I landed in Berlin just as Rich Davis had but twenty hours left in Germany, but made good on my promise to see the the Rhineland with him still in it. The language guesswork is a blast. I’m terrible at speaking this language though. Can’t get five words out without tripping over a declension. Tried to hold a conversation with a Palestinian clerk at a doner shop here, and only walked away with the wisdom that “George Bush is an asshole.” I like Berlin; and feel welcome in the atmosphere of the Powerzone that Rich and Ramsey occupy, along with Mario, Tamara and Brent.
Ramsey and I made LED hypnogrids today, which we will one day use to enslave an army of housemice. I walked down Frankfurter Allee nach Alexanderplatz, and putzed around in stores, where real live vocabulary is just laying all over the place. Berlin’s more of a pitstop though. I’m leaving the 8th for Napoli, some place I’m sure is my spiritual homeland and mecca, probably just from associations with the visionary Renaissance martyr Giordano Bruno and from stories I heard about goats falling from the sky there. For whatever reason, despite my relatively unsuperstitious, nonsuperstitious, substitious nature, I still get tingles and hunches that bolster my belief in weird affinities with people long dead and buried.
Giordano Bruno is one of those people; a person whose prose and biography give off, for me, the afterglow of lived experience. Bruno was the great humanist martyr of the late Renaissance, burned at the stake by the Roman Inquisition in the nice round year of 1600 AD. He’s diificult to explain outside of the idea that he was a radical— or rhapsodic— humanist, whose philosophical revelations came in moments of divine mania, and whose life was lived to the last without a grain of self-doubt. He was the first to proclaim the New Science of Copernicus—first even before Copernicus, who sheepishly insisted that his view of the universe was only a “mathematical expediency.” He was even the first to proclaim the existence of other worlds, or galaxies, or universes— but his reasons were anything but scientific. They were instead, poetic. He imagined a universe of infinite worlds, where all possibilities could play out; peopled by beings of totally upside-down customs, under different gods, seeing different colors. We now call these worlds “Southeast Asia.”
And though he was a Catholic, a Platonist, and a metaphysician, I think it was in a very special sense, the sense that metaphysics should take: constructing a metaphysics that is taken poetically, presenting as breathtaking metaphors and rethinks, even at odds with mundane experiences in order to challenge your largest possible frame of reference. I think the same could be done with Leibniz, who as far as I can tell, is neither wrong or right on anything. I don’t know how to even incorporate monads or infinite harmony enough to challenge or accept them. It’s best to think about him providing an alternate fundamental picture, something that should be continually assaulted, even if the alternate is from someone who thinks they have an unassailable foundation.
Bruno did it best, talking like mad about outsizing God, about ushering humanity into a new dawn, about the shadows of ideas, about weird proto-pragmatist ideas in weird proto-Whitman prose. Anyway, I feel Napoli is charged with his spirit ( he was born and raised nearby in the little town of Nola). More so than in il Campo di Fiori in Rome, where he met his end, with a bolt through his tongue. Okay, nighty night, I’m going to try to read comics— Die Fantastischen Vier— auf Deutsch (meaning I’m going to look at some pictures)…
II. Die Welt Als Spielplatz.I crashlanded into bed last night, after an overdriven dance-a-thon in a little store/gallery with Ramsey, Tamara, Mario, Brent, and a roof-raising little 2-year-old named Lödde (whom Mario even taught to highfive). Woke up today and made out on bicycle, toward West Berlin, and had a superful day. Saw Tiergarten, Charlottenburg, Kreuzberg, while still avoiding most of the busherds clicking pictures in front of the Reichstag. The best was a piece of public art on the intersection of Kreiststrasse and An de Urania; a giant, black, upside-down arch, maybe three feet wide, with legs rising fifty feet into the air. I dismounted the moment it caught my eye, and went running up the transition until friction gave; then slid all the way down on my back and dusted myself off for a repeat. After five times, I had Germans taking snapshots and a few other kids trying it, screaming “Es macht viel Spass it’s so much fun! Or more literally, and more precisely, it makes so much fun. Fun is made. Almost in some sort of chemical exchange between us and the sculpture.
Not two blocks from that magic I encountered a miniature Communist parade, and asked “Kann ich mitkommen?” Waved in, I got a tenblock, trafficfree escort through the West by the Berlin Polizei. It’s nice to know that even though I am an American, and in many ways a capitalist, I am still scuzzy enough for a thumbs-up from die Jungkommunisten or however. Other tourists were filming us, as megaphones rocketlaunched words against Faschismus and Kapitalismus into the parted crowd…
Playgrounds are my favorite points-of-interest in any city, foreign or domestic. For me, they determine real quality of life issues. And, as someone who considers freeplay the highest faculty of Man, they serve as apt philosophical models for a more general approach to the world. Berlin seems to have some winners, despite the weird frowns I get from the Teutons and the dressings-down I get in the subway that “this is not for the gymnastics.” Word from on high says there are ziplines and ropewebs in the Tiergarten, making it my number one destination either tomorrow or tonight. Vocationally, I would do well as a playground inspector or theorist; grading arrangements on their balancing of “suggestion” with “openess.” That is, arousing the desire for use without dictating what, specifically, that use might be. Probably the same criteria I would set to any architectural setting: how do they encourage activity without dictating it? and how is energy and flow engineered? and how much does it cost to enter? or is there a way to sneak in? or how is fun made?
The fact that playgrounds are usually not adult destinations is both sad and telling. Evidence that we, as a civilization, still have so far to go, that the upward curve that begins at birth most often plateaus. The natural syllogism is that if playgrounds are for children, the real world should be treated as a playground by grown-ups— grown-ups who seek the asymptote of the upward-curve. That’s syllogism. Logically valid, but wholly untrue.
The evening saw Ramsey, Johannes, and I meeting up at a lesbian bar (we presume) to see some friends on the turntables. Not too long in, Ramsey and I were already dancing tabletop like a pair of goons. The formula is simple: two, maybe three people, can easily create silly partyzone forcefields provided they have either no self-censure, self-control, or self-respect. One of the three. It’s better even against a background of unamused armcrossers, especially in New York, because it doubles the forces involved. The best tonight was the three Turkish gentlemen who were bobbing their heads and cruising for babes in that place. This is dedication and courage. Men made of sterner stuff.