Artist: Sarah Cain

Abstraction means: to induce from a concrete example a general concept. In themselves, both the abstract and the concrete are tricky. The merely concrete and particular is insignificant and evades definition, the merely abstract is empty or an illusion/delusion. Yet, in order to be productive, to understand the world and to create, the human mind needs to operate within the spectrum of abstraction and concretisation/substantiation, mirroring themselves in each other. (Note: as I am now done with this note, I cannot find a further possibility to refer to that introductory remark at another occasion in the text, so that it is actually useless, but for some reason, I´ll just let it be.)

Abstract painting – with the first true abstract paintings made by Frantisek Kupka in 1912 – set in at the beginning of the 20th century. A specific desire behind abstract painting was to make visible and tangible the human mind itself – as well as to expand and to broaden it, not only via the means of art and painting but also via science and via spirituality, therein also broadening the understanding of the world. The main figures behind abstract painting, Kupka, Kandisky or Malevich, were deeply intellectual, introspective and spiritual persons. It seemed an undertaking in diving into the depths of the mind and throwing up something new, something enigmatic, that, via its abstract forms, is able express the inexpressible itself: the depths and the frontiers of the mind, as well as the horizon of our understanding of the world, and of what possibly could lie beyond that horizon, or beyond that world (therein both the primordial and originary as well as the „spheres“ and the „divine“). Malevich´s Black Square seems to express a wormhole of introspection, a vibrant intensification of introspection, where you mentally destroy or leave behind common knowledge and understanding in order to come out in a new region of the universe with something new (in the case of Malevich it would enable him to later come up with novelties in figurative painting, while Kandinsky stayed inside the abstract realm and Klee coming up with a childlike and virgin amalgamation of abstraction and figuration). Abstract Expressionism would try to express the divine and untouchable via abstraction and make it tangible, reduce the content in order to open up and expand the mind and the spirit; Minimalism would reduce and shape a content in order to express a metaphysics of (enigmatic) presence and coexistence of man with (objects within) the world. Gerhard Richter´s grey paintings from the 1970s by contrast were about using (monochromous and monotonous) abstraction not to express the „spheres“, the „divine“ or anything metaphysical, but to flat out express its opposite: mindlessness and indifference. From that time on, grand narratives, respectively undertakings of art as a spiritual, intellectual, metaphysical endeavour have become falling apart, with interesting things popping up here and there, yet they remain localised. And new impulses to abstract painting seem even rarer.

Sarah Cain (b. 1979 in Albany, New York, resides in Los Angeles) refers to herself as an abstract painter. Like Duncan Wylie she is no super famous artist today, yet she is the coolest thing I have seen in painting since Duncan Wylie (whom I discovered almost ten years ago). Her art is described as „like seeing a rainbow in the middle of a forest“ by poet Bernadette Mayer. I have to say, such a stunning effect it also had on me. It is a combination of mastery over color and (some innate, finally intellectually indecipherable) mastery over form that produces something mesmerising. A highly sensitive person (i.e. excessively open to perceptual stimuli of all kind), Sarah Cain makes dense paintings, in which there is, nevertheless, astounding room for maneuver. I cannot think so quickly of other painters, at least not in the contemporary period, that have such a room for maneuver in combining colors and forms, and, moreover, that produce such astonishingly exact yet unforeseeable results without an apparent underlying formula, since you actually seem to have but a potpourri of stuff and of elements. There are gestural brushstrokes which often make strict rectangular or geometric (i.e. supposedly anti-gestural) forms that are present in most of her paintings, and which I like because they signify the upright, and the challenging and the (near) sublime, they are stern; and they are contrasted with floating forms, waves, or splashes which creates some kind of interesting harmony (between some kind of opposites). There are often (seemingly unmotivated) big black dots that seem to have no function (apart from creating a hole) but that Sarah Cain, as she confesses, herself likes a lot. There often are textiles or objects included in her paintings and one of her innovations was to expand the painting over the edges of the canvas, into the surrounding, which so becomes part of the artwork. Therein, her paintings also become sort of environments, and often she directly interferes with the environment as she does graffiti, paints whole street corners (for instance a street corner in L.A. where there is the epicenter of the city´s trans-prostitution scene, i.e. making the queerest corner of L.A. even queerer), or paints glass windows (most recently at San Francisco International Airport). All of this seems to happen quickly and fervently, yet out of a position of coolness. Sarah Cain seems to just stand there, or do yoga, then get the brush, paint all over something stunning and indisputable, then walk on. Sarah Cain comes, paints, and wins. So it seems. Sarah Cain´s paintings are – without any obvious formula – extremely robust and stable. Unlike most other productions in art, they are able to stand on themselves. They are, above all, extremely tasty. Very tasty stuff – that cannot be actually explained, but that wins over the intellectual, the critic, as it just is (and needs no addenda). It is true that that this art seems not deeply intellectual nor metaphysical either: the introspective element, the introspective endeavour doesn´t seem to have omnipresence (yet Sarah Cain is still young, and, for instance, Barnett Newman came up with his excessive stylistic contemplations later in life) (my neighbour Wolfgang ruminated that there may be less density and presence in her paintings in the future, but more of a meditative restriction and absence). Yet there undoubtely is an expansion within abstract painting, and you may find that in this combination of elements you may have a display of the totality of the human mind, and it is playful, it is colorful, and it is innocent. Sarah Cain is a GREAT painter and she is a VITAL figure in the history of abstract painting.

Thus spake Zarathustra

Homage to Betty Davis

Miles Davis was a genius within 20th century music and Betty Mabry was the short-time wife who had been „too wild for Miles“. She is considered funk music´s „deepest secret and most painful truth“. For me personally, she ranks #2 on the list of distinguished phenomena within popular music.

Betty Mabry was born July 26, 1945 in North Carolina into a music-loving family and began to write songs already in childhood (she said, she had always felt that something was inside her that needed to reveal itself and that needed to come out). At age 16, she moved to New York, to enroll at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she quickly became part of the hip Greenwich Village culture scene. Due to her extravagant taste she successfully worked as a model and became a center of attention also for musicians, including Sly Stone, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix to whom she became especially close. In 1968 she got married to Miles Davis, and although the divorce would come only one year later (with Miles admitting that Betty had been „too young and wild“), she had a considerable influence on his further artistic and stylistic direction. Miles Davis had become outdated in the late 1960s, yet with the help of Betty he managed not only to catch up with the hippie and psychedelic movement but also to become once more avant-gardist in jazz with his album Bitches Brew, where he would introduce electronic instruments into jazz and with which he would initiate jazz fusion. In 1973 Betty Davis released her own and self-titled debut album, a funk album, yet also an album that sounded like nothing anyone had ever heard before. Supported by a phenomenal band, you had an extremely heavy and raw, edgy and intense funk that would come in a strangely originate and primordial way, some kind of music that did not seem to have true or logical predecessors and that did not match up with any expectations. It seemed to be even a comment and some meta thing about how music could sound or could be conceived, i.e. something profoundly intellectual and philosophical, while at the same time being profoundly visceral (i.e. an extreme in both the cultural „highs“ and „lows“ (yet, as it would unfortunately turn out as concerns prospects for mainstream success, nothing in between)). Betty herself would come in as something more independent and originate than any woman´s liberation movement could have conceived at that time (and ever since), touching tricky and „forbidden“ subjects with baffling originality and naturalness. She was no great singer, yet overcompensated it with an extremely powerful vocal performance, which you would attribute rather to some big black mama and not a delicate being like her. This mix added up to something that comes in as heavy and confrontational as, maybe, heavy metal, despite metal would rise to such a level of sonic intrasingence and intensity only a decade later. On top of that, Betty Davis displayed a stage personae that was larger than life and more human than human all the like: a dominant, sexualised and forceful woman who is commanding and perfectly in control of herself (therein also not exactly helping herself in turning her into a sex object (for a larger audience), as she remained profoundly subjective). At the same time, her private persona was described as very different: thoughtful, sober and introverted, and, above all, „very spiritual“ in her own manner. Also, despite cranky anthems like Bar Hoppin` coming from her, she reportedly neither drank nor did she do drugs. Two more albums in the same fashion, They Say I`m Different (1974) and Nasty Gal (1975) would follow, while the fourth (and, as some say, the best), Is It Love or Desire? would only be released more than three decades later, in 2009. Tensions between Betty and the music industry and also between Betty and the band had become unsustainable within the recording process. During her career in the mid-1970s, Betty was a paradoxon: both a star and with great superstar potential, yet effectively a niche phenomenon. Muhammad Ali and other distinguished people would come to her concerts, artists like Prince would later cover her and rave about her as a major influence, while a more general audience would ignore her, radio stations would give her not airplay, and the mainstream media hardly touch upon her. Also the support of Miles did not get her much off the ground, and also not in the black community. „Black people are pretty appropriate“, she said, and at that time, after the end of official segregation in the 1960s, the majority of black people in America struggled to be accepted as „normal“ by the whites, i.e. copying some kind of petty bourgeois attitude that is naturally hostile to the extravagant and the exotic and sees it as a threat to their own integrity (as viewed by others). The (white) music industry tried to shape Betty and make her more mainstream-compatible, while she in turn wanted to remain in control over her artistic vision. Yet, with this stubbornness she has basically „ruined my career“, as she would later admit. The Funk Queen Betty Davis disappeared from the scene in the later 1970s. At the end of that decade she would nevertheless record songs in disco fashion that would only be released in the 1990s (Hangin´Out in Hollywood / Crashin For the Passion) – a failed experiment that is not even mentioned in her „official“ and „canonical“ biography. At the beginning of the 1980s, as her musical and artistic career seemingly had become directionless and she probably realised that there did not exist true outfits and outlets for her specific type of creativity in this world, also her beloved father died, which obviously took away a further fundamental source for her stability. She reportedly had a mental breakdown at that time, and began to vanish from the scene entirely. Somehow resemblant to another exuberant but short-lived genius of popular music, Syd Barret, Betty Davis lives in a small apartment in Pittsburgh ever since, although, unlike Syd, she does not refuse all contact to the outside world. There have been occasional celebrations and reissues of her albums every once in a while, and recently there has also been a documentary about her (Betty – They Say I´m Different, by Phil Cox), yet she remains an insider story until today. One wonders what this once highly flamboyant individual has been doing in such a long time and what has become of her. When she talks, she does so slowly and a bit hesitantly, but also in expressing herself in a precise way, with some warmth and interest for the other, while also keen to keep her privacy. Age and events seem to have taken their toll on her, yet at the same time she seems alert and aware, in control and grounded in herself. As she notes herself, her (though not absolute) silence is a (though not absolute) silence for good: (once a tormented creative), she has finally „found peace“.

The story of Betty Mabry Davis. Is it a story of success or of loss? Is it a story of the triumph of individuality or its perils, eventually causing breakdown? Nothing around the story of Betty Davis and the idiosyncratic appeal of her records seems easy to describe. There always seems to be something that evades such efforts. Betty Davis and her records had actually been a profound cultural phenomenon, one that shatters the earth; you would even think of a metaphysical event, a trembling in the universe. Nietzsche says, the genius wants to carve a trace into being, into the universe, he wants to trench existence. Upon reflection, such a thing you might have with Betty Davis. Yet why is there so little effect, of something so universal? Well, the paradoxon of the universal and the absolute is that it puts the local and the relative under threat, and its impact on the world is both little, but also lasting and profound, as it amalgamates the universal and the local anew. Religious figures are hardly those who found and institute a religion, its their disciples that will do. Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky remarks that the story of the genius is of universal appeal and significance, as the struggle of the genius illustrates the struggle of any individual to both become oneself and to unite, realign and reconcilliate oneself with society. The genius struggles for happiness; happiness, according to Tarkovsky, would be „complete freedom of the will“. Yet the more complete the freedom of the will, the more one would become detached from society and its norms and traditions and the possibilities to communicate with society; finally, such an individual would become „as lonely as Beelzebub“. The loneliness of the long distance runner (with Betty throwing the race, because it seems all so futile, for good). When you listen to Betty Davis, you are, and remain, under the impression that you are confronted with something distinctly residing above you, above your head and above your soul, a superior, (yet, as you sense, a therefore consequentially tragically) seperated entity. That does not make people feel they can relate, of course. „If you want to be an original, get ready to get copied“, said Coco Chanel. Yet unlike rebellious female icons within popular music, from Debbie Harry to Madonna to Pink, Betty Davis could not be truly copied. She was an almost insular being, composed of too many qualities – and having taken those qualities to their extremes – that may be in perfect harmony within herself but seen as oppositional or as a confusing mix from the perspective of regular people. She is one of the very rare individuals who are not even a part of society and cannot be influenced by society and its norms (for good) but reside above it; therefore, seeemingly, their powers to influence contemporaries a lot seems naturally restricted. Her problem was that she was not only different, but too different from anyone or anything else. Betty Davis´ records, not only her performance but also the music may seem confusing. They seem to transmit many messages. It is a music that is there, and very present, but also elusive. Vibrating, escalating, punching the line, alongside the pathless path. You´re always under the impression that this music has its own meta level inherent, it seems both music playing and music permanently evolving, improvising, creating itself, experiment with itself, and experiencing itself; frustrating expectations and then coming up with more than anyone would ever expect. It is highly interesting, and so she seems to end up with making music for people who are extremely interested in music. Yet, despite music being omnipresent and making the bourgeoisie and the rebel, most people, and mainstream audiences, aren´t truly interested in music. To reach them, you supposedly need to come up with something more uncomplicated (and who would ever think that the raw and terrifying funk of Betty´s records would be something for mainstream audiences in the first place?). Yet the heart of it all seems to be indifferent to such elitist ruminations: Betty was fed up with being a niche phenomenon for insiders. She wanted to become a true star. Yet, in order to become a great star, you have to come up with catchy music. Among her many talents, writing catchy popular music was not among them and her efforts to leave raw funk behind and turn into contemporary disco sounds proved lacklustre at all. She seems to have been – consciously or not – a philosopher of music, and the philosopher needs to stand aloof from society. She saw too many dimensions, and her music and artistic vision had many layers and was not only multidimensional but seemed to display dimensionality itself, and most people cannot truly see these dimensions, only the shadows which get projected into ordinary world. Betty Mabry Davis´ life probably has been a rare life outside Plato´s cave, the realm of shadowiness and obfuscation. She probably directly gazed into the „ideas“. Who ever gives an idea about the „ideas“? Hardly anyone gives an idea about the ideas! Think of an abstract space where music happens, or where anything happens. Near the coordinate origin, in the void, or in a white cube, something, some vibration, violently emerges, originary, primordial, yet already heavily armed and in full clothing: That is If I´m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up. That is like the heartbeat, that seperates being from nothingness. Who has ever done such a thing? It is a most genuine achievement.

Homage to Natalia Goncharova

Natalia Goncharova, femme fatale of the Russian avant-garde, was born June 21, 1881 in the region of Tula, 200 kilometers south to Moscow. Of noble descent and born into a highly educated family, one of her ancestors (after whom she was named Natalia) had been the wife of Alexander Pushkin (and inadvertedly responsible for Pushkin´s death in a duel about her). She went to school and became friends with Marina Tsvetaeva, who would later become one of Russia´s leading poets, and also a biographer of Goncharova. After school, Natalia tried to study zoology, botany, medicine and history, but after not fitting into the respective environments, she turned to study sculpture in Moscow. There she would meet fellow student Mikhail Larionov, who recognised her talent as a painter and convinced her to concentrate more on painting and to become part of what would soon become to be the Russian avant-garde. Larionov and Goncharova would remain a lifelong couple, living an obviously perfect relationship of equals who share the same interests and capabilities and being collaborators, yet also remain distinct enough to follow individual paths and not to become overpowered or distracted by each other. As an unmarried couple they would be seen as „scandalous“, yet also as powerful and independent: They would marry only late in their lives, in order to avoid legal trouble concerning their respective estates. Natalia Goncharova was described as a strong-willed and provocative personality, causing scandals not only in the art scene and living an exuberant lifestyle. In the 1910s, both Larionov and Goncharova quickly became successful not only in Russia, but also in Europe, and during the first world war both managed to move to Europe, to soon permanently settle in Paris, where Goncharova also worked as an art teacher and as a set and costume designer for the theatre.  Working for the theatre was not her major passion, yet since her flamboyant set designs and costumes would become very popular, it became her major source of income and also a means to continue to promote herself as a painter. In later years, public interest in the art of both Goncharova and Larionov waned, together with declining health of both it would make the life of the couple more complicated. In the mid-1950s the interest in their works would resurge, while their health, however, was on further decline. Plagued by arthritis in her final years, Natalia Goncharova died in her sleep on October 17, 1962, while Larionov had been at the hospital at the same time. He would pass away only two years later.

