Thursday, October 31, 2013
The Picture Of George Sand
1. saskia.ooms@musee-orsay wrote:
It's really an amazing discovery and you are a very good story teller, and I'm sure a very good writer as well. Your story interests me and I feel like reading George Sand again and especially to read more about the relationship between Liszt and Sand.
Could you send us a digital image by mail of the daguerreotype? I really am curious to see it now.
Not five minutes ago I was thinking I should have asked you on the telephone for your email address.
I haven't been as clear as I could have been in telling you the story of the George Sand photograph, so here again in brief is what I have discovered:
I bought the approximately 6 cm. oval photograph in an antique shop in Zurich last year: I believed at once it was George Sand. I checked the portrait against the existing photographs of GS taken when she was in her sixties, and against the paintings and drawings of her when she was 30 or 40, and the images conformed very well, but that was far from being conclusive proof. It is possible to find many people who resemble each other even in the same town.
There was a note hidden inside the hinged wooden box, behind the copper plate of the photograph. The note reads: Ich Liebe Dich mit gluhenszen grensenlosesten leidenschaft: I love you with the most glowing borderless passion. Since the language was German, I assumed it was not written by GS, but by the recipient of the portrait, and that it was in the nature of a memorandum. Since it was private writing, the language was probably the native language of the author. I immediately thought of Franz Liszt, friend of GS and native German speaker. I checked his handwriting through letters found on the internet, in the Budapest Opera Archives, and those reproduced in biographies, and my conclusion was that in fact, the note was written by Liszt.
Still, this was far from certainty: a photograph that looks like other images of GS, and handwriting that looks like Liszt's handwriting: it would be no problem to find people, experts of one kind or another, to dispute both similarities.
Then, reading though a collection of translated Liszt letters, I came across a letter he wrote to GS in 1845, the date I had tentatively given to the portrait based on the apparent age of the subject (a very youthful looking 40, if GS). In this letter, Liszt asks GS if she would like him to arrange a shipment of camellia flowers from Portugal, from where he has just returned. He says he will not be able to see her for several years, because of his continual touring, but he considers that their friendship has proved itself lasting in spite of time and difficulties, and that as he ages and the meaner aspects of life seem to be becoming more prominent, he appreciates their friendship more.
In the photograph, GS (if it is her!) is prominently wearing a large camellia flower in the top of her dress.
Now I could tell this story: GS replied to the letter: Send the flowers, and Liszt did. In return, GS had her photograph taken with one of the flowers, and sent it to Liszt, who added the memorandum, and kept it with him while touring, finally losing it or having it stolen during one of the many times he passed through Switzerland in the following years. An anecdote I read in a GS biography: GS declares her love to Liszt, who protests, "Only God is worthy of love." This sentence I found almost verbatim in Thomas a Kempis' book "Imitation of Christ", which Liszt couldn't help knowing: he considered becoming a priest when he was a young man, and in his old age finally was ordained a father in the Catholic Church. In "Imitation of Christ", the phrase "infinite light" is to be found literally hundreds of times as part of expressions of spiritual love. For example: "What a marvel if I should be wholly set on fire by thee, and die to myself, for thou art a fire always burning purifying the heart and enlightening the understanding...that I be melted away in thee and overflow with thy love".
The note found inside the portrait case then becomes an answer to the question, How do I love you? Not with romantic love, but a spiritual love. Thomas a Kempis again:
"In me the love of thy friend must stand, and for me he is to be loved, whoever he be that appeareth to thee good and is very dear to thee in this life."
So, the case for the identification of the portrait rests on:
1. Similarity of photograph to existing images.
2. Similarity of handwriting on manuscript to that of Franz Liszt.
3. Liszt's offer in an 1845 letter to GS to send her camellias.
4. Photograph shows prominently a camellia.
5. Interpretation of manuscript note as a private declaration of spiritual.
love, and Liszt's well documented deep friendship with GS.
6. Photograph dated to 1840's found in Zurich: Liszt was often in Switzerland in this period.
This is as far as I have gotten. Is it enough?
I have asked Larry Gottheim, of Be-Hold Co. in New York, to send to you by mail the digital photo I had sent him last month and also to send you by email a scan of the photo. Mr. Gottheim is a dealer in old photographs, and his response to the GS portrait was typical of other dealers I had shown it to. That is, he made a series of objections to the identification as George Sand: that there were far more of this kind of photograph taken in the 1850s than the 1840s; the woman in the picture looks young for 40 years old; GS was known to wear men's clothes, in the picture the woman wears a dress; the lips of the woman in the photo aren't as wide as GS lips depicted in paintings and drawings; why would a famously mannish woman like GS wear a large flower as in the photo? Why is the face wider and nose less long than in the paintings? Why would the portrait of a famous French woman appear 160 years later in a Zurich antique shop? Why was the note with the portrait of a French woman written in German? All these improbabilities added up for him to a picture that was not possible to sell.
I was familiar with this response, because even my friends were responding in the same way. If I was right, this photo was a treasure, and I as a treasure hunter should not have the extreme good luck of finding it: that seemed to be their reasoning.
It was as if someone said: I have blue eyes, which less than a third of human beings have; brown hair, again less than a third; I am of less than average height for my age; I look much younger than my years...and because of these and other "improbabilities" I do not exist!
I tried to figure out what was the error in reasoning that was making so many people act this way. What I came up with is this:
There is no improbability in looking on a table and seeing sitting there the number 6 face up on a dice. However there is only one in six chance of, when waiting for the throw of the dice, the number 6 turning up. There is no improbability that someone with the collection of individually unusual qualities like myself existing. It is, however, improbable that someone looking for someone with exactly my collection of improbable qualities would find them.
So there seemed to be operating an assumption that I must have been looking for what I found; the treasure hunter finding the exact treasure being sought.
I then had an idea of what was happening here. An actor on the stage is looking for the expected responses from his fellow actors in the performance. He does not simply evaluate the probability or improbability of the imitation that is the actor's job to produce by his performance.
In social life, to be given a job, to be paid, the more one gives the impression of being just what is expected, the more work will be obtained. The more jobs taken, the more will be offered, as the past trust of the other employers increases the probability that your performance will be satisfactory. All act with others as strangers known to each other by reputation, which is in fact nothing but a prediction that you will do what is expected of you.
In this relation of professional roles to one another, each looking for any sign of improbability in the other, any improbability immediately excites radical distrust. The lawyer, making one doubtful statement to the jury, could lose all their trust as a reliable authority, and so lose his case. If he makes two improbable statements, it is like hearing the same gossip twice, and the jury will believe that "where there is smoke, there is fire"; they will develop of habit of distrust of the lawyer's words.
Improbability added to improbability increase improbability. But this is a social truth not true in nature. The fact that I have both brown hair (improbable) and blue eyes (improbable) is itself probable, because the characteristics are often found together. But the probabilistic thinking based of professional roles thinks otherwise: it cannot be George Sand because she isn't famous for wearing dresses and flowers, or for having a round face. It isn't considered that in the existing photos taken of GS taken by Nadar in the 1860s, GS is shown in fact to have a rounder face, to be wearing a dress, to have a nose of the same length as in my portrait. Nor that in one painting GS is shown wearing flowers in her hair. The sale of the portrait depends on dealers convincing others dealers, none of whom knows the details or "natural" history of the people or circumstances involved; it is the fact that "doubts can be raised" that makes, in their eyes, identification impossible.
As an example of how far from natural as opposed to social reality this reasoning is: I tried to understand why in the known painted and drawn portraits of GS she is shown having "cupid's bow" shaped lips, though in the Nadar 1860 photographs, and in my portrait, her lips - though wide - show a more normal curve. I performed a simple experiment, asking a 18 year old Hungarian girl who has the cupid's bow shape to her lips to look directly at me, then look down, then up. And the solution to this "improbability" was discovered: the cupid's bow shape is not visible when looking on level, but appears when looking slightly down at her face. (I suppose painters have known this for hundreds of years.)
The opposition of social and natural probabilities can be seen in the relation men have to prostitutes. Unless the men are cruel, they believe they are buying from the woman her beauty, which for reasons of vanity or insecurity they consider themselves to be deprived of. They need to remake themselves by the passionate possession of the woman's beauty. The possession cannot happen without the passion: the rebirth of their self image newly strong and confident requires the suffering or dying that is implied in passion's loss of self awareness.
If the woman reveals her hatred, contempt, amusement at her customer, this revival of confidence will not happen, the man paying will not be able to think he has possessed the woman's beauty and the social power that is implied in that beauty. He cannot succeed in losing himself in passion if he is aware the woman is laughing at him.
But the experience of social roles, of making social roles as probable as possible so as to obtain the trust and business of strangers, is so strong that men who outside their dealings with prostitutes, in their making business deals, in bargaining, can be extremely harsh judges, will when paying for women suspend their disbelief. They willingly believe the performance of the woman, which before and after, if questioned, they would admit is almost surely false. While they are with them they believe the women like them, while they are not with them they know, if they think about it (which they avoid doing at all costs) that the women more nearly hate them.
I've reread what I sent to you yesterday. I wanted to account for "dealer’s probability", which was it seemed much different from real probability.
When doing a job that you have been hired to do, you use both knowledge about a specific aspect of the world that has been learned through study, and you use a completely different kind of knowledge at the same time, that of how to "get paid" for your work.
The knowing how to get paid is knowing how to give people what they expect. Plato gives the examples of the pastry chef to show that giving people what they want usually means giving them what gives immediate satisfaction, not what is good for the health, and the example of the ships captain who is chosen not because he knows how to navigate, but because he knows how to convince the passengers to choose him. He may also know how to navigate, but that knowledge is separate from the knowledge of getting the job and getting paid.
It is however very difficult to describe how the knowledge of getting paid is learned. It happens something like children learn their native language, without conscious study, from repeated experience of hearing words spoken and attempting words in response. It is a sort of "knack" learning, as opposed to the learning of nature, in which the history of each step can be recalled.
Knowing how to distinguish valuable old things, and how to make profit from them, both involve real expertise. But the "getting paid" knowledge involves an appreciation of probabilities completely different from the knowledge of exactly what it is that is being handled.
The "getting paid" knowledge derives from behavior that is like the child's language learning. It comes from trial and error that is more or less unconscious.
It cannot be learned by disciplined study: the captain of the ship knows navigation, but what the passengers think would be proof of that knowledge can be almost anything, changing at every moment. The specialist in getting paid studies not what he is getting paid to do, but the people who are paying him to do it, who also are studying him.
Like with stock market speculators, each investor watches the other, trying to understand what the others want, what they fear, the employer studies the employee, the employee studies the employers, using as the basis of their judgment a general sense of what has happened in the past with people of a certain appearance. The lawyer relies on his seriousness, his clothes, his careful speech, to make an impression on people who have no understanding of the legal issues at stake.
And because there is no integral connection between clothes, careful speech, seriousness and being a good lawyer, the giving of the job is extremely sensitive to doubt: If you know what makes a good lawyer, lacking one out of 100 usual characteristics does not create doubt. But if you don't know, only have the knowledge that comes from a knack of judging, of things like seriousness and clothes, it is impossible for you to know how important any failure to meet expectations is going to be. Judgment of "getting paid" job worthiness is nearly all or nothing: you are trustworthy one minute, the next you are out.
Aside from the real knowledge that people use in their occupations, they need to get their jobs. To do this, they must respect the fact that most likely they will be judged by people who have no ability to understand their work, but think they know from experience what a capable person looks like. If you want the job, which once you have you will be able to use real knowledge, usually you will have to play the role that satisfies these arbitrary expectations.
A dealer in old photographs, then, if he wants to sell what he has, must recognize that the standard of probability is that of "getting paid". The slightest doubt spoils the possibility of a sale.
The buyers, like he himself, are searchers for unlikely treasures. Such things do exist, but finding them being improbable, everyone must be as certain as possible about what they are doing. The relation of buyer and seller is that of people who must trust each other from their impressions of each other, not knowledge of what they are buying. They have expectations of each others behavior.
This is what I was trying to get at in the essay I sent you yesterday. The dice are not found already at rest on the table, number 6 face up. Everyone has thrown the dice, and is waiting for the number six. The improbability of the 6 appearing has to be answered, and can only be answer in the was of "getting paid" by the dealer playing his role perfectly, answering all objections, no matter that the objections are false or meaningless.
