it can lose its own sight,
With a Theban devise.

And the mountain
Under no man's shade
Dances to the starry flutes
Changing themselves again
Under waters of diluve.

But Cain is dismised
Under the sword of David
Leaving the conquests for others
In the helpless surrounding
Where pens cannot find him.

He does not cry
For the festivities ahead
When his brothers might visit
But for the broken present,
Cain sees with the time.

Which behold! Beheaded
Procrastinates unjointed
Before the unsight of the crack
Whence his amazement breaks forth
And thence his bliss dies.

You become the eternal motif
Behind all my paintings
And perchance less hopeful
Than I would expect
If only Endymion, could be your father again

While no bridges stand in between
I must bear the present
Imprisoned in eternity
To grant you a second of mortality
That could be enough,
Not to prevent your loss.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Unpunctuated Cain

The immortal transformation enjoints the time again,
A raveling succession between days, creation stories unbounding freedoms

An imaginative threshold that bespeaks the robbery of a heavenly house, bereft of precious items as on the sight of diluvian waters

Dissolving aether into wooden panels as to grant a distant future view of the present that unfolds today before a mirror, reflects turning points in the journey from which you cannot recover yourself and of your own accord

The delay of a loveless present that softens the hinges but never knocks on the door, thoroughly occupying stale spaces, overthrowing old deities that shouldn't have arrived until the genesis of time

Whose birth awakens not with the serene death of a prophet, but before the despair over the disacknowledgement of his own fate

And Cain, Eve's son, weary from the night, finds shelter in a blind image that can no longer provoke suffering, an ecstasic rapture in the numb twilight that sleeps away to salvation and in ageing paleness awaits the opaque present

This violates the rules of his innermost fires, twitching the strings of time toward a crude silent reality that cannot mourn over death or foe, it can only gladden before the vanishing bliss of a crime

His thick fingers are thrown into a painting and set on a pilgrimage from church to church, searching for the chair of the false Messiah, only to make sure he couldn't go through the door

Setting himself as an example of survival, while the light shines always some place else

The painting weeps sand and prophet never dares look at it, lest he believe it might be improved upon

Cain wishes for his death until the moment of revelation, where's shaped into himself by a painful crushing of the earth, the wet earth releases death and only now is Cain home

He's choked by love, of his own yet he desires to the point of turning into his brother and be set upon the deadly blow

He wishes for the transformation again, of the memory into the dream and of the eternal present into resolute truth

But moment hardly arrives, for his own sake

He must remain aloof and estranged, scattered and pragnant from the hope of a prophet that must certainly hang from the thread that lightly holds death, life, completes a circle

Terrorized by expectation, innocently but surely amazed, intoxicated, furnishing solace

The house is at once set on fire, where it encounters the love of the man who unjointed time

This grandiose confusion overturns the waters again and set Noah on the journey home

The banal miracles of this lonely enterprise are what bewilders the man about his companion, Cain's, who knew no justice or love

He only unveiled the scorn, there was no companion at all

Tuesday, February 13, 2007



In search of the then
Almost respective, I'm hourly
In the most extreme impossibility
But in the fashion of Eve, at the same time
Uneternal, average
And then, one after the other
A counterimage represents every time the uncanny blink of the eye
In immortality
Together yet far
With the voices of the past tense
That do not stand grounded, in the sympathy of time
But rather of manifold and happy oblivion
At times miser in the same measure
Yet appropriate, surprised.

Your Lordship sounds at times feminine
Laconically tragic, never pure or real
In a pastness of its own running behind time
The respectiveness builds a speaking out of itself
An uncanny event
All too general, that knows of his death
He sends a map by post:
"Instructions of Use:
Kind Regards".
A transformation.

Im Versuch des damals
Fast Jeweilig, stünde ich
In der äußerten barlosigkeit
Aber im Evaskostüm gleichzeitig
Unewiges, durchschnittlich
Und nachdem, hintereinander
Den unheimlichen Augenblick
Eines Nachbild je stellt im Unsterblichkeit vor
Zusammen noch immer weites
Mit den Stimmen der Vergänglichkeit
Die sich befindet nicht, im Verständis der Zeit
Sondern von vielfältigen und glücken Vergessen
Manchmal gleichmäßig schändlich
Noch Sittlich, verwundert.

