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Groin Gazing

17.09.14
6 min
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It’s a way of seeing. I recall what you said about the American Apparel Ad, the staging of men in position usually occupied by women, its seeming unworkability – which arises from the strangeness of seeing men occupy a position that is not theirs, so to speak. This and in a way what you say of Gambia is a reason I detest a certain kind of “feminist,” whose notion of liberation means women positioning men in ways long occupied by women.
That is to say, the legitimization (by women) of women as bitches. In response to the deliberate invisibility of the female gaze, yes, I do think that male and female erotic responses to visual stimuli are culturally conditioned. What you say about your mother and her friends reminds me of a story my mother told me some time ago: The first time she set eyes on my father’s village champion wrestler. (My mother is from the coast, so the concept of half-naked men engaged in wrestling was alien to her.) She was twenty and newly-married. What a sight he cut: His loin-cloth barely covering his heavy buttocks, and the women of the village chanting praises a safe distance behind.
So, yes, I think Kinsey’s female non-erotic response to visual stimuli is not biological. I want to pursue Gambia a bit further. To challenge my preconception, if I accept prostitution as an act of violence a woman commits against herself for material gain, am I merely reconfirming a mindset? Do I see male prostitutes in this light? Is male prostitution also an irreparable damage, an irreversible destruction of a human body? Are male and female commercial sex the same thing? I think it’s safe to say that with both male and female prostitution, men and women are both mauled by the reduction of sexuality and sexual fulfillment to having as many orgasms as often as possible.
Part of the thrill of commercial sex, at least for men who use the services of female prostitutes, is the power play. Is there, I wonder, a transfer of power to these women who go to Gambia during the sexual encounter? This takes me back to Milbrath’s photos and how men and women are sexually positioned: Is it about what could be done to this male body, or what this body could do to them – for these pleasure-seeking European women? In what way does the fact that, historically, men have held a sexual dominance affect our perception of male prostitutes? Is not our general perception of men in society one of power, domination?
Do we ever look at these Gambian males as being exploited by the European women – because of their material circumstances – the same way we’d look if they were female? I find it really interesting, your experience in Gambia, your use of market terminology. In a market driven society, form is usually passed off as content. Since naked cash is the sole nexus between individuals, what common ground could exist between men and women except as buyers and sellers? Again, on the legitimization by women of themselves as bitches. Does the availability of commercial male bodies – in strip clubs and the Gambia – signify the arrival of equality, liberation?
I can understand why the male strip club did not work for you, the same way commercial male sex did not. Neither signified liberation, but rather a buying into ugly reality. They do not in any way challenge our reality. I do wonder, however, to reference the Völkerschauen, if a modified version of it is enacted on the beaches of Gambia and Mombassa. It seems to me, these sex tourists who come to the Gambia are more comfortable with black males they can lead around with an invisible leash and make to perform. (I find what you say about the Völkerschauen really interesting.) It is possible to agree with Freud – in reference to your comments about the cliche of the female need to shroud herself with darkness, her need to hide her desire – that every sexual act is “a process in which four persons are involved.”
One can extend this to also include the preconceptions about ourselves and each other both sexes bring to the act. The one responds to the other – during the act – not truthfully, but according to his/her own externally-imposed preconception. Identity is constructed from birth. It is safe to say that, distance tend to develop between women and their body. This distance is culturally constructed. In a way, I think this is expressed by the myth of Immaculate Conception: the construction of female sexuality in reproductive terms – to exclude the vagina and clitoris.
A woman, what is she? A womb, an ovary. As an aside, I’m thinking of Jamie McCartney’s The Great Wall of Vagina. To what extent does it speak to female shame to never go down there?
It is possible that to the traditionalist-minded, McCartney’s images (so unlike the astonishing leveling out of uniqueness in porn’s designer vaginas), from the most intimate world of women, which had always remained hidden from the eyes of women themselves is an excursion to the dark side of art. A person can either submit to this imposed identity, or seek to reconstruct herself on her own terms, to resist all attacks against her sense of self. (It must be said, however, that easy access to male flesh – on ‘female terms’ – and the staging of the male body does not in anyway constitute resistance to attacks against self.)
With Milbrath, there’s no attempt to go beyond the surface, to look beyond stereotype. There’s, in this gaze, no questioning. My reality of being male is not validated by mainstream imaginings of men. I’d managed to hang on to my own sense of self all through the crisis of adolescence and the pressures to conform. It is for this reason I make my male protagonists deliberately feminine. (The most powerful men are men who are not afraid to be feminine. Machismo is cover for insecurity.) I’d translated my discontent into new images with which I seek to undermine conventional perceptions of black male sexuality. For me, it’s not just the sex. I particularly like the shared silence, the talking, and the taking breaks, the nonsexual caresses.
I like that it is not just the sex. The commodification of love expresses itself in the fetishization of sex, that is, sex stripped of its human quality, stripped of tenderness. To accept this is to accommodate oneself to a life without beauty.

