the walpurgis night

    May Day marks the victory of Spring over Winter. Since 1886, it marks the struggle of Labor with Capital. On April 30th, the powers of darkness and cupidity make their final stand against the renewal of growth and flourishing. Thus Goethe commemorates the Walpurgis Night in his Faust:

    HEXEN (im Chor):
Die Hexen zu dem Brocken ziehn,
Die Stoppel ist gelb, die Saat ist grün.
Dort sammelt sich der große Hauf,
Herr Urian sitzt oben auf.
So geht es über Stein und Stock,
Es farzt die Hexe, es stinkt der Bock.
    Witches in chorus:
The witches t’ward the Brocken strain
When the stubble yellow, green the grain.
The rabble rushes – as ‘tis meet –
To Sir Urian’s lordly seat.
O’er stick and stone we come, by jinks!
The witches fart, the he-goat stinks
    Ведьмы (хором):
На Брокен ведьмы тянут в ряд.
Овес взошел, ячмень не сжат.
Там Уриан, князь мракобесья,
Красуется у поднебесья.
По воздуху летит отряд,
Козлы и всадницы смердят.
    STIMME:
Die alte Baubo kommt allein,
Sie reitet auf einem Mutterschwein.
    Voice:
Old Baubo comes alone, I see;
Astride on farrow sow is she!
    Голос:
Старуха Баубо мчит к верхушке
Верхом на супоросой хрюшке.
    CHOR:
So Ehre denn, wem Ehre gebührt!
Frau Baubo vor! und angeführt!
Ein tüchtig Schwein und Mutter drauf,
Da folgt der ganze Hexenhauf.
    Chorus:
So honor be where honor is due!
Dame Baubo first! to lead the crew,
A hag upon a sturdy sow!
All witches come and follow now!
    Хор:
Колдунье и свинье почет.
Вперед за бабкою, вперед!
Всей кавалькадой верховых,
Чертовок, ведьм и лешачих!
    STIMME:
Welchen Weg kommst du her?
    Voice
Which way didst thou come here?
    Голос
Откуда ты?
    STIMME:
Übern Ilsenstein! Da guckt ich der Eule ins Nest hinein,
Die macht ein Paar Augen!
    Voice:
By Ilsenstein crest;
I peered into an owlet’s nest.
Her wild eyes stared at me!
    Другой голос:
От Ильзенштейна,
Лесной тропою чародейной.
К сове наведалась в дупло,
Та как надулась, и пошло!
    STIMME:
O fahre zur Hölle!
Was reitst du so schnelle!
    Voice:
To hell, I say, with thee!
Why ride so furiously?
    Третий голос:
Освободи проезд, не мешкай!
    STIMME:
Mich hat sie geschunden,
Da sieh nur die Wunden!
    Voice:
She almost flayed me!
See here, the wounds she made me!
    Второй голос:
Подумаешь, какая спешка!
Да не пыхти ты, не потей,
Я вся в следах твоих когтей.
    HEXEN, CHOR:
Der Weg ist breit, der Weg ist lang,
Was ist das für ein toller Drang?
Die Gabel sticht, der Besen kratzt,
Das Kind erstickt, die Mutter platzt.
    Chorus of Witches:
The road is wide, the way is long:
How madly swirls the raving throng
The pitchfork pricks, the broom us hurts;
The infant chokes, its mother bursts.
    Ведьмы (хором):
Нельзя ли чуть порасторопней?
Так в давке сжали, что хоть лопни!
Не тыкай вилами в живот!
Задушите в утробе плод!
    HEXENMEISTER, HALBER CHOR:
Wir schleichen wie die Schneck im Haus,
Die Weiber alle sind voraus.
Denn, geht es zu des Bösen Haus,
Das Weib hat tausend Schritt voraus.
