Saturday, March 31, 2007

Research Notes - Dialogue, Love

It is impossible to consume such amounts of literature and philosophy without writing at all, unless one could be tedious enough as to write endless sets of research notes and references but that can hardly be called writing in the sense of 'techne'; this project indeed leads my mind toward that road of understanding which is the only thing I've sought for in philosophy - that voice, that place to stand. It is really difficult to amass in one go all the material I've compiled but it does make sense in my head and that's my entire concern, I must drill out quotations, sources, references and notes until I feel ready for the enterprise... it might take a week more more or less. My study begins in the spring of a manifold disappointment that threw me upon philosophy to search for a new language to be able to 'dialogue' with 'lovers of the world'. I set myself out to speak about Eros from a postmodern perspective, that of historical hermeneutics and ask the question on whether there's a social 'space' for love in a world that has done away with God other than the 'memory' and the 'expectation'.

In a way one could even dare say it is a question about the survival of love in our society from the perspective of everyday experience for which philosophy has come not to determine conditions (as in the pragmatism of the Romans or in the optimism of French Positivism); the question is necessarily one of the survival of Modernity - one that altogether cannot be asked, but for whose possibility there remains a whole deal of theoretical reflection in store that is in itself a 'builder' of Modernity, that project of 'loving the world'. In disagreement with the Augustinian doctrine -my initial point of departure, I turned toward the 'Dialoghi d'Amore' of the Rennaissance philosopher Leone Ebreo, an Italian-Jewish scholar from the 16th century; despite an interesting 'dialogical' confrontation (of course not at all alien to Rennaissance philosophy and derived from the medieval dialogues ever present in Jewish philosophy, in Yehuda Ha-Levy for example). Despite the great interest aroused by the text there was not enough profit available, together with copious philological work and a glimpse into other works of the period, namely Italian treaties on the philosophy of love presented as commentaries of Plato's Symposium and countering Jewish-Italian works under the same rubric, but in nature commentaries on the 'Song of Songs'. Lastly Ebreo's ultimate development is predominantly secular and Westernized while not forgetting the Neo-Platonic categories all too familiar to Augustine from the only Greek philosophy he knew: Plato and Plotinus. Dialectically speaking (in the Platonic sense) there's little to differentiate Augustine (albeit devoid of eschatology) and Ebreo.

Before returning to Augustine, I make a final stop on another philosophy of love - that of Franz Rosenzweig. In turn Rosenzweig does open with the Augustinian triadic concept of love but his development is partially different - this is perhaps what our age calls 'Jewish thinking' but I'm not entirely convinced of that as I don't adhere so faithfully to the idea of a 'Jewish philosophy' that I'd claim doesn't exist. Rosenzweig albeit opens with 'The Song of Songs' instead of Plato yet he retains a curious heading toward death in relation to love that doesn't distance him from both Augustine in the general philosophical trend and from Heidegger in his own age. There's this tendency to look for an 'ascend' in the whole of Classical philosophy and the Bible; this tendency is called 'The Good, the True, the Beautiful' in Greek philosophy, 'sumum bonum' in Stoicism and the rest of rather unattractive Roman philosophy yet it is known as 'Redemption' in the Bible not sure whether completely stripped off Messianic speculation but it is my feeling that yes. In the Book of Ruth an 'earthly love' (I shall return to this central importance of this later) is leading all the way up to what a certain Biblical commentator has sum up thus: 'Everything leads up, in the last instance, to David, and so the whole purpose of the Book is achieved in the final verse'. The 'leading up' is of central importance here, as it is this love that grows out of compassion in a previous narrative, what eventually 'brings the days of the Messiah'. In essence it is impossible at this point to ignore the import of Rosenzweig's 'dialogical hermeneutics' as a philosophy of love, but his 'layout' of the system as presented in the 'Star of Redemption' is impossible to reconcile with the 'ascend', as his system provides such a through and stiff answer to Hegel's political philosophy that there's a certain totality of things all over the place, his systems seems to fail exactly on the only point it deliberately wants to make. Yet not everything is misleading, for Rosenzweig does answer (and this together with his dialogical hermeneutics are the two aspects of his philosophizing most deliberately ignored in scholarship) to Hegel's political philosophy with a model that is certainly taken by Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas, in my feeling much more so by Levinas at least in the sense that Rosenzweig understood it.

I start to discover with Rosenzweig stumbling blocks that will be cleared only later, especially in regard to his philosophy of language (that shares affinities with Heidegger) and the 'dialectic' which he brings out into the public space and following Auerbach (he even claim that he was the 'founder' of Modernity). In this regard the philosophy can't be entirely achieved in 'solitude', it must be 'communicated' in the form of dialogue, the path of this dialogue is the neighbourly love that is perhaps more of a passionate love than it is charity in the Patristic sense. There I am without conversation partner, or my companion remains silent therefore I need to turn to other sources and leave Franz for a while, until I can 'dialogue' with... whoever. Lastly I give up in a way and find myself in need to wayfare other roads before a final landing in Rosenzweig and the political 'value' of his love.

I return again to Augustine but not without my eyes befogged by politics and Hannah Arendt as a guide. My research notes amount to the hundreds and they could be easily worked out into a dissertation but this isn't my purpose at the moment... I need to complete this study because it is the only way available to me to touch Rosenzweig ever again; I need to 'enable' my language to speak for a whole plurality of experiences and people for which it is 'temporarily' disabled, a philosopher of love that cannot bespeak a beloved is a lost man and perhaps if this so then the whole of Modernity is really a loss; this is in fact what my philosophical origins and intution tell me at times but I reject the idea for the sake of 'the concrete things' of the world, including the lovers of the world. And unlike Gillian Rose I didn't forget any of the partners, God - Man - World, but have paid less attention to God than would be usually accorded, in this I'm living up to my suspicion that secular times are over and done. This doesn't do away with either eschatology or history, but I'm simply wishful to believe that we're the actors of history insofar as the project of the modern human world will have any validity at all.

I will term Arendt's, a philosophy of 'possibility' - a journey from the individual to the particular and viceversa, a deciphering of essence (opposed to the old 'human nature' in previous philosophies) and in fact a 'political model' of conversation for which the concept of love is no stranger but one whose 'workings' in the public and private can hardly be foreseen as Arendt wayfares her way into the philosophy of the Will, her last completed project. Her claim for not loving God but the world made as early as 1928 holds really caustic power today in the light of her whole oeuvre; because of the moral implications it carries when you realize that the tragedy of all moral philosophies is actually that the questions are asked in relation to the self and not in relation to the world, therefore unconcerned with the 'community of believers'. The loss of the world of modern men is in fact also a loss of the self, therefore the ground of our 'judgment' remains quite loose a sly for as long as the 'cosmos' has been broken apart into 'totalities' that are not metaphysically grounded and the world stands only as a human world - an intricate network of relationships that not unlike in the case of Augustine, are experienced as philosophies of consciousness, as phenomenal descriptions of our earthly life. I think this is where I must start my interrogations... I can't cease to think about last night, Oh G., you really are of so much help to me, not only inspiration but the questions you ask... really. Hopefully I'll be able to put this through and then my letters will speak once again, they stand deadened today. Only then I'll be able to answer to Rosenzweig with you. Tomorrow another note, it's just too much material.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In a Square

The sights of the earthly city can no longer provide any solace,
Unfolding with the soaking illness of the thin air
Envolving it into a warp of turbid water... into a fantastic stone

I cannot quite relief myself from the wrath of my joy
I rush through small alleys deflecting defeats in every mirror
Losing my speech as my love grows sickened yet kindred

The zeals of life stand aloof, like lies in biffurcation
I no longer recognize the passages, the words
They all seem unhindered from my burdensome march

The acheing stops no sooner than the life
The stone transforms everything into a piyyut
And the dancers bewailed by the viola

An illuminated pit, summons me therein, from within
And I enter from behind as not to awake the filth
That my body feels to be a song of its own device

Approaching the forest, with orgiastic mornings
Undying the oaks from an old box of letters
Unexpected the day, nighting away with the sift of time

The silence collides in those poems, those verses
That forecast a cosmic order in which nature deadens us
With the impulse of vitality that only the breathlessness recognizes

The dream can no longer be true
The train station empties itself from expectations
A clean sidewalk, showing the ways back to Dante

It is a Godless square, whereby prayers gather
And they supplicate, for the sake of Prometheus
For the sake of hope, in utmost appointment

About no less than themselves
Desireless and wearisome, from journeys without destinations
They all gather in a Godless square

The lives
The prayers
The un-loves.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Else Lasker-Schueler, 1943

God built Palestine from a spine
and from one only bone: Jerusalem.

I promenade as through mausoleums -
Of stones is our Holy City.
So rest the stones on the beds of their dead Sea
In place of watery silks that played herein: They come and die away.

They glaze into the wayfarer with a callous reasoning -
And he drowns in her glazing night.
I am angry, that I cannot be overwhelmed.

If you would come...
Enshrouded in a wintercoat -
And would do away with the dusk hours of my day -
My arm would frame you, a rather auxiliary image of the holy.

Like once when I suffered in the darkness of my heart -
Therein both your eyes: blue clouds.
They delivered me from my turbid mind.