Then I tried to say that this way of judging probabilities is closely related to what is known as "passion". This forgetting of oneself in an intoxicated sort of action, action in which one does not know what one is doing, only what is the object of the action, the satisfaction of a desire. The passenger on the ship wishes to feel safe, the criminal wishes to avoid punishment, the buyer wishes to get something genuine. But none of these people knows what they are doing when making their judgments. Their action of judgment is exactly of the form passionate action takes: they have their desire and they do not know what they are doing while pursuing it.
I brought in the story of paid women to show how the "passion" of the buyer of women involves no true knowledge of the woman bought. It does however involve knowledge of what has been convincing to him in the past, and what he expects the woman to imitate if she wants him to pay her.
(Saskia's boss has said: Not George Sand. The woman in the photograph is too beautiful to be GS, and her features don't match those in accepted existing portraits of GS.)
Please let me know when I have written even a single line that you don't understand: it is useful to me to try to explain.
Also, just for your information, I have received a copy of the scan that Larry sent you. The image has lost much of the detail of the original, and this unfortunately decreases the resemblance of the photograph to the known images of GS: the details of eye shape and nostril shape are identical in my photo with the 1850 drawing I sent you, but you can't see it at all by looking at the scan.
There are dissimilarities: the eyebrows in almost all GS images are thick, nearly strait lines, but not in my photograph. I have supposed that this uniformity is the result of cosmetic attention, because I see in one of the photographs from 1864 that the line of eyebrow does taper off as in my photograph.
If you are curious to follow the steps I took, first compare the proportions of face, my photograph to known photographs, looking for divergences. Then look at painting and drawings, for general shape (not exact proportion), checking for divergences. Do not reject my photo on the basis of proportions measured from artistic renderings: that is not logical, though it hasn't stopped many people (including your boss) from doing it. For example, in my photo GS seems to have a higher forehead than in all the artist produced images, but a careful examination of the 1864 photograph, taking foreshortening into account, shows a consistency: therefore the paintings and sketches must be rejected as sources for this measurement. Notice that the slope of the shoulders is identical in all images.
5. Children And Improbable Existence
At a certain age, children become aware that adult roles are based on producing for each other an image of probable performance, or reliability.
Then immediately the child makes a discovery: the truth about himself is that he is not really the child playing the role that is complementary to the role his parents play. He does play that role, but he himself has qualities that are improbable, just as my individual qualities of brown hair, blue eyes, lower than average height are improbable.
The child realizes that if his parents saw him as he really is, they would not recognize him as trustworthy, would in fact not love him. And further, the child realizes that this works both ways: If the child is not really the child, the parent so confidently is playing the role of parent can not really be a parent. When the child realizes his existence is in doubt, he realizes at the same time his parents reality is in doubt.
And this is obvious to anyone who observes children. They discount the reality of adults, seeing adult way of living as entirely meaningless to themselves as children, and they know - better than anything else they know - that their parents haven't the slightest understanding of their children's lives as they really live them.
The children, however, have a great advantage over their parents in this battle of mutual non-existence: the children know what is happening, the parents do not. The adults turn away from disturbing hints, taking refuge in their roles. While children actively attempt to come to some accommodation with their new knowledge.
Consider what happens in fairy tales. In the primitive variety, the child finds himself in an altered world, security is gone, nothing is to be done except passively look on as death and destruction approach. The satisfaction had from listening to these tales is in the affirmation of the existing security the child still has, that of being a child to parents, even though his new knowledge, represented by the threateningly altered situation in the fairy tale, is something frightening for him to reflect on. The primitive fairy tale reassures the child because it is listened to in security, and it is survived by the listener though not by its protagonist. It keeps the new frightening information comfortably packaged and ready for future thought.
The more enlightened fairy tale goes much further. The child protagonist is again faced with a threatening situation. Improbable existence of both child and adults is reflected: the child is in danger and without power, adults are monstrously altered into literally improbable shapes, and are a danger to the existence of the child.
However, the child looks on at this world as a refreshment: unlike the adult world of complementary roles, it is open to his action as he really is, if he could only figure out what to do. So what he does, is fall back on the "rule following" that was assigned to him by life, before he discovered that now he would have to be a role player who adapts his probability to other role players. But the rules he follows, in this unprecedented world, have to be found. And he goes out looking for them. The first rule that presents itself in many stories is saving the life of a fellow creature whose existence, like the child's, is threatened in this strange world. This ethical act rebuilds the existence of the child, and in the course of the stories his powers are returned to him, and finally the old safe world is regained.
But with this difference: The child has substituted experimental, self observing, self reliant behavior, for the role-probability being forced onto him. The stories have confirmed him in his rebellion against the new life being imposed by his parents.
The fairy tales are more real to the child that any story of real life than can be told him; the fairy tale is about his very reality. Nothing could concern him more.
6. Tolerance And Anti-Semitism
In one-god religions, all of history is one single ceremony.
The end of the ceremony will be rebirth in heaven.
Because history is not over and heaven not arrived, either:
1. Never is the ceremony completed, the rules must be continuously observed and adapted to changing circumstances.
2. Or only momentarily is god seen, only to be lost sight of, self returns in state of weakness, and sight set on making a return. A habit of making returns, and a description of self as fated to permanent failure, needing always to make returns.
Christians look to the loss of self, the successful conclusion of ritual, Jews to interpreting the rules following which directs ritual conduct.
The tolerance that appears to be Christian, in fact is political: it is a statement that there is no nature of man to be made the basis of political rules: it is as if the man in heaven relates to other men in heaven: they have no self and so have no definition.
But in fact, that is only an overlay of Christianity to democratic political conditions.
The tolerant tolerate only the tolerant, people like themselves that demand from others no agreed definition of man's nature. The tolerant do not tolerate the intolerant. Intolerance, assigning any definition of how public behavior should be, is not tolerated.
So tolerance is in fact intolerant. Its general sense derives from the Christian imagined state of single ritual conclusion, in which all men will be without self and so of course have no objection to each other.
The Jews are intolerant. They however are tolerated, because they have made an arrangement with the powers that be, to never act on their intolerance, and in hundreds of years of history have proven themselves honest in this arrangement. They adapt their rule-following to the social conditions in which they live. It seems they have secret knowledge of the Christians, because they are watching the adaptiveness of their rules, while the Christians are forgetting themselves in their rituals of accommodation to each other in their social roles. The Jews are in a position to see how this accommodation occurs. How the lawyer comes to be judged as professionally respectable because of his seriousness and dark clothes, the Jews can watch how the captain of the ship is chosen for his ability to get himself chosen, not for his ability to navigate. The Jew stays aware, while the Christian is losing himself in this passionate accommodation of buyer and seller of roles, professions, products. And then: the Jews are in explicit agreement on the rules to be followed, while the Christians isolate themselves in their social roles, and only reach a collective state in the concluding moments of ritual accommodation of role to role. The Jews have secret knowledge, the Jews are working together...thus they are accused of conspiracy against the Christians.
The Jews look on secretly with clear eyes at the Christian's passions, which lead Christians into social behavior that has as much chance of being rooted in nature, as of being rooted in meaningless or dangerously wrong conventions.
The tolerant Christian society tolerates the Jews, but can't help thinking that this is a mistake. Jews are not publicly advocating his intolerant opinions, but have secret knowledge of the Christians, they are acting together, and have power that comes from unanimity and knowledge. They are implicitly dangerous, even if not now active.
The sign of a suspect intolerant group is its unanimity: a lack of role specialization which would limit its ability to spy on the tolerant group in which it lives.
This unanimity comes from agreement on rules. Rules are followed at risk of one's own security, and in an environment of insecurity. Roles are practiced in a secure environment and increase security.
Socrates to his jurors: If he had been given enough time, he'd be able to convince them of his innocence. Socrates was accused of creating unanimity against the will of his listeners. He succeeded in being tolerated for the duration of a long life, then the tolerance failed. Like the Jews he let himself be given a role: a harmless unaccountable powerful exceptional type. But in time, the logic of the situation inevitably led to charges of conspiracy, secret knowledge, and enmity. It is the suspicion of the unanimity he creates with his listeners, sometimes against their will, the application of the rule "no contradiction" in his discussions, that lead to this inevitability.
A child follows his first rule in a fairy tale - protect the threatened existence of others like myself - without the sense that this action defines his character or even predicts his future action...all depends on its results, the ending of the story. Rule-following creates unanimity without blindness.
7. Fairy Tales And Mysticism
ethical acting: world open, self defined
ethical thinking: world defined, self open
vain acting: world defined, self open
vain thinking: world open, self defined
The ethical act, to save the existence of another, risks a self that is defined as betrayed. The action in progress is to return to the lost world of love (seen and thought of). The "thing" of oneself is not considered real, because not good: self is in question. To risk that self, in the course of making a return to reality, is a decision easily made: especially since it is known that the self has no definition in that remembered world. The defined self is, once seen, part of the state of betrayal that the fairy tale character feels and must make his way out of.
8. Hi Rex,
How are you?
I'm so sad about the elections, what do you think? I'm sad that Kerry lost. Did you vote being in Budapest or are you a non-political Los Angeler...
About the elections: there is an political theory about modern democracy that explains why two party elections are so close in votes. Techniques of political oratory, or demagogy, are ancient, and perhaps the skills of the Athenians will never be surpassed. But what has happened now is that the citizens who vote have also become in a sense professional politicians: they have highly developed ("professional") expectations of how politicians should speak to them.
In the U.S., the soft drinks Coke and Pepsi have an approximate equal share of the market, because each spends an equal amount of time, money and expertise on advertising, constantly adjusting exactly what is said to new sales figures. This is in spite of the fact that, when choosing drinks based on taste alone, most American prefer neither drink to many other brands that are for sale. The product sold itself is not what is determining its sale, but the way it is spoken about.
The last two presidential elections in the U.S. show something similar happening. The two candidates have greatly different programs, which should not be supported by equal segments of the voters, except by chance. But because the political parties are using the techniques of advertising and poling, constantly adjusting how they speak to the polling numbers, they reach an approximately equal vote share. This could not happen unless the voters themselves were responding professionally, as the buyers of soft drinks are professional consumers. That is, they have expectations of what they want which they are looking to be satisfied. And these expectations can be best satisfied by words, not by actual programs or policies.
To put this in another way: as there is a professional role "politician", there is now a professional role "voter", who looks for the right words to be spoken so he can take his turn to speak.
Remember what I wrote to you about probabilities: the difference between a "dealer's probability" and natural probability is that the dealer has expectations of finding what he is looking for, whereas in nature it is possible to simply find, then through investigation determined the real probability. In the case of the George Sand investigation, the dealers said that it was improbable to find something so important. But in fact, the features of the woman in the photograph are what they should be, judging by existing photographs and images, the writing found behind the photograph, letter for letter, follows exactly Liszt's way of forming characters. That Liszt writing would be found behind a portrait that looked like George Sand but wasn't in fact her: that is an obvious improbability...but not to dealers (or museum officials). The modern democratic voter does not investigate the words of politicians. Like the dealer, the voter has expectations, in this case of how a politician should speak. The one who speaks most convincingly, speaks with the words judged most probably true.
And that politician gets the vote.
9. The Professional Citizen And The Criminal
The professional citizen is the audience to most political reporting in the United States: the stories concentrate on the technical means of winning votes or support, not on the policies of the office holders or candidates. The most-professional citizens wish to align themselves with only the most professional politicians.
Concurrent with this trend in political reporting, is an intense interest in criminals as role actors, in real life or fiction.. The criminal seems to be of interest also as a maximum role with which the professional citizen wishes to align himself.
What would be the most successful, therefore most attractive, criminal? As in the case of the candidates in the last presidential elections, the facts or deeds done - in this case, the amount of money taken, murders committed - is not what holds attention.
The criminal is the tolerant citizen who allows himself to act intolerantly. The greater success the criminal has in performing tolerantly in his honest life, the more attractive his criminality is to the professional citizen audience.
Observing the criminal is for the professional citizen a chance to exercise his intolerance securely. Something like the fairy tale for children in fact, the adults reads about or watches the criminal on screen, exercises his democratic right of intolerance of the intolerant, yet never leaves the society of the tolerant, as the child never leaves the security of his parents' home in which he listens to the story.
