re:verb (falling away from us, no.2)

bungee, 1994

~

Ethics, in Passing

The descent gives us a body seized by letting go, whereas the climb up gives free reign to the common centripetal passions, such as: clinging to handholds, acquiring, drawing by means of nerves and muscles an onject toward oneself and oneself toward an objective, arriving or desiring. Seizing, devouring, consuming. Down-climbing leaves behind. Gesture, then, becomes generous. Starting from clenched hands, the arms open out, you'd think that they give and no longer take, that they abandon the mountain to the given, to that perpetual given men have been capturing, since the history of their schemes began its performance, without tearing the least little bit of wear out of it. An hour of frost erodes the wall more than a thousand caresses by feverish and groping hands. Trust those who let go — the wisest among us — trust those who descend, who leave behind, who can but don't, trust the detached, trust those who give way, trust the poor and those who live apart. Those who ascend, on the contrary, and who stretch out toward the desired seizure neither do, nor think about anything other than what favors their appetite. Culture, civilization, wisdom, beauty, even thought begins with letting go, with the arm gesture that relaxes, centrifugal. Active, enthusiastic, courageous, dynamic, willful — begin nevertheless by desiring strongly. Otherwise, might as well praise passivity, another form of the animal state. Ascending, first, seizing, wanting, sweating, happily taking your fill by the armful; once past the summit, removing, taking off, parting with, divesting yourself, this is the proper course of time.

~

bungee, 1994

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(Michel Serres, Variations on the Body ~ Lake Taupo, NZ, 1994)

falling towards us, falling away from us

bungee, 1994

~

When Tomas came back to Prague from Zurich, he took up in his hospital where he had left off. Then one day the chief surgeon called him in.

'You know as well as I do,' he said, 'that you're no writer or journalist or saviour of the nation. You're a doctor and a scientist. I'd be very sad to lose you, and I'll do everything I can to keep you here. But you've got to retract that article you wrote about Oedipus. Is it terribly important to you?'

'To tell you the truth,' said Tomas, recalling how they had amputated a good third of the text, 'it couldn't be any less important.'

'You know what's at stake,' said the chief surgeon.

He knew, all right. There were two things in the balance: his honour (which consisted in his refusing to retract what he had said) and what he had come to call the meaning of his life (his work in medicine and research).

The chief surgeon went on: 'The pressure to make public retractions of past statements — there's something medieval about it. What does it mean, anyway, to "retract" what you've said? How can anyone state categorically that a thought he once had is no longer valid? In modern times an idea can be refuted, yes, but not retracted. And since to retract an idea is impossible, merely verbal, formal sorcery, I see no reason why you shouldn't do as they wish. In a society run by terror, no statements whatsoever can be taken seriously. They are all forced, and it is the duty of every honest man to ignore them. Let me conclude by saying that it is in my interest and in your patients' interest that you stay on here with us.'

'You're right, I'm sure,' said Tomas, looking very unhappy.

'But?' The chief surgeon was trying to guess his train of thought.

'I'm afraid I'd be ashamed.'

'Ashamed! You mean to say that you hold your colleagues in such high esteem that you care what they think?'

'No, I don't hold them in high esteem,' said Tomas.

'Oh, by the way,' the chief surgeon added, 'you won't have to make a public statement. I have their assurance. They're bureaucrats. All they need is a note in their files to the effect that you've nothing against the regime. Then if someone comes and attacks them for letting you work in the hospital, they're covered. They've given me their word that anything you say will remain between you and them. They have no intention of publishing a word of it.'

'Give me a week to think it over,' said Tomas, and there the matter rested.

~

bungee, 1994

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(Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being ~ Lake Taupo, NZ, 1994)