Friday 6 January 2012

"There are many ways in which the thing I am trying in vain to say may be tried in vain to be said"

I'm grateful to Ranulph Glanville for highlighting this wonderful phrase that Samuel Beckett wrote in Bram van Velde in 1965. Ranulph raised it at the Heinz von Foerster congress in Vienna, and on googling it now, I see him quoting it in an equally interesting paper on the self and distinction-making: see

In his talk in Vienna, however, Glanville discussed the family relationships (and family resemblances) that took shape in early 20th century Vienna, and (in particular, because it was the theme of his talk) how Heinz von Foerster related to those developments: rubbing shoulders with the Wittgensteins, Schoenbergs, Freuds, Kraus, etc. It never ceases to amaze me how certain places at certain times in history become the place. Of course, Vienna was getting 'second wind' after its previous (largely musical) high in the 19th century, but other examples include Paris around 1910, restoration London, and so on. In cybernetics, the Tavistock institute seemed to be something of a Mecca after the war... so much management theory, systems theory and psychoanalysis seemed to migrate there with the Freud's move to Hamstead.

There's something about place. There's something about 'home'... and something about the communities which live there... where a large number of people feel mutual attachments to each other, to the environment.

But maybe it's not just place. As I think of Ranulph's talk, I'm also thinking about the musical extract he played of music by a relatively unknown Viennese composer called Josef Hauer (you can hear his music here: Josef Matthias Hauer – Tanz Op. 10). Music makes me feel at home. In fact, so does religion.. I felt more at home in Ras Al Khaimah on discovering a Catholic church (an unlikely discovery there!).

So what is it about 'home' and having a 'home'? Maybe the question is "what is it about a home that we can leave it?" That may be a more interesting question because my attachment to music (and to religion) took place in a place at some point in time and space. In my mind I can go back there without having to physically go back there. What did the place do to me that I can do that?

I'll find the Newman quote on this (I saw it yesterday in an article on the University by Edward Said), but paraphrasing, I think what we gain through attachments early in life is knowledge. What knowledge gives is the ability to see meaning in new surroundings.. where perception gives rise to an idea. That means (and I've said this before, I think) that attachment is fundamental to learning. Education is not instrumental; it is about love.

Strangely (in this rather strange blog post), I have been listening to Joseph Hauer's music on a track in Spotify, which was directly followed by a fascinating interview with Walter Gropius on the foundation of the Bauhaus. If you have time, it's worth giving it some careful attention! see Walter Gropius – On the Origins of the Bauhaus

1 comment:

Bauhausblog said...

The Bauhaus by Walter Gropius and I think it's good that it is well known internationally. Do not forget the Masters' Houses by Walter Gropius, who are also in Dessau.