Talking to a friend inTurkey – she was just helping her son to settle in Denmark, reading Heisenberg, what he wrote about a talk to Max Planck, being still somewhat confused by the question if there is beauty as such (I ventilated this in the Berlin Diaries) and “being on the move” again, I stumbled upon a passage in Sigfried Lenz’ “The German lesson” … – are we stuck in a non-learning curve? I will return to this but here first the quote:
Well, then, I’ll tell you why I’m on the island. Because no one dares to send the Rugbüll police station for a detox; he can stay addict, remaining damn duty-addicted. And I’m here because he reached a certain age and age is indispensable to reeducated. Yes, I am here on his behalf, if you ask me. But maybe it will work out: maybe one day he can take over from me the progress I am making here. That is to be hoped for. But that is all there is to hope for. I cannot believe it. (translation P.H.)
Here the original, from page 554:
Na gut, dann werde ich Ihnen sagen, warum ich auf der Insel bin. Weil keiner sich traut, dem Polizeiposten Rugbüll eine Entziehungskur zu verordnen; der darf süchtig bleiben und süchtig seine verdammte Pflicht tun. Und ich bin hier, weil er ein bestimmtes Alter erreicht hat und als Alter unabkömmlich ist, um sich noch einmal umtrimmen zu lassen. Ja, ich bin stellvertretend für ihn hier, wenn Sie mich fragen. Aber vielleicht gelingt’s ja: vielleicht kann er die Fortschritte, die ich hier mache, eines Tages von mir übernehmen. Das ist zu hoffen. Aber das ist auch alles, was zu hoffen ist. Glauben kann ich es nicht.
Admittedly, it is a rather weird thought suggesting that, indeed history is not repeating itself, but actually it moved with modernity into a Procrustean bed. At least, as much as learning is about asking, (see comment on an earlier post: it has to be allowed to table some questions …, they will follow here soon.
There is so much talk and wrong-doing about excellence, high performance striving for exceptional individual results. And there is so much forgetting of the fact that any human performance is part of a process, picking up the seeds and germs, delivered “for free”, often by really great minds, so often greater than the celebrities. Excellence, well understood, is about being part of a wider social and historical performance, not about individuals who – by chance or fierce violence in a competitive strive – are excluding themselves from the cooperative context, possibly even positioning themselves against it.
William Guthrie is somebody who showed by exposing his modesty what this actually means, writing in the second half of the19th century the following words, part of the Introduction and Translators Notes to the translation Savigny’s Private International Law and the Retrospective Operation of Statutes (A Treatise on the Conflict of Laws, and the Limits of their Operation in Respect of Place and Time)
Now, when a considerable portion lies before me completed, I might wish that much of it had been more exhaustive, plainer, and therefore different. Should such a knowledge paralyze the courage which every extensive enterprise requires ? Even along with such a self-consciousness, we may rest satisfied with the reflection, that the truth is furthered, not merely as we ourselves know it and utter it, but also by our pointing out and paving the way to it, by our settling the questions and problems on the solution of which all success depends ; for we help others to reach the goal which we are not permitted to attain. Thus, I am now satisfied with the consciousness that this work may contain fruitful seeds of truth, which shall perhaps find in others their full development, and bear rich fruit. If, then, in the presence of this full and rich fructification, the present work, which contained its germ, falls into the background, nay, is forgotten, it matters little. The individual work is as transient as the individual man in his visible form ; but imperishable is the thought that ever waxes through the life of individuals, the thought that unites all of us who labour with zeal aud love into a greater and enduring community, and in which even the meanest contribution of the individual finds its permanent place.
