|I mourn the loss of a friend I once had. He died in a fire, went up in flames, but he was not alone. As a community of artists, 36 perished together at the Ghostship in Oakland.
My friend Wolfgang came from Germany, from the town of Erlangen in Bavaria. He hated everything about it. Provincial, full of “Spießer”, uptight citizens who insists that life has a clear meaning and a purpose: Get a job, make children, buy a car. Don’t waste your life, stay in school and don’t do drugs. Wolfgang had this to say about it: “Arschficken”, to fuck it up the ass.
Wolfgang never lost the fire that burns inside. One of our favorite compositions, when we hung out at his place and smoked pot and heroin, was “Burning Inside” by Ministry. But that was 25 years ago, in the Lower Haight district of San Francisco. We talked about 1 million things and about one thing: Anton LaVay, the author of “The Satanic Bible”, who was alive and in town. For Wolfgang there were other traditions and other ways to spend a life and that’s why he came to the Bay Area.
When examining the lives of those that die, we inevitably re-enact a sort of final judgement, because we can and because we feel entitled due to religion. That is the sort of “Quatsch” nonsense that Wolfgang abhorred. Does every human being have to be remembered as kind, able to make others laugh, or be a talented or accomplished this-or-that?
No, every human can just do what is most pleasing.
The rest are all just rationalizations and a life lived rationally is a life lived only partially. Aristotle first mentions this conflict of the rational animal in his Nicomachean Ethics, and what is wrong with us. He quotes Hesiod:
Far best is he who knows all things himself;
Good, he that hearkens when men counsel right;
But he who neither knows, nor lays to heart
Another's wisdom, is a useless wight.
We are all just useless wights, which is akin to Old High German wiht, meaning a creature or thing. We are wights because none of us knows all things. We are quick to give out wisdom, or rather dubious political or religious opinion, but hardly ever do we lay another’s wisdom to heart. Wolfgang’s wisdom is the life he lived.
But in the end, it was his spectacular death that made him famous. We dreamt a lot about notoriety and fame back in the day and soon lost touch after I moved to New York in 1993. I knew he was still around, but he was not a presence on the internet, and the internet is the only place I really know. Until now.
His community was with real humans including his girlfriend who died with him. Their deaths are a testament to what? If they died for a cause, and we always must give one to everything, it was for the cause of…
Wolfgang Renner, this “Mass” is for you. Prost.