Deine Herrlichkeit klingt jemals weiblich
Lakonisch trägisch, niemals rein oder wirklich
In einem Vorbei seines eigenes Vorlauf
Die Jeweiligkeit baut einen sichaussprechen
Unheimliche Ereignis
Gemeinlich, der weiß um seinen Tod
Er sendt eine Karte mit dem Post
"Gebrauchanweisung:Freundliche Grüßen"
Eine Verwandlung.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Gillian Rose on Neo-Kantianism

Dilthey, Heidegger, Mannheim, Benjamin and Gadamer have this criticism in common: the Neo-Kantian answers to the question of validity debase the question of being, reality, existence, life or history, by their propositional or judgmental account of truth and by the correlation between general logic and objectification. But these thinkers did not return to a trascendental logic in order to make the question of existence central again.... Dilthey, Mannheim, Heidegger and Gadamer return to the Kantian question of validitym "What are the pre-conditions of existence?", but judge that the Kantian reference to the categories and their application itself has a precondition: "life" (Dilthey), "social-situation" (Mannheim), "Dasein" (Heidegger), "history" (Gadamer). These become the presupposition of the use of the categories or of meaning, the "a priori" of a new kind of ontology

Gillian Rose, "Hegel: Contra Sociology", 1981

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Hegel's Humour and Mock of Christianity

"Christians have piled up such a heap of reasons for comfort in misfortune that we might be sorry in the end that we cannot lose a father or a mother once a week".

"The Greek religious festivals were joyous and celebrated the friendly gifts of nature; at the greatest Christian festivals people appear in church in the colour of mourning, with downcast eyes, and, celebrating universal brotherhood, many are afraid that through the brotherly goblet they might be infected with a venereal disease by someone who drank from it before. And lest one's mind remain... wrapped in a holy feeling, one must reach into one's pocket in the midst of things and put one's offering on a plate".

Schleiermacher: "Religion finds its realization in the relationship of absolute dependance".

Hegel's answer: "Then the best Christian might be the dog".

From Kaufmann

"In a brilliant book on "The Tyranny of Greece over Germany", Prof. E. M. Buttler dealt with Winckelmann and Lessing, Goethe and Schiller, Hoelderlin and Heine, Nietzsche and Stefan George. She might well have included Hegel under that suggestive title. What Rufold Haym doesn't recognize clearly enough is that Hegel's admiration for the Greeks was centered in Athens and based in large measure on the fussion there accomplished of art and religion with the ethical life of the citizens. Art, religion, and public life can hardly be disentangled even in retrospect: to which of them would one assign the Parthenon, the great statues of Zeus and Athena and Apollo, or the gathering at which Aeschylus and Sophocles, and a little later Sophocles and Euripides, vied for the first prize?"

