Saturday, May 19, 2012

Number Ninety-Two

Die erste Götzenanbetung war gewiß Angst vor den Dingen, aber damit zusammenhängend Angst vor der Notwendigkeit der Dinge und damit zusammenhängend Angst vor der Verantwortung für die Dinge. So ungeheuer erschien diese Verantwortung, daß man sie nicht einmal einem einzigen Außermenschlichen aufzuerlegen wagte, denn auch durch Vermittlung eines Wesens wäre die menschliche Verantwortung noch nicht genug erleichtert worden, der Verkehr mit nur einem Wesen wäre noch allzusehr von Verantwortung befleckt gewesen, deshalb gab man jedem Ding die Verantwortung für sich selbst, mehr noch, man gab diesen Dingen auch noch eine verhältnismäßige Verantwortung für den Menschen.

The first worship of idols was certainly fear of the things in the world, but, connected with this, fear of the necessity of the things, and, connected with this, fear of responsibility for the things. So tremendous did this responsibility appear that people did not even dare to impose upon it one single extra-human entity, for even the mediation of one being would not have sufficiently lightened human responsibility, intercourse with only one being would still have been all too deeply tainted with responsibility, and that is why each thing was given the responsibility for itself, more indeed, these things were also given a degree of responsibility for man. [Kaiser/Wilkins]

The first case of idolatry was surely fear of things, and therefore also fear of the necessity of things, and therefore also of responsibility for them. This responsibility seemed so vast that people didn't even dare to lay it at the feet of a single divine being, because the intervention of one such being would not sufficiently lighten the weight of human responsibility, the negotiation with one being would have remained too much stained with the responsibility, and therefore each thing was given the responsibility for itself, or more, the things were also given a measure of responsibility for the human. [Hofmann]


Fear not simply of disasters, but of the idea that these disasters had some kind of reason behind them, and were not merely random happenstances -- man cannot accept the idea that he suffers for nothing, but this introduces the terror of a will behind the greatest disasters, which in turn means that man must fear also that this will does not act capriciously, which would not be so much different from randomness but only a displacement of that randomness onto an agency outside nature, but rather that this inimical will is only reacting to human actions, thus ultimately making human beings liable for what happens to us -- hence the idol, which is therefore a technology by means of which we solace ourselves with the idea that we are ultimately in control of our own destinies.

So God is an intensification or collection, like a focal point, for man's responsibility, but also a free agent who acts without being susceptible to human influence. To have only one God to handle everything would mean mankind has an intercessor, and this makes things too easy to be plausible. This also roots religion in fear, weakness, and reproach.

Responsibility seems to require proliferation and the existence of channels, tiers, a whole system, which has the attributes Kafka gave to the court and the castle. The implication is that this byzantinism must be seen as something the people subject to these institutions seem to require or have a use for; so Kafka is never well understood if all we see is a burlesquing of bureaucracy in his work. The institutions produce these elaborated systems of themselves; there is no corrupt master official in either case, no center, and no outside, no place from which to view the bureaucracy as a means to an end.

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