Alexine Sammut
People

Alexine loves patterns. She makes patterns that soften the world’s inherent hardness. It and she are a subtle solution to problems that you were only vaguely aware of only until it all becomes very clear. Her and the patterns are about joy in the end. You can sink in or bounce softly back on your feet as she does.

On Love

14.09.14
2 min
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Which would mean that “lover” is an abstract term that can be applied to very different circumstances. It would cover the intimate moment in the cinema with the daughter and the glimpse of a woman passing you on the street, the movement of a body, a strain of hair, cheekbones, it can be the wife or the husband in a sexual way that goes beyond the routine of marriage, it can be the exception of the rule or just the foolish notion that you can break free from the limitations of time and life, for this one moment, for this one night, it can be a story you like to believe in or a cat or even a tree. There is a liberating aspect to this interpretation of the word “lover”. It ignores any preconditions of what may or may not be appropriate, it ignores the limitations of love which is defined by sex and opens it up to this at the same time. It all comes down to one word, a contradiction, I would still claim, because really it is more a wish than a real possibility: intimacy. There is always a boundary that seperates you from one another. Love might in the end always be self-love, which might not even be a problem. Everything else might be a delusion. You get something from loving but not really what you expect or want. You get something from being loved but not necessarily what you are looking for. In a way “lover” could thus be an ideal state of mind. It is more about the idea of love and less about its physical manifestation. It is about a sensual connection to the world, about listening and looking. To be a lover means to be in the world.

