5/28/2010

a local tour:

Three weeks ago, a librarian's letter mentioning travel reports induced me to take a camera and try a miniature version of such a thing too and see what happens. The tour led to Oerlinghausen, a small town nearby and hometown of the sociologist Niklas Luhmann. It's rough idea was to look into a nice archeological museum in Oerlinghausen I remembered vaguely.

It took just a few minutes to stumble across (and into) the unexpected, an art exhibition in the former synagoge, one of the very few still standing, which you see here with the original windows and woodwork. The jewish community of Oerlinghausen declined in the 1920's when many of it's members emigrated to Brasilia, as I was told, and the synagoge had been given up. The last members of the community had later been deportated by the Nazis. Artist Jens Andres' „Was ich fürchte ist die Gedankenlosigkeit“ (= "What I fear is thoughtlessness") can be taken as admonition. There is a kind of discrete tension building up between the long painting on that motto, the pop-artish "Wut" (= "Hate") between the windows and the mysterious and playfull warning signs in the basement. The town's (unsalaried) art organisation which uses the Synagoge now lists among it's connections an interesting polish art group, making me wonder where to the last communities members were deported to. And if Aichinger's "Man überlebt nicht alles, was man überlebt." (= "You don't survive some of the things you survive") happened here too. Her "Herod's children" and this list tell more.

A struggle with the past is a permanent theme too of the archeological museum you see now, the cause of my trip. Founded 1936 on a site of archeological findings, it became part of the Nazi propaganda business, and tried for decades to get away from that past, finally successfully. Today, it has become one of the best archeological open air museums with excellent didactic program and part of a multinational network of similar initiatives. When it's current director Karl Banghard observes "archeology attracts freaks like garbage attracts flies", this refers to contemporary esoteric and new age scenes and popular pseudo-medieval "militainement" happenings. It's exhibition offers a route from paleolithic times to late middle age, each represented by at least one building and pieces of their reconstructed environments. E.g. you start at a paleolithic summer tent, then two mesolithic huts with mesolithic flora around them. One wonders how one could have survived in such conditions, and if the inhabitants may have been Neandertals, but they were as modern humans as we. BTW, here a tool transforming your facial shapes into a Neandertal one. Aside this neolithic long hut one finds the precursers of modern grains harvested by the Rössen culture then and a small puddle around other vegetables used then are plated. The Rössen culture kept cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, which you don't find in the musem, but the parts of the tour on the Iron, Bronce and middle ages contain retro-breeded cattle too. Roughly at those times, lactose tolerance and skin pigmentation changed. The Iron age part shows a small field with plants cultivated for clothes and it's colouring, it's them who collided with the roman civilization. Rome looked like this, the cultural and military collision is theme here. Chimneys had been invented a millenium later only, what that means you find out when you enter a hut where a cooking fire burns. Here you see Gerhard Kalden in a tent build after one of the rare archeological findings from the mesolithicum ca. 60 m further. The upper parts of the tent are modeled after tents in Sibiria and inner Asia, using ethnography for archeological reconstructions. Equally impressive is this bronce age farm house with context. Unfortunately closed were the early middle age parts of the exhibition, including a reconstruction of Charlemagne's plant garden "capitulare de villis" and several houses, most impressive (an shocking) the "sunken hut". This looks like a weird joke - a house sunken nearly until the roof into the mud whose single room is just cut out of the clay. These horribly unhealthy, cold and wet pits were the working places since stone age until early modern times, since their temparature and humidity fitted manufactoring needs. As substitute for fotos from that, here a beautifull and instructive link on an other medieval issue, a 'Motte' whose reconstruction was organized by Karl Banghard too. A 'Motte' is the real thing behind what you probably imagine as medieval castles, those stone castles dominating the public image are (at best) just late medieval 'Disneyland anticipations' for aristocrates in romantic mood. Obviously, history allways was a kind of Rorschach blob-test on which people project their phantasies and madnesses. Only turning to the traces of the facts and admitting the never ending incompleteness of that business offers hope. The Oerlinghausen museum staff, mostly long time voluntaire participants, complements such exhibitions and reconstructions according to the current state of knowledge (recent news) with a broad spectrum of didactic events, like these workshops or special events focussing on e.g. the romans in this region and their lifestyles. The quality and diversity of the museum's activities make one think at the success of open sourse software like Linux: As there, dedicated amateur enthousiasts create an impressive amount of expertise and turn that into action.