    Wizards. Semi-chorus:
We creep as slowly as a snail;
Far, far ahead the witches sail.
When to the Devil’s home they speed,
Women by a thousand paces lead.
    Колдуны (половина хора):
Ползут мужчины, как улитки,
А видите, как бабы прытки.
Где пахнет злом, там бабий род
Уходит на версту вперед.
    ANDERE HÄLFTE:
Wir nehmen das nicht so genau,
Mit tausend Schritten macht’s die Frau;
Doch wie sie sich auch eilen kann,
Mit einem Sprunge macht’s der Mann.
    The Other Half:
Not so precise are we! Perhaps
A woman takes a thousand steps.
Although she hastes as best she can,
One leap suffices for a man.
    Другая половина:
Еще довольно это спорно.
Как ваша баба ни проворна,
Ее мужчина, хоть и хром,
Опередит одним прыжком.
    STIMME (oben):
Kommt mit, kommt mit, vom Felsensee!
Voice (above)
Come with us from the rockbound lake!
    Голос (сверху):
Пожалуйте к нам наверх с плеса!
    STIMMEN (von unten):
Wir möchten gerne mit in die Höh.
Wir waschen, und blank sind wir ganz und gar;
Aber auch ewig unfruchtbar.
Voices (below):
We fain would follow in your wake!
We’ve washed, are clean as clean can be;
Yet barren evermore are we.
    Голос (снизу):
Сейчас взберемся на утесы.
Мы вымылись водой холодной,
Зато и дочиста бесплодны.
    BEIDE CHÖRE:
Es schweigt der Wind, es flieht der Stern,
Der trübe Mond verbirgt sich gern.
Im Sausen sprüht das Zauberchor
Viel tausend Feuerfunken hervor.
    Both Choruses:
The wind is hushed, the starlight pales,
The dismal moon her features veils;
As magic-mad the hosts whiz by,
A myriad sparks spurt forth and fly.
    Оба хора:
Стих ветер. Месяц со звездой
Пропал за облачной грядой.
Мы ж вихрем огненным летим,
И веселимся, и галдим.
    STIMME (von unten):
Halte! Haltet
    Voice (from below):
Tarry! Tarry!
    Голос (снизу):
Стой! Стой!
    STIMME (oben):
Wer ruft da aus der Felsenspalte?
    Voice (from above):
Who calls so loud from rocky quarry?
    Голос (сверху):
Что там за образина
Зовет меня со дна теснины?
    STIMME (von unten):
Nehmt mich mit! Nehmt mich mit!
Ich steige schon dreihundert Jahr,
Und kann den Gipfel nicht erreichen
Ich wäre gern bei meinesgleichen.
    Voice (from below):
Take me too! Take me too!
Three hundred years I have been striving
To reach the peak – I’m not arriving;
I fain would join my equals too.
    Голос (снизу):
Мне хочется со всей гурьбой!
Прошу вас взять меня с собой.
За триста лет я еле-еле
Наружу выполз из ущелья.
    BEIDE CHÖRE:
Es trägt der Besen, trägt der Stock
Die Gabel trägt, es trägt der Bock
Wer heute sich nicht heben kann
Ist ewig ein verlorner Mann.
    Both Choruses:
The broomstick carries, so does the stock;
The pitchfork carries, so does the buck;
Who cannot rise on them tonight,
Remains for aye a luckless wight.
    Оба хора:
Сядь на козла, садись на шест,
На вилах соверши свой въезд.
Но знай: ты попадешь туда
Сегодня или никогда.
    —Faust, Bilingual Edition, translated by J.F.L. Raschen, Ithaca, NY: The Thrift Press (1949), pp. 201-203     —Перевод: Борис Пастернак

