Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do


At the beginning, I mentioned the poetic acclaim about the word 'asunder' having a linkage to the mythical name of Zeus: 'asunder' as the sensation of how lightning bolts seem to strike down. I added, that if such a mythical reference is used in a poem or even in daily language, then it stands for the 'unexplainable'. The amazing Ancient Greek culture derives its strength from that: the ability to incorporate the 'unknown' in their world view based on a ratio 'of the known to the unknown' as fixed by human understanding and discussions about the 'lawfulness' of things. That strength rested on a curiosity as to what other cultures had discovered. It made the Greeks of that time open, able to accommodate new ideas. Through their 'grammar' - language having become since Aristotle's really 'the lessons of the categories' - they defined their ability to adapt to the new. Myth and knowledge meant, therefore, to leave any possible connection to the world open to doubt. The connection was made by an 'intellectual perception' contemplating what our senses let us see, experience itself that wonder. That is most profoundly expressed in the free standing sculpture, while the ancient temples showed already that the Greeks were intrigued by the effect caused by 'moving pictures'; seen when moving through columns and looking in-between up to the ceiling murals or outside to where the 'light' ruled the universe. That was the first real dialogue about the difference between mythical and mental forms of perception.

Unfortunately many contemporary 'urban dwellers' live in closed worlds determined by only moving pictures produced by the media. They are devoid of any immediate locations where they could still reflect the difference between the outside and inner, that is man-made world. Instead they try the impossible by pushing doubt aside, all in the wish for perfect orders and hence explanations. They are the ones who try to use an 'irrational theory' to connect the parts with a 'whole', or even to replace 'experience' with some 'myth'. Entangled thus in a flood of pictures, they only connect everything in a formal-logical manner akin to their non-language or 'milieu jargon', because devoid of any real human beings that could halt them in their 'diarrhoea of speech'. With the apparent convincing logic of scientific proofs, they think that they can stipulate with absolute certainty what is their concept of 'man' and that there is a unity. Given such an extreme static state of mind, they develop panic to be no longer creative, that is, human beings really alive. The expelled doubt returns as in the myth in the disguise of a negative wonder, whether they are still alive or not as a matter of fact dead: unspirited material. Out of their 'bags of tricks' they fetch then mythical forces which can move again everything. It starts with reference to the world being really an order in chaos and vice versa, that chaos can only come out of order. These are not so much meta-theories, as much more permanent rationalisations. Although driven by an understandable longing for answers which cannot be found and which compel us to live 'openly', not with 'closed minds', they end up having answers for everything and nothing. Their mental world has become completely independent of 'empirical' reality. Locked into that metaphysical world of concepts and tightly fitting explanations, they turn to dates of birth in connection with constellations of stars, in order to tell the character of persons. Science has turned in such a case completely 'mad', apparently possible because those dwelling in modern artefacts devoid of any experiences of the senses as different from that of the intellect, can continue to live for a long time in their make-belief worlds. The autonomy of man's life has turned into a negative indifference to what really prevails on earth and in the universe. That life has a built-in 'resistance against truth' (Horkheimer). Its ideology is to deny permanently the simple fact, that there is really no explanation for the existence of life, the earth, the moon and the many stars to be marvelled at during the night.

I have always found it difficult to communicate this to others, even though the implications of what kind of attitude individuals, philosophers, politicians adopt, are tremendous. One possible explanation for this problematic communication is the so-called 'a priori: the intellectual experience of the world without having an explanation. It cannot be brought about through language (in German 'herbeireden'), but once a person has this experience of 'wonder', he seems closer to not taking life for granted. He also transforms the negative 'resistance' mentioned above, into an open relationship to the world. This entails a double component: that what our senses can take in, and what our 'wonder' brings about in terms of intellectual perception. The latter is usually a question, a perceived problem or a deficit of explanation, that guides our intellectual attempts to come somewhat closer to being compatible with our sense data. This 'not knowing' becomes the prerequisites to consider what others see and say, whether in the past or in our contemporary lives, for each individual can make a contribution within this 'wonder'.

That brings us immediately to the purpose of the Fifth Seminar, and the reason why I wanted to talk about the 'Myth of Europe'. Seekers of explanations that we have become, we must know the limits of what we can explain. That does not mean other things do not exist, if we cannot explain them in our own specific terms. That fallacy has to be overcome, if the 'Europe of Cultures' is to become a real liveable entity. However, there is a real danger that as with myths, the more we try to define our cultures, rather than living and experiencing them, we tend to destroy them (Cassirer). There is a reality out there which we hardly know, especially those cultural differences prevailing despite a 'culture of consumption' laying over Europe along with international systems like traffic, computer networks, etc.; a coat of 'sameness' and 'uniformity'. Diversity begins, however, already at the individual level, so that each and every voice can be heard at the level where European cultures are at their best: the art of the dialogue, criticism and historical memory included, in order to work through contradictions to such concepts that really mean something when addressing the lived reality of the outgoing twentieth century. Once the Polish philosopher Kolakowski held for the first time after the war a speech at the Free University in Berlin; he was not sure who was out there, in the audience, who could be trusted, and who had been in Poland during the war. This not knowing determined his speech. It was like drawing first one finger, then another, until ten fingers were there. They became all of a sudden sensitive hands of a blind man reaching out to touch reality, to sense what was there, in the atmosphere of the audience created by a special kind of listening. Perhaps this left such a deep impression upon me that when asked to organise this seminar around the theme 'cultural actions' for Europe, in order to keep alive its 'cultural diversity', I was reminded that what was needed were ten fingers, in order to comb through reality as if some unruly hair of children having just come home from swimming. I am sure that the ten workshops as diverse as they are and constituted by really exceptional experts that you all are, will contribute to making this 'cultural premise' worked out altogether by the Fifth Seminar into something allowing us to comb more carefully in future the cultural reality of Europe.

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