The most lasting impression is about the slowness of progress visible from Rössener culture to early modern times. All the houses in the museum look very similar, aside chimneys entering somewhere the late middle ages and the amazing lifestyle anticipations of Rome. One remembers that even the former chancelor Gerd Schröder grew up in this region of Germany in a clay hut whose interior walls were covered with ice each winter morning. Still, for a shocking part of living mankind, basic issues of living are unsolved, even those ones those neolithic groups somehow managed. The strategic planing pressure on those neolithic must have been huge, errors resulting in famines instead of 'bail outs' as economical leadership counts on today. One wonders too, if "personas" extisted at those times, the closeness of living without a sphere of privacy must have turned group living into a permanent "Big Brother" show. "Alone", a polar researchers biography, describes how painfull transparent and predictable other people become when they live under permanent mutual perception. Organized data collection frenzy today makes cultural achievements like discreetness and privacy risking extinction like some strange butterfly (existentialists would call it horsefly) whose existence looks entirely unbelievable when they are finally gone. An other major difference between our and premodern mindsets surely is the later's lack of an idea of culmulative cultural progress. The direct and permanent experience of nature probably resulted in an intuition of the 2nd main theorem of thermodynamics, acc. to which order and structure - the anti-entropic work of civilization - is possible only as local and temporarily violation of nature's tendency towards chaos. The ancient greeks called the anti-entropic work "nous", the entropic nature "chaos" and the 2nd main theorem "ananke", "chaos" had to be temporarily tricked, coaxed to such an exeptional deviation. Socrates expressed it in Gorgias: "The good is possible only as rescue and getting saved". Christianity's salvation promise later was a theological loophole, but even then thought as a loophole outside the normal course of life. An excellent description of that antique christian way of thinking can be found in the novel "A canticle for Leibowitz" and the brilliant "Dream of Scipio". Only the age of enlightment generalized this motive, by unhinging it from the theological frame, towards our modern idea of permanent progress as natural developmental law of mankind. However, early christianity had a specified goal for it's anti-entropic loophole. Enlightment not. It suffers from a fundamental confusion on the concept of cultural goals: Shall they be thought of in analogy to production procedures, being defined by the result independent from the way to it? Or in analogy to human life, e.g. learning and growing, defined by the process alone? Again, a novel best illustrates the first concept and it's usage: "Ypsilon minus"- The author H.W. Franke, a physicist and sci fi writer, observed N. Luhmann's school of thought whose impact on political, administrative thinking in Germany is hard to overestimate. Luhmann went so far as to exclude human beings as part of modern bureaucratic societies. Acc. to him, the boundary between 'culture' and 'nature' shifted drastically, 'human mind' belonging to the later and goal of quantification, selcetion and mastering like other resources. I prefer an other way to draw distinctions, as 'human mind' being the residue of 'culture', who now is targetted by 'bureaucratic societies' as entropic force aside the old 'naure'. The complexities of this can be seen again in a novel: "Snail on a Slope" by the Strugatskii brothers. The battle between individual and bureaucracy are theme of J. Le Carré's novels, the latest one a slightely fictionalized case study in Hamburg. Earler, the philosopher E. Lévinas analysed this and how entropy infiltrates and corrupts the human mind: "His 'freedom of thoughts' expires silently: The thrust of the enemy forces is a slope. The consciousness of sliding downwords gets lost." (from 'Totalité et Infini', p. 214) Decivilization as global tendency is even theme of research now, indicating (like the new attention to psychoanalytic studies as here, or here) a final loss of belief in the selffullfilling idea of cultural progress.