Mr. Letterman keeps a secret

 

Mr. Letterman was the kind of man who found find intrinsic value in reflection and contemplation and had allowed this inclination to become the building structure of his life. This was why as an undergraduate student even with law school in mind he had chosen to study philosophy rather than economics and had concentrated on 17th-century philosophy which he found particularly intriguing because it answered to his own temperament. He had studied Descartes, Locke, and Newton, and had read Kant as well as Goethe, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Adam Smith. He cherished reason and individualism as the core values of enlightenment.
He knew quite well how difficult it was to actually live an individual life as he understood it, starting with an education that gave a student time to acquire the ability to distinguish individual choices from prefabricated ideas. He had been a keen observer all of his life, and since the late Eighties had noticed the changes imparted by a growing globalized market on American cultural habits which had been in fluid transformation of very different heterogene cultural movements since the late Sixties but now were anastomosing into more or less one all-emcompassing stream of consumer culture. Since then, or so he was convinced, increasingly suggestive marketing strategies had been skillfully reducing individual freedom more or less to the act of choosing between different consumer goods. According to the logic of the market commercial success was the gate to freedom as it allowed access to consumer products, and striving for the possession of consumer goods had been accepted as the ultimate meaningful pursuit in life. People now spend most of their time working and earning money to spend on such consumer goods and if their work in itself happened not be meaningful, there was little time left to construct meaning from whatever was left over to their private discretion. Consumer goods as carriers of a lifestyle that few could integrate into their everyday routines were tailored to fill the void of the un-lived life while at the same time creating the desire to acquire even more goods, more things to throw into the abyss of time.
Mr. Letterman knew that poverty enslaves families, condemning generation after generation to a living on low wages and social security, that people as intelligent as he considered himself to be had to forego higher education and work hard, repetitive jobs, wasting their potential, that he himself, due to fortuitous social circumstances, had been allowed to develop. He knew that in low incomehouseholds – among other things – there was indeed also a lack of needed consumer goods from food to clothing to furniture to kitchen appliances to books. But he also knew that it was not the lack of consumer products that was most painful consequence of low incomes but the lack of education and access to the many sources of meaning that were reserved for those who knew how to decipher the code. Higher education was an expensive privilege. He was not fighting for social justice per se even though he was representing a fair share of pro bono cases. But he kept aware that he did not earn the privilege of an education that was denied to others and he kept a special kind of contempt for people with access to this kind of privilege who nonetheless proved incapable of making individual and intelligent choices.
For him, prerequisite to a mindful life was reading. And the prerequisite to reading well was education. He visited the New York Public Library during late lunch, sometimes just to sit down in the reading room for a while. Since childhood he had loved the gigantic stone lions who guarded the entrance to the Library, Patience and Fortitude. He loved the many different book stores of New York´s neighborhoods.He chose his books with care following his established interests and toyed with the idea to write a book himself if he should ever find the time, a book about the many stories that clients brought to him daily and which were a kaleidoscope of the many brilliant pieces of NYC of but like any passionate reader he was also curious about books and authors yet unknown to him. He loved to rediscover new as well as almost forgotten authors and frequently visited used book stores. He was a regular at Strand´s.
Saturday mornings he liked to stop by at Crawford & Doyle booksellers, a small old-fashioned independent bookstore on Madison Avenue between 81st and 82nd street close to the MetMuseum. After his visit to the book store he walked straight over to the Met where he spend whatever was left of Saturday afternoon, sitting in one of the courts and reading a new book while tourists and New Yorkers walked past him.
Crawford & Doyle booksellers catered to a eclectic  reading tastes, offering a selection of the New York Times bestseller list and the annually published most notable book list yet always keeping the discriminating reader in mind, and offering a plethora of topics including fiction, history, philosophy, biography, religion, politics, lyrics, social studies, art, children´s books and a fine selection of crime novels on the first floor of a space hardly larger than a spacious living room. The store was beautifully stacked with old dark wooden shelves and lower showcases and booktables stacked with books, leaving only small alleyways to pass through and two very narrow benches to sit down.
There was a gallery on the second floor which was, in fact, a book store within a book store, with collectible and rare books, concentrating on first editions of primarily American and British fiction. Mr. Letterman had found first editions of Frost and Yeats upstairs and a small volume of the Dubliners which he treasured and always carried with him as it fit perfectly in the pocket of his overcoat.
Crawford & Doyle was dependable and friendly like an old acquaintance. Customers were entering and leaving the store on Saturday mornings in a lively flow without interrupting the reader in the corner; they politely accommodated one another in the narrow passageways between the displays and conducted short, quiet conversations among themselves or livelier ones with the knowledgeable staff at the register. It was a store dedicated to the art of reading and thus to an enlightened public, readers like himself, in search of the path that was as individual as the reader, leading from one book to the next, choosing one, leaving out another equally deserving one, following an instinct that had formed over a lifetime of reading.
As many customers were regulars Mr. Letterman would see familiar faces on Saturday mornings and got to know the taste and habits of people who remained strangers to him yet at the same time were like family to him, serious readers like himself.  A Saturday morning regular for example was the small lady whose features were so delicate and who moved so lightly that she reminded him of a small bird. She had a special taste for all kinds of political fiction and quite obviously a voracious reading appetite. She would assemble sizable stacks of books to take home, carrying The Reader by Bernard Schlink on top of The History of the Siege of Lisbon by Jose Saramago, followed by Anthony Burgess last novel Byrne, postwar German author Heinrich Böll with a  short story collection titled The Mad dog, and on top of this formidable stack The Three-Arched Bridge by Ismail Kadare who had just recently become a lifetime member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences of France.

