I am an ordinary man. ‘Mine is a most peaceable disposition. My wishes are: a humble cottage with a thatched roof, but a good bed, good food, the freshest milk and butter, flowers before my window, and a few fine trees before my door; and if God wants to make my happiness complete, he will grant me the joy of seeing some six or seven of my enemies hanging from those trees. Before their death I shall, moved in my heart, forgive them all the wrong they did me in their lifetime. One must, it is true, forgive one’s enemies—but not before they have been hanged.’
Hello, fish-eaters and those who don’t eat fish. (I think that covers everyone.) Welcome.
In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.
~Bertolt Brecht, Motto (fragment)
My name is Tomasz Goetel. I write about what bothers me—I air my grievances.
If you would like to contact me, please send an email.
I write because I have to think
In my writing, may the Good Lord please not allow me to become that kind of writer who a philosopher ironically called a “beautiful soul”—the one who denounces chaos present in the world while forgetting to include himself in it. (Wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death? For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.)
I intend to write in “The Flying Fish” firstly because, for me, writing has been necessary for thinking things. And, on a good day, perhaps thinking things through—either to their or my own limit.
What is thinking? Don Miguel de Unamuno, in The Tragic Sense of Life, answers that question the following way: “We think articulately—i.e., reflectively—thanks to articulate language, and this language arose out of the need of communicating our thought to our neighbours. To think is to talk with oneself, and each one of us talks with himself, thanks to our having had to talk with one another”.
When it comes to language, were I free to paraphrase a little something Karl Kraus gave me as an aphorism, I would say that my language is the common prostitute that I intend to turn into a virgin—isn’t that a lofty goal?
But at the end of the day, this is simpler: I can either think or I can drown myself. Thinking is a way of breathing. Or to put it less enigmatically, thinking is as necessary as breathing.
I write for myself. But a few years ago, I wrote and published a small book for yoga teachers and everyone who speaks for a living, you can see more about that book if you want to. (As a two-year project called Save Me From Ruin, I also edited and published over 40 books, usually in both paperback nd electronic versions, from the public domain. Among those books, the bestseller has been Joyce’s Ulysses.)
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Comment on my posts, or not (I hope you would). Or, like me, read quietly, read alone.
“Ryba po polsku”
Please notice that within “The Flying Fish”, there’s “Ryba po polsku” (a tab, at the top menu) where I write posts in the Polish language.
“Is yoga dead?”
There’s also another tab above at the top menu: “Yoga varia”. There, I will be asking whether yoga is dead because I’ve noticed a ghost called ‘online yoga’ that haunts the internet, in limbo. I have other yoga-related questions, too, and I muse about those over there in a separate category of posts.
I was born in a country that ceased to be. Known in Polish vernacular as “PRL” (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa), the communist Polish Peoples’ Republic was the predecessor of today’s Republic of Poland.
I grew up in the loving arms of the Polish Roman Catholic Church and Stanisław Lem.
As a boy, I was probably rather strongly synesthetic or ideasthetic or both. I probably rather strongly still am. (Those used to be my secrets, you know, but I don’t care anymore.)
At fourteen years of age, I was the principal subject in the reproduction of the Asch experiment, which premise and result, when all was done and dusted, were explained to me. I had “tested negative”. I can see today, in retrospect, that I was at that very time shaped for years to come to become and remain a person who is sensitive to both conformity and authority even more than is a slave to his natural endowment with a disagreeable personality.
In high school, I was no longer willing to put my hand up to be allowed to go to the bathroom. I decided I had no choice but to become my own teacher.
Having had left my parents’ home as soon as I had reached the legal drinking age, I left my home country when the obligatory-at-the-time military service started knocking on my door. Leaving Poland was not the only option; the two other possible ways of avoiding the military two-step included putting myself in front of a commission falsely declaring myself a homosexual, or going to university. Both options were equally unthinkable to me as they belonged to the “I’d rather die” category. My guardian angel, who I call a genius, had me pack a suitcase and run away instead, and, at first, I found a hiding place in Moscow of the early 90s where I worked in casinos run by gangsters, to make my way to the Caribbean afterward. I never returned to live in Poland again—an emigrant for life, a drifter whose wife is a drifter’s life.
For fifteen years, from Moscow to Miami, table games on casino floors were my university. I went to work at roulette tables the same way other young men go to work on oil rigs. And just as they did, I made small fortunes and never learned to keep them.