W. Kaufmann, "Hegel".

Thursday, February 08, 2007

"Time of the Now": Benjamin's Hope

To Gillel Treiber and Barbara Galli in appreciation
"Thus as Kafka puts it, there's an infinite amount of hope, but not for us. This statement [to Max Brod] really contains Kafka's hope; it is the source of his radiant serenity"- W. Benjamin
"Philosophy still exists only because the moment to have understood it, has passed" - T. Adorno
"The Owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk" - G.W.F. Hegel
In order to speak about Benjamin's hope one is irreparably condemned to turn his attention toward an unseen moment, a moment that can never be experienced - the moment of time. This is of course singularly paradoxical, albeit in the uncanny sense of the fox[1]; in the burrow surrounded by zoo visitors that feed him compliments fished out of a rather bloody tank, the fox ponders on the "how", dealing a deadly blow to Diotima and unknowingly returning to the cave only in order to find a way out, ultimately achieved through an awful lot of Messianic cheating to sadly winding up at the very same entrance with the rest of the blind with their bayonets and sculptures of dead nature. The rest of the world, outside the burrow ponders on the "what", and woundrously lets the chips fall wherever they may, because when you ask the question of what something is, insofar as it is then you're already asking questions about "how"; in such a naturally naive way that brings the fox closer to the Bible than to the philosophers and there the fox meets Eliot, together they go hunting in the fields of a millenial folk story.
Yet we must leave the fox in order to speak about hope and better to start with the wisdom of dictionaries; Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Surprisingly enough events didn't turn out for the best and what was wanted could in fact be had, just to follow with the demise at the surprise of not quite loving the end result of the want,
"The priest desires. The philosopher desires
And not to have is the beginning of desire.
To have what is not is its ancient cycle.
It is desire at the end of winter, when
It observes the effortless weather turning blue.....
It knows that what it has is what not
And throws it away like a thing of another time
As morning throws off stale moonlight and shabby sleep." [2]
But it this desire anew that loosens the ungrounding path of hope - a certain linguistic freedom, it is the momentum of the image of happiness, elsehow imposed upon us by the inexorable toll of averageness in eventful experiences, poorly mystical and rather meaningless, uncomposite paintings and roaring sights from the vantage point of time, the unmeasurable that contains once world-time: "History is just one fucking thing after the other"[3].
For Benjamin this is exactly the moment of redemption, the "absolute present" of Rosenzweig and Kafka, the moment of the event which stands both outside time but within its own limits: "Sun will not overstep his measures; otherwise the Erynies, ministers of Justice, will find him out"[4]. Redemption happens in the present, it is an "event", a present event that "takes place", and altogether constitutes both a story of creation and a story of revelation; "For being has the immanent meaning or revelation as well as of creation. Revelation is the creation of reason"[5]. At this point one can return to the burrow and mend the method of "access", the way through. The fox has pointed out the importance of the "how", insofar as it is, of things in opposition to the "what" which lives in sempiternal anxiety because in the moment of its reflection, insofar as it is, it is already lost and irretrievable: "In Jedem Falle gilt: wenn wir in bezug auf die Philosophie fragen: Was ist das?, dann fragen wir eine ursprüngliche greichische Frage"[6].
That is exactly "how" in the crowd of vixens and other smaller foxes that built their burrows around the Seine, was rightly pointed out that an "event" in actuality has no past[7].
Yet it is this "Geschende"[8] where one gate closes and a second opens. As the event occurs in which a transformation is experienced (the passage of one ego to the other, i.e. reason and will, thinking and will) the moment unfolds in its present and "creates a presence from an essence"[9]. It is this metamorphosis what nauseates our philosophers, "The term happens is important to Rosenzweig. His primary philosophical question is not "What is the essence of a thing?" but instead "What happens? What story is being told? What world story is unfolding?[10]", the source of their endless hope. This hope is not an eschatology of "soothsayings" but rather the fullness of our present time in its most extreme impossibility; for Benjamin there's an image of happiness in the experience of the world and this image is undeniably tied to memory, to a certain form not of the past as a "stumbling block" along the threads of time but as "past-experience" which once again stands "gleichzeitig" inside and outside time, in a constant flux and recreation of human verticality and horizontality that is counter-imaged in a letter of Kafka:
"Had you not been lying on the ground among the animals, you would have been unable to see the sky and the stars and wouldn't have been set free. Perhaps you wouldn't have survived the terror of standing upright. I feel much the same; it is a mutual dream you have dreamed for us both"[11].