Mr. Letterman loved to cast a sideway glance at the birdlady´s finds and sometimes he let himself be inspired by her choices. It was through her that he discovered his love for Kadare. He read Ura me tri harqe, The Three-arched Bridge, first published in 1978 because he had spied it on top of her stack, and had continued with Përbindëshi, The Monster, an even earlier work from 1965, which took him some time to find and that he finally discovered in the used-book section of Crawford-Doyle´s just like before the reasure of an author-signed version of Nata me hënë, Moonlight, first published in 1985.
And then there was the girl mainly lingering in the art book section but sometimes straying to children´s books. She was mostly dressed in faded Jeans and an NYU-sweatshirt, wearing her straight dark blonde hair open and pushed back on just one side behind her ears. He had never paid too much attention to her because he did read little on the visual arts, and had no interest in children´s books but he had indeed noticed the girls just as he did notice the other regulars and had inscribed her on his inner map of a particular Saturday morning.

Then one Saturday, something strange had happened. Instead of in her usual spot in the arts he had encountered her in the non-fiction area between philosophy and history. She had taken a somewhat awkward turn to let him pass, misjudging the space between their passing bodies and with an abrupt countermovement had just so prevented herself from running the art volume into his rips . The abrupt movement almost made her drop both of her books, the art book on top of which she had opened another book, using the larger book like a small reading desk. This other book he recognized at once because he owned an earlier edition of it and was familiar with the new one she had been studying before he had interrupted her. After he had passed her unharmed, answering her apologies with a polite apology of his own, she went right back to reading. The book was „The Hedgehog and the Fox“ by Isaiah Berlin. Mr. Letterman considered this an unexpected choice for a girl who would spend most of her time in the arts and children´s book section. Isaiah Berlin had commented on this collection of essays, bearing the title of a fragment from the archaic Greek poet Archilochus. Berlin has said: „I never meant it very seriously. I meant it as a kind of enjoyable intellectual game, but it was taken seriously.“ which struck Mr. Letterman as an appropriate motto for his own well intentioned life that was meant to be light and unattached to convention but that had also turned out a bit different than he had foreseen. A little lonelier than anticipated for example.
The girl looked like the serious kind of girl who preferred reading to going out, maybe a bit too serious for young men´s taste, he thought. She was pale and almost pretty and she squinted her eyed as if she was in need of glasses while reading.
He liked the The Hedgehog and the Fox . It too was an intellectual game in which Berlin divided writers into two categories: hedgehogs, who – like Plato – view the world through the lens of a single defining idea, and foxes – like Shakespeare – who draw on a wide variety of experiences and who pursue multiple ideas simultaneously that were all but incompatible with each other but coherent in themselves, representing Berlin´s irreducibly pluralist ethical ontology. Mr. Letterman suspected that he himself – unfortunately and despite his curiosity – was more of a hedgehog really, not least due to a certain shyness and his need to keep a steady view of life while the value pluralism that Berlin was able to embrace gave his own ethical system a spinning sensation.
He had been curious if the girl would actually purchase the book or had just been attracted by the whimsical title. It was a hardcover edition though and bound to be expensive, probably around sixty Dollars, and so, even if she decided against it, it might not necessarily tell him much about her intellectual preferences. Still, his curiosity was aroused, also she seemed vaguely familiar, and so he gave her a sidewards glance every once in a while.
After a while she closed the Hedgehog and the Fox carefully, but did not put it back. Instead she pulled out yet another book from the shelf, this one slender with a marbled green-greyish paper cover over a frayed soft cardboard binding and a light green title tag glued to the front like an old fashioned school notebook. There was no dust cover.

