Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Vom Sinn der Liebe"

Such was the title of a rather strange book published almost a hundred years ago in Jena by a young essayist named Margarete Susman, who had just a decade before and at the very turn of the century made a name among the bohème of Berlin with a little book of poetry titled "Mein Land" that saw three editions before the end of the Weimar Republic - an honour bestowed on few, certainly not on the greatest titans of the German-Jewish poetry like Else Lasker-Schüler and Walter Calé, her contemporaries. One of her poems, "A maiden sings in the plains', was turned into a symphony by Jan Sibelius as early as 1906. Today there're just very few who can remember the name of Margarete Susman, especially in an age when the categories and standards bestowed upon us to "remember" have uplifted their veils and thrown us into decay. For Margarete Susman, religiosity (intimately close to love) was a very different experience (and not merely phenomena) than it had been for most of the Jewish theologians of the time; for her this meant the intensive quality of language, the intensivity of speech... This religiosity didn't speak the language of myth any longer but interpreted itself and 'was become' through the intimate lyric of the "I". It is this intensive quality of speaking as a means to overcome the lack of pre-representation typical of burgeoise property relations and the age of commercial reproduction, the ethos of the flaneur; the dialogical and unsolipsistic nature of understanding as metaphysics itself - the step beyond the theology of the "Deus absconditus" that troubled the philosophers since the middle ages and in particular, since Scottus' ontological argument for the existence of God and accordingly, and contingent necessity of a concept of religiosity intimately bound to rationality and therefore hierarchies and ultimately unspeakable dogmas. Unspeakable not in the sense of having overcome language through the religious experience but out of not being inter-clusterical enough as to engage directly in the diaporias of human language; all theology (in particular with reference to Thomism and Orthodox Lutheran theology) was in that sense pre-linguistic, and therefore mythical only in negative terms, only by means of antinomies.

Monday, June 04, 2007



The mornings of the world are dreaming,
With the murderous solitude of twilight
The Orphic calm of the waves, of feather...
They unfold nightly, with wide open arms,
Coated in milk of coal and hell, yet so cold.
Venturing to bruise the delicate skin of the glass
Illuminating a very poor street, naked from the music
Undistinguishing cinnamon and prophecy
As though both were a white body, made from soothing oaks.


The nights are not jealous, they pray orgiastically
To heal the nausea of the morning, the sun's eyelid
And the worlds move their lips inwards,
Not to bespeak the taste of the bitter bread.
Unclean abyssmal theodicies, offered so kindly
To passerby's and enemies, denizens, strangers...
In strenous efforts to halt the mighty rivers
That lead to the silent despair of Shabbat,
But the morning is so helpless! With her wooden stockings...


One might want to be free, like a broken clavicord,
Or a bruised accordeon, yet the air sings so solidly!
That one chokes from the light and the hairs
Filtering through the little cracks in the canvas.
The mornings of the world are in danger
Unable to cleanse the thrill of the night.
The days are mere sweet passengers
Resting from their loves, on a bed of cactuses.
On their way to the frenzy of the night.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Skin of Cinnamon

The skin of cinnamon
Neatly wrapped in Athenian bricks
Unfolds across the skies of Jerusalem
Falling out of enmity
But also out of friendship
Encountering a vacuum
Filled with so many lies
With so many lines
Bought from the book-market
And in the foreign news

Along the little alleys
Ugly as they are
Strolled nightly
The lovers of hatred
With chemicals in place of words
A rift suddenly, a breach
From an untrusted conversator
Enveloped by a lustless fear
Of being recognized once again
In the eyelid of a blind accordeon.

Turning away from madness
Into sadness, into luck
Into faith of the eye-glassed kind
Outreaching to touch a faltering hand
That would betray the night
With the wealth of belief
The speech of a deer
Mumbling a sad German song
From the plains of Ain Kerem
Having forsaken having a world.

The rain, the breach

...After the rain, the breach...
That falls from the very ground
Back into the firmament
The thrill of a shattered drawing
Vanishing just as easily
As a night spent in Rome
In the solace,
Of solitary wooden stockings...
Unconcerned with past rhymes
Writing under the colours of sulfur
With hands of another essence
Less protracted, from journeys
Into the lands of other nearby embrace
Forgiveance, without oblivion
Without the secret betrayal of indifference
But more conceited too
Less given to the watery shadows
Of moodlight woes
No longer afraid, no longer despised...
...After the rain, the breach...
The silence, and a very little unquenchable thirst
For the same old hyssop, left hovering around
Without being left past the hinges
In order to water
The death of nature...
Only opening the windows
In order to water down
Very old letters

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Jewish Politics and Love - Part III

That brief conversation couldn't have too much meaning, I thought for a fleeting moment - we were already onto some serious matters after all. But I found this to be a lie immediately thereafter, to a great extent I couldn't care, I'm a European-educated guy, perhaps more provincial than cosmopolitan and not as failed as I would like to be, so that it couldn't matter to me any less 'in a way'. After all, I had had my own affairs with diplomats and Catholic clergy, as a leading socialite of the strange and invisible expat world of East Jerusalem to which I had belonged for sometime, despite endless warnings of friends in the Western side telling me "Watch out, you do look very Jewish after all". I had worked for a German Catholic organization, and knew the Christian community from head to toes and a great extent of the diplomatic one, at least from the European missions. I wasn't interested in influences or power, in fact my intentions were radically apolitical, I was just trying to satisfy my aesthetic sense with materials by far not available in the whole of Jewish Jerusalem. With all this in mind, what could be wrong with a nice Arab boy? Well that's something which needs a long answer. After the revelation nothing apparently changed, except the fact that paradoxically I could turn immediately to English and speak both languages simultaneously, being someone in English and someone else in Hebrew but playing both acts as good as I could. He felt ought to leave and tried to convince him otherwise, although I did want to leave that hole of filth where we had been crumped.

