michael, 2010 louis--beijing apr 2010

Closing doors

Two years before the French revolution of 1848, the French printer, politician, writer, anarchist and son of a barrel maker, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, wrote a letter to Marx: “let us not set ourselves up as the leaders of a new intolerance, let us not pose as the apostles of a new religion even though this religion be the religion of logic itself. Let us welcome, let us encourage all the protests, let us condemn all the exclusions, all the mysticism; let us never regard a question closed, and even after we have exhausted our last argument, let us begin again, if necessary, with eloquence and irony.”

Proudhon’s language is compelling. A certain euphoria pulses in me when I read these lines. I feel proud to share such lofty ambitions of openness, of welcoming inclusion. But, there is something missing. Six years prior, Proudhon had published Qu’est-ce que la propriété to which, with a beautiful twist, he answered La propriété, c’est le vol (What is property? answer: Property is theft.) Yet, there is a subtle of logic missing–the subtle we might expect to find lacking in the man often referred to as the first to call himself an anarchist.

After some time passes, I to realise I wholeheartedly disagree with Proudhon. Striding for openness is an interest I share with Proudhon. And, It is through openness that life bring new experiences, new imaginations are brought forward, new directions are sought. Openness is only useful when we know how to close. Sitting in a bar in Australia, a intellectual man once told me: one keeps the door open as long as possible, and at the last possible moment close it to move on. I enjoy this image of the abstract practice of thinking.

Reading the great authors of love, we might believe that life’s great decisions are a tussle between the heart and the mind, between instinct and logic. But, the instinct of the heart can pull in two directions at once. These are the hardest decisions. And, finally a door does close. And, finally there is pain. And, one can only leave the door open as long as possible knowing closing doors is the most difficult and important part of openness.

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