If you would come...-
To the land of the ancestors -
You would exhort me like a little boy:
Jerusalem - come to know Resurrection!

She hails us
The living flag of the "only God",
Greening hands, that sow the odes of life.

"Oh God"

"Whosoever sees me, needs to be blind not to notice that I'm so happy, so that I can't be truly happy at all" -Rahel Varnhagen.

Else Lasker-Schueler, unpublished poem

"Oh God, I am so tired
From eyelid to eyelid
My thoughts are so lost a float.
And I am not where I am,
The melody in the etude,
A quiescent blue in my mind -
Seizeth Thou from me all gains
And come peace already once.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Kain und Abel

An allen, nicht im Exil und nicht zuhause... oder nie laenger fremnde, sondern nuch noch im Exil. An den "door-keepers".

“It gives me pain to hear this word destiny in the mouth of a young person, just at the age when men are commonly accustomed to ascribe their own violent inclinations to the will of higher natures.”
-Goethe, Wilhelm Meisterslehrjahre

A poem of Else Lasker-Schueler from the "Hebrew Ballads", Berlin 1913


Cain's eyes are not a delight for God,
Yet Abel's countenance, a garden of gold,
Yes, Abel's eyes are nightingales.

Abel always sings so fairly
To the strings of his soul,
But through Cain's belly, the graveyards of the city run.

And yet he's to slay his brother -
Abel, Abel, your blood colours the sky so profound!.

Where is Cain, so that I can divert him:
Have you slain the sweetest bird,
That is in the countenance of your brother?

"I know"

"Art can bring us consolation as individuals but it is powerless before reality" -Romain Rolland to Stefan Zweig.

My translation of "Ich weiss" by Else Lasker-Schueler

I know, that I shall die very soon
All the trees glare at it
After the sought-for summer kiss.

My dreams will grow sallow -
I never versed such a gloomy end road
In those books of my rhymes.

You bring me a flower to compliment me -
I loved this flower to its very germs.
Yet I know, that I shall die very soon.

My Ode flows into the streams of God -
I lay switfly my foot
On the alley that leads to my eternal home.

written in Jerusalem, 1943

Friday, March 23, 2007


'Moses after fasting for fourty days received the law, and Elijah, after fasting for the same period, was granted to see God face to face. But what did Jesus receive, after a fast of the same length?' Julian, 360 AD, 'Contra Galileos, F4', Neumann.

My dear,

It's been a long time since I've meant to write you this letter, but as I explained to you yesterday there was no possible way I could dare sit and write you, there's really too much I want to tell. In the yearning I find myself often bereft of words and I also explained before that poetry no longer seems to serve the purposes of my truth, instead I most often soak in spirits and only then I can truly experience how unrestrained is everything I could say to you. Yet today was a different story and that's why I want to tell you with intricate details about Jerusalem, although it's clear to me you know the place well. Of a certain philosopher they say that despite all her secular caution regarding the concept of destiny, she clearly embraces the idea of storytelling, not only as a repetition in the imagination, but also as a deciphering of essence and it was this same person who said in a very old manuscript that for Augustine it is memory and not hope what gives wholeness and unity to human existence; therefore I set myself to tell you this story as both of us would have seen it; lastly there's a saying in the Jewish tradition, that when a Jew cannot answer to a question, even if he's a Rabbi he can always tell a story.

It all set off as a pilgrimage with Hegel, 'the most effective springs of historical action and suffering seem to be human interests, passions, and the satisfaction of selfish desires, disregarding law justice and morality'. It is altogether true that the history of the world (and I've taken an interest in the philosophies of history more than in anything else) is one of sufferings and toils under the sun, but why? In some way I think we could hardly make sense of this anomaly of a concept were it not for the simple fact of being Jews and Christians; the history of the world is not simply 'one fucking thing after the other', statement with which Goethe would have certainly agreed. It is rather the story-telling of a fulfillment, it is a sacred story with a finality which can by no means be predicted from the pool of events of the present and the past, all history is in a sense heading toward the future so that it comes by no means as a surprise that Marx and Bloch would agree that 'philosophy must have knowledge of the future or else it will have no more knowledge'. Meinecke and many others before him argued that what for the animals is species is for humans history, their only posession so to speak, so the limits of our world are also the limits of our history and viceversa. Historicism is no different from sacred history, a mere peg in a long series of unaccomplishments in the quest for God so that Providence would be transformed into Progress. The price would be dearly paid though, that of being so entirely responsible for our world, for a world in which we've been left to our devices all alone. The imminent Death of the Christian God as the main heretical imperative for the whole project of the modern world (one in which we write our own history based on principles of contingency) isn't as all-encompassing as we've been forced to believe; I don't quite agree this such Death is a Nietzschean one where God is simply dead 'de facto' because after all Nietzsche fulfills all the requisites to be a Christian moralist and unlike Goethe he's defeated in the end when he recognizes that if were we to obliterate the true world then we would also do away with the apparent world and our lonely wise Zarathustra returns to the true world which in everyday language can mean nothing but God - to me personally this unmediated return to the true world is not possible, not because I believe in 'intermediaries' but simply by keenly observing the spirit of our age. The Death of God in my opinion is found nowhere better than in Hegel, this death is only a movement toward something else, 'change, while it imports dissolution, involves at the same time the rise of a new life, that while death is the issue of life, life is also the issue of death'. The movement occurs in time. For the time being it seems to me almost impossible to reflect on the vale of tears, the sufferings of the world, without falling back upon a theodicy of a sort, even if of the antinomian sort that altogether remains Pauline and in its reversal comes closer to Marxism than to anything we would like to uphold today. Once God has turned totally invisible behind the artifacts of the world, as Voegelin says, the contents of this same world will become the new divinities; 'when the symbols of trascendent religiosity are banned, new symbols develop from the inner-worldly language of science to take their place. Like the Christian ecclesia, the inner-worldly community has its apocalypse too'. In this sense two things become clear to me, that Voegelin is right in arguing that for totalitarian politics to be complete the overcoming of all traditional religion must precede, and secondly that any attempt at the reflect on the treasures of our world 'as it is' can never be entirely clean from utopian mythologies; these are not bad in themselves but do not go beyond offering us a platform to speak, enabling a point of view. We can't restore the world and its politics and philosophies with Platonism, Augustinianism or Hegelianism, it is a futile enterprise. Yet in developing our secular theodicy (normative ethics it's called) I always need to return to Augustine: 'Thus the world is like an oilpress: under pressure. If you're the dregs of the oil you're carried away through the sewer; if you're genuine oil you will remain in the vessel. But to be under pressure is inevitable. Observe the dregs, observe the oil. Pressure takes place ever in the world, as for instance, through famine, war, want, inflation, indigence, mortality, rape, avarice; such are the pressures of the poor and the worries of the state: we have evidence of them... we have found men who grumble under those pressures and who say: 'How bad are these Christian times!'... Thus speak the dregs of the oil which run away through the sewer; their colour is black because they blaspheme: they lack splendour. The oil has splendour. For here another sort of man is under the same pressure and friction which polishes him, for is it not the very friction which refines him?'.

Only under this spell I can tell you my story but not without sharing Jaspers with you: 'Borderline situation is the term for the general unchanging human condition such as situations like that I cannot live without struggling and suffering, that I cannot avoid guilt and that I must die; to indicate an experience of something immanent which already points to trascendence and which, if we respond to it, will result in our becoming the Existenz that we potentially are'.

Then already in my story Lola rings up yesterday and we speak for the first time in some three years, my good old friend from those rye days. We discuss at length the particulars of our lives and the newcomers, the late comers and the uninvited; it seems that very little has changed through the years and we more or less resemble the same, we can't tire from choosing ourselves for our sufferings not without a little utopian taint. After two long hours she agrees that no matter her opinions I should be consistent with my view of not taking any pills from any 'mental health professional' or listening to their soothsaying for that matter; a relentless care for remaining in reality with all the unreality that it involves, the masks, the images, the theatre, the comedies of life... so different from the tragic German philosophies, the expression of 'rationality from the sources of passion'. Compassion even, mere witnessing and very little counsel. Our conversation ends with her sentence: 'You're certainly right, but well in a couple of years we'll meet and we'll either laugh or cry thinking back on whether we chose the right path to live, but I'm sure we're on the wrong path and that's the only motif available to live from'. This comes of course after you write me expressing how unable you're to live, how much you haven't arrived. No matter the bags of tranquilizers and sleeping pills that I encountered, no questions are to be asked, no steps intended. We've agreed to live by the crudest possible form of reality, no matter how little real it appears to us both.

In that mellow and yellow mood I spend the long night thinking on the philosophies of history, and admiring the sacred history of our world, of our lonely world. Somebody said that education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it; it strikes home some fifty years later how much we don't love the world and barely are capable of doing it with ourselves. Voegelin is a great companion, because there could be nothing more tragic than a political philosopher of modernity and history from Catholic Austria and writing in a foreign language.The hours waft away with very little despair and the vacuous spaces of world and man are filled with sympathetically sad knowledge, we no longer await for phonecalls. After all hope is a Christian thing too, a Pauline lie and expectation is the Jewish counterpart, one that contains more Angst than I'd be willing to admit to myself and therefore I don't know whether I hoped for or waited in.

