A Dream of Reason Concluding Opening: on Modernity and the Breakdown of this Order of Life

4.Borderline Notes


            The traditional artistic task of creating a vital resonant artifact is more and more difficult. On the highest level, it was almost impossible (on and on at utmost intensity to the edge of endurance) for Giacometti to construct a portrait that is, after all, no greater than a fine Raphael or Titian (Lord).     


            In paintings by Soutine, against overwhelming paint thrust rhythms, miraculously the tree, the face, somehow without break in energy emerges: paint as paint and as image interpenetrating at utmost tension…. All that is now dried and twisted yet remembers fluid motion is respected in the herring, and the tomato is a burning helpless frustrated desire.


            Original. Unique. Alone. Absolute midnight. Wave on wave of darkness. Words one by one as an advance of candles. – Far beyond what could have been expected. Images of pure light in order not to weep. Images of pure health against despair.  

Cruel successors cut off from authentic dialogue with illness and pain scorn “pity” (not self-pity but compassion for the wounded other), “rise above good and evil” (not defending life against self-damning conscience but licensing themselves to kill).


            A dream, absolute fulfillment completing and redeeming all past action.

Straining for the ultimate paroxysm, thought and being in the act of once and without end now and forever coming.

Always one more load of victims to fuel the fire.


The generically human concerns of sociology-psychology do not require the possibility of human completion. Humanity is an open “work in progress.” Art, history and sociology-psychology directly mediate the dialogue of dialogues that is “our life together and apart”: they code our life together and apart back into itself.

As human history is naturally incomplete it is at each moment relatively open (whether this is recognized or not).


            To identify as original and/or completed being that which advances to claim one within the breakdown of this order of life, increases vulnerability to machine/demon banalities: to the high voltage hyper-energized banal (in the sense that Frankenstein’s monster is a hyper-energized corpse) and to the homey sentimental banal. (Shout “Heil Hitler!” and praise grave silent peasants.[1])

To such consciousness, the sensuous light and joyous – as in a Monet painting of water – all free play of personality, all graceful sociability … all charm… appears trivial, tainted.

There is hostility to the halting ambivalent questioning through which tender youth discovers itself in reconstruction. (Male adolescent rebellion if adequately arrogant, harsh and humorless may be encouraged as “grist for the mill.”)

As nuanced sensitivity with its openness and embrace of ambiguity is merely shallow (inadequately grounded in “the folk” and/or “in the face of death” and/or in the “class struggle” and/or whatever) military service and abandonment to a fanatical political movement might mature the intelligent inauthentic student.


           We hypothesize that, everything else being equal, the greater the industrial development of a fascist order of life, the more virulent and efficient its genocidal cruelty and brutality. Nazi Germany was by far the most industrially advanced fascist order of life. Compared to the United States of the 1990’s Nazi Germany was industrially primitive.


            To be “fit” one must adapt. If, for example, one is locked in a building with five people and no food then the one who eats the others is fit and will survive. To eat the others requires both that one could win and that one tries.

Perfect function is pathetic.

The incomplete … the open,

Angel of annunciation.

The modern as the struggle to articulate continuity in discontinuity and unity in diversity cannot routinely surrender to the present.


            There is news one does not grasp at first hearing…. At the first sign of estrangement the lover might say, “You no longer love me” as a charm to call forth, “I truly love you!” Later, in the new world of the beloved’s absence, the lover realizes – even then not all at once but slowly – what it actually is to be abandoned.

That which merely imagined burnt the mind like breathing acid now – beyond all hope of denial (even denial masquerading as acceptance) – is the medium one lives in.

As breakdown continues despite all attempts at resolution modernity changes. We no longer expect breakdown to disclose and/or give birth to and/or abolish itself in an absolute, transparent, final, triumphant, revelation of totality.


            All postures have been exhausted. Recognition struggles past “acceptance as denial.” Peace is the peace of exhaustion – a lull between spasms…. In lucid moments when the fever eases one “sees” ones actions will not bear examination. One keeps on keeping on.

5. To be Mourned Forever

            The struggle of the modern to preserve a recognizable humanity is inconceivably more difficult after Auschwitz.

The holocaust is not on the periphery of history. It is central.

The holocaust is unique. It is also the full working out of the implications Picasso “saw” in Guernica…. Or is there – unimaginable now as Auschwitz was even after Guernica unimaginable – a further point along these lines?

There can be no greater cruelty. Existence – against the natural rhythms of desire, against the natural ambiguities of mind – attained absolute failure of empathy, absolute brutality and cruelty.

The earth may die. No blade of grass. Demented calculation devoid of sensitivity and self-awareness – unmoved by tears or pleading, by hope or beauty – may transmute all to nothing.


            We trace the path to terminal winter in words so that we need not walk it in the flesh, so that spring, again, again, forever new.

This is a song of reason and rebirth.


-Leisure Village East, 1-24 -2008

[1] There is of course no anthropological curiosity about these peasants’ actual existence. They are only required as emblematic preprogrammed quest guides. (Not Van Gogh or Millet peasants…not even Breton,…Kitsch.)

Selected Bibliography (Link)


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