The first thing he thought as he looked at the small book was that he must have overlooked it (because he knew all the books in that shelf and noticed new books right away when he got to it), the second thought was that it must have been displaced because quite obviously it belonged in the used book section. The girl put the art book and the Hedgehog and the Fox down on top of the fairly low shelf and gently opened the marbled book in order to spare the book spine from damage. By the way she handed the book he could tell that she was used to handling books.

He stepped a bit closer, randomly pulling out a book of his own and looking over to her again, smiling in case she should meet his gaze but she didn´t. She was fully concentrated on her book and did not look up or showed any other sign of awareness of his presence. He therefore dared to move a little closer still in order to identify the book and saw that the volume did indeed not belong in this shelf. The gilt letters on the title, partly obscured by her hands he deciphered as Ri- – o-nn- – Orph – -s and concluded that she had found a treasure, Rilke´s Sonnets to Orpheus. He knew the publishing house´s signature marble cover, a German Publisher called INSEL, the Island.
The girl became even more interesting to him now as she seemed transfixed by this new book, caressing the paper while turning the pages. Quite suddenly she looked up as if she had grown aware of his observing look. She looked directly at him and smiled. For a moment he was startled by her sudden awareness, but then he returned her smile. I am German, she said, it´s strange to read Rilke in English translation. She said this as if  they had been meeting before and this was just one out of many remarks that had already passed between them. Well, he answered, I envy you, my German is very limited and I would not be able to read Rilke if his work hadn´t been translated. That is a nice edition you found. Someone must have placed it in the wrong shelf.
She smiled again, lowered her voice and then continued the conversation  with an even more personal tone. -Will you keep a secret if I recited some lines from my favorite Rilke poem in German to you? Her English was excellent with only a slightly rough edge that gave away the German native speaker. He considered the question. He was curious and so he nodded. She briefly closed her eyes and, reopening them, looked straight at him again and started with a clear if still quiet voice, not at all like a schoolchild reciting a poem by heart, as he had half expected. Though clearly in verse it did not sound like a recitation of a poem at all, more like an intimate confession. He could make out single words, colors like Grün and Blau and simple words like Sommer and Sonne und Frau, and names of places places like Venice and Kasan, Rome and Florence, Kiev and Moscow, but the rest to him was like a strange music, beautiful and raw.

Und du erbst das Grün vergangner Gärten und das stille Blau
zerfallner Himmel
tau aus tausend Tagen
die vielen Sommer, die die Sonnen sagen
und lauter Frühlinge mit Glanz und Klagen
wie viele Briefe einer jungen Frau
Du erbst die Herbste, die wie Prunkgewänder
in der Erinnerung von Dichtern liegen,
und alle Winter, wie verwaiste Länder,
scheinen sich leise an dich anzuschmiegen.
Du erbst Venedig und Kasan und Rom,
Florenz wird dein sein, der Pisaner Dom,
die Troïtzka Lawra und das Monastir,
das unter Kiews Gärten ein Gewirr
von Gängen bildet, dunkel und verschlungen, –
Moskau mit Glocken wie Erinnerungen, –
und Klang wird dein sein Geigen, Hörner, Zungen,
und jedes Lied, das tief genug erklungen,
wird an dir glänzen wie ein Edelstein.