I can't force myself to leave the books until the blue colours settle down through the shatters and the little pain on my back reminds me of the turning point, of the becoming and preferring to avoid those utopian images I dwell into a profound sleep at which we're having a party, with many newcomers and he's not at all present, the dancing lasts for hours and we're all drunk and forlorn but quite unkindred by it. Only early in the afternoon I manage to dissipate those thick clouds and henceforth I delve onto the books again and refuse to look out my window. Whatever is desired is nowhere to be found, it cannot be loved, laughed, loathed. Yet one can't sit on bed all day long, one just can't. Not with my frail character. I awake to the philosophical pessimism, and encounter the world deserted, unspaced, the air too thick for us and not enough space for our bodies to swindle with the corpses of our yesterdays. It's too Godless an scenario for me then, I need a magic elixir to escape and thence I seek a refuge with myself. I can't withstand the silence, their silence, the irresponsibility and as far as there's no heavenly spectator of our fool's play this is of very but very little import.

I spend an hour perhaps under the springs of water trying to cleanse my hopeless thoughts, my imaginary funeral parades and ghosts from only two or three years ago, ghosts of famine and rage that have been predicted since the Biblical prophets; yet we westerners cannot predict events based on the present or the past like the Greeks, we can at best totalize the tenses to gain a distorted view of reality that will make our journey endurable. I try to dress up in order to go and encounter my mortal desires, but nothing comes to become me better than the black, as though I were a yeshiva student still, my shirt, my tie and a black velvet skullcap. I turn to grab a small prayer book, this saddens me. L. and me have agreed that once we've agreed about the distancing being the only way to encounter God then no prayers will save anybody, and so I refuse to pray and instead try to live as though one could pray through living like our prophets... but Baudelaire was right, 'Race du Cain, au ciel monte et sur la terre jette Dieu', how could one achieve that whilst housing so much contempt, so much lack of vivacity and curiosity, so much lack of limits in our world - and as I said before the limits of the world are the limits of history and story, what if they break loose?. I felt rather secure about my humiliating position in the sight of un-faith, just so full of lust for some familiarity, for some 'terra cognita', for some damn sacred history. I had previously played the archaeologist, digging up dunes in the Talmudic academies and the theological seminars, feeding myself a faith based entirely on heresy, doubt and hope. A truly blind faith. I couldn't be afraid of these spiritual investments, they were not at all concealed in the everyday, they were always there. I didn't feel as ridiculed in the guise of a yeshiva boy but with the flesh a lot less young and the faith a lot less safe, the streets embraced me in the warmth of a spring twilight and en route to my destination I face my first disappointment: As soon as I leave the block and attempt to cross the street I met the eyes of my former theological classmates in their Franciscan garments and the embarrassment takes me in, albeit not for long... I had deserted those theological securities already and after all no matter what I believed in this modernized world the appearances of one's origin couldn't defeat even a dead Caesar. I proceed walking toward the holiest of all places with my wholly unholy body and open my prayerbook to make sure it isn't Plato's Symposium.

For long months I hadn't been to the Old City, and it seemed as unsurprising as always but rather charged with dryness and very stiff; yet I wasn't sure whether to stop or not at one of the churches on the way and honour my father but I seemed not to have enough time for those moments of decision. As soon as I descended the long stairway and found myself before the Wall or rather close by I really didn't feel anything and tried to laugh with Vitaly's joke about 'praying for the powers that be' for not even the glimmering light of a warm night could turn the stone into anything else. I came close enough as to join all the prayers but couldn't bring myself to open the book and in advance thought of the lies I'd tell if at any rate I'd be ask to join them. I was resoluted not to utter a single prayer. Among the vanishing colours I just walked back and forth searching the known faces, some of which happily couldn't recognize anymore, I didn't touch the stone but came close enough to hear the atavic wailing of the mourners in prayer and in the moment next to the last withdrew as easily as I drew in years ago. I felt to have understood my conflict... for all the years of my occidental life, of my Greek life... I attempted endlessly to build a house of my own and yet it was like Eveline says, 'Fremd in der Welt und zuhause bei Gott'. The years when the powers that be held any power to enchant me and to deceive me were clothed in the most beautiful desires that nowadays weren't replaced by bodies of such, only by passing images in which the fragments of my life are consumed and vanish no sooner than they themselves appear. I had found an uncanny home in that belief, and perhaps once I had turned my back to the only thing that really belonged to me, I'd never lose the familiarity with it but rather and merely the last possibility to unjourney for once at all. I felt less rootless than in your company, but it was by no means an embrace... only a callous rejection of the only possible branchtree of life. I could never be cut off from the tree, but neither an organic part of it altogether.

I hesitated lastly whether to say a prayer or not but eventually sticked to my Kantian dicta, 'live as though you do not contradict yourself and as though the principle could be a universal law', so I didn't open my mouth. Then the familiar encounters started off again, as though the rift of time had no power to unveil my distancing, my new theodicies. The faces embraced me again almost with virile and erotic warmth, and I let myself fall into the formerly known arms but with enough sincerity as to finger at the lack of powers that be in the shiny reflections of the dead walls. I couldn't differentiate myself from them at all and from the distance for the first time I sympathized with the tourists that watched the atavic wailing from so close yet far. I spotted Mirak, the Polish priest from Getsemani and a wonderful scholar on Duns Scotus and Ockamp, the philosophers of the Will. That reminded me how theatrical all this could be, couldn't be... and I understood the problem of my philosophical claim; whenever I say that I want everything from this world as it is, well insofar as desire is involved this is already a problem of the Will and en tour de force an eschaton, a philosophy of the future like all philosophies are since Hegel. The Will was a faculty unknown to the Greeks and to the Bible, insofar as I'm making a claim of a Will-to-something my problem is entirely Western, relying on a dead God and with very little import for the Jewish God I believe to be still quite very much alive. For the first time I pitied myself for not staying in the theological seminar, but then again I'd still be a property of the Austrian catholic church or of the Custodia di Terra Sancta and after all I very much enjoy the reactionary ownerlessness-relationship I withhold with the city, with the Jewish God, with G. or with you. I wouldn't miss out on the simple dinners.

I turned to the tourists again and I felt to be one of them. I imagined myself to be one of the blond Protestant children with cameras larger than their penis and not really having anything to protest, certainly not in our country. I watched some of my correligionaries with pure contempt and some others with mere desire and somehow envied myself back then, when I still left notes at the wall and prayed atavicly. But you see? My compromise with reality holds onto my with such dread that the pleasure is hardly something I could describe to you. When looking at it from a far it seems as though their God is as dead as ours, Christians, yet their souls aren't. Then I got used to the joy of recognition and parted without looking back, parted. But not alone, rather in the company of all those Torah scholars heading toward my Sabbatical dinner, not expecting any major thrills, or accepting them. Walking through the Old City again engaged in conversations about the Kingdom of God I encountered the tourists once again, now being shaggled at the tiny Arab shops and in their dumbfounded smiles I sympathized with them again, I felt to be rather one of them. Then I could laugh over my despair again, as my Talmudic friends started to enquire about my whereabouts which I localized at a window in Mt. Scopus drinking coffee with E. or G. and my whole thinking business, this wasn't the laughable matter but rather their despise at the philosopher for being 'that kind of people who are always trying to demolish the meaning of life in order to see what hides behind it', and I only laugh because it was only after long days studying the Talmud in the company of Helen of Troy that I realized how little curiosity the Greek gods had and how through their ways I jumped out into the abyss of Western philosophy and no later.

A sincere feeling of holiness then really took me in, walking into a Jewish home and remembering (not hoping for) the Shabbat with her warm smells confunding themselves in the pinkish breeze of the warm night and its rain drizzle. I could remember all the songs by heart and even the order of the dishes, the prayers. A young man walked by my side all the way from the Wall and surprised at my heretical imperatives wondered whether I be Jewish or not; this would have angered me terribly years back, even while in yeshiva but not now, after all the securities have been loosen. The same man to whom this unfaithful servant had to instruct in all the Hebrew prayers and the songs, whether they be Lithuanian or German or Italian. I occupied my place by the table and took delight on the old Polish dishes and they reminded me so much of Eveline's sincerity, not of yours or mine which is of a different kind, a more Catholic kind of thing. I sang the songs and forgot about all of you for a long time, the Kingdom of God and the loud laughter seemed more important to me then, the eternal return of Nietzsche but applied somewhere else, to the dreadful home-back-coming. 'He's a philosopher' my host remarked, and him I know for long years, even before I was a philosopher but rather a 'Talmudist' who 'knew Greek well', and he also remarked how many times I've tried to forsake Jerusalem, for Vienna, for London, for Berlin, for Zürich... ever without success. Even if I didn't like any of this, I was so familiar with it that I could at best know my lines in advance, all of them. You didn't exist then.