Natalia Goncharova´s trajectory as an artist was illustrious. Starting as a sculptor, she was soon to become one of the best and most promising students of her academy. Influenced by Mikhail Larionov she moved to painting, starting with Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, with Henri Toulouse-Lautrec being a major influence and idol for her. In accordance with the rapid development of stylistic innovations at that time, she would remain aware of what is going on around her, and also especially embrace Cubofuturism soon thereafter. Eager to develop a distinct „Russian“ avant-garde, she, and Russian avant-gardists in general, would begin to rely on „archaic“ traditions or approaches to painting, and amalgamate them with the most contemporary ones, resulting in Neo-Primitivism, therein also trying to amalgamate childlike innocence and spontaneity and sophisticated artistic intelligence and craftsmanship, as well as an affirmation of both future-directed modernity and being and remaining spiritually rooted in „Russian soil“. Religious motives and iconography would remain a constant topic in her work all the same, as well as the depiction of farmers (as a child she had preferred rural over urban life). Larionov and Goncharova would also come up with an original stylistic innovation, „Rayonism“, which is about depicting light itself respectively objects via the way they reflect light. She was a great colorist (and it was her talent as a colorist that originally made Larionov encourage her to shift from sculpturing to painting). She was competent in portraying figures both via contour as well as via the „forces“ and intensities that seem to constitute that figure in the respective environment. Fluent in many styles, Goncharova was able to come up with interesting and intuitive solutions about how impressionist or cubofuturist depictions could look like, displaying an innate command over artistic depiction in general. Goncharova, Larionov and others of their circle would advocate a pluralism of styles and cement it theoretically and philosophically.

Above all, what seems most striking is the sheer humanity in the art of Natalia Goncharova. Without being naive, her depiction of the world, of humans and of animals is of great dignity and sweetness. It seems Natalia Goncharova had a very harmonious soul. Unfortunately, such is a rare occurence, not least in the arts.

Mikhail Larionov: Natalia Goncharove sleeping

In Memoriam Liliana Alam

I recognised that Liliana Alam passed away last year. Once we got into a fight and she kicked me off her friend´s list but we befriended each other again. I printed out her whole novel (The Exposition of Mastery) and mentioned her in my Book of Strange and Unproductive Thinking and I stole and translated a poem from her. This is very sad.



Der Flughafen: menschenleer wie nur irgendwas, so wie es sich gehört. Dort vorne biegt sie um die Ecke und kommt in entschlossenem und wiegendem Gang, die stöckelschuhbeschuhten Füßchen eines vor das andere entlang einer imaginären Linie vor ihrer Körpermitte setzend den leeren Gang mir entgegen und singt:

Wenn du nichts fühlst, so besitzt du alles!

Wenn du alles besitzt, so fühlst du!

Nenn das Ego eine Illusion

  • Und so wird alles zu einer Illusion!

Die Show, die Lügen, das Spiel,

Der ganze Pomp, die Umstände, sowie all die Leichtigkeit…

Doch! Ohne es – da ist nichts mehr übrig!

Kein Rückgrat, kein Rahmen, Hände nicht, Beine nicht!

Wenn ich dich deiner Illusionen entkleide,

Wenn du mich meiner selbst entkleidest,

Was wird dann von uns noch übrig sein?

Wie kann das Nichts glänzen, scheinen?

Das aber ist: wirklich.

Du fühlst das,

Genauso wie ich es tue.

Ach, doch dieses Gefühl kann uns nicht nähren noch kleiden

Und diese Lügen gereichen der Liebe zur Schande.

Die Käfige unserer Welt, sie sind erbarmungslos

Ihre Drähte, ihr Stahl blank, trocken, materiell.

Die Matrix hat keinen Ausgang!

Ihre Gänge, die scheinbaren Ausgänge zirkeln wieder zurück zu Punkt A.

Ändere das! Ändere es! Ändere es! Revidiere die Osmose!

Schlag dir einen Weg durch ein Wurmloch

Zu einem Jahrhundert, das lange der Vergangenheit angehört!

Denn das alles, alles mit uns, hat sich schon vor langer Zeit ebenso ereignet

An einem beliebigen anderen Ort, mit beliebigen anderen Namen!

Fühle: Nichts!



Nichts, es ist mein!

Vielleicht kannst du mir einen Ausweg aus der Illusion zeigen.

Doch welche Wahrheit würden wir dadurch gewinnen?

Vielleicht kannst du mir den Weg zeigen.

Vielleicht hast du einen Weg geschlagen, dort wo ich scharfe Messer geworfen habe.

Du hast mich missbraucht, ermordet und vernichtet.

Ich danke dir dafür!

Jetzt ist sie mir schon den halben Weg entgegen, von rechts zieht ein Kerl ohne Unterleib vorbei, der auf einem rollenden Koffer sitzt und sich mit Bügeleisen in den Händen nach vorne angelt; sagt der teilnahmslos:

Nichts, schöne Frau, nichts und niemand

Ist jemals geboren, noch stirbt er.

Da draußen gibt es allein eine willkürliche Bewegung von Teilchen

Die sich zusammenschließen und sich wieder entkoppeln.

Das ewige, planlose Chaos

Das jedoch der ewige Friede ist,

Der ewige Friede.

Allein wir sind es, die all dem Bedeutung beimessen,

Die Lust und Schmerz erzeugen

Und sie für eine Realität halten.

Und uns vor dem ewigen Chaos fürchten,

Und das Chaos für eine negative Textur der Realität halten.

Doch allein das Chaos ist Friede.

Begreife: Nichts und niemand wird geboren, noch stirbt er.

Nichts und niemand wird geboren, noch stirbt er.

Alles allein eine ewige Verwandlung.

Vertrau mir: Ich bin Doktor der Quantenmechanik!

Und jetzt aber komme ich ins Spiel! Ich stehe am Ende des Ganges, sie kommt immer näher lächelnd auf mich zu, der Nullbeinige ist an mir vorbeigezogen; ich öffne die Arme und singe:

Ach Nullbeiniger! Leider! Ich fühle mich in keiner Weise eins und verbunden mit dem Quantenschaum und den Faxen, die der Quantenschaum macht; abgesehen davon, dass es den Quantenschaum so vielleicht gar nicht gibt! Tatsächlich werden wir geboren, sterben, empfinden Lust und Schmerz, das ist das Kreuz, auf das wir genagelt sind! Eben deswegen, weil das real ist, haben manche das Zen- und das Tao-Ding entwickelt, die mich in mancher Hinsicht ansprechen, in anderen Aspekten allerdings abstoßen. Wie aber auch immer, diejenigen, die in den Urschlamm getaucht sind und aus dem Dreck des Urschlammes wieder hervorgekommen sind, siegreich, mit den Konzepten wie Zen oder Tao, waren solche, die zweifelsohne die Matrix gesehen haben, das Über-Alles, den Chaosmos, denn der Genius zeichnet sich dadurch aus, dass er die Matrix sieht. Die Möglichkeit einer subjektiven Wahrheit von objektiver Gültigkeit. Wenn du in die Matrix schaust, treffen Laserstrahlen, Sternenlicht, Supernovae und Gammastrahlenausbrüche dein verdammtes inneres Auge! Schau, wie die Blume entsprießt, in Sekundenschnelle wächst und blüht und schon wieder vergeht. Alles in Sekundenschnelle. Und schon eine neue Blume, und noch einmal dasselbe. Und dann: Was für eine umso größere Schande, was für eine größere Desillusion ist die nackte Wirklichkeit, wenn man sie im Anschluss an diese Erfahrung betrachtet, in der man sich gefangen sieht, schließlich ist man ein Mensch, oh weh! Da ist ganz und gar nichts Magisches, alles ist rational und geordnet. Es kann sein, vielleicht, dass, wenn du in die Realität schaust, einen riesigen menschlichen Mund siehst, weit offen zu einem stummen Schrei, vor deinem geistigen Auge. Möglicherweise riecht der Mund seltsam, zumindest aber nicht ausgesprochen seltsam, denn das ist die Realität. Zwischen einem Punkt A und einem Punkt B ist da eine fixe Distanz. Fünf Meter; fünfzig Meter; fünfhundert Meter. Fixe Distanzen: das ist die Wirklichkeit. Und als dir das bewusst wird, löst sich dein betrachtendes inneres Auge von alldem schon wieder ab, rutscht ab wie auf einer nassen, glitschigen Scheibe, in das Andere, die Anderwelt von neuem. Ist das die Beschaffenheit deines Geistes, so bist du ein Exzentriker, ein Außenseiter. Gelingt es dir, dieses Spiel zu gewinnen, aus dem Urschlamm einen weißen Palast zu errichten mit unzähligen, stets neu zu entdeckenden Räumen und geheimen Gängen, all dies in helles, doch mildes Licht getaucht, so bist du der Genius oder aber die heilige Frau. Ich habe gesprochen.

Stirb als Mensch. Erstehe neu als Unsterblicher. Das ist der Punkt des Quantenaufstiegs, sagt sie jetzt direkt vor mir angekommen und in selbstbewusstem Ausdruck, die Hände in die Hüften gestemmt, den rechten stöckelschuhbeschuhten Fuß nach außen vor mir stehenbleibend. Wir verstehen uns.

Andrei Tarkovsky

Some consider Ingmar Bergman the greatest director of the 20th century. But Bergman himself considers Tarkovsky as the most important filmmaker, because he was able to find a language that captures the essence of film: life as a dream… Indeed, Tarkovsky time and again let something very profound happen. His films bear enormous gravity. They express: What happens here, is art. Solaris, Stalker, Andrei Rublev et al. are impenetrable walls. Maybe they´re the Absolute. The Absolute is indifferent to human thinking and to human opinions. The Absolute only gives orders, but never accepts any. The Absolute is, beyond so-called perfection, the full actualisation of the potential of something. Solaris, Stalker, Andrei Rublev et al. are, probably, the nonplusultra of cinema as an art form. My aim is to elevate film to the same rank as that of the other arts, to achieve that film becomes acknowledged as a from of art no less profound that music, poetry, prose, etc., Tarkovsky writes in his diary, on December 31 1973.

Otto Weininger says, art is about treating the great enigmas of existence. As such, art operates at the boundaries to the metaphysical realm („life as a dream“). The great artist, according to Weininger, stands in a conscious relationship to the universe, to the world as a whole, in the oeuvre of the great artist you experience the pulse of the Ding an sich. Only few artists, nevertheless, operate at such a level of intellectual analysis and integration and of perception. Among filmmakers, Tarkovsky likely stands on top. Andrei Rublev may be his most expressive film about the task of man to bear existence as a whole; his later works, Nostalghia and The Sacrifice (and also Stalker) express the same thing more tacitly, while the films of his middle period, Solaris, Mirror and Stalker are more primarily about the confrontation of man with his own innermost subjectivity (as the instrument with which he can grasp objective reality). Art is about expressing the status of man and of mankind, i.e. of the subject, in an objective reality, and about finding and expressing objective truths about this subject/ive-object/ive relationship that can be experienced by the subject. (By contrast, science is about investigating objective reality and the objective dimensions of the subject, and (existential) philosophy is about (not expressing but) defining the nature of the subject/ive-object/ive relationship and finding out truths that adress the objective intellect of the subject, whereas art would rather adress the (more subjective) faculty of imagination of the subject.) Tarkovsky takes this task extremely serious. To him, the artist is someone who, with all his energy, open and directly, within his specific ecological niche, strives for attainmant of definite truth. Tarkovsky is dismissive about the notion of art as a means of self-expression, of art as a strange endeavour of eccentric personalities who only strive for legitimation of the unique value of their self-centered actions. Within art, individuality is not confirmed, but serves a more general, and higher idea. The artist is a servant who needs to pay a contribution for the talent that has been given to him like a miracle. Modern man does not want to sacrifice himself, although true individuality can only be achieved via sacrifices. Deep down, art, and any endeavour, becomes highly ethical in nature, because ethics refer to the deep laws that govern existence and that establish solidity out of contingency. Although I attribute great significance to the subjective notions of an artist and his personal worldview, I am against arbitrariness and anarchy. What is important is the worldview and the ethical purpose and ambition. Masterpieces derive from the desire to express ethical ideals (…) if (the artist) loves life, he will feel the urge of a necessity to understand life and to contribute to its improvement (…) His oeuvre will then be the result of a spiritual endeavour about human perfection, expression of a worldview that captivates through its harmony of thinking and feeling, through its dignitity and through its simplicity. These are the intellectual and spiritual endeavours that are behind great art. Therein, in treating the great enigmas of existence and trying to find out universal truths and ethical ideals, art, like science, philosophy and religion is a department, a faculty of the Geist, of the absolute spirit, the capability for reflecting and investigating our existence.  

In contrast to the other faculties of the mind – science, philosophy and religion – art is not normative nor definitive, but expressive and evocative in the outlining of truths. Its language is poetry, and Tarkovsky would even consider film as the most poetic of all arts. Poiesis literally means „to make“, „to create“, to reveal and to unconceal, i.e. to lay bare „hidden“ meaning, to make visible the unseen. Poetry is both about creation as well as perception of a potential that lies within something that is already there. Such „hidden“ meanings and relations are usually not discovered by the rational intellect, but by a distinctive faculty to make associations to given subjects, between remote subjects, between subjects whose relatedness seems counterintuitive or paradoxical to the purely rational mind, etc. Poetry lets us experience that there is „something more“ to the words that express it or to the subject it tries to express, it establishes relations and connections between things and concepts. Poetic language uses harmony, melody, rhyme, juxtaposition etc. to enrich the possibilities of perception and understanding of its mere propositional content. Finally, something highly poetic is something that carries all the possibilities for connection and association within itself. That is also what makes the quality of a soul. It would mean, the possibility to make connections and relations becoming the propositional content itself. Connections are a good thing. The more connections you can make, the richer and more colorful will be your life. If you see the world via a peception of „connectedness“ (as does the artist), you will have an inherently ethical perspective. More or less all my films are about humans are not living in solitude in the world, instead they are connected via countless threads to the past and to the future. So that every man can connect his personal fate to that of the world and of humanity. Connections, of course, have to be real, else they aren´t authentic. The great artist makes intellectual and spiritual associations and connections that seem both highly original and productive AND just a „mere insight“ into an essence that has already and always been there. Both confirms his authenticity (i.e. the authenticity of the original and productive subject and the capacity of insight into the „merely“ objective reality and the faculty of the individual to get „grounded“).

Likewise, Tarkovsky has been noted for using „symbolic“ film language, yet his „symbols“ are more than that. Symbols, metaphors, allegories are a signifier for another signifier (and, as such, do not even necessarily relate to a signified), they do not create a space in which „magical“ connections seem to become a possibility. A symbol is only a true symbol when it is inexhaustible and umlimited, when, in a secret language, it suggests something inexpressible in words, Tarkoski quotes Russian poet Vjacheslav Ivanov, and says by himself that irrespective of our inability to perceive the world as a whole, in its totality, the image may express this totality. Tarkovsky´s images are so extremely careful and sophisticated that they seem to unconceal the entire potential that lies within the respective situation, including the imaginary, ethical, aesthetic potential that lies within any given situation – as well as the potential for terror and alienation that also may lurk right around the corner (therein, Tarkovsky´s images seem to contain all three Lacanian registers – the register of the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real – at once: I cannot, for the moment, think of any director or of many other artists who have achieved something like that). Tarkovsky´s „symbols“ are evocative without a deeper meaning, so they become a placeholder for presence and Being itself, in its inexpressilility and unspeakableness, in its concreteness and ability to affect as well as in its remoteness and uncommunicativess. More than just being suggestive and evocative, they become placeholders for suggestiveness. I think only poets will remain in the history of cinema. Poets make their own world and not merely reproduce the world around them, Tarkovsky says in an interview. That all adds up that Tarkovsky´s films are symbols for existence itself. They express existence in a way that includes the poetic and metaphysical aspects of existence, as something that is inherent to „physical“ existence.

