A Note on the Anniversary of my Favorite Dream

Yes, I know, this site has (shall we say?) been rather quiet in recent years. The explanation, in part, is that I have been chasing down other rabbit holes and have been reluctant to burden it with the fruits of those explorations, which involve topics foreign to its official concerns. But, after turning in my grades for this semester and making a note of that accomplishment in my journal, I glanced at the other entries that I’d entered for this date and found that this is the seventeenth anniversary of one of the loveliest dreams I have ever had:

I am at home and the various members of the Frankfurt School (Adorno, Marcuse, Horkheimer) have appeared in my dining room, like spirits, or like the baseball players in Field of Dreams. They are pleasant enough people, Adorno is somewhat befuddled, Marcuse is rather cheerful and ironic. They talk with each other, and I try to insinuate myself into their conversation. I am the only one who can see them and I am aware that I must be very gentle with them, to prevent them from realizing that they no longer exist. Their appearing in my house strikes me as a wonderful miracle and makes me very happy.

Not least among its charms is that the dream I had seventeen years ago more or less describes how I’ve been spending my time during the last several decades — listening into the conversations of those who are no longer with us. The past is a foreign country — and it’s full of dead people.

About James Schmidt

Professor of History, Philosophy, and Political Science Boston University
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3 Responses to A Note on the Anniversary of my Favorite Dream

  1. Curtis says:

    and so the Past is, indeed, always with us… waiting for us to acknowledge it, and cheering for us to improve upon it… and those personalities whose work we have immersed ourselves in are more grateful than we realize…

  2. Thomas Ziegner says:

    How thoughtful and considerate You, dear Prof. Schmidt, you acted in this marvellous dream. Walter Benjamin would have appreciated that very much. He once described the politeness and thougtfulness of Marcel Proust, who even embarassed a friend by those virtues, – a story about a supposedly forgotten umbrella. Thank you very much, best wishes.
    tom ziegner, http://www.brouillon.art

  3. fvg says:

    Dear James,
    You’ll no doubt know that joke about that bit of high-brow graffiti at an Oxford college: “God is dead – signed Nietzsche”. A day later there was as second line, beneath the above: “Nietzsche is dead – signed God.” I think one of the aspects of the strange situation in which we now live is that attitude to the past and to “überlieferte Texte” which Adorno called, as you know, “Alexandrinismus”, “die Versenkung in überlieferten Texten”. (I used the word in my laudatio at Rolf Tiedemann’s funeral.) Today I read some more of his diaries. Completely unexplored territory, for the secondary literature … Very best regards,
    Frederik van Gelder

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