Suddenly my ears caught on the most undesirable information, and in that moment I laughed with God again and was reminded of being the same old Leo, holiness bereft. My familiarity vanished and only the contempt of my laughter remained. At the top of the long table and far away from me sat a young man who attends that yeshiva I had been too. We had had a Platonic affair in letters, having become acquainted in some list whereby young religious men struggling with their desires (and you know what I mean) spoke freely about their problem. Soon he realized that we had been attending the same yeshiva and casually we spoke, and so the dinner vanished from my eyes in importance and I could only remain fixed on his tranquility. I envied him so much, being so eloquent in the Kingdom of God, so well presented in black coating and tie, so much wholeness... unlike my fragmentary existence. We kept singing although by then I couldn't address God anymore, I could only laugh silently. Soon he took leave of the party and even before I could manage to say anything. But as I found myself in the street hovering on the paviment under the sweetest breeze I saw him coming my way.... then I kept my position under the drizzles of warm water and we just talked with the callous smell of the difference.

I refused to believe my ears so I asked him for his name, and then I insisted that we knew each other for sometime... and then the Leo pronounced his name clearly enough as though God himself didn't know it, the Book of Proverbs says 'The sluggard claims: There's a lion in the streets, he'll devour me'. My black-hated interlocutors was bewildered enough as to swiftly fall upon my shoulder and weep his disgrace a little, to mourn the mockery or the threat in the sense of Brecht's Germany... I didn't feel ridiculed but rather betrayed by God in his very own house. It's the recurrent pattern. The night was so beautiful that weren't for this miscarriage of holiness I'd be led to believe the world is already redeemed, but luckily it isn't. We had a mixture of embarrassment and revelation... from all possible scenarios, I turn up before God on his holiest day for the first time in many long months, the fatefulness of the night leads me into an old acquaintance for dinner and then to the discovery of an unknown Romeo from the very house of the Lord of Hosts! Our God! In this case it might be true that the old theology got it right, philosophy is thought but not spirit and revelation has as much power to enlighten the human mind as reason and perhaps even beyond. Every encounter is a revelation, and each time God laughs I hear him well and I distance even more so that I can catch a glimpse of eternity, or what the Germans call the legitimacy of immortality.

Upon landing home a message from G., which didn't make me happy at all, it only reminded me that we all live in this fleeting moment and we can't lie. What did Jesus receive after the long fast? Perhaps no less than us, a mere circumscition of the heart!

'They know and do not know, that acting is suffering
And suffering is action. Neither does the actor suffer
Nor the patient act. But both are fixed
In an eternal action, an eternal patience
To which all must consent that it might be willed
And which all must suffer that they may will it
That the pattern may subsist....' T.S. Eliot



Occidental Eyes III

To my father Henri, because the evils of this world find no theodicy anywhere and because of the fate of Marxism and Existentialism -the greatest movements of our age in the life of the mind, found their uncanny homes along the banks of the river where the murderers sipped the nectars from the lives of our people and in the very end we decided by concensus that only life itself is what we can offer to the world.

Ich stamme ab dieser Wahrheit, die ungekannt in unserer Welt einmals würdt
Und diese Wahrheit findet keine Heimat vor diesem Umkreis des Lebens
Danach, ich erweitere und erfolge, aber zunächst bin ich nicht zwischen den Menschen
Dafür aller Respekt in dieser Gleichzeitigkeit wobei finde ich nicht Dich,
Aber Deine Anspruch und mein Wiederspruch gegen dem Lebens.

I hear those voices summoning me to the life and the truth
Calling from far, from valleys, from Vienna, from Cain's damnation
And I awake in slumber to what you always predicted
The fall of my ways, the fall of man, of all men
I'm empowered by such loss of the self, of the world
By the most worldless and unresponsive love
The desire of what is not had, the love of what is never desired
The demolishing of the structures on which our life is supported
And their shift through a sift into a sewer that filters and filthies the oils and the airs
In the most tranquil and silent despair
As the oceans take away our beloved ones, our waters, in aeroplane flights
Lights that no longer glimmer in the dark but with a sickly fever
That can at best increase our hope, our hope beyond hope
In the political man, that knew right and wrong
We're neither of those, rather wafting from our tree
The branchtree of life, of love, of hate
The most disreputed positions, concepts, endeavours
And you taught me in that language I did not know
The importance of this salvation, of this sacred history
That today amounts to everything I can ever comprehend
About God, about world, about desire as though men were no more
In the uncanny intensity of the slow lives we lead
Our struggles, so little and so stupid
Our loves, so bereft of meaning and of humanity
Against ourselves, against everything we knew
It's your fault, that a philosopher I'd be
You offered me no other political choices
But to betray you and everybody else
Everybody else who loved me
And the loveless ones, I clinged onto
As though onto a bottle that contains the magic elixir
You remind me of Jesus at times
And of that love that could never before me, for me
Or in me, in the language of philosophers
That you despised, no less than you despised me
But in these warm nights when spring breaks forth
I only keep you company by doing so for myself
Encountering the mirror in which the churches display
With irrational violence how little we understand
And what a fool play I've made of myself
In loving the man that can love no world, no one
Only there I meet the sights and the faces
Of the little Swiss towns and the unspeakable language
I don't feel anymore the same
I can't believe in this world anymore
And in this endeavour
I'm indebted to no one but you
Your faithlessness, your hopelessness
Is the only love I have in store
And my contempt, is your contempt
My Cain, my Josef, my valley
They all belong to you
And they go forth from the world
Unable to find their object of love
Because I remain here
Stone-like and stale, still
Wordly but mute
In your dark eyes
Unlike mine, mad pieces of light
The light can no longer shine forth
Only if they suffer
Their own abscence
Their nothingness
You were my Endymion
And only seven years later I'd knew it
When it was too late
For both of us
To live, or to undie each other
You're like his father
You gave me in, into the hands of a fox
And only then around laurels and stones
I'd feel anything at all
I'd die everyday
As though one undies a tree
A branchtree of worldly wisdoms
You gave me in
To the Occident
And thereby I deathened my own person
If only for the sake of them
But the night thwarts beneath this bruise
And the redemption is always late one day
And so were you
For more than twenty years
You've left me over
Leavened me over
The cliffs, the heights, the stories
I can no longer be true
Unless I encounter the embrace
That sips the nectars of my life
Of my inability to live
In a foreign language
In another man
In the sight of that woman
Far beyond those green tops of the mountains
Whereby I hid from you
From my own destiny
That even in the desert
Found me unkind and naked
To journey again
And you father
You resemble Augustine
Both you and God
In your deaths
That can never frighten Jerusalem
Or shake my beliefs
My un-love


One of the most central concepts to the different programs of hermeneutic philosophy is that of "fragmentary theories", these theories can be also seen as the monads of Leibniz (and the end of all metaphysics, albeit this was only achieved roughly by Kant) and such interpreted as points of view - this sets of course Hegel's philosophizing on history and Voltaire as the first hermeneuticists in the modern sense of the world, even when the idea was present already in the Hellenistic age and gained some vigour during the Middle Ages; hermeneutics was the only possible counterpart of metaphysics and in a way all modern philosophies were hermeneutic models, points of view: German Idealism, Positivism, Existentialism and Existenzphilosophie, Symbolic Philosophy, Phenomenology, Lebensphilosophie, Critical Theory, etc. Postmodernity offers a different vantage, in the sense that all postmodern philosophies are philosophies of laws (not of law or legality, but of "laws"); they all want to establish systems as total as to overthrow all other possibilities.

The selectivity of sources and the personal/relavistic reading of history in philosophies and cultural critiques (in the guise of philosophies) are somehow Nietzschean, philosophies of the personality, characteristic modes of philosophizing. The loss of the self implicates also a loss of the world; the break of the boundaries between the private and the public spaces is what determines the most the cultural spheres of our version of Modernity, namely the Voegelinean "Modernity


"Each person is a small society... each photography contains a small death, reminding the living of a fleeting existence of their own and others' lives. But at the same time, photography is also resistant to forgetting because it sets free the forces of the memory". -Stefan Moses.

The Valleys I

To Lara Diguistini

At the close of a moment
Encountering the stakes of the day
In the shape of lights and bruises
Uncannily spoken, ridiculed
There's a third space.

The space has been filled by long years
In the vacuous distance of words
That carry so little power to console
But they become witness of a person's life
Of a life that no more ends than it begins anew.

In that room philosophy sights the green grass,
The meadows and the brooks and other forest animals
It grasps smiles from within a womb
Of the living lives of everyday people
The room has a sound odour of childhood.

But the grass cannot always be seen
It is more elusive than it is beautiful
And one finds the writer chasing this precious item
As though it contained truths
He already found impossible to believe in.

Yet he refuses to abandon it all
Seeking a home for his mind in this harsh world
Sheltering spaces of hope for other people
For lovelessness, for the reason of passion
His pilgrimage to your valleys, never to end.

The valley resembles not an infantile scene
Because the suitor can no longer remember himself thus
The valleys attract him with the same flattery of death
And the house stands adrift from this immortal enterprise
It remains washing away the Book of Life.

In his faithless world
There's no other possible destination
Wherein the defaults are not the choice of your sufferings
The fourty days in the desert
Awaiting to see the face of God.

The valleys differ from the churches
Not only in their sounds
But in the taste of redemption they offer
Quite everyday and simple, unhindered
Quite distant, insofar as distancing is only a way to see God.

The world starts to unfold therefrom
As though in a comedy
And retains all the beauty in the space
In the silence of love
The doorkeeper of my own mourner.

With enough truth to embrace it all
To make up for the lies that do one justice
To make up for the remembrance
Of the gray unrestraint clouds that pose their bodies
Far away from the valleys, in the form of dead nature.