Nevertheless, the „physical“ and the metaphysical aspects of existence are distinguished spheres. The great topic of Tarkovsky´s work is the need for balance of both the material as well as the spiritual needs of man; to understand man as both an earthly and a „divine“, an immanent and a transcedent being – with all the confusion and difficulties, if not aporias, this double nature may bring about, especially in the modern era. As a Russian, Tarkovsky felt the ambivalences of an individualistic, rational modernity, clashing with a collectivist, spiritual pre-modernity more acute – and his sympathies are more directed to the notion of a pre-modern embeddedness in spirituality. Of course, he does not deny rationality and modernity, the „spirit of enlightenment and of the west“, but he is melancholic about the gradual – respectively the substantial – cultural loss of spirituality. To him, precisely due to this loss of spirituality and sense for (collectivistic)  embeddedness, the fetish of modernisation and of western society – to enable individuality, free from constraint – becomes undermined and devoid of its own true foundation. To Tarkovsky, the fundamental flaw within modern, industrial civilisation, including communism, is that modern civilisation tries to solve all of man´s problems in an impersonal and top-down way. Within modern civilisation, including communism, man becomes comforted. Because if this, individual man does not need to make true individual sacrifices any longer. Yet this means, according to Tarkovsky, that individuality becomes depleted: True individuality only can come into being when the individual has „been through“ existential struggle, has experienced that there is a transpersonal sphere (society, the other, human values, the own spiritual nature of man who is, necessarily, embedded in the world, religion, etc.) and has made a sacrifice, i.e. given up some of his individuality for an ethical purpose, which realigns man to the transpersonal and, therein, truly enriches him, embedds him and individualises him. If man wants to improve the world, he first needs to improve himself (via the sacrifice): via the sacrifice, balance between the material and the spiritual sphere can be achieved. The many paradoxes, traps and possibilities alongside this journey are what Tarkovsky´s films are about. Man is not created for happiness; happiness, as such, does not exist … I think man is born to fight between good and evil, and to enrich his character spiritually in this struggle … if the meaning of life is to enrich oneself spiritually, then art is about spirituality … art enriches spirituality and art unleashes the „free will“ of man. „Free will“ is paradoxical. „Free will“ would mean the freedom of the mind. Yet complete freedom of the mind would cut off the individual from any society, would make society impossible. Therein, true freedom can only be achieved via the free-will, voluntary sacrifice, via which man would lose some of his earthly freedom, in order to become free in the transpersonal sphere, the realm of ideals. Tarkovsky´s films are about quasi-religious acts in a modern world. Religious acts will always remain the most profound of acts and endeavours of the individual, since they´re transcendent and adress the core of the individual, the soul, and the reconciliation of the soul with the „great other“. Art is born of an ill-designed world … if the world was perfect, art would be unnecessary, Tarkovsky says. Yet he also says that, apart from the artistic image, man has never created anything without self-interest. Therein, creating artistic images is probably the true meaning of human existence. Perhaps man´s ability to create artistic images shows that man has been created in the image of God.

All of Tarkovsky´s heros are both far from „God“, as well as very close to „God“. They are in heavily eccentric situations, in a condition of great Seinsferne. Ivan is a voluntary, monomaniac child soldier in the second world war; Andrei Rublev is a monk and an artist; Kelvin confronts an enigmatic alien intelligence in outer space; Stalker lives for one part as a criminal at the margin of society and fort he other part in the Zone; Andrei Gorchakov is in Italy and cannot connect and Alexander lives in a remote place in remote country and feels alienated from his past. Yet, they all are also closer to the mysteries, the abyss, the iron laws of existence, the cruel contingecies of existence, the cruel contingencies that – to a considerable degree – are existence. It is a paradox of this existence, that it is through their extreme individualism that artists, and people in general, are able to find and re/discover authentic human values; that it is through personal eccentricity that an individual may become universal. Tarkovsky´s films are about enduring existence as a whole, about a nostalgia for an existence that is ganzheitlich. They are about the soul – of the individual and of humanity – finding rest in something that is absolute. And they are also about the traps alongside this pathless path, and the possible flaws and fallacies, contradictions and paradoxes that are inherent to these concepts and notions. The quest for harmony may just enhance disharmony. Pushkin was more modest than others (as he did not fall prey to bombastic ideas about Russian culture as the most indispensable of all the world´s), … Pushkin´s genius was more harmonious, because of this. The genius of Tolstoi, Dostojevsky, Gogol was disharmonic, embodied in a conflict of these writers with the authenticity of their own visions. Dostojevsky did not believe in god, but he would have liked to. He had nothing in which he could believe. Pushkin has to be considered higher, since, to him, Russia was not the Absolute, Tarkovsky ruminated in hid diary, April 16 1979, Monday, 2 in the morning). The genius, and, to a lesser degree, humanity, strives to adapt present society and humanity to an ideal society and humanity. This is very complicated and even the ideas about an ideal society and humanity are, in most cases, flawed. Ideals and the Absolute only exist outside society and humanity, in a seperate realm. Therefore, for maintaining your sanity, also ideals and also the Absolute should be considered as something relative, something Pushkin obviously managed to do. A definite meaning of life can and should not exist, ruminates Tarkovsky further. If there was a definitive meaning to our lives, our lives would become robotic. Therefore, the quest for the meaning of life and for ideals can only remain, in character, a quest.

To Tarkovsky, cinema is the major art form to express time. Cinema is a „mosaic of time“, according to him; the basic idea of film as an art is time captured in its factual forms and phenomena. Apart from Ivan, all of Tarkovsky´s characters are dynamic characters; or static characters, individuals stuck into something, confronted with the need to become more dynamic and to open up. Human immaturity and the need for self-actualisation via finally becoming mature is the great topic of Tarkovsky all the same. Maturation and actualisation is a process that happens within time, within a process of consciously experienced time, a Bergsonian durée, an internal time of the subject. Mirror, coincidentally the most „middle period“ of Tarkovsky´s films (and considered by some as the quintessence of his oeuvre (whereas Tarkovsky himself would rather refer to The Sacrifice as his most important contribution)), is the most conscious reflection on subjectivity and a clarification of subjectivity, looking at oneself (not via the Solaris or the Zone but) via the mirror of one´s own memories and experiences. In Mirror, memory seems to become liberated from antiquity or objectification, it becomes intensely, and in a non-hierachical way re-experienced. Memory becomes enlivened, and so the subject and the own subjetivity becomes enlivened and conscious. At the end of Mirror, when Tarkovsky´s mother, pregnant with her son, sees herself passing by in the future, you may have an experience of „ecstatic time“ in the Heideggerian sense, where the past fills the present and the future is already there, i.e. where you have, via the experience of time, your own whole subjectivity enlivened and „on your monitor“. By having your own subjectivity at hand in such a way, you may then confront the interior of the Zone courageously (or let it be for good). The most important thing that a human can possess is an eternally restless conscience (…) What interests me most about humans is the readiness to serve higher purposes, an unwillingness, maybe even an inability to conform to common philistine „morals“. I am interested in an individual who considers the meaning of his life the struggle against evil and who, within his life, reaches at least a somehow higher spiritual ground. Conscience is a call both from the past and from the future, adressing the individual in the present. In that fashion, Tarkovsky´s cinema necessarily is about time. As concerns the Mirror, a film that initially faced heavy criticism for alleged narcissism of the director within a self-centered self portrait, it soon served as a mirror to Tarkovsky´s more sympathetic audience. Many saw their own experiences and their own memories in this (partially) highly individualistic film, a mirror through which they can see themselves, and were grateful to Tarkovsky. Everything that tortures me and that I long for, what upsets me and what I detest – all that I can see like in a mirror in your film … and this is the reason I watch it over and over again – in order to live with it and through it, a woman – worker and proletariean – wrote to Tarkovsky.

Like his central characters Andrei Rublev, Alexander or Stalker, Tarkovsky, as an artist seeking purification, himself had to carry a cross in a world that is, to some considerable degree, antithetical to such values. In Tarkovsky´s case, it was a latent obscene rejection of his work by the authorities in his native country, the Soviet Union, finally leading to his exile in the last years of his life (putting him under intense psychological strain of nostalgia and home sickness). What a strange country that does not want international fame and recognition of our art and that does not want neither good books not good films! True art scares them. That is natural. Art scares them, because art is something human. They, however, try to suppress anything alive and vivid, all seeds for humanism … they will not rest until they have killed off any sign of autonomy and degraded human personality to livestock, Tarkovsky notes in his diary on February 23 1972. The authorities of the Soviet Union tried to solve all of its peoples` problems, in an authoritarian way, insecure and with an inferiority complex against the more successful western democracies. As a true artist, Tarkovsky was an individual and adressing man as an individual, i.e. beyond the sphere of politics, and therefore was something naturally evasive to (Soviet) political authorities, something an insecure authority will try to suppress. Due to his high rank, Tarkovsky also seemed to offend mediocrity, not only the mediocrity within Soviet authorities but also the, more or less, forced upon collective mediocrity on the Soviet people by these authorities, in the spirit of socialism. Hence, the often absurd and contradictory treatment of Tarkovsky by the regime was but an expression of the absurd and contradictory character of the regime itself, or, more general, an expression of the ambiguous love-hate relationship between spiritual man and mundane world, an expression of the this extraordinary drama … about the eternal problem of the higher standing spiritual individual that has to confront a mundane and dirty reality (Tarkovsky about Shakespeare´s Hamlet, which he wanted to put into film as well). The outstanding and „eccentric“ Soviet director Sergej Parajanov, to whom Tarkovsky held a dear and mutual friendship (considered, by their surroundings, as not so common among great artists who usually are eager to defend their own territory against each other), was subject to even more brutal treatment by the authorities. Eisenstein is considered the archetypical Soviet director, yet Tarkovky considers his own way of doing film as contrarian to that of Eisenstein. Eisenstein is despotic, as he wants to express ideas and concepts instead of inner experiences, and force those ideas and concepts upon the audience. Tarkovsky, by contrast, wants to adress the subjective imagination of the viewer. In an insecure regime, that may even be considered as an act of subversion. Not very much is necessary to be receptive to art. One just needs an alert, a sensitive soul that is open for beauty and for the good, capable of direct aesthetic experience. In Russia, for instance, there were many people among my audience who did not have a very high level of education or knowledge. In my opinion, this faculty for receptiveness of a man is innate and is interdependent with his spirituality, writes Tarkovsky.For those who are not so spiritual, this spirituality may easily be a cause of offense. „A great man is a catastrophe for society“ – Chinese proverb, Tarkovsky noted in his diary on February 18 1976.

According to Tarkovsky, the essence of man lies in being a creator. While the essence of woman lies in the submission to man out of love. The posh and sophisticated lady is denied the entrance to the Zone by Stalker, where she would confront the essence (or: absence) of her soul. The pseudo-woman Harey, created by both Kelvin and the Solaris, lacks an own essence, but becomes an individual in her voluntary self-annihilation as a sacrifice in order to „release“ Kelvin. The primitive Doruchka is chosen by Andrei Rublev as a companion as he mistakes her, due to her simplicity and uneducatedness, as a „natural being“, more pure and closer to God, but leaves him as she choses to follow her own (and legitimate) interests. Eugenia is both hysterical and possessive, but also desperate and the embodiment of an urge to live in fulfillment in the „here and now“ that fails, however, to release Gorchakov from his stubborn melancholia. Alexander´s wife, Adelaide, is hysterically self-centered to a degree to which she cannot even think of anything or empathise with anyone. Writer will find the true miracle of his journey not to reside inside the Zone, but in the love and affection Stalker receives from his wife at the end, after the journey. According to Tarkovsky, this is also meant to be the true message of Stalker. However, it may be sad to find out that Stalker´s wife loves him and chooses to be his companion, despite all the difficulties and terror such a lifestyle inflicts upon her (and her child), for obviously quite selfish reasons, as „a bitter happiness is better than a boring life“, i.e. as a lesser of two evils for her – therein, however, likely only mirroring the „egocentricity“ of Stalker who (as an allegory for a holy man or an artist) cannot help but trying to bring people to a supposedly higher truth, despite all the disappointment and failure it brings about for him, and, probably, anyone. The maid Maria is in no way possessive nor hysterical, and one is under the impression that she consoles Alexander in a way that borderlines the ridiculous (You poor man … what have they done to you? … Let me help you … You poor man…!). However, that may be just, one wonders, how it should actually be done. How people should treat each other! Therein, Alexander is one of the few, and maybe the highest example, among Tarkovsky´s heroes to „transgress the phantasma“ and carry out a true sacrifice. Tarkovsky acknowledges that he finds it difficult to love people and admits that I do not love myself enough, so I do not love people enough. That may have been true or an overly strict self-criticism of a sensitive man (or of an intelligent man: I cannot approach people with sympathy, they annoy me…). Therein, it is apparent that he wants woman to save him, with her love. „Woman is the phantasma of man“, or so the story goes in Lacanian psychology.

My aim is to elevate film to the same rank as that of the other arts, to achieve that film becomes acknowledged as a from of art no less profound that music, poetry, prose, etc., Tarkovsky writes in his diary, on December 31 1973. In his case, the mission was accomplished. Tarkovsky´s films, Tarkovsky´s images are something more profound than real life. Moreover, they seem to be as profound as any profoundness can possibly get. His subjects are more profound than real life. Moreover, they seem to be as profound as any profoundness can possibly get, for any conscious, intelligent creature, not merely humans (since all conscious, intelligent creatures supposedly are subjugated to the same metaphysical limitations as anyone else). They are about true self-actualisation, via „transgressing the phantasma“ of selfhood, morality and personality by elevating the subject to transpersonal entity that subjugates itself, and therefore becomes affiliated and absorbed into a higher, noumenal sphere, the sphere of transpersonal LAWS of existence. The instances that confront man with the abyss of existence, and with his own abyss (like the Solaris, the Zone, Italy or a real or imagined nuclear war), are unintelligible, probably irrational, probably even malicious. They are contingent and products of the hyper-chaos no less than man, and maybe need man as a mirror to achieve clarity about themselves. They are mirrors of man´s, and of a person´s own contigency. The ways men confront these instances are full of traps, the parcours through the Zone (which is nothing less than life itself) is complicated, and few take the risk of even consciously trying. The „sacrifices“ Tarkovsky´s characters undergo can barely be distinguished from acts of madness, from something completely useless and self destructive; the urges that drive his heroes to finally perform such acts can neither be barely distinguished from irrationality, megalomania or a wrong concept about the world. Despite that, it becomes clear that they follow not only a subjective logic and trajectory, but also an objective logic and trajectory. Their deeds – from Ivan´s stubbornness in fighting and defeating the Germans and to end the war, to Alexander´s personal sacrifice to overcome a collective desaster (as contemporary desasters would call for taking personal responsibility of all members of the collective in order to prevent collective desaster) – are supremely logical, both subjectively and objectively. Man wants to achieve happiness. To Tarkovsky, happiness, as such, does not exist. Happiness, as such, and as a permanent state, would be complete freedom of the will and freedom of the mind. Yet such a complete freedom of will and mind would completely isolate man from society and its customs. Luckily, society, the living world and its contingencies impose restrictions on man´s freedom of the mind. These restrictions might alienate him (from his „true self“). Freedom and happiness and overcoming contingency can thus be only achieved if personal freedom of the mind subjugates itself unto the LAW of existence. The LAW means the need for humans to organise their contigent lives and their contingent societies and their contigent histories in a good way. It is a (quasi-) noumenon. Via the sacrifice, man subjugates himself unto the LAW and becomes transpersonal. He becomes a subjective agent of the objective, a personal embodiment of the noumenal. Therein lies the greatest of all possible freedoms and the greatest and most permanent state of bliss. That is the meaning of religion. That is how the „phantasma“ of contingency is transgressed. And that is what the art of Andrei Tarkovsky is about. It is a peak in art that cannot be transcended. With his assessment of Tarkovsky as the most important filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman was probably, likely, correct.