Groin Gazing

13.09.14
7 min
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I like your first remark, it makes me think of how situations and subjects become invisible by our preconceptions. So, even though they exist in real life they are doomed not to matter. I have no doubt that women were always gazing and desiring men. They were just not encouraged to do so. The female gaze was made invisible and a deliberate blind spot of society, in order to uphold hierarchies about who was empowered to desire and herewith control the other sex. But the “blind spots” of my own gaze got awfully clear to me, once when I was traveling through Gambia. Gambia has a reputation now of European women seeking male prostitutes.
When I was there about ten years ago, I was approached by men in that way but I couldn’t see myself as a customer of people who prostitute themselves. I didn’t understand the signs. It took me a while before I actually got that they wanted me to be their “sugar mommy.”
It was all very confusing. To understand that these men could see me as a customer of their bodies, their sexuality and somehow also of their integrity, was very alien to me. Because I never learned in our culture that I could buy a man. It reminds me of an article I wrote years ago for a daily newspaper in Germany about my experience in a strip show by men for women.
The whole event didn’t work out for me, because I was turned off: I felt awkward due to how staged that seemed. It was so clearly trying to create a market niche where women cheer at men’s bodies. There was nothing liberating about it, quite the contrary: instead of trying something new, it just copied a vulgar Ibiza-style. I couldn’t enjoy it, because my enjoyment would clearly buy into an ugly consumerism.
On the other hand my mother told me that she attended a Chippendale show with some girlfriends. She comes from a generation where this gazing was not permitted and encouraged (even though, of course, it took place among her girlfriends. My mother actually told me that she enjoyed going out with her girl-gang checking out boys much more than actually having a boyfriend). So her experience had an air of liberation and equality, instead of oppression and corruption. I enjoyed listening to her experience.
But that is, of course, just one side of the story. I think you are right with your observations on the Völkerschau: I want to add that, as Joshua Kwesi Aikins emphasizes in his research, the Völkerschau stopped in the 1940s not because they were seen as inhuman, but because some participants undertook some actions which were just too subversive for the German audiences:
E.g. some Africans compared the “tribal” dances they had to perform to the “tribal” dances in Germany – the Schuhplattler, some wore suits instead of “traditional tribal costumes” (which were, as well as the dances, of course, totally made up from German exhibitors’ imagination) – and, here it comes, looked back at the German audience with a lorgnette, an instrument which symbolizes sophistication, civilization and the arts.
All this exposed the vulgar racism of the Völkerschauen which thus could not pretend to be the climax of civilization. Africans looking back with a lorgnette put themselves in a position of higher culture than the Whites who rather behaved like going to a fairground attraction.
That, by the way, is a story totally ignored by the German history canon, where Africans – if they are acknowledged as victims of oppression at all – are hardly represented with their agenda and subjectivity. That also played into my confusion about Gambian male sexworkers.
I remember one night where a man in Gambia offered me his service and when I friendly declined he said, we could also make love without the penis. I found that offer quite remarkable and was wondering if it was something he liked personally or if this offer was accustomed to European clients of his sexwork, who want to be assured that the offered service is directed – with a focus on the clitoris rather than her vagina – at her pleasure.
As an assurance not to be penetrated by a man who might turn out to be selfish. Of course, it could also mean he thought that Europeans were scared of STDs. But also in relation to colonialism, poverty and sexwork, I find it very powerful when you say, through its myths, an image of male and female sexuality was produced that deprives sexuality of its humanity, because you indicate how the way we learned to gaze defines also our action and relation to each other.
A classic cliche is that women tell men to switch out the light when they have sex. She is too ashamed to be all exposed for the man to see her flaws (thus she perceives herself that she has to be the perfect object of his desire) and see her excitement about him.
Because she looks needy and horny, she is afraid that her arousal looks ridiculous to him. The act that is supposed to be about total pleasure and melting into each other, lust and togetherness is forbidden, she is stuck in her own self-consciousness. So, watching my boyfriend under the shower is an attempt to connect to him, maybe as an attempt to create true intimacy, when we overcame his shame.
And here, as well as with my experience with the male sexworker, we also come back to your question “Is a non-erect penis not part of male eroticism?” A question I really liked very much. It is the eroticism of expectation, surprise, exposure, the absence of danger or force, as well as the intimate honesty and care of someone who cannot “perform”.
A non-erect penis is an offer of intimacy without the force of a man’s will, exploring each other’s body, without the need of penetration (and thus avoiding the possibility of the man to totally take over, which is by the way exactly the point of a particular debate about rape: a woman’s NO has to be respected at all points of an ongoing sexual encounter, even if she consented in the beginning, for the man might turn out during the play to be selfish or rude or violent).
A non-erect penis can be an offer for more time and space and sometimes depth in a sexual encounter for there is no need for a specific play and an orgasm. Also it is the aftermath, the cuddling and warmth after sex, when we lie in bed all wet and happy.
And that also is a quality feminist porn has in store. It is much more diverse, than just focusing on the male body for a female audience. It also includes a lot of signifiers for women to feel safe and not objectified, for example, they show the use of condoms and the play with the clitoris.
The models don’t have to represent unrealistic beauty standards, it’s not too clean and sterile, and often transcend strict gender signifiers, utilizing imagery we didn’t expect. It’s about having fun and not being objects. It gives space for non-standard sex. Often the actors are being interviewed so you learn about their perspectives, why they like what they do.
This enables a whole turnaround of the cage of the clear-cut images of women being “taken” by men. Like my friend Bini Adamczak came up with the term circumclusion instead of “being penetrated”. It emphasizes a perspective of activity and sovereignty by women. A women circumcludes a penis.

