Saturday, May 26, 2012

Number One Hundred and Six

Die Demut gibt jedem, auch dem einsam Verzweifelnden, das stärkste Verhältnis zum Mitmenschen, und zwar sofort, allerdings nur bei völliger und dauernder Demut. Sie kann das deshalb, weil sie die wahre Gebetsprache ist, gleichzeitig Anbetung und festeste Verbindung. Das Verhältnis zum Mitmenschen ist das Verhältnis des Gebetes, das Verhältnis zu sich das Verhältnis des Strebens; aus dem Gebet wird die Kraft für das Streben geholt. Kannst du denn etwas anderes kennen als Betrug? Wird einmal der Betrug vernichtet, darfst du ja nicht hinsehen oder wirst zur Salzsäule.

Humility provides everyone, even him who despairs in solitude, with the strongest relationship to his fellow man, and this immediately, though, of course, only in the case of complete and permanent humility. It can do this because it is the true language of prayer, at once adoration and the firmest of unions. The relationship to one's fellow man is the relationship of prayer, the relationship to oneself is the relationship of striving; it is from prayer that one draws the strength for one's striving.

>> Can you know anything other than deception? If ever the deception is annihilated, you must not look in that direction or you will turn into a pillar of salt. [Kaiser/Wilkins]

Humility gives everyone, even the lonely and the desperate, his strongest tie to his fellow men. Immediately and spontaneously, too, albeit only if the humility is complete and lasting. It does so because it is the language of prayer and is both worship and tie. The relationship to one's fellow man is the relationship of prayer; the relationship to oneself is the relationship of striving; out of prayer is drawn the strength with which to strive.

Can you know anything that is not deception? Once deception was destroyed, you wouldn't be able to look, at the risk of turning into a pillar of salt. [Hofmann]


Kaiser/Wilkins mark the second section of the aphorism cancelled. Hofmann marks a break only.

People can see themselves in the low and humble. This reminds me of Agamben's idea of the baseline human, that the humanity in an individual becomes the more apparent the more stripped and wretched he is. I suppose this is because the sense of humanity is generally a sense of universal suffering or liability to suffering, and therefore an aspect of compassion. Nietzsche on the one hand considered human beings abject enough, but on the other hand he was wary of the sort of approach that makes compassion the basis of our relations with others, since this suggests that humans are only human when they're miserable. When confronted with someone happy, strong, beautiful, will that compassion still abide, or will it turn to resentment? Are the compassionate really interested in seeing others become happy, or are they miserable people who want to make sure no one else is any happier than they are, who want to console themselves with the idea that no one is ever really happy?

This might clarify the connection between the two elements in the aphorism.

Making room for others, which could be another way of contracting your circle. Humility has to be permanent: I think this means, no congratulating yourself on how humble you are!
One strives with oneself, not with others. One draws strength to strive with oneself with others. This is exactly the opposite of what we usually hear everywhere.

The idea that humans relate to each other in a prayer-like way immediately reminds me of Amalia in The Castle, the way her family is ostracised largely on her account, and yet they are still members of the community in a way that K. can never be. Has Amalia been too proud in rejecting Sortini? Is the Castle really distinct from the community, or is it necessary in some way to make it possible for the community to pray to itself? K. is constantly petitioning throughout the novel; maybe coming to the village is his way of establishing himself in a position of strictest humility, one that is not just an affectation but a social position that is binding on him for as long as he chooses to stay. This puts him in an attitude of prayer toward other people whether he likes it or not.

Deception: the difference between truth and error is notoriously elusive, but the difference between truth and a lie is something else. It may be that difference is a bit thornier than Kafka expected, which might be why he cancelled the second bit of the aphorism. After all, you might unwittingly tell the truth while believing you're lying, if you don't know the truth. This is mainly a language problem; there's truth in the sense of what is the case, and then truth in the social sense, meaning there is no difference between what the speaker says and what he thinks.

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