A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Serendipity, and Theatre and Philosophy Before Crossing the Ocean.

I am very happy to be crossing the ocean soon as I took a job at King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario. I had already found my happiness, not dependent on external goods. Now I am delighted and this for many reasons. Above all because I will have the opportunity to broaden my horizons in philosophy and go beyond my specialisation and the ancients thanks to my teaching. This has been all the way one of my most fervent desires. Serendipity. As for research in ancient philosophy, there are some very good people in the neighbourhood to chat and work with, and, needless to say, I will not stop nurturing the friendships with the people whose work I appreciate wherever in the world they may have their home. 

I have been experiencing some European culture in Berlin before making the transition since now I will be “carrying” not only ("my") “Greece” but also ("my") “Europe” in me. The theater scene is quite disappointing, and very rarely offers worth mentioning moments (a good “Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder”, and a very good direction of the very interesting play “Muttersprache Mameloschn”). Often it comes to some not interesting or even appalling directions of classical plays, not to mention the abundance of so-called innovative performances. Lately I seem to be starting to develop a kind of allergy against the usage of the word “innovation”, in and beyond culture. Peter Stein is unfortunately not in town (a coincidence?), but instead directing King Lear in Vienna, which, I am confident, is excellent as ever, even if not innovative.

In order not to immerse into this disappointment of the actual cultural surroundings, I recalled instead some of the past delight and good memories of Athens, which was a theatre metropolis some years ago, and then turned to some reliable Tennessee Williams, an American I like pretty much, so as to prepare myself with some culture from the other side of the ocean. I am especially fond of the plays in which he lets all his wild animals enter the stage and in which he describes in a remarkably lyrical manner the cannibalistic drives he detects in the dark chambers of the human soul. Some relevant highlights are his The Night of the Iguana, Suddenly Last Summer and his Glass Menagerie, as I see it. These are quite obscure texts and plays, with biographical traces, but, in comparison to Lars von Trier’s films, whom I have not watched with one exception since his Dogville, I do not get the impression that the American playwright is just laying down on the psychoanalytic couch before us (and so what, if so?). He rather manages to say things about the human condition on the basis of the extreme experiences he depicts. Needless to say, I am happy that this is not everything to be said about the human condition.

As far as philosophy is concerned and Gilbert Ryle a bit later...

This is not London Ontario, but Ithaca in Greece, one of its most beautiful bays (Λεύκη) with quite deep and deep blue water, and a two centuries old windmill on the hill. If one manages to reach the latter, after some climbing, one is astounded that it has not fallen so far. The view from up there is breathtaking, the second best on the island, I think. I will spend some days on Ithaca later and before moving to Canada, this time taking "sober stuff" with me: no literature this time (since I have only one mind and one heart, and some life left still, I had to make some hard decisions, and not take Mann's Doctor Faustus with me as I initially wished), nor Nietzsche or Kierkegaard, but just some good Ryle (not his Plato). There are still earthquakes bothering the region, which makes me think twice if not thrice. Every decision at its time...

This is not London Ontario either, but quite far from it, still in Canada, though.

PS, or some water in my wine: Wagner's Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg aus Wartburg, whose direction and choreography was conducted by the famous Sasha Waltz (Staatsoper im Schillertheater, 12.4), the orchestra taken care by the equally celebrated Daniel Barenboim, was simply FANTASTIC. So schreibt Wagner selbst über seine Oper: "Ich habe hier die Stimmung genau bezeichnet, in der mir die Gestalt des Tannhäusers mahnend wiederkehrte, und mich zur Vollendung seiner Dichtung antrieb. Es war eine verzehrend üppige Erregtheit, die mir Blut und Nerven in fiebernden Wallung erhielt, als ich die Musik des Tannhäusers entwarf und ausführte. Meine wahre Natur, die mir vor Ekel vor der modernen Welt und im Dränge nach einem Edleren und Edelsten ganz wiedergekehrt war, umfing wie mit einer heftigen und brünstigen Umarmung die äußersten Gestalten meines Wesens, die beide (er meint: einerseits die Unmittelbarkeit der Sinnlichkeit, die der Venusberg repräsentiert, und andererseits die unendliche, unvorhandene Liebe, die Beziehung zwischen dem Tannhäuser und Elisabeth, eine Liebe die nur mit dem Tod erreichbar schien, G.M.) in einen Strom: höchstes Liebesverlangen, mündeten. Mit diesem Werke schrieb ich mir mein Todesurtheil: vor der modernen Welt konnte ich nun nicht mehr auf Leben hoffen. Dies fühlte ich; aber noch wusste ich es nicht mit voller Klarheit; dies Wissen sollte ich mir erst noch gewinnen." Besser hätte man die Intentionen und die Bedeutung  des Kunstwerkes nicht zusammenfassen können. Adornos Kritik liess mich kalt, da ich kein Problem mit dem Religiösen bei Wagner habe, überhaupt keins. Die gestrige war die Dresdner Fassung aber umfasste auch die erste Szene der Pariser Fassung (1861), die großen Beifall bei Baudelaire und anderen damals gefunden hat.

Die Tänzer und Tänzerinnen von Waltz (das Bild für die "Sinnlichkeit der Moderne" nach Wagner) zusammen mit den Sängern (hier Peter Seiffert) bereiten sich auf die Premiere vor. Definitiv ein großer Moment von "Europa", den ich sehr gerne in meinem Gedächtnis bewahren werde.