It’s almost Holidays time. Between marking papers, procrastinating writing an essay on Kerouac – and this one I have to do in the next two days for a conference in Birmingham at the end of the week – I find myself reading Charles De Gaulle’s biography, decorating the apartment, and enjoying being high after the high class performance of “Schutz vor der Zukunft” last night. On the latter, no words of describing what it was like will do it justice. As I’ve been running after Marthaler since 2001, and thus knew what to expect, suffice to say that not only does he deliver the goods every time, but he also manages to really really, verily verily, and generously generously expand your emotional and intellectual range like nobody else. He has my undying devotion.

Meanwhile, I’m also on the verge of throwing myself at writing postcards. As I actually imagine myself doing this, I’m reminded of a conversation with my best friend in Berlin some years ago. We sat at a table at a café: I, with a stack of postcards in my hand, he, with wonder in his eyes. I’m good at interpreting some silences, so before he got to say anything, I handed him a card, and said to him: “don’t even think about objecting; you’re going to send a nice postcard to your mother.” He did. Without a word. And he has been doing it when abroad ever since, and on his own, as it were – he is now convinced that if he didn’t do it, my spirit would hover admonishingly over him from somewhere, and make him feel guilty. So he does it, if only to escape that feeling. Practical man. About writing postcards. I did volunteer a story, which he thought was bizarre given the circumstances.

This past summer I went to Romania to meet someone who was my best friend in elementary school. She moved to Australia in 1983 and I had not seen her since, that is, until recently. We wrote to each other. The exchange was mutual for about three years. Then symmetry broke. I kept writing. She didn’t. Sure, my narratives got shorter and shorter until they got reduced to aphorisms, but they never stopped. Now, while sipping coffee in Berlin, my friend wanted to know where such devotion came from, what it was based on, and what I got out of it (when I told him about my Australian friend, I was still at a point where I had not heard from her nor seen her for 22 years). I remember what I clearly replied to his third point. I said: “I get nothing and everything out it.” “Can nothing and everything be performed together?” he wanted to know. I said yes, but I had no evidence at the time. It came later. When I finally did meet my girl friend after 25 years, the first thing she said to me was this: “the fact that you wrote to me uninterruptingly for 25 years meant everything to me; and I mean everything. It also meant that you understood what I was going through, but could not articulate.” This corroborated for me that, at least in her case, silence was not “the greatest expression of scorn,” as George Bernard Shaw was fond of saying. Nor was it “the ultimate weapon of power” as Charles De Gaulle used to say.

To begin with, silence often has its reasons, but it becomes infinitely more interesting when it becomes demonstrative. In my friend’s case, to begin with, she had a hard time accepting that her parents, after having been apart two years – the mother fled the country illegally and then had to wait for her family to join her – split on the day of reunification at the airport. So she went into a state of numbness, and forgot to tell anyone else about it. Meanwhile, as I persisted with my writing against the background of her non-responsiveness, her silence then transformed into deep admiration for my devotion. So what did I get out of it, finally? Everything, of course.

On devotion, then, one can conclude this: it is beyond judgment. It is neither stupid, nor pointless. It just is. And it is all the greater when it unfolds itself against the silence which is an expression of boundless love.


Anonymous said…
1. I would never-ever-ever see S.v.d.Z. or anything of its kind in Denmark. Look here why:

2. 25 years of one way communication? Nothing new. All good Christians know that.
Camelia said…
My dear lektor, the evil version of it

On 1)
Stupidity, like love can also be boundless. There are nunaces, to be sure. Some stupids are more notorious than others, esp. the ones working for Politikken. Nothing new in that.

On 2)
From ee cummings 1 X 1 [One Times One], X, XXXVIII

yes is a pleasant country:
if's wintry
(my lovely)
let's open the year

both is the very weather
(not either)
my treasure,
when violets appear

love is a deeper season
than reason;
my sweet one
(and april's where we're)

(Christianity 101: love thy neighbor as thy self)

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