Monthly Archives: July 2018

Jordan Peterson, on Meaning


Jordan Peterson, on Meaning

The text below is taken from the last page of ‘Rule 7: Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)’ from Jordan Peterson’s latest book: 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote for Chaos


There is no faith and no courage and no sacrifice in doing what is expedient. There is no careful observation that actions and presuppositions matter, or that the world is made of what matters. To have meaning in your life is better than to have what you want, because you may neither know what you want, nor what you truly need. Meaning  is something that comes upon you, of its own accord. You can set up the preconditions, you can follow meaning, when it manifests itself, but you cannot simply produce it, as an act of will. Meaning signifies that you are in the right place, at the right time, properly balanced between order and chaos, where everything lines up as best it can at that moment.

What is expedient works only for the moment. It’s immediate, impulsive and limited. What is meaningful, by contrast, is the organization of what would otherwise merely be expedient into a symphony of Being. Meaning is what is put forth more powerfully than mere words can express by Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” a triumphant bringing forth from the void of pattern after pattern upon beautiful pattern, every instrument playing its part, disciplined voices layered on top of that, spanning the entire breadth of human emotion from despair to exhilaration.

Meaning is what manifests itself when the many levels of Being arrange themselves into a perfectly functioning harmony, from atomic microcosm to cell to organ to individual to society to nature to cosmos, so that action at each level beautifully and perfectly facilitates action at all, such that past, present and future are all at once redeemed and reconciled. Meaning is what emerges beautifully and profoundly like a newly formed rosebud opening itself out of nothingness into the light of sun and God. Meaning is the lotus striving upward through the dark lake depths through the ever-clearing water, blooming forth on the very surface, revealing within itself the Golden Buddha, himself perfectly integrated, such that the revelation of the Divine Will can make itself manifest in his every word and gesture.

Meaning is when everything there is comes together in an ecstatic dance of single purpose—the glorification of a reality so that no matter how good it has suddenly become, it can get better and better and better more and more deeply forever into the future. Meaning happens when that dance has become so intense that all the horrors of the past, all the terrible struggle engaged in by all of life and all of humanity to that moment becomes a necessary and worthwhile part of the increasingly successful attempt to build something truly Mighty and Good.

Meaning is the ultimate balance between, on the one hand, the chaos of transformation and possibility and on the other, the discipline of pristine order, whose purpose is to produce out of the attendant chaos a new order that will be even more immaculate, and capable of bringing forth a still more balanced and productive chaos and order. Meaning is the Way, the path of life more abundant, the place you live when you are guided by Love and speaking Truth and when nothing you want or could possibly want takes any precedence over precisely that.

Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient.

Carl Jung’s Liber Novus (The Red Book) quotes


Carl Jung’s Liber Novus (The Red Book) quotes:

Some quotes from Carl Jung’s Liber Novus (The Red Book)

Someone [many thanks!] on the web wrote:

I copied these quotes from The Red Book into a booklet and from there copied what I thought were my favorites from the booklet onto my computer; this is the result of that effort. Keep in mind that Jung cautioned us to “beware of unearned wisdom” – but with that said I think these quotes could be of great service to those seeking wisdom in life and who are willing to put in the effort to earn it. If you’re not familiar with Jung’s work then let this serve as perhaps a taste of what is to come from going down that path. These quotes are listed in the same order as they appear in Liber Novus. I’d also recommend reading the Wikipedia on this book if you’d like to learn more about it (it has quite an interesting backstory).

In 1957, near the end of his life, Jung spoke about the Red Book and the process which yielded it; in that interview he stated:

“The years… when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.”

