Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Juxtaposition of Murder and Music

Our conversion will be very difficult.

It is not to be wondered that Himmler was a good interpreter of Bach and that Heydrich was liable to weep in concert halls over Mozart’s music. . . . Mozart before or after the gassing of human beings, Hoelderlin in the knapsack of an SS man, Goethe in the library of the guards in a concentration camp — all these are possible . . . in a world wherein things no longer exist in their essence but solely in piecemeal. . . . Where the juxtaposition of murder and music is not against the structure of the world but characterizes it, there is never reform or change of heart. . . . Never could a Saulus become a Paulus in this realm, because in it there is nothing but the basic evil, which can only become greater, but which can never change. There never could be a parallel to Attila’s change of heart under the persuasion of a Pope, as was effected by Leo the Great, so that he desisted from his plundering raids into Italy and turned away from Rome. Neither could there be a parallel to a maligner’s and calumniator’s listening to exhortations, weeping over them, and desisting from his defamations, as happened with Goldschmidt, a Copenhagen journalist, under the influence of Kierkegaard.
— Max Picard, The Man of the Atrocities, in Hitler in Our Selves, pp. 74, 77–78.

Things do not endure.

In the world of discontinuity some particle, some idea, some object, or some person is perpetually being absoluted. All thought, all desire, all doings then briefly concentrate upon this absoluted thing until the little fragment is discarded, and another becomes the hub of every motion — and so it goes on; but invariably every new fragment is hailed as the absolute. Each stands singled out by itself; there is nothing to compare it with, and so it might well be declared for great. . . . What is being absoluted does not matter; what counts is solely the process of absoluting something. It can happen even that something priceless and perfect is absoluted, as in the case of Hoelderlin and Stifter. Those, however, are acclaimed not so much because they are perfect as because they offer fuel for the machinery which absolutes. It is not their true character that is recognized, but the labeling of the absolute, and therefore they are actually degraded and not elevated by this seal. . . .
—Max Picard, The Mediocre and the Futile as Absolutes, in Hitler in Our Selves, pp. 105, 107–108.