Project for a Better World
Liberty, equality, fraternity!” But how do we get to the action words? –
The world strides towards the better. But where does the better stride to? –
You can recognize a good example when it is not contagious. –
Translated from: Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, Sämtliche unfrisierte Gedanken (1982)
A wake-up call 70 years ago
Emerging into the ruins of a world that didn’t drown in water, but in fire and blood and tears, in a tribunal that can well be put alongside that atoning flood from the early days of man.
Never can we grant the thought access that our sparing is a sign of our special worth. We know only one thing: As we were left, God still has plans with us. That we are still alive means “vocation”.
Translated from: Ida Friederike Görres, Was wir wollen, in: Kristall, Bild und Ebenbild (1947)
The right or the wrong time to wake sleepwalkers
Countless people live in ignorance, relaxed, day by day, like young animals. They live as if there is no guilt and knowledge. They wander through existence. They sleep. Should one wake them up?
Let's suppose that they can be awakened, – but for what? So they can start with what the others are already doing? No, not for that. But it would be a gain for the world if they were illuminated, clarified, and let towards life, if they were enlightened and led to the light. There already was an enlightenment period. A new better one is needed.
From: Alfred Döblin (1948). Autobiographical Writings and Records (1977)
Of all conceivable forms of enlightenment the worst is what these people call the Inner Light.
Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within. That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones.
From: Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1908). Orthodoxy
Nietzsche’s hatred of anti-Semitism: „So absurd, so unjustified it is one of the sickest excesses of Imperial Germany’s gawking self-scrutiny.“ In the meantime we have become adequately familiar with the gawking self-scrutiny of Federal Germany, too, and we know that the more critical the issues of economic prosperity, the more vain this scrutiny becomes, and that consequently the hostile feelings toward too many foreigners in our county will begin to grow again.
When we notice the sudden increase in hate, which is no less common among the very young than it is among the old, proven racists, we might get the impression that German emotional life has for some time essentially consisted of a gap; nothing of the colorful mélange that came about could fill it, nothing stirred; once xenophobia appears we immediately sense: That’s it! The feeling is feeling again, it has come to possess something central again. In any case, it is not the moment anymore in which we can safely trust that a liberal democracy, with its simple edge/middle thinking, will be able to manage the parapolitical and negativist needs of a nation over the long term.
From: Botho Strauß (1981). Couples, Passersby
Remembrance of the future
We know that the Jews were prohibited from investigating the future. The Torah and the prayers instruct them in remembrance, however. This stripped the future of its magic, to which all those succumb who turn to the soothsayers for enlightenment.
This does not imply, however, that for the Jews the future turned into homogeneous, empty time. For every second of time was the strait gate through which Messiah might enter.
From: Walter Benjamin (1943). On the Concept of History
“Faith” not in demand
Judaism is thus no transcendental religion; it is concerned with life as we live it and can up to a point grasp it and nothing else. It seems to me, therefore, doubtful whether it can be called a religion in the accepted sense of the word, particulary as no “faith” but the sanctification of life in a supra-personal sense is demanded of the Jew.
If one purges the Judaism of the Prophets and Christianity as Jesus Christ taught it of all subsequent additions, especially those of the priests, one is left with a teaching which is capable of curing all the social ills of humanity.
From: Albert Einstein (1935). The World as I see it
Why reforms fail
The best of the contemporaries of Cusanus demanded the reform of the Church, of both, its head and its members, as well as the reform of the empire. Commissioned with the reform of the Church in Rome itself, he completely failed because Pope and Cardinals were not thinking of adopting reforms concerning their own actions and positions.
Reform as a mere external change in institutions can not succeed. For reform presupposes the inner repentance of those who are involved, the seriousness of a new life that springs from a decision. Cusanus wanted the reforms but did not know their condition in the original transformation of self-sufficiency of the people who realize them.
From: Karl Jaspers (1964). Nicholas Cusanus
The shortening of working hours directly creates an empty space.
To fill it by means of higher activity, neither itself nor the remaining work contains a motive. Therefore, science and art and philosophy had be lowered as media of mere pastime, when they lost the aura of an engagement with the divine.
From: Karlheinz Haag (1983). The Progress in Philosophy
Time and signs
The old modern age has ended. We live in a post-modern as well as a post-Christian age. The present age is demented. It is possessed by a sense of dislocation, a loss of personal identity, an alternating sentimentality and rage which, in an individual patient, could be characterized as dementia. I would call it the age of the theorist-consumer.
All denizens of the age tend to be one or the other or both. Such a denizen can become so frustrated, bored, and enraged that he resorts to violence, violence upon himself or upon others. Or, such a denizen may discover that he is open to a search for signs, some sign other than theorizing or consumption.
There are only two signs in the post-modern age which cannot be encompassed by theory. One sign is one’s self. The only other sign in the world which cannot be encompassed by theory is the Jews, their history, and their presence in the here-and-now. For the self that finds itself lost in the desert of theory and consumption, there is nothing to do but set out as a pilgrim in the desert in search of a sign. In this desert, that of theory and consumption, there remains only one sign, the Jews. By “the Jews” I mean not only Israel, but the worldwide ecclesia instituted by one of them, God become man, a Jew.
From: Crisis Magazine (1990). Article by Walker Percy Why Are You a Catholic?