"The Redemptor of God"
Thus they spoke about a man
Who dwelt in the desert and after fourty days
Tried to be Moses or Elijah
Received even less than Jesus or us.

The Redemptor hasn't seen the valleys
Hasn't smiled their faces
Or laughed their anomalies
He can never come visit
His doorkeeper slumbers.

In a way I feel happy
To have known the philosopher
Who owns a heart in the valleys
Because more often than not
He keeps himself company.

And one can only wonder
Whether there's any port wherein he's expected
Whether he'll leave one day
And arrive somewhere to be embraced
Because he's more often than not in the company of strangers.

At times he wears the face of Cain
And he weeps, as though no man wept before
And only then one can see
What kind of a child he was
When the gods and the valleys tended to him.

But it isn't that face the one you attach him
But rather one more hopeful than not
That vomits life for the sake of the others
That bleeds the bruising of love
In the most absolute tranquility.

We never knew his ancestors
Or the town of the birth
But we heard about the valleys
In postcards
In unfinished glasses.

He'll arrive home one day
In the valley
But not to stay for long
Rather to discover
That one can have any origin after all.

He weeps in despair
As the valleys distance off
But they always return
To the middle of the desert
Without doorkeeper, without messenger.

They always return
With friendly entreaties
And puns of charade
They warm the air of spring and winter
With some love, some world.

It is this belief what keeps him so safe
From the sufferings of this world
The belief that one day
He will land in the valleys
I promise you, he'll only sit and talk.

And this in the letanies of distances
Remains a most redemptive exercise
That in its atavic happiness
Seems so impossible, so distant
That is in a way a farewell.

As the valleys do not return
He can't let go
Of the memory, of the unity
That the sufferings of the world
One day will land home.

In a valley,
Somewhere in Kerrisdale
The meadows.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Everything from this world

To Sandra

As I frame a statement of philosophy such as "I want everything from this world as it is", I am clearly engaging in an overaffirmation which reveals an abyss of anxiety; anxiety understood in the Christian sense - the net of insecurity and homelessness that only reveals its opposite, theology and metaphysics. The statement itself concerns more the desire than the world and it is in itself the summary of a very catastrophic and destinationless reading of history and story, of the history of our world-time and the story of our life-time. In the sight of the apparent and imminent Death-of-God which we both have experienced in the entanglements of our everyday, in the eyes of the everyman and the human despair before their bereftness from the powers that be, in the sight of this an abyss opens that reveals an extreme loneliness and incommunicability that troubled Jaspers more than anything else. The alienation is the major symptom of the Death-of-God, namely in the sense that our creatureliness as Sons of God holds no longer binding powers in the realm of the social. Thus, mass culture is the social sphere of the mass man, once the boundaries between the public eye and privacy have been uplifted and there's no other social sphere but the sphere of culture.

I don't want to develop this statement with a mystical undertone, which is what I've so far rejected in all philosophies that produce accounts of worldliness and the human person, be it in the form of theologies or of post-Enlightenment philosophies. The Zeitgeist of our age has never been so decissively distant from the conceptual foundations of our current "life together", namely the Revolutions of the 18th century. We stand at a juncture whereon the idea of Athens and Jerusalem has all the power necessary to become in fact even a momentum of historical significance, the Age of the Self. Henceforth my account of will-to-worldliness (contra the Nietzschean will-to-power as a throughway to the ethical life) is not very keen on Gnosis, on whose the political theologians of the 20th century described the irreparable collapse of Western humanity experienced not only in the advent of Nihilism and burgeois philosophies but in the political catastrophe of Germany and of the whole civilized world. I will explain why, and en tour de force contradict myself but only in this way I might be able to convey my thinking onto you, in a way that I could never do by speaking or in the plurality of people.

My philosophical project starts with Jacob Taubes and his book on the Political Theology of Paul; the grandiose beginning of the enterprise in the light of the philological sources and their interpretive hermeneutics is absolutely fabulous and in fact it is the beginning of a small school of hermeneutics of which I consider myself part of and thereof Eveline and Agnes some of their only exponents. Taubes is a Hegelian philosopher and an intellectual acquaintance of the great Swiss theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar. His program on the political theology starts off with Carl Schmitt and Benjamin and develops a ground-breaking development of negative Messianism which then turns to Nietzsche and finally to Freud for inspiration; the final product is a form of sooth-saying that flees from the finitude of the present not even into philosophy but into a complex world of psychoanalytical images, dreams, utopias and folk-tales. Then Taubes claims "I don't want any spiritual involvement with this world as it is". Taubes was afraid of the spiritual life because the dark times of his life rendered this an impossible project, his philosophical historiography was one of catastrophe and desire.

Taubes desires many a thing from the world and the gates of the garden are closed before him, and his philosophical refugee is a poorly illuminated room where there's no hope to be encountered in the factuality of the world, in its raw materials; yet Taubes doesn't give up hope and his hope encounters an uncanny moment in a world that can never be redeemed, that can never yield to its possibilities and that in fact has been damnated and forsaken; the cultural sphere of that world is that typical of the Fall of Man, Taubes' "humanitas" is the humanity of Cain, not the humanity of Kant. He experiences the distancing God of Kafka in the lovelessness of Occidental mankind, in the cultural pessimism of Europe and in the Augustinian love that is so strong as to go forth from the world and find its counterpart with death only. Taubes sickened of awaiting the world to come and his faith was that of the hope beyond hope; this world could never be redeemed as it is and therefore the memory of love lost all its possible value before the longing hope for love. The unity of human existence dialectically turned upside down, the Hegelian turn wherein the knowledge of the future is the only import left to philosophy and the cohesion of all pasts heading toward the future, the Occidental future, namely Modernity and the project of the modern state. This fine detail is actually Arendt's impressive critique of Hegel's "Will-to-History".

The rational Logic of Kant had replaced Metaphysics and Hegel as a Kantian philosopher exercises a historical critique of Kant's reason; this is unsurprising until you actually realize the extent of the problem, the Ancients had no concept of time and a problem of history, therefore "Being" solved the dilemma, in Hegel the critique of "Being" is solved with history; both cases are metaphysical devices from the sources of consciousness, empirical philosophies so to speak. In our age "Time" has become the new metaphysics (metaphysics of politics, of ethics, of art, of social philosophy), the grounding structure of human existence and Taubes knew this well, accordingly he opted for the sublimation that made him homely in Golgotha together with Hegel and in the Death of the Greek gods forsook this world. He didn't know the world, but he forsook what he knew as the world, -time. He forsook his own time and in this personal rejection of the world Taubes died in 1987, his eschatology was that of the world as a vale of tears, never recognized as a Jewish thinker because of being a Christian philosopher, never recognized as a Christian philosopher because of being a Jewish thinker.

I want to reverse this philosophical solution, I want to claim that I want spiritual involvement only with this world as it is. This is where your insights proof so important - it is not with this world as it is, which every philosopher as a critic of "Being" must have rescinded in a way. The models of political actions, the social dichotomies, the structures of ethics and religious life, the mass culture, the production and labor functionalities, the endless mourning of Postmodernity. There's no possible contemporary philosophy without the rejection of this, the rejection of this age-old failures and philosophy's innermost desire for "tikkun olam"; what the political life in the inexorable demands of the everyday could never offer, philosophy wants to offer the world a "chance" which philosophers didn't have. We know this sort of philosophy as "radicalism", the will to change the world with Marx and the will to change ourselves with Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Therefore my statement is not an ethical solution or a life solution, it is a philosophical-only solution. Until you explain to me how it can be a desire for this world as it is on the condition that it is the best of all possible worlds speaking in the tricky language of contingencies; I couldn't bring myself to agree any more.

We should never seek the next world, for it lays either in a distant future or in a remote past and with the apparent Death-of-God the fear of hell and punishment has completely vanished from the political life of Western nations; the next world was never of so little importance as today and accordingly the affairs of men secondary to none; everything of this world happens in this world, unfolds, is historical in a way. We might as well try to bring this world into the next world but the legitimacy of this age-old desire culminates in Auschwitz and the Gulag. My project is more of bringing the next world into this world, and in the present time not of history but of individual men and women, of contingent men and women that transform the possibilities of their "un-choosenness" of the everyday (to use the language of Kierkegaard) into their only destinations, a Will-to-Choose. Hereby is where I find Levinas most engaging when he says that we can't bring the other world into this world, we can't bring the Messiah; yet we altogether can't furnish any proof for those untimely and unhistorical concepts (like all concepts are in practical philosophy unless we'd take Hegel seriously or review with almost phenomenological aggresivity our insitution of reason -Jaspers, Bergson, Cassirer). No less interesting is Heller when she says that the chair of the Messiah must never be occupied but it cannot be taken away either, one can't give up the hope even when every Messiah that will come with a name and proclaim himself to be such is a false Messiah; the Jewish tradition says there's a Messiah in every generation but that he remains in anonimity. And this emptiness is perhaps the only possibility of fullness available to the Moderns, this disappointment with Modernity is rooted in various things, firstly the high expectations before the first entirely human and this-worldly project and secondly it is as well this disappointment something that belongs to the structures of Modernity, it is part of its functioning and its survival. The pessimism is the self-critique that doesn't exist anywhere in theology. The melancholy, the dissidence and the rejection are in fact the only language available to us moderns for what Augustine called "the love of the world"; in which we're certainly damnated but insofar as the flames of hell no longer await the political man there's a certain rightfulness about being damnated, it isn't the fear of death what makes modern life so challenging, but rather the fear of life, Modernity lives on a dialectic of the ephemeral and that's why the philosopher insists on leaving his pegs to the world, to the common enterprise of a life lived in the plurality of people. Levinas finishes off by saying that we should do "works" in anycase even if the Messiah can't be brought by prayer or charity, this "works" to me means nothing but ethics.

