Which is your favorite palindrome

«Et vice versa ad infinitum? - The riddle of my favorite palindrome »
by Edna Lemgo

Riddle word

The reason for this little essay is my brief exchange of ideas with Lisa about her beautiful travelogue “As 'I' in a foreign country”. As I pondered her story, my favorite palindrome came to mind. With an expansive gesture, I handed it to her in a letter to the editor, but "the nice language game" apparently disappeared somewhere in the maternal tone of my comment.

When Bethchen asked me over tea if I didn't want to use the year 2002 as an opportunity to put my declared love for the palindrome into words, I gratefully accepted the opportunity to try again. By tracing the riddle that my favorite palindrome poses to me, I will try to develop my inclination. It appeared for the first time as a text element in a composition by Mauricio Kagel. It later appeared again as the title of Guy Debord's last, autobiographical film. Bumped into it in such a way, I realized that this palindrome apparently holds a special magic in store for me. For the uninitiated: A palindrome is a word, a sentence or a longer statement with a sequence of letters that - read from the beginning or the end - is the same. Better still, my foreign dictionary describes a palindrome as a puzzle word that makes the same sense when read forwards and backwards. As a nominalist, I believe that the meaning of a sentence is not directly linked to the formal structure that supports it. Nonetheless, I think that art in general and literature in particular can only flourish where form and content are related to one another, indeed merge into one another in such a way that an organic meaning emerges from their intertwined form. [1] Of course, the distinction between form and content is just that, a distinction made by someone. Let's leave it at that.

Eternal circling

The magic of my favorite palindrome for me now comes from its truly unique marriage of form and content. Nowhere in the large language game do I find this union as perfect as in this small fragment:

Again, now backwards:

in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni

And, eternal circling, all over again:

in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni

Backwards one more time? With pleasure.

in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni

Fine, that should be enough, otherwise we will get dizzy. Here we have my favorite palindrome, a whole world view in a small text fragment - if I may use a pseudo-world objectifying term like world view at this point. Should it not be too daring, I would even dare to go a step further and confess that this palindrome is my symbol for the “laconic tautology of being” [3] Rüdiger Safranski (1995): Ein Meister aus Deutschland. Heidegger and his time. Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag. itself, whose all too closed self-referentiality can actually hardly be described in words. But maybe I shouldn't go that far after all. Nevertheless, the palindromatic rhythm, with its self-contained, simultaneous movement in two directions, mirrors for me the wheel that is forever rolling out of itself, the glowing and self-consuming flow that Master Eckehart used as a metaphor for the eternal urge and becoming of being :

«Thirdly, it should be noted that when he says twice: 'I am who I am', he indicates the purity of the affirmation to the exclusion of all negative things about God himself, still his being as a certain, on and about himself Turning backwards and resting and standing in oneself, moreover a certain boiling or self-giving birth that glows in itself and flows and boils in itself and over itself.»[4] Meister Eckehart (1978): German sermons and tracts. Edited and translated by Josef Quint. Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag. Page 34.

With Meister Eckehart as the key, we could paraphrase the riddle of my favorite palindrome as follows: A text fragment resting on itself and bent back on itself tells us that we are circling around, wandering around and burning up in the night. We, and being with us, find ourselves in an eternally recurring movement. In this nocturnal circle we are consumed, perhaps in the longing for brightness.

The solution to the riddle?

So far so beautiful. The riddle of my favorite palindrome is wrapped in new words, but can the riddle also be solved? Is the key in the riddle itself, or do we circle forever in the night with no prospect of, ahem, redemption? Et vice versa ad infinitum? My answer would be yes and no. Of course we circle until the end of the day, but there can still be bright moments. As long as our circling is externally determined, we mumble and stagger catatonicly through the night (cf. also the essay “Farewell to one's own movement”). On the other hand, we have to invent and walk the path from the darkness to the clearing for ourselves. The task posed by my favorite palindrome, viewed in this way, would be the invention of Proper movementin order to make your own self-determined way out of the spinning, to your own orbits, to the clearings. Again, Master Eckehart:

«Whatever works you do not take from your own, the works are all dead before God. These are those to which you are moved by strange things outside of your own, because they do not come from life: that is why they are dead, because only that thing lives that receives movement from its own.»[5] Meister Eckehart (1978): loc. Cit. Page 40.

Admittedly, it sounds a little esoteric. Movement out of one's own, how is that supposed to work, in a world that is more than ever prefabricated, a society of the spectacle that is determined through and through by others (cf. "In the eye of the spectacle"). However, we only need to cross out God with Nietzsche and find ourselves thrown back on our bottomlessly empty selves with Heidegger in order to re-understand the meaning of Meister Eckhart's own movement for us in our time. Meister Eckehart, in his serene simplicity, brought it to the age-old imperative "Die and become!»: First we have to free ourselves from the shackles with which the world of phenomena, which we call the spectacle today, binds us to itself, in order then to begin the path to the essential.