Because, you see, for the tolerant citizen, his necessary acts of intolerance are a mystery to him. He should be tolerant, he is tolerant in all his acts of imitation sympathy with fellow professional citizens. He is grateful to all of them, for allowing him in this universal ritual of professional life to continue to do whatever it is he does in his private life. In the midst of his gratitude to all, he is called upon to hate the intolerant. Of course that is an act of intolerance, which undermines the professional ritual of imitating sympathy and liking of each other. It is a kind of common death, for him and those like him.
In his life it has been: every man for himself privately, and all for all publicly. The act of hatred, of intolerance destroys the fiction that is behind the imitation sympathy. It is not true, of course, that each citizen likes each citizen. They are only grateful to each other. Like the customer of the prostitute is satisfied so long as the prostitute puts on a show of liking him, so the citizen is satisfied with the show of imitation sympathy. But if any private act is the subject of hatred, then all may be; and now doubt enters into all public relations.
Returning now to the criminal: the great criminal is not simply intolerant. He is not an enemy of the state, not a political or religious revolutionary: these roles excite little interest in our times. The criminal is greatest, as I said, when he is most polite, most accommodating, most willing to participate in professional citizenry.
The great criminal is a great citizen. He does not undermine the imitation sympathy that joins role player to role player. In some strange way, inexplicable to the audience, he shifts his roles like a magician performs his deceptions. His actions are intolerant, yet while we watch him he is a tolerant professional like you and me.
It is as if the prostitute said, hello, good-by, wasn't that great? Now pay...and the customer pays, because he's not sure he can trust his memory, and the girl is so nice.....The great criminal likewise does not let his audience get angry, they are too busy marveling or laughing.
And there is this too, to consider. To be a professional citizen is a wearying task. It is psychically wearying: the public actor does not take account of the private, and vice versa. But the criminal somehow smuggles his private life into public life, and this is the unacknowledged fantasy of every fragmented professional.
10. Terrorists And Anti-Semites
We wake up to find our country is under attack. But from whom? Terrorists? Who are they? Here we have the definition of the unexpected enemy. Social life accustoms us to looking for the probable, and disregarding the improbable, denying its existence. When the improbable forces its way into our lives , we have to wake up. Not to investigate it, that's not what we do as social beings. Rather we will probe it, wait for response, get a hang of what to expect, exactly as we learn language, learn our professional roles. In time, and with habit, we will transform the unexpected to the expected. If this is a matter of war, this will be a kind of purification, for facing life or death will remedy somewhat the inevitable distance from reality our social probabilities involve (as they are made up of part arbitrary convention and part nature).
At the conclusion of our collective passionate response, the terrorist is placed firmly in the role of common criminal, who we know what to expect from. That is, someone without role, defined as failure to acquire the technical skill of role playing, and thus the material we have specialists to exercise their skills on.
With this as preface, we can understand the present relations between the United States and Europe. The Europeans demand that the Americans act with tolerance, as they do, treating terrorists as the equal to every other world- citizen. The Americans say No, terrorists are intolerant, and must be attacked, for our own safety and social health.
And now seems to the Americans that the Europeans have put themselves deliberately in the position of Jews in the Christian world. They are apparently tolerant, but secretly they wish to harm the United States in its endeavor to protect itself. The Europeans, often enjoying being anti-Semites themselves, resent being the victim of American state anti-Semitism.
And one of the strangest results of this is that the Europeans begin to envy the Jews even more, for the Jews have the consolation of feeling contempt for the Christian rule guided society that fears them, whereas the Europeans do not. The Jews suffer anti-Semitism so much better than they do! The Americans have made the terrorists into common criminals, whereas the Europeans invite them to their table as fellow suffering Jews.
11. Resentment And Ritual
The present European experiences both being the victim of American anti-Semitism, and being the anti-Semite: the individual feels himself in two positions, powerful and defenseless. Note that the positions have been defined for him through social relations, and not by imaginary parts of self in conflict.
One is ashamed to feel oneself being seen exactly in the way one has looked down at other people. One is victim of one's own commitment to role probability, of its loose connection with reality; one is victim of one's own expectations.
The European, from his position of social conformist, in fact really fears the Jew's secret observing unanimity. Yet he cannot question the truth that, like the Jew, he feels powerless in the new world controlled by the United States, that he is sure the United States is acting wrongly, that they all in Europe are together against that oppressive control. The European sees the correctness in their becoming the object of anti-Semitic attack. He doesn't know what to think, for he fits the requirement for the role, but he knows nevertheless that he fears the Jews himself. Not only can he not act, thinking also is becoming a problem....
The European is resentful, for he has been made into the powerless version of himself.
And in his resentment, he hears the primitive appeal of ritual: old god and new god, old self in decline, new self reborn. Like a primitive, the European looks again at his new found friend the terrorist, and wonders if in fact the terrorist knows something he doesn't. For can't one be reborn out of resentment through violence? Isn't that the terrorist's raison d'etre?
12. Common Criminals And Europeans
Am I serious? How exactly are the Europeans Jews?
They have a rule which they act under: tolerance. Tolerance, however, of only their set of role players. Who are they? Those they are grateful to for allowing them to practice their private lives in their community of private lives. If they have a rule - tolerate only a given set of roles - how is it that they are tolerant, which means accept anything without judgment? They do not know their rule. Their roles are acquired by knack-knowledge, habitual, passionate practice, trial and error. The community that results from a collection of people practicing roles together, adjusting their practices to each others, is also unknown. What is known is how it came to be established: with tolerance. It acquires that name from its origin. However, the name has in fact no application to what the society is, and does: for as we well know, tolerant societies are intolerant of intolerance. Intolerant actors are those role players outside the community who threaten the community.
Now the Europeans have their rule: protect the set of roles who live in their community in mutual tolerance. The Americans, a member of that community, at least formerly, have decided that one European role player - the terrorist - is to be treated as common criminal, therefore as having no role. The Europeans then must see Americans as intolerant, and therefore as rule breakers. But unfortunately for the Europeans, they can't openly state the rule the Americans are breaking: if you tolerate child mass murderers like the terrorists, what is so bad about Americans? Why not tolerate them too? They can't answer with the truth, that America is adjusting its own collection of roles, at the expense of European collection of roles. That would reveal the primitive power struggle that goes on behind the screen of tolerance.
So the Europeans feel they are living helpless in a community controlled by Americans, they have their own rules that the Americans do not respect, they are unanimous in condemnation of the American rule breaking, they are secretly observing American behavior, not saying what they really think, even conspiring in imagination at least to undermine American power: exactly Jews, as they are seen by anti-Semites.
The Americans in fact look to them, the Europeans, as Christians are seen by Jews. Consider the American fascination, not with the superior criminal this time, but with the common criminal. The stupid common criminal, I mean. At the present moment, American movies and books cater to the desire to watch the common criminal fail as a result of his laughable stupidity. Americans, like Thomas a Kempis, enjoy watching the destruction of roles, feeling free to reconstruct themselves after this vicarious experience. The Europeans, caught up in the need to protect the rule of tolerance of their set of roles, look on with horror at Americans as they laugh at the destruction of roles, reborn like Christian fundamentalists in a new world of freedom.
13. Common Criminals And Europeans (cont.)
Can you blame Americans for considering as unnatural people who celebrate mass murderers of children? People who use a social justification - that every variety of citizen is entitled to territory uniquely assigned to their type - for actions obviously contrary to nature.
On one side: "Each against All, and All against Each": The American's sense that the government and social life itself is a necessary evil, dangerous, both pressuring to conform, and at the same time liable to undermine one's present role at any moment, making a new role necessary, demanding both restraint and freedom. And "Each for Each", the sense that all share individually in this same situation, and each deserves and will naturally reward any help offered.
On the other side: "Every Man for Himself", the Europeans cynically indulged private life, while in his public life, it is the pretense of "No One for Himself".
As the Europeans use social rules to justify breaking natural law, Americans use natural law to break when required social rules. As said before, it is a question of two opposing perspectives on the same situation, that of social and private life considered together. Europeans see strength in social conformity. Americans see strength in the private resistance of natural innocence.
There are two types of stories.
1. All is well, as long as the other does not exist. When he does, he must be eliminated.
2. All is well, as long as the other does exist. When he is lost, he must be found.
The first is ritual death and rebirth. The second, that of lost and returned love. In ritual stories, we have power and security as long as, for example, the Jews or the Corrupt do not exist. They represent the interruption of the improbable into the probable, the unexpected into the expected. Ritual form expresses this perfectly: a new god arises to challenge the old (= the other exists), the new destroys the old (= the other vanishes). This to be repeated each time the unexpected has to be worked out through passionate action into the expected.
The second type of story has as its exemplars fairy tales, detective stories, the classic epics, where love is lost - love of a person, a home, etc, - and must be regained.
Now there is no reason to assume that it is true that the Americans are innocent, the Jews more united or realistic. The truth is only in the fact that people have in their lives noticed that they have been in both positions. The two positions them are inserted into the ritual form: innocent fights corrupt, Christian fights Jews. There is no necessity at all that those who see themselves in one role actually practice the actions of that role.
What is necessary is that the storyteller take the position of what exists when the other does not. There is no narrative continuity from the side of those who exist only when the other is attacking it, the story of repeated eradication.
That story, in fact, is that of a primitive. Who looks to modern man as absurd in his appearance and disappearance, repeated endlessly to no effect. The modern is a monotheist living his single long narrative, the fights in which are only episodes immediately forgotten in comfort of present security.
Would it then be possible for the corrupt and the Jews to take the other position, tell the other kind of story, where all is well unless they are interrupted by Christians and the Innocent? No reason why not.
Look at a child, who's looking at you with a smile. In a few seconds he will look away, but don't you, wait a moment...and like as not, you will catch the child look back at you and smile again.
Hotels of immortality, or of the ordinary kind, are places that are not yours. Once you leave them, there is no going back, except against your will, by accident, by fate. You have no desire to go back, because what you love there does not know you. What you do when you are away cannot be told in homecoming, at least not with expectation that you will be loved for what you have been doing. The people at the hotel are outside the story of your life. That we must go on, even the child knows and acts on when he looks away from what fascinates him. We have the task in life to trying to learn how to live. Home is where we are known not as a character, which is only a probability, but known for what we have been trying to learn while away.
The loves of forgiveness and pity are states of partial detachment. Like laughter they are combinations of approaching love and retreating disdain. They are not simple borderless most glowing passionate contemplations. The pitied and forgiven are isolated from our stories: locked in the blindness of role playing, expectations of probable conduct, they cannot understand and therefore cannot love us for what we do. Pity and forgiveness are islands of contemplation we land on, as if we had all the time in the world to rest in contemplation, which of course is a kind of immortality: in the sight of beauty there are no borders, no divisions, therefore no decay and death. Pity and forgiveness cannot be our homes. We detach ourselves from them even while we are there. Or to put it in another way, we leave nothing of ourselves behind.
Two kinds of residence correspond to the two kinds of stories (primitive gods, and fairy tales). Hotels are stayed in without sight of past or future, as if we were immortal gods, living alone in our power, only occasionally harassed by the disturbance of having to be reborn. Homes are places of love we are forced out of, but we can make our way back to with luck and knowledge.
16. Homes For Immortals
Hotels are places isolated from the progress of life, islands of forgiveness and immortal love. But the forgiving are identical with the tolerant, and as we know, there is one category that cannot be tolerated by them: the intolerant.
Now you see the problem. They, the tolerant will not tolerate and forgive what they don't know and understand, for example, me. I will not tolerate and forgive what I understand all too well - the blind repetitive role playing of the forgiving and tolerant. They will chase me out of town, literally...I will get to that story...and chase me out of my "home" which is not a home, another story, of How I Became A...leading me to return to Budapest to Hotel Citadella, where I stayed before I had the apartment, as a place to stop where I don't really want to be, a place along the way. Ever onward from destiny to destiny, as the Iliad says.
