without you i’m nothing
November 18, 2008, 12:03 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , ,

When I was in boarding school, we were required to write a letter home before we could sit down for Sunday tea.  It was our ticket in.  We wrote in large cursive and double spaced, repeating ideas, drew a picture, signed, ran downstairs licking postgrams and handed them to our dorm mother presiding over the mid afternoon ritual.

Instruction was given to make it into something more than an empty gesture.  I remember being told to begin each letter by acknowledging and asking after our parents.  It was good form to establish the relationship this way before rushing headlong into descriptions of our weeks as we were prone to do.

I am reading The Other, a short book of essays by Ryszard Kapuscinski a Polish journalist.  In a way the theme of the book is similar to the method we used to write our letters.  And, it’s about what Coromandal is about – crossing the threshold from one place into another, in this case from self to other people.

This quotation is in the introduction to the book.  It is a description of the thinking of one of Kapuscinski’s mentors, Levinas.  L. takes the classic statement of Descartes that has formed the foundation of western civilization – I think therefore I am – and radically subverts it:  in the immortal words of Sandra Bernhardt, without you I am nothing!

’The Other’ was his central topic.  Levinas considered that philosophers were wasting their time on metaphysics and epistemology.  Although he lived in France, the land of Descartes, he did not believe that ‘I think, therefore I am’, but that ‘the self is only possible through the recognition of the Other.’”

~Neal Ascherson, from the Introduction, The Other, Ryszard Kapuscinski

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