Long for ignorance

Ignorance does not protect against culture

Some time ago, a cultural organizer said that it was not uncommon for him to hear quality announcements such as “Let me in Ruah with da culture”. Nowadays dialect rhymes can be mistrusted with concern. This would be just as if we humans could do without air, we shouldn't even talk about love.

We need them, the air and the culture. We have it around and in us, the culture and the air. If we want to or not. But it makes a big difference whether we are aware of the culture, our cultures. We live it every day in colorful diversity, whether as a food culture, high culture or subculture. We, Austrians, sometimes indulge in the culture of drinking without restraint. We can cultivate a culture of discourse or interaction, nudism is also one and the accumulation of small cells that are not visible to the naked eye forms a bacterial culture. I do not want to strain the concept of the welcoming culture that gives rise to departure centers here. Ignorance does not protect against culture.

But what exactly is it, the culture of which there are so many? From a strictly physical point of view, we humans consist of spaces that are filled with a lot of water. There is nothing between us but life-sustaining air. I consciously exclude the emotional level. So our solidity is an illusion. The outside confronts the inside, acts on the inside outwards, causes, forces change, at best reminds us to consciously take a breath in order to come to ourselves and to be able to think clearly. “To think positively means not to think!” Is one of Ilse Aichinger's favorite sentences. Which does not mean that one should not think positively, but that one should face the whole unadorned world thinking in order to ultimately be able to set off to good new opportunities in a well-tuned way. With care, there is also thinking in it. How courage is encompassed in impertinence in order not to forget this immensely important virtue, solely because of humility, which is nothing other than courage to serve. Serving the human being, the togetherness. And here we are back to culture.

One of the basic characteristics of culture is the ability to change, the ability to change and expand. “If everything is to stay the way it is, everything has to change,” wrote the Principe of Lampedusa, the Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. When we move we should be aware of the ground we come from, on which we live. Culture has a lot to do with soil. And if our stability is an illusion, then culture is that intermediate land in which we find orientation. In my case - and I'm probably not the only one who shares this - this country has long been primeval populated by ingredients such as incense, waltz, fork, spoon and knife, Greek wine from Udo Jürgens and Grünen Veltliner from Burgenland, Bruckner's sound cathedrals and box sets by Thomas Bernhard, church towers in every village, square farms, cider or energy drinks lending wings, which I don't like any more than songs from the Musikantenstadl, but it doesn't help. They belong to us, but don't need to be heard.

We live in a former multi-ethnic state between the magic flute and Mozart balls, lakes and granite hills, highways with an enormous number of rest stops where coffee and croissants are offered. Typically Austrian, isn't it? Let me remind you of the Turkish sieges that brought us coffee, the “Abduction from the Seraglio” or the unmistakable sound of our beloved brass music: Tschinelle, triangle and drum come from the Janissaries. That is true folk culture and appropriation is a cultural strategy.

How is our culture doing? What about tolerance, which is ultimately a transit virtue? For the time being, tolerance requires us to put up with what we are reluctant to do. And tolerance can only be an intermediate state, towards really getting close or even to staying away. That all sounds very exhausting, raises questions just to be sure for moments. Culture is shaped by our roots. Where we come from. But it is also the unknown, changing country we are going to. We shape them ourselves, shape them for ourselves. The questions that art raises, the old, like the old, new or the new, are a longing space of indefinite geography, as much as it is often located. Is it this place where we keep regaining consciousness? Where we delect ourselves and where we can be irritated? There is knowledge in consciousness! I wish for a culture as an open field on which winds blow from all directions and origins, which bring us into and out of the concept, keep us alive. A field in which one question follows the next, answers can be opened up as possibilities. A space of possibility, which is above all a space of possible impossibilities. I am well aware that our origins determine us in many ways, also give us reason, support and established value patterns that we are not always aware of. The Habsburg monarchy was more than a hundred years behind us Austrians. And yet hierarchical thinking and obedience have remained almost untouched in our country, just ask a councilor or a professor. With all due respect, let's ask ourselves why we get up from our seats at ceremonies when the leaders of our state move in? The memory of the bygone culture and its habits is persistent, it sits in our bones like a kind of primordial DNA. How Bruckner's organ playing is burned into the walls of St. Florian's Basilica: what was once audible is completely silent. Culture can sometimes be heard silently. Unculture, however, rarely has a volume limit. We need more self-awareness that leeway is necessary for the intangible, the questionable, the wonderful, the weird, the entertaining, the drowsy and the rousing. Freezing makes us cramped and suspiciously secure. We need the cultural spaces for the experiment, the unpredictable, the impossible that amazes, bores or irritates us. In this room in particular we feel a connection with the familiar and the unfamiliar. Culture is a field of empathy when we really step into it. To enter means to deal with it, to sit down, to get involved and to be questioned: an awareness in the open. Places of respectful and uninhibited discourse are little established oases in our latitudes. In this country we love praise and exaggeration, otherwise people quickly react with insults of majesty. I long for a culture of curiosity. Our steadfastness may be an illusion and yet we need a commitment that clings to ourselves and to each other, in amazement or in powerlessness, at home or abroad. Culture is a space of possibility and awareness. We need this changeable solid ground to break into the present, in which the status quo is a challenge. Anyone who asks questions without having known the answer for a long time is most likely to be on the trail of us and thus us. Culture is that which is next to, in between, above, below and in. Ask about it and you will experience it over and over again.

Culture needs change and adaptation. With this in mind, the salon rooms have changed, refined, refreshed and have new lighting in the summer. Let's ask ourselves endless questions together again in the Kepler Salon, because the will to know protects against lack of culture!

Click here for the website of the Kepler Salon.