Avoiding rereading Chapter 7 to search for memorable morsels for tomorrow (made the mistake of reading directly after our last conversation…and have forgotten most of what was read ) Instead enjoying getting to know this German author guy via recent articles.
This short interview provides some contemporary perspective to our latest reading:
Around midway through the interview is the relevant segment on “connected isolation” (after the “Pure Diversity” artwork image)…a notable quote:
The Riesman diagnosis of the lonely crowd describes the smaller half of the truth, at best. A large part of the energies of individuals living in conditions of connected isolation is used to establish informal “tribes” composed of friends, acquaintances or memberships in local associations via postal or other means of telecommunication. They make it possible for those living alone in their own space to escape from the idiochronic isolation of their dwellings and to share common time with their contemporaries through a network.
Listening to this as I type:
The reader of the piece is great, as is the writer…
Really liking this image of Sloterdijk on a bike:
The town (Karlsruhe) is also the birthplace of the inventor of the bicycle, an entrepreneurial baron named Karl von Drais—a fact that Sloterdijk, who loves cycling, cherishes. When I met him a few weeks after his birthday celebrations, he suggested riding into town to try a new steak restaurant. He talked about advances in bicycle design, which got him onto one of his favorite topics: inventors. “There are people who are all around us who have invented something essential,” he said. “There’s a man in Germany who invented the retractable dog leash. Can you imagine? Millions of people have them now. Of course, these leashes present an existential threat to me, since I’m an avid cyclist. Sometimes I’m riding fast and there’s an owner over there, and the dog over there, and in between—!”
We embarked. On his bike, Sloterdijk seemed massive. In the light wind, his plaid short-sleeved shirt became a billowing tube. The fusion of man and machine looked top-heavy and precarious, but his pedalling was strikingly efficient, unstrenuous yet powerful. From the chest up, he appeared no different from the way he does in a seminar room.
“The most interesting thing about Sloterdijk may not be anything particular he has written,” the Berkeley intellectual historian Martin Jay told me, “but simply the fact that he exists.”
And the final segment of the long-form essay:
Sloterdijk had come to speak at a local Protestant academy about the meaning of the Reformation. “Luther had the great fortune to be followed by Bach,” Sloterdijk told his audience. “His form of individualism was illuminated by the most beautiful music.”
“But he was also followed by Hitler!” a young man in the audience said.
“Hitler was a degraded Papist,” Sloterdijk shot back.
Little by little, the discussion gravitated to assaults on Sloterdijk’s positions. “You sound like the right-wingers when you speak of the refugees,” an elderly doctor stood up and declared. “We cared about refugees after the war and we can do it again.”
Sloterdijk replied impatiently. “The Americans gave us this idea of multiculturalism that suited their society fine, but which, as software, is not compatible with our German hardware of the welfare state,” he said. “There’s this family metaphor spreading everywhere: the idea that all of humanity is our family. That idea helped destroy the Roman Empire. Now we’re in danger of letting that metaphor get out of control all over again. People are not ready to feel the full pressure of coexistence with billions of their contemporaries.” He went on, “In the past, geography created discretionary boundaries between nations and cultures. Distances that were difficult to overcome allowed for mental and political space.” Space and distance, he argued, had allowed for a kind of liberality and generosity that was now under siege—by refugees, by social media, by everything.
At the end of the talk, the faithful of all ages lined up to buy copies of “After God.” The polite chatter momentarily gave way to the brisk ritual of book-signing. Sloterdijk scrawled on the open books offered to him. Bearing a freshly signed copy, a pastor visiting from the Rhineland sympathized with Sloterdijk’s predicament as a salesman. “We become more like America every day,” he told him. “Isn’t it a pity?”