Thinking of it, it was highly typical of me to be with him in this rather fancy bar and then in those loopholes, because as sort of bohemian and declared enemy of the burgeoisie (to which I deliberately belong as though it were a fact of natural law) I could only find myself in places that are either of the very highest standards or of the very lowest, with nothing in the middle but the game of a broken middle whose lines I have refused to play since I became an adult. Finding it to be extremely boring and playful... And it is in those places, the best restaurants and cocktails just like in the filthiest bars and clubs, where Bohemians and Arabs meet. Then I convinced him to join me for half an hour to an even lousier place that I've grown too fond of, and encountered one of my painters on the portico, then followed by other people. At this point the conversation was quite intense and it reached the level of aesthetics I had sought and broke it asunder, aesthetics had become passion but in the most burning sense of the word. Being able to speak English made me a little free, not only grammatically, but in the sense that there was a shared sense of foreignness. Altogether, everything seemed extremely alright, which is always a very bad symptom, I always say. Eventually he decidedly had to go and I walked him over to his car, that is very very different from G. or J.'s, perhaps different by at least twenty-thousand dollars. So we kissed again perhaps in the best possible way - playing with both aesthetics and lust, and of course he had to be an educated Arab to understand that, a concept as foreign to Israelis as the idea of aristocracy. Then he brought me to my friends again and I left quite touched, unhindered and a little bit vexed.

I sat by myself and couldn't even drink, just played with my thoughts and remembered the one more painter sitting next to us, smiling with our conversation and drawing a man that danced in a chiaroscuro of green flashes. Then of course the curious friendly public couldn't wait to be furnished with all the information, and I replied basically by saying no more than "Well, some guy I happen to have dated a few times and who turned out to be an Arab". The first response is an absolute silence of ten minutes on the part of everybody, and then one young man interjects with a "Didn't you know it before?", to this I responded only with a nod. A very well-meaning friend just wanted to 'improve' the situation by saying "Oy Leo... there're some good Arabs you know!". This absolutely murdered the situation, but it would be only an appetitzer of what would come later. I had been a little bit jumpy because after all that date had been also the assassination of an old ghost, overall it had been a perfectly drawn night, and there my suspicion started that would be confirmed only ten minutes later.

My dear B., called me incessantly over the course of an hour, time during which in the middle of a tribunal made of ten young Israelis scorned my public shame, when I realized this a great deal of text messages had arrived already and I set myself to respond. In fact, my dear B. had been extremely "offended" by our meeting, which I had considered to be extremely normal and very successful, first of all because as an Israeli-born Arab, raised up in a villa in Ein Kerem, driving a car twice as expensive as anyone else's I know and studying medicine at the Hebrew University, he had to "accuse" me of "belonging" to what he termed the Ashkenazi Zionist burgeoisie, of course... me from all people! The most radical of all anti-burgeoisie that fights with his own burgeoise attitudes more than a little. But the judgment day didn't end there, it was also an attack set upon me and an statement of the impossibiliy of our "chemistry" because he's allegedly a Communist, who of course knows by heart the menus of all international restaurants to be found in this city! Finally it was significant enough to say that the root of the matter is that "I'm an Arab and you're a Jew". Proceeding onto adding that "When I told you I was a Christian it was only half the truth, in fact I'm half Muslim". "We believe in different things altogether". So that I was fairly enlightened by the content of this lesson: That love, ideology and chemistry are equally synonimous and interchangeable terms!

Of course a whole providence of self-defense of someone who's never been attacked. Perhaps my friend does want to be an Arab in his heart, but in his whole attitude and language he's entirely one of us... although, almost none of my friends would agree. He's by no means a Palestinian, but an Israeli Arab that could certainly pass easier for an Israeli than myself that at best am able to pretend being a third-rate European in exile. Something makes me think that these experiences are not the mainstream (or at least I want to believe it so) and that among less 'cultured' segments of both our Jewish and Arab societies, these encounters are not so abnormal and that happen in everyday situations, something that we 'intellectuals' aren't too fond of because it's difficult to quote that way. It is interesting to give oneself such political legitimacy, but not at the price of love in whichever form it comes, but matters aren't so easily resolved.


"Oy... what a drama! But how real? The guy leaves although he's so interested, because I'm a burgeoise, a Jew and because I seemly am in love with another guy".

"I think you still have your other one in the heart, but you could never have such wonderful evenings with him"

"He also thinks that I can't love him at all because my other one is a Jew and that he's an Arab. I can't believe the world to be divided between Jews and Arabs. I don't accept it!"

"But he's right, isn't he? Yet he doesn't understand the meaning of the evening you spent together...The horror of it is that the politics and the ressentment and divisions fill all parts of the most private feelings, there's no corner left free, not even love."

"The night was so mad! The "Arab" came to my house this morning, he explained once again that he's a Communist and I'm an elitist burgeoise, then we stopped and had a pretty good time, it all seemed OK. Then he left and called me again to say it can't work out... because of the Jew-Arab thing!"

"My dear Leo, it is a dilemma when one's own life is so mad and crazy, the artist's imagination is so useless, because there's no distancing, no need of evoking anything or inventing figures, stories or drama. How to survive, how to create, but seeing the everyday life as a parable... but how? When everything is at the highest risk, everything is extreme, devotion?"

