Something about Otto

The sentence Otto is dead is the first sentence I learned to write in grade school. Originally it read Otto dead, two words using easily written letters: An elliptical circle, the O, and a crossed line, the t. The next two letters were i and s, which were also not difficult to learn, and already I could write an entire sentence. The content of the sentence was not important. The question whether Otto was an actual living person never occurred to anyone. It was clear that the first written sentence could not be wrong, whatever ones definition of a proper sentence may be.

Since this proclamation of Otto's death a great amount of time and material has accumulated. However, this accumulated stuff often has had and does have the function of obscuring the things that have been lost along the way. This apparent exchange, which we call growing older, did not keep me from remembering my first written sentence. Otto is probably not dead at all and questioning the established reality of the news of Otto's death becomes more relevant, the more meaning the sentence can contain.

Whether Otto had a short life or whether he is immortal - the multiplication of the data useful for answering the question does not serve to concretize what we know, but instead only confuses the matter. A science of Otto must be an anti-bio-Iogic. A moment of his imaginable, possible life, has more meaning when torn completely out of context: An adult pondering his existence goes to the refrigerator without really being hungry and yet with a hidden desire to find cake. If Otto is alive it must be a holiday, says the inner voice. Don Ouixote was no dreamer, says another voice. Instead of fulfilling obscure desires, basic foodstuffs are now falling out of the refrigerator as if someone without any practical knowledge of correct arrangement had placed them there. While the adult begins to gather up fruit and yoghurt packages, the kids can be seen learning how a garden hose functions. They have placed the hose in the kitchen window and are pOinting the stream of water directly in the face of the neutralized observer. Bubbles rise.

Whoever is not experiencing superfluous hunger is considering the relationship of an increase in world population to decrease in inhabitable space - only to complain that his hands are tied in the modern age of technical progress. At this point the showered architect would be laughing about tied hands if he could do it without choking. Not everything is irrelevant in insignificant places and a perfect sabotage often looks like quenching a great thirst in Otto's sun.

Finally, the sentence Otto is dead seems to be a bridge where we can observe the best of all possible worlds with Leibniz, or from which we can survey the immeasurable traffic, following Kafka. Life goes on in a mixture of sexually motivated theoretical escape, separation out of spite and obedience out of melancholy. Whoever doubts it, he must show the card he has yet to play to his enemy. The unwritten rule is law: One man's risk is another man's risk as well.

Texts Without Verbs, Cologne 2002, p. 145