Über Bayern

12.09.14
4 min
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Raphael, first of all, welcome to this exploring journey alongside the Bayern Munich team. I expect this season 14/15 to become the most important in the club’s recent history. Two reasons: The biggest factor for the team’s international rise since 2010 with appearances in three out of four Champions League Finals, winning in 2013, winning the Club Teams World Champions and the European Supercup, has gone – the legendary and uncomparable successful Uli Hoeneß has left Bayern, unfortunately because of some tax-trouble. Secondly: Pep Guardiola, in consequence of this, has taken control over the sportive branding of the Bayern Munich style of football, it seems. But what is his approach after a nearly satisfying first year, winning both national titles with Bayern, the Championship and the Cup?
Hoeneß always follows the idea of collecting the best German players and – ever since 2008 – enhance them with outstanding internationals like Luca Toni, Ribéry, Robben, Thiago, now Lewandowsky. Simple idea, hard to implement. The massive influence of Bayern Munich players during the World Cup that ended with an epic victory over Argentine in the final, proved Hoeneß right.
Pep Guardiola again has his very specific view on football. He reflects on the perfect length of the grass on the pitch, the beauty of the game, and he demands a pushy offensive, ball-possessing, best vertical, preferably one-two-touch football-concept. His philosophy, his taste for a three-defender-chain, a many-legged midfield without a true striker, is favored as the cherry on the cake of modern concept-football. Perfect for Barca. But perfect for Bayern, who broke the Barca-Code in their Champions League Campaign 2013? Thus far the Guardiola-Bayern have neglected the importance of Plan B: a more defense basic order, when needed. Real Madrid took advantage of that problem when it beats Bayern in both of the Champions League Semi-finals last season. I believe, if Guardiola won’t adjust to the unique qualities the Bayern Squad has always shown in controlling a match based on defensive order and resistance, he will not be as successful as he could be.
What confused me after the season’s start three weeks ago with a fishy draw at Champions League participant Schalke is the transfer-politics of late August. Guardiola tried to convince his loyal leader for many Barca years, Xavi, to follow him to Munich. Xavi rejected Guardiola’s plea, as he doesn’t ever want to fight against Barca. So, next step for Guardiola and the Bayern management was to sign Xabi Alonso. Xavi and Alonso played successfully together, as very diffferent, complementary players. What does this tell us about the strategic direction of the “new” Bayern Munich team? Alonso stands for more defensive controll in a traditional way. At the same time Guardiola is further experimenting with a three-defender-line, although he obviously is lacking the players for this experiment, first of all Martínez, and he, so far, isn’t counting on Badstuber, who can give structure to the game’s layout.
Still, there is plenty of injured worldclass missing such as Martínez, Thiago, Schweinsteiger. Still there is worldclass that has to be kissed alive such as Götze. Already I can say, that Dante is facing his last season with Bayern, as Benatia has not been bought for 30 Million Euros as an additional force. I believe, that Lahm is better the best rightback in football’s presence than a Guardiola-solider in the rear midfield, responsible for the buildup. There is worldclass all around, but I can’t see it clearly now. I wouldn’t even care about many spanish players and coaches, Spanish fitness-supervisers and personal advisers that Guardiola needs to know in his back. I care about, if any of those, who are in charge instead of Hoeneß, either Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Karl Hopfner (new President und Chairman of the Board) or Pep Guardiola, if these people will go as one: with the same future-agenda of what Bayern Munich should stand for – as a Club, as a team, as a system. Rummenigge is on the decisive middle-position in this triangle of power. If he serves the balls well, Bayern Munich will create something!

Über Bayern

12.09.14
1 min
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Christopher, how do you see this Bayern team one month into the new season? I have rarely been less sure about their prospects, I have to confess. Not necessarily in the sense that they will be bad – they can’t be, not with that squad – but in terms of just how good they actually are or could be in a few months time. What do you think?

