24 doors to a better life

In between the baffling book piles of a large-scale bookstore I discover a big sign: BETTER LIVING. Beneath that a wallful of handbooks, guides, manuals, bibles, confessions and insights, all of which promise me a better life. Great I think, a better life! Admittedly, the one I have right now isn’t half bad, but if you think about it … better would be better than not half bad. So I want to buy, but which one? The seemingly infinite number is overwhelming. Of course it would be best to just buy all of them, then I’d hedge my bets. But that won’t work.

Maybe I’ll just buy a couple. Maybe starting now I’ll buy two every month, then next year in December I’ll have an entire advent calendar. saw

 

Everything will be better in the New Year – 24 doors

Identity contrivance

Late-night entertainment on European educational TV. A coming-of-age philosophical documentary, trying to decipher our Zeitgeist from the perspective of an author in her mid twenties in the hip city of Berlin. The topic: identity.

It begins with a visit to a fortune teller, that predicts the journalist’s future by reading tea leaves. Conclusion: “Any day you can either open or close your future with yes and no.” The next conversational partner, a philosopher: “If the world were a book and we humans a word in it, then we can only find meaning for ourselves, if the book makes sense as a whole.” That reminds me of an interview with a retired manager, who travelled round the world with the intention of divining the wisdom of all cultures and then composing a book about the meaning of our existence. During a visit to a remote old monastery in Tibet he asks the elder the question about the meaning of life. His matter-of-factly reply: Go and sweep the yard. heg

What's left when nothing's left?

In a tight wooden box in Vienna's Akademietheater, the four remnants of a family are the last survivors in the void, in a world that “may come to an end”.

The interdependence of the family members is the only basis for their relationship. So, in Samuel Beckett's “Endgame”, apparently the most important issues are, who owns the key to the food cabinet, who has intact legs to make use of it; when it's time for an equally hard to get sedative, which, as it turns out later, has long been used up; and what happens when one leaves the interdependent web to die indifferently. “One moment turns into another, bluff, bluff, and your entire life you wait for it to turn into a life.” The protagonists' single brief effort to search for God with their eyes closed is quickly distracted by the search for a supposed rat and the vigorous demand for a promised, but not existing praline. The only spark of hope that the “endgame” might yet become a “beginning game” is the passing mention that God does not “no longer exist” here, but “not yet”. heg

Optimism

A man in California is standing in front of the remains of his house, which was completely burnt down during the forest fires.

He has lived in it for twenty-five years and now it and all his property was consumed by fire. In an interview, he says: “Well, we‘re gonna put that all up again ... it’s only stuff!” He even sounds rather cheerful. mas

Human Truth

A few weeks before her private audience with Pope Benedict XVI and shortly before her death, Oriana Fallaci, an Italian journalist and writer, wrote:

“I feel less alone when I read the books of Ratzinger. I'm an atheist; and when an atheist and a Pope think the same, then something must be true about it. It's that simple! There must be human truth beyond religion!”

Police State?

A Catholic Sunday service in Jerusalem: It's hot, the door is wide open. Suddenly, an Israeli policeman comes into the room with big, fast steps, while a second one remains outside the door. The first policeman goes up to a praying person in the first row of seats, taps him, and with a gesture he asks him to empty his trousers.

The man resists, the policeman beckons in his colleague. Then the priest interrupts his prayer, steps up, and loudly sends the policeman out of the room. He walks away, shrugging his shoulders, followed by one of the Fathers. The priest spontaneously starts his sermon with a commentary in which he interprets the incident as a religious conflict: That's what it's like, when you want to live in Israel as a Christian. You'll be insulted, spat upon, obstructed in service. The father who had left the room with the policeman comes in again, bends over to the man in the front row, and gently speaks to him. The priest disciplines his brother from the altar: “Daniel, leave the man alone.” Father Daniel continues to speak to the man. Then the man gets up and leaves the room. “And again, the police state has won”, the priest says at the altar. After the service, father Daniel apologises: “Well, he had robbed someone, the police have ensured that the robbed person got his purse back.” mas

Cur Deus homo? Why did God become man? – or: Why does man go to a health resort?

When the Ruhr University Bochum was founded in 1962, I went to look at it. From the highway, I took the “exit human sciences” – it was all waiting for the youth, but it was an empty ghost town made of concrete. On the other hand, my stay in a health resort was quite lively this summer:

there were only a few percent of younger people, otherwise the audience was between 70 and 85 years of age. Still in search of the spirit, I found my way to the bookshop of the health resort.

A selection of titles:

The small exercise book: realising lifelong dreams

The 5 magical moments of life – how we seize opportunities that fate gives us

Women's Body – Women's Wisdom: How women can rediscover their original ability to self-healing

Live your momentum – how we become the creators of our destiny

Why French women look younger – attractive at any age

The meditation of the five Shamanic elements – Fulfill your desires and find harmony

All too late, I thought, the trade with the mind appeals to the remnants of adolescent dreams. But old people can be so beautiful, they can reflect their age, their shape, gained in joy and suffering. pez

Bible interpretation in the Lutheran year

On the evangelical church day, a female bishop is quoted as part of the gender discussion, saying that “a lot of theological work will be required eradicating the biblical image of male and female”.

On a secular level, this work has already progressed very well, since the law on “marriage for anyone” has unreservedly passed the institutions without a considerable debate. Where the state's redefinition of marriages and families can be arbitrarily justified, there will soon be claims for the entitlement to having a child without father and mother. After all, anything is possible and adoption is merely one of many means to assert such a claim.The organising of planned children by means of surrogacy, seed banks or even child trafficking have already become a billion-dollar business worldwide. The bishop does not seem to be aware of these consequences from her eradication fantasies. Even if she evolves the evangelical theology in the Lutheran year, she can not just skip Luther's “Sola Scriptura” and rewrite the Bible. In Genesis 1:27 it still says: “God created man in his own image; male and female he created them.” mah

“Striking without aiming”

Subtitle: Meditative archery.

“So it goes pointlessly in the woods of Catholic brochures, also in suggestions for prayer:

“Before you, Lord,

I can be

deedless,

speechless,

thoughtless,

be.

As you, Lord,

are already

before the act,

before the word,

before the thought in me.”

I don't know why, but the word “problem-free” came to my mind. It wasn't there, like for example:

...

problem-free,

because before my problems,

you already had

yours with us.”

pez

“The Submission” on the G20 weekend in Hamburg

While tens of thousands carry linen banners through a ghost town disrupted by sirens, a few thousand hooded figures force their riot upon the city, a black wall is established in the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg.

It's not all black; in the middle is an omission, a hollowed-out cross. Francois, from Houllebeque's “Submission", runs to the wall, right under the cross. After some time, it starts to rotate, Francois climbs into the clock hand, which changes, into a chaise longue, into a concrete mixer, into a hamster wheel. It pauses, Francois climbs out of his coffin, runs up and down the wall, rids himself of his clothes, he climbs back into the keyhole, whenever the long side sinks. Soon he is exhausted, he needs a table to be able to heave himself up again, a spectator assists him. In the end the cross breaks away, the wall rises in front of a completely black room, Francois, wearing white clothes, illuminated, forms the words of faith of a foreign language. “It would be the chance for a second life. I would have nothing to regret.” After the play, at the railway station, everyone meets and squeezes into the special train: the linen banners, the rioters, the theater enthusiasts and the people jumping to assist. saw

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