"That's a serious problem, so that living and therefore dying is the only possible art, the kind of savoir-vivre. Everything is fragmentary representation, broken pieces... no distancing, just creation and therefore destruction".

"To call this a serious problem is already a step to help not getting mad. It's a good joke as well, because IT IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM! I start writing you a letter, we have to talk about love and politics, I'll call you tonight".

Nothing could have seem more normal than such encounter, taking into account our age, and well his, slightly less than three years under my already weighty twenty-three summers. But looking back, and it is important to notice how different the perspective is now, I can clearly see why B. would be so offended about this apparently unnatural meeting, not one of a bad context even as most of those encounters between our peoples that one hears about. It's not a matter of being too much of anything, or too little.. I simply feel that in my unrelenting trust that he was in fact an Israeli, I can't imagine how many millions of things I might have said whereof he might not have heard in his whole life... the revelation came to me as a shock and I refused to give it much importance, although I did feel that at the very moment he said he was an Arab, something did change in me and what had been the most natural feeling of 'tolerance' turned by now into hatred indeed, from both sides. It's a sad but strong anger you can't really describe, and especially that it is felt among two groups as unconventional in their ways as Jewish and Arab homosexuals... it's even perplexing, but somehow I guess as I said before, this is a sin of intelligent people, just safeguarding my sanity in the hope that the masses might think and most definitively act differently. I think now that I could have lied, and just say that it doesn't matter to me at all whether I have a Jewish partner or not, but I didn't so it's irrelevant, what is of importance is that, had I lied, perhaps I could be enjoying myself in a very neatly packed lie of love and deceive, although some of those are necessary sometimes, brutal reality is simply unbearable. It is a problem for our secular world, it can't manage to deal with itself, the abyss is too close and the ends-of-the-end drawing nearer and nearer in our age, either toward Enlightenment in the Kantian sense or plain destruction.

It was my duty to tell the truth, and even being an hypocrite I could say that lying didn't even seem possible then because I had the absolute security of being among 'my own'; and the things I said, oh God! Only he knows how bad it sounds when put into context. There's a conversation going on between human beings, there's a connection... but at a certain moment one turns around and sees the reality, and our realities aren't the same so that there's no possible conciliation, only vengeance in the short time and oblivion in the longer one. We both saw that reality in the moment when that discussion took place, and now it seems as though it happened a million years ago but it didn't. That look of reality was a frightening declaration of alterity that escapes all definitions, and it is indeed only the second chapter of the story with the children, it is an open declaration of what my friend said, the total politics of the space, even the most private feelings are invaded and filled with emptiness, the political is everything and therefore, nothing at all. This isn't without ground, to be an homosexual in Arab society (in Israel or anywhere else) is not just a dialectic of accept or reject as in Israel, where unfortunately some people are indeed thrown out of the house for coming out of the closet, but the tendency has changed significantly. It is a narrative of family life that the modern acceptance of the awareness of homosexuality has seriously threatened, and for an example we have a very nice story shared by our former policewoman: A certain guy is found out to be gay by the neighbours and soon thereafter is found dead, a police investigation in course: An Arab family, everybody is questioned... the end result: The father confessed to have ordered the older sons to murder the homosexual brother, and the youngest brother confesses to have seen how they soaked a piece of cloth in chemicals used for floor-cleaning and asfixiated that certain brother with it. They told the police that he was in the shower, had fallen upon the cloth with the chemicals unconscious already and inhaled it to death; quite a difficult story to believe matter-of-factly. This is the wonderful end!: The father expresses how much he loved his son, but as well how unable he was to live with the fact that his son is an homosexual!. Maybe his father could have loved him a little bit less and respected his sacred humanity a little bit more? Am I sounding too heartless? This is already what Postmodernity would define as a political murder, and no less.

My dear B. can't help his liking of me, it's all too clear.. but as long as I remain a Jew in this country it all seems impossible, no matter how contradictory his position is and mine too. How many times I spent long nights in the white Vienna with Egyptians and Lebanese, discussing Israeli politics? Or how many times I visited Sonia's father, that old guy from Tulkarem in Amsterdam? How often did I scorn Israel? Well, in Europe it was just too easy, and too irresponsible too. I might have developed already some un-love for my dear friend, who somewhere in the dark that has posed its wings upon one generation more, remains questioning the nature of the world at large and whether we need politics so much. I hear horrible stories about relationships with Arabs, most of them quite true, from all different kinds of people. It was clear to me that whatever he is, he undeniably belongs into the intelligentsia of this country... we can never have a double-state and we can never end this conflict, at least in this generation while enmities are just this fresh. Perhaps one could do like my dear Ursula Rosenzweig, to try and build a new intelligentsia in which Arabs and Jews will work together in building a country, but somehow I know this is bound to fail, because it is my country and not theirs, and I'm not even a Semite, I'm a stranger, a foreigner, imported from the West but I just know how much this country is mine.

