Tag Archives: Paul Celan

The World is Gone…

I was looking through some of my books in college and found Soveriegnties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan, by Jacques Derrida. I don’t remember what class this book was used for (maybe Contemporary Religious Thought?), but I remember not being able to read it very well! In the book Derrida tries to interpret, or struggle, with the meaning of Celan’s poems (a man who himself is hard to read). There is one section that we read that I found very interesting and always seem to pick up the book to read it again. The chapter deals with a conversation between Derrida and Gadamer, but it is the Celan poem that I find so interesting. The last line of the poem, carrying the charge of the poem, reads, “The world is gone, I must carry you.” I have always found this line fascinating and it obviously speaks of a relationship.  But who is the I and who is the other?  I often ponder what it means when viewed in the context of my relationship with Jesus.  It very much seems to speak of a relationship of deep love and devotion, what greater relationship is there?  So who is the I and who is the Other in the line?  I think the line can be interpreted both ways, the I is me and the Other is Jesus and vice versa.

The first interpretation seems negative at first glance. It seems to suggest that Jesus is powerless and without his followers or the church He would simply cease to exist in this world (although there is still the Holy Spirit, so He would still have a presence in the world). I don’t think that is what the line means at all. Rather it should be interpreted through a hermeneutic of love instead of power. It is not necessarily that the world is gone, or the world of the Other, but my world is gone, turned upside down, forever changed. The world is gone, I must carry you because what you did for me. As Derrida writes, “as soon as I speak to you and am responsible for you, or before you, there can be no longer, essentially, be any world.” He continues, “I am alone with you, alone to you alone; we are alone: this declaration is also an engagement.” So rather than a relationship of power, where only one is vulnerable, it is one of love, where both are vulnerable. Did Jesus not make himself vulnerable when he entrusted His message to us, the fallen humans that we are? But does that not make Him that much more beautiful? His love for us that much more beautiful? “To bear this poem is to put oneself within its grasp, to put it within the other’s grasp, to give it to the other to bear.” To accept Jesus’ love is to put oneself within His grasp, but He is also putting himself within ours’, entrusting us to carry out His message, His love, and Himself to the world.

The second interpretation is also beautiful. It is truly one of salvation – the world is fallen (gone), so I will carry you. It becomes a picture of divine love. His love compelled him to carry us through, to be with us. Our response can only be this: “I only believe in Jesus Messiah; I am carried away and enraptured in him, in such a way that ‘I do not live, but the Messiah lives in me'” (from Giorgio Agamben’s The Time That Remains).

I do not think that either interpretation is very different from the other. Both, I think, when interpreted with love, show a beautiful relationship between a fallen creation and a loving God. A sublime picture of reckless abandon for each other.

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