Monday, December 29, 2008

Making peace

When the end of the year comes by, people tend to look back. And they talk about peace. Especially then they do and especially politicians and leaders do. Why just they? And what do they bring? In the First World War, in 1914 during the first Christmas of this war, the soldiers wanted a truce, but the generals forbade it. However, on many places along the Western Front the soldiers stopped fighting and spontaneously fraternized with the “enemy” and celebrated Christmas with them. The generals and political leaders were afraid of peace, the soldiers weren’t. A truce and fraternization might have meant the end of the war.
This made me think of something that I have written many years ago in my philosophical diary, which I used for writing down casual remarks and ideas. It was a kind of blog avant la lettre, for blogs did not yet exist. To be exact, it was on September 9, 1988 that I wrote: “Peace is not something to be left to statesman”. In fact, it is not a very original statement. Most likely it weren’t my even own words that popped up in my mind. However, I am afraid that nothing has changed in the world since Christmas 1914 and also not since I noted this statement twenty years ago. Of course, much has changed in the world, but none of these changes have made this self-quotation false. For didn’t the fall of the Berlin Wall a year after I had written this, and didn’t all the developments that made this fall possible and that took place in those days confirm the truth of these words? For wasn’t the fall of Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War mainly the work of the long lasting silent (and often not so silent) nonviolent resistance of the common people in extended parts of Europe who simply didn’t agree with the policy of their leaders who were supposed to be statesman (but often weren’t)? And hasn’t laid this, what I have called elsewhere “underground resistance” (which actually is Václav Havel’s “living in truth”), the foundation for what seems to have become the start of a long lasting peace between most European nations and peoples?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Success ?!

Having finished an article, a book or a photo is one thing, being successful with it is something different. My joy of having completed a difficult piece of creativity was immediately followed by feelings of what might other people think about what I made, as I wrote in a blog lately. However, these are two different things. First there is a feeling, a kind of emotion. It is a mixture of joy followed by emptiness. The joy of “I have done it!”. And then, suddenly there is a hole within me. The feeling of nothing having to do.
When these feelings have fade away, questions pop up relating to the world around me, questions about success: Did I really do a good job? What might other people think about it? Do they even find it worth the effort to think about it? And when the joy and emptiness have gone, and the emptiness has been filled with new tasks, the question of success comes more and more to the fore: How has my creativity been received? Was I really so creative, as I had thought at first? However, success is not something absolute. Success is relative. Everybody defines his or her success in view of his or her relevant activities and what relevant others think about it. Seen that way, success is subjective. And is it really possible that success is objective? Success changes on the gulfs of the developments of history. Each generation has to interpret history anew. And what or who has been forgotten once can become a centre of attention later. And what or who was once considered an example of success, can fall into oblivion, while another star of success rises again. And so it may also happen with our pieces of creativity, if it does not sink into oblivion from the start. Is that why we are doing it for?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Visiting Florence

In one of his essays in his book about Montaigne, Philippe Desan writes how the library forms for many authors a way to accumulate knowledge and to organize it, while one can stay on the place where one is. It is a guide to the world. But for Montaigne his library is in the end not more than a starting place for all his voyages. Montaigne has travelled a lot. In France, of course, but also in Germany and from there to Italy. His diary of this journey is famous.
For me it is also often the case that my travels start in a library, be it my own library, be it in a university library or now also in the library of the Internet. I use these libraries as a start for the travels in my mind (as the readers of my blogs may already have noticed) or for my physical travels in Europe or sometimes in Japan. For my mental travels, books give me the guidelines that lead my thoughts. For my physical travels, they give me an impression where it might be interesting and where I should go, and how to organize it.When Montaigne travelled, he gave more attention to the people he met than to the landscapes he passed. Although landscapes are important when choosing my destinations and travelling around, I cannot help to look at people, too, and at their relics. I suppose it is my sociological past. And there is also another similarity between Montaigne and me. In his travel diary, Montaigne has written hardly any word about his visits to Florence. It is as if he has seen hardly anything of the beautiful art there, which was there also already in his time. Anyway, it did not impress him enough in order to write about it. I make always a photographic diary of my travels, and I have photos of nearly all bigger and smaller towns that I visited. But in Florence I took no picture at all.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Finished !

The joy of having finished an article, a book, a complicated photo! And then the feeling of emptiness of having nothing to do (as long as it lasts). And also the fear, for is there really anyone interested in my creativity? Is it really so good as I think? Will the reactions not be negative, or even worse, will my work not be ignored? As if it had fallen in a pit and nobody knows.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The price of freedom

When Eve and Adam ate from the apple in Paradise, they learned what freedom was but also what its limits are. In Paradise Eve and Adam were happy (I suppose), but not free. They could get everything they needed, but just for that reason they couldn’t choose. They simply got what they needed. However, there was one exception: the apple tree. When, urged by the snake, Eve picked an apple and ate from it, she made a substantial choice, and by doing this, she learned what it is to be free. And when Adam ate also a part of the apple, he had the same experience. But the consequence was that they were chased away from Paradise, and in this way Eve and Adam learned also what the limits are of being free and that freedom has a price.