‘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.’1
Hello, fish-eaters and those who don’t eat fish. (I think that covers everyone.) Welcome.
As a rule, I disagree with everything. Then, I look for exceptions.
My name is Tomasz Goetel. In “The Flying Fish”, I write about what bothers me—I air my grievances.
In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.
~Bertolt Brecht, Motto (fragment)
It is possible that, somewhat unconsciously, I might be turning into “an increasingly lonely old man writing for other lonely old men2” and my writing is, as someone said, a call from one solitude to another. But I find that unlikely. The truth, as little as I may know it, is that I write for myself.
I’d like to write about the things that bother me within the things I know about.
What are the things I know a thing or two about? Here are a few:
I know about yoga, yoga teachers, yoga studios (and their decline), some practical aspects of the Gita, and how come I used to say in my yoga teacher training programs that ‘teaching yoga is impossible—that’s why it’s difficult’3
I know about casinos, gambling, and the insanity of playing blackjack (and maybe poker and online poker) for a living;
I might know about a mid-life crisis (and what to do with it so that it turns out to not be a crisis after all);
I am certain that I know how an appendectomy might lead to an unexpected personal reformation: a moral and mental face-turn toward a new goal, a seemingly irreversible metanoia, through which the entire personality is renewed;
I almost exactly know how to stay sane in the grip of today’s lifestylism, healthism, and other -isms. For the sanity, I am grateful to the One from Nazareth who I feel the closest to, despite the “cloud of unknowing” between us, but He will not be mentioned here at all, as well as the girl from Galilee who was told by the angel that a G-d will be in her belly—She will also be un-mentioned. And, it would sound too hubristic to say that my layman’s study of filozofia, psychologia, and teologia (those Polish words are the best) “stands on the shoulders of giants”. Instead, I’d much rather say that I strive to “walk under the nose and breath” of Saint Ivan Illich. I-the beggar, I-the slave, I-the sinner, I-the worthless outcast, Ivan, Ivan’s Hugh of St. Victor, and Ivan’s big nose: there’d be a whole posse, made of us, walking.
About who I am
Give me something to oppose and I will know who I am.
So far, I’ve learned that “I know only that I exist and was born… I exist on the foundation of something that I do not know”, as Jung said.
I’ve learned that I come alive under pressure, in a conflict, and in a combative, accelerating argument—of that, I have no doubt.
Having been born in Poland in the early seventies, I grew up in the loving arms of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Stanisław Lem. Then, years later, after Witkacy, Kieślowski, The Gita, Krishnamurti, O. M. Aivanhov, Philip K. Dick, and Taoist classics had only prepared me, it was C. G. Jung who lifted me out of spiritual adolescence (Dangge, Herr Doktor). I have learned to open my heart afresh (humbly!) to the magnificence of the New Testament of the Holy Bible, and, afterward, I opened (still humbly) my eyes and ears to, in no particular order, Bach, Bosch, Brecht, Chopin, Dalí, The Pixies, von Franz, Weil, Ellul, Laing, Miłosz, Tarantino, Bloy, Guardini, Eliade, Virilio, and Quinzio.4
During my high school years, I was involved as a subject in Asch- as well as Milgram-experiments, which premises and results, when all was done and dusted, were explained to me. I had tested negative in both. I see today in retrospect that I was at that 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.
Also 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.
Table games on casino floors were my university.
Yoga studios were the place of my postgraduate studies.
Thailand’s girlie bars and go-go clubs were the gardens where I smelled the flowers of life.
Switzerland’s collections of icons were the vineyards where I tasted the grapes planted by angels.
More about the writing
Inside me contend
Delight at the apple tree in blossom
And horror at the house-painter’s speeches.
But only the second
Drives me to my desk.
~Bertolt Brecht, Bad Time for Poetry (fragment)
I intend to write in “The Flying Fish”, because, for me, writing has been a necessary way of thinking things through. And thinking has been a way of breathing (or to put it less enigmatically, thinking has been as necessary as breathing)—I can either think or I can drown myself, so to speak. Moreover, I want to find out if a thought can come about because it is necessary—not through my “invention” or my thinking—rather, from the act of writing itself5.