I'm indebted to Aviva Zornberg for the interpretation of this text which she attributes to a Biblical world view in tune with Rosenzweig and that others have attributed to a fragmentary view of Modernity, including myself. Redemption is both a creation and revelation story and together with hope they happen in the present, not unlike happiness; "In other words, our image of happiness is indissolubly bound up with the image of redemption... the past carries with it a temporal index by which it is referred to redemption"[12].
I believe Benjamin speaks here not of the concrete linear past but of the past experience that in itself as it unfolds heads towards the future in that "the narrative art regains the significance it had in the mouth of Schezerade: to postpone the future[13]", said Benjamin when speaking of Kafka's stories. Postponing the future is where the illusion of hope remains at stake and this can be executed only through past experiences, of the narrative thereof. One of the key definitions of Modernity stems from this process and at that in a Hegelian manner, "Modernity - the sense that the present is discontinuous with the past - is an illusion and this illusion creates modernity itself. What has changed is social memory; we have disconnected most of our practices and ideas from our collective memory of their origins and meanings."[14] And this discostinuous present contains the future, weakly so because it lives on the expectation of its possibility together with the hope of its impossibility. The future shall never arrive because "The time is out of joint / O cursed spite / That I was ever born to set it right / Nay! come, let's go together"[15] proclaims the cheerful Hamlet. This is what Arendt termed "the sempiternal moment" between past and future and wherein the human condition lies, interpreted by Heller to cast some light on the advent of the postmodern "unreflective" man.
Benjamin's hope has very little to do with Christian eschatology and much to do with Messianism, as echoed in the work of his contemporary Ernst Bloch, a foremost athestic theology who shared a great part of Benjamin's philosophical heritage and this can be easily demonstrated by one of his statements, taken up by the post-Christian theologians Harvey Cox and Jurgen Moltmann, albeit in very different manners; "The Church is the community of the future, eternally dissatisfied with the present"[16]. Both resound in a very "secular" language which isn't strictly secular as it might have been the same language of the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "The day will come in which people will again be called to pronounce the word of God in a way that the world will be changed by it. There will be a new language, perhaps quite unreligious, but as liberating and elevating as the language of Jesus"[17], he's also said to have a certain fondness of the sentence "Hast thou hoped for salvation?", I think if I remember correctly that was the main question one was expected to be asked in the Day of Judgment. This obviously comes very close to Marx but if one were to follow Schelling's Ages of the World (which profoundly influenced Rosenzweig, specially important is Gillian Rose's assessment of the Ages of the World in Rosenzweig's system[18]) this essentially seems to be Schelling's greatest insight from his familiarity with the works of the Kabbalists.
In Benjamin there's a fascinating image and counter-image in between the ideas of historical materialism and the young Hegelians together with Jewish mysticism, what compels one to read from close-by his extreme long and dense German sentences and with closer inspection one finds him doing a totally phenomenal kind of hermeneutics because they work in two different layers and can't be labelled under the religious or secular language. As many young Jewish thinkers of his time he stands outside a collapsing system of metaphysics but goes beyond most of them in speaking about the "metaphysics" of the experience, a true paradoxicality in a manifold sense; as he calls for the "match" of historical materialism with theology, and by theology not meaning the Western tradition of philosophical theology but merely the net of metaphysical security that in German Idealism had bestowed man with a good-feel of being totally at home in the world following the enthroning as doubt[19] as this same world's major patron.
He turns toward path-ways very unlikely Hegelian, for example through his concern with images which break apart from the extreme abstraction that Hegel's system subject "persons" under and that set forth the basis of Kierkegaard and Rosenzweig's critique, in Hegelian philosophy the image is not to be sighted in its particularly but only in its spirit which has been made already universal, even when Benjamin does say that "historicism culminates in universal history[20]" but it is a rather obscure passage and on account of this, difficult to determinate what he actually meant to say.