At Hotel Citadella I was a Ghost Guest. The clerks get paid less than would buy a homeless person food for the day, so they steal from the management, if you can call it stealing and if you can call what direction the hotel does "management". The guests get penciled into the ledger during the day, during the night the ghosts come out as the writing is erased, various figures wandering the halls who should not be there. Stealing doesn't seem the right word, since as it's expected no disturbance is caused (except to the fabric of reality). And in this hotel, this is just the beginning. The management is most interested in the disco which shakes the old stones of the fortress 4 or so nights a week, busload after busload of students from Serbia brought in for their ritual intoxications by sound. The last hotel Citadella management was murdered by the Serbian mafia. And the Citadella hill itself was a paradise for the robbery of tourists until last year, when in a typical bureaucratic reaction the city formed a squad of new police academy graduates to be stationed there as watchers. But neglecting to build a station, the police end up sleeping, eating, drinking and talking through theirs hours at the hotel, in the lobby and rooms the clerks provide. The cleaning staff comes in early morning, and though payed for the entire day, disappear after about an hour. They are said to be rich. And then there are the prostitutes.. Taxis take them and their customs up the hill (10 or 15 euros, of which the hotel clerks get their cut), the customer pays 20 euros for the room to the clerk which the clerk keeps for himself, and prostitute and man take the circular walk within the fortress walls past rooms where the police are sleeping to their assigned room. 10 minutes later the customer can be seen rushing out into the lobby and out the door, not waiting for a taxi, furious or upset or something. The girl come out a minute later, face grim. The clerk explains: just as I have told him about watchmakers who hate watches, who work so fast they damage any part they touch, some who with 30 years experience will attach in reverse the top and bottom of the watch bands, who act as if intoxicated, intoxicated by their hatred of their work - the prostitutes are the same. They hate their customers, do the job as quickly as possible and in a similar intoxication of hatred. And then say to the men: finished.
Citadella is a hotel for immortals. Ghosts are not precisely immortal, but certainly they're not mortal, having already died. We can see tolerance practiced there in all its purity: tolerance of stealing, of prostitution, of intoxication while on the job. The night clerk, a paragon of tolerance, a few nights ago when I arrived was in conversation with the Turkish prostitute from Germany staying the last weeks at the hotel, in Budapest she says for medical reasons. She suggests to the clerk that he might now want to talk with me, who he has told her he's known for 5 or 6 years. "He's not my friend," he hastens to correct her. What he means is, as he's told me on a number of occasions, that I am not real to him. I am a sort of "gift", a mythical character. Perhaps I am an object of the meditation which he says he practices when not "working". Which is a realistic attitude to take to his life and his life at the hotel. Immortals don't have friends. Friends do things together or for each other. At these hotels of immortality all that is done is tolerance of what you might say is the very opposite of friendship: of criminality which is bad for the simple reason that it makes trust difficult, creates fear which destroys the security necessary for learning, for making your way back to your true home.
17. Watchmakers And Prostitutes All
There are small islands of forgiveness like the Citadella, and there are the hotels of immortal love writ large that we call our communities. Has anyone else noticed that there are really only two kinds of community members to be found in them: terrorists, and "innocent Germans"?
Governments declare their undying love for murderers of children, and citizens who "don't know", "didn't know", "couldn't have known", who are too busy practicing their intoxications of hatred, watchmakers and prostitutes all, to notice what they are tolerating in their society of love.
So at least they say to themselves and their accusers later, when the list of tolerated community roles changes, concentration camp killers out, school bus murderers in. In fact they do know in their moments of returned sight that it's a terrible world out there. Fortunately that world is not theirs, neither their responsibility nor their home. They make their homes above the mortal world, whether Olympus or the Citadella. What responsibility of theirs is what goes on down below? They only take what they want of the mortal goods, in competition with other immortals.
18. Don't Have Time For Immortality
They say - the tolerant, I mean - have pity on your family, forgive them. Why, if it's possible to forgive, not do it? Because there is a cost to it. It is to let yourself take a holiday in immortality, like Odysseus during his episode of island love. I don't have time for this delay in immortality, stopping for pity and forgiveness; I have something better to do, I have to get home.
How is spending time with criminals, superior or common, going home? Criminals are no one's destiny, I hope, but for me, when you find the right teacher you can never let go.
Our lesson of the robbery will demonstrate the cycling passions of terror, despair, disgust. The passions themselves are the fears of, and returns to without security, world, self, and self in world. They are:
1. World: fear (flight), hate (re-approach)
2. Self: self pity and self contempt (flight), indignation (re-approach)
3. Self in World: melancholy (flight), nihilism and misanthropy (re-approach)
Except for the latter, these passions are so familiar they need no comment. So let's get back to the criminals and their specialties.
The most superior criminals, like Simona, can work behind a show, not of friendship, civility, amiability, gentle tolerance, but rather of love. This should not be possible. Roles are probabilities, love is a specific knowledge of another, at least in my version. But superior criminals are one step ahead of me here. They don't play love. Their love is real. They play the relation, lover to loved, loved to lover. That relation does have probabilities that can be played: how strong it is, how long it is likely to last. When I'd asked Simona years earlier why she wanted to be with me, she answered that because I loved her so much she could make me do anything she wanted.
In role expectations, there is a probability felt that lover and loved will want to continue in those roles. This probable intention to continue is what the criminal plays with, imitates, while having in reality no commitment one way or another; all depends on what is to be gained.
This I have time for, and not forgiveness? Yes, and yes again: here is love, here is instruction in misanthropy - for that is the name for such playing with love - here is no delay.
We might consider the meaning of the story telling primitive or wrong. The corrupt talking about their being repeatedly interrupted by outbreaks of innocence, may seem incredible. But only while we are forgetting human nature, which has been variously distinguished from animals by our laughter, speech, walking on two legs...but in fact, there is no better distinction than our ability to forget.
The Greek gods give us names for the two main ways of forgetting. The Dionysian forgetting of intoxication, drunken passion. And the Promethean forgetting of death, to allow us to use with hope his gift of fire.
When acting with the god's gift of intoxication, we forget ourselves. We are looking at the primitive world of the dying old god in battle with new god. The story is known clearly from repeated practice of intoxication, though we ourselves acting within the story are undefined because caught in the midst of change of state, literally being reborn as something entirely separate. When we cease acting, our intoxication persists in a clear image of ourselves as powerful in relation to the world, and all in the world is forgotten that does not refer to our newly defined power. When we act intoxicated, we forget ourselves, when our thinking is intoxicated, we forget the world.
When acting with the other god's gift of fire (that is, the arts in general), we forget the world, concentrating our attention on the choice of habits we have formed, rules we have followed in the past. We watch the undefined (because forgotten) world waiting for the return of meaning, of our ability to love it. If the rules, the habitual acts we choose don't have this result, we try others. When we succeed in the right choice, we rest in contemplation of the world of beauty. Which is best described by mystics, as for example "borderless, most glowing light". And while our sight is on the world, we ourselves are forgotten as having no place in that world seen - literally no place, since the world being without borders we cannot parcel out a section to locate ourselves in. When we act using art, we forget the world. When our thoughts have been arrived at using the gift of art, we forget ourselves.
Look carefully at this opposition. Both arts and intoxication involve forgetting of self and world. In action, the artist forgets the world, the intoxicated forgets the self. In thinking, the artist forgets himself, the intoxicated forgets the world. However the results of these different practices are entirely different for human life.
This for a very simple reason: If you forget your self when in movement, you will have difficulty remembering both what you did in that movement, and what you did before. That of course is use the gift of intoxication is most often put to: forgetting oneself. The artist on the other hand remembers what he has done acting to return to the loved world, and can use his knowledge again when it becomes necessary. The artist can tell the story of his loss and regaining, going away and returning. The intoxicant can tell a story too - and this is where we came in.
There is no need, or even ability, for the intoxicant to remember which originally was better, being innocent or corrupt. He remembers the story, that there is relation between the two, that one was first, the other came second. He knows that at one time he was assigned the latter position, as European by Americans were, of corrupt. And instead of remembering what it was like to be innocent, he chose instead to wage a passionate, intoxicated, thoughtless war of words, of symbolic actions against innocence that re-establishes his received role as one of power. The original relative value of the role is forgotten. The story is of, as said before, of being alone and well, then interrupted by another, then again alone and well. It is not noticed, or not considered significant, that earlier in their history they were alone and well as innocent, and now they are alone and well as corrupt. The story in fact is doubted, and the subject of revisionist history.
Interestingly, since Plato, and even before in religious mythology, the arts have been accused as the cause of forgetting not of self, but of God. This is because though the arts teach us you might say how to return to God, they also become occasions for intoxicated action.
Take Plato's dialogs, for example. Reading them you could fear Socrates' power of rhetoric, pity his victims: that is, you picture a world you'd be afraid to inhabit. And that leads you in imagination to intoxicated, passionate acts to remake that world, to exercise your imagination in this way while you read.
Or you could read the dialogs with admiration of the world of uncertainty Plato creates, which is also an artist's world of unparalleled clarity: sharp ideas are introduced, exercised, tested, one after another, the best ideas ever formed one might say (If you were me), in a world of talk that doesn't even come close to resolution, which actually seems to be moving in the other direction as the art of philosophic discourse is practiced. Yet what we are left with, when we have finished our reading, is a sense of perfection and beauty - the artist's rest in contemplation.
20. Forgetting And Refusing To Forget And Forgetting Again...
We can forget both fact, and the value we have given to fact; forget that we once were innocent, and that innocence was good.
We can also catch ourselves in the process of forgetting, and reverse ourselves, but only to be tempted to forget again, Then catch ourselves once more, reverse our fearful flight, but only again to be tempted to forgetfulness.
This cycle of forgetting and remembering has three forms: flight from feared idea of world, flight from feared idea of self, and flight from feared idea of what happens to ourselves in the world. The names of these cycles are respectively Terror, Despair, and Disgust.
I will introduce you to Simona at the same time as Terror, Despair, and Disgust. In my life they are inseparable: one is the teacher of the other.
To learn there is needed a minimum of security, confidence that what is unknown can be stayed with long enough to learn what it is, rather than having to run away from what is dangerous in its possibilities. And there is no better security to learn (as opposed to physical security) with someone than love, since the world in which danger arises is not seen. (Attempting to learn without security, while face to face with our fear, is what causes us to descend into the cycles of terror, despair, and disgust.)
Sitting at a cafe table across from Simona, I am terrified when I look at her. I can't understand this. And looking away, in my confusion, I am overcome by boredom, and I can't understand this either. I know the situation. She has come from Romania to Budapest to stay with me for a while, as she has done dozens of times before. She is a criminal, has criminal friends. She has robbed me before, they have robbed me, but not for 5 years. She comes to see me because she knows I love her despite everything, and to get before she goes home what I offer her, little or much, but never nothing.
I know from my ideas of fairy tales that with Simona I am caught in the primitive sort: I see the world has been changed, but I am powerless to do anything about it, can only watch fascinated my descent into that world. Looking at Simona, I expect her to betray me, but I have been given no specific cause of this fear. So I can do nothing, neither trust my sight of her as beautiful, nor act to remove myself from this dangerous situation since I can't be sure in fact that it is dangerous. This cycle of advance and retreat, look and look away, is terror: to be impelled repeatedly to look again at what is feared.
One year later, Simona has again come to see me in Budapest. Much has happened to me in that year. Earlier that month I had bought the picture of George Sand in Zurich, and it is at that time in the hands of Auction House Christie's for evaluation. Meeting early in the morning in the center, we go back to my apartment, and after a short rest, Simona sends me out to the store down the street to buy food for breakfast. 10 minutes later finds me cooking in the kitchen, and I get a surprise: the door of the extra bedroom I don't use opens, and out comes a man rushing towards me pointing a gun at my head. Come into the other room, he says. I do, not too frightened because I have been through this before. I don't recognize the man, though I do once I take the seat he indicates at the table before the bed, on the edge of which he seats himself. I look over to Simona, reclining on the coach to my left: she waves a gun in the air for my appreciation, says she has a gun too. Her I am not afraid of, for the simple reason that now I have something to do, and as we know, when acting in a fairy tale world - which this is a good example of - attention is on rules of action, the world undefined and so offering no occasion of fear.
The man is the boyfriend she had introduced me to in Romania 6 months before, whom she said before she came to Budapest she had broken up with. He'd asked me to invest in a business with him, I decided not to. Now, gun in hand resting on his legs, still vaguely pointed in my direction, his eyes close for long periods. He is falling asleep. He says nothing, Simona says nothing. I look at the gun, fascinated by it in fact. I have recognized the man, but the gun is something I know nothing about. Don't even know if it is real, since it is very large and clean. Of course I consider the chances of taking it away from this criminal who is having trouble keeping his eyes open. But this man is too dangerous. I can't place him. Intelligent, well dressed, speaks very good English, and yet wants to play this criminal game with Simona. Added to which uncertainty, he probably is on drugs.
