Jednak kultura to ani kulturalne, zdaniem pani woźnej, zachowania, ani wydatki państwa na różnego rodzaju przybytki, ale to co stanowi o naszej tożsamości narodowej, przynależności do pewnych tradycji, utożsamiania się z wartościami, czy w przypadku Polaka, do kultury chrześcijańskiej i europejskiej. Oczywiście w jej skład wchodzą dzieła malarzy, rzeźbiarzy, architektów, pisarzy, kompozytorów, filozofów, osiągnięcia naukowców, etos rycerski i wiele, wiele innych rzeczy wchodzących do dziedzictwa materialnego i duchowego zostawionego przez przodków i uzupełnianego przez współczesnych, nawet wywodzących się z innych kultur.
Dlatego też ani 'kulturalne' zachowanie w metrze czy na ulicy, ani zorganizowanie kolejnej wystawy za pieniądze podatników ukazującej dokonania feministek lub podobnej treści spektaklu w budynku zwanym nie wiedzieć czemu 'teatrem' ani z kulturą nie ma nic wspólnego ani nawet do niej nie aspiruje. To pierwsze po prostu należy do dobrego wychowania a drugie do działalności propagandowej.
Te lingwistyczne dywagacje niestety są potrzebne i będą w dalszej kolejności potrzebne, albowiem rozmywanie precyzji języka w wieloznaczeniowości, lub odbieranie znaczeń słowom albo ich zamienianie psuje klarowność myślenie, precyzyjność komunikowania się, piękno języka, wreszcie zabiera narzędzia językowe w próbie określenia siebie i swoich osobistych celów życiowych w ramach tego społeczeństwa które jest środowiskiem życia jednostki.
Kiedy nie wiem co to jest kultura, kiedy widzę chamstwo i prymitywne kpina z polskości albo z wartości w kinie, a mówią mi że to jest coś co zawarte jest w budżecie 'na kulturę', kiedy idę na koncert a i tam to samo, albo i gorzej, kiedy kultura zwą niskie kłanianie się, lub głośne mówienie dzień dobry pani nauczycielce lub burmistrzowi (a nie ugrzecznieniem lub w neutralnych przypadkach grzecznością) to kiedy przychodzi do pytań o kulturę, to nie mam zadowalających odpowiedzi, bo pojęcia nie ma o istocie kultury.
Za Wittgensteinem trzeba powiedzieć: myśl (słowo) kreuje rzeczywistość.
To co nazwałbym kultura polityczną to będzie takie ukierunkowanie myślenia politycznego a następnie takich działań, które mają na celu dbałość o interes narodowy ale nie nacjonalistyczny.
"The writer reading one of Zbigniew Herbert's works. Photo: Craig AbrahamTime to pause. Let the electronic flicker and throes of modern life fade, let the volume die down. Too much reality is passing itself off as reality. It's time to go into a cool, shaded garden, sit on a moss-specked bench and transport oneself to another sphere. It's time to reflect on words.
I speak only of those from one man, Polish writer Zbigniew Herbert, poet, essayist, classicist and humanist.
I am guided here by the recent publication of Herbert's The Collected Prose 1948-1998. It will sit on my bookshelf next to Herbert's Collected Poems 1956-1998, which was published a couple of years ago.
Many believe Herbert, who died in 1998, should sit beside Poland's other recent Nobel Prize winners for Literature, Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Szymborska, as a laureate. As do I.
AdvertisementI once wrote a letter to him, to a vague address, and a message equally so (I merely wanted to thank him as a reader to a writer), only to find that he had died while the letter was en route to Poland. Alas.
Herbert had a rare gift: that after roaming through the ruins of the ancient world, or peering into the present day, he could hold up to the light discoveries of the human that were common to all centuries. He was an archaeologist of the soul. He brought resonance to the dissonance.
I have travelled with him as he describes the spellbinding primitive art in the caves of Lascaux, the Minoan civilisation, the Periclean age, the worlds of the Albigensians, Etruscans and the Romans, the agony of Hamlet, and the follies of tulip addiction in the Netherlands. I have been with him in war's besieged cities, and seen the death of conscience when caught in a conqueror's enslavement.
''I avoid any commentary
I keep a tight hold on my emotions
I write about the facts
only they it seems are appreciated in foreign markets
yet with a certain pride I would like to inform the world
that thanks to the war we have raised a new species of children
our children don't like fairy tales they play at killing
awake and asleep they dream of soup of bread and bones
just like dogs and cats.''
From Herbert's Report from the Besieged City.
Herbert was born in 1924 in Lvov and, in his early 20s fought in the resistance against the Nazis. He was also studying literature. When Hitler was vanquished, the victors became the new masters; Poland came under the yoke of the Soviets — Lvov, in eastern Poland, was swallowed up by the Soviets; it is now part of the Ukraine. Herbert survived by doing many menial jobs while studying philosophy, economics and law at university.