Juni 2020

Michelangelo Antonioni

Great art, that is transcendent and cannot be transcended anymore (only, in its transcendent gaze become more intensified), establishes a perspective of Satori. Satori means a state of enlightenment that is difficult to describe, since enlightenment means that you have finally understood, and digested, the final paradoxes and aporias of existence. Satori is both an extremely intense perception and reflection as well as so extremely flexible and fluid that it is, overally, calm and eternal like the endless ocean. Satori means that you can permanently and instantly switch from motif to background, melting them into an (eternally open) One. That is, then, total reality, and your perception and reflection of total reality. Satori-percption is extremely wide, an open landscape, yet is also able to analytically sort out things and see them within extremely sharp contour. Satori is extremely intelligent. Schopenhauer, a Western philosopher that has achieved Satori, says that in order to finally understand fragmented aspects (of metaphysics) one must have understood everything else at first – and vice versa, and that means: Satori. Within the state of Satori, perception and reflection is extremely agitated and intense, yet also has also come to an end in its nervous and agitated quest for meaning since it has become the meaning itself, as a mirror of the world. It is an extremely penetrating as well as meditative gaze that sees the relations between the finite and the ininite. Therein, Satori need not be mistaken for eternal bliss and a final ascent to heaven, it can be humbly described as viewing the same things as everyone else does, only from a viewpoint one meter above everyone else. The Zen master acknowledges: Verily I say unto you, I have gained nothing from Satori! Enlightenment is, maybe, overrated. Yet it produces significance and establishes viewpoints that are stronger than the entire world. When a Satori viewpoint awakes, it is a metaphysical event that will shatter the earth.

At the moment, my three great metaphysical artists of modern cinema are Yasujiro Ozu, Andrei Tarkovsky and Michelangelo Antonioni. Their artistic gravity is so immense that it silences you. Once you see their films, you immediately sense: This is (finallly) art! Like the mushroom cloud of an atom bomb explosion it slowly unfolds before, absolute, powerful, sublime and seemingly unaware of its own earth-shaking potential, as it unfolds in relative serenity. They show the (imaginary) depths of existence and are, therefore, somehow stronger than existence. They remind us that die Welt ist tief, und tiefer als der Tag gedacht (not least due to its flatness). Yasujiro Ozu offers razor-sharp perspectives on the defining themes of human existence, and bans the wildness of the world within extremely ordered images, therein (nevertheless, or even more) opening abysses for eternal doubt, wondering and reflection. Andrei Tarkovsky explores the double nature of man as being both a materialistic as well as a spiritual creature, maneuvering his characters through dubious landscapes and surroundings, meditating about the seemingly eternal difficulties to merge both aspects of existence, the materialistic and at-hand qualities and the spiritual and beyond the veil qualities of man, into one. Correspondingly, also Michelangelo Antonioni revolves around human (and existential) incompleteness and man´s embeddedness into a (seemingly both finite as well as infinite) environment.

„Landscapes“ is what he´s looking for, yuppie photographer Thomas half-consciously responds to the question of an old (and annoyed) art dealer in an antique shop about what he actually wants in Blow-up. Even if one is perplexed or annoyed by viewing Antonioni´s movies for the first time, one cannot help being perplexed by the sophistication with which environments, architectures and landscapes are presented either, to a degree that inanimate, mundane, everyday objects rival with the characters, or, occasionally, even overpower them, as concerns their presence and charisma. That actors and characters are overally seen as „objects in a landscape“ and as „moving space“ is what Antonioni lapidarily confirms himself. Usually, these environments are presented as a critique (or, rather, as an illustration) of modernity and the obstructive power of modern society and its routines upon individuals, despite them being also extremely tasty and beautiful and inviting, therein being very ambivalent. Likewise, it is ambivalent whether the human characters that live and move within these environments are oppressed by them or whether their fabulous intellectual and emotional stuntedness – that makes them almost similarly inanimate to the exuberantly presented object world – are a result to cultural opression or a cause in itself. Most people that populate reality are, more or less, products of their environment, to a degree that they are not even able to reflect and to which they are indifferent, Antonioni´s environments are presented as extremely intrusive and out their to be explored, yet the individuals fail to do so and prefer to remain in an almost idiotic privacy and indifference. In an important scene in La notte (and within the entire oeuvre of Antonioni in general), Lidia takes a both explorative as well as drifting walk through the city; with her marriage already coming to an end obviously curious what possibilities may be at hand for her out there in this world. Therein, she gradually discovers freedoms and possibilities, yet also, and seemingly more prominent, dead ends, not only as concerns the people/males she meets but also seemingly as concerns the whole structure and architecture of the (modern) world, leaving her finally (respectively for the moment) exhausted and in a fatigue, in her own solitude. Despite that, her interest in her environment is not very deep, and not very sympathetic. She would need to smell the concrete of the spindling buildings and to touch it, in order to experience the world in the right way (or in the Satori way), as it seems. Then she would also be able to establish more meaningful interpersonal relationships, and exprience herself in a quasi electromagnetic field of connectedness. In the final seven minutes of L´eclisse you see the same urban environment next to Vittoria´s home, the intersection, where people may come accross or pass by, where they may meet or ignore each other, as the day gradually closes. It is both a brutal and a peaceful environment, an architecture of industrial aggression as well as providing shelter and safe homes, it seems both highly complex and immersive and in no way bearing any secret at all: it is just radiating a meditative presence. At least for those who are able to see and to experience. The characters in the movie are obviously not (yet) able to do so. In both The Passenger and L´eclisse there are moments, however, in which the female main characters (mildly) rave about the beauty of nature – yet at remote places to which they have randomly been taken to and which – in contrast to most other environments depicted in the films – are actually quite a void and unimmersive (cinematographically at least, they are left distinctly unelaborated), making it questionable whether their (feminine) receptiveness to the idiosyncracies of their environment actually hits the target or, grotesquely, misses it. Antonion´s environments serve as something both heternomous, obstructive, and as an illustration of man´s Geworfenheit into circumstances that may be alien to him, as well as an illustration of the internal landscapes and interior worlds of his characters, not only inasmuch as these are determined by external circumstances yet also, and more importantly, by what the individual makes out of them and how he perceives them. Therein, Antonioni´s movies may be perspectives where man is, as an individual, practically absent and truly reduced to an object in the landscape, as well as portrayals of almost solipsistic bubbles in which the characters live, indifferent to the outside world. This marks the span and range of Antonioni´s grasp on reality and, more tacitly, his understanding that reality itself is a subject-object relationship, a flexible relationship between ontology and epistemology that cannot be fixed from the outside and that is stable as well as instable, with no definitive meaning, since meaning is always produced and destroyed by changing circumstances and via individual viewpoints, i.e. subject-object relationships. Despite Antonioni´s architectures, environments and landscapes are (usually) sublime, definitive and solid, they also appear as extremely fresh and virgin, astonishing, and as if you would see them for the first time. This is so because of the way Antonioni chooses to look at them. In a piece devoted to Antonioni („Dear Antonioni“) philosopher Roland Barthes notes that the penetrative as well as meditative gaze Antonioni establishes has something inherently subversive, „because to look longer than expected (I insist on this added intensity) disturbs established orders of every kind“. Likewise, the penetrative gaze is both political and antipolitical, as in its dismissiveness of definitive meanings and to (egoistically or egomanically) fixate meanings it is inherently anti-fanatic. In Heideggerian terminology, the art of Michelangelo Antonioni seems to try to establish a Lichtung des Seins, via an ecstatic Besinnlichkeit, involving all faculties of man (and of the world), to dive into the depths of the world, of both subjetivity and objectivity, an – since an exoteric, godlike viewpoint is impossible – exploration of „In-der-Welt-sein“. And, as you have it in the philosophy of Heidegger, in the exploration of In-der-Welt-sein nothing is actually predetermined; our minds and our faculties in general are not taken as to operate within eternal categories (like you have it in the tradition of Kantian philosophy) but are more fluid, and In-der-Welt-sein itself refers to an interrelationship between man and his environment rather as a network that is always changing than a system that is given and fixed (depending, of course, on the versatility of both subject and the object). At the end of Antonioni´s final movie, Al di là delle nuvole, the alter ego director ruminates that what he has been doing all his life is to try to find human truths by taking pictures; behind them will be further pictures, very down the abyss there may be an „absolute reality“ that no one will ever come to see. Which is true, since outside the subject-object relationship and the In-der-Welt-sein there is no absolute reality. Antonioni´s films are a penetrating and meditative gaze upon reality in which this absolute and final (condition of) human reality shimmers through. That ist he vision within Satori. At the very final shot of L´eclisse you see an agitatedly illuminated streetlight at the final stage of evening twilight, of eclipse, seemingly aggressive as well as helpless and tattered concerning its contour, seemingly frightening as well as frightened, an instance that is one step above us and tries to guide and illuminate us, in its own reducedness and helplessness. That is the Satori.  

The postwar decades brought not only a solid liberal democracy and stupendous economic growth to Europe but also massive social change, especially in a rather traditional and rural country like Italy, uprooting people not only practically (i.e. due to mass migration from rural to urban places) but also culturally and spiritually. In Il grido Aldo is an (eccentric) embodiment of an uprooted man, feeling lost in the contemporary cultural environment and, finally, unable to adapt. After he had become dismissed by his common-law wife, Irma, he wanders through the Po Valley, together with his little daughter, Rosalina, to find a new settlement. Yet he is unable to find a new job, and, what is more, a relationship with another woman that would satisfy him. As he tries to return to Irma, he finds out that the reason for her breaking up the relationship had been that she had given birth to a child by another man. He climbs on a tower at the sugar factory he had previously been employed at, and, as Irma follows him, falls from the tower in front of Irma (provoking her visceral scream/grido – while the entire film could be seen as an expression of silent scream inside Aldo). It is unclear whether he commited suicide or he fell from the tower by accident, as he seemed to faint or lose his balance. Aldo´s depression and passiveness is enigmatic. He mourns the loss of Irma, but remains stubbornly unable to establish new relationships, maybe due to an inability to connect and an inability to love. From what we see, he even does not truly connect to his daughter. We do not know whether this is due to a depression or revealing of a more general and permanent condition inside him. Is the breakup with Irma probably so traumatic for him because he loves her so deeply, or rather because he feels emasculated (within a cultural condition of a declining patriarchy) or considers it a narcissistic insult? Or is his depression actually justified as life has little to offer to him, a simple proletarian, outside his marriage and his job (in which he obviously had been happy, or at least found fulfillment)? The flat and deserted landscape of the Po Valley through which Aldo wanders offers space to roam, to explore freedom, yet it is not exactly a land of opportunities and not a native land to provide shelter, making Aldo lost and vanishing in it; while at the same time it seems an expression of his deserted inner life, his uninterestedness and his flat, depressed, grey emotionality, making the entire condition a Möbius-strip of a conflictual In-der-Welt-sein. Most unnerving, the film offers no explanation of its ending, and, therefore, its actual message. Both intepretations, that Also commits suicide or that he falls to death by accident are not very plausible. Maybe it has to be understood primarily as symbolic, as an expression for Aldo having come to a dead end and having lost his desire to live – or (a fantasy inside him) to punish Irma by his suicide, or to provoke an actual emotion, and a great sympathy for him inside her again, maybe with the hope to reunite with her – maybe it is even meant to be a death oft he „old“ Aldo, who finally manages to let go, and the birth of a „new“ Aldo. It has also been suggested to view Il grido (and Antonioni´s films in general) as inner psycho dramas, or even as dreams, yet there is too much reality in them to find that satisfactory. These lacks of resolution, and the Möbiusstrip-like intertwindedness of interior and exterior world, as well as the both eccentric and both highly symbolic and almost archetypical characters will be permanent features in the films of Antonioni. The problem of Aldo finally seems to be that he – and in fact most of Antonioni´s quasi inexplicable characters and their inexplicable actions – is a flat and shallow, underdeveloped man whose psychological integration is incomplete, with contradictory features that may exaggerate and become even more disorganised when put under stress. The problem in finding out a good reason and explanation for their uncanny psychological states is due to the actual absence of a good reason, due to their lack of depth, while they are in a genuine strive with an insensitive world that puts the individual under a genuine stress. Aldo seems reminiscent of Camus` Stranger, who is both a highly abnormal figure as well as a cultural archetype. As individuals, and especially in a modern, anonymous mass society, we are all strangers; and while Aldo seems to be eccentric, finding it hard to cope with changing circumstances, loss of love and traumatic injuries is deeply human, and distinguishes humans from psychopaths.