This exercise has taught me that my intuition is right, the connection between love and politics in our age is beyond repair and it must be examined, I feel grateful that I've examined it in reality and no less, but at times the price of it seems an all-times-high one. Maybe I'll see him again in one of those expensive restaurants where we used to meet, just to remember that he's a Communist and I'm a pathethic burgeoise, no? And perhaps even beyond that, because our similarities are so striking that we might never be able to accept each other... but this love turned into politics and politics turned into love can only be negatively portrayed by a dictum of Augustine, "Love is as strong as death", and this, the father of a young man murdered by his brothers, could easily sing to himself in the tranquility of his heart. This love is murderous indeed, and perhaps we might find a way in which we could be a little bit more free by using less politics in between people and less love in between nations as the only viable alternatives of coexistence. That this exercise was taught me, in the course of such a wonderful night of a gift of grace, but only because this is so, the lesson is extraordinarily rude and noisy. A few years ago even, I felt so comfortable in the foreignness of East Jerusalem, but things have changed, the Levant has replaced Europe in many of my ways, but by no means all so that perhaps I have some space for reflection, the worst of all curses one might have in days when despair creeps in so easily and action is limited to the definition of whom we hate or love, if only on the principle of difference. I remain aloof in the madness of this dead city, and trying to come to terms with myself from the storm of political loves, I send a whole bunch of lies to an old friend, telling him how much I've spent the last two days resting from my books and my madness.... how untrue could it be? And then he replies callously telling me how he's been working in the garden. How much I envied him then. But yet not. We're all made of different material, and apparently so, of different politics and policies.

Jewish Politics and Love - Part II

On Thursday, while looking for some material that could aid J. in her work, I came across a certain book by a teacher of mine, 'Biopolitics' and although the title didn't so far attract me, after reading the first page I couldn't leave it at all, for it spoke already about the broken promises of Modernity - something I consider to be a living reality and of my most devoted interest. I came across a chapter titled 'Sexual Politics', criticizing the 'politicization' of life as a whole, of the body, of justice, in fact or every possible human concern. With the reading I came across certain points, albeit they seemed exaggerated to me but I did take them into account. The feminists would evaporate themselves by achieving their goals, the homosexual liberation grew tired already and has nothing to do with social concerns anymore, the degree of political 'sexism' will lead eventually to a redefinition of all what we've thought about sex, so that there's as much radicalism in being a puritan today as there was in being a public whore in the 60's, both with as much lack of aim. All the issues raised did interest me, but again I must state, I didn't think them to be so relevant for me at least. I settled down the matter and moved onto other concerns. In telling my nicely wrapped story I owe to return once to the week before.

B. and me knew each other from a certain café I had visited with a tourist whom I felt obliged to guide around Eim Kerem upon request of a friend. I always loved going there, especially alone... to enjoy the pastoral sight still soaked in the religious frenzy of good Christianity and secular Judaism. The tourist and me sat in a restaurant and had a sound meal, visited some churches and were instructed by one of my Franciscan friends about the shortcuts available to make it to certain church on top of the hill. I couldn't be any less positive about joining him so that I decided to sit in a cafe, write in my journal, pass the time.... almost not living and have a drink or two. B. sits close by and enjoys a rather large breakfast, glimpses the newspaper here and there... all of a sudden 'accidentally' his whole cup of coffee split onto my lap and in a very impersonal calm I settled the issue by starting a conversation. He was perhaps not one of those magazine idols that homosexuals dream about, to my utter despise... but there was a truly cultured Oriental beauty about him and a captivating one. My tourist took longer than expected in returning so that B. and me would just go for a stroll and in my unintended innocence I start to fall into an abyss from which one despair would lift me up. Suddenly I understood B. wasn't just friendly, but flirtateous too... in a way I hadn't been accustomed to for so long, because I no longer live in Vienna, and because the accordeonist and me play similarly, but with the very disapassionate logic of truth. I had somehow grown used into those brief love affairs of a day or two (not even of a night) with passer-bys and strangers, knowing that it would be so shortlived and just taking advantage of it for myself, for my creativity and poems, for my thoughts... stealing fragments from the skin of so many travelers. But this was different, one of the 'natives' would treat me for an excursus into the world of speech that I couldn't recognize in myself most of the time while I live here and interact in the Hebrew language; this is something you're allowed to do in German, but never in Hebrew. So eventually I was invited for a 'cup of coffee and a Belgian waffle', not knowing how much I detest those sweeties, even in the spiritual sense.

After my return to the central madness of Jerusalem's lack of reality, I became oblivious of this unprecedented encounter just too briefly, painters and accordeonists in my life, bad philosophers, lawyers, etc. But he wouldn't, and soon enough on a certain warm night I'd find myself drinking coffee, lying and explaining to very amiable personality, my distate for sweets. I couldn't say it wasn't thrilling, but there was a certain reticence, a certain mud... although this is what it looks like only now. The conversation wasn't really too overwhelming, studying medicine, living in Ein Karem, my book, my madness, our humour, etc. In perspective it was also the kind of conversation that only very idiosyncratic Israelis could have, the typical half-foreigner young man, pretty well educated and doubtful in between things. I went home without a second thought, it couldn't have been more normal than this. Then it was followed by a second meeting, stage at which I was informed this meeting had been called a 'date' by my singular companion. Things didn't change much, I simply couldn't bother, just go, talk, get out of the house a little, away from friends... you can play a little and hide a lot, because you're not amidst your own tent and someone living in Ain Kerem couldn't have an idea of the kind of everyday misery so typical of those living in the very center of the city. Nothing changed at this point. On Friday I had spent a lot of time outside, newspapers, coffee, humus, like a typical Friday before Shabbat, something I hadn't experienced for just too long. Then that certain 'participative democracy' of education that didn't come around without surprises, planning the next revolution perhaps, although I was happy at least it didn't happen in some pricey restaurant. Then back to the cafés, turning again to politics, the state, the Arabs, I don't know... whatever came to mind. I was thoroughly enlightened by the conversation, and also came to agree with myself (a rarity indeed) that the accordeonist is wrong in some accounts. But overall I didn't pay too much attention, was tired, not even melancholy... just feelingless, empty in a way. Silence and bed could be the only solution, in such a state of weariness from the public eye, I couldn't write or think one bad thought even, so that I grab a book and in the next minute I fall asleep with it.

