Einführung | Introductory Post

Hallo,

Herzlich willkommen auf meiner Webseite (Der Graue Schmetterling | The Grey Butterfly)!

Hier werde ich Auszüge meines kreativen Schreibens bringen.
Geplant sind wöchentlich neue Geschichten zu verschiedenen Themen.
Anmerkungen und Vorschläge sind gern gesehen.

Viel Vergnügen!

Hi,

Welcome to my site (Der Graue Schmetterling | The Grey Butterfly)!

I will be posting pieces of creative writing in German, with English translations. Every week the stories will be on different topics. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Enjoy!

Trilogy – Idols

Dear all,

Following from my last story in May (Why), I have decided to keep writing and keep exploring ideas. Over the course of lockdown I have written three more pieces as part of a trilogy called Idols, largely based on the theme of religion. These have been increasingly difficult to write as this is a topic that will always be close to home.

I would recommend starting with the title piece, Idols.

On Freedom and Vulnerability

Idols

The Middle

Enjoy,

Victoria

The Middle

Kate leant back. She was sitting cross-legged at the base of an oak tree, in the middle of a dense forest. The sky above her was obscured by a mesh of branches and leaves, casting a large shadow over the earth beneath it.

“Kate?”

Turning to her right, Kate lifted her hand briefly. Jack waded through the piles of leaves on the forest floor and stopped at Kate’s feet. “Finally,” he smiled. “Everything alright?”

Kate tilted her head slightly. “Somewhat,” she sighed. She took hold of Jack’s now outstretched palm and stood up. She took a few paces forward and beckoned for him to follow.

“If I took this leaf,” she said, holding out her hand as a small leaf fell neatly into it, “how much control would you say it has over its own existence, compared to us, say?”

“Not much, certainly not much in relation to humans,” Jack replied.

“Not much, I’d agree,” Kate said, crushing the leaf between her fingers. “Everything about this leaf is defined by forces external to it: how much the sun decides to shine today, the rainfall, when this tree decides it’s time for the leaf to go. Even as it falls, its descent is determined by other entities: the pull of gravity, and the air molecules that happened to be oriented in a certain way such that the leaf fell right into my hand. And now,” Kate tore up the leaf and allowed the pieces to fall to the ground, “it’s gone.”

“However, I would disagree that we have much more control over our lives. We’re all subject to the push and pull of other people’s decisions, actions, emotions; what I do today depends on what someone else did yesterday, and what he did depends on something further still. Our interdependence and interwovenness is like a machine hanging very finely in the balance – you can’t take away one part of it without the whole thing falling to pieces. What I mean is, Jack, nobody is fully in control. It’s like a network of human punching bags: anything you do causes a ripple that hits some hard, some a little and some not at all. We wouldn’t have to make hits if we never took them, but there’s no judge or referee to pause the state of play. But the thing is,” Kate said, looking directly at Jack, “I think I’ve stopped fighting.

“There’s no winning in this game. Every crutch becomes an obstacle and a hindrance: a friend might protect you from some knocks but himself delivers the most devastating blows. Or he falls to the ground, and brings you down with him. You may think you’re expanding your support, but you’re really only exposing yourself to more chances to be hurt. But I can’t break away and leave, either, because I don’t even have myself as an ally. I am powerless against the temperament of my mood, sending me instantaneously from euphoria into despair as if I were a plaything, and powerless against my fickleness and indecision. I have regrets; I look back at myself of a week ago as if I were a different person. But I know that everything I feel and do is the product of just another intricate web of chemicals and mechanisms inside me, whose complexity replicates and reproduces like a fractal. Every time I think I have a grasp on things, I reveal yet another level of infinite complexity. Just like the leaf, I have little control over my own life and less still of my own body. If I don’t have myself as a solid foundation, I have nothing. I’ve stopped fighting, Jack. I just allow myself to be fought.”

Kate lowered her gaze to the earth beneath her. “If that leaf had consciousness, when would you say it was most free?”

“Maybe when it was most nourished or something, Kate, I’m not sure,” Jack answered.

“To me, it’s at its descent.”

“But it’s already dead at that point.”

“Exactly.”

Kate sighed before continuing. “When it falls, it doesn’t have to play into the illusion of having any self-governance. There’s something liberating in letting the world around you envelop you, without trying to or needing to fight back. Freefall is like spitting in the face of being bound to obligations, whatever those may be.

“Of course, not everyone feels like this,” she smiled. “I’m envious of those for whom there is some force embodying the tree – a hint towards finding purpose and value in their life. Or even something that gives fulfilment to the state of being and existing. All the elements in my life have taken on a kind of transience: my emotions come and go like neatly wrapped presents; they engulf me and have their way with me, before spitting me out as they leave. But I’ve become accustomed to the process now, and I take no pleasure in the unwrapping. I only have hope that one day, one of them will make me cry, or laugh, and that I’ll be surprised by the realness of the glistening of my tears, or by the deep ecstasy in my laughter – that I’ll finally feel something to inspire me to keep fighting.”

Kate touched her cheek just below her eye, and looked at her fingertips. Dry.