While Aldo had been a simple proletarian, inarticulate, immobile, a probably honest and innocent and naive man, whose morale coordinate system had become shattered by what he had perceived as dishonest and by what had uprooted him from his traditional existence, and while Antonioni had sympathies for the proletarians and the socially excluded, he would rather illuminate a smiliar fatigue and helplessness prevailing among the bourgeoisie, the technocrats and even in artists and bourgeois-bohemians, i.e. supposedly more articulate, more mobile and more priviledged people all alike in his following films L´avventura, La notte and L´eclisse that are, in retrospect, considered a trilogy (or a tetralogy, if Il deserto rosso was included as well). L`avventura had an eccentric and confusing impact upon its release, and truly initiated a new language and a new grammar within filmmaking. Uneventful and slow, actually lacking a true drama, leaving one confused whether that what you just saw in these films are affairs truly important or some mere coincidences, Antonioni challenged the hitherto rules of cinema, most notably also as concerns its aesthetics, and, paradixically, by making them more „arty“ and demanding, brought the vision outlined closer to everyday life than tradidional commercial films usually do. L`avventura is about the end of a man´s relationship, leading into a relationship with another woman. La notte is about how tacit events that happen in one night can lead to a fundamental shift of perception upon each other, finally causing a breakdown of a hitherto functioning, but also ailing marriage. L`eclisse opens with a young woman ending her first true relationship after some years and exploring her new freedom. In L`avventura bourgeois people go on a boat trip, at which Anna mysteriously (and impossibly) disappears after she confirms the end of her love and her relationship with Sandro. Sandro quickly develops an interest in Claudia (Monica Vitti) and as the search for Anna remains unfruitful and people´s memory of her gradually fades, we witness how the relation between Sandro and Claudia unfolds. Sandro is an obviously shockinkly carefree womanizer and a neurotic since though he has a well-compensated job he had traded it for a career as an artist and is true self-actualisation, making him envidious of other artists. As soon as the relationship with Claudia is established, he impulsively womanises with a prostitute, being interrupted by Claudia he falls in despair in an almost infantile regression, and finally gets consoled by Claudia. In La notte Giovanni, a writer, and Lidia are a married couple. Despite their marriage seems to function, both seem to be annoyed by it and trapped inside it as well. Giovanni is unhappy that as a writer he „no longer has inspirations, only recollections“ and tries to womanize outside the relationship. Lidia seems tired of Giovanni, due to his obvious emotional absent-mindedness behind his more glamorous surface and events during a nightly party making her finally lose confidence in the marriage so that she decides to leave him, while Giovanni, in despair, in infantile regression and an impotent attempt to show his love and make love with her tries to persuade her to stay with him. In L`eclisse Vittoria leaves the educated Riccardo at the beginning, seems to explore her new freedom, hooks up with her girlfriends and meets Piero, a broker, who is working for her neurotic and money-mad mother, triggering a tacit romantic affair between them that eventually does not work out (at least not for the moment). Throughout the trilogy, the bulk of the characters is quite inhumane, unbalanced, hurtful as well as vulnerable, indifferent yet agitated, passive, aggressive, eager to establish relationships and to find love and then not very disciplined at holding on to them; overally, they seem somnambulent and unaware, not using their potential (or, as seems to be more prominently the case, without great potential). Therein, Antonioni´s films and the alienation and strangeness they radiate seems due to them offering a vision actually more closer to reality than comercial films usually do. Despite their flatness, Antonioni´s characters have more „depths“ and facets than do have characters in comercial movies (as characters in comercial movies are not quite how human are but rather how they want to be and how they like to imagine the human world). It is not clear whether the men in the trilogy are womanizing because of being possessive and proud and macho-like, or because of their desire to find true love and to dive deeper into the mysteries of love as they usually seem boyishly curious and innocent and not motivated by sinister intentions as they approach the respective women (or, plain and simple, whether they do so due to the urges of their sex drive they are too boyish to keep in check). And it is not clear to where the women and their emancipatory moves are headed to neither. „I am not intelligent, I am alert“, confirms Valentina in La notte (respectively Monica Vitti, more or less on behalf of all the characters she portrays in Antonioni´s films). „Woman is the more subtle filter of reality“, confirms Antonioni himself, and the actually central characters, who embody the „active“ principle, who develop and who move on in his trilogy are the women. Despite being „a more subtle filter to reality“ the women in the trilogy/tetralogy engage in relationships with unsensitive, materialistic and erratic men, yet also manage to emancipate themselves from them, therein indicating the possibility of man´s emancipation from unfullfilling prevailing circumstances that had tacitly become obsolete. Tacit is also the hope about how far their emancipation, and any emancipation, can go. Vittoria leaving Riccardo for unspecified reasons at the beginning of the film and her deciding against becoming romantically involved with (the materialistic and randomly acquainted) Piero at the end may be a tale of personal growth, of a young woman (still somehow a girl) becoming more autonomous, or just generally doing the right thing by avoiding unsatisfactory and unsustainable relationships instead of falling prey to them, yet we do not know whether that point of view is the correct one: Her mediocre emotional flatness and her (and the other characters`) inability to love deeply and to establish true and responsible human relationships may as well be a permanent feature. Alertness is, at least, the state of the artist, and of Satori – more generally of the „awakened“ human being, and the precondition to personal growth – Antonioni seems to advocate alertness, ironically also as his films demand a lot of alertness, attention and investigation in order to be truly understood – yet then, the viewer will find, as a gratification, infinite pleasure in them that is much more intense and lasting than pleasure or emotional attachment that may arise from comercial movies, even if they are very good. – The trilogy is also most famous for depicting the human condition within environments and landscapes (with espcecially La notte being so carefully elaborated that it seems an almost inhuman – or superhuman – effort). In L´avventura the whole vision is, relative to the follow-up movies, comparably tattered, yet also for the obvious reason that the environments hardly ever seem to fit, people would meet up (or lose themselves) at places that seem grossly inadequate for the actual purposes (a feature that would, most prominently, return in The Passenger), space is out of joint – as are people, as are their interpersonal relationships. Whereas in La notte the architecture of modernity is presented as extremely impenetrable, well-formulated and solid, seemingly subjugating man to its own anonymous logic and suggesting a triumph of modernity (over man), the landscapes of modernity in L`eclisse are open and dispersed, seemingly fragile and inconclusive about where the logic of modernity is actually headed at (therein, in the context of the movie, giving individuals free space to roam, which they, nevertheless, prefer to use to refrain from deep interpersonal relationships and a general come together, preferring to descent into relative solitude, i.e. making up for a somehow inconclusive and dispersed landscape of human relationships – respectively reminding us that landscape makes only up for a space of coexistence, and not necessarily „connectedness“ between people and between things). In general, we do not really know what we see in Antonioni´s films: do they depict individuals in a great and central drama, the drama of their life, or are we watching something transitory and not even particularly meaningful (depending, at least, on the ability of the characters to extract meaning out of these events, leaving it further open about whether such an ability is strong and progressively developing in them, or not at all), are their neuroses characteristic of an entire Zeitgeist and are these characters symptomatic or are there neuroticisms isolated and very personal failures; the characters come from „nowhere“ and little about their personal history is revealed (or investigated by their fellows) at the beginning and we don´t know where they are going to and headed at at the end; are they in a state of transition or is it an illumination of their permanent nature; are the things that happen to them meaningful, maybe in retrospect, in their biography, or they just uncharacteristic distractions and alien to them; will they finally grow when they are able to detect the hidden meanings in the things that happen to them, or is the actually intelligent approach not to get lost in pseudo-meanings and overintepretation of random constellations? L`eclisse may be the film where these Antonionian characteristics and ambiguities are driven to their extreme.

„I am not intelligent, I am alert“ – in Il deserto rosso Monica Vitti (portraying Giuliana) has become hyper-alert (interfering with and reducing her intelligence). According to Antonioni Il deserto rosso is about a woman who is very neurotic, actually on the brink of psychosis. Despite that, and despite her being very confused, it is doubtful how neurotic she actually is, as she does not seem to have egocentric complexes or carry a disability to establish meaningful relationships, rather she seems disturbed that the others around her seemingly cannot. In its extreme colorfulness the industrial environment oft he red desert seems so intrusive that it seems to negate the possibility of reflection and meditation, seems to destroy the adequacy of traditional analytical tools by confronting man in a more primary and primordial way, demanding more primary and primordial methods of orientation. As Antonioni notes Il deserto rosso is not about emotions but about „the epidermal relations to the world, the perception of sounds, of colors and the coldness of the people that populate this world“. Giuliana is actually reminiscent to a child that experiences the world via flashy sensations and (partial) objects she nevertheless has not been hitherto able to make sense of. All the other people seem to be more competent in finding their place in this world than she is able to – including her own little son. Although it is not clear whether all these others are masters of reality, or actually its slaves and mastered by reality. Both Giuliana´s husband and her son are males that have an interest in technology; what is more, due to their conformism they are able to get along in this modern world without great effort – yet at the price that they are not very sensitive and not very interesting individuals, and that they seem to radiate a quiet despair. Ugo, an acquaintance of her husband with whom she gets romantically involved (despite in an affair that is rather a caricature of a romantic affair), is a more autonomous and a more interesting, but also a more ambivalent and egocentric man, yet he seems to be inherently nervous, womanising impulsively and planning business projects in far away (and more „virgin“) countries, i.e. navigating eccentrically through this modern world, both apparently somehow firm and somehow lost. Also he seems partially uprooted and in some kind of despair. According to Kierkegaard in The Sickness Unto Death, despair comes from an individual not being true to himself, therein despair may also be present in fully integrated (and not very alert) conformists, at least in some unconscious fashion. Giuliana is the antithesis to them. In her hypersensitivity, or alertness, Giuliana is the only person in the red desert that „truly lives“ and authentically experiences, who is not (respectively only by accident) neurotically egocentric, but confused by her open-mindedness and, as she cannot relate to the people around her and they cannot truly relate to her, lacking a clear identity. It is, therein, an identity crisis not due to neuroticism and abnormality but due to psychological transparency (and therefore not being a „type“ and not being able to actually get normed by institutions) and due to hypersensitivity, that is, not yet and due to the respective reasons, a self-aware hypersanity. In contrast to the people surrounding her who are – due to their conformism – able to move through society like a fish in the water, Giuliana has oceanic feelings of being embedded in an idyllic world, whose idyllic qualities are, nevertheless, lost. Therefore she cannot truly navigate through the real world and seems neurotic, as she has too many lose ends concerning her shape and identity. In the end, however, she seems to accept the loss of her childlike self-image and the existential fact that she is a seperated and autonomous individual. The acceptance of that seperatedness is both painful and a relief as it opens the path for her to becoming an autonomous and competent individual. It is left open whether Giuliana will manage to unite in her the best of both worlds, i.e the awareness of connectedness as well as seperatedness, of being a dreamer and a realist, an artist and a scientist, etc. – to sum up: a fully developed personality. Antonioni notes that Il deserto rosso should show that the industrial architectures and landscapes of modernity are not only ugly and frightening, but of equal beauty to architectures of the (occasionally idealised) past and to nature itself. And he concludes that Il deserto rosso is about adaption: about the necessity of man to adapt to new circumstances and a changing world.

The following, and most famous film Blow-up may be also about becoming and personal growth. The central character, photographer Thomas, is a younger man, both settled and successful as well as boyish and a bit snoppy, actually quite a contradiction in itself. Basically, Thomas is not alert, and in a grotesque way unaware of the world he inhabits. He does not like the shallow fashion models he is working with on a daily basis and does not treat them very well and even is shockingly unaware of their eccentric beauty, he is unresponsive to the beauty of nature and he drives with his Rolls Royce to photograph the poor in his attempts to do „true“ photographic art meant as a social commentary. He is always busy and seemingly always on the run and eager to change his (life) situation, but in doing so, he is erratic, impulsive and distracted and on a permanent random walk. It is actually hard to believe how Thomas can be renowned photographer as he obviously is only interested in finding (more or less) interesting subjects and objects to do his photography, in order to „take over“ them and consume them, but never to actually experience them. Most of the characters in the film are similar to that, as Blow-up portrays a young generatio n that is successful and dynamic and that has become the pacemaker of cultural and professional life in London of the 1960s, but that is also neglectful and directionless, in their hectictness and business they are absent-minded and passive, in their unquestionable dedication and professionalism with which they do their things there is shallowness and superficiality in the way they experience (themselves in doing) these things; in the words of Antonioni himself „a generation that has approached a certain individual freedom … and freedom from feelings too“. Whereas in Il deserto rosso the colours are extremely bright and penetrating, corresponding to the hypersensitivity of the main character and the obstrusiveness of the modern world, in Blow-up you have dull colours, corresponding to the indifferent perception of its personel and of its main character photographer Thomas. Not that Thomas or any of the characters is unappealing and hard to be liked, neither they are truly arrogant or vain – it is that they are unaware, unconscious and not alert, as adolescents typically are. Therein, Thomas (and most others) seem to be motivated by unconscious desires for love, for intimacy, for „landscapes“, for social justice and creating a better world, for exploring secrets and for „the real thing“, it just seems that they are suspended in their personal growth to truly experience such desires, to accept them and to transform them into something meaningful – as adolescents typically are. The – real or imaginary – murder case finally is something that forces Thomas to pay attention to reality and become highly alert, yet, also due to the inattentiveness of the people that surround him, leaves him in ever more confusion about its true nature and about what actually had happened, finally leaving him standing there not as a successfully grounded and self-confident young urban professional, but as a lost child in the park (therein finally „embedded in a landscape“) as the camera moves to the heavens. The unforgettable final scene of the hippies playing an imaginary tennis match, tangentially involving Thomas, is one of the „enigmatic“ masterpieces that seem both clear-cut as well as „open to endless interpretation“, while in fact they are actually simple, but highly suggestive. The imaginary tennis match is both a metaphor for the illusionary depths of perception as well as that perception is, to a significant degree, a social construct. Thomas has, by then, truly experienced „reality“ in the most profound way, as an interrelationship between ontology and epistemology that can never be broken up or experienced „from the outside“, but that can be expanded and contracted and experienced in countless nuances and facets within that relationship – depending on how much one is „alert“. Thomas had his – confusing and hard-hitting – epiphany, it is now up to him – as concerns the deontology that may be derived from „the interrelationship between ontology and epistemology“ – whether he uses it for personal growth or remains a rather aimless drifter.

While Blow-up had served as a portrait of the most contemporary London, Zabriskie Point aimed to be a portrait of most contemporary America, the land of unlimited opportunity and of the most distinct culture of individualism and individualistic freedom. Yet, as Arrowsmith ruminates in his seminal study of Antonioni and his art, Zabriskie Point may call into question whether liberalism, individualism and idealism can even be a meaningful response to the challenges in the (contemporary) world. The great idealism of the 1968 generation is viewed upon with some sympathy, but Antonioni´s judgement remains distinctly sober. Zabriskie Point is inherently pessimistic, or at least sceptical, whether the „other world“, the utopia that transcends contemporary industrial and capitalistic society, needs to be something so particularly flashy and groovy. The heated discussions of the revolutionary students in their crowded, overpopulated and uncharismatic room at the film´s beginning are somehow unnerving (and conflictual), Mark is a petty (or maybe even a serious) criminal, with some macho attitudes, somehow directionless and careless, and not very bright. The capitalists are not particularly vile and their plans to capitalise over individualistic life choices and make profit out of them appear as something rather positive than something negative, and their desert mansion is one of the tastiest things ever seen on screen (so is its explosion, but only for the moment, and only in imagination; otherwise it may refer to the negative destructive power of revolutionary spirit). Daria´s short stay at the roadhouse in the Mojave desert may serve as an actual illustration of a (ghost) world uncorrupted by civilisation, indicating that such isles in the desert will always exist, in asynchronicity. But they may not be an inviting place to live at, at least not for most people. The power of the imaginary, and of the imaginary utopia, will live on, because the imaginary is a coordinate of human existence, seems to be the conclusion of Zabriskie Point. Finally, however, the imaginary remains trapped within itself or may merge with actual reality only occasionally (in the cosmic love scene in Death Valley). Nevertheless, that´s life. It needs to be lived. The originally obstinately naive Daria has learned some lessons and did make contradictory experiences, by reflecting on them she may grow older and wiser and more useful to society and be someone able to „work with emotionally distubed children“ (Zabriskie Point was done by relying on layman actors (for the better or the worse), and in real life, Daria Halprin became a creative arts therapist in later life; Mark Frechette, by contrast, and uncannily, died at the age of 27 in prison after he had been involved in a bankrobbery in which one of his comrades got shot by the police). (Btw, after Antonioni had a decade in which he, rightfully, received highest praise for his works, and despite today Zabriskie Point is probably Antonioni´s most famous film next to Blow-up, Zabriskie Point initially got very negative, even disrespectful reviews, to a degree that somehow seems irrational. Making you wonder whether the bulk of humanity, and of art critics, maybe cannot stand permanent adoration of others and needs to take occasional revenge on them.)

