I've not taken any pictures in a couple of weeks. I've been in a dry period, and writing quite a bit for Gothamist. Not sure what to publish at Bluejake this week, I searched in the archives for posts I had drafted but never put up. I found two: the first was this set of Philadelphia pictures, taken back in April-- I'm not sure why I never published them. The second post contained no pictures. Rather, it quoted the entire text of Walter Benjamin's "The Destructive Character", an essay that I had read during college. The post was drafted a few years ago-- maybe meant to accompany some pictures that I never got around to adding. In any case, it resonates strongly with some of my recent thinking, so here it is:
It could happen to someone looking back over his life that he realized that almost all of the deeper obligations he had endured in its course originated in people on whose "destructive character" everyone was agreed. He would stumble on this fact one day, perhaps by chance, and the heavier the blow it deals him, the better are his chances of picturing the destructive character.
The destructive character knows only one watchword: make room; only one activity: clearing away. His need for fresh air and open space is stronger then any hatred.
The destructive character is young and cheerful. For destroying rejuvenates in clearing away the traces of our own age; it cheers because everything cleared away means to the destroyer a complete reduction, indeed eradication, of his own condition. But what contributes most of all to this Apollonian image of the destroyer is the realization of how immensely the world is simplified when tested for its worthiness of destruction. This is the great bond embracing and unifying all that exists. It is a sight that affords the destructive character a spectacle of deepest harmony.
The destructive character is always blithely at work. It is nature that dictates his tempo, indirectly at least, for he must forestall her. Otherwise she will take over the destruction herself.
No vision inspires the destructive character. He has few needs, and the least of them is to know what will replace what has been destroyed. First of all, for a moment at least, empty space, the place where the thing stood or the victim lived. Someone is sure to be found who needs this space without its being filled.
The destructive character does his work, the only work he avoids is being creative. Just as the creator seeks solitude, the destroyer must be constantly surrounded by people, witnesses to his efficacy.
The destructive character is a signal. Just as a trigonometric sign is exposed on all signs to the wind, so is he to rumor. To protect him from it is pointless.
The destructive character has no interest in being understood. Attempts in this direction he regards as superficial. Being misunderstood cannot harm him. On the contrary he provokes it, just as oracles, those destructive institutions of the state, provoked it. The most petit bourgeois of all phenomena, gossip, comes about only because people do not wish to be misunderstood. The destructive character tolerates misunderstanding; he does not promote gossip.
The destructive character is the enemy of the etui-man. The etui-man looks for comfort, and the case is its quintessence. The inside of the case is the velvet-lined track that he has imprinted on the world. The destructive character obliterates even the traces of destruction.
The destructive character stands in the front line of the traditionalists. Some pass things down things to posterity, by making them untouchable and thus conserving them, others pass on situations, by making them practicable and thus liquidating them. The latter are called the destructive.
The destructive character has the consciousness of historical man, whose deepest emotion is an insuperable mistrust of the course of things and a readiness at all times to recognize that everything can go wrong. Therefore the destructive character is reliability itself.
The destructive character sees nothing permanent. But for this very reason he sees ways everywhere. Where others encounter walls or mountains, there, too, he sees a way. But because he sees a way everywhere, he has to clear things from it everywhere. Not always by brute force; sometimes by the most refined. Because he sees ways everywhere, he always positions himself at crossroads. No moment can know what the next will bring. What exists he reduces to rubble, not for the sake of the rubble, but for that of the way of leading through it.
The destructive character lives from the feeling, not that life is worth living, but that suicide is not worth the trouble.
from 'Reflections; Essays, Aphorisms and Autobiographical Writings' by Walter Benjamin, edited by Peter Demetz