Es geht noch weiter, she said, after a pause, then realized that she had spoken German, repeated: – This is not where it ends, but I think this is good for now. He smiled warmly and bowed to her. She gave a small laugh and answered: – Now for my secret. He replied: – But that would be two gifts then, implying that the poem had been a gift and he had appreciated it, but she did not pay attention to him as if she was in need of depositing her secret whatever it might be with someone, just anyone, maybe the first person she met who liked Rilke.

He felt a bit uneasy, because the encounter had become personal and he did not know whether he wanted to be burdened with a private detail. – You see, she commented as if she had been following his thoughts, – the second one is not a gift, it is a fair and square deal. But don´t be afraid, it´s just an insignificant small thing I am going to tell you, quite childish really, and he felt ashamed that he had been nervous.

She continued with a hushed voice and in a slightly pedantic tone, her German accent now more apparent that she had recited the Rilke poem, – I cannot afford to buy this book, it´s really quite expensive. It´s a first edition, published in 1923, and it is absolutely beautiful. I do spend money on books as you can see, but this one´s out of my reach. So I took it from the rare book section down here and placed it in social studies because I figured chances are that most people interested in social theories and politics and history would not much care for poetry and so it would be awhile until it either found a buyer or the clerks put it back where it belongs and until then I can look at it. These editions normally go very fast. Now, there it is, my secret, and I am going to put the book back on the shelf right next to Isaiah Berlin because he was fluent in German and would be good company to Rilke. I hope you will keep my secret because then I will be able to enjoy this a little longer and all the more now because it is a shared secret now.
Mr. Letterman watched her shelving the book neatly, holding on to his own books tightly to steady himself. He was feeling troubled. He did not know whether he felt disapproval or interest in the girl or both he was at the same time curious and uncertain as to how the situation would continue, asking himself whether she would expect him to answer to her confession and what to say, and whether he was to be her accomplice in the crime or give her some fatherly advice. Surely this was not a grave violation of ethics, not as bad even as hiding a book at the law library to prevent other students from finding specific titles that were relevant for a semester assignment as was a bad habit of some of his fellow students at law school. Surely, there was something intriguing about a girl her age who knew Rilke by heart and seemed to know a bit about Isaiah Berlin as well, already knew this before she opened The Hedgehog and the Fox. Surely, he did not normally seek out young girls for literary conversations and confessions, and he felt at insufficient and uneasy and overall insufficiently prepared for such a situation, which in turn made him feel irritated and at a loss for words. But she just turned around, smiled at him once more, but now in a polite and distant way that betrayed nothing of the intimacy they had shared just a moment ago and with a small nod of the head, walked over to the register to pay for her two books. He looked at the shelf where the small grey-green volume nestled up to its neighbor, like an ordinary, out of the ordinary secret, a secret quite different than the ones he was entrusted with every day save Saturday and Sunday as a lawyer. When he looked up again the girl had left the store leaving him behind with their shared secret. Should he take the book out of the shelf like a good schoolboy and carry it back to the rare book section? But nobody had made him the guardian of the books after all and the clerks, as she had said, were bound to find it sooner or later, so there was no harm done, really. After giving this some consideration he still didn´t feel right about it, and he still felt angry with her for leaving  him with  choices that would put him in the wrong no matter whether he decided it one way or the other. Finally he turned his back on Rilke and Berlin and started browsing in the opposite shelf, in History. He pulled out Herodotus who was shelved properly and leafed through the pages until he found his favorite part, the story of Candaules and Gyges. When he had finished reading it and Candaules had been killed and succeeded by Gyges, he had successfully willed himself to forget about Rilke, and about the secret and about the girl. Or so he thought. Thus he kept the secret. Thus the trouble began.

