The Stewardess Analyst

In order to relax after a strenuous conversation, a married couple changes the subject to a general discussion of tortoises.

Tortoises have a long life and for this reason they are often envied. The very process of ageing seems suspended by their quiet movements, without revealing any visible resistance. The envious observer with too many memories, who in spite of this will not say I, begins to dissimulate about the shortness of his own life - about the holes in his life. He believes he has missed too much already because there has never been enough time. The holes appear to him as representative of all his omissions and failures. But, they could be, without any deception, the decisive moments of his life. Not sand in the gears, but oil - and salad for the immortal animals.

In contrast to the exemplary tortoise, the observer who laments missed opportunities in his life has to recognize that more time does not lead to more thoroughness, but instead to an increase in the ramifications of a given level of understanding at a given moment. Apparently fixed moments do not allow themselves to be determined. In them all available information splinters progressively to the point of becoming a mere phantom remainder. These moments are the fluid centre of a history without end. The holes in the history are the wellsprings of acceleration.

The advantage of the tortoise seems to be based on the trick of a slowly running clock. According to the law of physics whereby with increased speed time itself travels more slowly and mass increases, the somnambulant movements of the enviable creature could be evidence of an unimaginably high tempo. No one can immediately examine what is being seen in a given moment and so reason has to be content with the knowledge of hindsight. Finally, the comparison of speeds with passing time reveals confusion with a system - in the picture the reverse of the monochrome. It isn't the simple or the unconditionally true here that builds the basis of a connection between events, but something complicated, speculative and incalculably detailed. Because these connecting points between the net and the sponge are difficult to get a handle on, the observer may mistake them for an empty space wherein the superabundance of the real has reached its maximum resolution.

How we are to understand the holes must be shown with an example: Considerinq the incalculable effects of empty or simply missed moments, present persons could become involved in an argument without any apparent reason. During the argument the persons arguing will not normally notice if a plane is flying over their heads so slowly that it appears to be standing still. The very impossibility that a stationary object in the sky would not fall, gives the argument the energy it needs to continue for while without a resolution. All participants are far beyond the point of explaining simple optical illusions.

The plane becomes a graphic element in the room. In spite of this it exists in another way, namely as the weightless point of a straight line beyond all inertia, and also as a metal abdomen encasing life. While on the one side the averted observer fights for words to describe miSSing information, determination rules on board the abstract and concrete body. The smooth progress of the flight is the special job of the stewardess-analysts. The role of this new job is to get the physically overworked stewardesses back on their feet. All leading airlines in the world these days have an analyst of this type on every jet, a service for those who provide the service. As a consequence of increased competition, the good mood of the passengers has become a calculable factor in the business.

On the analysts couch, the most diverse poles have to be brought together: A falling tray, coffee on a guests col- lar, a hand on the stewardesses ass, atrophied face muscles freezing the smile in place while pouring someone's juice, endless runs in stockings. A bursting life vest during the routine safety check is the final signal for the neces- sary therapy. Having an intimate knowledge of the curves of his patients the analyst tries at first to solve the problem with a few careful manipulations. While his right hand disappears under the uniform, he holds in his left hand a spinning globe. The stewardess may stop the globe by pointing her finger and calling Here! At this point the entire plane is jolted. The carry on luggage takes on a life of its own and the plane drops through an atmospheric hole 200 meters downwards. For some this is an opportunity to feel complete and utter freedom, for others it marks the turning point to an unquestionable faith in god. Houston or Stockholm!, we hear from the therapy room where the globe has stopped. Looking unfocussed at the female finger, pointing neither to Houston nor to Stockholm but instead to the deepest part of the Indian Ocean, the superfluity of all clothes is the resulting diagnosis. Since then, a bright projection screen separates the worlds of the Good and the Bad. However, a banishment from paradise turned on its head is not enough. From now on, everyone must pay his own price for a curtain falling from of the sky. At the end of the analysis the stewardess appears ready for duty in the passenger cabin, the globe spins again, the plane leaves the vacuum and flies off as if nothing had happened.

After we think we have already crashed, an animated film without a title retums a suspended memory back to the present. Those secure on the earth's surface, who in an attempt to further their argument about a truly experienced hole point to the sky, have not even observed the jolt. Even the wildest speculation about the event can't approach the reality of the experience.

Only the stewardess-analyst himself could say a pleasant word about worlds behind curtains, but he has better things to do with his free time. He sits with handcuffs under an umbrella and is questioned by his wife. She is distrustful of him if he enjoys his work too much. He emphasizes the trials and difficulties of his profession. Finally, in order to lighten up the discussion a postcard arrives from the Boboli gardens in Florence. Pictured on the card is an Egyptian obelisk borne by four bronze tortoises. Were the tortoises to suddenly begin to move, one could imagine the obelisk wandering slowly through the garden.

Texts Without Verbs, Cologne 2002, p. 06