Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Newsletter January March 2016




In the photo above, there is depicted a sculpture of two women sitting on a bench and looking at each other, as if they have a lot to gossip about. The sculpture was made by Azade Koeker.

At the same time, there can made out in the background the image of the Greek poet Elytis. By an associative way of thinking about people and the world in which we live in, a link between the two can be made out by use of the river as metaphor.

While Berlin was still divided and a novel artistic experimentation was going on especially in West Berlin, a lot could be experienced. For instance, Kurt Kreiler, then not known to write in future a controversial book about the true Skakespeare, acted out all alone a sketch of James Joyce's reading of "Anna Livia Plurabella". He did so on an empty S-Bahn platform in Berlin. The station was abandoned since the line was no longer in use. This was due to the Berlin wall having cut the city into two separate parts, although everywhere was evident what had belonged together in the past. Simply observed, it meant unusual places were available for unusual sketches of art and of thought. 

James Joyce's reading of "Anna Livia Plurabelle" entails a vivid description of two women gossiping while washing clothes in a river. Their attention turns to Anna Livia. They wonder how she managed to make love to so many men. It became evident by her having as many children as the river in which they were washing their clothes had countless side streams and tributes feeding the river.

Their gossip underlines a saying about those having so many off springs. Whether moral or not, it is a natural fact. The women are simply perplexed. Nevertheless in their gossip is reflected how certain people can easily be labelled by society. The often negative images attributed to well known persons feeds on this gossip. Too often it comes close to being like mad dogs wishing to tear to shreds a person's reputation. In turn, it reveals the limits of what society can understood, or rather 'tolerate'. Boundaries are drawn by moral concepts, in reality prejudices transformed into convictions no longer possible to be challenged according to Brendan Kennelly. He has a high esteem for James Joyce and believes the writer of Ulysses was an astute observer of Irish society, especially the one to be found in Dublin. Brendan Kennelly imagined him to be close-by and at the same time at a distance, that is if not making these observations from being in Paris, then by sitting in a cloud hovering above the city.

When looking at the sculpture of these two women, these associations are set free. The sculpure was made by Azade Köker, artist from Istanbul and who came to Berlin roughly around the same time as to when Kreiler did his sketch, that is before 1981.Lately she showed her most recent work in Istanbul, see


One can think about this piece of James Joyce, as the sculpture can be viewed as making a direct reference to women gossiping while washing clothes in a river flowing steadily past them.

The river is a reminder as to what friendship is all about. No doubt, friends will not get along, if there does not exist something like mutual appreciation. At the same time, the friends have to go with the stream of time. Therefore, they can only uphold the memories they have of each other, if there is trust kept alive over time. Since with memories goes the imagination, empathy shall for one another shall be given freely while maturing with every new experience made together. Most of the time these experiences are reflected in the special discussions only friends can have when they practice a dialogue being both personal and an outreach to the stars.

Such a heart felt understanding or empathy for one another is the reason why friends can pull each other out of a crisis. Friends are especially needed, if one gets into deep trouble. Moreover once they have pulled you out of the water in time, there is no need to apologize. A friend simply understands and does what is needed the most at the moment. Naturally on the surface of things, if someone tried to commit suicide but failed, a true friend shall come immediately even though he does not know if he should kill or hug him. That is just a mere expression of caring while not accepting a stupidity.

Friends help one to stay true. This is best done by developing such a character that an intellectual integrity is capable of upholding an ethical orientation despite being faced by countless challenges and difficult choices at times. Bertrand Russell said it quite plainly in his essay 'The fathers of German Fascism', that intelligence alone is not enough in order to succeed in society; rather for true success there is needed to have an ethical compass.

In a reversal of Doestevsky's question 'if God is dead, is then everything allowed?', to uphold ethical principles means explicitly that not everything is possible. It includes the ability to say 'no' to all forms of corruption, the corruption of the mind perhaps the most terrible one. For that kind of corruption is difficult to escape from, once one has given in to a permanent rationalization and mistakes are explained away as if it does not matter. Such an indifference does not allow anymore to distinguish between true success and real failures as it prevents a learning out of mistakes.

Even the best friendship is not unconditional. There are conditions which clearly state if not met, then this particular friendship cannot be upheld any longer.

The demand to stay on course rather than risk straying off is also a task to become more humane in all responses. As this requires very often as much wisdom as patience, one can expect likewise that a friend pulls you out of difficulties, rather than rejecting you outright. A good friend can do that since the good memories of you have not been forgotten by him or her.