The Twelve Nights of Christmas, Night Eleven: Nevermore …

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore …

Foto

I couldn’t make this the twelfth night theme. “Nevermore” is not the note I’d choose to conclude this season’s “Twelve Nights”. But on the eleventh night it brings together further elements of reading, words, images evoking coherent comprehension beyond words, night time, magic realism, dreams, illusions, delusions, sleep deprivation, time, meditation, past, progression,automatons, determinism, choice, knowledge, intuition, desperation, endurance …

Two weeks ago  I listened to a musician on DRKultur (radio) talking about time and about the experience of time during extemporaneous composition and performance  on the piano. He talked about experiencing eternity not as an endless repetition of events in a space of time never ending but about as an experience of time being suspended. I think about art  – writing, painting and illustrating – as taking place in just that space of time being suspended, a space that I can enter and where I can linger at will.

the nonsense dictionary of lifeforms on Helium-3 and other insignificant by-products of music-poisoning

English: Spectrum of helium

English: Spectrum of helium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

or: when will we start to harvest the moon …

surprising studies show that if the anti-venom of bureaucratic correctness  is not injected in time and the victim instead continues to breathe slowly through the nose, the seemingly alarming condition develops from a hallucinatory episode to a temporal ability to find one of the hidden doors into the helium-3 universe. the first sign of this conversion from the three-dimensional limitation into a full comprehension of the “it” including helium-3 is a steady stream of blue light from the nostrils. this oscillating string of conscious matter should not alarm the victim nor bystanders as it is not a loss of matter but a reconfiguration of the same. slightly nasal intonation after readjustment not uncommon but overall harmless. for reassurance the progress of the victim’s condition can be  measured at a frequency of 8.665 GHz (3.46 cm), which is emitted naturally by ionized helium-3. the comprehension of the fact that most of the matter in the universe is non-baryonic, that is to say not made of any subatomic particle that include neutrons and protons, and that this matter is thought to be the primary source of gravity recording the constellation of the universe like the grooves on a record record a song, allows the observer to deduct from the state of rapture that the poisoned mind is – for a moment – privy to nothing less than a fusion of dark matter with consciousness, the first music of time.

an intervention at this point seems not indicated.

from: the dictionary of lifeforms on Helium-3 and other insignificant by-products of music-poisoning

The woods are lovely …

Robert Frost, 1913.

Robert Frost, 1913. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It might just be true that there are some words that own us before we even truly know them.

A long time ago, I was a kid still, I watched a spy movie. I don’t even know the title of that movie now nor do I remember the plot.  I seem to remember the face of the main actress but do not know her name. I just recall that the story unfolded around a group of so called “sleepers”, people who were leading normal average US citizen lives until they were called – by phone – by a contact person who then “woke” them to perform a certain task by reciting a single line from a poem to them. And this single line from a very famous poem  stayed with me for years. Alas, neither did I know it was famous, nor did I initially know that it would haunt me for many years.

To make things more difficult, the movie was American synchronized to German. The time must have been late Seventies, I guess. None of these fragments of information enabled me to identify the movie.

The line as that came to haunt me was: “Des Waldes Dunkel zieht mich an, doch muss zu meinem Wort ich stehn und Meilen gehn’ bevor ich schlafen kann, und Meilen gehn, bevor ich schlafen kann.” I was immediately electrified. It was as if I had been woken up. The line stuck. After a few days I knew that I longed to  learn the whole poem.Eventually, and maybe only a lover of poetry gets this, I longed for the poem the line was taken from like I would learn to long for a certain person much later on – but just not quite then.

Alas, there was no mentioning of the title of the poem. Nor of the author. I didn’t know what it was that electrified me. It was well before one could start an internet search. So I had to nurse that longing. And marvelously I did. For years actually. I never forgot those lines. Even though they might be among the most famous last lines of any poem ever written, I didn’t find them for a long time. It might have been easier had they been first lines though.

The translation of these lines, of course, is: The wood are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.

We finally found each other, that poem and I, some twenty years later. And I was as happy as if someone had revealed my fate to me. And the revelation of that fate would have been to know the poem. The woods are lovely. It took about three minutes to learn the rest of the poem when I found it. I knew I had known it before I had known it. I knew it when I found it.

