‘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.
My name is Tomasz Goetel. 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)
Perhaps my writing is, as someone said, a call from one solitude to another. It is also possible that, somewhat unconsciously, I might be turning into “an increasingly lonely old man writing for other lonely old men”.2 But I find that unlikely, even though at the core of my being I might be what Paul Valéry said the poet must always be, “un homme très ancien”. The truth, as little as I may know it, is that a poet I am not and 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:
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
casinos, gambling, and the craziness of playing blackjack (and maybe poker and online poker) for a living;
a mid-life crisis (and what to do with it so that it turns out to not be a crisis after all);
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;
Cèsar Millan’s canine psychology and its application, which, in my experience, no dog owner wants to hear about;
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. I am also grateful to the girl from Galilee, the one who was told by an 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.
About who I am
Give me something to oppose and I will know who I am.
Fifty years old so far, “I know only that I exist and was born… I exist on the foundation of something that I do not know”, as Jung said late in his life.
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.
Having had been a bright boy who was sent to school way too early, I grew up in the loving arms of the Polish Roman Catholic Church and Stanisław Lem.4
At fourteen years of age, I was the prinicipal 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.
I’ve learned that I come alive under pressure, in a conflict, and in a combative, accelerating argument—of that, I have no doubt.
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, in a hashish Rausch, I and my best friend together would bend spacetime, temporarily escape gravity, and smell the flowers of life.
Switzerland’s collections of religious icons were the vineyards where I tasted the grapes planted by angels. Standing in awe in front of a Reneissance masterpiece, I found the way to experience a sense of the unity and plenitude of the world.
Where I am
My fate has something to do with the sea and islands; I’ve been partial to Hvar, Hawaii, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Bali, and Phuket—today, I live on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza. I work as a farmer within a privately-owned experimental cultivation of a certain magnificent herb. I’ve been told that the herb was very much enjoyed by Walter Benjamin when he visited Ibiza in 1933. If you’re around, and would like to meet up with me, hit me up.
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.5
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 forbidden (as Heine expressed in the quote at the top of this page, for example).6
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. (And, whatever you think—I’m against it.)
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 dwells in 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, its propagandas, its consuming ideologies. The creature’s sights, however, may be directed by conscious choice, by chance, 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.”8
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.’
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
Then, years later, after Kieślowski, Gurdjieff, The Gita, Krishnamurti, O. M. Aivanhov, Philip K. Dick, The Pixies, 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, my eyes and ears were opened to, in no particular order, Bach, Bosch, Brecht, Chopin, Dalí, von Franz, Weil, Ellul, Laing, Miłosz, Tarantino, Bloy, Guardini, Eliade, Virilio, Kaczynski, Wolniewicz, and Quinzio.
Dear G-d, may I please be granted in my fifties more time to spend with Anders, Arendt, Augustine, Blake, and Nietzsche. Amen.
I’ve learned to speak of ‘thinking’ in the Heideggerian sense of the word—the sense which a jñāna yogin would be no stranger to. As J. Glenn Grey wrote: “For Heidegger thinking is a response on our part to a call which issues from the nature of things, from Being itself. To be able to think does not wholly depend on our will and wish, though much does depend on whether we prepare ourselves to hear that call to think when it comes and respond to it in the appropriate manner. Thinking is determined by that which is to be thought as well as by him who thinks. It involves not only man’s receptivity to Being but also Being’s receptivity to man. (…) Thinking is not so much an act as a way of living or dwelling. (…) Heidegger’s conception of truth as the revealing of what is concealed, in distinction to the theory of truth as correctness or correspondence, is probably his most seminal thought and philosophy’s essential task, as he sees it. The nature of reality and of man is both hidden and revealed; it both appears and withdraws from view, not in turn but concomitantly. Only the thinking that is truly involved, patient, and disciplined by long practice can come to know either the hidden or disclosed character of truth.”
My cultivation of fertile soil (by the means of jñāna yoga, I suppose, combined with St. Ignatius’ of Loyola spiritual exercises) for a ‘necessary or needed thought’, was made more conscious, to me, as I was reading a bit of Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo. Synchronicity took over and, next, I got even more clarity on the very essence of thought from Jean-Luc Nancy, where he said in an interview: “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
Ellul, J. (1989), The Presence of the Kingdom