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Savior Indifference

To deprive oneself of an integral part or organ… (is) partially murdering oneself… cutting one’s hair in order to sell it is not altogether free from blame.

– Kant, Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (1785)

Salomo Friedlaener was the architect of Creative Indifference, a philosophical praxis which demands the union of opposites and is exemplified by the use of the absurd. English monoglots will remain somewhat unclear concerning the details until his Die schoepferische Indifferenz (1918), Friedrich Nietzsche. Eine intellektuale Biographie (1911), and the fabulously-titled Kant für Kinder. Fragelehrbuch zum sittlichen Unterricht (1924; English is: ‘Kant for Kids’!) have been translated. Until then, we can read Mynona’s fantastic didactic fables by picking up The Unruly Bridal Bed and Other Grotesques & My Papa and the Maid of Orléans and Other Grotesques, in superb English, courtesy of Mr. W. C. Bamberger.

In his stories, written under the pseudonym ‘Mynona’ (Anonym backwards, as in Anonymous), Friedaener promotes his system by assaulting it with a series of grotesque, pornographic and comic-violent set pieces which collapse inwardly as if each tale has run away from its own reason but will meet it again in some transformed locale. Often, the stories end as abruptly as they start, like a reel of film projected midpoint which quickly runs out. The form is the short sketch influenced by several popular idioms: the prose-poem, fairy tale and hearsay, epigram, newspapers, and the confession (nascent science-fiction and junk Gothic give a giggly, pulp feel throughout). These are disposable formal scraps, best indigested (and Mynona was obsessed with the stomach, bowels, with consuming) on the train or bus, composed for speed and glued onto life in the megalopolis.

The Mynona Effect can be broken down into several obsessions – a few of them:

1) Copernicus has not been properly integrated. Not just the fact that we are not the center of the universe, but the position of the sun as the energetic center of life. The Sun as salvation (the sun-cult should be revived, rationally and poetically; evidence of wandervogel influence, ‘naturalism’). We are still in the Ptolemaic age.

2) Acceptance of Augustine’s dictum Inter faeces et urinam nascimur (“We are born between feces and urine”). But it’s OK! This void reduction is a positive route, if understood as only one common point in the transformation of all radical material. Dung is baked by the sun and returns to it (to the stars, like our dust). We are all equally shit and thus, all equal (Mynona’s tale “Tobias & The Prune’ discharges this concept admirably). Cheerful expectance of this; a divinely comic amor fati, à la Zarathustra.

3) Unity of Hellenized philosophy and ‘rabbinical’ folk-wisdom, perhaps passing through mystic sages such as the Baal Shem Tov (a ‘Jewish modernity’). I suspect this also colors Mynona’s Kant (and his Buddha, if he has one). But this remains a speculative assertion; future Monadic Mynonaists will have to prove it (by refuting it).

4) Unity of biology and technics, usually literally (sentient eco-machines, or us). Profundity of insects, mulch, robotics. Futurism sans nihilism, or a path that the Enlightenment should have taken but didn’t – there was still time for this, it seems – Did Friedlaener/Mynona abandon this path at his sad end? At our sad end: cataclysm of two wars in the springtime of modernity?

5) The old idea of the integration of apparently-antagonistic forces is used like a double-exposure, a half-alchemic process which sucks the networks of logic into strange scenes set in well-known cafes (possible roman à clef, or revenge), secret society lodges, confined city spaces, the bureaucratic or royal milieu, the boulevard boutique. A stamp over a crumpled passport; similar names laid out on a mailbox.

6) Seriality, c.f. Paul Kammerer, Das Gesetz die Serie, 1919. And Relativity.

The school of Mynona sees Modernism as a cosmopolitan garbage heap collected from the detritus of the prior century. Much of this rubble comes from the effects of city planning (Dickens’ curio shop in weekly installments; Chaplin or Berlin-Symphony of a Great City), subsequently projected by the magic lanterns of Mynona’s amateur mad scientists (‘The Boring Wedding Night’ is the closest he comes to a treatise here). Film was the new art form of the time, and the instrument of contradictory accord par excellence, epitomized by the process of editing. The cinema frame in German Expressionism filled with clutter, passages and warrens, costume and tatter, like the sprawl and compost of real life. Thus the junk shop, waxworks, asylum and fantasy-realm were the most profound elements in early cinema.

In Mynona, marriage crops up many times as an obvious enough metaphor for dialectical union, but things always go madly awry and the hapless couple is crushed by all manner of cheap country perversions, anthropomorphism, and busy acrobatic jokes. His creations are constantly gripped by the debris of crazy games (upside-down chess players ‘prove’ that magnetic chess is the next big thing), laboratories run by indescribable machines (the Sun-Savior complex which will end history), mute labor as automaton (animated display manikins in ‘Chorus Mysticus’ who turn to thievery), and the verdant changeling girl of ‘Plant Paternity’ who may be an experiment of her husband’s. Mynona spreads his philosophy through the depiction of failure, but each pratfall is yet another zeroing-out of antinomies. The anti-epic joins with the delirious; the children’s story with the childish games of philosophy, eugenics, bad dream and artifice. There’s a touch of Zen about Mynona (he shares this with his contemporary Mayrink), or at least a Water Margin propelled by Buster Keaton. Finally, an honest prophet.

Friedlaener counted people like Walter Benjamin, Karl Kraus, Kurt Tucholsky and Martin Buber as his friends. Being Jewish and left-wing, he could hardly say the same for the Nazi Party. Or for the United States government: like so many, he was refused entry to the States after fleeing the suburban anti-Semitism of the Brownshirts in ’33 Berlin. He died in poverty in Paris right after the war ended. But thanks to the efforts of capable apostles like Herr Bamberger, he’s returned to mysteriously espouse his philosophy with these vibrant, somewhat agonized, but always highly entertaining tales. Count me as a convert. Long live the Riotous Non-differential! Die Schoepferische Indifferenz zeigt euch den Weg!

Note: Mynona and the great Sun Ra, never in opposition, are joined here.

More articles by:

Martin Billheimer lives in Chicago.

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