What may be considered a weakness throughout the oeuvre of Antonioni is that there permanently are things that do not add up for good. Distortion and alienation is a legitimate means of artistic expression, but Antonioni seems to drive both his characters and his stories frequently over the edge. The question may appear, how can the heavy neuroses of most of his central characters serve as an illustration of the Zeitgeist, actually not only as an illumination and critique of an entire epoche, but, as it seems, of the human condition in general? Antonioni´s characters are, actually, often not typical humans, frequently they are weirdos. And what is even the cause for their sufferings and eccentricities? Why is Aldo so unnaturally passive and depressed in Il grido? Why are people, and especially Sandro, so inhuman in L´avventura (and why are they so lifeless and emotionally drained in L` eclisse)? What is the nature of Giulia´s existential confusion (or „neurosis“) in Il deserto rosso? How can someone so uninterested in the world, indifferent to beauty and dismissive against people, especially against women or poor people be a renowned photographer/artist like Thomas in Blow up? Of course, these characters are meant to be illustrative – and in being so flat out illustrative they may even serve as their own caricatures (which would make them even more comprehensive), yet, then again, Antonioni´s films are too serious to be convincingly populated by caricatures – but there is an apparent conflict between the obvious eccentricity of Antonioni´s characters and their appeal to serve as cultural stereotypes or even archetypes. Furthermore, the physics, the fabric of reality does not seem to add up in the supposedly hyper-realistic philosophical and artistic investigations about man´s position in the world that are Antonioni´s movies. Did Aldo fall from the building at the end of Il grido due to accident or did he commit suicide? To where and how did Anna magically disappear in L´avventura? Who shot the policeman in Zabriskie Point? Is the unnamed woman that accompanies David Robertson/David Locke in Professione: Reporter a random stranger or some kind of spy? And, most notoriously, did the murder case in Blow up happen or not? The films do not provide answers or provide inconclusive or contradictory hints. In doing so, the reality as presented in the films is not only ambiguous, multi-faceted, opaque and covered within the Veil of Maja, impossible to for the characters in the films to finally become transparent and to see through; reality, as presented in the films of Antonioni, is itself irrational and illogical, at crucial moments obviously evades natural laws and causality (or, if you want, makes the reality presented not only impenetrable to the characters within the films, but also to the more omniscient spectator of the films). That seems unsatisfactory, because reality is not like that; it might be ambiguous but not illogical or acausal (you may think you can resolve the issues of the irrationalities by referring to Antonioni´s movies, especially L´avventura, being somehow dreamlike, yet, overally, they are not). Exaggerations may seem as solutions at hand or as a necessity in pointing out how reality is and art and drama relies on exaggerated characters and exaggerated situations, yet artistic exaggerations eventually lose that respective efficiency when when they become overstretched. Then, characters and situations become implausible. A conflict like this is, however, prominent at the apex of art; also in the description of the human, all too human drama by Shakespeare or Dostojewski you permanently encounter otherworldly situations and characters that may seem flat out unconvincing. The great power of King Lear or The Idiot nevertheless seems impossible to achieve without the apparent shortcoming of the (main) characters being flat out unconvincing and convoluted. Such is the case also in the art of Antonioni. Without the heavily eccentric and unrealistic characters they likely would lose their universal and extremely convincing appeal and message (maybe the lack of power of Antonioni´s final cut Al di là delle nuvole is also due to the lack of convincigly unconvincing characters that populate this movie). And as concerns the obvious irrationality and acausality of the world presented in the films of Antonioni: although this is an intellectually as well as aesthetically heavily conflictual issue, Antonioni resolves them finally for the good, as these momentary lapses of reason (even within (the) reality (that is presented in the films) itself) greatly enhance the charisma of the films and the whole enterprise. Philosophically the inconclusive reality as presented in the films of Antonioni may serve as a reminder that you are eventually only watching a movie. And moreover, it may serve to illustrate that great and transcendent art maybe cannot even be without such exaggerations; a most appropriate capture of reality inherently needs to move beyond reality – that metaphysical art needs temporal evasion from the realm of physics and the natural laws and causality that govern (and imprision) events within the physical world. Antonioni is an artist equal to Shakespeare or Dostojewski. The intellectual nuancedness and sophistication of his vision are comparable to those of the grand masters of literature, the depths of his complexity endless, making his artworks infinte. Infinity and totality necessarily are self-contradictory or paradoxical. And so, also the films of Michelangelo Antonioni seemingly must bear contradictory elements. Its their nature. In their eccentricity, the films of Michelangelo Antonioni are perfect circles, philosophically and artistically. That is to say, Antonioni´s mediatations about existential incompleteness are finally something that achieves undisputability and completion. That is so because they stem from Satori.

Professione: Reporter – The Passenger is the final of Antonioni´s canonical movies, and probably the inherent peak and point of no return of Antonioni´s entire artisitic vision and ideology. The great, and always critically illuminated themes of growth, becoming and transformation are taken to their extreme and are portrayed to finally lead to death and/or nirvana. David Locke (portrayed by Jack Nicholson) is a 37 year old renowned journalist and reporter who has come to a dead end, frustrated with his life and with himself, carrying the desert of frustrated indifference and saturation inside him; as well as that he initially operates in a remote desert, in an unsuccessful attempt to find and interview an elusive rebel army in Africa at the film´s beginning (a rebel army fighting for a better world at present, but maybe just as corrupt and egoistic once it has seized power). By chance, he fakes his own death and assumes the identity of his deceased neighbor in his hotel, David Robertson, about whom he knows practically nothing, but who turns out to be an arms dealer on behalf of the elusive rebels, making him a target for agents of the country´s secret serivice who will finally assassinate him. In escaping from his own identity he finds himself cought in the prison of another one´s, which he seems to accept with some resignation from the onset. His quest for identity is semi-determined by the instructions in Robertson´s calender, by appointments that succeed or, mysteriously, fail and by meeting and collaborating with an anonymous girl that could be a random stranger or a spy or some kind of detective (brilliantly portrayed, congenial to Monica Vitti, by Maria Schneider). At the same time, he gets persecuted by secret service agents and by his former colleagues and his former – both seemingly dominant as well as somehow erratic – wife, from which he tried to escape as well. Locke is both quite a complex, competent and successful character, and surely the most self-actualised of all of Antonioni´s main characters, yet it is also revealed that his complexity and competence is limited, good enough to fit into the higher echelons of professional life but not to transcend them, and that, despite his skills at storytelling and his „fabulous power of observation“ he (correspondigly) remains internally vacant (an expression of philosopher John Locke´s concept of the mind as a tabula rasa). The limitations of the written and unwritten rules of his profession (which actually are out there for good and make some sense) finally reduce him to having beome a conformist or a pseudo-nonconformist – indicating that true self-actualisation, transgression and transcendence would require superhuman abilities, respectively, even another world that does not interfere and remains unobtrusive (and such a world cannot exist). Respectively, indicating that superhuman qualities may finally just make things even more complicated and the psychological, philosophical and real-world struggles more intense. Near the end of the movie, and most imminent to Locke´s/Robertson´s (nevertheless unexpected) demise, Locke (not Robertson) tells a story to the girl about a blind man who finally got able to see: first that man felt overwhelmed and full of bliss by the perceived richness, beauty and colorfulness of the world, only to subsequentially become ever more depressed and irritated because of the bad things he could finally see more clearly as well (and, obviously, being the truer qualitities of existence to him than the positive ones), so that the man finally commited suicide after three years. That is seen as Locke telling a parable about himself, and that his entire journey in the film and his transformation into Robertson (making him descent into an exciting but also violent and likely also criminal world) is a slow suicide or a desire for death, highlighted by various incidents and sarcastic, disillusioned comments Locke makes throughout the movie (taking them as a sense for his imminent death or even as clairvoyance, and not just as random events/comments may be erronous though as well). As a star reporter, Locke presumably has seen the whole world, and even its most remote places, indicating that transcendence must necessarily lead him to unearthly realms and transformation cannot happen anymore in this world for him. Locke´s violent (and erronous) (and, as is also likely, unwanted) death by murder comes quiet, almost peaceful and like a euthanasia, and the spectacular final scene with the long and tranquil camera move seems to indicate the passage of his soul to some kind of nirvana (or maybe also only his elusiveness). Arrowsmith notes how Professione: Reporter – The Passenger succeeds in the attempt of any great art, namely offering a glimpse at absolute reality, by permanently switching from background to foregound (therein finally merging them), the ambiguity of meanings, the symbolic as well as elusive idiosyncrasy of things, the interplay between order and chaos, by displaying the interplay of the registers of the imaginary, the real and the symbolic, the concept of journey leading into the great wide open as well as to dead ends, the tasefulness and the bitterness of things and of people, the passage of time…. Finally, maybe seen from the perspective of Satori, the things that make up reality as well as a person are interwoven and merge into in a gigantic (pseudo-) network that is, however, permanently changing and situational, its elements fluctuating within an iron cage made of iron rules as well possibilities for excessive transgression and freedom, with unknown consequences. Such a view on a gigantic and obstrusive as well as elusive network that is absolute reality you may have in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni and most notably in Professione: Reporter – The Passenger, where the central characters are the most active and determined ones, and most close to „enlightenment“ and transcendence in the entire oeuvre of Antonioni. Professione: Reporter – The Passenger indicates that enlightenment and Satori, the ability to see things from an elevated perspective, is tricky and risky. Eastern Satori therefore tries to achieve freedom from any desire and acceptance that reality is „not real“. That leads, however, to passiveness and is, however, an unrealistic grasp upon reality. No matter how far we are able to reach out, the world will always remain to have good and bad aspects, says Goethe, from his top view of intellectual perception and at an old age in his Maximen und Reflexionen. That is life, and it has to be lived. Satori gives you a distinctly more intense and more intelligent, and a more colorful and joyful perception and grasp of reality, but it is tricky and risky as well, because that is how reality is. The Zen master acknowledges: Verily I say unto you, I have gained nothing from Satori! Absolute transcendence and stability is an imaginary quality, that is only possible beyond this world, in death or in an otherwordly, and probably very boring nirvana. Yet in the long run we are all dead, as we all are just passengers. Embrace the moment, as they say. Arrowsmith concludes his study about Antonioni – and his entire oeuvre being a both joyful as well as painful meditation of human and general metaphysical incompleteness – with reference to Antonioni´s fellow Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi and his reflection on a metaphysical tedium the Italians call noia:

Noia is in some sense the most sublime of human emotions (…) there is certainly our inability to be satisfied by any earthly thing or even by the entire world … To imagine the infinite numbers of worlds and the infinite universe and to feel that our minds and desires would still be greater than such a universe, always to accuse things of insufficiency and nothingness, and to suffer the want and the void: this seems to me the best proof of the grandeur and nobility of human nature.

April 2020

Heidegger und ich (Skizze)

Heidegger habe ich meistens für ein wenig unbeholfen gehalten und für leicht unwichtig; von wegen, da habe man hauptsächlich Trivialitäten u. dergl. Aber wenn ich versuche, Antonioni nachzuvollziehen, glaube ich zu erkennen: In den Filmen von Antonioni geht es  um die Ausleuchtung des In-der-Welt-seins, um einen durchaus Heideggerschen Gestus! Es ist gut, wenn man auf was Neues draufkommt! Bei mir geht es, wenn ich mir das recht überlege, ja auch um die Ausleuchtung des In-der-Welt-seins: Also kann ich, anzunehmenderweise, doch recht gut mit Heidegger ins Einvernehmen kommen! Und man kann Heidegger vielleicht das eine und andere vorwerfen, und man kann von mir aus auch mir vieles vorwerfen, aber nicht, dass ich seinsvergessen sei! So verstehe ich auch nicht ganz, warum Heidegger ständig Probleme mit der Eigentlichkeit und der Authentizität hat, denn ich bin ja ganz und gar eigentlich und authentisch, und wenn man seinsbewusst ist, ist man ja ganz eigentlich und authentisch. Meine Philosophie ist: man soll sich selber so ganz wie möglich vergessen, um so ganz als möglich im Sein aufzugehen. Das Sein ist weder besser noch schlechter und weder gescheiter noch dümmer als das Ich, aber das so ganz wie möglich im Sein aufgegangene Ich, und das so ganz als möglich im Selbst aktualisierte Sein: dieses Arrangement, dieses Dispositiv, ermöglicht die Herrschaft über das Geviert. Wenn man Herrschaft über das Geviert hat, ist man ganz schön eigentlich und authentisch, bzw. man ist sogar mehr als das Geviert, eine höhere Seinskategorie. Im Ich allein ist diese Lösung klarerweise ganz und gar nicht zu finden, im „Ich selbst“ sein wollen liegt letztendlich keine Eigentlichkeit und keine Authentizität ich will auch nicht ich selbst sein, es ergeht glücklicherweise kein existenzialistischer Gewissensruf an mich, dass ich „ich selbst“ sein solle. Ich will eher immer nur weg von mir, und meinen Geist und meine Seele erweitern. Ich gehe in der und mit der Fremdheit auf; und in sich selbst und gleichzeitig in der Fremdheit aufgehen, heißt eben: im Sein aufgehen. Wenn man das perfektioniert, ist der ständige, hektische Möglichkeits- und Entwurfscharakter der individuellen menschlichen Existenz überwunden, das Werden ist gleichzeitig das Sein, der Zustand des „Noch-nicht“ liegt für mich längst in der Vergangenheit, ist verwunden (indem er einen anderen Qualitätszustand eingenommen hat). Heidegger empfindet das Dasein bzw. die Umwelt als unheimlich und fremd, er ist besorgt über die menschliche Schuld und er hat Angst. Ich empfinde das Sein als nicht sonderlich unheimlich und nicht sonderlich fremd, genauer gesagt, ist mir das Unheimliche und das Fremde durchaus willkommen, ich nehme es gerne in mich auf. Ich nehme auch gerne die Schuld und die Erbschuld in mir auf. Die Erbschuld bedeutet: der Mensch begründet sich einerseits selbst, er wird aber auch vom Sein begründet, und steht daher in der Schuld des Seins; vor allem, wenn er durch sein Handeln das Sein verändert. Indem man aber eben selbst Ich und Um- und Mitwelt ist, bzw. dazu wird, indem man das Fremde in sich aufnimmt, das Eigene und das Fremde gleichzeitig ist, so überwindet man die Schuld, so überwindet man die Zeitlichkeit, so überwindet man das Sein zum Tode (und man erlangt eben Herrschaft über das Geviert). (Heidegger und der Zen-Buddhismus haben sich berührt und) wenn man das Koan verstanden und die Paradoxien und Aporien der Existenz verdaut hat, also im Satori, ist man jenseits von Leben und Tod und ist ewig. Bei Heidegger hingegen ist ein mächtiges Existenzial die Angst; Heidegger hat Angst, daher auch Angst vor den Juden, vor der Technik, vor der Welt außerhalb des Schwarzwaldes, weswegen er sich in den Nationalsozialismus flüchtet, nicht diskutiert, vor der Wissenschaft Angst hat etc. Ich kann nun nicht sagen, dass ich eine großartige Angst hätte. Mein Existenzial ist es, dass ich einfach nur da bin und das Sein studiere. Es ist einfach nur mein Wesen, in die Existenz einzudringen und intellektuelle Probleme zu bearbeiten, das ist meine Existenz, meine Jemeinigkeit. Das mit der Sorge kenne ich, denn ich bin um alles, also um das Sein, höchst besorgt: aber das ist gut so. R. meinte einmal, was ich anzustreben scheine, scheint (vor lauter Sorge um das Sein) eine Art „kosmisches Verantwortungsbewusstsein“ zu sein. Schuld und Verantwortung stehen sich gegenüber und kosmische Schuld wird durch kosmisches Vetantwortungsbewusstsein ausgeglichen, und so bin auch ich – wegen des kosmischen Verantwortungsbewusstseins – ausgeglichen und daher eigentlich und authentisch, und real besinnlich. Heidegger hatte ein solches Verantwortungsbewusstsein – trotz allem Gerede vom Menschen als Hüter des Seins – eventuell nicht ganz (und dass er niemals vom „kosmischen Verantwortungsbewusstsein“ gesprochen hat, bedeutet ja eben, dass er´s nicht kannte); es gibt keine Moralphilosophie bei ihm und auch keinen Versuch danach und überhaupt ist seine ganze Besinnlichkeit ziemlich egozentrisch. (Es ist zwar unter anderem auch sympathisch, wenn Heidegger nicht diskutieren will, und sich nicht in das Gerede der Zeit einmischen will, aber nicht, wenn das seiner Philosophie inhärent ist, seine Philosophie eine ist, die nicht verhandelt und nicht diskutiert, daher wissenschaftsfeindlich und eventuell undemokratisch ist, vor lauter Besinnlichkeit eine Grube gräbt, aber keine Bezüge herstellt. Weil Heidegger keine Moralphilosophie hat, begreift er den wahren Charakter des Seins auch nicht (bzw. umgekehrt): Denn das Sein ist eine moralische Sache, und das In-der-Welt-sein eine moralische Angelegenheit, was (von Grunde auf) Ethisches. Heidegger begreift sich als in der Nachfolge von Kant, aber er bleibt hinter Kant zurück, indem er als Monist in einem vulgären, phänomenalen, zeitlichen Seinsverständnis verhaftet bleibt; Kant hingegen, als Dualist, neben der phänomenalen Welt, das Reich der Sittlichkeit und des Noumenalen als eigenständige, und der phänomenalen und zeitlichen Welt gegenüber transzendente Sphäre anerkennt. Heidegger sieht dieses Reich der Sittlichkeit nicht, und damit auch die Eigentlichkeit nicht, und damit auch die Ewigkeit nicht, und damit auch den wahren Charakter der Seinsvergessenheit nicht. Ich bin, wenn man so will, wiederum Monist, da das In-der-Welt-sein für mich so zutiefst von ethischen Erwägungen durchzogen ist, dass man sagen kann, dass Ethik im Sein real existiert und die noumenale Sphäre der Sittlichkeit ganz real ist. Wenn man in dieser Sphäre sein Haus des Seins errichtet, ist man eigentlich und der Zeitlichkeit und dem Sein-zum-Tode nicht mehr verfallen.) Die Schwierigkeiten, die man haben mag, Heidegger zu verstehen und nachvollziehen zu können, mögen auch darin liegen, dass Besinnlichkeit etwas Unterbestimmtes und Subjektives ist, und man, in der Besinnlichkeit gefangen, nie weiß, wie besinnlich man eigentlich ist: ob man immer erst am Anfang steht oder schon an jedem möglichen Ende. Ich verstehe das mit der Besinnlichkeit zwar, aber mein Gestus ist es, dass man einfach durch alles hindurch soll. Ich sehe mir etwas an, einen chinesischen Film oder aber die Philosophie Heideggers, ich sehe mir Gut und Böse an, und muss jeweils hindurch. Das geschieht durch den beiderseits penetrativen wie meditativen Blick. Der beiderseits penetrative wie meditative Blick bohrt sich durch seinen Gegenstand durch und bleibt gleichhzeitig, respektvoll und gelassen, davor und beschädigt nichts: er bewahrt. Wisse, das ist mein Gestus, der jemeinige. Ich möchte alles bewahren, alles ist, gewissermaßen, heilig, so bin ich Hüter des Seins. Hüter des Seins wird man, wenn man das Sein transzendiert, und auch wenn man die Besinnlichkeit transzendiert. Reine Besinnlichkeit finde ich unterkomplex, und sie wird dem Sein nicht ganz gerecht. Ja, ich bin ganz allein, und auf meine Besinnlichkeit zurückgeworfen, wenn ich nicht in der (zumindest heutzutage aufregend schimmernden) Vielfältigkeit des Man untergehen will, aber ich habe die Existenz ja bei mir, da ich in-der-Welt-bin. Schwester, ich brauche nur aufzublicken und sehe vor meinem geistigen Auge ein virtuelles Gebäude, von virtuellen Verstrebungen, mit einem leicht ovalen Dach drauf, eine Art Bahnhofshalle, seine Linien sind offen und verlaufen sich weiter gegen den Horizont ins Unbestimmte (was aber nichts ausmacht, denn man ist einstweilen ja noch nicht dort): das ist die Philosophie, das ist das Haus des Seins, das ist das In-der-Welt-sein an sich. Ich stehe zwar, eventuell, nicht ganz drinnen, sondern draußen, in einer undefinierten weißen Leere, aber direkt vor mir bzw. in diesem Moment bereits bei mir beginnt schon diese Behausung, in der man ist und nicht ist, die vor einem liegt, in der man immer ankommt, am Ausgangspunkt steht – und das ist gut so, wie sollte es auch je anders sein? Vollends im Sein und in der Behausung gleichermaßen kann man niemals stehen; wie Sloterdijk anmerkt, ist der Mensch kein All-Sammler, der vollständig im Sein aufgehen kann, aber so vollständig als möglich geht man auf eben an jener Schwelle. Ich bin im Sein und habe die Zeit und die Zeitlichkeit überwunden, ich blicke auf und sehe vor mir eine abstrakte Bahnhofshalle, ovales Dach, die Ewigkeit…. Die Ewigkeit ist die Berechenbarkeit des Kosmos. Indem mein Leben/meine Existenz/Jemeinigkeit darin besteht, den Kosmos ständig neu zu berechnen, lebe ich jenseits der Zeitlichkeit in der Ewigkeit, und die Zeitlichkeit ist für mich insofern nur noch ein Problem, da sich innerhalb ihrer die Entfaltung des Kosmos/des Seins vollzieht, die berechnet und evaluiert werden muss. Heidegger selbst hatte zwar was gegen das „berechnende“ Denken der Moderne, aber „berechnen“ im vulgären Sinne bezieht sich auf das Ins-Verhältnis-setzen von Quantitäten, während der Philosoph Qualitäten berechnet, austariert, abwägt. Die Ausdeutung des Seins und des In-der-Welt-seins ist nichts anderes als das Berechnen der Seinsqualitäten. Die Ereignisse in Sein und Zeit mögen mächtig sein, aber sie sind auch dumm, daher beschränkt relevant. Wenn man in der Berechnung von Sein und Zeit lebt, existiert man dann tatsächlich und eigentlich. Die Existenz wird dadurch tatsächlich zur einzigen, eigentlichen Kategorie. Und als solche erfahren. Problem gelöst. Wenn Heidegger meint, nur ein Gott kann uns noch retten, so wird das schon stimmen, denn ich bin ja so was wie ein Gott, zumindest, und vor allem, in dessen Erscheinungsform des Heiligen Geistes: denn mein Geist ist der Heilige Geist. Ich habe extreme Anstrengungen unternommen, um das Menschliche hinter mir zu lassen, und das Menschliche zugleich extrem zu bewahren. Ich finde, das ist mir bislang ganz gut gelungen; damit es mir auch weiterhin so gut gelingt, will ich mich, nachdem ich mit Nietzsche fertig geworden sein bin, genauer mit Heidegger beschäftigen. Metal! Wie nun wirklich ein jeder weiß, kommt meine Philosophie aus der Auseinandersetzung mit dem Heavy Metal. Der Heavy Metal ist hohe Präsenz und Identität, und er ist surrealistische Übertreibung: er ist das Fremde, das Seltsame, das Andere, das es, gemäß meiner Philosophie, in sich aufzunehmen gilt. Damit erreicht man dann die Ganzheit, die Authentizität etc. und man geht im Sein auf. Heidegger hatte das Pech, dass es zu seiner Zeit noch keinen Heavy Metal gab, und so wanderte er, teilweise, auf Holzwegen, und außerhalb der Erlösung. Allerdings weiß ich auch nicht, ob er, wenn es den Heavy Metal zu seiner Zeit gegeben hätte, er ihn auch verstanden hätte. Heidegger ist somit ein Beispiel, dass auch Leute, die den Heavy Metal nicht kennen, und wohl auch nicht verstehen, trotzdem etwas zusammenbringen können und wichtige Vorarbeiten zur absoluten Erkenntnis liefern können, so unglaublich das klingen mag. Ich will mich daher genauer mit Heidegger beschäftigen. Das ist, einstweilen, die Geschichte von Heidegger und mir. Dann ist da noch der Idiot mit dem Windrad. Der erscheint auch, aber nur kurz. Schon ist er wieder weg.

