Monthly Archives: February 2011

The true and only virtue, then, is to hate self (for we are hateful on account of lust) and to seek a truly lovable being to love. But as we cannot love what is outside ourselves, we must love a being who is in us and is not ourselves; and that is true of each and all men. Now, only the Universal Being is such. The kingdom of God is within us; the universal good is within us, is ourselves — and not ourselves.

Pascal, Pensées (tr. Trotter)

Man cannot live without a permanent trust in something indestructible in himself, though both the indestructible element and the trust may remain permanently hidden from him. One of the ways in which this hiddenness can express itself is through faith in a personal god.

– Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks (tr. Kaiser and Wilkins)

The ghostly element

How on earth did anyone get the idea that people can communicate with one another by letter! Of a distant person one can think, and of a person who is near one can catch hold – all else goes beyond human strength. Writing letters, however, means to denude oneself before the ghosts, something for which they greedily wait. Written kisses don’t reach their destination, rather they are drunk on the way by the ghosts. It is on this ample nourishment that they multiply so enormously. Humanity senses this and fights against it and in order to eliminate as far as possible the ghostly element between people and to create a natural communication, the peace of souls, it has invented the railway, the motor car, the aeroplane. But it’s no longer any good, these are evidently inventions being made at the moment of crashing. The opposing side is so much calmer and stronger; after the postal service it has invented the telegraph, the telephone, the radiograph. The ghosts won’t starve, but we will perish.

– Kafka, quoted here

Drinking

X and I sit in the afternoon sun drinking. Drink, he tells me, keep up. Why are we drinking? I ask. To be renewed, he says, because it’s spring. Is it working for you? I ask him some time later. No, he says, keep going.

Dusk dread

Dusk is my time of dread, I tell X, my dread time. Yours too, I think? This darkening holding pattern… it’s not a time at all, really, I say. It’s time stopped or winding down with no certainty of starting again – how do we know it will? Dead time, a hole in time that demands: What have you done with your time today? Now, when you should have earned the time to relax, what have you done with the time that was given to you? And tomorrow, if tomorrow comes, what will you do, how will you honour the gift that tomorrow will be, if it comes? Do you know what awaits you? And the answer it gives us is always nothing, isn’t it? I say. You’ve done nothing, you’ll do nothing, nothing awaits you. That’s why dusk is our time, I say, that’s why we dread it.

Thief in the night

If salvation comes it will come like a stranger, I say, unannounced and unknown, while we sleep, like a thief in the night. Yes, says X, if it were to come that’s how it would have to come. But would we wake up? he says.

As clear as it gets

I read to X from the Bible: ‘His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ That’s as clear as it gets, I tell him, there you have it. Even Christ said it. There’s no getting away from it, I say. We need to figure out once and for all what our real work is. You need to stop talking once and for all, says X.

Overdue

So what have you accomplished today? X asks me when I get home from work. I don’t know, I say, slumping down opposite him. What’s our real work? I ask after a while. I don’t know, he says. Something’s overdue, I say, I can feel it, we’ve missed some crucial deadline and I can’t remember when it was or what I was supposed to do, I only know a judgement’s coming down on us, like in a nightmare. Only from this nightmare there’s no waking up, and it’s only going to get worse unless we… unless we what? I say. What’s our real work? I say. I don’t know, says X.