I start talking. I ask the man, why are you here? No answer. Have you come to rob me? No answer. Why are you so tired? No answer. I was about to make coffee; would you like to have a cup? This occasions a short conversation in Romanian between him and Simona, the outcome of which is that she goes into the kitchen to make coffee. She politely asks me if I would like coffee too.
All three sitting with our coffees a few minutes later, the same silence continues. I say to the man, last time Simona robbed me 5 years ago I used to tell people the story: I had a friend I regularly gave money to, until one day she arrived with a professional criminal to rob me. No one could understand it. Would you like to explain it to me?
This gets a response. He says my giving Simona money makes her family greedy for their share of it, causing her problems. Here Simona breaks in, saying I didn't give her 100 Forints for the metro she asked me for when she was starting out on her way back home, last time I'd seen her in Budapest. So, one says I am being robbed for giving her money, the other says I am being robbed for not giving her money.
Now this is all an act, I suppose you've guessed. I knew it too. All three of us knew it. The problem is, it is also real. The gun is real, the criminal profession is real. Their Professional Pride is at risk. But what seems to me the most dangerous element is professional despair. This man might see himself as the superior sort of criminal, but he is doing now the lowest sort of crime, the infamous Romanian style stealing from friends. Despair is the cycle of fearing one's role is unstable, reevaluating one's role in imagination as powerful, then fearing its weakness again....
I ask him why an educated intelligent man would like to steal from a man who was already helping his friend, a friend whom he professes to care for. He's desperate, he answers. Why are you desperate, I asked. The answer: he has nothing to lose. Didn't he think it was foolish to rob someone who knows who he is and where he is from, who has shown himself willing to go to the police in the past? No, before he came here, he explains, he learned from Simona everything about me, everything that happened between Simona and me; to prove it, he retells an incident from Simona and another of her friend's earlier robbery of me, that showed him that I could not be relied on not to resist. Why go through all that effort of study to perform a common robbery? We're desperate, he repeats. Then why not rob someone with more money and who is not a friend? Simona here says, "I was always only using you".
Now all this time I am still more interested in the gun, than in either of these two actors. They are acting their despair, using it as a technique of creating fear. I myself take the suggestion from them, and despair of myself; I fear losing my sense of worth as someone who protects himself in his little business, I attempt to regain self respect by using my imagination, which suggests a course of action to get myself out....
I ask the man, is that a real gun? He leans forward and thrusts the gun against my forehead saying, " Do you want to find out?" No, I answer calmly, satisfied that I had successfully woken both of us up! This was using despair against despair, mine against theirs.
I say they should go. No answer. What are they doing here? I ask again. I am hoping they have not come to kill me, which is one explanation for their not asking for money. I have concluded that the motivation most likely is revenge, preference for money gained through professionals skills over money accepted as a gift with its felt accompanying obligation.
I ask: have you come here to rob me, or not? If you go now, I will not go to the police. But I'm getting tired of this. No answer still. Are you here to rob or not? Simona finally speaks, "Why not?"
O.K., I say. I won't give you everything I have, since then you might as well kill me. (This is more mock-despair bravado.) I offer them half the cash I have in my pocket. Let me see, Simona says, suddenly come to life and getting to her feet. She takes the folded money, divides it fairly, Swiss Francs, Euros, Hungarian forints. Don' t go to the police, the man warns me, or he'll shoot me in the door of the police station.
When they have gone, what do I feel? The last of the three cycles of fear: disgust. Simona has forgotten both the fact of our friendship, and the value she had herself given it. This hits me hard, once the danger is over, once the protection of the fairy tale world is gone. Disgust is running away from a story: the story of self in world. From the story seen as a form, model of life.
The best expression of this I have found is Ivan Karamatov's in Dostoyevsky's novel. He says that if he were offered a ticket of admission to heaven or happiness, at the cost of agreeing to live with resignation and peace in a world where innocent children suffer, he would "refuse the ticket". He understands the nature of human beings is to forget, and understands the use they put it to so as to feel reborn - but at the cost of ignoring the true state of the world they are reborn into feeling restored and resurrected. For him it was a cheap trick, not worth the price of admission.
I was a witness to Simona's cheap trick, to her friend's as well, with his ritual robbery routine. I didn't want to do anything but forget it all, clean up the apartment and leave it for good as no longer safe. Dostoyevsky's answer to Ivan was: love must be without expectation of personal happiness. This was God's answer to Job: You thought you could rely on conditions in which you could love me always. You thought you could know yourself as a good, faithful man. But I do not promise that you will always be able to love me. I put on you the obligation to know that you do not know the world, and you thus do not know what you yourself are; when it happens that you are not able to love me, you must be patient enough to wait for when love will return.
21. After The Robbery
I follow Simona and robber friend, who is a little sensitive about turning his back to me, out the door of my apartment to the hall. How are you going to get out without the keys? I ask. No response, though they wait while I go back in to get the keys where they've have been resting on the table. I go down the stairs with them, and politely open the building door. I'm given the parting advise, Don't go to the police. Never would think of it, I answer.
I go back up, pack my bag, and am out within a few minutes. With second thoughts they might return, regretting leaving me with anything. And the keys....I call my landlord, and ask him to meet me. Why, He asks. A problem, He can't, he's not in Budapest. What's the problem. I tell him. He says, go to the police, he doesn't care, they are not interested in his illegally rented apartment. He's clearly evasive, as I expected. A Romanian like the robbers, last year he mentioned to me in passing that his best friend in Budapest, a childhood friend, next door neighbor in Romania, had asked him if it was alright if he robbed me. Landlord said No, he reports to me, looking for my gratitude. I'm too good a customer, staying at this apartment regularly for years, as I traveled between Switzerland, Hungary, Romania, and Cyprus. My life had been threatened several times by Budapest watch dealers, and at least one of them knew my landlord and where to find him - at the church square hunting down customers for the tour-bus company he worked for. Where did the robbers get the keys? Why really were they there?
After only a few weeks together Simona told me that if I wanted to stay with her I had to accept her violence. It was a cost I'd have to pay. I said I would try. The years went by, many times I ran from the danger of her company, always returning after a few months. The best way I can explain it is by referring to the George Sand investigation (or invention if you prefer). After the experience of seeing this old small boxed photograph enlarge itself nearly miraculously into letters, love, religion, the secrets of handwriting variation, the additional job of getting payed had no interest. Experts in handwriting, face recognition computer programming, would have to be found before anyone, museum or auction house, would offer to buy it. With Simona, the job of paying likewise had little interest for me. I accepted the danger, a price that would have to be payed later, without making a study of how to best handle it. My attention was on what would develop. Chances were, this was not the end. For years I had my refuges, the homes I fled to dissatisfied with each of my residences, moving with renewed hope from one place after the other: my friend Ursula in Zurich, Hotel Port in Limassol Cyprus, this apartment in Budapest, and Simona in Transylvania. Ursula had finally found the socially respectable rich older-man friend she'd wished I was for as long as I'd known her. A year long battle with the police and watch dealers in Cyprus has closed that door to me (because I won the fight.) The apartment was unsafe to go back to. So with the robbery every refuge now was closed. Except Simona; I never knew what to expect from her, and never knew how much danger from her I could accept. But now, since she was the last refuge....
The next day my telephone receives a message from Simona: How Are You. I call her back. What does she say? The robbery was a game. She won't return the money, because her friend robbed her of it. He forced her to rob me. Where is he? Still in Budapest. I don't believe any of this, say to her, send back the money Western Union, or I will go to the police. She says she'll think about it. I give her an hour, it passes without being called back -- I do go to the police. What about her dangerous friend's threat to kill me if I did what he warned me not to?
22. Desperate Characters
Once we know we are afraid, and know what that means- loss of role security - we attempt to reverse our flight, approach again the cause of fear...only to be even more afraid; as the knowledge of our fear adds to our belief we are incapable of maintaining our role in the face of what we fear, we flee again....
Caught in these cycles of fear, we have made ourselves into machines. The first machine is terror, already working in infancy, the second despair, the famous routine of adolescents, the last disgust, old age's consolation. (Of the Karamazov brothers, the youngest was terrified by his idol's loss of role perfection, the middle brother despaired over his loss of honor, and the oldest worked to perfect a statement of disgust.)
The problem with the arts, for both maker and audience, is that it is difficult to avoid becoming like what is imitated. In these cycles, the sight of oneself afraid is an imitation of one's self that we are audience to. Imitating oneself afraid, we become (more) afraid. What then is behind this attraction to become what we have imitated?
The explanation is, again, our experience in making the improbable role disappear. When we imitate the ridiculous voice of a bystander we establish a relation to ourselves: the self doing the imitating, and the self that watches in superiority. We have set out, in relation to ourselves, on the process of role definition that groups are organized by. We are defining ourselves as strong, in relation to the weak person imitated. And the habits of the person imitated become part of us, they become the grounds of our defined role as superior. If you try a vocal imitation now, watching yourself carefully, you will feel the change of world, feel it closing in, becoming the over-defined world of intoxication, feel the loss of self awareness that is part of the re-adjustment of one's role.
Back to the story: It is the next day, I have waited for Simona to cross the border to Romania. I don't want to hurt her, as she very well knew, but her friend is a different story. Should I now go the police? How dangerous is he, what about his threat to kill?
Plato's dialogs are art, and so offer the same risk to readers as all arts. By describing Socrates speaking out of love with the aid of philosophic discourse, he gives the reader, should he root his imagining in Socrates, not in the other characters, in the security of love with which he can learn without fear from the dangerous characters imitated. But with no certainty of effect: Nietzsche for example managed to imitate an inferior character who glorified the life of power.
The superior criminal imitates friendliness. When I used to meet with watch dealers, I was friendly, they were friendly, while we were seizing each other up, watching for how we are about to be cheated. It has happened that I have been warned that after making a deal with someone, I might followed by thieves acting in partnership with the dealer who will attack me down the street. -- And I had once already observed this set-up after meeting with this very dealer who is very kindly offering this warning!
The imitated friendliness allows one to keep one's eyes open. The imitated despair, however, is a different story. To imitate despair is to be, at least temporarily, really in despair. Simona's friend, while he's acting with the imitation friendliness of the superior criminal, is not much of a risk. But with gun and professional pride and imitation despair, he's dangerous. He is not superior enough to play with, I conclude. But I go to the police anyway.
I am a desperate character myself.
23. Paying And Forgiving
Here's an interesting correspondence.. Just as we when we are payed, it is for knowing how to get and keep the job, not for knowing how to do it, so we must pay to be allowed to play the role of lover, when this position holding has nothing to do with knowing how to love.
This job is, like all roles, a probability. Having a lover is for many a way to re-establish the security of childhood. And as child's play can be with anything but their parent provided security, the adult loves her paying lover for anything other than the payment, rather for what she knows good about him. The crime of the prostitute is not that she charges for her services, little as they are, but that she in fact gives her customers something for their money.
Simona didn't make that mistake with me. I could forgive having to learn to pay, just as I had no choice but to learn how to get payed. I even enjoyed at times learning this lesson. Or as Simona told me, "You like being robbed."
24. Paying And Payback
Paying and Getting Payed both have an inferior reality. Even to risk what is real - my life - didn't seem very real. Look at the way criminals act, the superior ones. Politely tolerant in manners and everyday dealings, but also intolerant at will. They make no exceptions to this policy for their partners in crime. (As everyone knows, there is no honor among thieves.) Yet they forgive each other their crimes against each other. Chance and recent experience enter into the choice to forgive, and just as likely they will forgo forgiveness in favor of revenge; they forgive for practical reasons, variety, or even in deliberate mockery of tolerant forgiveness.
The tolerant forgive by returning to the forgiven his social probability, by giving them again their trust. The criminal, if he has any sense, doesn't expect to get anything from the person he pays his forgiveness to. Payment is, in other words, as unreal to them as it is to me. They have their reasons of the moment, and no probable character is assigned to those they forgive.
Sitting at a cafe table at the Goethe Institute cafe, I receive a telephone message from Simona: "Watch Your Back. Mika is looking for you. He knows your places, coffee shops, watch stores. He's very angry."
Simona it seems is again my friend, almost a partner with me against her former partner. She's forgiven me (for whatever), and expects me to forgive her, actually she knows I will from past experience, from a past robbery! I say,
-- It's just a game. You are trying to scare me.
