Paul Klee, 1915
This evening, I was returning from Hengelo in the far east of the Netherlands, when a report came through on the train’s tannoy. It was to the effect that a suitcase had been found at Hilversum Railway Station, and the police thought to treat it as a bomb threat. (Had they been told to, I wonder?)
,,We zijn superalert op dit moment en nemen dus een melding van een achtergelaten tas in de trein heel serieus.’’ [We are super-alert and so take this incident of a forgotten suitcase very seriously.] Obviously, the Police are in as much of a panic here in the Netherlands as the poor Police of Brussels after someone suggested to them that there was a terrorist threat.
Threats, not terrorists, not bombs. This must be remembered, subconscious fears do extra-ordinary things to a person’s mind when it comes to supposed threats (1). It’s as if the imagination is let loose to imagine every worst-scenario possibility imaginable.
Anyway, the train I was on was diverted via Zwolle and thence to Amserdam via another route. All of which meant that I had to change trains to take one that would end at Amersfoort, the station just before Hilversum.
So why am I beginning this essay with a thought from Paul Klee, that on the face of it, has nothing to do with bomb threats? Yet his statement about modern, abstract art, is in fact the key to understanding our modern, abstract thinking. After all, abstract art wouldn’t exist without abstract thinking, would it? The two are one and the same thing – and abstract thinkers have as easy a time of communicating with those around them as do their paintings.
Quite as importantly, the abstract thinker is only happy when they are in the company of those who agree with them. The abstract painter is only happy in the company of those who like his paintings.
In both cases it matters not a jot if their interpretations are totally different: neither of them are in possession of the ability to express what they really think… which is as good a reason for them not wanting to express their own ideas to their friends. What we have here is a situation where the person is limiting themselves, so as to protect them from what their so-called friends might think.
Because if they ever did express themselves to their friends, they’d discover that their friends think very different thoughts to the ones they do. But this is the reason people like living a life that is barely awake. It leads to a situation where fear rules their lives.
Paul Klee’s Warning.
When Paul Klee realized that ‘‘The more horrifying the world, the more abstract becomes the art’’, he gave us all the keys to understand the challenges the intellectual mind faces. Because any abstraction – that is to say, distancing – from reality is the direct result of trauma. That is to say, someone was horrified by the things they saw around them. Not surprising in a world where cities like Stuttgart have a six–lane highway between the main railway station and the high street shops. I didn’t like it in the eighties, and I don’t like it now. But this is our modern world, and a person’s repulsion of it is the very thing that creates more of it.
This essay is being written in a mood of sadness. Because the world didn’t have to be like this. If, after the horrors of the First World War, we have another hundred years as a species, I will be more than surprised. After all, if someone is repelled by the things they witness in our industrialized world, and that very repulsion leads to more abstract thinking (which is to say, more technology), what kind of future do you imagine us having?
The only happy people are those with dementia.
Rudolf Steiner was clear on the point that the First World War was a cataclysm, and we are going to see it unfold before our eyes within our lifetime. If you have any doubt of this, please remember that the Pacific salmon and sardine fisheries are both extinguished. We can live without salmon, and we can live without sardines on our plates, but we cannot expect to have anything on our plates if we continue to pollute the world in the way we are doing today.
Without food, we are dust.
So What’s All This About Suitcases?
The point I wish to establish in this essay is the result of a hundred years of horror on our societies. Seen through the lenses of modern art, we have become so abstracted that the painters themselves don’t know what they’re saying. To them, ‘‘it’s just nice colours’’ or ‘‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’’. What fucking nonsense! Yet the authorities buy this crap, both conceptually and in a manner where they can hang the paint splattered canvases on their walls.
But underlying this is the real danger. These authorities – and our society at large – is unable to discern what is (and what is not) reality. They are unable to tell if a lost suitcasse belongs to a terrorist or an unhappy passenger – after all, what is the likelihood of a terrorist bomb in a suitcase? The problem is that such people who work in the authorities can only make a decision for themselves when they have evidence.
So I’ll put it the other way around: if a person needs evidence to make a decision, the one thing they cannot do is make decisions for themselves! After all, evidence is a human construct (2) and is part and parcel of abstracting oneself from reality.
Indeed, so what. So I want to describe to you what is going on when people are told that there are bombs everywhere, or that they are alluded to. It will create panic. Because panic is a direct result of not being able to deal with reality of a situation one is faced with – and without anybody to tell you what to do. In this instance, the authorities look at the surface of the suitcase and were helpless to do anything about it. All they could do was to imagine the worst… and being unable to deal with the suitcase, they shut down the entire railway line instead!
When faced with a folorn suitcase, all they could do is the three-year old option: to over-react and wet their pants in panic.
I will explain: if you need evidence to make a decision – or any form of guidance – you won’t be able to make a decision without it. The experience is of complete and utter helplessness. It is the fear of this state of affairs that keeps people on the straight and narrow, enjoying being told what to think and do. Not unreasonable in the circumstances, don’t you think?
But these circumstances would not exist if we all lived our lives with a teaspoon–full of reality every day.
Which is why I am sad. The War continued after July 1916, and despite a few super–weapons in the hands of the Germans, they wasted them on propaganda exercises instead of sorting out Britain’s shaky supply lines to the continent. But the Americans would have thought of an excuse to have another war, just as they did in reality.
(1) In my post entitled ‘‘Milena Sees Witchcraft Everywhere’’, I describe a soul who is so pained by what she saw around her that it was all horrible witchcraft. Even little dollies.
(2) My post ‘‘Facts Do Not Grow On Trees’’ deals with the nature of evidence.