This is surely part of Marx probably meant when talking about the fact that humans are social beings and can even individualise only in society.Now, when a considerable portion lies before me completed, I might wish that much of it had been more exhaustive, plainer, and therefore different. Should such a knowledge paralyze the courage which every extensive enterprise requires ? Even along with such a self-consciousness, we may rest satisfied with the reflection, that the truth is furthered, not merely as we ourselves know it and utter it, but also by our pointing out and paving the way to it, by our settling the questions and problems on the solution of which all success depends ; for we help others to reach the goal which we are not permitted to attain. Thus, I am now satisfied with the consciousness that this work may contain fruitful seeds of truth, which shall perhaps find in others their full development, and bear rich fruit. If, then, in the presence of this full and rich fructification, the present work, which contained its germ, falls into the background, nay, is forgotten, it matters little. The individual work is as transient as the individual man in his visible form ; but imperishable is the thought that ever waxes through the life of individuals, the thought that unites all of us who labour with zeal aud love into a greater and enduring community, and in which even the meanest contribution of the individual finds its permanent place.
This is surely part of Marx probably meant when talking about the fact that humans are social beings and can even individualise only in society. It is not (only) the dwarf on the shoulders of giants, but (also) the cogwheel without which the entire engine cannot work.
Yesterday we went to an exhibition n the theatre museum here in Vienna, from my side not expected to such an extent: a treasure.
In fact, much had been written about those at the margin, presenting the ambiguity of the outsider. This “positive side” had been something that employed my thinking the last weeks already, reading about family businesses etc.. It surely will guide my future work, looking more on the margin: victim in terms of having to carry the burden of all the stuff that is externalised by the ruling classes; but also preventing the advantage of having nothing to loose, being already there where not only new varieties int also entirely new plants may grow.
another time – moving from one place to another, some suggesting “moving home” though a passport, indispensable in some respect and for some as well expressed here, does not mean anything in and for others …, so it is for me, indeed, just ‘moving from one place to another’, wondering if and when it comes to a standstill …
The weekend busy with putting things into place which; while massively downsizing, it had still been a huge amount of work, also mental work. Will happen, what had been promised, when and where I left some time ago: the work on the project in Łódź, the projected cooperation between the colleagues in Munich and Moscow, the ‘foundation-library’ in Rome, which had been promised such a ling time ago, and saddening every time I think about my books still behind bars …
… but it is also about the other dimension, letting Hans Bender, while tidying up, state
here some letters, manuscripts, mostly fragments, photographies – but who, after I left, will be able to call the by name?
Much has been said about the price to be paid for success … and often the German’s are praised: zeal, diligence …, though Protestantism was and is not necessarily dominant amongst the Germans, this tribe is often presented as incarnation of the protestant work ethics (as Max Weber analysed it). Topics for many discussions; many topics for discussion.
One aspect, often forgotten, had been mentioned by Immanuel Kant, though emerging from a possibly unexpected, even unrecognised context (English below):
Die vorzügliche Achtungsbezeigung in Worten und Manieren selbst gegen einen nicht Gebietenden in der bürgerlichen Verfassung – die Reverenzen, Verbeugungen (Complimente), höfische – den Unterschied der Stände mit sorgfältiger Pünktlichkeit bezeichnende Phrasen, – welche von der Höflichkeit (die auch sich gleich Achtenden nothwendig ist) ganz unterschieden sind – das Du, Er, Ihr und Sie, oder Ew. Wohledlen, Hochedeln, Hochedelgebornen, Wohlgebornen ( ohe, iam satis est !) in der Anrede als in der Pedanterei die Deutschen unter allen Völkern der Erde (die indische Kasten vielleicht ausgenommen) es am weitesten gebracht haben, sind das nicht Beweise eines ausgebreiteten Hanges zur Kriecherei unter Menschen? ( Hae nugae in seria ducunt. ) Wer sich aber zum Wurm macht, kann nachher nicht klagen, daß er mit Füßen getreten wird.
Preferential tributes of respect in words and manners even to those who have no civil authority – reverences, obeisance’s (compliments) and courtly phrases marking with the utmost precision every distinction in rank, is something altogether different from courtesy (which is necessary even for those who respect each other equally) – the Du, Er, Ihr and Sie, or Ew. Wohledeln, Hochedeln, Hochedelgeborenen, Wohlgeborenen (ohe, iam satis est!) as forms of address, a pedantry in which the Germans seem to outdo any other people in the world (except possibly the Indian castes): Does not all this prove that there is a widespread propensity to servility in men? (Hae nugae in seria ducunt) But one who makes himself a worm cannot complain afterwards if people step on him.