“I want to feel like I have a base in my life, a firm grounding that affords me to experience the full spectrum of the beauty of the world, but without the perils that decorate it. Like the tree that exposes its leaves to both the viciousness and care of the forest, but never makes them vulnerable.

“I look at those devoted to a pastime or activity with jealousy: those with a chance to be in their truest form, to experience freely, and to share these experiences with others. It provides some respite from the constant trials we face, and allows you to feel, for some period of time, that the world is on your side. And yet, I feel barred from such a joy: if even my smiles are ingenuine and shallow, how can I find within me a spark of passion to sever momentarily the strings controlling my body? I don’t have the strength to face them head-on, Jack. I don’t even have the strength to pick up the scissors.”

She folded her arms. “Better off still are those who hold onto something stronger than the temporary freedom afforded by a hobby. Something that embodies our desire for a true ally: an advocate for your corner of the ring and a shield from life’s toughest blows. But as I said, to be part of this human web is to be a victim of it, and as such we must abstract further: take something in our own likeness and elevate it beyond the reach of the eternal throw of punches. This externality allows us to attribute to it what we ourselves are deprived of: authority. Authority is to determine what happens and when, and the ability to exercise control over it. And as we create this illusion, we find ourselves the subordinates of such a being, but allow ourselves the hope that we might have some bargaining power such that the path we take might be easier. Belief in a god realises this, and I envy those lucky enough to be peacefully under its spell.”

“Envy, Kate? What is there to feel envious about in conscious self-deceit?”

Kate frowned and looked away. “Conscious self-deceit?” she spat. “I couldn’t count on my fingers the number of times you’ve told me ‘it’ll all be alright, Kate’ or ‘everything will work out’, but you can be no more certain of this than any believer in their god. Behind your so-called self-deceit is a human need for a guide and a carer, but in their absence, we all choose our own coping mechanism.

“Everybody has their vice, Jack, but the one that gives by far the most comfort, purpose and sense of control is a god.”

Jack took a step back and paused. “What’s yours?”

“I don’t know yet. It used to be a god, but that’s not a stance I can return to. Once you place fact before faith, it’s almost impossible to cross the threshold back into belief. But that doesn’t stop my envy.”

Kate shrugged. “And then you’ve got the other class of people entirely. Those who aren’t bound to any belief or hobby – who’ve somehow found peace living within the laws of the world, but don’t feel limited by them.”

“How is that possible?” Jack asked.

“Reframe.” Kate said. “We measure progress by how far ahead you are, rather than how many others you’ve brought forward. We consider survival to be surpassing those around us, rather than offering a hand to power through together. We force ourselves to forgo our instincts and emotions in favour of the pursuit of prosperity. We compartmentalise and make discrete a world inherently continuous, and as such rob ourselves of the golden middle of existence: if we aren’t winning, we’re losing. If we aren’t rising, we’re falling. If we aren’t thriving, we’re dying.

“The competitiveness that surrounds us sets us apart and as rivals, fighting each other to gain a few more comforts and pleasures. But ours is a culture that flourishes; it breathes potential and anticipation. Theirs revels in the fruits of the human experience, but is, to an outsider, stale. It’s as if we are faced with a choice: accept the world as it is, or try to change it, inevitably propping some up and putting others down, creating irresolvable division. Here we have picked the latter, but lose a certain innocence in seeing the victims of our decision, deprived of life by hardship and starvation. It would be a disrespect to those in whose position I could so easily have been had I drawn a different straw to pretend that some truce can be made with the world.

 “And hence, my only option is to be at odds with it. But I am no longer a willing participant. Everything that plays and has ever played a role in my life rocks me one way or the other, but I can’t find the power to fend it away. Instead I must sit and try to make peace with the nausea.”

Jack placed his hands on Kate’s arms. “What’s happened to you, Kate?”

“I’m stuck here, Jack. I’m stuck in the middle between having something to hold onto, that I might be able to for some time live under the illusion of having some command over my life, and feeling unbounded, limitless and free. To come to know that these two sides of the equation exist, and to realise that I fall irreconcilably between them, leaves me in the middle of a gulf with no way out. I’m stuck.”

Kate sat down, covering her face with her hands. She remained perfectly still as her body became engulfed by the fall of the autumn leaves.

Idols

“Just twenty steps,” Hester whispered to herself. She looked up. Before her lay a frail, narrow bridge that connected two mountain faces, below her, a river from which protruded threatening, dagger-like rocks, and between the two, kilometre upon kilometre of nothingness.

She took out from her pocket a golden calf idol, squinting a little as the rays of the summer sun reflected off the gold into her eyes. This was fitting all the same; to look directly at the calf was forbidden. Hester lowered her head and shut her eyes. “By Your grace, Lord, You have given me the chance to prove to You my loyalty. By Your mercy, I trust that you will offer your staff of guidance and protection.” She took a deep breath and tightened her grip on Lord for an instant before returning Him to her pocket. And then, one foot in front of the other, she took her first step.

Latching firmly onto the railings of the bridge, Hester edged forwards. She kept her head up, as if the mere sight of what lay below might be enough to draw her into its ranks.

“Hester, why do you reject Me?”

Hester froze as Lord’s voice echoed in her ears; his words were dark and heavy.