Raphael Honigstein
People

The first time I remember seeing Raphael Honigstein in his role as Raphael Honigstein was in the early nineties in Munich, it was at a concert of De La Soul where the Stereo MCs might or might not have been the opening act and might or might not been the reason why we were all there, and Raphael was wearing a soccer jersey. It might have been green, this soccer jersey, and it might have belonged to an English club. Then again: Is there an English club with green jerseys? You see, this was the time before soccer became a universal pop culture, it was the time when pop itself was still a pop culture and educated people spent a lot of time discussing the distinctions of this sneaker versus that. Raphael was good at that, too. But he moved on. He went to London about a million years ago when, it seems, Damian Hirst was still young and the battle between Blur and Oasis had just been resolved one way or another. These were the nineties, mind you, a presumably boring decade that turned out to have been really fun. What brought Raphael to London? I am not sure. Maybe it was a huntch, maybe, as is his talent, in taste, music, dressing, he knew of the things to come. All I know is: When I met him over tea in London in 2013, soccer had become much more than a huge business, it had become one of the defining cultural codes of our time. And Raphael was at the center of it. There is power and there is money in this game now. Raphael is aware of that, and he likes it. It made him into the Raphael Honigstein of today: He writes about soccer for the Guardian, he tweets to his many knowing followers he is an expert on TV. But most of all, he is still a fan, like me, of his home town team: Bayern Munich. When we met over the years at various games in Madrid or London, Bayern was still, it seemed, an underdog. This has changed. But, I wonder, will this last? And, Raphael, what is next?

Christopher Keil
People

I always wonder how a brain works that can unfold a long-past game of soccer as if it were a christmas present from which layer after layer are torn off and then put back on, and if the question arises which color the right corner of the interior wrapping had been, the answer is without hesitation: red. This is how Christopher’s brain works. I might be good at reading books, he definitely knows how to read games, how to recount them and reconstruct them after thoroughly analyzing them. It is a historiographical wonder, the blur that a game of soccer becomes almost instantly, but certainly after it is over and months and years have passed, and the clarity that Christopher brings to it, the way each player moved, how he should have moved, could have moved. He remembers games not only how they were but also how they could have been. That is the poetic beauty of the speculative approach to watching soccer. There is an epic dimension to how he views the game, a knowledge of the minutiae and details, Philipp Lahm 2010 versus 2014 or the problems of Toni Kroos when he needs to be a leader – and from this he creates the scenario of an ideal game to which he compares what has really taken place. It is phantastic, we went to London, Madrid, Barcelona and Milan together, we talked about games we both had seen, and all I remembered was the red, white and blue of the emblem of Bayern Munich, not even the face of one of the players involved, and for Christopher it was like he had the whole game on his mind as if it were on youtube. With Christopher, soccer becomes something else, it can be an occasion for friendship, a reading of the world or a work-out for the mind. Unfortunately, he stopped writing about soccer a few years ago. For us, he is doing it again.

On Love

12.09.14
3 min
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Yes, we never know what the other one truly feels, which makes me want to talk about rejection, but yet there’s another question I’d like you to answer first: What – to you – makes us lovers? You sat there as lovers, you wrote… There was only one time I remember to have been in a cinema with a young girl, not my daughter, and yet that day had something to do with Love. It was back in the late nineties. I had come to spend my vacation in Split, Croatia, my first longer stay after the war. Our family apartment was rented by two student girls, siblings – chatty, noisy, enchanting young ladies… I had to stay with them and had a gigglish time. Until one day their little sister came to visit. She was almost ten years younger then my two summer room-mates, the same beautiful features but darker hair and temperament. Unlike her sisters, she didn’t like to giggle around and though the youngest of the three she felt the oldest to me. One night the two of us went to the movies. “Titanic”, the kind of Industry Love you would certainly consider responsible for disasters in certain people’s lives… We didn’t sit there as lovers, but like big sister and small sister with two unreasonably happy sisters in between that we were not missing at all at that particular movie night… We left the cinema after the titanic had sunk, walked to the oceanside, the old city’s riviera; those big white ships were still entering and leaving the harbor… I noticed she wasn’t watching them but looking at the island she comes from: “Do you think it’s possible to love somebody you actually never really talked to”, she said. I didn’t know. But I knew she needed an answer that wouldn’t disturb her belief in something she obviously needed to believe in. “Yes, sure”, I said – in a way I even convinced myself. She came up with a story about an old widower who she had been visiting for years, cleaning his house, helping him out with cooking, sitting next to him… This year her family refused to let her. Obviously, in the eyes of some people in charge, this year she had turned into a girl and an old man’s company seemed inappropriate. She herself didn’t know yet. “Could it be that you love someone“, she asked, “just because you love to go there and clean his house.” Yes, I said, and she talked all the way home… When we got back to the apartment she turned into the silent deep girl-kid she had been the days before. Her questioning, while staring at the island, had made me write a story on what I thought was her kind of love – years later. A decade later, she was a young woman, we met again. We did our smalltalk and then, when I felt it was time, I dared to ask whether she remembers we went to the movies when she was a girl… “Sure”, she said… “And do you remember you told me that story about this old man you went to visit and…” She looked at me as if she had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with it… Where does our memory place love?