-- I'm trying to help you! If you go on talking that way, I won't.
-- What does Mika want?
-- He said he wants to kill you.
-- This is stupid.
-- Just don't go to the watch cafe.
-- Which cafe?
-- You know, where the watch dealers meet.
-- I'm there now.
-- You only just warned me.
-- What are you going to do?
-- Leave Hungary.
-- Where will you go?
-- Switzerland, Cyprus, the U.S....Mika can try to follow me.
-- He will.
-- Tell him not to.
-- He doesn't answer his phone.
After we end the call my telephone rings again. It is the interpreter for the police: she asks me to come to the main police station, they have something to show me. We settle on a time later that afternoon. I pick up my bag from my friend Sisak's apartment, give her a short version of the story in progress (like a movie, she says, like all my stories), walk down the Ring road to the Western railroad station, and with metro emerge at the police headquarters. I have been watching my back.
Checked in with the receptionist, I am waiting in the lobby for my escort when my telephone rings.
-- Hello Rex. This is Mika.
-- Yes. What do you want?
-- I am calling about the movie.
-- What movie?
-- The one you and I are in.
-- What movie is that?
I end the call, turn around to look out the glass wall: nothing to be seen but armed policemen, a mostly empty parking lot. I'm somewhat re-assured; So far I haven't been shot in the door of the police station. The detective I have been waiting for arrives. He'd taken my statement two days before, watching with his policeman's stare, listening with incredulity, amusement, and finally belief, maybe. I tell him about the call from Mika. Upstairs in the detectives' offices the translator tells him that I am leaving Hungary. He asks why. No good reason to stay, and good reason to go, it's not safe. The translator says the police will protect me if I stay. I doubt that, and wonder if I was followed through a crowded city, or someone at the police informed my pursuer where I was. The detective asks how I am traveling. By bus, leaving in a couple of hours. Does it stop in Hungary? Yes, Gyor. Do I know what time? Yes, about two hours. The robbers can't get there so quickly, he observes. The police will escort me to the bus station, and wait there until it goes. The detective then asks if I know where Mika is. Maybe outside the station, waiting for me to come out.
Another detective comes in with a matrix of face photographs. Do I see anyone I recognize? At first I think they are all of the same man, answer No. Look again, the translator suggests: some of the men in the photos are very similar. I realize now I was a fool, of course I should have known there were different people on the page, though they all were gypsies except one, and that one was Mika.
I'm asked if I am sure. Yes, I see the birthmark on his cheek I'd remembered. If you have this photograph you must know something about him: who is he, I ask? A bad guy, rules forbid them from telling me more. Do You know where he is now? The immigration computer reports he re-entered Romania the day after the robbery, and has not returned.
I sign 20 or 30 more pages, sign over tape seals, am warned about making false statements. At 7 I am on the bus, detectives smoking outside, waiting until the bus is on the street. Not many minutes pass before my telephone gets another message: "Have a good sleep. It may be your last." I look around, no one seems to be watching me. There is no caller number reported. As the bus pulls into the bus station at Gyor, my telephone rings once. Again no caller reported. From the front passenger door a man has partially entered the bus, standing on the first step and leaning forward to talk with the driver, appealing for something, arguing with him. The stop is scheduled for only ten minutes, and I don't like this, impatiently I watch the clock. Finally I get up and say to the driver, "Let's go." ( I am talking with a criminal's manners.) He looks at the clock, says in German, 2 minutes. The man on the steps keeps appealing, smiling unctuously, whining....and gives up as the engine is turned on. I return to my seat as we move away, keeping my eyes on the smiling man, standing there at the station, still smiling. In a few minutes we are at the Hungarian-Austrian border. Again my telephone rings once. It happens again, at the first rest stop inside Austria. This time the number is reported, from Romania. And then when already deep in Austria, somewhere around Linz, the bus leaves the highway to fill up at a gasoline station, the telephone rings again, and this time I look out my window in time to see a blue van pass...I take my bag and am the first out the door.
I run into the station, tell the clerk to call the police, ask him where the door in the far wall leads. The employees' area. I am going there, I say, send the police when they arrive. Alright? Yes. I enter a hallway, see a bathroom with a lock to the door. I go in, lock the door, send a message to the Budapest Police translator giving her the Romanian telephone number. And wait. It isn't long. I open the door to the knocking of the police, a man and woman, both very young. I tell them what is happening. Clearly they don't believe me. After I show the telephone messages, they do. They ask if I know what kind of car the robber is driving. I mention the blue van. Stay here, they order me. I warn them the man they are looking for carries a gun.
Twenty minutes later they knock again. Come with them. We drive in their car into the far corner of the truck parking lot, where another police car is parked near the blue van. Lying on the ground, arms and legs spread, with two other policemen above them is a man who I realize is the man who tried to get on the bus in Gyor. The police ask me if he's the robber. No, but he tried to get on the bus in Hungary. That's not a crime, the policeman informs me. But he goes to find the bus driver to talk with him. Have they looked in the van? I ask the policewoman. Yes, they didn't find anything. The man is Hungarian, from Debrecen. She shows me his identification card. The bus driver is now here. He says doesn't remember, according to the policewoman's translation of his broken German, if this is the man who tried to get on the bus. The prisoner is now allowed to get to his feet, showing us all his broadly smiling face. He speaks English now to me, and the police: What's the problem? What is going on? Has he done anything wrong? He is told he can go. Not at all angry, or upset, he brushes himself off and drives away.
I go with the police to their village station. Fill out papers, again 20 or 30 pages, signing everything. What do I want to do now? they ask. I had already told the bus driver to go without me. The police think the pursuers, whoever they are, have followed the bus. I am not so sure. They ask me if I knew the car Mika drives. I suggest I call Simona and ask her. Who knows, she might tell me. They hand me the phone.
I wake her up, it is 2 in the morning in Romania. She's not surprised when I tell her Mika is following me. Told me so, she says. Mika doesn't have a car, but sometimes uses the car of a Hungarian friend; she doesn't know what kind, what color.
-- Why is Mika so interested in me?
-- He's angry. You said you wouldn't go to the police.
-- I suppose he always tells the truth to people threatening to kill him.
-- Where are you?
-- A small town in Austria.
-- You are not afraid?
-- I am with the police.
-- Austrian police?
-- Yes. Thanks to your friend, I get to visit the police everywhere.
-- You didn't sleep?
-- When someone is chasing me?
-- You must be tired. I slept a few hours. What are you going to do?
-- Will Mika call you?
-- I don't know.
-- Tell him if he does we are all waiting for him here. What do you know about him? Is he some kind of professional criminal? or just playing one?
-- I've just met him.
-- You rob me with someone you've just met?
-- I told you. He would have killed me if I didn't help him.
-- When did you last see him?
-- He came to Romania the day after I did.
-- You're sure he's not right now sitting next to you, listening to our conversation.
-- You are going to get me mad....
-- Where did he go after he left you?
-- He called me from his mother's house in his village. He said he was going that night to Budapest to find you.
-- How? By bus? Car?
-- I don't know.
I say goodnight. The police have made a record of all the messages and numbers in my phone's memory. I sign their paper.
25. American Embassy
The police think they should take me to the American Embassy in Vienna, but I know we wouldn't be able to get near that fortress in the middle of the night. Do they know when the next train to Switzerland would be? - In the morning. Train station open now? They doubt it. But no, I can't stay here. I am willing to take a ride to the Embassy to pass the time before the morning train and the station opens. I suggest they drive fast, so anyone following will be lost or show themselves. That idea meets with their approval. We go fast.
I have had some experience with the American Embassy in Budapest, from the last time Simona arranged to rob me and I had to replace my passport. The day after my first application I returned to pick up my passport, and was honored by being served by the consul himself. He is wearing yellow suspenders I don't like very much. The new passport, he tells me, is valid for only one month. I ask him why. The State Department takes two weeks to do the research necessary for a permanent passport. You mean, I ask, you have issued this passport to me without any documents, taking only my word for it that I am an American citizen? (All my identification had been stolen with my passport.) Yes. You must like the way I speak English. I am going to be in Budapest anyway, so I would like to wait for the permanent passport. No, this one is made, you have to take it. You can get it renewed at the end of the month. And at the end of the month I return, and again I am honored by the consul's attention. He takes out his stamp and slams it down on one of the pages, and slides the passport under the security window to me. On the renewal form stamped on a back page there is a line above the word "signature" where normally one would expect to see a signature. The consul tells me his stamp is his signature. I object that border police don't know that. This conversation is over, the consul informs me. If I don't go, he will have the marines throw me out.. Go ahead, I say. I look at him through the security glass wall. He picks up the phone. In a minute two marines are standing beside him, looking with him at me on the other side of the security glass; there is no connection between the public parts of the building and the official parts. I give them a wave and leisurely walk out. From a pay phone in the square outside, I call the Embassy, American services department: Do you know who I am? Yes, they do. Are you going to give me my passport? Yes. O.K., I'm coming now to get it. No, you can't come in. Come back tomorrow. And you'll give me my passport? Yes.
As I predicted, the Austrian police stop us at the outer barricades of the Embassy. The police confer, decide to call the Embassy staff. They can't find anyone who can give information. After a half hour, some other official arrives in a car, to tell us that we have to come back in the morning. Now what do I want to do, the police ask me? Train Station.
26. The Jungle
The next afternoon I arrived in Zurich. I sold the bicycle I'd left there, replacing the money Simona thought better in her hands than mine, and considered what to do. The picture of George Sand I picked up from Christie's auction house where I'd left it for evaluation. Their opinion was that it was more trouble than it was worth for them. Even if it were identified as being of George Sand, it wouldn't be worth more than a 1000 pounds and would cost much of that in duty to send it to their London office for sale.
More threatening messages arrived. I called Simona again. She claimed Mika had called her from Switzerland, and was looking for me at my friend Ursula's house, my last address I'd written to her from, and the watch stores I used to do business with. I don't know what to believe. I can go to my mother's place in Atlantic City assuming she'll allow it. If the robber is really following, that would throw the obstacle of visa requirements in his path.
I don't really want to go to my family. It's like a jungle I as a human being was born into by mistake, a place that I should never have got to know, which never will get to know me. But at least it's familiar. And I am beginning to become afraid.
Children are easily frightened, but when they think, they think they are immortal. As I said before, their world of contemplation, and the fairy tale world they act in with observation, has no parts, no things. There is nothing to decay, therefore no death. But this way of seeing the world depends on security: without security there can be no contemplation of beauty, no memory of the loved world whose return is being sought as the child moves through the fairy world. Without security there is death, and that means fear.
I should have known, I did know, what was going to happen when I got there. The jungle home is going to transform itself into one more place of betrayal.
27. How I Became A ...
This is a serious subject, so I will try to take it seriously. I found safe corners in my family jungle to hide myself, protected areas into which the animals feared to tread. When I was cornered, I confronted them with an absolute defiance stated with a child's conviction of immortality. I spoke from the security of my retreat, relying on the protection of the very dangerous animals I was defying. They didn't understand, were afraid, and finally got bored with the problem I presented.
An ordinary tolerant family, with a more than ordinary love of money. The more you made, bought, spent, the better you were. Nothing else was real.
I, in fact, wasn't real. It was better that way, because if they thought about me it was as someone bad, a devil who set himself against their money god, a devil who didn't make money, or when he did, it was laughably too little.
A decade ago, at his second wife's urging, my father forbid me to visit my three half- brothers; I was a "bad influence", the corrupter of youth Socrates was accused of being. And only the year before, I had learned from my younger brother's children that he had warned them against me as, again, a bad influence. And my older brother had forbidden his oldest son to talk with me, for the same reason. All this about money, and nothing else.
When I settled in to wait for Europe to cool down for me, I learned that my two brothers had arranged to, basically, disinherited me, the family assets transferred into their names. That, though mildly surprising, didn't involve me. What was disturbing was that my mother made it clear, actually told me, that the only reason she allowed me to stay with her was because she saw me as an money-saving substitute for the servant she was planning to hire before I came. Even that wasn't out of character, so not entirely unexpected. Also not unexpected was that a box of my manuscripts had disappeared from the house.