I wake up nearing the beginning of the night, and find myself uneasy at being alone yet wanting it much... No efforts to communicate with friends or to send messages that might be probably unresponded for the next twelve hours. Opening my phone, trying to locate someone's number (to call another day) I find out not to have erased B's number and without offering an apology for having been a brutal pig two days before, I simply text him in order to say hello and just continue my reading. After the first response I knew there would be follow up and in the end he agreed to my idiosyncratic ways in and out and asked me to see him in the next half an hour in the city, actually in a very mild place, full of smiling people and quite boring too... but out of my weekend's lack of fondness with anything I simply fell through as though not really thinking about anything. I go to encounter my faith, because fate is something I wish I didn't have to see so often. The beginning is strange, entering an unknown bar (this doesn't happen too often) and sitting, talking about 'you and me', nothing too concrete although everything on the whole pretty 'nice'. Then a lovely conversation about nothing, in the best of British style, that kind of talk that would have been impossible with my painter or my accordeonist; so at least I felt that the Romantic spirit of such evening wasn't wasted at all even if it were to be resultless.

Then a suggestion to change places, 'looking for less noise', and then we're headed on my account, to a certain 'quiet' please where the burgeoisie atmosphere choked me as it always does and then we headed onto a place where 'a fag could be free', as though it meant anything for the time being. Then the trouble starts (not the real one): Going into a gay bar is an asffixiating experience, especially out of the excess of familiarity with all the postmodern lust, the lack of youth, and the desire to be something you can't, somewhere you might never reach. We couldn't talk too much, because instead of less we received much more noise, but we did talk a little. In fact I felt very pleased by the fact that I was having a real date, as strange as it sounds to anyone who knows me. Kind of having achieved the normality un-sought for, but not entirely convinced of it, happy that no one recognized me around and that all my troubles with myself had ended for one beautiful night, like so many other beautiful nights where I was for a few hours entirely immortal. It all starts off and moves forward just so slowly and a certain point there was a little kiss and then another and another, so in fact I had found myself in a date, despite myself... I also knew this to be a date because we didn't run to bed immediately. This is part of my philosophical problems! I want pleasure and certainly male lust is no little pleasure, but I want to fight with aesthetics, so that I prefer to sacrifice pleasure in a Christianmost way, if for the sake of aesthetics. Accordingly, so many passing and brief but lustless love affairs, even for a few hours... This of course coming from somebody whose life's work is to overcome aesthetics, no little joke! In this moment I felt sublated, because there was an incredible amount of aesthetics (despite the horrible lack of it in the milieu) together with a very shy and diminished amount of lust. This all sounds like a very boring dating journal entry, except for a very meaningful event.

-"Leo, tell me, would you like to have a boyfriend that is Jewish?"
-"Well, in the past I didn't use to think about it, but now perhaps it's become somehow important"
-"Oh I wanted to ask, because I'm not Jewish"
-"So what are you?"
-"I'm a Christian, an Arab"
-"Oh well... let it be" (I kept myself from saying 'it's ok')

This is where my problems began!

Jewish Politics and Love - Part I

To Katharina and Juli, with whom I gained the inspiration to write down these days through absurd conversations.

"I have a blue piano at home
And yet I know, not one note.

It stands in the darkness of the cellar's door
Since then, when the world turned mad.

Four hands of the stars play it
- And the Lady Mood sang once from a boat -
Nowadays only the rats dance with the tune.

Oy! The keyboard is broken....
And I mourn the dead blue....

Ah! A beloved angel opens
- I ate from bitter bread -
Opens for me the heavenly door of life -
Even against all prohibitions."
-Else Lasker-Schüler,
"My Blue Piano", transl. by Leo.

Once, when I had been to Paris at the tender age of fourteen I had been flabergasted in my disappointment regarding the lack of accordeonists in the street, so that I found one of my own in a little alley of Jerusalem almost ten years later; he wouldn't play so swiftly and in fact he wouldn't play at all... but the accordeonist was a figure as necessary in the writing of one's life as a flaneur could ever be. And after my timely discovery I realized through reading some old journals, that I had perhaps seen that accordeonist before and that Plato could be eventually right in one thing. Of course listening to an accordeonist that can't play one single note, is doubtless an act of love, but so were the sufferings of the Lord on the Cross and Abraham's murder attempt against his own son. In the case of Cain, I'm not so sure of what the legal opinions could be, but I'm inclined to rely on more lust than love... it's almost a pagan ritual like that in which Pentheus is sensually devoured by his mother - yet this sounds too easy, for extremes, as Lessing said, are just too easy to represent... so that the painting of the tragedy could be only achieved if one were to draw it the second before the murder, when the eyes of the mother are still loving and graceful. It is not altogether feasible to sketch a painting before the moment of love, but no less, it is impossible to restrain oneself from puncturing the canvas in the fleeting hereafter of love but right before the hero is dead. Otherwise one would indulge in too much compassion, not in the nature of the artist and allegedly a devise antagonistic in essence to the demands of aesthetics.