And I have no answer as to how it can be that a poem, a poem not even in my then native language came to claim my allegiance. Came to claim me.

The poem was written by Robert Frost. I am a sober person but this poem was written into my genetic make-up. It seems that I had always known it, that it had been waiting for me, patiently, all these years, even testing me.

This is a kind of respectless approach to the great poet, forgive me, Mr. Robert Frost, respect less in the sense that, of course, this poem is not individual, and that is where its true beauty lies.

Robert Frost, a poet who died before I was even born. But not long after, in a small book store in the Upper, upper east side, around 95th street and Lex, I  had discovered a kid’s illustrated version of “Stopping by the woods”, stumbling upon it, virtually, I met an old photographer, a neighbor of mine on 95th Street and Columbus, Jacob Lofman. In his apartment there was a beautiful picture of Robert Frost that Jacob Lofman had taken years before. I know now that the picture was well known by the time I spotted it on the walls of the humble apartment in the Upper West Side when Jacob had invited me for tea.

Well known that foto might have been and still is, but it wasn’t to me back then. It was still not part of my culture. Robert Frost in New England. And so it came that I had the great pleasure to discover this image, the image of Robert Frost, in the apartment of a photographer who knew how to look at a man who by the time he met him was already legend and still to show something deeply personal about him.

I kept looking at the picture for a long time. Jacob made tea and I looked at the picture. I still can hear the water boiling, the tea cups cluttering. It made me happy to just look at the picture hanging on a wall in an apartment in the Upper West Side. In my ignorance I didn’t know that the man in the picture was famous. I knew by then, just for a few days, that he had written the poem I had searched for ever so many years. I don’t know why it was that poem by Robert Frost any more than you could answer why you love a certain person and not another.

I still don’t know why words have that kind of power. I just know by fortunate experience now that they do. I have rarely been as happy in my life as when I discovered those fragile bonds to a poem that had claimed me so many years ago. I know now, of course, that EVERBODY and their neighbors love “Stopping by the woods”. I guess that’s how it ended up in a spy movie. But without any cultural context, even without the context of the poem, just by a few lines in translation, spoken a few times, these lines had been truly powerful.

Life is strange, complex, opaque, but  still we can establish part of its truth. We just know it when we see it. Truth claims us. Words have that kind of sober, relentless, inconsequential power. They are an end in themselves, no further salvation promised or needed.

disobeying the categorical imperative or: the shimmering beauty of ordinary lies

Imagethe third night was bitter cold. eliminating useful words seemed an appropriate strategy to survive the moments that passed with uninterpreted certainty until about five minutes after midnight when the terror of the imaginative mind took over with an ease that betrayed its uncontested reign held even when the discipline of the mind seemed to have hold at bay the monsters lurking in the dark. the useless words i was left with after having eliminated the useful ones had painted beautiful, inconsequential shadows into meaningless days but the reign of the imaginative mind illuminated just a stretch of the way into the darkness, far enough to lead me further astray. but why should i have obeyed the categorical imperative and follow a chilling truth dedicated to a purpose i did not condone even if i couldn’t escape its gravity, a truth i won’t deny, not even now, a truth that with precision etches letters of sober inquiry into my mind but does not not compare to the shimmering beauty of my ordinary lies five minutes after midnight.

English: Immanuel Kant Deutsch: Immanuel Kant

English: Immanuel Kant Deutsch: Immanuel Kant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

childhood

IMG_3109When did we forget to spin the dream, when did our world cease to hold small promises of meaning and adventure, a life time of stories still to be told? How did we grow up to forget the sensual richness of the world, the intense pleasure we can find only in simple things and moments? When did we cease to live today in order to reach for a tomorrow that we never truly know will exist – and if it does, it comes only to be given up and traded in for yet another tomorrow until there is no tomorrow left? When did we start squandering our present moments for squalid projections of who we could be if only? When did we tire of that what we have , right here and right now, the word, the discovery of nothing and everything, the breath of boredom and adventure alike?

Art and me, or: The crowd at my breakfast table

Wer guckt da durch?