All in all, Benjamin believes in the image and is determined to describe it with an almost phenomenological inclination, turning from philosophy (a comprehensive whole, in the old sense) toward theory (obviously an influence from the method of the social sciences) because the theory is one among many and it "sees" something, consequentially developing a "view" of it[21]; furthermore his metaphysics of experience are presented as a form of inter-spherical (namely, one that blurs the boundaries between everyday life, philosophy, the arts and thought in particular) aesthetics, even theological aesthetics accomplishing what a certain theologian of our age expressed: "When beauty becomes a form which is no longer understood as being identical with being, spirit, freedom, we have again entered the age of aestheticism, and realists will be then right in objecting this kind of beauty"[22].
At this juncture the theologian's concern is with the metaphysical foundations of ethics and echoes far from Benjamin who is no ethical solipsist, but Benjamin does believe in the mere "possibility" of whichever powers that be and that's the perplexing source of his Angst, of his amazement in the Greek sense (the fox spoke about the three ages of the world, antiquity as the age of "amazement", the middle ages and rennaissance as the age of "security" and modernity as the age of "doubt") but comically doubtful before the amazement itself, an aspect alien in every respect to the stale nature of the Greek tragedy yet not so of the German tragedy as he tries to go on and prove in his seminal work "The Origins of the German Tragedy". Benjamin's belief in this possibility is enlightening today in the age of the "postmetaphysical fallacy[23]" by which the endless mourning before the "metaphysical security" turns out dull because the bereaver is seemly to have never been such. This hope in whichever form it comes does echo rather pessimistic but it is its weaving thread itself what secures the possibility of unredeemed political philosophies, of undualistic or dualectic images of theology and aesthetics where the estrangement of man from himself as such as to consider those realms totally adrift and aloof from his worldly experience. He turns toward the image and says "The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again. "The truth will not run away from us[24]".
This is thoroughly in accord with a particularly relevant thinker, Arendt and her letter to Mary McCarthy on the tapestry of truth, "The chief fallacy is to believe that Truth is a result which comes at the end of a thought-process. Truth, on the contrary, is always the beginning of thought, thinking is always result-less. That is the difference between "philosophy" and science: Science has results, philosophy never. Thinking starts after an experience of truth has struck home, so to speak. The difference between philosophers and other people is that the former refuse to let go, but that they are the only receptacles of truth. This notion that truth is the result of thought is very old and goes back to ancient classical philosophy, possibly to Socrates himself. If I am right and if it a fallacy, then it probably is the oldest fallacy of Western philosophy. You can detect it in almost all definitions of truth, and especially in the traditional one of "aedequatio rei et intellectus" [the conformity of the intellect to the thing known]. Truth, in other words, is not "in" thought but to use Kant's language, the condition for the possibility of thinking. It is both, beginning and a priori"[25]. Truth is the precondition and not necessarily the immediate cause (as in Kant) of this metaphysical experience, unlike the fox whereby the "Vorlauf" (running behind the past) immediately throws you into the Nothingness together with your averageness and your possibility of the uncanny.
This is of course problematic when thinking of National Socialism, which apparently wasn't seen by Benjamin as something occupied with "truth" but a rather shocking encounter in between technology and modern men (or at least this is what Arendt said) and this naivete sprang from a terribly boredom to deal with the actual Nazi and propaganda literature under the influence of futuristic Italian thinkers. She claims the fox to have experienced the same problem, but it is unlikely so from his concept of true in relation to art and technology that was presented in less known writings and as I've argued somewhere else, his insistency in maintaining ontological freedom by eliminating the past-experience of the event and constituting "Being-in-the-world" as something entirely universal[26] (a different version of Minerva's Owl) against all odds, even despite Kafka, who never read him.
To conclude, Benjamin's hope at its very surface can't be glimpsed at without stumbling upon his unsurmountable sadness, and at that his Messianism resounds with Prophetic candor, not unlike that of Stefan Zweig's play "Jeremiah" and his "project" of Modernity is enlightened by a quotation of Flaubert, "Few will be able to guess how sad one has to be in order to resucitate Carthage"[27], namely that this Modernity (as a world) is the unlikeliest of all possible enterprises jumping from one paradox to the other and being locked in the "House of Beings" (language)[28] wherein the estranged man dwells, Modernity can't come without a certain melancholy and mourning over the lost "past" which if it's to believe in itself, has to forfeit. For Benjamin Modernity isn't a particular way to do philosophy or a world-view but a "storm of progress"[29] that attempts to "change the life"[30], which obviously "evented" before the greatest catastrophe and turned us inwardly into the age of self, whereby the reality of the world turned into a blurry untainted landscape, nonetheless Benjamin aches under the spell of the absolute present where for him the only remote possibility of hope lies, "Thus as Kafka puts it, there's an infinite amount of hope, but not for us. This statement [to Max Brod] really contains Kafka's hope; it is the source of his radiant serenity"[31]. Out of this hopeless aspiration is begot the fear that the world might at once be destroyed (the best of all possible worlds), it is an immediate confrontation with reality that dissolves the paradox and the image and counter-image, only the sketches are left untouched but somehow later they burn down, water down, let down.
