memory’s paradox


According to Karl Barth, a paradox is a statement “that is not made via dóxa, via ‘appearance’, but is to be understood parà tin dóxan, i.e. contrary to what the appearance as such seems to say, in order to be understood at all.”[1] Remembering and forgetting are deeply paradox human capabilities. A heightened capacity for remembering holds the promise of extended human access to the past, hence increased human sovereignty. At the same time, however, it is tied to the oppressive growth of the burden of the past, which hovers over the living like a nightmare. The burden of the past can, in turn, only be cast off through the development and cultivation of the opposite of remembrance, the ability to forget. The more we remember and thereby seemingly extend our power, the more are we in need of its opposite ability, forgetting. Forgetfulness ceases to be a fault – as it is generally understood – and becomes, as Nietzsche says, an “active, strictly speaking positive, capacity for restraint”. We need it like a “gatekeeper”, an “keeper of the order of the soul, calmness, etiquette”.

more from Helmut König at Eurozine here.