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.

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