  • The soul is everywhere that scholarly knowledge is not.
  • You should say: “The life that I could still live, I should live, and the thoughts that I could still think, I should think.”
  • The transience of the things coming toward you has never yet experienced a human meaning.
  • There will be no one who will laugh at me as I laughed at myself.
  • Nothing will deliver you from disorder and meaninglessness, since this is the other half of the world.
  • If you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness.
  • How can we presume to want to know in advance from where the light will come to us?
  • Cleverness conquers the world, but simple-mindedness, the soul. So take on the vow of poverty of spirit in order to partake of the soul.
  • Depth and surface should mix so that new life can develop.
  • Life does not come from events, but from us. Everything that happens outside has already been.
  • Incapacity will overcome us and demand its share of life.
  • The one who learns to live with his incapacity has learned a great deal.
  • The highest truth is one and the same with the absurd.
  • As day requires night and night requires day so meaning requires absurdity and absurdity requires meaning.
  • If we do not have the depths, how do we have the heights?
  • Nothing is more dangerous than to play the hero. The depths want to keep you.
  • If we still want to overcome death, then we must enliven it.
  • If you are in yourself, you become aware of your incapacity.
  • He must embrace the worthless and the worthy with the same love.
  • Judgement must fall from you, even taste, but above all pride, even when it is based on merit.
  • Turn your anger against yourself, since only you stop yourself from looking and from living.
  • Let your hope, which is your highest good and highest ability, lead the way, and serve you as a guide in the world of darkness.
  • He who prefers to think than to feel, leaves his feeling to rot in darkness.
  • To live oneself means: to be one’s own task.
  • If you want to create yourself, then you do not begin with the best and the highest, but with the worst and the deepest. Therefore say that you are reluctant to live yourself.
  • Through your selfish wish, you pushed out of your thoughts everything that you do not consider ordered, that is, unfitting.
  • Thoughts are natural events that you do not possess.
  • The way of life is transformation, not exclusion.
  • I am in danger of believing that I myself am significant since I see the significant.
  • You need your wholeness to live onward.
  • The spirit of this time has condemned us to haste.
  • Only one law exists, and that is your law. Only one truth exists, and that is your truth.
  • If we do not see a thing Fate does it to us.
  • He who strives only for things will sink into poverty as outer wealth increases.
  • I bear a wound that is as yet not healed: my ambition to make an impression.
  • Mercy is granted to the developed, not the childish.
  • May those be well who can see these things! Those who cannot must live them as blind fate, in images.
  • Open the ancient books and learn what will come to you in solitude.
  • Know that you attain yourself from what you read in a book. You read as much into a book as out of it.
  • You may follow me not on my way, but on yours.
  • Thus I become, like the Buddha sitting in the flames.
  • The flowing together of the forethinking with pleasure produces the God.
  • The God holds love in his right, forethinking in his left.
  • You do not become God through this, or become divine, but God becomes human. He becomes apparent in you and through you, as a child.
  • You will become grown up insofar as you overcome the God of the ancients and of your childhood.
  • One can only overcome the old God through becoming him yourself, as one who seeks himself and no longer imitates heros. You free yourself, when you free yourself from the old God and his model. When you have become the model, then you no longer need his.
  • The spirit of the depths appears in you as thoroughly childish. If you don’t want the spirit of the depths, he is to you a torment. Willing leads to the way.
  • What is this divine childish willing? You can’t learn it through description, it can only become in you. Nor can you will it. You cannot learn or empathize it from what I say.
  • You should not learn my way but your own. My way leads to me and not to you.
  • Do not pretend there is a difference between thinking and doing.
  • You should be proud of nothing more than your emptiness and your wretchedness.
  • Your sensitivity is your particular form of violence.
  • Understand yourself and you will be sufficiently understood. You will have quite enough work at hand with that.
  • You do not want to believe in the size of the sacrifice that is required. But it will go on to the bitter end. Greatness requires greatness.
