Skip to content


We watched Polanski’s THE PIANIST last night.

I watched the film obsessively when it first came out, but had no memory at all of the plot; back then I was in a state of such cruel and abject starvation that my whole psyche was taken over by hunger and restraint, and the scenes of Spizlman–by then a skeletal, dull-eyed being of only bone and skin–reduced to a baser animal state by the same crippling force, stumbling through the later scenes was, at the time, overwhelmingly fascinating to whatever conscious shreds of myself remained. I’m not sure why. Regardless, it was strange to screen it from a healthier state, and to remember the fact of my earlier preoccupation without–no matter how hard I try–being able to tap into the subjective.

I get shy about saying this. THE PIANIST is, after all, a film about the
Holocaust, and the torture and genocide one group inflicted upon an innocent
other. My demons were internal, my suffering my selfish own; the fact that the senseless evil portrayed in that film I only relate to via an even shallower evil in myself is embarrassing.

Still, it is humbling how tenuous our humanity is, and how tragically simple it is to shut down that diaphanous portion of being that connects us to some greater and glorious social reality. It might be sick to say but I am glad for having experienced that diminishing–and for having been, as a result, humbled–if bewildered that I cannot remember it subjectively, or first-hand. Of course this makes sense, at least in theory; my ‘I’ had been wholly devoured. Still, it is unnerving to remember, and, even more, to report.

I am not sure why I’m sharing this, aside from that last night was disconcerting, and because I want to reclaim something from those years. Perhaps sharing is the wrong word.

I will never understand myself, much less the world.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thank you for this — reflection? Is that a better word?
    I don’t want to understand the world fully, because that would mean entering those states of being that allow for the worst of human behavior. But as you point out here, our own suffering does allow us to merge with the suffering of others, and there’s a part of us that is grateful for it. I never saw “The Pianist” – Polanski is a director I admire but I have to be careful what I watch; his “Macbeth” disturbed me so much that I can’t think about it, even now.

    October 22, 2010
  2. Dan #

    “I will never understand myself, much less the world.”

    And just so, because you can touch this place, that understanding may be a little closer, an intuitive presence unharmed by what humanity is or is not. I’ve always liked that phrase the Buddha is reported to have said: “Not knowing is closest to the truth.”

    Fire fangled feathers dangle down….

    October 22, 2010
  3. Echoing what you (and Dan) said: I will never understand myself, much less the world. I find myself understanding myself much less as time passes. In another few years, the self might be gone altogether.

    So much can be disconcerting.

    October 29, 2010
  4. Beth: I went and found a copy of Polanski’s Macbeth as a result of this comment (perverse me!) and think it will be the perfect thing to view this Halloween night. Thank you.

    And I met that first note of yours with a flutter of surprise, in that my initial impulse has me (perverse me) wanting to know those states, and for precisely that reason. I have no real logical explanation with which to make an argument for this reaction–I could suggest that perhaps empathizing with our enemies, and those demons in our species, is the first step to peace, but I am not so naive to believe that there are forces that we must protect ourselves, and the undefended, against, and to this end perhaps it’s not helpful to know what it’s like to be them–but it’s what comes up first in me. It’s strange.

    Dan: I’d never heard that phrase; how beautiful! Thank you for coming by, and for offering up the voice of your own unknown.

    Kathy: Yes, and yes, and a few years? My own self is too tied to the frailty of my body to be that trusted; one speeding bus and that would be that. So much can be disconcerting.

    October 31, 2010

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s