Yet he keeps the Kafkian serenity in the narrative, the personal unhindered encounter in between the everyman and his fate, pivot wherein everything struck home for him and in the deliverance from the cores of everyday in the fashion of the most terrible plights he couldn't but release his most absolute confidence in the future, as though the prisoner who in the abject impossible present thinks but about the most distant possibilities in a remote future[32], as though the ultimate love commandments would include a poetizing of the world[33]; a return... "Love itself is our death to the world, and our lifee with God. For if it is death when the soul leaves the body, how it is not death when our love goes forth from the world? Therefore love is as strong as death"[34]. The impossibility of his own life casted gray on his hope and by proxy turned into a saga of Prophetic consequence, as though a man directed to encounter his unknown destiny by his very own will with the most absolute credibility in his insecurity with a liberating voice in the redemptive tense, the present.
"The refugess were supposed to return to France by the same route the next day... During the night Benjamin took his life, whereupon the border officials, upon whom this suicide made an impression, allowed his companions to proceed to Portugal. A few weeks later the embargo on visas was lifted again. One day earlier Benjamin would have gotten through without any trouble, one day later the people in Marseilles would have known that for the time being it was impossible to pass through Spain. Only on that particular day was the catastrophe possible"[35]. Thus arrived Benjamin's final station, at the end of a succession of long parades of despair moments and anguish, the last remnants of the serenity didn't linger about for too long and it all went up in smoke when the chips were down, this is the whimsical secret behind Kafka's stories for him... No one surrenders in advance as in the plays of Sartre, the characters surrender to an absolutely empty channel with a tad of boredom; for Kafka they're struggling and opening doors which close behind them until the very last moment whereby the story closes at the very limits of human understanding and not even then it is clear on whether one's allowed to quit hoping. As his friends knew, he would hope until the very last moment and that was the ultimate experience of the time, of the present, the irreparable, the paradoxical, the transformation.
His Messianism retains the impossibility and the spirit of the times, a rather funny pessimism that laughs about itself and in doing so retains its faith altogether. Because one simply can't give up, when as in Lasker-Schueler the boundaries between one's life and philosophy or poetry are no longer there and the world is experienced like Friedrich Gentz, "Gentz gave himself to the world immediately and directly, and it consumed him. His hedonism was only the most radical way open to him to let the world consume him"[36]. No gaps are left in between God, man and the world in the most radical form of bridging the gap between past and future: Living eternally in the present moment, which the time has lost sight of, crashing right before the unreflective vertigo. It is this absolute present and not any glorious past or distant Utopian future what leaves the door open for the Messiah.
"If someone comes and declares "This will be the historical redeemer of mankind, I know its name" - then we might easily identify him as the prophet of the false Messiah. The prophet of the true Messiah remains silent. He does not know. But he knows one thing - that one should not say that the Messiah will never come. One should never let the empty chair be occupied by a pretender (and every occupant is a pretender), but it is better if one does not remove the empty chair. My conviction, or rather my feeling, suggest that I leave the chair there, in the middle of the room at the head of the table, where it remains all the time exposed in its emptiness. The chair speaks to denizens of the absolute present honestly only in its emptiness. My intuition suggests that only emptiness is fullness for the moderns, that there is no other kind of "hope beyond hope", at least not for those who assume the position of reflected postmodernity[37]".