Reading a bit of Freud helped me articulate better one of the questions which I’ve been enjoying asking myself since my teenage years: How can a breathing, thinking writer permit himself to give expression—jokingly, at the minimum—to psychological truths that are severely forbidden6 (as Heine expressed in the quote at the top of this page, for example).
And so I hope to write. And I hope that you will read my stuff and write comments—so that I can find out what you think.
Thanks. I kiss you on the mouth.
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Join the people
Comment, or not. I hope you would. Be part of a group of persons who passionately share your interests. Or, like myself, alone, become a flying fish.
Why the “flying fish”?
A flying fish is an ancient symbol of a simultaneously of-this-world and out-of-this-world creature.
“Exponents of yoga and Indian alchemists fly in the air, they can at will cover vast distances in a few moments. To be able to fly, to have wings, becomes a symbolic formula for transcending human status; the ability to rise into the air indicates access to the ultimate realities. Obviously, there is still a radical distinction, even in the phenomenology of ascents, between religious experience and the technique of the magician; a saint is “rapt” to heaven; yogis, ascetics, magicians, “fly” by their own efforts. But in either case, it is their ascent that sets them apart from the mass of ordinary and uninitiated souls: they can enter the heavens which are impregnated with holiness, and become like gods. Their contact with the starry spaces makes them divine.”7 A yogin must die to this life (submerged in the waters, let’s say) in order to be re-born into liberation (flying, over the waters).
Any human creature inhibits the flesh and bones of the body, he or she recognizes the somatic autonomy and the tangible necessities that come with living in the material world. The human creature also inhabits his or her psyche, hijacked into anxiety and alienation by the technological society and its media. The creature’s sights, however, may be directed by conscious choice, by chance, by the creature’s genius8, or by the grace of G-d, may be set vertically: up, against gravity, toward another plane of existence, another mode of being. The mystical nature of the flying fish implies a rebirth to a non-conditioned, non-technical being. Or, as my teacher Jacques Ellul put it, “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.”9
From Heine, H., Thoughts and Ideas (Gedanken und Einfälle), that is my favorite quote. 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.’
The photo below the quote is a screenshot I took (and photoshopped) of the protagonist in the Australian TV series Mr. Inbetween.
I am borrowing this expression from C. G. Jung, who towards the end of his life used those very words when concluding one of his letters to L. van der Post.
To suit my needs, I bent ‘Teaching literature is impossible; that is why it is difficult.’ Northrop Frye, (1970), The Stubborn Structure, p. 84
Dear G-d, may I please be granted in my fifties more time to spend with Anders, Arendt, Augustine, Blake, and Nietzsche. Amen.
At first, that strange idea of a necessary or needed thought came about from reading a little bit of Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo. Then, I got more clarity from reading an interview with Jean-Luc Nancy, where he said “Une pensée advient parce qu’il la faut, non par l’invention d’un individu.” (A thought comes about because it is needed, not through the invention of an individual.)—here.
I’m either paraphrasing or just not being exact, bending things to my linking, and stealing—I do all those a lot in my thinking and writing. But the original source can be found in Freud, S. (1930), Civilization And Its Discontents. NB, I am not a fan of the old Sigmund, but I’m appreciative of his work nevertheless.
Eliade, M., (1958), Patterns in Comparative Religion
It is Professor Agamben who I’m grateful to for helping me realize that the understanding of the notion of genius lies in the bipolar intimacy between the demonic (in Greek: daimon and in Latin: genio) and the underlying sense of genesis or generation (generare). Etymologically, genius was not only the personification of sexual energy and genesis but also the personal divination of every human being, its origin, and the expression of a human being’s entire existence. The name, genius, used to describe the guardian and the origination that continually co-exists within each human being from the moment of birth. Agamben, G., (2007), Profanations
Ellul, J. (1989), The Presence of the Kingdom