Partial Recall: Kilimanjaro

10.09.14
8 min
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You have to cast the iron while it’s hot, they say. Supposedly that also applies to memories: write them down or crystallize them in some other form while they’re still fresh. Well, I beg to differ. In most cases, it actually makes more sense to pause and let the retrospective dust settle (provided you take your ginkgo regularly) before making any judgments. Because from a distance, you will see much more clearly what stands out and deserves to be remembered and what is just white noise sloshing through your brain. The issue is particularly relevant when it comes to so called “events”. By that I mean all things that lend themselves to a narrative format – weddings, accidents, conflicts at work, shopping sprees, fist fights, nights out, romantic encounters and, finally, vacations. The latter are the worst because in most cases nobody cares about them anyway. Which is not surprising considering that most narratives of a vacation start with A (“I really wasn’t sure what to pack, so I took everything”) and end with Z (“When we got home, the letterbox was full with birth announcements”). What happens in between is usually told in excruciating, unfiltered detail that makes you want to jump out of the window. Incidentally, I went on a trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro back in July and have been torn ever since about what to make of my experiences there. On the one hand, quite a few people were genuinely interested to read about them and probably consider me a chronic procrastinator by now. On the other hand, I wanted to spare them the aggravation of a proper travelogue. Hence I decided to do what’s most appropriate, considering the circumstances: wait, let the dust settle, have things take shape and share a few select observations that really stuck with me. Walking the walk – Needless to say, it takes a lot of walking to get to the peak: through rain forest, marshlands and vast expanses of alpine stone desert, on trails and barely recognizable paths, over roots, boulders and ice. I was with my friend N., so we talked a lot, especially in the beginning, in order to get to know our guides and the other helpers. That’s fun. But there’s only that much to say when you walk eight to fourteen hours a day. So you have a lot of time to think. Strangely, that didn’t occur to me right away. In fact, it took a conscious effort to realize that my mind was engaged in thoughts. But once you realize you’re thinking, the question becomes: what are you actually thinking about? It’s an odd question in a way, and yet it’s not. Because this is not the focused, problem-solving type of thinking. It’s the random and incoherent type that resembles a thunderstorm of neurons firing ideas, pictures and faces with breathtaking speed. That’s why I have a hard time reconstructing what went through my head during the days of the ascent. There might have been things like: what do you want to change in your life and how? What’s important? What are you capable of? When are you going to wear that snazzy new suit that’s hanging in your closet unused? How have you failed yourself and others? Hell, aren’t you a great guy anyway? Who and what do you care about? Who do you want to be? The long stretches of silence when climbing a mountain seem perfect for pondering these big philosophical questions, but they don’t seem to produce anything tangible. The mind flies off on one tangent and then another and then the next one – they’re loosely related in the sense that they’re the result of all the eclectic information that has been accumulating in your head over time, but ultimately disconnected. You think, but sub-consciously rather than actively, and that’s a distraction. The guides are keenly aware of the volatile nature of the mind, because what they advise you to do is the opposite of thinking. They make you follow a rigorous daily routine and focus on the immediately following activity, the upcoming steep ascent, the next meal. It’s a difficult challenge for the mentally restless but useful and necessary. The further you progress, the greater the effects of the altitude and the less connected you feel to what’s below. Hence the mind tends to wander even more. Above 3500 meters, you look down at the immense cloud blanket and get an intense sense of remoteness. However, the “escape” that one hopes for is an illusion – it’s a transitory phenomenon