Yet returning to Taubes and his "I want no spiritual involvement with this world as it is" despite myself I can only disagree with him philosophically, not from the perspective of my life-time story and the struggle against this principle is wherein my secular faith is at stake. This tension doesn't exist in the arts, the possibility of wanting everything from this world as it is, Katharina and me have discussed this at length. Philosophically there's always this utopian odour in such statement and I reject that, it is Pauline eschatology in reverse. I can only think of a solution for this tension enabling the possibility of thinking both the "climax" and the "anti-climax" (without pretenses to discipline the orgiastic moment of philosophy, like Hegel and Patocka do) with a concept of time and world that are both existential, individual instead of hierarchical and systematic as in the old theology; hereby I stumble upon the challenge of framing the ethics for such worldview. I can only argue at this point that the ethics can never be framed, stated, solved; everytime we stumble upon a troubling concept such as world, time, person, art, religion then it must be ethics the sole concern here and thus philosophy could altogether return to its origins, and perhaps even "home".

If at all possible I look for a Gnosis that involves a tremendous amount of faith and revelation but that contains no redemption. Faith without promises or compromises, the only form of faith that to me is relevant once I've experienced the Death-of-God and the loneliness of man in its puremost actuality: the image of our everyday life, yet I want to insist that I have no intention to "deify" the everyday into some sacred category like theology did with Being, Hegel with history and our philosophy with time. This faith I search is not Pauline, but rather the faith of Jesus (following Bultmann's account of his faith) and this can hardly exist without radicalism. I found this radicalism i the language of Hegel, in Kant and in the critique of all Occidental philosophy. The faith does exist in Agnes Heller but it fails to understand time properly in leaving it completely out of the questions about the moral personality. Ethics and redemption have no relationship in Agnes Heller, the radical opposite is true for me. My faith is the faith on the human person, it's a hope you might not like and you might not have, but you're not permitted to give it up altogether. Only in that sense the Messianism makes sense to me, becomes attractive even; not in the view of the "redeemed life" but in the constant passage of time that postpones the future redemption a day more everyday, being the Zeitgeist of our age closer and closer to it, this is the only prediction our philosophy might be able to make, and its only activity is moving things from one place into the other as I explained to you in another letter. Gegenwaritg zu sein, to use the expression of Jaspers.

Lastly the reality behind all this is that I share in my own personal life Taubes' most absolute rejection of this world as it is, and only in trying to reverse this situation and this feeling I can make myself at home in a world wherein I remain but a philosopher. Only in this process I can understand the human condition much more than I do in conversations, in letter to people I love or in the experience of art; I share with Benjamin and Taubes the "catastrophes of history" and somehow am beguiled by the lovelessness and the hopelessness available in the form of that Benjaminean infinite amount of hope but not for us, I feel this so strongly and only in speaking contra myself in these matters I can make sense of my life. Today as I spoke to my father on the phone we had one of those typical chit-chats about my life and then suddenly he asked me "Why can't you have a normal boyfriend? Normal friends? Lead a normal life for God's sake?" and unsurprisingly enough I had very little to back my arguments with, the answers to those questions I can produce only in philosophy, because it is the only language available I found to make my protest heard, my protest of the everyday which I so forcefully reject. My melancholy is my experience of that philosophical truth, of the thrownness and the bewilderment before the raw materials of existence, it is the only happiness available to me from within the womb of my struggles, of my failures and my tragic sense is the counterpart of the Protestant happiness that my childhood lived through. I truly feel this is a loveless and Godless world, but I refuse to believe it, I entirely refuse to believe it and in those dark moments when the chips are down and I experience the failures of wisdom, love and life only philosophy and the figure of the Occident come to my relief. My faith is one of un-faith, and its language very southern Germanic and urgent, its symbols are all Jewish and its representation is a form of truth that blurs the limits of philosophy and life and that wouldn't be possible without the companionship of those other loners thinking out there, only in their companionship I can embrace and live that humanitas for which philosophy is my only language, and my only protest.


Friday, March 16, 2007


My translation of Zelda's "Mephiboshet"

"Your flickering eyes
Small birds suckling the nectars.

When you wept
The king hearkened not.

When you fell
The world did not return
To void-and-chaos.

Mephiboshet, you dreamt
Of a more innocent friendship.

You sickened at the wisdom
Of the ancient serpent,

O Son of Jonathan!"


יש בי סוד יפה
ואינני מוכן לספר דבר
איך לא מצאתי שפתם, שפתיה, שפתיו
באורך הלילה כולו
מתיישב בצד המערבי של ביתי
בצדו העצוב
שבו מדבר חדרי חלומות בקול נמוכה
ושנינו, שלושתנו או אפילו ארבעתנו, כולל חדרו של לאו
מסתבכים בהגותנו, בטל אגדתנו.
סודי, דבר! דבר!
ועדיין אינו אומר מילה
אינו קיים
סודי הוא אהתבי באהבתם
שבציבור אינה מובנת
שהיא לבד
שיש בה סודים קטנים יותר
בחלומות שבהן אנשים אחרים מתועררים
אנשים שאינם מדברים
הם רק מתרגשים
מדברים יותר קטנים מספרים
הם גם מדברים,
אף מדבר
במדרשה של אביבה
מקורותיו מדברים
אבל הם גם
הם גם מקורבים לגופי
ואני מחפד
מטומא, משינא, שבגופי
אבל אינני רוצה לברוח
בחדר ההוא
של קרובתם
אני וסודי ילדים
שמוכנים לבכות
כשאין בנו אהבה
וכבר לא מפחדים

Treatise on the Combination of Desperation and Anxiety

There's no motif of concern here, unless the painting had been sketched in advance, in which case the most significantly dignified device is surrender. But this is not what usually our doctors recommend, for one should always memorably lose any possible confrontation and all the more so whenever a rift arise in which no enmities are freely vouched in the air, yet only a "theosophos teutonicus" might be so keen on producing such advise, because at times the practical wisdom of the world is of too much consolation so that one would feel glad if he could die a death every week as to receive so much, but so much compassion. Yet not being Christian enough for this enterprise and rather taking pleasure in the visions of Hell I have no advise to produce in this treatise that could not be sought after in music or in the simple entanglements of lust and quotidianite. But I will not give up so easily, I will reproduce a letter from one of our readers; in case you find it useful to any extent be so kind not to notify us. The combination of desperation and anxiety is the most traditional symptom of truth and of understanding; and when not, it is always the beginning as the political theorists would say about what we believers would call "creation stories" and the simple man just "myth". If this does not work, please call our 1-800-confession line.

Letter from a reader:


I try to write some poems that could speak about all those interwoven stories we have but it's impossible, I can't go beyond some very banal statements. I can only speak about all that whilst thinking philosophy, while encountering the greatest minds and demolishing their arguments, through the passion of logic and reason - trying to find a definition that will satisfy our experiences and find those places for love and life in scholarship. I think I will never be able to really speak about you or G. in poetry, unless I'm very hurt from the world; otherwise I can only speak to both of you in pure thought, in hermeneutics, in demolishing critiques in which I speak contra myself and see my masks changing into one another before my eyes. Heidegger and Aristotle claim that poetry in its relationship to truth is very close to philosophy, that is springs forth from the same sources... and this is what I hold against Agnes Heller and her social import in philosophy. When I discover that the time is breaking apart in my hands with all the concepts that contain human life, the whole of my raw materials... only then I can truly communicate with you both. Even when the poetry works if at all it is only the key to the front door before the gate, but the door is always locked even though you're both inside. I can never leave, you can never come in, you can never leave, I can never come in. Then I have a claustrophobic feeling and that draws me to the most extreme solitude and upon its fall the disappointment and the emptiness in which the fullness of my thinking finds its counterparts. Only this radically pure thought can encompass the truth of our experiences and this doesn't belong to me alone, it belongs to what the Zeitgeist of our age is demanding... in that sense our lives are lived in the plurality of the company of people, which is a political beginning in every possible respect but it doesn't always work. Sometimes the company is also a heading toward death, a fear that grows into love and a love that grows into fear. It isn't pure madness, it's a logic so complex that becomes unreadable and only in that labyrinth I can find myself and meet you and him as well. As you wrote me yesterday "O yes I will dear Leo, denn ich kann nicht anders- because I somehow know your language von innen heraus, it seems as if I'm walking through the empty rooms of a house where I remember exactly where all furniture and things used to be, yet not there anymore".


With every good wish
The editor.