  • Never forget that you are a man and that you must bleed for the goal of humanity. Practice solitude assiduously without grumbling so that everything in time will become ready.
  • In the night my soul spoke to me: “The greatest comes to the smallest.”
  • You should pass from hand to hand. Self willing is not for you. You are the will of the whole.
  • One does not live one’s self, it lives itself.
  • The work of redemption is always first to be done on ourselves; if one dare utter such a great word. This work cannot be done without love for ourselves.
  • What we neglect in ourselves blends itself secretly into our actions towards others.
  • Through uniting with the Self we reach the God.
  • I recognize the God by the unshakableness of the experience.
  • We must heal ourselves from the God, since he is also our heaviest wound.
  • The God should not live in you, but you should live in the God.
  • The enlightening thought comes from the body.
  • It always begins in yourself and in all things and above all with love.
  • Love is to bear and endure oneself. It begins with this. It is truly about you; you are not yet tempered; other fires must yet come over you until you have accepted your solitude and learned to love.
  • Therefore, above all, solitude, until every softness toward yourself has been burnt out of you. You should learn to freeze.
  • You are most in need of your own help.
  • Stay quiet, fulfill the cursed work of redemption on yourself.
  • Draw the coat of patience and silence over your head, sit down, and leave the daimon to accomplish his work. If he brings something about, he will work wonders. Thus will you sit under fruit bearing trees.
  • You are a powerless man who needs all his force for his own completion.
  • “I am jealous of the hate you give others.”
  • “Embellish yourself with the gold of the Gods, but not with the meager treasures of earth-bound human-beings.”
  • Our very nature is differentiation – nondifferentiation and nondistinction pose a great danger to the creature.
  • Not your thinking but your essence is differentiation. Therefore you must not strive for what you conceive as distinctiveness, but for your own essence. Therefore at bottom there is only striving, namely the striving for one’s own essence.
  • There are only mistakes in your world.
  • Those whom love does not unite, fear compels.
  • What the Sun God speaks is life, what the Devil speaks is death. But Abraxas speaks that hollowed and accursed word that is at once life and death. He is the hermaphrodite of the earliest beginning.
  • No man has a spirituality unto himself, or a sexuality unto himself. Instead he stands under the law of sexuality and spirituality. Therefore no one escapes these daimons.
  • Man is weak, and community is therefore indispensable.
  • Absence of community is suffering and sickness. Community in everything is dismemberment and dissolution.
  • Community gives us warmth, singleness gives us light.
  • Pleasure comes only from the new. Your soul would also like a new husband – ha ha! – she loves change.
  • We love only what is coming, not what is. Only the new gives us pleasure.
  • The Gods want you to do for their sake what you know you do not want to do.
  • I bring you the beauty of suffering. That is what is needed by whoever hosts the worm.
  • The devil as the adversary is your own other standpoint; he tempts you and sets a stone in your path where you least want it.
  • Accept your other standpoint; with that the devil fundamentally loses ground and so do you.
  • The devil always seeks to saw off the branch on which you sit. That is useful and protects you from falling asleep and from the vices that go along with it.
  • Only what is human and what you call banal and hackneyed contains the wisdom that you seek.
  • If no outer adventure happens to you then no inner adventure happens to you either.
  • You are a slave of what you need in your soul.
  • Become a woman yourself, and you will be saved from slavery to woman.
  • The acceptance of femininity leads to completion.
  • As a man you have no soul, since it is in the woman.
  • .. You must make your ordered world horrible, so that you are put off by being too much outside yourself.
  • The soul demands your folly, not your wisdom.
  • The way to your beyond leads through Hell and in fact through your own wholly particular Hell.
  • We do not love the condition of our being brought low, although or rather precisely because only there do we attain clear knowledge of ourselves.
  • Every word can work productively in your spirit.
  • Honor the darkness as the light, and you will illumine your darkness.
  • He who comprehends the darkness in himself, to him the light is near.
  • .. you find manifold meaning only in yourself, not in things.
  • We need the coldness of death to see clearly.
  • Life and death must strike a balance in your existence.
  • Joy at the smallest things comes to you only when you have accepted death.