“Why do you hide Me away? You do not hesitate to invoke My grace and mercy, but are ashamed to show others that you know Me.”

“They don’t seek to believe,” Hester began. “They think You are but metal, or a mere concept – ”

“You act as if you think no differently: even now you have hidden Me. Perhaps you would appreciate a reminder what awaits them,” Lord hissed. The bridge began to shake violently, tossing Hester from left to right like a puppet. She caught a glimpse of the chasm beneath her feet, and a wave of nausea swept over her. “When you conceal your faith, you conceal Me,” Lord said.

“Forgive me, Lord,” Hester pleaded between gasps. The tremors stopped. Having regained her breath, she took out the calf again, desperately trying to hold onto the railings with the few free fingers she now had. But rather than approbation, her action was met with a hostile laugh.

“Did you not plead for My staff of protection? Did you not call upon My guidance?” Lord cried. “Why, then, do you rely so heavily on an earthly crutch? Remove your hands from the railings.”

Hester hesitated for a second, but before she could react, the railings disintegrated and disappeared. She stumbled and fell to the ground, crying out in pain. Her knees were bruised and scorched by the sand after endless days of prayer to Lord, and a large splinter had cleanly pierced through her skin. Standing up was no use; without support for her arms she would fall again almost instantly, leaving her no choice but to crawl.

“Forgive me,” she repeated. “I thank You tirelessly, Lord, for Your kindness now in bringing me safely this far, through the course of my life, and especially at my darkest hour.” Hester touched her right cheek and allowed herself a weak smile. As she did so, she felt a gentle warmth.

“When all others scorned and rejected you for the scars that marked your face, you felt My presence and power. When you were most at need, I showed you favour. I brought you out of the wilderness of depression and shame, and into My light. I have restored your beauty.”

Hester gave a slow, silent nod and continued onwards. She pictured the day she awoke with unblemished, pure skin: the restoration of her once sequestered smile, her renewed sense of joy and life, her renewed confidence and vigour. But most of all, her renewed will to be alive. Lost in the nostalgia, she became numb to the needles of wood perforating her body as she crawled, turning her into a human pincushion.

“Don’t fall victim to indulgence,” Lord warned, but His voice faded into the distance. Hester reflected on her happiest days, when she would desire to be seen and noticed by others, or when she was appreciated for her talent and sophistication. She failed to note, however, that these days were never her most pious.

“What I have so quickly given, I can just as quickly take away,” Lord cried indignantly. “Your vanity consumes you!” Just then, a strong gust of wind blew past, casting a sheet of sand into Hester’s eyes. She screamed and flailed around as her vision left her. “You can count on one hand the number of hours you have spent in prayer, but those hands of all the nations on the globe combined could not match your addiction to your own image. Now you will see, hear and think only of me.”

“How will I guide myself?” Hester stammered, a single tear decorating her cheek.

 “You believe you guide yourself?” He demanded, cackling. “Without My presence you would perish; you would lead yourself into the abyss. Do you think you are more than Me, Hester?” Lord paused. “Why is the path of evil always the most attractive? Why does the flock so readily reject the aegis of the shepherd who toiled for years to feed, shelter and protect it? You fool yourself into believing you that are wise and have knowledge, that you do not need me. And yet, Hester, which of us is at the whims of the other?” She made no reply – no reply was necessary. “Exercise your faith in Me. Go on, and I will guide you.”

Hester pressed the calf to her breast and crawled further. A few meters later she was more than halfway across the bridge. As she made her next move, her knee struck a loose block of wood, which broke away from the bridge and began to fall.

“Oh my god,” Hester screamed, as her legs gave way beneath her. She was hanging on by her one free arm now, dangling lifelessly in the air. With her blindness leaving her prey to the whims of her imagination, Hester wondered if her cries would be heard as she plummeted to her death. She shook the thought away, clutching the calf all the more tightly: in falling, in dying, in unrelenting pain, she would find consolation in the knowledge that she had not denied Lord at her last breath.

Some minutes later, the sound of footsteps on the bridge began to emerge. “Hester?” a female voice called. As Hester lifted her head, she found her vision restored: the sand had melted away. Approaching her was a young woman, about the same height and build as Hester. She had a large burn scar down the side of her right cheek.

 “Helia? Why are you here?” Hester whispered between breaths. Only the tips of her fingers were grasping the bridge now, and her body seemed to urge her further downwards with every passing second.

“Hester, get up and talk to me properly.” Helia said, now just one pace away from Hester.

“I can’t, I – ” Hester looked down at the hand that had been holding Lord. It was empty. Her eyes darted frantically around her, before her mouth formed a snarl. “It’s a test,” she sighed. “You are standing in the way of my path to Lord’s service.” Hester lifted her arm up to the bridge and was able to bring her knees up to the platform. She looked up and saw Helia smiling.

“How can you show your face with no shame? You have fooled yourself into happiness: under the visage of joy you are discontent, agitated, miserable…”

Helia laughed, kneeling down such that she was eye to eye with Hester. “You have fooled yourself into happiness: under the visage of joy you are discontent, agitated, miserable… I smile because I no longer seek command of what I can’t control. I laid my fears bare and fought them not with a berating finger lurking at my shoulder, but with kindness and support from those at my side. I have taken a leap, I have made myself vulnerable, but I have succeeded.” She traced Hester’s right cheek with a thumb, and beneath a thin layer of powder she revealed mangled, dry skin, with the lumps on her skin resembling the bubbles of froth.

