Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Number Ninety-Nine

Wieviel bedrückender als die unerbittlichste Überzeugung von unserem gegenwärtigen sündhaften Stand ist selbst die schwächste Überzeugung von der einstigen, ewigen Rechtfertigung unserer Zeitlichkeit. Nur die Kraft im Ertragen dieser zweiten Überzeugung, welche in ihrer Reinheit die erste voll umfaßt, ist das Maß des Glaubens.

Manche nehmen an, daß neben dem großen Urbetrug noch in jedem Fall eigens für sie ein kleiner besonderer Betrug veranstaltet wird, daß also, wenn ein Liebesspiel auf der Bühne aufgeführt wird, die Schauspielerin außer dem verlogenen Lächeln für ihren Geliebten auch noch ein besonders hinterhältiges Lächeln für den ganz bestimmten Zuschauer auf der letzten Galerie hat. Das heißt zu weit gehen.

How much more oppressive than the most inexorable conviction of our present sinful state is even the weakest conviction of the coming eternal justification of our temporality. Only strength in the endurance of this second conviction, which in its purity entirely comprehends the first, is the measure of faith.
>> Many people assume that besides the great primal deception there is also in every individual case a little special deception provided for their benefit, in other words that when a drama of love is performed on the stage, the actress has, apart from the hypocritical smile for her lover, also an especially insidious smile for the quite particular spectator in the top balcony. This is going too far. [Kaiser/Wilkins]

How much more oppressive than the most implacable conviction of our current state of sin is even the feeblest contemplation of the once eternal justification for our ephemerality. Only the strength fixed in bearing the second conviction -- which in its purity completely encloses the first -- is the measure of faith.
There are some who assume that next to the great original deception, another, smaller deception was practiced specifically for them. It's as if, when a romantic comedy is performed on stage, the actress, in addition to the lying smile for her beloved, keeps a further, particularly cunning smile for a certain spectator in Row Z. This is going too far. [Hofmann]


The second half of this aphorism is marked cancelled in Kaiser/Wilkins only.

There is a real mystery here around the use of einstigen: our former, eternal justification -- before what? In any case, the idea here is straightforward: that faith has a much heavier task in bracing up against time than against faithlessness. Faith is perseverence in belief through time, and it is a way of facing up to the fact that we are creatures with a finite amount of time. It's contemplation of eternity, and of consequences through time, that frame moral calculations.

But what does this have to do with the idea of deception, which is not denied, and the idea that there is an additional, personalized imposture? Perhaps the Urbetrug is the former idea of eternal justification, while the second deception is a pose of indifference projected by the crafty selfishness of a human being, who wants to believe they are favored, and that justice or some other good reason requires that the cosmos not reveal who its pets are. This would be an example of hiding yourself outside your own orbit.

1 comment:

Mfraser said...

Here you may be being mislead somewhat by the translation--although "einstig" implies past, "einst" is actually ambiguous with respect to its temporal reference: it can also mean "in the distant future". It is not inconceivable that this is how Kafka means it.