Sunday, August 17, 2008

There are ideas, and then there are insights

I’ve been thinking about how, when I got into revisionism, I stopped writing. You can see what I mean if you peruse the stories I did in the 1960s and 70s and even into the 80s to those I have done since. During the 1980s attention moved inexorably from watching commonplace and other unlikely events of the day, to being vulnerable to the most inappropriate insights as they occurred in the daily round. I use the word insight rather than idea because, unlike idea, insight appears from a place that cannot be identified and oftentimes cannot be logically defended.

In 1979, after thirty years of absolute belief in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, during the twenty minutes it took me to read Faurisson’s “The Rumor of Auschwitz: the Problem of the Gas Chambers,” I understood I had come face to face with a great taboo, and that the Auschwitz gas chamber story was probably a fraud. This did not rise to the level of an “idea.” I knew nothing about gas chambers at Auschwitz, and nothing about Holocaust. The brain was empty of all that stuff. It was an insight, or “realization.” If the Auschwitz gas chamber stories were true, there would be no need for the taboo that enveloped them. Nothing was thought out. I asked no questions. Pure insight.

Insight appears to come from the meeting of one brain with one culture amid the circumstances of the day. Of course, everything human comes from such as that so what am I saying? My attention has probably been pierced by various insights over the last half century or so. I can recall only a couple. The latest is that to ask those who should know, and who benefit by exploiting the story, the name, with proof, of one person who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz – and here is the insight – that to ask that question is to put the dagger at the throat of American culture as it is held together today.

The image came to me one day last week, during a perfectly normal day. My work, if I am going to be attentive, is to be aware of the circumstances of the moment when the insight drew attention to itself. I was not attentive. I am only now becoming aware that I have been inattentive to the commonplace, unlikely events of the day. And while the language is violent, no “image” appeared with it. I would have to be a very great artist to imagine American culture with a single image.

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