But one day when my friend Madonna was visiting and we were talking about musical instruments, my mother mentioned that I had a piano which I had played when I was a boy. She had asked me the day before which things in her house I wanted her to leave me when she died, so I took the opportunity to ask her to make a record that the piano was mine. Well, she refused. Why? The piano was at my brother's house, and she had given it to him. I would just sell it, she said. Not to go too far into this petty dispute: I said it was not hers to give. She said I had left it with her. I reminded her that she'd repeated hundreds of time (literally) that it was mine to take at any time when I had a place for it. She didn't deny this. What she had done was stealing, I say. She says, Oh really? You were not here.
I am there now, and what I see is the magical fairy tale transformation I've been making so much use of in these notes. What was familiar if not a family has become a collective enemy. A lightening quick calculation: if the family does not even offer security, what is to distinguish their actions from those of all the thieving watch dealers I have had to fight the last 3 years? With ready rashness I offer my mother my enemy an ultimatum: if the family steals from me, I will take advantage of my brother's confiding in me how he'd been evading taxes in his business and turn him into the Internal Revenue Service. They have a toll free number, helpful operators waiting to assist you until 10 PM if you want to turn in family or friends. You can't do anything, my mother answers. No one will believe you. Everyone thinks you are crazy. I am going to tell your brother that you are threatening me.
She picks up the telephone and calls him. He advises her to call the police. She does. I listen as she tells the police operator that she is being threatened, please send help.
The story goes on from here....
28. How I Became A ... (cont.)
How far can this go? Ventnor City, suburb of Atlantic City, The city of casinos, New Jersey. A loving American family, a doctor, an architect, a 82 year old mother, and me whom the police are after...and this is not a joke. The Ventnor police meet me where I wait for them outside my mother's high rise condominium building. They tell me they are going to arrest me if my mother tells them to. They will decide on the charge later. More than a half hour goes by, my mother up in her apartment apparently can't decide what to do. Finally the police tell me I can go if I leave the key. Madonna is waiting in her car to take me to her house.
I have to go back the next day to get my clothes and bike. Madonna and I stop by the Ventnor Police station to tell them we are going there, in case my mother wants to call them again. They make a call, say it is all arranged, we should go there now. But while I am waiting in the building lobby for Madonna to park her car, the police arrive, tell me there is some problem, they don't know what. Stay here. A half hour passes, and we can go up. Then, another problem: the maintenance worker doesn't want me to take my bike out the front door. You and the entire building can go to hell, I say, and walk the bike through the door. When Madonna and I return to her house that night, her mother in law tells us the Ventnor police have been by. They wanted to help me, they said.
Next morning, leaving Madonna's house, I notice a police car is parked around the corner. I walk to the public library. I am reading my email when I hear my name called: Mr. Miller: We'd like to have a word with you. Step outside with us.
You have been accused of threatening to blow up your mother's building. Did you? - No. Several people heard you. - They are lying. They made written statements, signed their names. Why would they do that? - They are longstanding enemies of my bike. There's a video recording of you at the door of the building. - Let's go watch it. Later. You live in Europe? - Yes, I am going back in a few days. You understand that in these difficult times we have to look into all potential terrorist activity. - You think American born university educated Jews go to Europe where they can become terrorists and return to the U.S. to blow up their mother's building? We have ordered an investigation of you. - Yeah? Your family says you are indigent. Where do you live? - I have been living at my mother's, as you know. (This is the same policemen I'd spoken to at the station.) Is there anything we can do to help you? - No. Here the policeman adopts a friendly tone: It's normal to get angry. Anyone might. We understand if in the heat of the moment you said you'd blow up the building. You did, didn't you? - No.
"We have probable cause," he announces formally. "Hold out your hands. You are under arrest." What charge? I ask. "We'll tell you later."
Handcuffed, seated in the back of their car, I say, Let's go look at the video. Later, the policeman says. In the ritual divesting of possessions at the station, they appropriate this indigent's wallet holding 6 credit cards, including American Express Gold Business card in my business name; they take, with my warning to exercise care, my 10,000 dollar British Military Rolex watch. - You're not ashamed to be doing something so stupid? It's worse for my Sergeant, says the officer in charge, he's Jewish like you. I ask this subordinate policeman who has the job of itemizing my possessions they are taking possession of if he thinks I am a terrorist. He just works there 8 hours a day, he answers. They let me keep my Aeneid to read in the basement cell they lock me in. It is slightly larger than the bed inside. Very quiet down here. Madonna will be here soon. The Aenead. Hello! Anyone there? "Can't you do the time?" someone shouts from somewhere. I do the time, 2 hours, before Madonna comes with the 300 dollars bail deposit. The next day I am on a plane back to Europe.
29. Probable Cause
Though the policeman had probable cause to arrest me, he had not the slightest belief I was a terrorist. How do I know? Because that is what he told the reporter from the local newspaper I'd called with the story, when he asked him why if he believed I was dangerous he let me out on bail. He hadn't made a mistake: it is probable cause in his professional life, probable roles in his private life: there is no room for anything else (what to some is known as the real world) to find a place. Once he has accumulated a few details that he thought other people might think were suggestive, what he has to do is clear, make the arrest; he doesn't have to look at other pieces of information that discredit those facts: for example that though he is told I am indigent he sees I am not; that though I have been living in Europe where the Saudi Arabian terrorists had lived, I am Jewish and American, etc.
Almost anywhere, even Budapest where Romanian robbers and vengeance seeking watch dealers lay in waiting, was safer for me than the world of probable cause.
30. Return To Budapest
You can be sure that once back in Budapest I was looking out for people looking for me. I didn't see anyone. The only person who noticed me was my old landlord, whom I passed regularly at his station near the Saint Istvan Basilica. Would I like to rent his apartment again? Not very safe for me, is it? No problem, that was long ago, the robber's gone, or forgotten me. I surprise myself by being willing to take the risk. Pay for a month in advance, only the taking precaution of buying a dagger than looks threatening (really a souvenir) to lay down beside my bed at night. I admit I was scared, from the minute I entered the apartment. I am defiant, but how much is that worth? I don't know. Trying to sleep, I'm sensitive to every sound. That wasn't really someone pounding on the street door I hear? It's really a lot of noise. Nothing happens. Then a car horn is sounded. Repeated. I hear shouting. I get up, climb out the window to the balcony facing the street: down below is a dark painted van, equipped with emergency lights on the roof: it is parked directly in front of my building. Behind it, standing beside his car, is one of the residents whose garage door is blocked by the van. My neighbor is our on his balcony now, shouting back at him. I go back inside. Soon there is silence.
The next day, passing as usual my landlord, he tells me there's a problem. I can't stay in his apartment. The neighbors saw me, called him to say they were afraid of my being there. They know all about the robbery. It was on TV. I guess they also called the police, I tell him. You have to go, he says.
That's how I ended up staying at the Citadella.
Everything depends on shyness.
Shyness is turning away from ugliness, falseness, evil: the three ways of doing wrong, in respectively sight, words, or actions. Not turning way, keeping hold, leads to a passionate response, whether of fear or anger, flight or approach; and passions are the building material of the kind of learning that creates roles and lives of probability.
Why is this? Why is it so dangerous to keep one's attention on ugliness? The closest I have come to an answer is that the relation to ugliness is inevitably a sort of imitation. We repeat to ourselves in imagination, "that is bad which is there". And, to repeat what I have said before, because of our social experience we have a tendency to establish ourselves probable relation to what we repeatedly experience. To passionately define our role in relation to what we "imitate" by repeatedly holding onto it in our imagination.
It should be possible to unlearn this habit. Pity and laughter are our teachers in this, but they provide only temporary detachment from undesirable consequences. We have places to go; pity and laughter, as rests in thought, will hold us back. How then can we act in response to ugliness with detachment?
It is not an accident that we both are amused by and pity the toys we play with. Play is the carrying forward of laughter and pity into action. Fairy tales are worlds of play: what happens in them does not affect our real secure lives. Making our progress through their threatening circumstances, the world is vague and changing. By locating what was ugly, bad, false, in that undefined world, we look through those things to the betrayed world of love we are working back towards. We look away from ugliness in shyness. We look through ugliness by making a toy of it. We cannot be shy if we don't have security, have a secure place we can turn back to. As it is not a fairy tale if the story could be true, we cannot play games without security: a game is by definition a set of actions which cannot affect our otherwise secure lives. So to play with ugliness, falseness, bad, we must have security.
An adult who remains shy - who is he but the corrupter of youth, tempting them to cease their development as he has his own? And where does he find the necessary security? He must know that as a corrupter of youth at any time his life and freedom may be taken away from him. How does he do it? Reliance on his belief in immortality? That belief is the result of a particular way of speaking and thinking, which itself cannot be practiced without security. Or like Job, has he learned that he cannot rely on his knowledge of immortality, and must be content to wait for the return of security, and with it knowledge and belief? Or has he taken his security from others like a criminal, taking it at the expense of others' security since his very existence is a disturbing perplexity to them? Or is he a magician, worshiping new god's as he also was accused of doing?
32. Letters Become Beautiful
Why did you go on seeing Simona after she had robbed you? - Was it once, twice, three times she robbed you? Why return to Ursula, after she'd showed her disdain for you a hundred times as someone without social probability? Shyness of their betrayals drove me away. Being allowed to return, both by myself and my friends, to have meanwhile found out something about myself or about my friend - sometimes only a shared astonishment that I was willing to return despite all reason and express command - was beautiful. As we know from fairy tales, making returns are studied application of rules. What is beautiful is always related to our choice of action, to ethics. In fact, you could say that beauty always has this history of shyness. And the shyness that endeavors to make a return, expecting to recover beauty, is what we call curiosity. In the gloom of Budapest winter, what reviving memory do I call up? Sometimes that of getting off the train from Switzerland, keeping an appointment at a Budapest cafe with Simona who has come by bus from Romania. I sit at the cafe table, happy to be in Hungary and out of Switzerland, happy to look at Simona while she looks at me, checks her watch, her robbery plan to be executed that afternoon is in progress. Why not? I was prepared to be robbed, or so I've argued. Without taking risk, I wouldn't be feeling this curious satisfaction in her presence, which satisfaction is about to become a mockery. And why not that too? I like being laughed at, at least by those who know me. It's good for the health.
Even the letters of Franz Liszt's handwriting became beautiful to me. The shape of each letter, varying from the manuscript's letters to a greater or lesser degree, referred me to what I was doing, the choice to make this investigation.
I had no choice but to do it myself. Otherwise it would be one expert against another, this one says it is Franz Liszt's writing, the other says it is not.
How beautiful that with manuscript character after manuscript character, I could find exact examples in Liszt's letters! How curious that Liszt used 2 or more forms of the same character, even in the same letter! - that his handwriting changed progressively from youth to old age, allowing me to date within a few years my manuscript (to the 1840's, exactly right for accompanying the photograph).
The first letter I found offered for sale on the internet, using the computer at the Goethe Institute. (The watch dealers' cafe, as Simona called it.) It was as easy as walking down the street to find the next letters. At the opera a man in evening dress stood at the steps, enjoying the evening. I asked him if he worked at the Opera. He was the House Manager. Did they have letters by chance written by Franz Liszt there? Why? I explained. He gave me the phone number of the Opera Archivist. A week later, I followed her through the labyrinth hallways of the Opera House's upper floor to her office. This is one letter, she says, presenting me with an open folder. The writing doesn't look like that in my manuscript, I say to her. That's because it wasn't written by Liszt. Who wrote it then? He had many secretaries. Do you have any letters in his own handwriting? Yes, here's one, from 1842. And this writing looks very much like that in my Manuscript, including gaps within words and the hook on the top of the Capital 'L'. The archivist wouldn't let me make a copy. And took the folder from my hands after half a minute: she had no more time. She would send me to the Liszt Museum, where there was an archive dedicated to him. It was only 10 minutes from here. She said she would call ahead.
From the first moment the director opened her door, I knew I was in for trouble. An ogress if ever I saw one. Let me see your paper, she commands without preamble. Her conclusion takes only a few seconds. "Not Liszt's writing." Can I look at his letters? "No. I'm an expert, you don't need to. You can go up to the museum if you like. I have no more time. My colleague will take you."
So next it was the public libraries, looking for reproduction of letters in Liszt biographies. I easily found a dozen or so, in French and German, from when he was a young man to when he was very old. I found examples of every character, except the Gothic use of 'J' for 'h', and the double consonant sz written something like the 'b' in musical notation. I went to the National Library at the Budapest Castle to find these.