For twenty years, yoga mats in yoga studios were the place of my postgraduate studies.
For a decade, Thailand’s girlie bars and go-go clubs were secret gardens where, in a hashish Rausch, I’d bend spacetime, temporarily escape gravity, and smell the flowers of life.
During a long winter a few years ago, I got lost among Switzerland’s masterpiece collections of religious icons—those were the vineyards where I tasted the grapes planted by little genial angels of metanoia and anamnesis. Suddenly, I found myself back at the feet of The One From Nazareth where I laid as a boy. Now on my fiftieth birthday, I want to stand with the Christian Faith. In, if you don’t mind hearing a word that one doesn’t hear very often, impecuniosity.
Where I am
My fate has something to do with the sea and islands; I’ve been partial to Hvar, Hawaii, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Key West, Sint Maarten, Bali, West Java, and Phuket.
Today, I live on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza.
I work as a farmer in privately-owned experimental cultivation of a certain magnificent herb.
If you’re on the island, and would like to meet up with me, via email hit me up.
Why the “flying fish”?
I see a flying fish as an ancient symbol of a simultaneously of-this-world and out-of-this-world creature. The flying fish is simultaneously real and unreal, she is a paradox, an absurd, an oxymoron, a metaphor—and I relate to the possibility of being all those myself.
As my teacher Jacques Ellul tells me, “If the Christian is necessarily in the world, he is not of it. This means that his thought, his life, and his heart are not controlled by the world, and do not depend on the world, for they belong to another Master.”
From Heine, H., Thoughts and Ideas (Gedanken und Einfälle), that is my favorite quote. For you German lovers out there, here’s the original: ‘Ich habe die friedlichste Gesinnung. Meine Wünsche sind: eine bescheidene Hütte, ein Strohdach, aber ein gutes Beet, gutes Essen, Milch und Butter, sehr frisch, vor dem Fenster Blumen, vor der Tür einige schöne Bäume, und wenn der liebe Gott mich ganz glücklich machen will, läßt er mich die Freude erleben, daß an diesen Bäumen etwa sechs bis sieben meiner Feinde aufgehängt werden. Mit gerührtem Herzen werde ich ihnen vor ihrem Tode alle Unbill verzeihen, die sie mir im Leben zugefügt — Ja, man muß seinen Feinden verzeihen, aber nicht früher, als bis sie gehenkt worden.’
Alas, the making of that Heine quotation as my favorite is nothing but an attempt at wit. In seriousness, I must say that I found Vladimir Jankélévitch’s writing on forgiveness to be enlightening. To him, and now me, too, the topic of forgiveness is important because it concerns the broader problem of how to respond to injustice and evil. Jankélévitch holds that true forgiveness must involve a real relation with another person and that forgiveness is a spontaneous, supernatural, and gracious act. “The will can do all—except one thing: undo that which it has done. The power of undoing is of another order: of the order of grace, if you will. It is a miracle.” (…) “Forgiveness itself forgives in one fell swoop and in a single, indivisible elan, and it pardons undividedly; in a single, radical, and incomprehensible movement, forgiveness effaces all, sweeps away all, and forgets all. In one blink of an eye, forgiveness makes a tabula rasa of the past, and this miracle is for forgiveness as simple as saying hello and good evening.” I’ve learned to admire Jankélévitch’s work very, very much.
“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”—Matthew 12:36—37, KJV.
Moreover, what applies to me is this: “To think, to think seriously philosophically and still more to think religiously, is to exist in thought. (…) Something confronts me. In thought, I struggle with it for its truth. But it is thereby that I also struggle with myself, for my truth”, as Romano Guardini writes in Pascal For Our Time (1966).
Isn’t, then, the thought process itself a religious act?
I’ve been told that the herb was very much enjoyed by Walter Benjamin when he visited Ibiza in 1933 in order to undertake a review of his life while he lowered his necessities of existence to a “minimum that could hardly be lowered any further”—both of which I am busy with at the moment. “I pluck flowers on the brink of subsistence”, Benjamin said when he was here. I find it funny that Benjamin stayed in San Antonio, not far from where our plantation has been. Another favorite person of mine named Cormac McCarthy also came to Ibiza in the late 1960s to mend his broken heart… Well, I’m pleased to follow in the footsteps of the greats.
Ellul, J., The Presence of the Kingdom, (1989).