Levit’s Ode to Joy

Igor Levit played Liszt’s transcription of the Ode to Joy at the opening night of the Proms.

“Classical music” is the music of the burgeoning nation, opulence, slavery, colonialism, of profit-riven Europe; the Europe of slums, prisons, madhouses; of sickening poverty, vulgarity and the highest refinement of the arts.

The EU’s seemingly noble project of surpassing the nation state has no aim other than the perpetuation of the European superiority, culturally, politically, economically, ‘morally’, technologically. Does any good European not believe his culture to be superior to all those cultures Europe has ravaged – not least the Jewish? Would any European throw in his lot with any other culture?

Well then, in what does the European joy consist? What is the joy of the Ode to Joy? It is the triumph of ‘the human spirit’; of ‘European man’. Igor Levit seems the most enchanting embodiment of that spirit, a spirit, a devil, which accomplishes the annihilation of one’s fellow, and his planet – while we look away in joyful rapture.

 

 

Time

I thought that they were looking but I was incidental.

Once I tried to run off the stage straight at them

But when I got there I just stopped and asked for help

They looked concerned, then carried on; nothing happened.

And I was left standing there in the middle of the auditorium,

Humming with people seemingly enjoying the occasion,

I thought, is it me or shouldn’t something be happening on the stage?

 

 

Tireless

A solid bull’s head

Bosh its dense bonce

One hard thud, thud.

I chew my nails, my eyes are sore.

A goose’s wing is dislocated

It flaps sideways

And runs aground screaming angrily at itself.

Bare blunt stalks stick out of a dried pot

Like Hiroshima’s blown out black trees.

The prisoner is starving in his cage

His knuckles are on its bars

Face pressed up close for the view

“Guard!” He gasps pathetically.

I inspect myself for black pores

Reach into an ulcer-sore gob

Yank at my cracked back molar

Bite down on a bloated index

And hold it there.

Swimming with porpoises

Camping at the coast last year, I went for a run and swim every morning. It was a cold, wet summer, and the beach was deserted in the early morning. On its east side stood a solid headland, a half mile into the sea; to the west of the beach, a mile long, low black cliffs.  Like the cold wind and clouds, the sea rocked and butted and streamed aggressively into the bay; its spray clashed strewn rain showers; seabirds wheeled menacingly in their sea-air elements. I make my way in, a boxer, braced sinews, alert.

Diving into the thick dark middle of a breaking wave, and surface; and again, and swimming against them, bob, weave, throwing crawls, going out deeper, where the swell no longer punches but keeps you in hold and pushes you onto the ropes.

A distance out, I float, pointed to the horizon. Arcing high above me, half-serpent, half-mountain, a silent black fish; its swift slick solid power, a body of the sea’s depth, rises out and sweeps back in, a smooth black sea bull. Then I feel the gulf between my feet and the seafloor, two white legs below a tiny string body, hanging in a vast sea a thousand miles wide; and I sense this great fish coursing beneath me in the cold infinity. I am too lost to panic, I move myself slowly backwards towards the shore – and see it again, now farther: turn, a frantic crawl to land, I touch ground and sprint onto the beach, overawed.

After Corbyn’s hour

The appeal to me (see below) of Corbyn’s socialism lay in its moral, as opposed to scientific-critical, character.

Why was the appeal so forceful at that moment? Firstly, it was during a general election, when party loyalty gets you behind the leader, the one who leads opposition to the callousness of the Conservative Party. Second, there had been two terror attacks. I warmed to his response to these attacks: calling for a less war-like engagement in the Middle East; urging peaceful unity in English cities. Furthermore, he mounted a disarmingly unapologetic rejection of nuclear weapons in the TV debates.

Looking back, the confluence of the final two points was particularly affective: he was unabashedly re-employing the concept of peace, and pacifism came on my moral horizon.

Corbyn does not fully espouse pacifism, but it seems intrinsic to moral socialism to me. Yet, if we consider “the state” as being represented by the sword, why should “moral socialism” (i.e. Christianity) concern itself with attaining the power of the state, be it through an election or any other means? It mustn’t: rather “the state” (sword) must concern itself with attaining the power of the ploughshare (“the worker”). That is the central question for moral socialism.

So my enthusiasm for Corbyn – “moral socialism” – ebbs again, because it is indeed the power of the state which he, which socialism, seeks, and so lapses, in the end, into contradiction, if not hypocrisy.

The liberty which love requires

“Why should my liberty be subject to the judgment of someone else’s conscience?” (1 Cor. 10.29) Taufspruch of the Will to Knowledge; anlässlich ihres Tauftages, 2017.

It is about whether one should eat food which has been offered to idols. St Paul’s main point is: whatever, eat it, who cares, neither idols nor the meat sacrificed to them have any magical properties, that is all nothing, in essence it is food and you should see it as such. However, you may find yourself with someone who has not yet liberated themselves from this meat’s cultic associations and when you eat with them, join them in not eating this meat.

At first sight, this seems a contradiction, doesn’t it? Doesn’t not eating for the sake of another’s conscience mean precisely that I am subjecting my liberty to the judgment of their conscience?

St Paul’s liberty is a liberty which enables him to enslave himself to others’ conscience without subjecting himself to the judgment of their conscience. For him, it is not a matter which binds him. It is no matter to him to protest the issue or not. He makes nothing of nothing, only urging, over a friendly meal, that we must dare to exercise the liberty which love requires of us, which liberty judges good and bad conscience.

 

XXVII – “To value the teacher”

One who excels in travelling leaves no wheel tracks;

One who excels in speech makes no slips;

One who excels in reckoning uses no counting rods;

One who excels in shutting uses no bolts yet what he has shut cannot be opened;

One who excels in tying uses no chords yet what he has tied cannot be undone.

Therefore the sage always excels in saving people, and so abandons no one; always excels in saving things, and abandons nothing.

This is called following one’s discernment.

Hence the good man is the teacher the bad learns from;

And the bad man is the material the good works on.

Not to value the teacher

Nor to love the material

Though it seems clever, betrays great bewilderment.

This is called the essential and the secret.

 

The one who excels in teaching leaves no trace of himself, because the one taught comes into deepest possession of his own learning; the one taught has become his learning, not merely an imitator or devotee. A student does not learn to write, he becomes a writer: His teacher is a writer who helps others become writers.

And so when I practise the form, I am making it for myself, I am embodying tai chiTai chi is not being given to me, nor am I simply imitating my teacher, as if the task were to be like him or do it like him.

I greatly value my teacher who has helped me become this. And he loved me, the one who was becoming good.