“Get off!” Hester yelled and shielded the burns with her arm. “Lord has taken away my scars, He has healed me, made me beautiful…”

“While you may think he has cured you, Hester, did he not cause the fire? Isn’t he the one who brought you – me – into this hole, and acted as saviour in giving you the illusion of retrieval? And yet you risk your life for him?”

“He saved me, Helia. He gave me a new life, for which I am –”

“What new life?” Helia asked. “This is no life, Hester. You aren’t living; you are being passed through trial after trial, forced into guilt and humiliation, and you have been robbed of your identity.” Helia looked down at her own arm, where she had a tattoo of a sun and her own name beneath. She reached out to the same spot on Hester’s body, uncovering an identical tattoo. The skin was reddened and raw after years of clawing at it, willing the ink to fade away. Hester flinched and tried to tug her sleeve down to conceal the print.

“It is humiliating,” Hester retorted. “but it is a reminder of my sin and my ineptitude before Lord showed his mercy. It is a reminder that I am no longer Helia, idolater of the Sun, but that I am Hester, daughter of my Lord. We may have been born one and the same, but I have deserted you. You,” she said, pointing at Helia, “are nothing more than temptation to return my juvenile transgressions. Look at me – do you not see my happiness?”

Helia gazed into Hester’s eyes. They were worn out and tired, like a bride after the honeymoon. Her limbs were weak and wilted, adorned with rashes, cuts and grazes. Her smile was empty.

“I do not,” Helia said, passing her fingers through Hester’s thinned hair. “You are as fragile as you have ever been, and you are crippled by physical and mental pain far more intense than you experienced after the accident.”

“By Lord’s strength I am well, I am content. Do not –”

“By whose strength did you pull yourself up when Lord had abandoned you?”

“Lord has never and will never abandon me. I called for him as I fell, Helia, I called for God.”

“You called out because you were scared, Hester, just as you did all those years ago. You were vulnerable, and that made you desperate. You were desperate, and that made you naïve. You were naïve to Lord’s promises to cure you of a defect he created, to rid you of your insecurity by making you only more dependent on it and on him, to absolve you of guilt for a mistake made not by you, but by him. Your naivety has enslaved you, and made you vulnerable again. Such repeats the cycle, over and over, as you fall deeper into his clutch.

“For a time, you may have been happy: you had friends, responsibility, élan. But you grew fond of the pleasures and surprises of the world –”

“He showed me love, but I became conceited and indulgent –”

“– and you were severely punished for it.”

“I was punished for turning away from Lord, turning instead towards sin.”

“He took away everything: your status, your name, your personality. And now, indebted to his deceit, you hang by his thread, at –”

“I am His loyal servant, who –”

“– who is at his beck and call, a mere plaything for when his volatility and fickleness seek entertainment and validation.”

Hester stood up and struck out at Helia, but she forgot her weakness and lost her balance. As she fell backwards, her foot passed through the gap left by the fallen piece of wood. Helia stretched out her arm, but Hester only scowled and spat at it, embracing the pull of gravity as she came into freefall. 

She sensed the chains of obedience loosen their grip, and the cuffs of subjugation fell away. Hester found herself grasping at her arms, desperate to shield herself from being exposed and naked to the whims of the world. “Lord!” she called out with a manic cry. A weight began to press on her chest; Hester craned her neck to see the calf had returned, but Lord made no speech. Instead, before Hester’s eyes, the golden idol began to crack. Pieces flew off in all directions, slipping through the spaces between Hester’s arms. Even as more shards emerged, the calf became only heavier, accelerating Hester’s fall. But she could not, and would not let go: in falling, in dying, in unrelenting pain, she would find consolation in the knowledge that she had not denied Lord at her last breath.

On Freedom and Vulnerability

“Every time you close your eyes to sleep at night, there is a chance you may never wake up. Every time you step out of your house, there are thousands of things that could kill you, and that would be that. No more career, no more friends, and that coffee date you planned is an impossibility. Suddenly you are removed from the equation, but the hole you leave is temporary – the world morphs and adapts, and soon enough it’s as if you were never here. This happens hundreds of thousands of times each day: our ‘stop’ button is finally pressed, and we are gone.

“Reason tells you it’s highly unlikely today is your day – no doubt we’ve all taken basic probability classes. We have become accustomed to this fact, which sits, subdued, at the back of our minds. Yet when we allow it its turn in the ring, it is fierce and unforgiving – a direct confrontation with the unknown. Some of you have coping mechanisms by way of faith, that affords you belief in an afterlife. Others must fend for themselves – but this, in my view, boils down to trying to keep a lion in a cage that will only hold for so long, until the beast re-emerges with renewed anger.

“I would venture to say that how we grapple with the concept of death encapsulates human nature’s true colours. We think, ‘if we only knew a little more about it, how drastically the world would change.’ But does that not apply to our everyday lives? How much easier life would be if we only knew why this, or how that, or when the other… our insecurities are grounded in unanswered and sometimes unanswerable questions.

