To Readers Of My Writing Over, Under, Within And From Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia: Reflections From Damaged Life (the Lizard Royalty letter)

The twenty first century imagination is inflamed precisely by people with imaginations that have been worn away. Those who glow with the most colorful nimbus, turned unremittingly to the outside, are entirely sober. Their attraction stems from their lack of consciousness of themselves, indeed the lack of a self at all: Oscar Wilde invented the name of the unenigmatic sphinx for them a century too early (or perhaps too late). We are now meant to resemble our designated pictures: the purer our appearance is, undisturbed by any sort of impulse, the more similar we are to archetypes, infering all individuation is precisely mere appearance while nevertheless disappointing through that, what has become of us.
Our lives can be understood as an illustration or everlasting children’s festival, and such perception does injustice to our needy empirical existence. This was anticipated long ago in the deeply symbolic children’s story “Pole Poppenspaeler.” The Friesian boy falls in love with the little girl, who is traveling with a group from Bavaria. “When I finally turned around, I saw a red dress appear before me; and truly, and truly, it was the little puppet-player; in spite of her tattered clothing she seemed to me to be surrounded by a fairy-tale glow. I gathered up courage and spoke to her: ‘Would you like to take a walk, Lisa?’ She looked at me mistrustfully with her black eyes. ‘Take a walk?’ she repeated at length. ‘Ah, you – you’re the limit!’ ‘Where do you want to go?’ – ‘I wanna to go to the draper’s shop!’ ‘You want to buy a new dress?’ I asked foolishly enough. She laughed out loud. ‘Get out of here! – No, only a little rag!’ ‘Little rag, Lisa?’ – ‘Sure thing! Just some scraps to dress up the doll; costs only a little bit!’ Poverty forces Lisa to limit herself to what is shabby – “rags” – although she herself would be happy if things were otherwise. Misunderstanding, she must mistrust everything as exaggerated, which is not practically justified.
You see, imagination steps too close to poverty in contemporary life. For what is shabby has magic only for the observer. And nevertheless imagination needs poverty, to which it does violence: the happiness, which it clings to, is inscribed with the traits of suffering. In another time and place, Sade named Justine, who falls into one trap of torture after another, our interesting heroine, and even Mignon, in the moment in which she is beaten, the interesting child. The dream princess and the whipping-girl are the same, and they suspected nothing of this. Traces of this are still evident today in the relationship of northern peoples to southern ones: the well-heeled puritan seeks in vain from the brunette of foreign lands, what the course of the world, which the former commands, severs not merely from themselves but above all from the vagrants.
Those who are rooted envy the nomads, the search for fresh pastures, and the green wagon is the house on wheels, whose path is accompanied by stars. Infantility, ensorceled in unplanned movement, the unhappily inconstant, momentary pressure to continue to live, stands for something undistorted, for fulfillment, and yet nevertheless excludes it, similar to the innermost core of self-preservation, from which it pretends to redeem itself. That is the circle of bourgeois longing for what is naive. What is soulless in those who, at the borders of culture, are daily forbidden self-determination, charm and torture at the same time, turns into a phantasmagoria of the soul for the well-heeled, who have learned from culture, to be ashamed of the soul.  It is precisely the expression of the eyes, which is closest to those of an animal – the creaturely expression – which is human, distant from the reflection of the ego. In this twenty first century,  the soul is unquestionably a longing of the soulless for salvation.
jeremy