  • How much my ideals have come down, and how freshly my tree greens.
  • I am man enough. I am noise, conversation, comfort, and help enough unto myself.
  • I unsuspectingly absorb what I reject. What I accept enters that part of my soul which I do not know; I accept what I do to myself; but I reject what is done to me.
  • The outer opposition is an image of my inner opposition.
  • This tangible and apparent World is one reality, but fantasy is the other reality.
  • Armor is enough to protect you from the fools who still suffer from the need to conquer. God’s armor will make you invulnerable and invisible to the worst fools.
  • Consider that your fellow men are animals without knowing it. So long as they go to pasture, or live in the sun, or suckle their young, or mate with each other, they are beautiful and harmless creatures of dark Mother Earth.
  • So conceal the God that you have taken with you.
  • If your beauty grows, the dreadful worm will also creep up you, waiting for its prey.
  • He who does not want evil will have no chance to save his soul from Hell.
  • Do not look back and regret nothing.
  • There are not many truths, there are only a few. Their meaning is too deep to grasp other than in symbols.
  • ..the way is my own self, my own life founded upon myself. The God wants my life.
  • What thinking cannot solve, life solves, and what action never decides is reserved for thinking.
  • We can hardly be without temptation.
  • .. do not turn anything you do into a law, since that is the hubris of power.
  • Turn to the dead, listen to their lament and accept them with love.
  • Do not look forward so much, but back and into yourself, so that you will not fail to hear the dead.
  • Become accustomed to being alone with the dead. It is difficult, but this is precisely how you will discover the worth of your living companions.
  • I accepted the chaos.
  • We create the truth by living it.
  • The work of men is steady but it swims upon chaos.
  • Your life needs the dark.
  • You grow if you stand still in the greatest doubt, and therefore steadfastness in great doubt is a veritable flower of life.
  • The strong have doubt but doubt has the weak. Therefore the weakest is close to the strongest, and if he can say to his doubt; “I have you,” then he is the strongest.
  • My speech is neither light nor dark, since it is the speech of someone who is growing.
  • He who cannot mock himself will be mocked by others. So accept your self-mockery so that everything divine and heroic falls from you and you become completely human. What is divine and heroic in you is a mockery to the other in you. For the sake of the other in you, set off your admired role which you previously performed for your own self and become who you are.
  • I see that he was the great suffering one, who needed salvation. He is the chosen one since he was the most rejected.
  • I become the smaller part of myself.
  • I have even become smaller and poorer, but precisely because of my smallness I can be conscious of the nearness of the great.
  • Nothing should seperate me from him, the dark one. If I want to leave him, he follows me like my shadow.
  • Be content and cultivate your garden with modesty.
  • The future should be left to those of the future.
  • I return to the small and the real, for this is the great way, the way of what is to come.
  • Remember that you can know yourself, and with that you know enough. But you cannot know others and everything else. Beware of knowing what lies beyond yourself, or else your presumed knowledge will suffocate the life of those who know themselves. A knower may know himself. That is his limit.
  • Life is free and chooses its way.
  • What would poverty, nakedness and unpreparedness be without consciousness of weakness and without horror at powerlessness?
  • .. above all don’t act so enlightened.
  • There is only one way and that is your way. There is only one salvation and that is your salvation. Why are you looking for help? Do you believe help will come from outside? What is to come will be created in you and from you. Hence look into yourself. Do not compare, do not measure. No other way is like yours. All other ways deceive and tempt you. You must fulfill the way that is in you.
  • The work of salvation is endless.
  • It is unclear how great one’s humility must be to take it upon oneself to live one’s own life.
  • You should make demands on no one, neither desiring nor expecting anything from anyone except from yourself.
  • You should live and die with yourself.
  • Our freedom does not lie outside us, but within us.
  • If the power of growth begins to cease, then the united falls into its opposites.
  • We suspect and understand that growth needs both, and hence we keep good and evil close together. Because we know that too far into the good means the same as too far into evil, we keep them both together.