“As a child, you looked to others for answers – parents, siblings, teachers – and soon realised that an oracle is a puerile construct, that does not and can not ever exist. Just as with death, we have somewhat normalised this realisation, but it is never completely put to bed. We are questioning creatures – when we stop questioning, we cease to be conscious – but what are we without the answers? Besides, is it not the things we don’t know that keep us up at night, rather than the things we do?

“Perhaps we might make progress on fulfilling these insatiable desires if we shift our focus a little: it may not be ourselves with all the answers, but we will surely take comfort in the assurance of the existence of someone who does. Don’t yet put away your childhood memories; as youngsters, adults always seemed to have the reins on every situation, and we liked and grew used to that idea. Eventually we found ourselves unbound and free, vulnerable to the whims of the world. Yet this freedom is unliberating, and we yearn for the certainty of yesteryear. This brings us to an undeniable equivalence: freedom is vulnerability.

“The perceptive of you may have attributed this to our need for control. We are appeased by the mere idea that someone, somewhere, knows what’s going on. Of course, we may occasionally get thrills out of the unknown – a horror film, a rollercoaster – but ultimately, the risk is controlled, dominated by the assurance we will soon enough be sleeping peacefully in our own beds at night. And do not underestimate the significance of such an assurance. All of this forms the roots from which religion stems.

“Believers latch onto the concept of the omniscient, omnipotent being, who knows each of our lives to the T, who can bring about both life and death at will, who has a ­plan. But notice, now, that we have a contradiction. A plan guaranteed to be followed affords no freedom. Through belief in such a deity you deprive yourself of your freedoms, but also, as mentioned earlier, your vulnerabilities. And this is its appeal.”

“Ultimately, there is a trade-off: control or reason. Science and hard knowledge can only go so far, until we reach the irreconcilable gulf between us and the mysteries of the earth. Our desire for control demands that gulf be filled, but in the absence of further knowledge we must either ignore it or turn to other means: faith. Regardless of the prominence of this gulf, yielding to religion requires a conceptual leap. That fact is undeniable.

“Some are born into religion, that is, before the alarm bells of critical thinking could set off. It plays perfectly into our childish expectations, perhaps the natural extension of our parents – someone who knows all, sees all, and can do all. Then, entering adolescence or adulthood, faith turns into a crutch: a crutch in the form of an almighty god always fighting your corner against adversity, and an overseer ensuring your life follows his grand blueprint exactly. On the face of it, this is a great deal to be cut, and to risk giving this up is a sacrifice. As we shall shortly see, however, to continue to believe is also a sacrifice.

“Others who turn to religion at a later stage do so due to weakness and insecurity. It is the inability to cope with that gulf between us and the mercilessness of the world, when we feel purposeless and irrelevant among billions of others. A personal god plays tactfully to our egocentric nature in that we now have an ever-present, loving companion who indulges our want for meaning in our lives. It is the fact we are in some way significant that spurs us on to deal with the oncoming day. Without this, we are reduced to the status of an ant: a small annoyance, easily removed.

“The emotion that binds the two paths to religion is hope. At our lowest, in the absence of all else, we still have hope. Religion preys on this, materialises it, glorifies it, and idolises it, while you unwittingly become dependent on it.

“Why, then, is this a sacrifice? In transferring your vulnerabilities to a god, you also renounce your freedom. You are now no more than an actor playing out a script as you go along, left with two options: leave, and be cast into the lion’s den that is the real world, or continue at the whims of the director, praying that your outcome is favourable. You must do all he wishes in exchange for your continued participation in this controlled environment. You cannot have one without the other. If this director were a real person, we would hasten to call this behaviour abusive, but under the guise of religion it is excused.

“More directly, then, you sacrifice your right to question and challenge. To believe in a deity for which there is no real evidence is to compromise the integrity of reason, and once this is done, the way is paved for only more hoop-jumping. Recall my earlier statement that when we cease to question, we cease to be conscious. Well, here we are. Life is based on this trade-off between control and reason, and as I hope I have demonstrated, religion preys on every aspect of our longing for the former, pulling us away from the latter. Nothing I can say to you all today can fill the hole satiated by religion, but I would encourage you to hold on to reason, trust that we will soon have the answers, and not to give up your humanity and your uniqueness for a few weak promises.”

Why

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of watching the new series DEVS, which was directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina). I was greatly looking forward to the series but hadn’t expected such a clever mixture of science and drama. At first, it seemed the complex terms aimed to confuse the audience into a sense of awe, but I’ve since realised that otherwise, one simply cannot appreciate the intelligent intricacies of the plot.

I did originally want to write a reflection piece (and in German!) similar to my two previous ones, but factually I had little to say. Instead, I’ve gone for a creative response and have switched to English for the next 1500 words: a short story called Why. Enjoy :).


Why

“This way, please.”