This can also remind me of what a certain Hebrew writer said (and perhaps the only thing she ever said about her own writing) about narration, that the richness of details often manages to murder a good story, it is only in the talent of the narrator to make the characters come real with the least amount of information necessary, one isn't too much concerned with the 'biography' so to speak, than with the essence of a moment. For a philosopher of history, this is perhaps the only possible solution out of the problem of not telling history as though it were philosophy of history. So that my story starts when reading a certain book called "The Land of the Hebrews", and what a lame rhaetorical devise is to start a story with the reading of a book, but for me holds truer than anything else; in that book there's a certain faintly story about Jerusalem and its people, about the age of God that allowed me to play wistfully in Hebrew with the name of a beloved foe, a Hebrew poet himself, the devise is impossible in any other language, so that I must warn in advance that this is in fact a story written in Hebrew, therefore it cannot be translated into any language but that. In the little book one kind of sees Jerusalem from the eyes of heaven, and not even that... from the vantage of the heaven before heaven, so that somehow one would never really want to make it there. The writer sees the city from a little window in a hotel around Shekh Jarra, nowadays a wealthy Arab neighbourhood where the local parvenus often visit to let themselves treated to the indiscreet eyes of diplomats and Christian old-aristocracy as to gain a confirmation of their own ability to live in respectable society if only for the sake of metaphysical clarity, for such is nowhere to be found in the greater perimeter of the city.

I saw the city from higher up, looking out a window in Mt. Scopus wherefrom I could catch a glimpse of the whole of the little Arab houses that I could only imagine from the accordeonist's little home nearby, however, outside his kitchen there was (perhaps also imagined) a laundry thread and that was already part of the Arab house. I sat opposite that window many hours, realizing my loss... being inside the cleanest building in the whole of East Jerusalem, gazing into the tiny Arab houses with their green lighthouses, admiring the beauty of the whole landscape - such an unnatural one! Disjuncted houses, crumbled with each other and following the movement of the sand in the deep Judean desert, at the same time despising the Oriental reality just so much! Thinking it could at best make a great painting, but never a good theology or a political ideology. I also gazed into the houses at night and from much closer during my walks with the young Christians and then returned into the city via the Mt. Olives, visiting some well-known graves of anonymous people, stopping at a certain restaurant forbidding myself to fear, after all it all looked so natural, the houses, the children, the cars, the misery. In the night I could hear the green lights of the mosques, and felt less love than mere aesthetic "acts of contrition" before the fading sights.

That certain day when the tale of love and politics broke free, I had not expressed or experienced any disappointments, in fact I had felt quite happy about myself, spending long hours in a library looking out toward the opposite direction of the city, the mumbling of the few tall buildings and the invisible individuality of remaining houses, their dead... From the library a great part of the city-sight was occupied by a very large cemetery and I mused to myself that in a city like this there's really no place for one if he's alive, one must be dead to become a citizen... In another location, returning from Tel Aviv the day before I stare in amazement at the entrance to the city... only the endless graves greet us! Not one voice is heard, lest it comes from an Arab house or from the murder of a death, the laughter of life or anything else that has been forbidden by the imperial laws unknown to all the residents. But that time, in the late afternoon, I did hear noises, from the bodies of people - nothing connected to their souls, their lips moved orgiastically and I could find no solace in such madness of speech, I spent the long half of the day musing on whether I should move in one direction or the other... it is difficult to move when you recognize yourself just being one stone more in the city, a stone that any tourist can pick up and that any concern of the wind can place in one neighbourhood or the other. Then friends, or in fact a friend and such wonderful present that would throw me into the blackest mood of a German forest for an entire weekend, oh those letters, they're so true! They can never be read more than once. Following, all were known faces that distanced from the imperial buildings with disdain and me in particular with the hypocrisy of reluctance, at the end of a very brief walk the Arab houses were visible again, but particularly unnoticed until we reached the car and started to find our way into the greater hospital - the city center, where the Messiah comes across a few times a day, but he's reocgnized to be a false Messiah because he's not Jerusalemite at all, moreover he's come either too early or too late. While turning around the corner we, the Hebrew conquerors of this land (me less than the others, a strangely familiar attitude I adopted, perhaps because every Hebrew is in essence a Catholic so that I manifest my preference for the latter and for long have acquired a distaste for the word 'Jew') spot the most innocent of all natural spectacles: Two Arab children ride their bikes, coming from their little village and surrounding our imperial building, and one of the two falls in a side of the street and his foot is unable to find release from the engine.. the second child is helpless watching.

Obviously, being the young imperialists that we're, we halt the motion of the car in the middle of the road nonwithstanding the danger and step out of the car at once, advancing towards the troubled villagers. "Social concerns cannot be too tainted by politics, they're acts of love", I thought to myself, in the second while this movement took place, only to be replaced by an innate disappointment before the facts of our 'reality'. The Arab children, no older than 10, immediately fell upon themselves in the most natural fear, the fear of violence and death, the fear of danger, before four Hebrew conquerors, one more pathetic then the other, worn from smoke and books, poorer than the graves of Mamilla and each one less convinced of their collonial might, than the others. Of course it is an awkward situation, because rationally speaking there's a slight barrier of imagery between two homosexuals and two women coming out of a car more worn out than God's pocket and the already sexually violent attitude of a bunch of oriental negroids, members of the chosen people either by passport or by the orders of a white woman sitting idly in Tel Aviv, coming out of a green truck to arrest deliberately passers-by in Tulkarem. J. was the closest to be in touch with this reality, a former policewoman (and by chance of fate and curse, a political scientist) who could remember a word or two in the language of Maimonides, and we could make ourselves understood as being 'non-enemies' instead of 'friends', a position even lower than that of peace activist who attempt to save the world out of a resolute impossibility to save themselves, a long-established tradition since the Jew Marx, and once that has come not without a lot of terror and manipulation. I for one have given up salvation and truth, in a Roman fashion, if only for the sake of the world. We're then speedily understood and in our despair, return to the car after having indulged in such 'graceful overcoming of nationalist prejudices on the part of children twice as young as we're'. Our speech turns away from the philosophers of the political into the politics of illness. It's difficult to make oneself so much at home in a world like this, whereby children remember that of course we are an imperialist power doubtless ready to murder and destroy by any means. They remember things that we never knew, and that of course are never taught inside our imperial buildings where instead, we're instructed in the much necessary skill of coffee-triggered self-murder and political 'talking'. Really, it is a pleasure to realize how close we're to take the necessary steps to redeem the Middle East from the most futile war, which is in fact the most important of all.

