A 104 year old Australian botanist and ecologist, David Goodall, cheerily sang a few bars of “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony the evening before flying to Switzerland to die in an assisted suicide.  A longtime member of Exit International, an end of life group, Goodall said that his life ceased to be enjoyable after he lost his eyesight and mobility at about age ninety.

Shortly before his death Goodall expressed his opinion that everyone should have as a right the ability to choose the time of their death.  He would have preferred to die at his home in Australia.

"Everyone over middle age should have the right unquestioned to end their lives as and when they choose, but we have quite a way to go in Australia for that.”

 I have an acquaintance that is Jewish and about my age.  She is an interesting woman.  She grew up in NYC and then she and her husband moved to a cooperative farm in West Virginia where she worked as a free-lance journalist in order to afford her farming habit.  I know her as an abstract painter who still does some writing.  She always looks sad, but isn’t.  I mentioned that to L and she said, “Oh, it’s just her Jewish angst.”  She does seem to have a protective mechanism of looking on every situation as a possible disaster waiting to happen.

That approach certainly is not peculiar to any group, but it is common enough among Jews that it has become stereotypical.

The World’s Religions Expressed as Variations of

“Shit Happens”

Taoism = Shit Happens

Confucianism = Confucius say; Shit Happens

Zen Buddhism = What is the Sound of Shit Happening

Hinduism = This Shit has Happened Before

Judaism = Why Does This Shit Always Happen to Us?

 

What is angst?  It has been defined as ““a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.”

Is Jewish Angst a real thing?  Apparently so. It has also been said to be an expression of Jewish Existentialism, a subcategory of Existentialist philosophy.  In addition to all of the things that existentialists deal with, Jewish existentialists deal with the holocaust and its implications for belief in a good and just world. There have been many Jewish existentialist writers.  Most of them are unknown to me, but one, Franz Kafka, is familiar as he is for many students of literature.  His work was a curious mix of stark realism and the fantastic, with the fantastic seeming to accentuate the absurdity of human existence.

 

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour.  Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute.”

Albert Einstein

I suppose that was about time and relativity, but it’s also about the effects of pretty girls.

 

Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler is not a household name.  Born in Vienna, Austria in 1914 she grew up in a wealthy family with a “country home” with 20 guestrooms.  Part of a libertine artistic community she had a brief film career in Czechoslovakia during which she starred in the film, Ecstasy, in which she appeared swimming naked.

The film was banned in Germany for being decadent and Jewish.  Ms..  Hedwig idolized her father.  From the time she was a small child he explained how things worked to her; how the electricity that ran the trolley also ran the factories.  Unfortunately, he died early of a heart attack, and with the war looming, Kiesler moved to the U.S. where she became the actress Hedy Lamarr.  Her film career was controlled by the film industry and most of Hedy Lamarr’s roles were fluff.

Hedy Lamarr was so beautiful that it was said that all conversation stopped when she entered a room.  That beauty was both the source of good fortune and a curse.  Hedy was also a brilliant inventor.  In an effort to aid the war effort during WWII,  Ms. Lamarr developed, and patented, a torpedo guidance system using a totally new process termed frequency hopping. 

Unfortunately, the military discounted it because they saw Lamarr as just a pretty face, stuck her plans on a shelf and told her to go home and sell war bonds, which she did…very well.

It was only following the war that the impact of the technology that Lamarr invented became apparent.  It is now the foundation of GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth technologies.  By the time it was in use Lamarr’s patent had run out and she never received any money for her efforts.

Fortunately, before her death in 2000 she was acknowledged for her contribution.

Ms. Lamarr is famous for saying, “Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

Lamarr had a habit of putting the unpleasant behind her and erasing the memory.  She did that with an adopted son, her Judaism, and six husbands. Everyone deals with life in their own way.

Lamarr branched out on her own producing several movies.  Some weren’t very good.  For those that were she couldn’t get distribution.  She lost all of her money in the process.  Still, she seemed happy with that.  “Analysis gave me great freedom of emotions and fantastic confidence. I felt I had served my time as a puppet.”

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Comment by koshersalaami on May 10, 2018 at 11:24am

Sure there’s Jewish angst. The mistake is in believing it’s Holocaust-based. There was Jewish angst before the Holocaust because circumstances warranted it before the Holocaust. 

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on May 10, 2018 at 1:00pm

Jewish Angst, Catholic Guilt, Protestant Weltschmerz, Atheist Bewilderment, etc. .   Same shit, different name.  KB can imply the Jewish people own the rights to it, but they don't...  because it is part of EVERYONE's life.

Comment by Foolish Monkey on May 10, 2018 at 1:41pm

each is unique.  

I read hedy lamarr's autobiography a million years ago.  she was quite a spectacular woman and I'm glad you have written about her.  she wasn't much of an actress but she was breathtakingly beautiful and a genius.  how sad though, when I think about it now (and I haven't thought of her in years to be honest) to be that beautiful in a period when it's utterly beyond comprehension that she was brilliant..  she's lucky she was "discovered" and got to enjoy fame, wealth, interesting creative people, travel - she lived a fabulous life.  but to have one's intellect assumed to be average.  that's just sad. 

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 10, 2018 at 2:29pm

Amy, I don’t know that I can agree that it is all the same, and I’m not the only one.  Oliver Burkeman quoted Ari Ratner in an essay for the Guardian in which he said, ‘Unlike angst or ennui, weltschmerz springs precisely from seeing that things could and should be better’  He felt that it is time to dust the word Weltschmerz off.  We need to be reminded.

It is true that guilt is a tool used by many; Jewish mothers, Tiger moms and nuns all know how to employ it for best effect.  My mother got a little tremor in her voice and addressed me as “Son” when she was about to tell me how much I had disappointed her.  I can hear her voice as plain as day and she’s been gone 25 years (and I have that sinking feeling to go with it.)

The Germans have a run together bunch of words with a special meaning for everything it seems and I have a certain amount of Schadenfreude just thinking about students trying to learn German.

(Painful ovulation is mittelschmerz, literally “middle pain”, and there is actually an ICD-9 code for it.)

Some groups have practically made emotions common to all their own, like Catholics and guilt and Jews and angst.

And some emotions are forbidden.  A Lutheran woman of Swedish descent commented that “Scandinavian men are forbidden from feeling any emotion but anger. Anger is free.”

Weltschmerz is a term that was created by a German romantic novelist with the nom de plume of Jean Paul.

Despite being a lapsed protestant I feel that I can still claim weltschmerz.

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 10, 2018 at 2:37pm

F.M. I watched a documentary about Hedy Lamarr at the library with a bunch of other people.  A rather plain woman in front remarked when the assertion was made that you can't be beautiful and brilliant, "Yeah, I get that a lot."

You're right it was sad.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on May 10, 2018 at 3:24pm

You can say whatever you want positive about Hedley Lamarr, but I personally will never forgive him for what he tried to do to the poor people of Rock Ridge!

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 10, 2018 at 6:24pm

Amy, once again you found the meme.

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 10, 2018 at 6:36pm

kosh, I thought it had to be older; it's too much a part of the culture.

Comment by koshersalaami on May 10, 2018 at 9:45pm

Yes. Way older. 

Comment by Steel Breeze on May 11, 2018 at 4:40am

based on this definition of angst cant say i ever had it,but,just had my first round of gout.....that count?   

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