After hanging up his jacket, Dr Finch followed the waiter to his table. His stride was brisk and even: each step induced an undeniable sense of certainty and purpose. He rested his hands on the back of his chair and breathed a long sigh before taking a seat. He waited a few seconds as the minute hand of his watch reached 27, and lifted his gaze. Just as he looked up, he noticed a tall young man looking rather nervously around the restaurant. Their eyes met, and Dr Finch smiled. The young man hurried over.

“I’m so sorry I’m late,” he said, glancing at his phone. 10:27.

“No worries at all, Aaron, I’ve also only just arrived,” Dr Finch responded. “Please, take a seat – we’d best get going.”

“Of course.” Aaron sat down, was briefly distracted by the extensive winelist, but returned his gaze to meet Dr Finch’s. “How are you? I’m really glad to have the opportunity to speak to you today… I almost don’t believe it’s happening.”

“Me too, Aaron. I am doing very well. Just as excited as you, I suppose! My work has been going extremely well lately; I’m on the cusp of seeing the results of several decades of research.”

Aaron grinned and leaned forward a little. “Well, tell me, Dr Finch – what is it you’ve been working on?”

“A certain gentleman named Aaron Harding, actually.” Dr Finch didn’t wait for a response: Aaron was dead silent, as expected. “I’ve seen every moment of your life up until you left your house this morning, Aaron. I know everything there is to know about you, and everything there will ever be to know about you.”

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Der Kampf um Bedeutung

Ich glaube, das Wort “Kampf” beschreibt ziemlich gut unsere aktuelle Situation: ein Kampf mit keinem sichtbaren Gegner, mit keinem bestimmten Ende, mit keiner Möglichkeit einer effektiven Taktik in naher Zukunft.

Ich habe heute bemerkt, dass ich den Übergang in die Welt des Romans “die Pest” angefangen habe. In solchen Zeiten ist die Suche nach Motivation, Absicht und Energie immer vorherrschender. Wir versuchen, in jeder Ecke unseres Lebens ein bisschen Freude zu finden, und wir sind manchmal erfolgreich: aber die übergreifende Erinnerung, dass sie nur Versuche sind, die neue Realität zu entkommen, kann nie vergessen werden. Ich glaube, wir brauchen etwas Tieferes, Persönlicheres aber auch Gemeinschaftlicheres, Spiezielleres. Leider bin ich der Meinung, dass solche Privilege kommen nur mit echter, menschlicher Verbindung: genau das, was uns fehlt.

Nachdem man zu dieser Erkenntnis gekommen ist, hat man zwei Optionen: sein Bestes zu machen, um das Ganze zu überleben, oder etwas Externes finden, um die Lücke zu füllen. Im zweiten Fall wenden sich viele an Religion. Na, das ist die Spezialität von Religion, mag sein, ihre einzige Spezialität: die Hoffnung davon, solche Lücken zu füllen. Diese Hoffnung ist aber mit Betrug und Lügen verschmückt. Man findet aber sehr viel Trost in ihnen, und ich selbst fühle ziemlich oft die Versuchung, sie zu glauben, und ich hasse mich deswegen.

“God of the gaps” kommt mir in den Sinn – die Idee von Richard Dawkins, dass Gott gibt uns Antworten auf die Fragen, die Wisschenschaftler nicht beantworten können. Und es versteht sich von selbst, dass dieses Virus viel mehr Fragen geschaffen hat. Aber sollten wir uns so klein machen, dass wir deswegen an irgendeinem Wesen irgendwo im Himmel glauben müssen, das versteht alles was passiert? Und wir, bloße Sterbliche, “dürfen” noch nicht verstehen, da unser Intellekt zu niedrig ist. Besonders erniedrigend und blöd ist die Idee eines persönliches Gottes, aus der Christentum für eins Nutz zieht. Viele Gläubiger sind der Meinung, dass sie “Immunität” haben, trotz der vielen anderen Christianer, die täglich sterben. Ein leises Gedanke, “Das wird mir nicht passieren… der Tod der anderen musste Gottes Plan sein, aber sicherlich nicht mit mir…” Wir wissen alle, wie das endet.

In diesen Zeiten gewinnt Religion den Kampf um Bedeutung – sie nutzt unseren menschlichen Hass für Ungewissheit aus, und bietet eine (erbärmliche) Antwort auf unsere Sorgen an. Ich sage: sei geduldig – Antworten sind auf dem Weg, und Wissenschaft wird deinen Lückenbüßergott abblitzen lassen.

“Die Pest” von Albert Camus

Meine Rückkehr zu Büchern und zum Lesen wurde von Apple iBooks ermutigt, indem es “Die Pest” von Albert Camus empfiel. Wenn ihr meinen letzten Beitrag gelesen habt, wisst ihr, dass ich mit einem anderen Roman angefangen habe, aber nach ein paar Wochen habe ich endlich Die Pest fertig gelesen.