Art and me, we have a strange and very complicated relationship. I have been chasing it with determination and desperation, and it has cold-heartedly denied me. The pain of rejected love is cruel, but I submitted to it only so long. I retreated, admitting defeat was the most dignified thing to do in this situation, I thought, and I became a lawyer. But then, surprise, instead of going its own way, art took up a habit of following me instead, never quite disappearing out of sight, yes, I would say, teasing me, challenging me.

Eventually, we made up, kind of, since then I have been treating it with respectful nonchalance,and it has been faithfully and annoyingly waiting for me ever since at the breakfast table, casually asking me: “So, what are you up to today?”, not being offended by my silence while I am hiding behind my crucially important notes for the day, while I am all business, anticipating legal arguments and dictating the first legal brief in my mind, instead asking again, equally casually: “Mind, if I tag along?”, and I – with an air of studied indifference respond: “Sure, why not?”, and out the door we rush.

And when I come home in the evening and I open my very important briefcase out tumble bits of this and that, drawings on note paper, done while I was on the phone, creatures with big eyes while I was thinking about security of data transmission, one of my new wooden drawings “Watch out while you are being watched” over a quick coffee break. At home I don’t know how to archive the mass of these  bits and pieces anymore, nor where to store the heap of casual paintings done at night, JUST because, and during every free moment and I feel like I imagine the husband must be feeling who doesn’t quite know whether he is cheating on his wife when he spends time with a female friend his wife is well aware of or whether he is cheating on said female friend when spending quality time with his wife.

Garbriel Lorca, the beautiful Spanish poet who was murdered by the Nationalist Forces shortly after the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 – who really was a much better poet than an artist expressed it very much the same way, because he loved drawing, tenderly calling it his “mistress” while he stayed married, of course he did, to his writing. I remember reading in a small, illustrated Lorca volume I had bought at the Heinrich Heine Buchhandlung at the main train station of the Berlin Zoo station – a book store that was as great and complicated and deep and full of books and ideas about books as it could possibly get, probably a dependance of Borges library. I was twenty and attending classes by Prof. Robert Kudielka at the HdK, the University of Fine Arts in then still Westberlin – while actually meaning to study law at the Free University. You see, from the beginning this was a complicated thing and the small Lorca volume seem to me like an announcement of something I was not ready to grasp yet. I still own it.

I got constantly side-tracked during those years because of places like the Heinrich-Heine book store where they absolutely supported the idea of spending your entire cash worth a month of earnings at  some student’s job on a heap of books you could just so carry to the register – after first staying for what seemed like days in the sacred railway catacombs, resembling a labyrinth of overpacked shelves. You’d come out with marvelous finds, books that had been hiding for decades, books unknown even to the book seller, and you and the book seller would jointly rejoice in the find, and the book seller would come up with a fantasy price for the book because the one displayed on the inside of the cover seemed – unreal. 51 cents, Pfennige, or something like this. So, you’d pay 2,50 DM, and it wasn’t a used book, it was a book that had been waiting for you to be the first owner patiently since about 1953, well over a decade before you had been born and even more time before you became literate and then some more.

I got constantly side-tracked because there were the collections of old masters in Dahlem, one S-Bahn station before Thielplatz, my law school station, and you’d only guess that I must be a somewhat decent lawyer for passing my exams besides the fact that getting off the train in Dahlem to for a small detour through the beautiful tree-lines streets of Dahlem as often as not ended up with an entire day in the collections, studying Rembrandt and Baehr and flemish artists instead or, if I made it to class in the morning, not returning from the university’s cafeteria at lunch time because it was located pretty much right next to the collections.

I am actually now practicing law, specializing, surprise, on art and law, and art still has a very sly way of side-tracking me. Maybe it has something to do with the fourteen years I spent in New York, idling away time at the MoMA and the Met, and at Crawford Doyle booksellers. Art has always influenced the Why and Where, has seduced me to accept situations I would not have dreamed of for the sake of studying a Vermeer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Calder’s Circus at the Whitney, or rough Miro drawings at MoMA or Gerhard Richter‘s black and white paintings at MoMA, Odilon Redon, Armando Reverón, Richard Serra, Lucian Freud, Swoon, Kiki Smith, Marina Abramović, Nancy Spero, my appetite may have been more voracious than discerning, but it found nourishment as I found distraction from more pressing questions and challenges and time passed swiftly as I was holding still, holding still and just looking and looking.At times that seems my main occupation. Looking. Thinking. Understanding. Reversing. Looking again.