And this is the very same struggle by which the old Israelites overthrew the magic powers that be, claiming that they have in fact no basis; all in all the struggle remains one of "no longer and not yet" since the Bible and beyond, with the richest wells of images that could boldly feed one's world-time with the happy mementoes of a life-time, experiences, encounters, exchanges. It's not an empty faith but rather the most extreme possibility of it and as it was in Hegel, Modernity relies on "Daimon" (the postmodern God, "time") to mend its shortcomings because philosophy is thought, not spirit. Lastly the struggle of Modernity remains by large that of Monotheism and this is something that Benjamin clearly knew as he wrote the last paragraph of his theses on the philosophy of history, a brutal encounter with reality:
"The soothsayers who found out from time what it had in store certainly did not experience time as either homogeneous or empty. Anyone who keeps this in mind will perhaps get an idea of how past times were experienced in remembrance--namely, in just the same way. We know that the Jews were prohibited from investigating the future. The Torah and the prayers instructed them in remembrance, however. This stripped the future of its magic, to which all those succumb who turn to the soothsayers for Enlightenment. This does not imply, however, that for the Jews the future turned into homogeneous, empty time. For every second of time was the strait gate through which Messiah might enter"[38].
Firstly on the surface his disappointment looks like this:
"The joy of propietorship was strong in me, and I'm glad
To have felt it. To walk through my garden, to have guests
To discuss plans for building, like others of my profession
before me
This pleased me, I admit it. But now seven weeks seems
I left without regret, or with only slight regret. Writing this
I already found it hard to remember. When I ask myself
How many lies I would be ready to tell to keep this property
I know it is not many. Therefore I hope
It was not bad to have this property. It was
Not a small thing, but
There are greater"[39]
Yet this unfailing trust in the present is where his modernity and his ultimate sadness lie, but no less his hope which accounts for about the very same. One of his friends can well portray this in a way that might have appealed to the spirit of the times:
"Walter Benjamin"
"Dusk will come again sometime.
Night will come down from the stars.
We will rest our outstretched arms
In the nearnesses, in the distances.
Out of the darkness sound softly
Small archaic melodies. Listening.
Let us wean ourselves away,
Let us at last break ranks.
Distant voices, sadnesses nearby.
Those are the voices and these the dead
Whom we have sent as messengers
Ahead, to lead us into slumber."[40]
For Arendt, her Messianism lies at the meaningfulness of the untold, of the silence, the serenity, because as Rosenzweig said, only death is a big hysterical laughter and life a silent serenity as when the Prophets died in the most bewildering calm, walking into life again, "all that is creative in man stems from a seed of endless discontent"[41]. In Benjamin, his hope and his Messianism could be painted with the genius of Goethe: "Don't look for anything behind phenomena, they're the things themselves".
Templar: We must, we must become good friends; not seldom has the searcher's eye found more than he desires.
Nathan: The genuine beggar is the genuine king. [42]
[1] Heidegger, in Arendt's "Heidegger the Fox". "Denktagbuch", entry of 1953.
[2] Wallace Stevens, "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction".
[3] Allan Bennet, "History Boys".
[4] Heraclitus, frag. 94 [Plutarch].
[5] H. Cohen, "Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism". c.4.
[6] M. Heidegger, "Was heisst die Philosophie?"
[7] speaking of the Heideggerian school of French philosophy after 1945.
[8] "Happening, taking place, occuring, event-ing".
[9] G. Steiner, "Real Presences".
[10] B. Galli, "Poetics of Time in Rosenzweig & Kafka", conference paper.
[11] F. Kafka to Felizia
[12] W. Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History", II
[13] W. Benjamin, "Illuminations"
[14] Richard Hooker
[15] W. Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, 5
[16] E. Bloch, "The Principle of Hope"
[17] D. Bonhoeffer, "Letters and Papers from Prison"
[18] G. Rose, "Mourning becomes the Law: Philosophy & Representation"
[19] Cartesian doubt, the founding principle of both subjective and objective Idealism.
[20] W. Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History", XVII
[21] A. Heller, "A Theory of Modernity", Intr.
[22] H.U. Von Balthasar, "Theological Aesthetics", v.I, intr.
[23] G. Rose.
[24] W. Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History", V.
[25] H. Arendt/M. McCarthy, "In Between Friends: The Correspondence".
[26] M. Heidegger, "Was heisst die Philosophie?"
[27] W. Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History", VII.
[28] Heidegger
[29] W. Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History", IX.
[30] Agnes Heller
[31] W. Benjamin, "Illuminations".
[32] E. Levinas on Leon Blum.
[33] F. Rosenzweig, "The Star of Redemption".
[34] St. Augustine, "Tractate on the Gospel of St. John".
[35] H. Arendt, "Men in Dark Times".
[36] "Friedrich Gentz", H. Arendt, "Essays in Understanding".
[37] A. Heller, "A Theory of Modernity", c.1.
[38] W. Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History", B.
[39] B. Brecht, "On Reading when I was rich", Poems of the Crisis Years, 1929-1933.
[40] H. Arendt, 1942
[41] A.J. Heschel
[42] G.E. Lessing, "Nathan the Wise".