and it takes a lot of effort to maintain it for more than a few hours at a time. It disappears as soon as you catch yourself – thinking. Hemingway – I always wanted to read “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” on Mount Kilimanjaro. Ok, that’s a lie. But I did it anyway. Bundled up in my all seasons sleeping bag and equipped with a headlight, it took me about half an hour to breeze through the 25 pages of Hemingway’s short story. It always struck me as odd that two dozen pages can be considered a famous author’s finest work. Reading them on the exact mountain that so prominently features in the title, disappointingly, didn’t help to prove that point, because the mountain doesn’t matter. It is one of many ways in which the story defies expectations – that is actually one of its greatest and most disturbing qualities. Kilimanjaro is a supporting act in the plot at best, an extra at worst. It is a looming, mysterious presence that acts as a gateway to the afterlife. Except for its whiteness, the physical properties of the mountain aren’t even mentioned. What makes is difficult to appreciate “The Snows” is its desolate and dark tone. Here we are, witnessing a cynical, alcoholic writer die from a rotting leg, raving about his swashbuckling yet wasted life and raving at the “rich bitch” wife at his side. And although there is a spark of hope for salvation in the end, it turns out to be he last illusion before the lights go out. That said, it’s remarkable what depth or character Hemingway manages to achieve in the space of a short story. Not only do we learn about a destructive relationship and the inner life of a jaded character, but that character takes us on a ride through the Austrian Alps, the Hotel Crillon in Paris, the shores of Palm Beach, Constantinople, where “he had whored the whole time”, and to the front lines of World War I. Interestingly, he also proves my earlier point: “You kept from thinking and it was all marvelous.” Summit – You have to earn the summit attempt on the four preceding days. What you get in return is a surreal experience enhanced by some pain. We left base camp at 4700 meters around midnight to make the steep ascent to the crater rim 1000 meters higher up in complete darkness. What we’ve been told over and over again would now be put to the test: “pole, pole” (take it slow) and full focus on the here and now. In fact, the lack of oxygen, the cold and the darkness leave you no other choice: you are essentially in a vacuum. Not only can’t you see beyond the cone of light of your head torch and have a hard time breathing, you also maneuver in an environment devoid of purpose. Sure, you want to make it to the top, but you mustn’t think about it. Because the mind will play games with you. Many people fail because they are mentally on the summit already without having done the physical work. It’s a recipe for disaster. To avoid it, you have to force yourself into a self-imposed mental exile and block out any distractions. And all will be marvelous. Once you’re in this zone, a number of strange things happen. Suddenly, time is condensed into infinitesimally small increments: the next step, the next breath, the next rock you tread on. The mind adapts to the physical necessities and limitations and lets go of any dead weight. It focuses on the task at hand, getting your ass to the peak, and nothing else. So there’s not only a temporal dimension to this but also a spatial one: the direction is unambiguously upward. This mental reduction of the effort into basic units of time and space is incredibly powerful. In fact, it is all you need. Thinking about eventualities has no value in this context – it is only the next increment that counts. If all human endeavors were as easy as climbing a mountain, the approach of breaking down reality into manageable pieces would be the panacea to much confusion and wasted energy. Well, they aren’t. That’s the beauty of mountaineering, I guess: while the body is engaged, the mind is at ease – relieved of a constant pressure to imagine, invent and analyze.

Groin Gazing

17.09.14
6 min
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On Love

14.09.14
2 min
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Groin Gazing

13.09.14
7 min
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Über Bayern

12.09.14
4 min
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Über Bayern

12.09.14
1 min
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