The security desk calls up to the Music Library to let them know I am coming. I pay my entrance fee, show I..D. Upstairs at the reference desk, I tell the Librarian what I am looking for. "We have no manuscripts from Franz Liszt, he answers. I take out the Library promotional brochure I was given at the security entrance, in which I'd read that the library has over one million manuscripts. One million manuscripts and not one by Franz Liszt, I ask? Much argument in Hungarian ensues among the librarians. They'll take me to the manuscript collection across the hall. And in their card catalog of course there are listed several letters of Liszt. I order one, and am told to come back in 10 working days. I fill out two pages, sign, sign. And believe it or not, 2 weeks later when I returned, manuscript collection curator called down to convince the guards to let me in, the copy had been made and was waiting for me. 23 forints (12 cents) for the photocopy and envelope with library logo and name in Latin. Worth every cent.
We know our security from relying on it to learn and play. It is not our product, like our social roles are. It is found, not made. As the picture of George Sand, once found, became the basis of play, without being first a probability looked for, security arises without any prior relation to your expectations.
I didn't start dealing with old watches until I had some security. Ursula could begin telling me to go from the first week of our meeting, Simona could reveal her habit of using men within the first days, that didn't change that fact that both, because they loved, would put off practicing their roles. This was security enough. I discovered that I could make a circuit from one refuge to another, Ursula in Zurich, Simona met in Budapest or Transylvania, returning to each refuge as a sort of foreigner entitled to the hospitality due to strangers, temporarily exempt from the complaint that I wasn't what they were looking for. I'd been traveling for a couple of years, taking along a few watches each trip to pay my way.
Without security, the fight over money and things becomes a matter of vanity, of defense and aggrandizement of your role and fear of its loss. With security, it's only a game.
34. Watch Dealing
Because of a watch, made by Rolex company for the British Military, I can't go back to Cyprus. It happened like this.
I had already bought one of the two watches of this kind from a watchmaker turned insurance salesman in Limassol. It took about 6 months of visits to his shop where he still worked on Saturdays, conversation after conversation, negotiation after negotiation. That is when he showed up for our appointments, which wasn't often. I'd learned that he had the watches from a dealer in military surplus who decades ago sold them to the watchmaker's father, who was also a watchmaker.
Probably both watches made up a collection of replacement parts kept by the Military for repairing their other watches. Most of their parts had been removed. The first watch I bought was a badly damaged case, with its back gouged by a screwdriver, an oil stained face, and a few pieces of the movement. This was enough to get the factory to supply the rest, and the watch was completely restored. I made a good profit, information that I did not keep from the watchmaker.
The other watch would be nearly impossible to buy: the case and face were in better condition, the movement had retained more parts, but most importantly, the watchmaker knew I had made money last time. For watch dealers, if a sale is good for you, it must be bad for them.
I told all this to American watch dealer I knew in Zurich. He said he who knew a collector in New York who would pay a high enough price for the watch. I called Cyprus, asked the watchmaker if he still had the watch. He did, but a friend who had asked to borrow the watch to get an estimate of repair cost, had without permission sent the watch off to get repaired. This was interesting: the American watch dealer in Zurich had done the same to me with the first watch: I had to go with him to the service office to take back the watch. The Cyprus watchmaker said he'd get back the watch, but what if it had been repaired? I'd pay the cost, I said, and made an offer for the watch at a very high price. He said he'd think about it.
The next week he called me in Zurich, accepting my offer. When was I coming to Cyprus? I'd come the following week, if he would have the watch back by then. Agreed. The watch was already back from repair - it was more than a thousand dollars, was that alright? Yes. Where was the watch? Friend still had it. He wants to get the money he spent on it. I'll pay him, so long as he has a receipt for the repair.
A couple of days before Christmas, I fly to Cyprus on a 3 day return ticket. British politeness, Byzantine corruption, thousand of street cats fed by the restaurant workers, quiet. Biting wind, sunshine.
I meet the watchmaker at his shop the next afternoon, a Saturday. I hand over the gold watch that is part of the payment we had settled on. There's a problem, he says then. His friend doesn't want to give back the watch. I ask why not.
-- He now says he spent $2000 on the repair.
-- If he shows me the receipt, I will pay it.
-- What will you do, if I keep the gold watch, and don't get the Rolex for you? Go to the police?
-- Don't be ridiculous.
He is clearly not being ridiculous. He has a conversation in Greek with another friend who's with us here in the shop. He says, you make too much profit. I go over in detail what the last watch cost me, how much money I payed for repair and how long I waited, how long it was before I sold it and what I sold it for. He asks if he can keep the paper I made the calculations on. More conversation in Greek. O.K., he says then, let's go get the watch.
We drive to the friend's house. It is dark. Dogs bark. No one comes to the door. Better if we wait at the watchmaker's house that's just around the corner. He keeps trying to call the friend, while his wife makes coffee. Finally his call is answered. Loud argument ensues. Let's go back, the watchmaker says when he puts down the phone.
After some shouting, the friend emerges from his dark house. We are introduced. I ask him what the problem is. He only wants to get back the money he laid out for the repair. Show me the receipt, I say, and I'll pay him whatever is the cost. He doesn't have it. I say he can ask the repair company to fax him a copy.
-- No. I have the watch. If you want it, you'll have to pay my price.
-- Did you buy the watch? Pay anything for it?
-- Did you have permission to repair it?
-- I don't see how it's your watch.
-- I have possession of it. Legally it's mine.
Let's go to the police, the watchmaker interrupts. His friend answers,
-- Won't do you any good, the chief of police is a friend of mine.
That at least was true, as it turned out.
I give up, it's midnight. I ask the watchmaker to take me to my hotel. A couple hours later I'm woken up by pebbles being thrown at my window. Watchmaker is outside the hotel with the police. I get dressed and go down. The friend has been arrested for theft. I am needed at the station to give a statement. This takes several hours.
The watch has been taken as evidence. The case is being investigated. The police drive me home to the hotel.
During the next several months, every time I came to Cyprus, I would visit the detectives' offices, book in one hand, coffee cup in the other. I'd sit patiently in the waiting room. Eventually someone would see me, report: "The investigation is still in progress."
35. Watch Dealing (cont.)
During this period, the watch dealer knew nothing, had done nothing. He was waiting, like me. Next time I visited the Limassol Police I asked to see the chief of detectives. I was led to his office.
-- Do you know why I'm here?
-- I'd like to know why you haven't finished your investigation. It's been 6 months.
-- That's normal for Cyprus.
-- But what are you doing? What did you investigate this month?
-- Last month?
-- Month before? (No answer.) Why aren't you investigating? (No answer.) You won't answer?
-- Do you want me to tell you why I'm not investigating?
He picks up his telephone, speaks a few words. One by one detectives come filing into the room, line themselves up along the wall.
-- You want to know why I'm not investigating?
-- Because I don't want to. Get out.
"Get out," all the detectives repeat in chorus. What a joke, I observe to anyone listening. I step down the hall to the chief of police's office. He happens to be in.
-- Do you know about this investigation I am here about?
He stares at me without answering.
-- About the watch?
-- Yes. What do you want?
-- To say the game is just beginning.
-- I'm not interested. Go.
36. Watch Dealing (cont.)
All it took was one call to the American Embassy in Nicosia. A consular assistant wrote a letter to the police in Limassol, asking, what about this watch? And the next day their "investigation" was completed. No charge would be pressed against the friend for stealing. Since the police had the watch from him, to him it would be returned, at the end of a one week period unless I took legal action to stop this from happening. This was the decision of the prosecutor's office in the capitol, according to the police.
I went to the prosecutors office in Nicosia to check to see if this was true. It was. What could I do, I ask the office clerk? Write a letter to the attorney General. I do it. On the last day before the watch is to be handed over, letter unanswered of course, I return to the Prosecutor's Offices. I ask to speak to the prosecutor who handled the "investigation". He's not available. I'll wait. A few minutes later I am escorted to his office.
He says he will reopen the investigation if I want him to. But in his opinion, it's a waste of time. If the friend loses the criminal case, he can appeal. It might take years. Much better to file a civil law suit against him. That also will take years, I object. Maybe not, the prosecutor answers. Depends on what his lawyer advises when he gets notice of suit. Could he recommend a lawyer in Nicosia? (I had already been introduced to a lawyer in Limassol by the owners of my hotel, which lawyer it turned out had ties to the watchmaker and his friend, in fact everyone concerned.) The prosecutor wonders if that would be ethical. Has a short conversation in Greek with a colleague. He decides he could recommend his cousin. He's just begun to practice law in his mother's office. O.K. An appointment is made for the next day. There is time, the prosecutor assures me. The watch isn't going anywhere.
The next day in the young lawyers office I present the "Bill Of Sale" I'd convinced the watchmaker to make out for me.. Tax stamped, witnessed by the owner of my hotel, dated and signed, very official looking. Was it legal? I ask. Yes, there was precedent for putting into written form an earlier oral agreement. (The lawyer in Limassol I mentioned had said it was a "forged document".) What should I do? Apply for a court order to take the watch from the police into the keeping of the court. Then sue both watchmaker and friend. How much will it cost? 600 dollars for court and legal fees. I put down 900 Swiss Francs on his desk.
Within 2 days, he has got his court order, and in a few more days has filed his civil suits against watchmaker and friend. He calls me in Zurich at Ursula's house the next week. The friend has made an offer of settlement: if I pay the repair cost which he now says is 1000 dollars, he will give up claim to the watch. I immediately accept. (This is what comes of hiring a lawyer whose mother was the first women member of Congress.)
Back in Cyprus the next week, I see my lawyer in Nicosia. I leave with him about 1100 dollars to be picked up by the watchmaker, the balance of the price for the watch minus my costs of getting the watch back from his friend. The next morning, I am about the leave my hotel room for the meeting of lawyers at the courthouse, when there is a knock on the door. It's the watchmaker. The hotel owner called him to let him know I was going to court to get the watch. He wants to come with me.
I drive with him to the court. Hours pass waiting. He can't stay, he has to go to his new job near Paphos. I tell him that if I do get the watch, he could pick up his money from my lawyer. I was leaving Cyprus that afternoon in any case.
An hour later, my lawyer's local representative arrives. We try to get the court to show us the watch. First they say they don't have it. Then they refuse. Finally the lawyer for the friend arrives. Do you have the money? he asks. I hand it over. The lawyer says, as he counts the money, that the best part of his life for the past year has been spent fighting over this watch. (I realize that my irritation of the police had some effect after all.) Why? I ask. It wasn't your client's. He had possession of it, he responds. I wait outside as he goes into an office and shuts the door behind him.
When he emerges, he passes papers to my lawyer's representative, and goes on his way. Downstairs, in another office, papers presented, the safe is opened, and the watch I hadn't seen for 2 years is mine. But was it the same watch? New crystal, hands and winding crown, maybe new face. The case had been inexpertly, and incompletely polished. Before going to the airport I stop by the hotel to pick up my bag. The hotel owner asks if I'm satisfied now that I have the watch. I'd been staying at this family hotel for a couple years, they knew the whole story. No, it's only a watch. I ask in return why he called the watch dealer to let him know I was going to court. He's Cypriot, he answers. (And a regular customer of the hotel, bringing Russian prostitutes there on the weekends.) The next day in Zurich I take the watch to a Rolex agent and get a written report of its supposed service. I send a FAX, "not serviced" written on the agency's letterhead, to my lawyer, instructing him not to pay the watchmaker. Once I deduct the 1000 dollars payed to the friend for the service not done, there is no money owed him. My lawyer doesn't like this. It's not the watchmaker's fault, he says. But it is, I respond: It's likely that they were working together to try to cheat me, before they had their falling out, and even if not, the watchmaker is responsible for what it cost me to get the watch. "Don't come back to Cyprus," he warns me. That's alright. I don't plan to.
This watch: I can't sell it, its the trophy that marks the end of my watch dealing. It's not safe for me to wear in Budapest. I can't even really see it, it's only a story to me. It sits in the bank vault with the picture of George Sand.
37. firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Thank you for your interesting stories, it's amazing what you are
discovering. I hope to read your book one day when it will be finished. I
thought it might be good to give you Madame Heilbrun's e-mail:
email@example.com to make sure she won't miss any
information on the subject.
Keep us posted with your research,