The Moment of my Death

-"The life that is died and the death that lives", they always encounter at the same juncture that houses Beings but it isn't an ontology, it is the pure and raw existence itself but in the cosmological sense in which deities and mortals share the same characteristics of existence in their indeterminatedness"- Eugen Fink & Martin Heidegger, "Lectures on Parmenides" (Chapter on Hegel and Speculative Thinking).

A parallel screen that sets the boundaries in between the reason and the non-reason
And divides sights as though they were cut out of the lanscape with a stick of life
That creates the painting of dead nature with the raw materials of one's very life
The moment of the betrayal shares its most benign timeliness and arrives no later than it lives
It requires no presentations, unlike the Devil... It is the ruler of the divine and the profane
The intensity of the time, of the Hegelian transmogrification of the phase (das Moment) into the moment (der Moment) when bodies sleep away their lot of memories in a fresh ruin
And attempt no retrieval, it's the point whither memory returns not
In the shape of a young body and the callous summon of human nature
The pleasurable murder of the companion takes place before this very screen
He is devoured by the wild beasts and as the Sons of Korach, "ובני קרח לא מתו"
They just "disappear", not without knowing this means just as much as worldliness
Insofar as the world is the gathering of the love in its puremost time, in its end
And the borderline situation occurs with a transformation
Of the disgust for the immaculate body that heads toward Golgotha
In an enterprise of twenty centuries and more, escaping Orion at night
Awakening past the pink-fingered lust of Theseus' mother
To praise, "A Song of Degrees", for the Lord of Hosts, and their ghost
Yet it is almost Shabbat, and David cannot desist for the sake of the world
"I shall keep thy kingdom safe, Hamlet"
But the bridges have been broken and the rifts set apart in between shadows
The silences too large to hide in the speeches of the coffee-houses
The outrage violent, contra himself... Unable to immediate
The actualization is a repetition, of Kant's dead nature
And the messenger doesn't arrive,
Doesn't arrive.

This is the moment of Death
To be read aloud, before an audience
It is like the Parsifal,
No poetry ot philosophical treatise
But a musical drama, like "The Frogs"
But the choirs soak in the despair
Of having chosen their own lines
Boarded their trains toward imposed destinations
That can never be reached
The hatred is the transformation
Of vexation, of erotic pleasure, of apathy.

The Calvinist family remains punctual
Have their dinners on time with military precision
With military precision
With the Logic
Of Love
That goes forth from the world
Unable to locate any objects
Any faces
Entangled in anonymous lust
Searching for the note
Expecting the letter
Or the farewell
Of the messenger again
Circumventing the castle
In the most morbid despair
That soaks the waters into notebooks
Undressing lies, older and wiser
Than the discoveries
Than the meadows
Than hay.

The brooks grow expensive
And the landscapes from the altar
In Dominus Flevit
A golden urgency
That escapes in mourning
That flees
From finitude
Into this musical drama
And the moment of my Death
Is this Parsifal
With high pitches
In every station of the way
From the Sepulcher to Golgotha,
You see? I resurrect in reverse.
The moment of my Death
The mark of my father
Of the tragic Judaism and Protestantism
Of fathers and mothers
That winds up in a mediocre drawing
In unfinished postcards

It's impossible to feel otherwise
The phase and the event are the same
They're a way
The way of some stones
The way of the Fall
And Paradise is a carnival
Of mourners
Of churches
Of standing crosses
Past the threshold of the day

The plurality is replaced by the hope.

Occidental Eyes II

"I don't want any spiritual involvement with this world as it is"-Jacob Taubes


The world isn't equal to time, but rather a construction in time, it's a time concept and time itself by default is the "Geschende", namely the happening moment of "Existenz" in individual historical terms, in the sense of Geschichte and not of Historie. Existenz in its "durchschnittliche Jeweiligkeit" cannot happen "only" outside this referential framework but instead occurs in both referential frameworks; this is how Kafka's stories are told. Time's become the moment of Existential choice. It isn't a quest for Being for this is already implicit in temporality. Existence and worldliness in the dialectic of time account rather for a quest for the eventfulness and in this sense Heidegger might be right: The event is unique in its kind, it contains no past eo ipse but rather the best possibility and intentionality of memory and a sense of Vergaenglichkeit. The event has no Jenseits but contains one of its own in a mirror-like image, the image of potential ability that places the Jenseits inside the same referential framework but simultaneously at a different vantage locus. The self (in the sense of being reflective, not in the sense of an "to ontos" in Greek or the Heideggerian Seiende) cannot achieve the experience in hierarchical withdrawal or return, only thus the Monism can be broken by presenting a Darstellung of the fragmentary totality that can never be entirely grasped or bridged; this is where the Hegelian moment of history falls apart. Truth is lastly a conditional import for this experience, therefore if it were to have any validity, must become itself unconditional under the premises of time.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Jerusalem & Vienna

To Jussuf and Cain

The overwhelming turning points of the slies do not quite find a place less than restless in the cosmos; this cosmos as Eugen Fink told Heidegger is not the concept of the natural sciences in terms of space - for the dialectic is already broken once one pays attention to the little details of time, so that only the measurement of a world-time is captured while altogether abandoning any pretense at placing the locus of a life-time, it is the framework in which all existence is concerned, wherein it unfolds. Cosmologically speaking both divinities and mortal are entities, "diejenige Seiende" and they do not occupy an space in the cosmological framework as do forces and motions in both Greek and later natural philosophy because in disacknowledging time both of those have completely solved a tension in all affairs human that I've deliberately thrown myself upon.

I reflect on the spirit of poetry and spend endless hours reading poems in languages I know, of known authors over and over and even spend tedious hours with exegetical passages drawn from traditions as diverse as their content. If we are to believe in the fallacy of Western metaphysics or in a different vogue, in philosophy in its most disreputable name then the phenomenology of everyday things in their stale nature as objects of knowledge raised by hierarchies of consciousness should never constitute a problem. But in metaphysics time is not a very important concept and only in an indirect way it becomes a question of ontology, or of theo-ontology; because it is the basic assumption of metaphysics the circular concepts of history and time produced by Greek and Roman authors what assures the sustainibility of the system through immutable hierarchies that are so stale that in the moment you move one concept toward a different place (what our philosophizing does, perhaps the only thing it can do) you've broken the eternity apart, the natural order. The spheres of interaction are organically determined by nature in accordance with a systematic description of their objectivity that is permitted one by reason.

I hold the everyday to be entirely different and very close to almost all of Heidegger's thinking on "averageness"; including the mass man and the mass culture which is the social sphere of the mass man in his alienation. The everyday is a hierarchy only in a symbolic description, in a vantage point that by proxy must be located in equidistant time axes that break apart the unity and cohesion of the present, its internal logic. The poetry becomes strange and rather vacuous, entirely devoid of images and stale; the language misgiven and the revelation of the secret impossible. Only in these philosophical reflection I succeed in conversating with you, in the struggle for a logic that will clear away the fog of memories and hope in their unity of time-frame and separate not the real from the unreal, but the real and the true, not reality and truth - both of which constitute a precondition of philosophy in any of its names, whether reputable or not with the sole exception of metaphysics and dogmatic theology. The truth is the motion force behind any philosophical radicalism, and the constant self-critique, the speaking contra, is the only assurance of this validity. With you I can only speak contra because the mirrors of the ego and consciousness are lifted in order to be replaced by an averageness in the Heideggerian sense that turns modern existence and its contingencies at the same time into the most philosophical of all projects and the least of them all.

I conversate with the greatest minds in the present tense and without any authority of traditions to bind me other than common sense, a logic and a rationality that seeks passionately a place among the elements of love and live. Only in those conversations and moment of absolute thrownness before the raw materials available to humankind I can truly express my thoughts about you, I can vent out my feelings with the most obnoxious anger and without withdrawing choosing the world at once; not as the best of them all but as the best possible one available for "the time being" in an almost complete oblivion of Hell and Heaven. It is a political relationship. Only in the stumbling blocks of philosophz I encounter your disagreements in the flesh and acquire a caustic intimacy with your characters and personality. The meaning is not the same as the truth like Heidegger would claim, and it is this meaning what the correlative development of content and form is concerned with, his edifice is the truth and the time and both concepts happen in the world in de-ontologized manner only in the plurality not of beings but of people. There're no histories to tell, but stories in terms of the life-time, different from the world-time. I can never speak my mind clearly about the value of our organic ties, of our interrelatedness and our whimsically and violently intimate acquaintance; only when you come closer and dwell on the house of Logos, on the light and the thrownness I can express the whole of my being onto you with love and hope. Everything else is a mere dim and faint expression of protest.

It is not in a redeemed world where this possibility by-stands, but rather in the redemption of time, of the individual sketch that has placed the earthly Jerusalem with all the calm of Golgotha in Stephanplatz and yet the Vienna of lights in the urgency of the earthly Jerusalem. In Hebrew "world" is olam, which means also eternity and is the same root of the verb "to disappear"; accordingly a certain Kabbalist said that the different between the time of the world as a place and the time of the world as a construct in the plurality of men is that in the former positions can be exchanged, in the latter this is not important. It is about relationships.

Occidental Eyes

The city of dreams wherein Brecht never dwelled
Yet far from the burrows and the tales of an old and wise fox
Unfolds before our eyes with no power to charm
The age-old mysteries of saints and camarades are funny
Yet more is thence bruised a fresh disappointment
A gap in the memories that one could not mind too much
Insofar as it is a faltering, an unreal presence.

