Studies on the Formation of Impatience

patusan: impatience, type i

Patusan, the final site of the failure of Joseph Conrad’s “Lord Jim,” cannot be found on any map. Only through Patusan’s disappearance in the imaginary does the plot gain that suggestive rapture that constitutes the compulsive and fate-like aspect of the events. In the last, not yet recorded corner of the colonialized world, Lord Jim’s life path comes to its completion. Here the outwardly tragic antihero encounters the self-determined, authentic core of his person. From his first shipwreck—during which he abandoned a sinking ship full of passengers together with the captain without being noticed—to his stay in Patusan— where he finds his death while trying to mediate between a group of marauders and the indigent people of his refuge—he has traveled a path to more and more remote expanses. This path seemed, on the one hand, like a subtle flight from the disfavor of fate and from his own shortcomings, but on the other hand also like an increasingly close approach to what may be regarded as an identical center of himself, as a modern individual. All signs of disintegration that accompany this determination and discovery of identity already satisfy the reflexive furor of an age that has become nihilistic. What happens at the end of the world, which only exists as myth, reverses a history that sees itself as one that always expands and keeps advancing into unknown territory: at the height of its colonial proliferation, the expansion becomes an implosion of all the parts on which the building had hitherto rested, as if that were quite natural. The border, which had been presumed in a faraway outside, reveals itself in an innermost and absolutely elusive area.

sparta: impatience, type ii

At this point of reversal from an extroverted to an introverted perspective, a historically different fixed point of an inevitable development can also move into view, which considering the temporal distance has, by this point, also become as mythically far removed as Patusan is geographically far removed: this place could be called Sparta. We can find it on a map, but the legend has left reality far behind. Today it is a provincial country town on the Greek Peloponnesus. It was—alongside Athens—one of the starting points of European history, which was to dominate the entire planet politically, and influence it culturally, ultimately also in the form of colonialization, which reached its imaginary end in Joseph Conrad’s writings. The success and compatibility of the so-called “Western” world rests, to this day, on the political, scientific, and artistic achievements of the heathen Greek world of antiquity. Here, a rich oriental prehistory received the necessary spark, and from here, the first compact snowball was thrown which then became a global avalanche. An expansive history, breaking out agonally from all natural cycles, whose goal is a dualistically advancing capture of the world, has driven humanity to explore, from here, the galaxies and to attempt to simulate the Big Bang. In Sparta—which in the Peloponnesian War, as the first world war of antiquity, also had the fatal role of defeating Athens—it is quiet today. And only the impatience, which lies behind the gesture reaching into the past as well as the future, creates contact to a reality that finally also determines its imaginary constants.

minusio: impatience, type iii

Between the two half-real and half-imaginary places that mark and blur the beginning and end of a movement striving for infinity lies Minusio near Locarno. Here, on December 4, 1933, Stefan George died. His death in this place and at this moment in time becomes a symbol of refusal and concealment. The time of the “Secret Germany”—which in reality would never begin, because even in an ideal world it had to negate all conditions of its terminability, life or death—can only be the current time of the conspiring and pledged members of a circle. Any contact with a reality that is always full of dialectical mines, had to betray the true and unnameable core of an ideal structure, and turn it into its opposite. The urge to enter a cosmopolitan secret German sphere of untouchability had to—especially in a historic period of calamitous condensations— lead to its hermetic cusp in order to foil any further attempt of a repeated naming. This cusp was Stefan George’s death, apparently offside of all wind directions and in a place that does exist, but only as a coincidently nameable blind spot in the tide of events, in the idyll of the Ticino: behind a reality which cannot have ascribed to it any more relevance for the oath to the absolute value of a tragic fate. Only through the strict separation of this sphere, which enables the permanent negation in the first place, can a conspiracy survive the break. The cemetery of Minusio forms this bridge between two poles that are otherwise only connected by a paradox. Thus all three places stand for a type of impatience that reduces itself to absurdity: Patusan for the psychological impatience of an individual who becomes mortal through the relativization of his immortality. Sparta for the historic impatience of an expansive idea of power and order, which, at the end of a world that has become predictable, disintegrates itself. And Minusio stands for the metaphysical, idealistic impatience of a religious and quasi-religious faith on a cusp of existence that can no longer be negated, but only panegyrically broached, which forces silence when the asymptotes are reached. But impatience could also be the medium of an indifference against which it is motivated in a special way in each case—so that finally a state may be reached that leaves nothing open anymore, and in which nothing further is to be expected.

Halcyon Days, Cologne 2013, p. 91