Aristotle would say a good friend tells you not to do something, even if the consequences can be seen only two hundred years from now.

The murmering river can connect the friends who live either upstream or else downstream. The interesting aspect about the river is that it does not come and go like the sea with tide and ebb, but flows in one direction.

Since we experience and know that it requires wisdom to understand all the changes happening in the world, the water flowing past in a river can tell us a lot.

One important observation can be added when referring to the river as metaphor in which to reflect in change. To reflect these changes along with what has come into existence, for that we need forms. The philosopher Ernst Bloch points out that the difference between content and form can easily be made, for when we say instead of merely 'water' river or lake we know what we perceive does exist. Immediately the latter makes sense. Our perception of things depends upon things taking on form. Yet the forms made available to us through language – Ces Nooteboom says we think only in words - are very limited.




Downstream of river through English Garden in Munich




By comparision, when looking, for example, at a small river flowing through the English Garten in Munich, there can be seen a variety of forms which are created and dissolved all the time. These forms come into existence when the water curls around a root of a tree sticking out or when the water flows over a shallow place full of stones. This creation and dissolution of all these forms happens at such a rapid pace that we cannot reflect everything existing in our presence since our language retains very few forms.

In other words, we are curtailed by what philosophers would call the subjective perception even though Ai Wei-Wei in Berlin 2015 - 2018 would define presence quite differently. He would argue because we do not see everything in the present, we need to take photos to show us later what else existed at the same time and space while we were there. Out of that follows that the present is an ongoing change which takes on form when reaching out for the future.

When looking once more at the two women sitting on a bench, there can be spotte behind them the face of Elytis. Again something like a river comes to mind. Elytis translated Sappho's poems written in Ancient Greek into Modern Greek. By doing so, he creates a language which connects like a river the past with the present. Language as a river is all about literary work following the transciption logic since we learn as well out of imitation of what seems to us having been of significance in the past and which is still relevant not only for the present, but as well for the future. That recognition sustains an ongoing translation of words of wisdom. In the case of Elytis, he perceived what was written by Sappho in the past and by translating that into modern Greek, he developed unique forms through his use of such a poetic language by which can be perceived what has definitely a future.

Naturally mentioning Sappho, the associative mind travels immediately to the Greek island of Lesbos which is now so much in the news. This is because the island has been receiving daily refugees to the thousands, if not more. The main city on the island, namely Mytilini has become the 'city of solidarity'. The name has been given because civic society reveals more and more a human response to this crisis is not only possible, but conceivable. Something unique has come into existence with even a global dimension since civic organisations from all over the world are involved, doing their work there, alone by setting up soup kitchens or by simply taking in an entire family.

All too often this humane response in Lesbos and elsewhere in Greece is overseen by Baverian and some EU politicians ready to admonish Greece on how the refugee question has been been handled. They do not think about humane responses making possible dialogue and friendship at personal level, but rather about hard measures to be translated into border controls to keep not only the newcomers out, but also to retain a sense of community which is based on a fictitious 'we' having taken on an identity over time. Just as new nations were created by some having gained through pilgrimages a new identity as best decribed by Benedict Anderson in his book 'Imagined Communities'. He excludes, however, the different streams being created by friendships and which all flow eventually into the big oceans which cover this globe.

As for Elytis, he wrote in response to what was happening to Greeks under German occupation during Second World War this major poem called "Axion Esti" - be praised! In that poem, he describes a scene when a resister is commanded to step forth and to give his name by a German officer, but Manolis refuses. After a second command and equally a refusal to comply, the German officer pulls out of his holster the pistol and kills Manolis. Elytis steps at this spot literally himself into the poem to say, „little did that officier realize his life ends there, while that of Manolis has but just begun.“ Indeed, everyone has the Right to resist, in order to continue living, and resistance is linked to knowing what has future. With good friends that is definitely the case.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 28.12.2015

Notiz: Einen ähnlichen Text in deutscher Sprache gibt es in der Sektion Philosophie unter dem Titel Die Freundschaft im Vergleich zum Fluss


European Capitals of Culture

San Sebastian 2016 and Wroclaw 2016

Future ECoCs

Aarhus 2017 and Paphos 2017

Valletta 2018 and Leeuwarden 2018 in Holland

Matera 2019 in Italy and  Plovdiv 2019 in Bulgaria.

2020 Rijeka in Croatia


2021 Greece and Rumania

ECoCs in 2015 were

Mons 2015

Pilsen 2015



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