1. i’ve been taking great delight in Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes. He has an overwhelming, inscrutable strangeness which could as easily go for Moriarty.
i feel this is essential to Brett’s Holmes – a coldness, lack of apparent compassion, lack indeed of any ordinary humanity. The character could as easily be a villain: that is part of his power. It’s an odd thing that the great villains of cinema – Brando’s Kurtz, Brian Cox’s Dr Lecter, De Niro’s Jimmy Conway, Ralph Fiennes’ Amon Goeth, Daniel Day-Lewis’ Bill the Butcher, Tom Berenger’s Sgt Barnes, Ian McKellen’s Magneto, Henry Fonda’s Frank, Christopher Walken’s Christopher Walken, Ben Kingsley’s Don Logan, Javier Barden’s Anton Chigurh – often seem strangely more authoritative, stronger, than the heroes. Goeth, Logan, Bill the Butcher, Magneto, and Sgt Barnes are clearly unstable, barely kept in balance by acts of frequent rage, but all the same they outshine all the other characters.
Power is inherently sinister, because it comes from a reality beyond the mundane, the safe, the ordinary. That doesn’t make it, or its wielders, malign – but they will tend to seem so. Even Christ, if you actually read the Gospels, is far from the smiling Sunday School John Lennon fantasy of modern Christianity; he is, rather, inscrutable, unpredictable, given to irony and pessimism and frequent coldness.
This is perhaps one reason i gravitated so readily to the old gods, who are even further from modern Sunday School John Lennon smiling niceness than Christ. They are, in a sense, beyond good and evil: such categories simply don’t apply. And this is why modern Christianity is wrong for those with an instinct for power – it denies the uncanny, the dark and sinister, as if their god could be a tambourine-shaking cartoon.
2. Fifteen years ago, i tried to be good, to eschew rage & violence. At the most i was able to restrain myself from acts of savage aggression. It was only when i began to study magic that i found it easier to forego vengeance – though i still very occasionally indulge, in my weaker moments. i feel that my “pagan” view of things is in some sense truer to reality (or to my reality) and so causes less psychological friction; i now try to go without bloody vengeances because such acts seem petty and pointless, not because i really see anything wrong with my enemies suffering or dying. The power frau student came to the last class with a burn on her arm – from baking power frau Christmas biscuits – i wondered if my irritation had somehow brought this about, and felt no chagrin at all, and would i think feel no remorse if she lost an arm or died (it’s hard to say for sure as i don’t know of anyone dying after incurring my terrible wrath). But she’s far safer from my beyond-good-and-evil present self than she would have been from my trying-desperately-to-be-good younger self. i see nothing really immoral about using magic against such people, and would happily kick her down the stairs were it not for the law, but i feel such acts would be stupid and petty, and as ludicrously wrong-headed as praying to become a reality TV star. The desire to kick her down the stairs isn’t evil – it’s just childish.
3. It is typical of my nature that things often happen in total opposition to my expectations and surface drift. i share an Arbeitsamt (Job Centre) class with a stupid, highly aggressive American anti-MILF teacher. All of our colleagues detest her, and her students likewise. She seems totally oblivious to this and even thinks she’s a great teacher. Unfortunately, she has this class all day Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday morning and Friday afternoon. The students are generally deliriously happy to see me, simply because i’m not her. i try to establish control & rapport immediately, but with this group i also feel a need to buffer them against the anti-MILF; so for example when i’m teaching another group i go in during the break just to say hello and let them joke or bitterly complain about my wretched colleague.
They had a level test last week. i did my usual thorough test preparation, because some of the questions are stupid and ambiguous, and some of the grammar is too hard for their level. After the test (administered by the anti-MILF) the group thanked me, saying i had saved the group from failing. i just smiled, but they became insistent that they would have got about 20-50% less without my help. It’s possible, as the anti-MILF is such a bad teacher that they learn almost nothing with her. A student in her 50s thanked me and, flustered, said she’s terrible at tests and is “blocked” when the anti-MILF is in the room. She waved a hand agitatedly and said it’s some kind of leftover nastiness from her school time long ago.
It’s a strange thing but for all my grammar examples about murder, sex crimes, cocaine, dead prostitutes, etc., most of my students think i’m some kind of caring Jesus figure, to the point where some invite me to dinner etc., and don’t understand that i don’t actually want to socialise with them outside of class, that if i seem all fluffy and wonderful it’s because i take my job seriously and can only do it well if i establish a thorough rapport. My fluffiness is not an illusion, but it can only exist within the structure of my job. Within the class, however, i feel that i occasionally do some kind of good – as, for example, helping those who had such hideous experiences at school that they are easily stunned and shaken by a test, or by a nasty piece of work like my anti-MILF colleague. When one student remarked that i’m so totally different to my aggressive colleague, i replied that i had had such teachers at school and consequently learnt almost nothing till i left, and that in general i don’t derive any satisfaction from inflicting fear and misery upon people.
My students would, i guess, be taken aback to know of my other interests, my lack of goodness, my contempt for the John Lennon happy smiling Sunday School enterprise of modern Christianity and indeed modern culture. i could say that i act not out of any sense of goodness or virtue, but out of power. Power itself impels me, and if one wanted an image for this force it would not be a Disney Jesus with a big friendly grin, but rather the gallows god, cold and inscrutable – and for all that, intensely concerned with human beings and their survival. It is just that we have lost an understanding of the uncanny, of the necessary strangeness of all gods, angels. So Rilke:
Träte der Erzengel jetzt, der gefährliche, hinter den Sternen
eines Schrittes nur nieder und herwärts: hochauf-
schlagend erschlüg uns das eigene Herz.
David Young’s translation:
(If the dangerous archangel
took one step now
down toward us
from behind the stars
rising like thunder
would kill us)