To die So in a first step would mean to bring the spectacle to fade away in order to create a place where one's own movement can develop in the first place. In this place, the next step is to learn to pull ourselves out of the mess we are thrown into. And, this is the paradoxical element of the invention of self-movement, when, like the good old Baron Munchausen, we begin to pull ourselves out of the trap by our own hair, we have already invented self-movement, it is suddenly there and we just have to learn to follow their small self-propelled drift against the large, externally determined currents. Become would therefore be the invention and feeding of the small self-moving trickle until we can safely sail on the waves of the spectacle on its waters. If I may put it a little flowery.

From night into night, with Meister Eckhart's imperative as the key, we take a final look at the riddle of my favorite palindrome. His limited, yet infinite, universe 'en miniature', curved back on itself, symbolizes on the one hand the lifeless hustle and bustle in the world of apparitions, the spectacular night in whose darkness we circle. In its motion that is thrown back on itself, the palindrome simultaneously shows the way out of the night: We have to learn to invent motion from within ourselves. The great enigma of my favorite palindrome is therefore the continuous, self-consuming search for ways to become and a possible solution is the paradoxical invention of self-movement, so that we can ultimately walk ourselves out of the light. Of course, each person has to reinvent the path, and with it the own movement, for himself and again. And so the riddle of my palindrome will be asked again and again for every person at every moment until the end of the day:

in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni

Et vice versa ad infinitum.


January 7, 2002

Dear Edna,
Although I am still completely foggy from circling and floating at least three meters above the ground, I am slowly coming down again and write a few lines of thanks for your beautiful text, Edna.
For decades now I have been collecting palindromes in a wide variety of classes and formats. I started as a little boy. Even my first word is said to have been a palindrome: "Mom", or so my dad, who was also my second at the same time.
Then everything went pretty quickly and my fate seemed sealed: “Wow”, “Anna”, “Otto”, “SOS”, “Legovogel”, “Relief pillars”, “A TOYOTA”, “Racecar”, “Radar”, “Kayak »,« Lion oil »,« Level »,« Gag ».
Then the first more complex sentences: "Madam, I'm Adam.", "So many dynamos!", "Was it a cat I saw?" or more out of embarrassment: “Was it Eliot's toilet I saw?”. Up to: "Rats live on no evil star." "Do geese see God?" in combination with: “God's dog”. Or: "I madam, I made radio, so I dared, am I mad, am I?" Or: "Tini saw a drawer, a reward was in it." And: "Some men interpret nine memos." And further: "I, Nora Camelot, stole macaroni." (Incidentally, a brilliant film title!) Finally, from a friend from Africa: «Did I set a cider? Pure, prosaic acacias? Omaha mosaic acacias? Or Peru predicates? I did. "
The absolute front runner, however, has remained to this day: "You can't swallow a cage, you can, but you can cage a swallow, can't you." That's it, baby.
This is how you can see and take in life. In the spirit of the legendary Monty Python Michael Palin, who is known to be the godfather of the drom with his name.
But “in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni” is really very beautiful and philosophical and mystical at that.
Now I won!
Your Sam Pling

January 8, 2002

Dear sam
thanks for the nice thank you letter. I didn't know the palindrome from Africa, really, really nice. Since your list does not include my second favorite palindrome, I thought I would tell you something about it in a nutshell.
In this case, it is less the palindrome itself than the story in which it is embedded. Do you know David Lynch's legendary TV series ‹Twin Peaks›? So far, I have not found in any report or criticism any indication that the secret protagonist, the personified evil that grips people, is simply called 'Bob'. If we assume that absolutely nothing is random in David Lynch's films, the question naturally arises what my favorite director was thinking. Although he refuses any interpretation and finds symbolism almost an insult, the basic constellation of 'Twin Peaks' nevertheless appears to me to be a metaphysical one: the whole series, like life, is fed by interwoven dualities. And in the middle is the palindromic link ‹Bob›, which repeatedly penetrates the cinematic reality from a black and white tiled phantasmagoric room with blood-red flowing curtains. With a little narrowing of the view, we could see the simultaneous movement in two directions, as with my favorite palindrome, from which almost everything is fed.
Incidentally, in David Lynch's current film ‹Mulholland Drive› there is a theater called ‹Silencio›, in which a blue box manifests itself, which is an almost Heideggerian metaphor of being. If I'm not mistaken, my favorite director has moved from the strenuous conflict of opposites to an amused secrecy. At least the structure of the film is as fluid as John Cage in 'Silence' demands for any really natural structure. But that's another story.
Viva, Edna

Created: January 4th, 2002 - last revision: January 8th, 2002
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