Während dieser Wochen hat sich die Situation viel geändert, aber in mancherlei Hinsicht gar nicht. Im Vereinigten Königreich sterben täglich mehr als 600 Leute – vor einem Monat würde fast niemand glauben, dass das Virus so schnell ausbreiten könnte, doch jetzt beten wir, dass diese Nummer 1000 überschreitet. Wir sind noch in der Phase, dass viele nicht bereit zu annehmen sind, dass wir hier langfristig sind: dass wir nicht von Tagen oder Wochen sprechen, sondern Monaten; dass wir keine klare Idee davon haben, wie das alles endet; dass wir uns bald ein Leben vor dem Virenausbruch nicht vorstellen können werden. Ehrlich gesagt bin ich selbst noch in dieser Phase, und vielleicht auch meine Freunde, Familienmitglieder und Altersgenossen. Teilweise aus Leugnen, und teilweise deswegen, weil das so weit entfernt vom Alltag ist.

Solche Änderungen erleben auch die Charakter im Roman “Die Pest”, und mir ist unheimlich, wie manche Blätter des Romans so lebhaft die aktuelle Lage wiederspiegeln. Leser erleben die Plage der Stadt Oran durch die Augen von Rieux, einem Arzt, und von Tarrou, einem Stadtmitglied, das in der Sanierungsgruppe hilft. Die monotone, repetitive Rolle des Arztes zieht einen Vergleich mit der Entwicklung der Stadt: nachdem die Einwohner annahmen, dass sie ihre Nahestehende in anderen Städten nicht besuchen konnten, und die einzigen Fünkchen von Freude durch ungenaue Erinnerungen an die Vergangenheit gekriegt werden können, haben sie sich in einer endlosen Monotonie gefunden. Dr Rieux wacht früh auf, kümmert sich um sterbende, hoffnungslose Patienten, liest die wöchliche Anzahl der Toten. Alles macht er fast automatisch, er kämpft durch die ständige Erschöpfung und Ermüdung und erfüllt die gleiche, tägliche Routine.

Eines grifft jeden an: Tod. Trotz der anscheinenden Immunität der Statistik bezüglich, Rieux gewöhnt sich nie an die Todesfälle seiner Patienten. Das Serum ist nur manchmal effektiv, und dass er sehr viele Leute sterben lassen muss, bringt er jedes Mal Leid. Tod ruft Emotionen in den jetzt kalten Herzen der Stadt hervor: Camus beschreibt die Schreie, wenn ein Familienmitglied ins Krankenhaus gebracht werden muss, da die anderen wissen, dass sie es wahrscheinlich nie wieder sehen werden. Camus beschreibt auch die Menschenmassen, die vor dem Friedhof stehen, in der Hoffnung einen toden Vater, Bruder, Freund zu sehen. Und nach dem Ende der Plage, Camus beschreibt die geschlossenen Rollladen der Häuser der Menschen, die zu viel verloren habe, und können sich deshalb nicht bewegen, mit den anderen zu feiern.

Der Tod, der mit den meisten Eizelheiten beschrieben ist, ist der von Tarrou. Sein unvergessliches Lächeln und seine endlose Hoffnung bringen ein bisschen Positivität, und der Leser wird daran erinnert, dass nicht alles im Roman negativ war: Journalist Rambert entscheidet sich, in Oran zu bleiben, um den Kranken zu helfen; Grand findet den Mut, seiner ehemaligen Frau einen Brief zu schreiben. Aber der Tod von Tarrou brachte fast Tränen in meinen Augen, da wir auch die Entwicklung der Freundschaft von Rieux und Tarrou erlebt haben. Und sehr bald danach folgen die Nachrichten des Todes Rieuxs Frau: die Gegenüberstellung der langen Beschreibung im Fall von Tarrou und der Knappheit im Fall von seiner Frau hebt noch wieder die Realität der Plage hervor.

Ich glaube, dass der Roman ein Hoffnungsschimmer für uns sein sollte: es gibt natürlich ein Ende, dass jeder mit offenen Armen willkommen wird, aber jeder mit seinem eigenen Ballast und seinen eigengen Verlusten.

 

“Jetzt ist die beste Zeit, eine Religion auszuüben” – nein, glaubt Monsieur Meursault

Vor ein Paar Tagen hat mir ein Freund gesagt, dass jetzt, mitten in einer globalen Krise, die beste Zeit ist, an irgendeinem Gott zu glauben. Ich stimmte zu, aber ich erkenne ganz klar: ich folge dem Rat nicht.

Und das macht auch Monsieur Meursault, Hauptcharakter im Roman “Der Fremde” von Albert Camus. Da ich jetzt ein bisschen mehr Zeit habe, möchte ich meinen Weltausblick erweitern, indem ich mehr lese, schreibe, lerne… Und gestern habe ich damit angefangen. Ich fand es ein bisschen schwierig, die Persönlichkeit von Meursault zu verstehen, aber seine Gleichgültigkeit der Welt gegenüber spricht Bände. Jeder von uns hat eine Leidenschaft für irgendetwas, sei es ein Hobby, die Familie, Kunst… und nimmt wahr, dass anderen andere Leidenschaften und andere Sorgen haben – so ist das Leben. Aber warum soll das sein? Die Denkweise von Meursault hebt die Beliebigkeit unserer Entscheidungen, Gefühle und Bedenken hervor, und bringt uns zur Frage: warum soll es wichtiger sein, dass ein Mensch irgendwo stirbt, als das Fallen eines Blattes auf den Boden?