Sometimes now I suspect that I do what I do – including law – because of art not despite, but I am loath to follow up on that suspicion. For now, I like the casual question in the morning, the uncertainty, the “Wow, this is still going on” and with as much determination and desperation as ever before. One could not ask for better. Want me to tag along. Sure.

By the way, above drawing is one done on the side, complementing a serious legal interest of mine. Even as I write this blog. Who is watching you? I am still married to the law. But if you made you way through to here, you realize that I as I have spoken about “art” as a single occupation I have really referred to two loves: Writing and painting. Now, that is – almost – too much for one life. definitely for one blog article that is already stretching the limits of a reasonable article’s length.  It’s a bit crowded at the breakfast table at times.

the nice king breathes the world into existence

the nice king breathes the world into existence

i don’t count the times when people ask me whether i could draw something nice for a change people ask me that a lot can’t you draw something nice for a change don’t think it offends me, it doesn’t but … Continue reading

Johari-Fenster, David Hockney, Carlos Castaneda – ein Zeitspiegel

IMGP1041Es mag sein, dass es wesentliche Diskrepanzen zwischen der Eigen- und Fremdwahrnehmung geben mag, aber das bedeutet nicht, dass die Fremdwahrnehmung notwendiger Weise eine von der Eigenwahrnehmung überhaupt unterscheidbare  Wahrnehmung einer Person ist. Joseph und Harry’s (Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham’s) Theorie, dem sogenannten Johari-Fenster (Johari-window) mangelt es an Beweglichkeit. Das “Bild eines Menschen”, gleich ob Selbstbild oder Fremdbild, eine solche Vorstellung setzt bereits sprachlogisch einen Betrachter voraus. Ein Betrachter, der Natur der Betrachtung folgend, nimmt einen spezifischen Standort ein und sein oder ihr Urteil bezieht sich auf das von dieser Perspektive aus Ersichtliche, Sichtbare. Die Diskrepanz in der Betrachtung zwischen der betrachteten Person und dem Betrachter erklärt sich bereits aus dieser Unterschiedlichkeit des Standortes, ohne dass dies logischer Weise den Schluss zulässt, dass eines der Bilder zutreffender oder umfassender wäre. Es ist interessant: wenige Zeit später begreift der Künstler David Hockney, dass die statische Abbildung eines physischen Zustandes immer illusionär bleiben muss, Spiegelspiel – und deshalb bewegt er sich um den abzubildenden Gegenstand herum, während er ihn abbildet.Das Resultat ist eine Annäherung an den gesuchten Wert, ähnlich wie die Bestimmung der Fläche eines Kreises, und die unterschiedlichen Beobachtungen von unterschiedlichen Standorten gehen in eine organische Gesamtabbildung ein, deren wesentlicher Charakter eben das eine ist: Annäherung an einen gesuchten Wert. Zu etwa der gleichen Zeit steigt Carlos Castaneda aus seiner betrachtenden, von den Erfahrungen im englischen Common Wealth ebenso wie den Reisen des Alexander von Humboldt  immer noch geprägten objektiv-imperialistischen  Menschen- und Kulturbeschreibung seines Fachbereiches Anthropologie aus und versucht sich an einer ganz neuen, kreativen Art der Menschenerforschung ebenfalls von der Idee der Beweglichkeit und Veränderbarkeit des Standortes inspiriert. Ich wiederum meine, dass es keine Unterscheidbarkeit von Fremd- und Eigenbild gibt, sondern dass das Ich, ewig fragiler, elusiver Zustand, unterschiedliche Standpunkte einnimmt, und – soweit es um das Fremdbild, das von einem außerhalb seiner selbst liegenden Standort wahrgenommene, personenbezogene Bild geht –  tatsächlich eine Art holografischer Annäherungsprojektion ist.