Monday, August 25, 2008

Öhe 28.12.93: Nacreous Skies, Sullen Burghers

On the other side of this page, a field we saw yesterday, as snow gathered. But not quite right; not anywhere near right. The colors are softer under the Northern winter sky, which itself glows with a nacreous apricot around the horizon, a pearlier tone in the high heavens. The green of fields is particularly hard to get—lush, almost springlike even in winter. The kind of grass one sees in damp, cool climates like Ireland, as if the green is not some color inherent in grass, but springs new-minted in each blade of grass of the soft dark earth. Grass in hotter climates is a harsher green—has to be, to survive the sun.

We drove today with K. into Kappeln (having gone there last night for supper at a not-impressive Italian restaurant). The drive was magic. Had snowed, and the snow still hung on all the trees and covered all the fields. In Wormshöft, a village near Maasholm and en route to Kapeln, three pretty thatched cottages with snow lying heavy on their roofs. All the buildings the soft red brick of northern Germany, with pretty windows of heavy glass and unpainted wooden frames.

Kappeln is a handsome little village with red-brick buildings and winding streets, though catering, I reckon, primarily to all the well-heeled Hamburgers and Berliners who have cottages hereabouts. The shopkeepers rather rude, on the whole, with appraising eyes. Went to one shop that seemed to be owned by a couple of which the man was German and the woman Latin American. He looked (as many affluent, educated German men in their 40s look) as if he had once been a hippie and has now settled down to making money in the best way he can.

On the streets, people didn’t seem very attractive, either. A mix of haughty yuppie couples and mean-looking teenagers with many nose- and ear-rings, smoking cigarettes, some with head shaved and heavy boots.

I feel increasingly a sense of the weight of Germany history, as I see these people. Not the same weight I felt in Russia, where everything seemed so shot through with tragedy and sad, failed aspiration.

Here, it’s different. All works very well in Germany. Pot lids fit to a T. Every road is marked by numerous signs, helpful instructions, didactic warnings. Nary curve must be taken uncalculated.

In such a culture, there can be no tragedy. What there is, is an ugly sense of the failure to muster everything and that deep, sullen, pig-like German anger that arises from this sense. From tragedy, one can profit, learn to be wiser. From thwarted ambition that never learned to temper the limits of its aspiration, only angry resolve to try again can grow.

In the restaurant last night, a family that typified this for me, somehow. A huge woman of early 40s, I’d reckon, very dirty hair, a young son who looked just like her, and a teenaged daughter with a tangle of greasy hair, too.

The woman ate with methodical self-absorption through a soup course, then a salad one. Then she stopped to have a cigarette. After that, her main course arrived—a gargantuan plate of fettucine in a cream sauce. The son announced, Es ist sehr viel, richtig! Then he went into a hiccup fit.

It wasn’t just the good appetite of the woman that was repulsive. It was the unconscious sense of entitlement she projected, combined with her obvious lack of real appreciation for the food she was eating. In fact, she ended up leaving most of the fettucine. She and her children were slit-eyed boors, laughing and talking about others in the restaurant, never reflecting on their own lack of culture.

This is the flip-side of gutbürgerlich German culture . . . .

On a totally different theme: I keep thinking that somehow my dream of several nights ago—teaching praxis—crystallizes much of my struggle now.

No. That’s not what I want to say, exactly. It provides me a new vantage point from which to look at my calling. Even here, in this distant land, I feel calling breaking in. The problem is, I don’t see where to direct the energies that well up as a result.

Except to my imagined book project, which must somehow contain a section about how modern culture is breaking down, giving way to postmodern. It must also note the giftedness of gay people as artists, those who pick up detritus and give it new value.

From a religious standpoint, gay people are in a unique position to pick up the churches’ cast-offs, pieces of tradition that have been discarded and undervalued by modernity.

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