Eulogy for David Daube
David and I met almost forty years ago in Berkeley, California. From the very first meetings I had the feeling of a strong personal affinity that transcended intellectualism. At the time I thought the links were metaphysical in nature because we always tended to agree on matters that were beyond rationality, or perhaps beyond the limits that are commonly perceived. What others thought of as self-evident or not even worthy to be discussed, to us was full of mystery. What others thought to be evidence of deep thought, to us appeared to be banal. Yet even the matters that appeared to us as trivial were worthy to be thought about, to find out what made them appear banal to us. In other words, we shared a common feeling reaching beyond common thought. Classifications rooted in psychology to us seemed to be meaningless, and archaic notions of calling somebody bad or evil seemed to us to be of deeper meaning. We had unending discussions on questions of intimacy, including the relations between men and women commonly called sexual, and their significance for insight. We talked about taboos and how they relate to knowledge.
David never wondered why I, as an educated person from Germany, had come to the United States, leaving Germany behind at a time when it was no longer necessary to do so. He knew, without so many words, that it was a thirst for knowledge, although we both knew that truth was an unattainable goal and that the transition to the United States was equally distracting, as if I had stayed in Germany or gone to any other place. He never promised anything and he never disappointed me. I had no expectations other than to know him. For years we conversed in English, as if this were self-understood, but then we met in Constance and spoke in German to each other, as if we had always done so and were close relatives. There was another revelation that we had not quite been conscious of. He spoke the language I grew up with when I was a child, a Swabian dialect spoken in Freiburg where he was born. It was as if we had been nurtured by the same maid belonging to Alemanni stock. It was as if we were the remnants of an ancient tribe whose realm spanned from Freiburg to Lindau, where I was born, a nation gone for a millennium which included Alsace, Baden, Württemberg, the southwestern parts of Bavaria, parts of Austria and large chunks of what today is Switzerland. Much of this is more imaginary than real, but it was imagination and not reality that was the bond between us.
March 22, 1999 Walter O. Weyrauch