Ich war überrascht, als Meursault leise und ohne Beschwerde einen Brief für seinen Freund Raymond schrieb, damit Raymond seine ex-Freundin einfangen konnte. Es gab aber keine Spur von Überraschung, als er bei einem Freund Abendessen aß, damit er selbst nicht kochen musste – so würde ich mich vielleicht auch entscheiden, unter solchen Umständen. Unsere Reagierung auf diese Teile der Handlung ist ein Zeichen unserer aktuellen Gesellschaft – sie wäre bestimmt anders vor 100 Jahren, und sie wird bestimmt anders nach 100 Jahren. Meursault dient einfach als ein Hinweis darauf.

Was noch verstörend ist, Camus bespricht das Thema Tod nicht zärtlicher. Das ist verstörend, aber nicht überraschend: Meursault findet sich in so einer Lage nur weil er den Tod seiner Mutter mit derselben Gleichgültigkeit behandelt. So ist der Roman kreisförmig – er beginnt und endet mit Tod, egal, dass der zweite Tod der Tod der Hauptfigur ist. Ich war ein bisschen getroffen, als Meursault angab, dass er “natürlich” wünscht, dass es ein Jenseits gibt. Vielleicht war das eine Unterbrechung der Unempfindlichkeit, wenn es um das Ende seines Lebens geht. Aber diesem Satz folgen noch mehr, in denen Meursault diesen Wunsch mit anderen vergleicht, z.B. reich werden, oder sehr schnell schwimmen zu können. Und diese Vergleichung rückt alles wieder ins reche Licht.

Meursault wird auf den Geistlicher böse und setzt zu einem Monolog darüber an, dass der Verlauf eines Lebens so ist, aber könnte auch ganz anders sein, hätte man vor einem Jahrzehnt, vor einem Monat, vor einer Sekunde etwas anders gemacht. Es ist eine Zeitverschwendung, die 1000 möglichen Pfäde zu überlegen, es bewirkt nichts. Es ist einfach so, und jeder stirbt. Jeder stirbt, jeder ist schuldig in irgendeiner Bedeutung des Wortes. Der Geistlicher ist still und hat keine Antwort – sein Glaube ist nur ein Bewältigungsmechanismus im Kampf gegen die Wahrheit, dass Tod nur noch eine Phase ist – so wie das Fallen eines Blattes oder das Geraschel des Windes in einem leeren Wald.

 

Страх и признания

Кажется, что признания – хорошие, полезные дела, они обозначают честность и открытность к себе. Найдёшь цель: что-то изменить, улучшить, отменить. Но что делать, коджа признание того, что страх тебя окружает. Страх, который остается у тебя в теле, и физически и психологически, который воплощает такую большую часть твоего состояния, что нельзя его убежать. Страх, который так долго скрылся, что жизнь твоя показывает тихо его сходство – как ты медленно изменял образ жизни, чтобы страх чувствовал себя комфортнее в его увеличающем месте. Чтобы страх смог двигаться во всех углах, сущестование которых ты сам не осознал. Этот страх вырастет с тобой, интегрирует в тебе и если у тебя привелегия узнать об этом, надежда давно исчезла. Признание пришло слишком поздно.

Der graue Schmetterling/серая бабочка

So fängt’s an: eine neue Leidenschaft, eine neue Geburt – der Schmetterling. Nicht sehr bunt, wie die andere, aber auch nicht schwarz – seine Gedanken, Gefühle, Träume sind nicht zu verstecken. Er ist graue, wie ein Rätsel – lös es, wenn du Lust dazu hast. Am allerwichstigsten ist er einzigartig, fast selbständig. Er hatte dann kein Ziel – probierte alles aus, war in alles ziemlich gut, fand aber keine bestimmte Richtung. Повторяется, что она не как другие светлые, красивые бабочки, и может быть, ее уникальности что-то недостает, что-то неотъемлемое, ключевое. Но по крайне мере, тогда это не было важным,и признание скрывается: нельзя сказать, что она его сознательно скрыла, но это признание живет под крылами, и постепенно, постоянно, увеличивается, становится всё тяжелее и тяжелее, тянуя вниз. Мы находимся здесь. Тогда, все было в порядке, было принято бродить, гулять, совсем свободно. Nun ist es nicht mehr so, der graue Schmetterling fliegt noch ohne Ziel, wartet darauf, dass etwas ihn fesst, wegnimmt. Er kennt, das sei ein natürlicher Prozess, aber wo bleibt man inzwischen? Ohne Liebe, ohne einen Menschen, zu dem er sich verbinden kann, к чему ей стремиться? Говорят, что такие чувства запутывают людей, но наша молодая бабочка не согласна. Теперь ей очевидно, что она живёт в страхе. Страх, а не страсть, ведет ее действия, эмоции, жизнь. У ней какая-то смелость; внешняя, для виду смелость. Ей трудно выражать себя другим, говорит загадочно, шептами, ее собственным языком, чтобы только она понимает. Без знания, о чём она, fällt er in Mutlosigkeit. Angst lähmt einen, bringt einen zu einem passiven Leben. Hier bleibt unser graue Schmetterling, mit geschwärtzten Flügeln. Er flattert hin und her –  immer in der Sicherheit seiner engen Grenzen – и сама ничего не может совершить.