ORDER OF THE LOST SHOE
Philosopher Ladislav Hejdanek lost his shoe on Friday, January 6, 1978. It happened in the courtyard. He was being dragged on the ground from his place of work, pulled by sleeves of his overalls, and kicked. Thus he lost his shoe which he has not found again.
The State Security forces dragged him to be interrogated. It was one in the afternoon. Had someone filmed what had transpired during the next eight hours, a documentary could had been produced and the viewing public would had agreed it belonged to an era of a somewhat different socialism. Even the police camera man would appear in this film - showing his footage of a pitiful and laughable ruin of a man. Look, viewer, what this spokesman of the Charta 77 looks like! Disgusting, isn’t he?
Four others were captured and filmed like this a year before to the date: three writers and an actor. They were driving their petition to the government but before they could arrive they were driven to the offices of the Ministry of the Interior and the petition was taken away from them. Maybe that explains why the government has never learned of a letter that was about to be delivered by its citizens and thus the requested dialogue has never begun.
A new chapter of citizen dialogue with the police has begun, instead. Two bodies of great weight separated themselves from the society, and started circling each other tighter and tighter. The bodies of The State Security and Charta 77. Perhaps they were just the reverse sides of the nation’s coin. Perhaps it is the biblical division of the day from the night so “the darkness was not upon the face of the deep”. Perhaps it is the fight between Spirit and Matter. I don’t know.
To commemorate the first anniversary of Charta 77 - confiscated en route to the government - her spokesman, Dr Hejdanek was kicked repeatedly by the police. The previous spokesman, professor Patocka, went from the interrogation straight to the hospital where he later died. Even writer Pavel Kohout suffered a few kicks. Strange way to carry a dialogue. But to kick a spokesman on the anniversary of Charta 77 is more than symbolic. The Charta demanded freedom from fear.
Maybe it will happen now on its own because it seems we will not have anything to be afraid of anymore, for everything will be lost. That we are crossing over that strange line beyond which one can only gain. Anyway, to kick into a philosopher in the 20th century - and why not? It’s happened before. I don’t know why I still have the impression that this century should be somewhat humanely sacred. Perhaps because humanity suffered so much in this century. Two most horrible wars had happened. Epiktetos insisted that everything people do they do because they are convinced it is good. However, each individual sees the goodness in something else and that’s the whole tragedy.
Still, humanity abides by a sort of universal agreement - maybe it is a question of taste - that it is not good to kick philosophers. Although it seems there are people who do consider this to be good. They would not do it, otherwise. It is the good of the one who equals power with goodness, who is convinced that each time he demonstrates his power and might something good happens. This is why the powerful of the world look with disdain upon the presence of a strange man who is not strong, who speaks of life’s brevity, About the Universe, time and relativity of things, of vanity and wisdom, of futility and meaning of beauty and life, of illusion of power, of might that ebbs away, and the necessity to defend the weak and defenseless.
We call such a strange person a philosopher. He walks through life beholden to no one, and he offers us a mirror. He says the real struggle takes place in the heart and real power is in seeing. He came up with the concept of truth - such a strange word that means to search for and create such a world where life could be less meaningless.
The powerful feel threatened right there because something has taken shape in the world, something that can’t be covered up or taken over. A philosopher unveils the truth and the truth, once pronounced into being, can not be manipulated, not even through philosophers. It becomes real. It passes unharmed through the centuries and regimes, and that’s maddening. A philosopher can be given poison, he can be nailed to a cross, burned at the stake or kicked down but the truth had already started to run free long time ago, it gathered light, met with the reality and united with her.
Dialogues with the police are long, detailed, mystically voluminous, illogical, and full of dangerous cliffhangers, horrifying and humorous, but mostly forced and hopeless. No one who enters( or is brought or dragged in) knows if he’ll make it home that night or even that year. No one among us is sure if the ring of a doorbell announces the arrival of the postman, a friend, or the police.
They entered our lives and we entered theirs. We write about each other. Our writings have literary value, and are permeated with the desire to free man from stress, fear, and non-truth. Police writings have no literary ambition. They are stepping stones to prison, bringing fear, giving us stress, and perception of reality that is not based in truth. We defend ourselves. We live trying to look at it and testify.
I see those dreamy periods in history when philosophy had so grown together with life that it drove worshippers of power and might to insanity had not passed to oblivion. Self-education is connected to danger. Demanding fro the current laws to be upheld is connected to danger. We have to pay for it by limited freedoms, self-denial, suffering and courage. Yes, things by themselves have no value. They are valued by greatness of sacrifice a human being is willing to offer.
We live in great times, again. We are starting to offer even our very lives for books, opinions, stands, truth, beauty and education. Living stops sticking to the form and we connect with its content and meaning. We have stopped creating for success and reward. We have begun to create for life less meaningless. Philosophers live among us, again, and they are willing to suffer a kick or more for the freedom of their vision.
It was brought up not too long ago that the moral value of Charta 77 is demonstrated in willingness of more than a thousand people so far to suffer and expose ourselves to danger. Its content has a meaning and a mission that transcends nations and touches the entire humanity. Therefore, it doesn’t need only to accept recognition and sympathies from the good people of the world but it could also honor others with such recognition. Even that is a form of a dialogue.
Long time ago, Countess Joan of Kent, later Princess of Wales, lost her garter in a ball room of Calais. The potentially humiliating situation was solved by the The Most Noble Order of the Garter that has been awarded by the British Royalty ever since. It is so royal and, in the same time, so very human. Why, then should Charta 77 not give out the Order of the Lost Shoe? The shoe was lost by a philosopher as he was being dragged down a courtyard by the police. This already speaks volumes about whom and for it should be given.
January 17th, 1978