    Michael first read Goethe’s Faust in Boris Pasternak’s Russian translation at the age of 12 or thereabouts. The theme of a learned man’s craving for his lost youth filled him with anticipation. Throughout his early twenties, Michael celebrated the Walpurgis Night way into the wee hours at the Hancock Tower J. Walter Thompson Chicago office with his Sugiyama dojo comrade Kal. These celebrations tended to include JWT client bonding through anointment with Miracle Whip™, accompanied by the dirge: “We are consuming; we are being consumed.
    In his thirties Michael studied early modern history with Carlo Ginzburg, whose signed first Italian edition of Storia notturna: Una decifrazione del Sabba he still cherishes as the definitive speculation on this subject.
    At 47, on this Walpurgis Night, Michael is embarking on his magical springtime quest. Wish him luck.

shame and guilt

     Otto: You pompous, stuck-up, snot-nosed, English, giant, twerp, scumbag, fuck-face, dickhead, asshole!
Archie: How very interesting. You’re a true vulgarian, aren’t you?
Otto: You are the vulgarian, you fuck! Now apologize!



As a repressed barrister henpecked by his haughty spouse, Archie Leach is an unlikely candidate for Aristotelian magnanimity. But in his residua of upper class English twittery, he is more than capable of mimicking self-depreciacion inspired, and condescension justified, by true magnanimity. And in the great cause of his love for Otto’s girlfriend and partner in crime Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis), he rises to the occasion, eventually facing, and prevailing over, mortal danger at Otto’s gunpoint with great aplomb. But in his moments as a parrhesiast, Archie’s quandary comes at odds with greatness of soul. He flouts social convention by volunteering a true opinion of Otto’s qualities. Archie’s opinion is guaranteed to be found not only unwelcome by its recipient, but also unhelpful to their interaction. As it happens, Otto is not only equally willing to do away with convention in his response, but eager to transgress the laws mandating proportionality of his response to Archie’s insult. On several occasions, he initiates or escalates violence without further ado. When Archie opines, Otto attacks.
    The disparity of human power cannot stand in the long run. In the long run, Otto’s belligerence becomes ineffectual. A momentary advantage over his superior fighting skill and guile enables Archie to prevail, and compels Otto to find his level. The fact that the film audience justly regards this outcome as just, implies that it would be impossible for Archie to make an effective apology to Otto in the normal course of events. To the extent that he retracts his imputation of Otto’s stupidity spontaneously, he cannot do so sincerely. A sincere retraction of calling a spade a spade is possible only through painstaking realignment of thought, to the extent of regarding it as something it is not.