Worthwhile to think about it, not least as it reminds a bit of Mills, thinking about the dissatisfied human and the satisfied pig.
It may be worth to mention that, looking for the text on the internet, usually quotations omit the last sentence, thus, I would say, omitting the price to be paid for such success.
 (Kant, Immanuel, 1793: Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft. Die Metaphysik der Sitten; 437)
 (Kant, Immanuel, 1793: The Metaphysics of Morals; Introduction, translation, and notes by Mary Gregor; New York et altera: Cambridge Univesity Press, 1991: 232)
Worthwhile to remember what Alfred Marshall said in 1890.
The schoolmaster must learn that his main duty is not to impart knowledge, for a few shillings will buy more printed knowledge than a man’s brain can hold. It is to educate character, faculties and activities; so that the children even of those parents who are not thoughtful themselves, may have a better chance of being trained up to become thoughtful parents of the next generation. To this end public money must flow freely. And it must flow freely to provide fresh air and space for wholesome play for the children in all working class quarters. (Marshall, Alfred, 1890: Principles of Economics; MacMillan and Co., London, 1930: 718)
It seems that with the “refeudalisation of society” we face the situation that the positions of the revolutionaries of the olden times, whose authors had been yesterday’s conservatives, are becoming joining on the side of the revolutionaries again. In this light there is also something about the illustration, ensuring to sin – surely not catholic-literally but to accept that pupils and students are partners.
Worthwhile a note on the world and China: on September the 10th I received a mail from 张伟, a former student of mine – well, she would say “a student of mine”, skipping the word “former”. She sent her congrats and best wishes for the teachers day. First I was puzzled – did she mix up the date? 2018, the Chinese teachers’ day is on the 10th of September, the world teachers’ day on October 5th, a simple explanation. I checked later on the web and found something that is … – well, I leave it up to you to think about it:
10 September is an official holiday in China. This day the whole country fetes educators and teachers. This holiday, in its different interpretations, has been existed in China as early as the Middle Ages. Teachers and coaches have always been honored and respected in China. Very often teachers acted as mentors throughout the whole life; especially it is true for the traditional Chinese martial arts.
It also says something on the reason of making it a public holiday: the official acknowledgment of teachers – as intellectuals – and their important role in boosting the development of the country. Also
Since the school system in China is based on the Western model, many old traditions in honor of teachers have not been preserved today.
One may have different opinions on this, the political background …, well. But at least it seems to be worthwhile to mention that there is a deed in the one part of the world, and that there are just words, probably widely unspoken, unwritten, unheard, unread … in another part of the world.
Worthwhile a personal note:
Only recently, visiting with a friend the Kunsthalle in Munich, I remembered one point of all this, when standing with her in front of one of Emmanuel Maignan’s works, the “Anamorfosi San Francesco di Paola”. A pleasure to experience the amazement of both of us. Though it had not been about a visit with a student, it is very similar anyway: Something of learning together and admitting that it is about the experience of being caught by what one sees – in this case actually being caught by what one does not see: the praying person only visible from two specified angles, the sides. It reminded me of having used Holbein’s equally magnificent work “Gli Ambasciatori” for showing the same effect: the hiding of something, the fact of leaving something invisible for those who lack the enlightenment – an enlightenment that is emerging from the standpoint, the perspective. Never having seen the original of Holbein’s work, seeing something similar entailed still the experience of being amazed. – What foolish teacher would say s/he knows the one and only perspective. Doesn’t such perspective emerge only from putting together experiences, that may at some stage get stuck, paralyse the experienced if it goes together with closing the eyes, blocking off, not allowing new experiences to be made; and even more: not allowing looking at something “known” through new spectacles and of course forcing looking at the new through the old glasses.
Teachers’ Day – an opportunity to congratulate students, and to thank my students for allowing me to learning together with them.