  • .. nothing disgusts the human animal more than itself.
  • Your seriousnessness leads us to suffer.
  • We are the thousand canals in which everything also flows back again into its origins.
  • I have accepted everything beyond into myself.
  • He who wants to burden others with his baggage is their slave.
  • Happy is he who can be a hermit in his own desert. He survives.
  • No one besides you has your God. He is always with you, yet you see him in others, and thus he is never with you.
  • .. you are alone among men – in the crowd and yet alone. Solitude in multitude – ponder this.
  • My I, you are a barbarian. I want to live with you, therefore I will carry you through an utterly medieval Hell, until you are capable of making living with you bearable. You should be the vessel and womb of life, therefore I shall purify you.
  • The devil always tempts us first through women.
  • I returned to my middle ages where I was still romantic, and there I experienced the adventure.
  • Evil is one-half of the world, one of the two pans of the scale.
  • To live what is right and to let what is false die, that is the art of life.
  • What lies in the middle is truth.
  • It is a murderous task to write the wisdom of real life, particularly if one has committed many years to serious scientific research. What proves to be most difficult is to grasp the playfulness of life (the childish, so to speak).
  • More than ever we require the living truth of the life of the mind, of something capable of providing firm guidance.
  • We know that the ancients spoke to us in images.
  • As long as you know about the dead, you will understand your temptation.
  • If you know what the dead demand, temptation will become the well-spring of your best work, indeed of the work of salvation..
  • Nothing protects you against the chaos other than acceptance.
  • Salvation comes to you from the discarded. Your sun will rise from muddy swamps. Like all others, you are annoyed at the lowest in you because its guise is uglier than the image of yourself that you love.
  • We will take his sickness upon ourselves, and salvation will come to us through our own wounds.
  • You are afraid of the danger, but know that where God is nearest, the danger is greatest.
  • The sun arises from the darkest, dampest, and coldest. The unknowing people of this time only see the one; they never see the other approaching them. But if the one exists, so does the other.
  • “Near is / God, and hard to grasp. / But where danger is, / salvation also grows.”
  • Tame your impatience. Only waiting will help you here.
  • Waiting – I know this word. Hercules also found waiting troublesome when he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.
  • If we accept the other in us, we also evoke the particular stupidity of our nature. Stupidity is one of man’s strange hobbyhorses. There is something divine about it, and yet something of the megalomania of the world, which is why stupidity is really large.
  • Satan crawls out of a dark hole with horns and tail, I pull him out by the hands.
  • Eros is desire, longing, force, exuberance, pleasure, suffering. Where logos is ordering and insistence, Eros dissolution and movement. They are two fundamental psychic powers that form a pair of opposites, each one requiring the other.
  • The fact that she is assigned to him as a daughter indicates a subordination of Eros to Logos.
  • Temptation brings about a further movement toward the side of Eros.
  • He must love his inferiority, even his vices, so that what is degenerate can resume development. Only disobedience against the ruling principle leads out of this condition of undeveloped persistence.
  • Every development leads through the undeveloped, but capable of development.
  • Some would rather abandon themselves to despair than adhere to a worldview completely removed from the well-trodden paths of their habitual behavior.
  • Of course your I is full of unease and doubt, but the constant flame of devotion burns in you more strongly and the compulsion of your fate is more powerful.
  • To attain individuality, we need a large share of death.
  • To him for whom solitude is Heaven, he goes to Heaven; to him for whom it is Hell, he goes to Hell.
  • Whomever does not follow the principium individuationis to its end becomes no God, since he cannot bear individuality.
  • You yourself are a creator of worlds and a created being.
  • Fear Abraxas, who rules over the human world. Accept what he forces upon you, since he is the master of the life of this world and none can escape him.
  • It pleases the one God if the individual lives his own life against the power of Abraxas.
  • Only by living life can you free yourself from it so live it to such a degree that it befits you.
  • In one sense I say to you: do not fear him, do not love him. In another sense I say: fear him, love him. He is the life of the earth; that says enough.