His first book of poems, Chord of Light, did not surface until 1956, when Stalinism had been buried. He spent a lot of his life travelling and living in other parts of Europe such as Germany and France, always though he was writing — poems, dramas, essays. He was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest civilian distinction, posthumously.
In an interview in 1994, just a few years before his death, he said: ''I was born and raised in the Second Polish Republic (1918-39). For me, those 20 years are a yardstick with which I measure all that happened later . . . Life is like knitting, one has to attach the old thread to the new. Before we descend to the grave, the garment should be fit to wear. One has to know what kind of garment it is, which parts of it are poorly made and which are of better quality. It is important to realise that about one's own life, and also about the life of that nation or society in which one's private life was spent.''
In the shade of the garden, with Herbert's freshly printed Collected Prose my companion, I breathed the silence of that world. I could hear the needles knitting. Herbert's literature does that. It takes you to a stillpoint in an ocean of competing cacophonies.
''It seems we are all fascinated by our own exceptionality, by the sense that we live in incomparable times, without analogy to what came before. It is a kind of civilisational narcissism. The past is moving away from us as rapidly as the earth from an interplanetary spaceship. I truly do not know that a humanity liberated from history would not be happy. Perhaps we will be able to build cities without monuments and replace history with sociology, social engineering or something along those lines. And create — horrible dictu — a new man worthy of new times.''
Herbert wrote that 35 years ago — before the internet, before social networking; before the surrendering of the personal to the universe; before we thought that our lives were so important of themselves that everyone else simply had to know about them. Before the instant became the only moment. Before history was history. Is that what we're doing now? Are we, without the specific intention, building the new human for the next millennium?
Three years after WWII, Herbert wondered if poetry had a future. The world had seen the Holocaust and Hiroshima. A bookseller had told him ''almost nobody buys'' poetry ''these days. It's commercial wastepaper''.
''On the way home I wondered, mournfully, are we really seeing the demise of poetry? Is this oldest of literary genres departing to the cemetery of exhausted forms? Forms too diminutive for the coming content? Does emotion lie under the threshold of sensitivity in a person of the atomic age? In spite of everything, poetry exists. Only the whole movement is suspended in air, because a poet's word never becomes a household word.''
It's a telling phrase, ''despite everything . . .'' It's a survivor's call, and prayer.
Can a truth become truer? No, but it can be reinforced. ''History does not know a single example of art or an artist anywhere ever exerting a direct influence on the world's destiny — and from this sad truth follows the conclusion that we should be modest, conscious of our limited role and strength.
''The poet's sphere of action, if he has a serious attitude toward his work, is not the present, by which I mean the current state of socio-political and scientific knowledge, but reality, man's stubborn dialogue with the concrete reality surrounding him, with this stool, with that person, with this time of day — the cultivation of the vanishing capacity for contemplation.''
What is cultivated now from the fields of plenty? We have never been richer, and yet been the poorer for it in reaping the virtues of a quiet life.
Herbert takes you into the neglected, overgrown glades of history. He brings to flesh and blood civilisations that have long passed. He shows, with a sobering, emotional tension, that the dust of fallen empires never really leaves the planet. The wind blows it across borders. It lands on one's shoulders.
He brings into light the essence of humanity, a rough small diamond, that falls into one's hand from the pages of his books. Turn it one way and it reflects the humane, turned another, the inhumane. Both are of the spirit. Both are our history."
The Envoy of Mr Cogito
by Zbigniew Herbert
Go where those others went to the dark boundary
for the golden fleece of nothingness your last prize
go upright among those who are on their knees
among those with their backs turned and those toppled in the dust
you were saved not in order to live
you have little time you must give testimony
be courageous when the mind deceives you be courageous
in the final account only this is important
and let your helpless Anger be like the sea
whenever your hear the voice of the insulted and beaten
let you sister Scorn not leave you
for the informers executioners cowards - they will win
they will go to your funeral with relief will throw a lump of earth
the woodborer will write your smoothed-over biography
and do not forgive truly it is not in your power
to forgive in the name of those betrayed at dawn
beware however of unnecessary pride
keep looking at your clown's face in the mirror
repeat: I was called - weren't there better ones than I
beware of dryness of heart love the morning spring
the bird with an unknown name the winter oak
light on a wall the splendour of the sky
they don't need your warm breath
they are there to say: no one will console you
be vigilant - when the light on the mountains gives the sign- arise and
as long as blood turns in the breast your dark star
repeat old incantations of humanity fables and legends
because this is how you will attain the good you will not attain
repeat great words repeat them stubbornly
like those crossing the desert who perished in the sand
and they will reward you with what they have at hand
with the whip of laughter with murder on a garbage heap
go because only in this way you will be admitted to the company of cold
to the company of your ancestors: Gilgamesh Hector Roland
the defenders of the kingdom without limit and the city of ashes
Be faithful Go
translated by John Carpenter & Bogdana Carpenter