    It is clearly possible for Archie to save the appearances for everyone involved by feigning a change of mind. The reason that enables this possibility is his moral governance by the conflicting notions of shame and guilt. This predicament was first analyzed by Ruth Benedict in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1946). Benedict’s book originated part of a study of Japanese culture undertaken for the U.S. government in preparing for post-war dealings with the Japanese. It attempted to explain how Japanese thinking differed from American thinking. In Chapter 10, The Dilemma of Virtue, pp. 195-227, Benedict introduced the distinction between a shame culture based on value systems that focus on honor and shame, and a guilt culture based on value systems that focus on virtue and sin. Shame cultures flourished in feudal societies, as practiced by the aristocrats in their relations to their peers and their goals. But feudal societies also incorporated the standards of guilt cultures in their submission to the religious ideals. Man’s behavior in a guilt culture is conditioned and judged by how he would feel about himself under perfect moral insight, rather than by how others would feel about him under actual conditions of witnessing. This distinction has become a commonplace of social studies.
    E.R. Dodds applied Benedict’s distinction to the history of Classical Greek literature in The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1951). In Chapter 2, From Shame-Culture to Guilt-Culture, pp. 28-63, Dodds contrasted the shame culture exemplified in the world of the Iliad, with a guilt culture that emerged in later Greek civilization. Jews, Christians, and Moslems, as adherents of monotheistic traditions, create their guilt cultures thereby, in virtue of evaluating their actions from their impact on the soul. The same is true of godless practices of Buddhism and Platonism. The ensuing value system organizes itself around the idea of individual conscience, a faculty that countermands even undetected and undetectable wrongdoing, even when it would be socially advantageous to the wrongdoer.
    Allegiance to a guilt culture plays out as an initial disadvantage in opposing an acolyte of a shame culture committed to getting away unnoticed with whatever he can. The man ruled by honor and shame will not see the point in apologizing for sins committed in private, any more than he would take satisfaction in virtues invisible to his peers. By contrast, the man who measures his merit on the religious scales of virtue and sin defines the starting point of apology as contrition, a sorrow of soul caused by a motive of filial fear or the pure love of God, and a hatred of committed sin because of its consequential privation of God from the soul, with a firm resolve of not sinning in the future. By contrast, attrition, or imperfect contrition, is a sorrow caused by a motive of servile fear, causing the sinner to detest sin only because of his fear of punishment. According to the XIIIth century theologians, attrition, albeit of itself too imperfect to win the pardon of God, could become perfected through confession and absolution. The weaker the form of sorrow, the greater the sins confessed and absolved, the heavier are the temporal penalties demanded by the righteousness of God. Though these definitions are familiar from two millennia of Christian theology, their substance does not depend on religious faith. The corrosive effect of wrongdoing on the soul is recognized by Plato and the Buddha, without any reference to deterrence by divine punishment.
    For Marcel Mauss, the social bond that maintains the “face” is a prestation, a mutual obligation without which the individual disappears. For the denizen of a shame culture, the loss of his face entails losing his place in the intelligible world. A tacit, pragmatic rule of his society may tolerate indecent behavior, as long as it does not embarrass anyone. Thus traditional Chinese culture ignores a wide variety of sexual transgressions, from extramarital sex to incest, provided that they remain discreet. Classic Chinese erotic novels and art, utterly unrestrained in their portrayal of sexuality, are publicly accessible, despite the Party censorship. Their archaic nature renders them safe for public consumption. By contrast, personal exhibition of sexuality in Internet publications, defined as “new human writing”, retains its power to shock and embarrass its readers. Chinese culture is a shame culture. Chinese morality depends on shame. Nothing feels worse to a Chinese subject than being ashamed. Nothing liberates him more than indifference. Having lost his face, he judges that there is nothing more for him to lose.
    Residual effects of shame cultures persist within societies governed by the standards of guilt. They manifest themselves above all in pursuits that depend on appearances. Master of anonymous disparagement and vituperation, Junius summed it up best: “Private credit is wealth; public honor is security; the feather that adorns the royal bird supports its flight; strip him of his plumage, and you fix him to the earth.” Absent a sincere apology, the great-souled man beset by his inferiors, guided by virtue that is incomprehensible to them, has only one recourse. He knows that they would never admit having wronged him willingly. No matter. He speaks with Achilles: “Not if his gifts outnumbered the sea sands or all the dust grains in the world could Agamemnon ever appease me ― not till he pays me back full measure, pain (θυμαλγής) for pain, dishonor (λώβη) for dishonor.” (Homer, Iliad IX.383-386.) The man intent on regaining some measure of dignity degraded through despicable dealings with could do no better than visit reciprocal degradation upon his enemies. Trial by media works in his favor because the public applies different standards of proof to crimes by public personae, from those it maintains for private nobodies. The shameless are poised to reap its rewards in full.

the opposite of a philosopher

― for David W. Affeld

    Several credible sources have attributed excellence to Steve Sailer’s blog. Herewith a selection of its pearls of wisdom.
    Presentation: White inmates affiliate themselves with prison gangs so as to avoid yielding money or sexual favors to blacks and latinos. “If this country was [sic] serious about getting rid of white racist criminal gangs, it would do what it takes to eliminate their principle [sic] cause: minority-on-white prison rape.
    Annotation: The sole necessary and sufficient condition for an inmate to avoid yielding money or sexual favors to other inmates is not being a bitch. No one capable of retaliation is so abused behind bars. The risks are too high and safer prey is too plentiful. The jailhouse rapist is disadvantaged, in comparison to the free-range predator, by long-term propinquity of his victim. Not much strength or stealth is required of the aggrieved party to stick a shank in his tormentor’s kidney. All he needs is resolve. Coincidentally, an inmate resolved not to be a bitch is likely to gravitate to his own kind in opposing the authority of the screws. Whence come prison gangs. If this country were serious about getting rid of white racist criminal gangs, it would do what it takes to eliminate their principal cause: white men in prison. Continue reading the opposite of a philosopher