When it comes to “presumption”, I sense a kind of high talent in myself. Not only do I permanently “presume” to have understood any connections, and moreover “as the only person in the world”, but I also bother fellow human beings and posterity with senseless achievements, all of which are not my doing (perhaps this chapter is the exception?). I am reminded of Tucholsky’s short story: “There is no new snow”.
There is no new snow
When you go up and look around, breathing a sigh of relief, what a fellow you are to climb such heights, you, all alone -: then you always discover tracks in the snow. Someone has been there before you.
Believe in God. Despair of him. Reject all philosophy. Let the doctor tell you that you have stomach cancer and know: there are only four years left and then it’s over. Believe in a woman. Despair of her. Live a life with two women. Throw yourself into the world. Withdraw from her…
And all these feelings of life have been there before you; so has one believed, doubted, laughed, cried and thoughtfully picked his nose, just like this. There has always been one.
It doesn’t change anything, I know. You’re experiencing it for the first time, after all. For you, it’s fresh snow that’s there. But it isn’t, and this discovery is very painful at first. Once there lived a poor Jew in Poland who had no money to study, but mathematics burned in his brain. He read what he could get, the few scanty books, and he studied and thought, thought on for himself. And one day he invented something, he discovered it, a whole new system, and he felt: I have found something. And when he left his little town and went out into the world, he saw new books, and what he had discovered for himself already existed: it was differential calculus. And that’s when he died. People say: of consumption. But he didn’t die of consumption.
The strangest thing is in solitude. You want to believe that people have their standard experiences in the hustle and bustle. But when you’re alone like you are, when you meditate like that, when you take death into account like that, when you withdraw like that and try to look ahead like that – you’d think you’d be on heights that no human foot has ever set foot on. And there are always traces, and someone has always been there, and someone has always climbed even higher than you have ever been able to, much higher.
Don’t let that discourage you. Climb, climb, climb. But there is no peak. And there is no fresh snow.
Die Weltbühne, 07.04.1931, No. 14, p. 515, again in: Learn to Laugh.
To keep you in good humour (whether it’s good or bad is not said by this; reminds me again of the Zeit-Rätsel “Um die Ecke gedacht”, where once the question “He doesn’t let bad humour spoil his mood” came up, with nine letters. Yes, that’s right: curmudgeon),
I’ll tell you another little story: I was still a boy, just going through puberty. In the underground. The train stopped. I wanted to get off, but waited until the train stopped. Behind me, two cheeky, slightly taller girls: “Now loof do ma, or are you waiting for fresh snow?” Unfortunately, I lacked a lifetime of repartee, but at least today I know what I should have answered: “I’m not waiting for it, I’m looking for it…” I wonder if they would have understood me.
By the way, it doesn’t take long to explain how “Pauli-” came about: Given my surname, coming up with Pauli is not exactly a special achievement. Nevertheless, I think this little further digression is out of place: I repeated the 9th grade. It was the time of my parents’ divorce. Several hospital stays (also not described) including operations. Moves back and forth (father-mother-father, mother herself too). Complete lack of interest in everything except chess. So you understand: I was just too stupid. After sitting out, I got into a new class. The teacher asked me and my friend Matthias Schulze, who had stayed in the class with me, what our names were. Schulle had changed his own nickname for two reasons: The yard breaks were too precious for him to sacrifice them to eating bread. So he ate his lunch under the table during lessons. So what could be more natural than to call him “Stulle” — especially since in Berlin it is also called, at least colloquially, “doof wie…”? – “Stulle”?
So I went to the blackboard without a word. I took the chalk in my hand. I wrote down “Pauli und Stulle”… My teachers didn’t have too much fun with me anyway. My life consisted largely of rebellion at the time. And where better to rebel than against (would-be) authorities you meet every day? So they didn’t succeed by any means in getting me to stop writing my name on all my classwork: “Pauli”. When we were also asked to define our own unit in physics, the “Pauli ampere” was born.
So now the time has come. All my aforementioned achievements, even if they lack uniqueness, simply get the addition “Pauli…”. This also applies to the “Pauli ladder” described here.
With Mr Brecht and his ladder, after all, the motto was: Speak – Write – Silence. And I have even applied my own ladder to this one. However, I put my foot somewhere between accepting and understanding. With mine, one is not necessarily forced to start at the lowest rung. But in order:
My ladder goes like this: Fight – Reject — Tolerate – Accept – Understand – Internalise – Do it yourself — Spread.
I had to accept Brecht’s anyway, because what Berthold Brecht says must be… Then I gradually climbed up another level, moved on to understanding, later even to internalising.
Much later, I even climbed up Brecht’s own step a little. I’ve always enjoyed “talking” (no thanks, I don’t need a witness) and what am I doing today, right now? That’s right, “writing”. And I’ll tell you what: you should do that too sometime …. It’s just that I have a hard time climbing the highest level, the silence. But thank goodness you don’t have me on the phone.
So my ladder can be applied to all kinds of topics. You can climb up and down, but maybe you can do that with Brecht too?! We’ll just pick a topic now, I happen to have one at the ready.
How have you felt about the subject of “playing” so far? I’ll make a few suggestions, climbing the ladder.
Let’s go up the ladder step by step:
Step 1: Fight.
Gambling for money must be prevented at all costs! It brings nothing good to people, only ruin and discord. Above all, keep children away!
Level 2: Reject.
I reject gambling. I do not want to occupy myself with it. Those who do it are stupid and have only themselves to blame.
Stage 3, Tolerate.
I have a neighbour who says he’s a gambler. I don’t know what that is, but he’s a bit crazy. But at least we already greet each other en passant…
Stage 4: Accept.
I accept it. We have known each other for years, have almost become friends. We don’t talk about the subject itself. But it seems to work, otherwise he wouldn’t have…
Stage 5: Understanding.
Now I understand. Even in apparent games of chance, one has control possibilities to put the odds on one’s side. At first glance it seems to be all chance, all luck. But if you look more closely? There is a key. The mathematics. I used to be afraid of it. But now?
Step 6: Do it yourself.
There seems to be something in almost all games that you can play well. You just have to do a bit of maths and you’ve got it. Some games suit me more, others less. I even make my own assessments in football. And bet on it. I’ve even learned to play poker and play on the Internet, so far only with small stakes, but at least I’m holding my own so far.
Step 7: Spread the word.
I had to do it too, I tell you. The hit.
In that case, once up there, I’m even reasonably glad there’s no fresh snow. Fortunately, there is a small community of players. A few people who think like I do, at least about gaming. Sometimes you just have to exchange ideas. But maybe you’ll soon be part of the community too? Climbing and climbing sound good at first anyway, don’t they?
By the way, the Pauli ladder can easily be applied to other topics. You can always ask yourself where you are at the moment. And whether you want to stay there. You can also go down the ladder, it’s not like that. For example, ask yourself about your position when it comes to such sensitive issues as “homosexuality”, “Islam” or “foreigners”. Doing it yourself on the subject of “foreigners” would be “emigrate”, by the way, and spreading the word “come along”. That’s just by the way.
On the Pauli ladder you can even put both feet on different steps: One foot on “understand”, one nevertheless on “reject”. On reflection, I even found out that it makes sense to always get one foot on the “understand” step first. Even if you really had to fight Pauli…