cooking for the beloved, for the stranger soon to become your guest, soon to become your friend, soon to become your mirror, cooking for the stranger soon to take his leave, soon to forget you but to remember, maybe, the smell of your fresh bread in one summer afternoon. the hand opening in the simple, the simplest and oldest of all gestures of mankind: offering food to the other. I look at the kanjis and see their stories and hear their voices. I show Olga the old drawings from which the kanjis originated. soon, she wants me to stop: 'it is too strange, I feel like I am in those ten-thousand-year old caves right now, I am afraid'. but I am not afraid. my hand, my hand now, holding the brush and hesitantly retracing the lines which compose the image of 'ai', love:
my hand feels the wave of ancient blood raising through it, brushing centuries aways, my hand repeats, re-lives, re-enacts the trembling of the first hand carving the strokes in the darkness. consciousness emerges, for the first time, in the naming of the world, at the fusion point between I and object. in the drawing, the nascent self and the other are one. and the drawing tells me what I already know: it shows 'heart/feelings' and 'a person kneeling at a table with head turned', indicating that they are unable to eat any more. thus the feeling of giving food to a person till they become satiated. that was the essence of love in the ten-thousand-year-old eyes, that was the song of love as carved in stone by the ten-thousand-year-old hand.
If you survey the years / from Ur to El Alamein / say where the truth appears, the poet asks in his search for the Cabbala, the Black Stone. By sun and water told / but what hour is meant? the poet asks in his search for the time before time, the time beyond time. but the answer is here. every time a hand carefully dips the brush in ink and draws the first stroke of ai on the blank paper, every time a hand offers food, the world is born again and its being glows with love. the ritual of love celebrated, all over again.
the poet mourns the loss of that first time. he mourns the loss of the first hand trembling, the loss of the fresh being of the world emerging in the first drawing, he mourns the I becoming forsaken, the bread which once feeded all men :
World thought to bits. Space and the ages,
And what mankind groped for as guide,
Infinities are now their gauges ―
The myth has lied.
Oh, when all wholely to one center tended
And all mankind from that one wound seemed welling,
Breaking the bread that each one might partake―
Oh distant hour, fulfilling and compelling,
That even the forsaken did not forsake.
(The Forsaken I)
[Gottfried Benn's quotes in original, and I should add that I am not happy at all with the translation, but then again, it is almost impossible to translate this:
Überblickt man die Jahre
von Ur bis El Alamein,
wo lag denn nun das Wahre ...
Wasser- und Sonnenuhren -
welche Stunde gemeint?
Die Welt zerdacht. Und Raum und Zeiten
und was die Menschheit wob und wog,
Funktion nur von Unendlichkeiten ―
die Mythe log.
Ach, als sich alle einer Mitte neigten
Und alle rannen aus der einen Wunde,
brachen das Brot, das jeglicher genoβ―
o ferne zwingende erfüllte Stunde,
die einst auch das verlorne Ich umschloβ]