On the Horrible Husband and The Angel of History

A Joke (Based on a Real Situation):

A husband kept his dirty clothes on the floor of his apartment. Knowing very well that this would make his wife angry, he looked around the apartment for a pen and a sheet of paper so that he might write an apology to her.

He found both, so wrote the note.

Quickly he realized that he was insulting his wife’s intelligence. She would probably ask herself: “why did he spend so much time writing an apology when he could have spent less time moving the clothing from the floor?”

The man quickly balled up the paper and tossed it in the garbage.

Is this not the basic lesson from Walter Benjamin’s notes about Angelus Novus?

Benjamin wrote:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress

You see the punchline, then? The boyfriend is satisfied with himself and believes he has made progress in his kindness to his wife when he tosses away the note. But behind him there is a pile of debris, his clothing, which he leaves time and again but refuses to clean up.


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