But I forgot the incident too quickly, I had been asked to join the accordeonist to unlisten music in our conversations, sitting idly but not without thrill in one of those big restaurants that I wouldn't visit too often myself, quite boring and lacking in charm... nothing similar to be said about my companion though, and once again we would have such pained discussions about the nature of things, returning back and forth to discuss ourselves, and then project onto things once again.. those conversations about something that you want to escape from the start but are so unable to. Quite different from the ways my life's spent nightly, but no less vivid. I had a letter to read and some quasi-hyeroglyphic journal to plunder into with the violence of a voyeurist philosopher. The idea that children were afraid of me only slightly touched me, the memory did come in some conversation about politics, but it wasn't anything of theological ever-lasting value, mere pegs in an already lost world. That restaurant would be the last place I'd visit with my companion before the lights turned dark in between me and myself, so that often I'd just make a great effort to avoid such pleasures. But weeks later we found each other in the presence of a certain respectable host destroying a conversation about a certain dead woman philosopher into a political rant of sorts, the kind of talk that only Jews that have never moved a bed from one end of the room to the other, might be able to have. Of course a heated debate about the Mideast peace process, what should one do in Gaza, and what about the refugees... do we give back this or that? As though peace were something that had to do at all with rationality. I disagreed with his views that I even attacked as naive, but perhaps he's right in so many accounts... that I refuse to acknowledge reality as it is and therefore have never taken responsibility for much else but my own craziness and life (and who could acknowledge reality so much in a place like this where there's so little space not just for air, but also for death?) and secondly that I come from 'somewhere else', and that the apocalypse of German history of the 19th and 20th century is but the same period of the greatest glory of the so-called Israeli history. Yeah, we should work for the sake of peace, we should give them this and that, odds are that no matter what we do, we'll always be wrong... like we were that day months ago when the rain caused a flood in the Gaza strip, for which obviously we were held responsible by our cousins and the whole of the 'free' world.

I was to be a convinced Zionist at the age of 16 already when I had thought about coming here, and that for me meant of course some religious values and the unconditional support of the State that soon turned into a very rightish position to be in, like most people that have never been in this wonderful land. Then being a part of the intelligentsia forced me by decree to turn to the left, and only after a short trip to the whole of the West Bank with a French engineer, I understood that no positions could be taken here at all, that one had to make up his mind everyday on all possible accounts. Yes, it's pretty postmodern, the age of absolute doubt and of untruth... reality lies shattered generations before our own, we're just confronted with the puzzle much better than them. What I didn't think during this discussion, and that I don't think on a daily basis, is that social concerns as acts of love are deliberately political here, so that one cannot dare loving without hating and receiving the same feelings from others. I read extensively on this subject, and even have treated the issue of love as one secondary to none in importance as a political scientist of disreputable intellectual background. Then this past week I discussed this for a whole day with J., and did my homework, read some essays and started to ponder on how seriously could one take the relationship between sex and love in one hand, with politics and thought in the other. Isn't this some kind of Postmodern reflection out of the sources of meaningless despair? Sure it is. I found my answer during the weekend, a real, naked and happy answer. The theoretical answer is of course that Arendt was right, when everything is political, nothing really is political at all, but this isn't all what there's to it. I have a story to tell.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Arendt, Postmodernismus und zur Frage des ethischen

Gab es schon in den vierziger Jahren und ohne Zweifel auch bei uns, keineswegs man als 'Weltburger' zu bezeichnen, ohne gegenstandlosen Pessimismus, sei kulturelle oder politisch. Auf Arendts Kritik (und mit gutem Recht) nach dem jüdischen Kleinburgertum in Deutschland, die Weltbürger sind so früh nach der Krieg, die neuen 'Weltreisenden' geworden, mit allem touristischen Agonie. Unsere Realität (ohne der Wahrscheinlichkeit oder reinen Offenlichkeit der Wahrheit) ist die, der als grenzenlos und ziellos Spieltheater gebaut wurde, eine Spiel der vielfältigen öffenliche Einsamkeit, ebenso nicht jetzt noch Einsamkeit sondern 'Alleinsein'; das Alleinsein im Publikum. In Postmodernismus ist solche Zweifelhaft-heit die niemals ohne Verzweiflung, das 'Raum' par excellence der neuen Öffenlichkeit, daß zwischen den 'Welten' (so viele vielfältigkeit kann noch am tiefsten und privaten einfältigkeit sichtbar darzustellen) heißt auch als bei Heidegger, Geschlossenheit und Verschlossenheit - eine absolute Auslösung zur Auflösung, d.h. aufgehobene vielfältigkeit und folglich, Wahrheit. Eine Welt die grenzenlos und folglich apolitisch, Ur-geschichtlich und unerreichbar, eigentlich wird. Weimarer Weltbürger sind jawohl, den neuen Nirgenwo-gehendes-oder-besuchendes un-angehöriger geworden. Grenzenlose Welt/Moderne (Ausdruck von Voegelin) meint auch im phenomenologischen Sinn, Verhältniss mit keinem Ort, locus. In diesen Verhältnisse, schon bekanntmacht, das aufgehobene 'Selbst', in Unterschiedung von 'Menschen'. 'Selbsentdeckung' ist noch ein Versteck, als die totaler politik und politisierung (von Frauen, körper, sex, Erziehung) würde ganz apolitisch gestellt. Scheint mir auch wie, Ethik ist nicht nur noch eine Frage des politischen, sondern auch und wie, eine Frage der Sprache aber in konfrontierung mit Arendt und Benjamin, keineswegs, die Frage zur Poetik - Politik, die ursprüngliche und eigentlich, eine Griechische Frage ist.

