Saturday, May 12, 2012

Number Eighty-Seven

Ein Glaube wie ein Fallbeil, so schwer, so leicht.

A belief like a guillotine -- as heavy, as light. [Kaiser/Wilkins]

A faith like an axe. As heavy, as light. [Hofmann]


I think Hofmann uses the word "axe" here to establish a connection to Kafka's famous words about breaking the ice, but idiomatically the word Fallbeil, which is "falling axe," refer to the guillotine.

Heavy as it falls and light as it rises?

Hard to lift and easy to drop?

A faith or belief that severs, which is an execution machine separating people fatally from their heads.

A weight that is a menacing potential rather than a burden.

What does it mean that faith is understood here as something that is not a part of you or of any one person? Who owns their own guillotine? It is a property of no one and everyone, it stands, in theory, above everyone.

Is this simile extended to all faith, or to a certain kind; if so, how else can we identify this certain kind, and what value are we to place on it? Is this the purer kind of faith, the kind of purity that every religion, one way or another, demands? Meaning, I suppose, a faith that efficiently overcomes every doubt.

If that's the idea, then we have to think about how faith deals with doubt. There is the kind of faith that rejects doubt reflexively, without thinking, like a poison. This kind of faith may seem more naive or crude, but then again, it may be that this kind of faith is the kind that really takes doubt seriously, that sizes it up as a dangerous opponent.

The other variety of faith, which admits doubt without any sense of scandal, and deals with it by a weighing and measuring, may seem more sophisticated or mature, but there's also something about it that seems to fall short of the total commitment that faith requires. Faith isn't supposed, generally speaking, to be understood in terms of probabilities.

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