Nicole Krauss…on her writing


Nicole Krauss…on her writing

“The Self is a narrative, a story. In many ways we are captain of those stories, which are expandable. What you thought was pure imagination, actually comes from your life. These characters must come from the same mind, my own mind, so there must be coherence there, and my work as a writer is to find that coherence.”


There must have been some sense that not only was writing a chance to express myself – it’s too easy to express, well, we can ‘express ourselves’ in a conversation like this. I think it was something else, I think I recognized it was a chance to create myself. To actually decide for myself, who I was going to be. And that’s an incredibly exciting idea. It’s radical in a certain sense. Particularly when you’re young, you’re 14 years old, and almost everything in your life is decided for you. Your parents decide, your family, your school. The peer pressure, your friends. There’s this whole world, the cosmos, is pressuring you into a shape. And then you have this blank page and on that page you can decide to become anything and say anything. And you show it to someone or you don’t. And years later, you publish it, or you don’t. But that possibility is absolute freedom as far as you’re willing to go – it’s up to you, right? This chance to become something, to invent yourself, I think for me has always been incredibly enticing, and to this day, it’s probably the most compelling reason to write. But as a writer, I could be an old man at the end of his life. I could be somebody who lives in London.

As I see it, Judaism became something internal and portable. So these moments of radical reinvention of an individual, of a whole people, I guess that’s what moves me most, because I must feel in some way that it isn’t sufficient, it isn’t acceptable to simply inherit the past. To be shaped by it. It’s not fair. How can we live like that? What choice do we have? It seems that we have to have some say in the matter of who we are. And I don’t think that we have a complete say obviously, I’m writing all the time about the burden of inheritance, I guess you might say. I mean, if you think of your own memory, or the memories that are passed down to you from your parents and grandparents, that’s not really what happened – what you remember is not really what happened. You’ve taken this enormous portion of time, however many years you’ve been alive, and you’ve just blacked out huge portions of it that were useless to you, or didn’t quite work, and didn’t fit in with the narrative, but then you chose these moments, you illuminated these moments (very few of them) and you strung them together to create this coherence. And that’s who you are. That’s the story you tell yourself. You’re a fiction writer. We all are, right? But that fiction, is the fiction of the self. This goes back to my idea of writing as the creation of self. I’m sure it’s not only writers who do it – I’m sure it’s not. I think that is how we create who we are. And it’s something a little frightening, but it’s also something, I guess quite empowering. Because then the past isn’t something that lands on your head and that you have to deal with the rest of your life, and just live under the shadow of it. No, you have this imagination, to make something out of it.

In her novel, Great House, Nicole Krauss writes:

“Yes, I believed – perhaps even still believe – that the writer should not be cramped by the possible consequences of her work. She has no duty to earthly accuracy or verisimilitude. She is not an accountant, nor is she required to be something as ridiculous and misguided as a moral compass. In her work the writer is free of laws. But in her life, Your Honor, she is not free.”

Gerhard Richter: “Painting is something completely vital”


Gerhard Richter: “Painting is something completely vital”

[machine translated from the German]

Gerhard Richter in conversation with Doris von Drathen



GR: I’m much less capable than you think.

v. D : To paint?

To talk. I never learned that, it was never my passion, never my ability.

But to write?

This is very rare, when I am alone and in a special mood, then maybe it works sometimes. But talking is difficult.

We only wanted to talk about “simple” things, such as the question of whether the aesthetically analytical discussion about your painting might mask the images themselves and their power. For me, they are painted by someone who believes in pictures.

By faith, that has many sides. Believing in images as believing in God or images so practically, today, with painting rather out, believe that images still make sense. And I’m already convinced of that. We always do pictures, for example with fashion – we put on something, because we believe in it, and thus deliver a picture of us, telling others who and how we are. This is so in all areas that we constantly create images that others can or should understand.

So also the painted –

Certainly more must be done today than it used to be; because there is not much to see on such abstract pictures here. Faith certainly plays a bigger role here. And often it turns out that you believed in something wrong.

Do you believe in your pictures?

There are a few that I like, but I would not want to take the big word “I believe in it.”

Although that would have to be so, why else all the effort?