Blog's poem

A wonderful poem written by Lara to me, on ocassion of the recurrent 'disappearance' of the already very old blog. At least if one public achievement I can count in these rather diremptuous pages, is to have a housewife among the permanent readership.

Where oh where did your little blog go?
Where oh where can it be?
With its poems so short
And its posts so long
Where oh where can it be?

After Lifta

On the car, Mt. Scopus, J. drives to the city, I stare into the oriental broken landscape I used to see from my window at the Mandel building....

אוי ירושלים... היא בהרים, נקודת מבט שלפני השמים התחתונים ומחשכים, בתוך לילה שבוער כשמש המתעוללת באפל, בעור של אנשים קטנים יותר, הם מפשיטים כל יופי פנימי רק למען האמת והעכבר מת. אה ירושלים... פניך אל תוך האש, האדמה, הכעס, האיש.

The first hour of June, after la bohème...

For a change in my routine, my cotidianité, I do enjoy to be all by myself tonight, in the most public of all possible kinds of loneliness, I can't be all too bothered by the taste of death in my mouth, a diremptuous recognition of life, seremdipitious as it is. As a Jerusalem Dichter this is perhaps the greatest sin of glory I could ever indulge in. My body beings to fail at me, and Oh! Lord of Israel!... such tiredness, but one's at times like this only, unable to give up, the language's failed all too often... so that I falter and wander in between the callous knowing smile of a stranger, only because he's stranger and his lips as callous as the warmth of a decaying metaphysical embodiment of disquiet could ever be. Perhaps I've put a end to my plights with Biblical poets, yet I know the previous phrase to be false and the subversive untruth of his unlove might find me again, hunt me, haunt me down... even in my most desperate Platonic attempt to equate beauty with truth and the jocous refusal to dwell on mere representation as a category of philosophy, as though it were to fall within the limits of a literary gender. This beautiful lonesome evening reminds me of that religious serenity of language to be found only in my black protracted adolescence, my flaneur living at 'Il Pommeriggio', writing on vexed blocks and devouring little chunks of soda for an entire night... perhaps I'll never write all what my heart demands, and like she said... Palestine also makes strenuous demands, she's like a person, that might never grant you refuse her the everyday miracles of discontent and discoursiveness. A naked forest, my mind is... with less lust than surprise.


אה ירושלים... היא מתבקשת, מבקשת, מתוכחת, אלמת שלומו ושלומי גם. אין בה פחד כלפי המתים איך שרק כלפי החיי... כל ילד ירושלמי הבין שהננה! כלומר, שהבקשות החיוביות בספרי קודש שלנו אינן נלחמות עם האמת או עם המת, אלא רק בתום, תהום, נאום, קיום, נימוק. אוי אלזה! איך אני הרסתי את חרוזיך! מפני שאני ילד עברי, ולא פחות גם זקן מהריין. אני שהוויתי את כל המקומות ההם, למה אני עלול לאנוס את כל בית בחרוזיך? אני השומר עם שם של חיה טורפת... כינור בעור אבן... ילד עברי מהצפון העולם, המחייך למוות ומתוערר כשהחיים מרים, מראים... אולם שאני לא משורר עברי, כאיוב, כאויבי האהוב... אני עומד בשוליים, במרוביות, יחד עם השתיקה. אצלי הבריאה מחרישה והבריא מחשיך מעבר אורים נודדים מהכניסת העיר... שום משורר עברי אבל קצת משוחר. ברוח תהומי אני קורא את חרוזיו, הם ערומים לפני ואני מסוגל להאמין שהם נכתבו בשפת אשכנז ומול ירח שגם נשרף מסוף הקיץ. הקין של אלזה והקין של גילאל, הם לא אותו ב"א, אף-על-פי שהיא שואלת ב"ארץ העברים" מהו גיל האל? והבחורי ישיבה לא יעדו, לפיכך היא שאלתה לנזיר בנדיקטוס בהר ציון והוא מבסיר שגיל האל, הוא כמפורש מילולית, בעצם שמחתו. הגל-אל הוא שהקב"ה הצעיר ביותר בעולם, וגם הזקן היותר... כאתונה למחרת הביקור של נוח. בהמשך כתיבתה, קין לומד דיניי קניין במסכת קידושין, להדריך את הבל, אחיו, לגבי אשתו. אבל קין עדיין מקנה, מידרשיו הם רק בהבל פה, הבל הבלים - תהום מול קרבתם של אחים אוהבים. למרות זה, על האדמה העייפה, אהבתי את שניהם עד קצה שבו, פניי השינא משקרות, מחשקות באומתם של ילדים עברים בהר הצופים. בניגוד הקיר, אני עדיין ילד עברי, אבל גם עיוור קצת.