Kritik der Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft

La Defense

Wittgenstein meint angesichts seines Tractatus: Das wichtige sei wohl weniger das, was drinnensteht, sondern das, was nicht drinnenstehe. Bei der Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft von Achille Mbembe könnte man auf so einen Gedanken auch kommen. Von schwarzer Vernunft erfährt man dort eigentlich nichts, nur dass sie (bzw. die Arbeitskraft der Schwarzen) ausgebeutet und unterdrückt ist/wurde. Über den äthiopischen Philosophen Zera Yacob (1599 – 1692), der vieles von der europäischen Aufklärung, von Kant, von Descartes, von Hume vorweggenommen hat, der aber kaum bekannt ist, hätte ich gerne mehr erfahren – ein großer Stolz und ein wahrhafter Triumphpokal müsste er sein für die schwarze Vernunft – aber es steht da nichts über ihn. Die Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft konzentriert sich viel eher darauf, wie „der Neger“ bzw. „der Negersklave“ von außen (bzw. von den Europäern) „gemacht“ wurde und über vereinfachende Stereotypen fortwährend reproduziert wurde/wird, die in ihrer Simplizität höhnisch und selbstsicher dekonstruiert werden, von wegen: So einfach sei die schwarze Vernunft ja gar, wie die Weißen das gerne glauben machen wollen! Es gäbe da ja noch viel mehr Facetten u. dergl., bis hin zu der Behauptung, dass „Afrika“ gar nicht existiere (sondern „gemacht“ wurde). Das sind freilich Dinge, die man überall findet, wenn man nur genauer hinsieht (und „Europa“ existiert, in seiner Vielfältigkeit, ja auch nicht, sondern wird von imperialen, unverständigen, vereinnahmenden und folgerichtig vereinfachenden Mächten, die freilich in dessen Zentrum sitzen, künstlich zusammengehalten lol). „Afrika“ sagen heißt stets – beliebige – Figuren und Legenden über einer Leere zu errichten“ und „Spricht man das Wort „Afrika“ aus, so unterstellt man in der Tat stets einen grundlegenden Verzicht auf Verantwortung“ und „Das Konzept der Schuld wird hier eliminiert“ (S. 105). Damit sind die Weißen gemeint bzw. überhaupt alles außerhalb von Afrika, aber ein verantwortungsvoller Diskurs und eine verantwortungsvolle schwarze Vernunft sollte doch auch berücksichtigen, dass die Länder Afrikas im Verzichten auf Verantwortung und im Abwälzen von Schuld auf andere selber ziemlich gut sind, im Zusammenhang mit ihrem Klientilismus, ihrer Big Man und The Winner Takes It All Herrschaftsprinzipien, ihrem Fatalismus, ihrem Analphabetismus, ihrer Irrationalität und ihrem Patriarchat (nicht nur bei den schnell beleidigten Feministinnen sondern auch dem einen und der anderen, ja dem Weltgeist insgesamt, muss es im Übrigen einen langen, schrillen Schrei provozieren, dass in der gesamten Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft fast nie von NegerINNEN gesprochen wird, sondern der Negersklave ziemlich eindeutig männlich bleibt). Man erfährt, dass die Verfassung Haitis (dessen Unabhängigkeit durch einen Sklavenaufstand hervorgegangen ist) von 1805 weit radikaler und demokratischer als die der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika war, aber (zumindest eben nicht im Buch) nicht, dass die Vereinigten Staaten das (erfolg)reichste Land der westlichen Hemisphäre ist, während Haiti dort das Shithole Country Nr. 1 stellt. Erinnere ich mich an die eine Afroamerikanerin, die Gott dafür dankt, dass ihre Vorfahren als Sklaven verschleppt wurden, so dass sie jetzt in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika leben kann und nicht in denen von Afrika leben muss. Über die Gräuel und die Foltermethoden, die von den Franzosen gegenüber der algerischen Unabhängigkeitsbewegung angewendet wurden, ist die Rede, aber eine Beleuchtung des unabhängigen Algerien als exemplarisches Beispiel für einen postkolonialen Rentiers- und Klientelstaat, wo sich kleine, manchmal rivalisierende oder sich brutal bekriegende Gruppen die Macht teilen und die Pfründe an sich reißen, hätte mich (insofern es gerade zu Algerien diesbezüglich wenig Literatur gibt), auch interessiert. Der Sklavenhandel und der Kolonalismus waren großes Unrecht und entsetzlich und eine traumatische Erfahrung für Afrika. Die Sklaverei und der Sklavenhandel hat allerdings (in Afrika und sonstwo) eine lange Tradition: (das unabhängig gebliebene) Äthiopien hat die Sklaverei erst 1902 abgeschafft, Marokko 1922 und Mauretanien erst 1981 (und erst 2007 unter Strafe gestellt). Nicht erwähnt wird in der Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft, dass auch die Orientalen in großer Zahl und über Jahrhunderte hinweg Sklavenhandel mit AfrikanerInnen betrieben haben, nur halt dass die unter dem Alpdruck ihrer archaischen Religiosität stehenden und das auch noch gut findenden Moslems nicht erfolgreich darin waren, diese Sklavenarbeit so zu organisieren, dass sie selber zur weltbeherrschenden Macht aufsteigen konnten (wofür diese ja auch ganz gerne mal den Westen verantwortlich machen). Während der Kolonialherrschaft gab es wenigstes keine Kriege und gewalttätige Konflikte in Afrika. Insgesamt kann auch festgestellt werden, dass der Einfluss des Westens auf Demokratie und Menschenrechte – auch in ehemaligen Kolonien – häufiger positiv als negativ gewesen ist (vgl. dazu Ruud Koopmans: Das verfallene Haus des Islam, München 2020 S. 73-80). Vor Jahren habe ich einmal ein Interview mit einem schwarzen Ökonom bei der Weltbank (wenn ich mich recht erinnere) gelesen, der sich darüber ausgelassen hat, dass die gerne hochgehaltene Solidarität unter den schwarzen Brüdern und Schwester die chimärenhafteste Solidarität in der Welt sei, und nirgendwo der Egoismus und die Idiotie ausgeprägter seien als in Afrika. Die Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft fordert Restitution und Reparation, „Wiedergutmachung und Entschädigung im ökonomischen Sinne“, aber da ist Afrika als Milliardengrab für Entwicklungshilfe, weil die Gelder immer wieder in erster Linie gestohlen wurden (freilich von den Westmächten auch so, also im Sinne von Korruption, verteilt wurden, um sich afrikanische Potentaten im Kalten Krieg warm zu halten). Mbembe redet zwar nicht von den „schwarzen Brüdern und Schwestern“ (von den Schwestern zumindest redet er eben praktisch gar nicht), aber die Schwarzen reden gerne davon, dass sie schwarze Brüder (und Schwestern?) seien: Als Kontrastprogramm in der Realität hat man dazu aber einen haarsträubenden Mangel an Kooperation zwischen afrikanischen Staaten, auch und vor allem im Fall von humanitären Katastrophen, eine Gleichgültigkeit gegenüber dem Leid der eigenen Brüder und Schwestern, die von Seiten des Westens oder der „internationalen Gemeinschaft“ kaum mehr übertroffen werden kann, als Kontrastprogramm hat man da auch z.B. die Ineffizienz der Afrikanischen Union, deren Hauptsitz in Äthiopien – trotzdem Afrika eigentlich ein sehr reicher Kontinent ist und viele afrikanische Potentaten allein auf Milliardenvermögen sitzen – vor ein paar Jahren erst von den Chinesen gestiftet und ausgestattet worden ist, dessen Finanzierung die Afrikanische Union also nicht sich selbst sondern den Chinesen überlassen hat (mit der Konsequenz, dass der Hauptsitz der Afrikanischen Union folgerichtig jahrelang bequem vom chinesischen Geheimdienst ausspioniert werden konnte und wurde). Mbembe spricht sie zwar an, die Viktimisierungshaltung, deren Möglichkeit diversen Befreiungsideologien innewohnt, sprich, dass man die eigene Gruppe, die reales Unrecht erlitten hat, bzw. sich selbst ausschließlich als Opfer sieht, das dabei auf Wiedergutmachung drängt (die, inhärent, mit blutrünstigen Rachephantasien oftmals einhergeht), er räumt ein, dass eine solche Haltung neurotisch, negativ und zirkulär ist und auf Ressentiment beruht (S. 169f.), allerdings kann man sich des Eindrucks nicht erwehren, dass die Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft selbst nicht so ganz verschieden davon ist. Ganz am Schluss von der Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft (S. 332) wird der Hoffnung Ausdruck verliehen auf eine „Welt, die befreit ist von der Last der Rasse und des Ressentiments und des Wunschs nach Rache, die jeder Rassismus auslöst“. Dort, am Ende eines Buches, wo gemeinhin etwas Schwülstiges, Belebendes, Hoffnungsvolles und selig Schwebendes steht, steht bei Mbembe also was von Rache. Das ist ein wenig disharmonisch. –  Harmonie wird erreicht, wenn Gegensätze aufgearbeitet und versöhnt werden. Hat mal jemand gesagt, geistige Überlegenheit bestünde darin, dass man zwei sich widersprechende Gedanken gleichzeitig denken könne. Irgendwann muss man Identität finden, man muss Heimat finden, sonst wird man krank; das Bedürfnis danach und die Kämpfe, die man auszufechten hat, um Identität zu erlangen und Heimat, sind keineswegs trivial, vor allem nicht, wenn man Neger ist. Angesichts der Schwierigkeiten, die damit verbunden sind, müssen die, die nicht involviert sind, teilweise auch zurücktreten. Klar. Heimat und Identität kann man auch in der Neurose und der Rache finden – und angesichts der Trägheit der Welt ist es wohl auch gut, wenn über Neurosen und Rachegelüste Kräfte des Guten und des Ausgleichs, der Restitution und der Reparation mobilisiert werden – aber zumindest ich würde davon abraten. Meine kleine Philosophie und Lebensweisheit bestehe darin, dass man nicht nur versuchen solle, zwei (scheinbar) sich widersprechende Gedanken gleichzeitig zu denken und anzuerkennen, sondern mindestens fünf! Tatsächlich widersprechende Gedanken gibt es so auch nicht unbedingt, denn die Welt ist nicht tatsächlich widersprüchlich; im Rahmen bestimmter Ideologien und Denkmuster kann schnell etwas in Widerspruch zueinander geraten, aufgrund der verengten Perspektive. Man soll also versuchen, so viele Gedanken wie nur möglich gleichzeitig zu denken und anzuerkennen! Dann erscheint, nach vielen Jahren, endlich das Feld der Widerspruchsfreiheit und das totale Reich des Geistes und der Erlebnisfähigkeit:  die Weiße Hütte (White Lodge), wo die Inhalte der Welt bestenfalls nur mehr als mögliche Erscheinungen in einem ubiquitären weißen Licht erscheinen und innerhalb dieses Lichts einfach handhabbar sind; in der alle Fäden der Welt zusammenlaufen und von der alle Fäden wiederum ausgehen. Um das Licht der Weißen Hütte zu sehen, muss man seinen Blick wiederum senken, in die Nacht und in die Finsternis der Welt, in das unten liegende Becken der Finsternis: denn die Welt ist zum größeren Teil Nacht und Finsternis und Unbekanntes. In dieser Nacht muss man fortwährend Verbindungen herstellen zwischen Bekanntem und Unbekanntem, so wirft man Licht in die Welt, und in sich selbst. „Licht in das eine und andere Gehirn zu werfen“, sei das Ziel seiner Philosophie, schreibt Wittgenstein im Vorwort zu den Philosophischen Untersuchungen, und das ist auch das Ziel der (schwarzen oder sonst jeglichen) Vernunft. Auch Probleme hinsichtlich Heimat und Identität werden dann Probleme, die man unter sich hat.