Sure, I have to believe that I can make something useful. On the other hand, the lust for doing certainly plays a bigger role in painting. Like when someone makes music, there’s no reason to doubt.


That this would be nonsensical or not necessary, passé.

About the fact that this is still feasible, a credible picture?

There are so many credible images in the world, and we love them; we travel far to see her. We need them. And some just need them to produce pictures themselves.

How does this need relate to your earlier claim to seek the greatest possible indifference?

It was more of a protection claim that I was indifferent, that I did not care about anything, and so on. At the time, I was afraid that the pictures would then be too sentimental. In the meantime, it does not bother me to admit that this had something to do with me, that I did not paint so accidentally all the tragic types, the murderers and suicides, failed and so on.

If you look at photo painting, picture atlas, and abstraction as a coherent piece of work, you might see something common in someone trying to figure out how and if to make an appearance.

Might be. But what appearance – how the reality appears, or what appears in the pictures?

I am more concerned with understanding a phenomenon in the sense of Giacometti: The immersion of your pictures seems to me similar to its attempt to catch another piece of reality; or as Sartre describes this delicate boundary between the registers of “there is” and “it exists”.

That’s too difficult for me. Here is the cup, that is there, and it appears, and the photo there, that only shows the glow of the cup.

And the painted picture?


Is the painted picture closer to reality or to appearance?

First of all closer to appearance, but it has more reality than a photo, because a picture itself has more object character, because it is visibly painted by hand, tangible material is made. As a result, it has its own reality, which then virtually replaces the reality of the cup.

Can painted appearance now tell more about reality?

Maybe because he is more irritating; he is always more or less different from reality; that irritates you then ask more.

So more approach?

Yet, our relationship with reality. The cup alone is boring.

I agree. Let’s take the Gulf War.

That’s too difficult.

But we are actually talking about this problem. What do you think of the theories of such philosophers as Baudrillard or Virilio, who observe virtuously the loss of a reference to reality, the disappearance of reality, even an aesthetics of disappearance? what do you think of such essays as Baudrillard’s essay, which probably also appeared in German: “La Guerre du Golf n’a pas eu lieu”?

I do not think so. For not much has changed in comparison to the past, they also knew about hearsis by hearsay, they were told in different ways; that’s the same as television and newspaper today. But sometimes such distant wars are no longer enough for us, and we would like to join in a proper one again. A touch of murder.

I thought, above all, that the theories on the aesthetic question of losing reality might pass completely by the “task” of getting a picture of reality, whether it would not be much more interesting to ask, as in a flooded media world than there is still consciousness that is awake enough to actually work out and react to reality.

So a little war here?

Sometimes without nonsense – do not you think, there is perhaps something like an obligation to grasp reality and act accordingly?

But that is a reality, that we hear the war from hearsay or in front of the television. And then we have other less passive realities, like the ones I have here and now. And for me, this distant, that is indirect, reality is also like an example or an illustration of my behavior or my state of mind. If people are slaughtering out there, it’s not so foreign to me.

Because this is a slaughter for you here in the studio?

Something like that.

Now I can hardly ask what meaning painting still has today for such a task to grasp reality.

It is hard to say that earlier on painting had more effect and more reality, as one sometimes assumes, that it was better understood, more popular, or always visible in churches, for all. But painting today has reality and effect. It is shown and bought and discussed, all with a lot of effort. And as long as the art justifies this effort, that is interesting enough, everything is fine.

It could be that pictures would trigger something like a leap in perception or consciousness, someone would suddenly look different, react to the “face” with more doubt or more commitment. It could be, indifference would be broken up by pictures.

I think that’s possible. But I can not think of anything.

You do not have such wishes?

But – it does not do any good to face such noble tasks. We know what those pictures look like that are well meant.

Kasper König once showed figurative pictures – the cycle October 18, 1977 – and abstract pictures one behind the other, to say that’s the same theme.

That was a good act of his. Nevertheless, that is difficult; figurative pictures are always more attractive than abstract ones. As soon as people or objects are seen, it wakes people more.