The denizens parade with spectacular mascarades
Charades, green tiles of summer and raincoats
Like the wild beasts roaring from an unlove poem
Devouring the concept of "abroad" with a simple glance
Tearing apart the walls and the banisters, the blockades
That separate people into colours and hues of a shade
The parade is motionless, ridding on a yellow cab.

A festival of fools unmakes the air into non-magic
With the averageness necessary for the oblivion of oneself
While a certain lady journeys on a train and experiences
A certain lack of urgency in life that halts time
Her wooer, a Hamlet-like character wafts into laughter
In the cafes of the city, awaits for the moment of plurality
When a certain thought overcomes the betrayed bodies.

The exodus from Orion, from Occident
Benchmark of a certain loneliness of melancholy
The mute sounds of the morning Bacchants rise from a far
And slaughter their sounds before thin walls
That laugh with the sounds of lifes and world
That remember the uncanny days of their deaths
As one remember a beloved as an old knife punctures the turning point of that love.

It is only with this exodus that the city turns real
In between greens, un-meadows and Messianic hopes
The glorious moment of the disappointment before the lives
The psychosis of worldlessness, of Christian love
Only there, in the urgency of violence and desire
May this calm unfold for one night, as a little dream
Only thus can the Occident die with such great splendor.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Memories of Catholicism, of Protestantism

Today as I wafted into the halls and the corridors in Mt. Scopus, in that little universum... therein I couldn't help this dreadful feeling of anger before the crowds, the masses, the societies of labour and production, this unreflected worldliness. As such it filled me with the most horrible pangs of doubt over my own person I could imagine, as though I had faced the visions of hell that Christianity had taught me in my early days. There was something quite beautiful about this vulgarity so that it seemed almost a pagan celebration and I was rather drawn to it by my gut feeling, instincting more disgust than pleasure but not altogether withdrawing from this carnival.

As I read this "Buchlein" (German for a "little book") of Harvey Cox, "A Festival of Fools", I couldn't help thinking about the medieval celebration and the masks and the parodies as I stepped into the crowds; at times I left my comfortable cleanest room overlooking the melancholy of the Arab town and stepped back into the carnival, and then in the philosophical surprise of disappointment I discovered this to be merely the Heideggerian "Durchschnittlichkeit" (averageness, in a rough translation - the averageness of everyday life) but in a very young and unique fashion; I spent a couple of minutes each time just walking back and forth and grabbing coffee, for the sake of not losing the momentum in too sober a state but rather edging it with a tad of obnoxiousness that had accompanied me anyway during the day.

It was somehow intoxicating, I hadn't seen any such crowds since I had been an exchange student in a certain left-wing university in Latin America where the orgiastic moment of philosophy blurred the whole of one's enterprise and entanglement with himself or the world at large. This disproved Patocka's dictum on the necessity to discipline the orgiastic moment of philosophy either with religion or with legality; another Hegelian misnomer. Yet this was different, it was a carnival of fools only in the sense that there were no fools or masks to be sighted at all. The mere burden of the everyday, of the life of the saints lived among other people that Augustine expounded; a non-hierarchical momentum of existence if at all in the most historical possible terms.

Then I laughed at my philosophical mind, or rather metaphysical mind - for every mind can be philosophical if postmodernity is to have any validity. The violence of the noises, of the nightly wild animals and their tropical roarings caused an interesting effect in me. Soon thereafter the anger turned into jealousy and then I could only imagine with a bird's eye of an uncanny but past reality the fields and the groves, the immanence of the space, the wide forest with atavic sounds and the sheer air of emptiness that filled the air with such incredible but unreachable beauty. Inside it always rained and the smoke broke free as though creating curtains between the rational mind and this ungraspable world. It was then Oxford again, and a rather Protestant balance in the transmogrified Catholicism I had received from my father. No matter the endless rosaries and the Passions of the Christ, my father's Catholicism remained Marxist and emotionally stoic. I took this with me wherever I went, even today.

It can only whimsically remind of me the Romantic Schiller, whose father had sent as a young boy to the military academy. My feelings are so untrue, my tragic sense of life so vain. Every act of love and philosophy is a rational act in dialectical reverse, it's far distant from the vulgarity experienced in this averageness, almost its radical opposite. As though Sabrina and me had been raised up to stand in the shape of pedestals before the tragedy of life only in order to proclaim, "It is forbbiden by law". This is my English Protestant Catholicism, where the tragedy of life and its linguistic embracement is the most rational of all acts. An egoistic act of "Aufhebung", it liberates, cancels and sublimates. There's no place for feelings herein.

And then I laugh even louder as I remember my painter and this angst we share that I can only explain to people through philosophy, through throwing away the stumbling blocks of the world and throwing them upon themselves. Because our feelings were just a response to the lack of public life. The emotional stoicism of the others is merely a device, a linguistic one. It's such an act of philosophy that one could hardly love anybody, express anything... the eros is lost in the moment when philosophy is over the unity of the realms of expression and life come together to destroy this orgiastic moment, this Greek moment of beauty and turn it into not its opposite but its nemesis, a strange mixture of beauty and un-beauty. As I spoke to people I understood my intentionality even less, but the needs were always there and they turned into something more human than radical.

As I stared into the filled landscape of the whole of Jerusalem I was still a philosopher, but somehow I also felt a little tiny and human for a moment and then I discovered that then I could perhaps love my painter and my Son of man, for real... and this is where my whole philosophy is at stake... in the limits of philosophy. But the limits cannot be overcome, that's why my feelings always turn out so vain and silly. I felt comfortable and homely about my position and laughed about the vulgarity too, because only in Protesting this reason through a feeling I might ever return home to philosophy again. People looked at me in bewilderment, but this bewilderment was only part of something I could never deny, my estrangement before the world in whose it's become really my only strictly philosophical concern, what's the world? where's it? I have no other philosophical import. Everything is at stake in this discovery of the world as an object of philosophical discourse.

I'm not lost, but rather pregnant and this pregnancy can never be spoken aloud. It can only be experienced in this averageness which is so alien to me. My love remains worldless and secret; but I can hear it screaming to me from a far and whenever I hearken its voice a feeling of possitivity and possibility fills me completely. We've left the cave, and the world is seemly a much more challenging enterprise. We remain Christians somehow, but only in this thrownness toward that averageness we experience ourselves in not being authentic. In the world we encounter the uneven desire for all that, for him or for them... and only then philosophy as a failure starts to make sense as though it were the last painting right after Golgotha. The memories remain and the bellflower of the burrows is replaced by a desert, yet the voices keep coming from a far, inviting, seducing, heading toward death in a carnival, in a monstruous shape of the animal. The animal is not that which is I, but the roaring coming from a far and the closer it comes the more I fear but the closer I feel her, him, me. It is the truth, only in those mad eyes that no Virgin could immitate, they're different everyday and their transformation into the man are only a momentaneous device but one that can fill the air with so much dread that it vomits pleasure and without mystical undertones it creates anew, us, all of us.

But in this protesting we're merely Protestants, while the others remain alive. In this beauty we're merely Catholics, while the others remain beautiful.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Shakespeare Contra Kundera


"We all need someone to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under.

The first category longs for the number of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public. That is the case with the German singer, the American actress, and even the tall, stooped editor with the big chin. He was accustomed to his readers, and when one day the Russians banned his newspaper, he had the feeling that the atmosphere was suddenly a hundred times thinner. Nothing could replace the look of unknown eyes. He thought he would suffocate. Then one day he realized that he was constantly being followed, bugged, and surreptitiously photographed in the street. Suddenly he had anonymous eyes on him and he could breathe again! He began making theatrical speeches to the microphones in his wall. In the police, he had found his lost public.

The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes. They are the tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners. They are happier than the people in the first category, who, when they lose their public, have the feeling that the lights have gone out in the room of their lives. This happens to nearly all of them sooner or later. People in the second category, on the other hand, can always come up with the eyes they need. Marie-Claude and her daughter belong in the second category.

Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the people they love. Their situation is as dangerous as the situation of people in the first category. One day the eyes of their beloved will close, and the room will go dark. Tereza and Tomas belong in the third category.

And finally thee is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. They are the dreamers. Franz, for example. He traveled to the borders of Cambodia only for Sabina. As the bus bumped along the Thai road, he could her eyes fixed on him in a long stare.

Tomas's son belongs in the same category. Let me call him Simon. (He will be glad to have a Biblical name, like his father's.) The eyes he longer for were Tomas's. As a result of his embroilment in the petition campaign, he was expelled from the university. The girl he had been going out with was the niece of a village priest. He married her, became a tractor driver on a collective farm, a practicing Catholic and a father. When he learned that Tomas, too, was living in the country, he was thrilled: fate had made their lives symmetrical! This encouraged him to write Tomas a letter. He did not ask him to write back. He only wanted him to focus his eyes on his life."

M. Kundera, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being"


"Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I'm myself indifferent honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things it were better my mother had not borne me: I'm very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do craving between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves, all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery. Where's your father?"

"Now, what my love is, proof that made you know; where love's great, the littlest doubts are fear; where little fears grow great, great love grows there."

W. Shakespeare, "Hamlet"