Jetzt habe ich einige Sachen gesagt, ohne dass ich sie übrigens so gern gesagt habe. Aber eine Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft kann eben eine Kritik der Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft nach sich ziehen, sollte das sogar, so entsteht die Möglichkeit für einen perfekt geschlossenen Kreis. Und ich darf all diese Sachen ja sagen, entgegen der arroganten oder bequemlichen Attitüde, dass man als Außenstehender nicht über eine andere Gruppe urteilen dürfe, denn ich bin ja selbst ein großer Neger. Ich bin kein Philosophieprofessor wie Achille Mbembe, sondern Philosoph, und damit ein großer Neger. Hinter mir stehen keine Universitäten und auch kein Suhrkamp-Verlag. So einen wie mich wollen die da nicht. Mich werden die nur ausbeuten und kolonialisieren wollen, nachdem sie mich unter die Erde gebracht habe, denn ich bin ein echter Philosoph und damit ein schwarzer, tiefschwarzer Neger. Ein tiefschwarzer Neger bin ich! So tiefschwarz wie die Mädchen in La Defense, die eine meiner besten Begegnungen im letzten Jahr waren. Eine Gruppe von tiefschwarzen Mädchen in tiefschwarzen Martens in tiefroten Hosen und schwarzer Armeekleidung, die im menschenarmen La Defense am verregneten Samstagvormittag ihre Tanzübungen gemacht und ihre Choreographien einstudiert haben. Meinen Künstlerfreund Bernhard habe ich letzten Oktober in Paris besucht, weil er für dort ein Stipendium bekommen hat. Zu einer Veranstaltung rund um die Neuerscheinung eines Buches von Francois Laruelle bin ich gegangen, an jenem Samstagvormittag, um bei dieser Gelegenheit Francois Laruelle kennenzulernen, was ich oberflächlich auch getan habe. In einem Kellerseminarraum neben dem Centre Pompidou. Etwa ein Dutzend Leute war dort. Da die dreistündige Veranstaltung auf Französisch war und ich das nicht ausreichend verstehe, bin ich stattdessen nach La Defense um erst gegen Ende des Seminars wiederzukommen. Ein grauer, vernieselter Samstagvormittag also, an dem ich diesen großartigen, am Wochenende eher ausgestorbenen Stadteil dann zum ersten Mal gesehen und erlebt habe, vereinzelt Menschengrüppchen als karger Kontrast zu den unermesslichen, in erhabenen Formen aufschießenden Beherbergungskapazitäten – da, da weit vorne geht wieder einer, und da drüben telefoniert eine Frau, inmitten dieser Landschaft stummer, erhabener, statisch-dynamischer architektonischer Präsenz. Ein meditativer Ort, speziell an diesem jenen vernieselten Samstagvormittag. Ich glaube, ich habe Glück gehabt. Ich habe wohl exakt die richtige Zeit erwischt, um am richtigen Ort zu sein. Ich glaube, um zu einer so exakt richtigen Zeit am richtigen Ort zu sein, dafür stehen die Chancen eine Million zu eins. An einem Nebenweg haben einige schwarze Mädchen Tanzübungen gemacht und wohl die spiegelnde Fassade eines der riesigen Gebäude genutzt um eine Choreographie einzustudieren. Sie waren schwarz wie die Nacht und hatten die appetitlichste Kleidung der Welt, schwarze Martens, tiefrote Hosen, schwarze Lederjacken, teilweise militärähnliche Kleidung – in hundert Millionen Fällen trifft man vielleicht einmal auf etwas derartig Unerwartetes! Sie waren grenzenlos schön und sie waren so schwarz, dass sie einen Stich ins Tiefbläuliche hatten. Was für ein Negerstamm ist das, der schwärzer ist als die Nacht, so dass er einen Stich ins Tiefblaue hat? Der Abgrund des Tiefsinns und des tiefsinnigen ästhetisch-philosophischen Eintauchens in die Welt kann nicht anders sein, und wenn ich die neunte Sinfonie von Mahler höre, dann taucht in diesem Schwarz auch ein Blau auf, das schließlich zu Gold wird. Was für eine ungeheure Begegnung, was für ein unerhörtes Erlebnis, die tiefschwarzen Mädchen von La Defense! Eigentlich habe ich diese abgerissene und (absichtlich) schlecht geschriebene Kritik der Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft primär deswegen aufgesetzt, weil die Mädchen von La Defense in meinen Aufzeichnungen unbedingt erwähnt werden müssen, als Epiphanie und als wichtige ästhetische Begegnung und auch als implizite Anleitung, wie ästhetische Begegnungen möglich sein können. Vielleicht ist diese abgerissene und schlecht geschriebene Form auch die optimale Form für eine Kritik der Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft, insofern sie ihre Absolutheit dadurch reduziert, aber ich will irgendwann noch einmal breiter und genauer auf all das eingehen. Und ich will eine so hochaufschießende moralische Instanz sein, dass Rassismus und Rache wegen Rassismus gleichermaßen nicht so einfach da durchkommen! Um die Ecke hat noch ein anderes, gemischtrassiges Grüppchen von französischen Teenagers eine Choreographie geübt, aber die pechschwarzen Mädchen waren einfach viel besser. Sie haben, wie ich später extra herausgefunden habe, zu einem Lied („Icy“) einer K-Pop Girlband („Itzy“) getanzt, in dem es darum geht, wie man als halbwüchsiges Mädchen auf coole und freche Weise selbstständig und emanzipiert ist, bevor sich, anzunehmenderweise, der Alpdruck des gesellschaftlichen Konformismus auf sie legt, und sie sich dem dann auch, anzunehmenderweise, freudig ergeben. Ich finde es sehr schlecht, dass ich nicht gewusst habe, wie ich mit diesen Mädchen ins Gespräch hätte kommen können und sie jetzt wohl für alle Zeit für mich verloren sind und ich nie mehr weiß was aus ihnen geworden sein wird, ich finde es sehr gut, dass ich sie in dieser Konstellation aber überhaupt gesehen habe. Eine unerhörte ästhetische Epiphanie, wahrscheinlich nicht nur auf das letzte Jahr bezogen, sondern überhaupt in meinem ganzen Leben! Aber ich kann ja auch ohne weiteres wieder weiterziehen, da es mein Geist und meine Seele ist, die die ästhetische Epiphanie ist und es mein sehr spezifischer Geist und meine sehr spezifische Seele ist, mit der ich ästhetische Epiphanien dauernd irgendwo wahrnehme, mal besser, mal schlechter, meistens halt nicht so gute wie die kleinen schwarzen Tänzerinnen an jenem Regenvormittag am Samstag in Paris in La Defense. Es war so ein halbes Dutzend schwarzer Mädchen in La Defense, und es war so ein Dutzend Leute bei der Diskussion zum neuen Buch von Francois Laruelle, zu der ich dann wieder zurück bin. Francois Laruelle ist, in den Worten von Gilles Deleuze, der unbekannteste bedeutende Philosoph Frankreichs. Ich habe just vorher was von ihm gelesen, ein weniges, was von ihm übersetzt vorliegt, und habe seine Interdependenzthese zwischen Epistemologie und Ontologie sehr gut gefunden, währenddem ich an meinen Reflexionen zu Schopenhauer beschäftigt war. In aller Eile wollte ich einen Kontakt zu ihm herstellen, was mir dann auch oberflächlich gelungen ist, nach dem Ende der Veranstaltung, und nachdem ich in La Defense die bildhübschen tiefschwarzen Mädchen erlebt habe, die so schwarz waren, dass ihre Schwärze einen Stich ins Bläuliche hatte.

La Defense

What happens when you put African philosophies at the centre of learning

What You Should Know About Contemporian African Philosophy

Prelude to a Note About Sartre

As it appears, the 19th century philosophers have been more powerful and titan-like and dominating over the world than the 20th century philosophers, and the 20th century philosophers more significant and controlling over at least parts of the world than seem to be philosophers of the contemporary; has the world become more complicated or have intellectuals become more stupid, that seems a tricky question, that is confusing; I say, we need to regain dominance over the world again, the world may be complicated but is also not very intelligent and therefore not so difficult to conquer, if we are intellectually in tune with the world, which is, of course, largely absent among people and among philosophers; if we amalgamate Eastern (pre- and meta-) philosophy and Western philosophy, analyse and deduce out of and along the pathless path of Tao and introspection into Tao, delimit and mark off this path via the paradoxical logic of the koan, we shall gain dominance over the four cardial directions, the four points of the compass, again. Philosophy should refrain from meddling all to much into the affairs of the world, else, in an environment of „contemporary discourse“, philosophy will degenerate and lose its power over the world, this is what you are having today and this is a battle philosophy cannot truly win. Philosophy and the world are, to some degree, heterogenous realms. In reality, philosophy is more important and more dominant than the world. In a spirit of humility, Deleuze says that philosophy is not a true power; as it is not a true power, it cannot truly confront power, it would need to wage a guerilla against the powers in the world. I think this is a bit weak. I see philosophy as a some kind of grid that humbly, but also evenly and unaffectedly reaches deep and forever into space; from the earth below comes some turmoil and bedlam, activity, yet due to its curvature the body of the earth eclipses into the night, I reiterate: much unlike to the solid structure that is philosophy that humbly and in an upright way reaches into the universe and into space (whereas, I reiterate, the body of the earth eclipses into the night). Forever, the tentacles and protuberances of the earth will reach and hit the structural grid of philosophy that ranges and resides above the earth, that is how philosophy works and how it is processed, via such tangential amalgamations, but will not destroy it or tear it down. Earth has become so complicated that it cannot be subjugated to a philosophical system anymore, that is true; therefore the philosophy that will dominate over the world, at present and in the future, will not be a philosophical system but an awareness and consciousness over philosophical and real-world systems. From Socrates onward, philosophy has been established by the meta-philosophers, and 21st century philosophy will be established by the meta-philosophers as well. That is a semi-conscious message that is confusing, but the task of meta-philosophy, from Socrates onward, is to spread extreme confusion in order to, then, establish extreme clarity and contour, out of that which that cannot stand the test of confusion.

Dale Carnegie and La Rochefoucauld

As a most appropriate literature for the period of the cornonavirus lockdown Dale Carnegie´s How to Win Friends and Influence People may come to mind. I have read it ten years ago or so, and now just read it again. Although written for another, and a positive purpose, together with the maximes of La Rochefoucauld it, inadvertently, is probably the bleakest and most uncanny literature around. It may serve as giving an answer to one of the most pressing questions in literature and in life in general: to the question about what is probably the most central motive behind man´s actions? As we know, there are many motives behind the actions of man, yet one would be curious to find out if there truly is a most central motive; and if that should be the case, what this central motive would be? Is it the desire to help starving children in Africa? Is it the desire to dive into an oceanic feeling of togetherness and connectedness between all man and all creatures and a transcendent experience of unity? Is it the obsessive desire to know what happens at the center of a black hole? – Not quite: according to both Dale Carnegie and Francois de La Rochefoucauld the human leitmotif is vanity. I.e. somthing that is unsophisticated, annoying and ridiculous. It is inherently neurotic and unelegant and a root cause for evil. It makes people (happily) fall prey to populists, demagogues, manipulative sociopaths and cult leaders. It is where the easy, transparent and crystal clear realm of philosophy ends and the dark and opaque and convoluted realm of psychology begins. It makes people unlogical and unreflected. As Carnegie notes, few people think logically. Most hold prejudices, are subjective, are led by opinionatedness, jealousy, suspiciousness, fear, envy and pride (as you can see, mostly negative qualities). People think unlogically not only because they are not good at thinking, but because of their egoism and their vanity that tries to convince themselves that they´re the bearers of truth. As far as I am concerned, qualities like vanity, jealousy, greed, hatred or hostility are alien to me, to a degree that I simply consider them as manifestations of a primitive psychology. I do not know how such things can arise in anyone and I cannot even communicate with such a psychology. I do not want to win their friendship and I do not want to influence it. If their pits should be bottomless, I will install an Apartheid regime against them. On p. 202 Dale Carnegie quotes La Rochefoucauld btw. Apart from that, How to Win Friends and Influence People is a book that greatly empowers the good in man and that everyone should have read. Dale Carnegie was a great humanist.

Happy ever after, although both the books of Dale Carnegie and Francois de La Rochefoucauld are very worthwhile reads, they are written for certain, and limited purposes, and as you reflect on them, you may find out that they are full of flaws, and every maxime of La Rochfoucauld can easily be disputed as well as it could be taken for granted. They are not fully to be taken seriously. I know this from myself (and, after all, making generalised statements upon  the human realm is tricky per se). When I say something, it is also usually not to be taken completely seriously. The things I say are only to 93 percent meant to be serious, the rest is tongue-in-cheek and serves as leaving a room for doubt. If we assume that what is stated in the books of Dale Carnegie and Francois de La Rochefoucauld is only to 93 percent true, than the subjective overall conclusion about the true nature of man being his vanity is only to 93 percent true, reducing the truth of the original statements even further. That is sloppy maths, i.e. also not 100 percent true, etc. If we perform progressively such – sloppy as well as generous, yet, due to the flexibilty and influencability of man, justified – operations on the original assumption of vanity as the leitmotif of man, we can progressively diminish it and reduce it to a healthy degree inaswhich vanity would be reduced probably only to the degree of serving a legitimate purpose i.e. as a legitimate psychological self defense, and so could overcome endless seemigly unnecessary hardenings and conflicts between men as well as reaching a higher level of individual psychological gratification that is brought about by self-transparency, a lofty world could pop up and we could happily live ever after. The End.