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Less known sculptures

Wackerle Neptun, Munich, by Josef Wackerle

Nach dem Kampf,
by Hans Brühler,

Hitler Judend Trommler,
Anni Spetzler-Proßchwitz,

Bernd Hartmann-Wiedenbrück,

The Real Pieces of Nazi Art

This piece, presented assumedly to Mr. Hitler by the official Nazi sculptor Josef Thorak, seems to be the only really valuable piece of art offered by our happy American seller, as the rest of the collection is made up mostly of very marginal paintings, etchings and engravings, some military memorabilia and easily available books. This piece was presented to Hitler at the merry event that would inaugurate the German Art Festival in 1937 and that would last until the very end of the war undeterredly. The piece is highly unoriginal because the theme is recurrent all through Thorak's work; at the same time it is very likely the piece in question was either designed much later on or as well by a different artist for there's no information on the whereabouts of the original one, moreover the retail price is disclosed only to potential buyers. Mr. Thorak, together with his colleagues Arno Breker and Fritz Klimsch. The rest of their collection is a rather fetishist and vain attempt at a collection of truely "admirable" Nazi art.
Now let's see some of the real masters and their pieces which are happily exhibited in Germany today, because the "political" has nothing in common with the "aesthetic" (which of course had been very different under Mr. Hitler); a wonderful principle indeed. Some of their pieces are presented today in the most prestigious galleries and museums of Germany or destributed privately between private collections. The current art legislation doesn't compel German musems and collectors to return pieces looted from Jews by the Nazis nor the confiscation of allegedly Nazi art.
Fritz Klimsch lived until the ripe age of 90 (some accounts record 80) and was never tried for his participation in the Nazi regime as a artist, and easily got away from the Denazification committee (which outlawed the philosopher Martin Heidegger for a couple of years and deprived him of a pension even though he never received personal presents from Hitler, as in the case of Mr. Klimsch). A German auction house "Ketterer Kunst" based in Munich completely overlooks his Nazi past in their biography of him and as late as 2005 has held and closed auctions in the thousands of euros with works of this respectable gentleman. This is their biography of Klimsch Four out of the twelve pieces successfully sold by Ketterer in the last 5 years were produced by Mr. Klimsch during the years of the Nazi regime. Besides the two little pieces offered by the American collector, there's a famous sculpture of Klimsch:

The so-called "Schauende" (1937) still exists today (as late as May 2006) in Chiemsee, where it had been placed under request of Hitler. The famous sculpture featured at the Art Festival of Munich in 1937 remains to this day visible from the terrace opposite the lake at the Chiemsee Lake Hotel.

Arno Breker lived also to the ripe age of 91, and lived unmolested as an artist following the end of the Nazi regime. Even though patrocinated by Max Liberman and considered often a "degenerate artist" he was fathered by Hitler and although never a party member (what kept him away from the Denazification Committee) he served the Reich until 1942. His neo-classical style appealed to the Nazis and fell in with the ideas of the Nazis on architecture, albeit quite Modernist and Mannerist in his style. A museum on his name was erected in 1985 and even beyond that, an exposition of his works opened in Schwerin in 2006 creating a stiff polemic over the display of this controversial gentleman. The auctioner "Ketterer" omits Breker's biography but has indeed sold three of his works (mostly very late works) in the last 5 years. In 1991 he died in Düsseldorf. Some of his works are of phenomenal quality, which doesn't diminish in anyway his involvement in the most murderous regime of modern times.

Undeniably his most famous work is the statue called "Die Partei" which was thought to invoke and represent the spirit of the Nazi party. Art of such originality and quality was seldom thought in the Soviet Union or under Mussolini for example, what brings to the fore the question of the uncannily messianic value of beauty that the Nazis placed on their holy tasks, whose aim more than anything else was the destruction and extermination of whole peoples.

"Die Partei" in the picture right.

Josef Thorak was an Austrian artist who lived up to the age of 63, free from Denazification in 1948 resumed work through a major exposition in Austria and continued his work until his death. He remains so far the most popular household name when one speaks about Nazi art, the following picture shows the heroic and monumental character of his sculpture work and contains the motif of the Aryan girl marketed by the American seller.