In the time of the Gray Pictures, the window, a double board appears, meaning “passage”. I had the idea of ​​sacrificing something, so in the happy “pagan” sense of giving something and getting something for it. Did you feel as if you were leaving something behind, as if you shook off something, wandered off to find something else?

Certainly. And you have to give up something or destroy or scratch away, like this little abstract here.

Let’s stay with the cockroaches. Is this subtraction of color something aggressive?

Yes, but.

That has something to do with injury.

Yes, with injury and with extinguishing what has been done, taking it away again, scratching it away. And then the pleasant feeling that you can get something else for it.

That’s basically the thought of giving up.

That you get something better for it.

In the completely new pictures, cockroaches are even more radical; and it goes hard, down to the bottom of the canvas, which is exposed.


Does that have anything to do with pleasure? It may well be that only doing only satisfied.

First of all yes, but afterwards you see what has become, and you are no longer satisfied. So start again and again, until it’s true then, – it looks pretty simple, somehow managed, as if it were quite easy to produce and easily repeatable. But unfortunately this whole complicated path always has to be gone, which again and again consists of the attempt to paint a painting, to fail, to paint on, and so on.

What about the pictures with the light? In the early abstract paintings, it seems, the light is central, as in the early Renaissance the Gesù Bambino; in contrast, in the series “Forest” or the red series, the light is diffuse, as is light under a water surface. How do you put light, just as intuitive as anything else?

Definitely; I never thought about it. Somehow I start anyway with very bright colors, which are then more and more concealed or prefetched or even be set. But light is the right expression, because these brightnesses also have an illusionistic side.

You once made two eagles for Marcel Broodthaers – what kind of contact did you have, and did you also have to deal with his ideas?

He was an incredibly likeable and fascinating man; We always greeted each other in a friendly way and ate together every now and then – but I still do not understand what he is doing. I like it and I like it.

And the eagles for the “Département des Aigles”?

He had asked me if we trade. That’s how it came.

But you never had an affinity to his ideas.

I have never dealt with it.

The eagles have a lexicon-like non-binding nature like the 48 portraits.

They are also from the dictionary. A lexicon used to have something comforting for me.

Comforting in the sense of limited, controllable?

Yes, neutralized and therefore painless.

And why do you say “earlier”, do you no longer need such comfort today?

He uses up unfortunately.

Looking through your atlas, I always felt that I was about to grasp what system to choose; but then all criteria are wiped away again by new pictures that pop up.

I can not understand that – I thought rather that there is a consistent view, as a fundamental concern that simply exists, whether I want it or not.

Can you even share such a view on your work, in the way that is tried here in the monograph, so to see the pictures as an existential tightrope walk?

I do not know how to describe it.

Would such a viewpoint run completely beside the thing?

No. But how should I say something like that? I can not say I’m doing a tightrope walk here; I’m still hard at the border, one more day, and I’ll kill myself.

What reason is there for continuing to paint?


You ought to have had enough of that by now. So you probably do not believe that seriously.

No – but what else should I do if I question painting?

That’s just it. Why is painting needed? that it is needed, shows yes.

You can not rely on that; that’s like a fashion or what do I know. People believe in painting blindly for a while, and then they wake up like a big dream, realizing that they have just bought nonsense.

But back to “need pictures”. Can they save us? Does painting make us better people?

Generally, yes. Yes.

Is painting perhaps better suited than other media to respond to Sedlmayr’s yearning to find the middle again?

We have long since lost this middle, and it would be quite nonsensical to want to restore it.

But painting is possible and necessary? Necessary, perhaps, to have images in the flood of images of the mass media, which – without falling back into the 19th century – can create distance even under the consideration of the new experiences of virtual worlds; which, as Warburg says, open a “thought-space of prudence” that could possibly make people feel their autonomy?

With such terms as distance and autonomy I have my difficulties, and I also shy away from naming what painting gives us. All I know is that it is useful and important, like music and art in general, that painting is something vital to life.

The conversation was conducted on 4 March 1992.