Mittwoch, 3. Juni 2009

30 years of not writing.

30 years of not writing. 

What? Bragging with creating nothing? 

Exactly. No academic papers, research papers, new canonical works of literature and philosophical castles, secret software killer-apps. Intentionally not.

Still with me? 

Some people never climb from being avid readers for decades, Bookoholics, reading everything from Chaucer, Malory, Shakespeare to Jane Austen, Henry James, James Joyce (in English) to Pushkin and Tolstoy, Gorki, Dostoyevski (in Russian and translations), to Goethe, Heine, Mann-Brothers, Musil (in German), Proust, Stendhal, Voltaire, Balzac (in French + translations), to prescription labels, legal texts (for fun) etc. etc. - I hope you guess the idea. I intentionally left out the ancient Greek and Latin philosophers and the rest of the bunch coming after them. I'll come back to that soon.

I don't brag about this. Every fellow reader get's it and knows the addiction. And if you have not been such an excessive book worm I applaud you! There is nothing to be intimidated or jealous about. Au contraire, I am jealous of all the people who have not poisoned their heads from early years on, with tons of books. But books were the only joy I had for a long time. They were my escape route during a couple of years, when I had to adopt to a new country, a new language, being part of a school but not 100% accepted. And the same books became the troublesome source for problems in high school and later on. 

You see, I somehow stumbled over a non-fiction book, disguised as a fictional text when I was ten. It was something we had to read for school. Friedrich Nietzsche's "Also sprach Zarathustra". This was a very controversial book in post-war German high-schools, because Nietzsche and especially this book of his. The Nazis incorporated his work, brutally mishandled and forged by Friedrich's sister Elizabeth, who loved the attention of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. My interest in this book was childish and naive. I did not understand it. But I was intrigued.

From Nietzsche I came to Plato from Plato to Socrates, from Socrates to the pre-socratic philosophers and in between to Hegel and Hume and Kant and Aristotle and to the "Frankfurter Schule" (Horkheimer/Adorno) which led me to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and straight back to Hegel, Fichte, Schelling... I could ramble on and on. Everything is connected. Once you take a jump into these waters, you should never expect to come out alive on the shore ever. I mean this literally.

Philosophy, the understanding of 'us' human beings and the world around us, how it is build, how it works, what this all means can be a lifelong journey, and for me it started very early. Probably too early and in the wrong environment, without having people around me to ask or talk about it. So I became a loner as a teenager.

Now, religion would be a solution, you might say. For all the souls that come from families that belong to a certain religion or a religious group or a sect, it is all laid out for you, before you know it. You grow into the believes of your parents and grandparents. You either accept it when you are a teenager or you start to question their believes and try to separate yourself from them. Both ways, it's a possibility.

I grew up with my single mother. She was a 'loosley' Greek Orthodox. In the sixties, when I was born, a single woman having a child was not suitable to be blessed by the church. I was not baptized. I had neither the privilege nor the burden to be connected to 'a' religion. I was a free mind. I had the opportunity to choose. And I chose the hard way: figuring out how this all works, not accepting easy answers. 

At the age of maybe 12-13 I started to also read books about science and scientific methods. 

It blended along with my studies in philosophy, because logical thinking and methods of verification and deduction have been discussed throughout the last 2500 years - even if in western Europe, the catholic church wanted their version of the truth and their take on Aristotle through Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine) to be predominant: Christian aristotelian logic = ok. Giordano Bruni's or Galileo's = not so much.

We, in the West, cannot imagine how it was to live the hard life in medieval Europe, full of hard work, diseases and repressions. People in african states, in poor countries are living this nightmare right now. 

My interest in school education was close to zero. I did not get from school what I wanted. Higher education was not an option for me. My mother was poor. She could not help me. She had to work too hard to put food on the table. And also, she could barely read or write, but this is another story I will tell another time. It should be even more inspiring.

After I left school and started a job-training and later poorly paid jobs, mostly in retail. I spend all my free time concentrating on all the interesting subjects I could think of. Between 16-20,22 I had my 'phase'. I was on a roll. Catching up and establishing the groundwork that will put me in trouble for years to come. I established a rebellious attitude. I had some college friends and entertained them with my borrowed or own ideas, satirical rants, outrageous comments - it was obvious, the first book is in the making. So much 'talent' needed to be spread. 

I discovered the works of Jacques Derrida and found a mutual soul. Through his writing I read all the books he read. I have read them before. I understood them better afterwards. I was intrigued by the misreadings and misunderstanding in the academic community about his work. It was not so obvious to them as it was to me. The ethical aspects of his work were laid out from his early work on. The connection between him and Deleuze, Lacan and most important to me, with Emmanuel Levinas were amongst the most pleasurable moments in my reading life.

Why I don't write...

This all still does not explain, why I did not write a thing. Or, if I wrote them, why they do not exist anymore. It is best explained by Torquato Accetto's (1641) "Della dissimulazione onesta" (The Honorable Concealment). The small text is about the discourse of truth versus lying. Is it appropriate to lie ever. It became a popular topic in the Renaissance. From Erasmus from Rotterdam to Machiavelli, to Baldassare Castigliones "Buch vom Hofmann" wertete die Verstellung geradezu als Pflicht höfischen Benehmens. 

Torquato Accetto discusses something so obviously wrong in a way and with the clarity and subtle melancholy that Shakespeare's young Hamlet was not capable to grasp. These are the thoughts of an old, wise man, who saw the atrocities and horrors of his lifetime. If you can find the book, read it. He suggested to sheet the truths of bitter life with a veil of dark concealment. He basically praises Concealment as a legitimate way of disguising the horrors in life. The beauty we see is just the disguise of death and decay. Thinking about the text, yes, it is evocative of of Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs du mal" in tone, but with the bitterness of Italian medieval.

...nor 'create' other things.

And alongside with this philosophical essay, I also indulged in the subversive thinking, subversiveness as an 'act', or more precise 'action'. My meek artistic endeavors of whom there is nothing for you to find anymore (all destroyed and lost) were probably good enough for a certain career path. But I never was interested in 'career' when it came to Art. I am rigorous as a fundamentalist neoevangelical Christian when it comes to the topic of 'Art' and it's biggest Nemesis the 'Art-Market'. 

I perfectly understand, my beloved Renaissance painters where all slaves of commerce. They had to work for a living, satisfying their customers: Dukes, Kings, and the of course, the Church. I studied them. I understand them. I have learned the difference in the color of eggs and how they affect the secret paint they were mixing together. 

But I am still uncomfortable with 'art' as a 'subject' of commerce. Art has to be free. It has to brake boundaries. It must offend to mean something. It needs to be more than something rich people and banks can grace themselves with, showing of the works of the impressionists and others, who one's were seen as hobos and would never be allowed to step into one of these banks, even only to go to the bathroom. I know precisely what I am talking about. Art as decoration, ornamental, as an emotional 'feel-good' accessory deserves my contempt. I cannot help it. There are beautiful ornamental works in arabic and persian culture, or even by contemporary Designers. But the 'idea' of 'art' is about something else. Art is serious business. "If art has nothing to do with life, than we don't need art" Ai Weiwei  

So I decided not to play along in the attention-seeking market, knowing I will never be a part of the circus, either the academic circus ("Philosopher? You don't publish, you are a nobody") the book-circus ("You're a writer? How many did you sell?") or an 'artist' ("Damien Hirst shocks the art-market")

I decided to keep things to myself. Most notes for books on philosophical topics or well advanced chapters of novels, short stories, essays are burnt, destroyed. All the good stuff, were I put more than just a couple of minutes into it is destroyed and/or lost by accident (I kept a map of best things from 20 years and it was destroyed - a true moment of enlightenment).

You did not, because you cannot, because you have not enough talent, endurance, strength

Valid arguments. I will not defend myself. I feel no need to. You are free to think what you want. I am not offended by any of it. I feed my self-esteem through other sources, closer to me. Tiny, gentle interactions with people around me. There is of course more to this. Things unspoken, words kept back. Topics unexplored, other unexplained. The sound of my voice, you cannot hear. The movement in my face and the glimpse in my eyes, not referred to in this 'text' that is no text. I became good in 'letting go'; of thoughts, work, people...

So, if you wonder, who is this guy? Here was a glimpse of me. Probably still not explaining what makes me tick. But I don't like to talk about myself anyways and this will be the longest self-indulgent piece ever, only to satisfy the curiosity of a few, who still care (which is humbling and flattering at the same time). I appreciate the comfort of strangers. In real life or online. 

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