Philip Metres with Vladimir Burich

Vladimir Burich
Vladimir Burich

This interview series, “Conversations after the Fall: Interviews with Contemporary Russian Poets,” began as part of my Thomas J. Watson Fellowship year (1992-1993). Vladimir Petrovich Burich (1932-1994) was a groundbreaking Russian poet known for his experiments in free-verse poetry. Born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Burich moved to Moscow and worked as an editor. His poetry, which was first published in the 1960s, only received broad readership in the 1980s, with the appearance of the first collections of Russian vers libre: “Beliy Kvadrat” (White Square), “Vremya Iks” (Time X) and, later, the Anthology of Russian Vers Libre

Philip Metres: Tell me something of your biography that might help illuminate your work.

Vladimir Burich: I grew up in Kharkiv, a city in the Ukraine seventy kilometers from the Russian border. It was a city dominated by the Russian language, though there was Ukrainian in the air. Historically, it was the third most important city of the Russian empire. Pushkin called Kharkiv the “Athens of the South,” because there had been more than sixty scientific research institutes there. It is a popular city, with the best metro system in the Soviet Union, done by the same experts who built the metro in Prague. Kharkiv is considered an industrial city. Along the highway there, for twenty kilometers, it’s full of entrances to huge factories and plants. But for me, Kharkiv remained a romantic and mysterious city. All my life, I’ve tried to understand its soul and its mystery. I have no such relationship to Moscow.

In 1953, after the death of Stalin and the revelations about [Lavrentiy] Beria, a reconstruction in journalism took place. I studied in the department of Journalism in the Philological Faculty at Kharkiv University. I was trained in Western Ukraine, in Bukovina, which has been passed from hand to hand—at first it was Austrian, then Rumanian, but it’s long been Ukrainian land. The Germans left before the War. You probably remember that, before the War, Hitler coined the phrase “Germans Come Home.” In line, with flags and to the beating of drums, they abandoned their houses and left. I believe our government even allotted them compensation for building. And they left for Germany, leaving behind a beautiful colony.

My father’s from Kiev, but he received a scholarship at the Kharkiv Project Technical Institute. My parents met there, and I was born. That’s why I consider my place of birth to be Kharkiv. Really, I was born in the city Shakhti, in the Rostov region. But in all the literary biographies, I’ve written that I was born in Kharkiv, because, if I wasn’t born there, then I was reborn there. I was taken to be born in Shakhti. However, my first memories of the world are of Kharkiv, on the Don River—the nature, sun, summer. Kharkiv—I lived there only at night. In the day, I lived in Moscow—but at night, in dream, I lived in Kharkiv. It’s the city of my childhood. It’s strange that I have written so little about it, because I usually write poems just before going to sleep. Perhaps to do it, I would have to concentrate more. That’s why I always carry a notebook and a pencil, because I’m always writing poems in the moments between waking and sleeping.

When I returned to Kharkiv, I found out that I got accepted to Kiev University. The faculty really mixed us together, gave us a good education. I was a beginning poet, a follower of LEF [the 1920s avant-garde journal Left Front of the Arts], and went through all the stages of Futurism. I was sympathetic toward Constructivism, but I was told that trouble was brewing. So, I didn’t wait around for it. I got my papers and left to Moscow. I was cut off from my group, from my department. But that’s how I ended up in Moscow.

PM: What poets or artists have been influential to you?

VB: My first creative act was when I sat down at my father’s desk, took out his drawing utensils and construction paper. I found the warmest subtropical place on the map of the Soviet Union—the city of Poti, in Georgia, near Sukhumi. I decided that when I grew up, I would build a house there and settle down. I was five years old then. And you know, it came true. I really did build a house there in 1975, only not in Poti, but in Sukhumi, for a friend of mine. My hobby is architecture. I studied music, and completed six terms at a music school. I studied drawing, and during the war I went to a children’s art school. At first, we had a teacher from Kiev, and later a Frenchman (one of the evacuees). He began to allude to different contemporary movements in painting—Surrealism, Impressionism. During the war, the government found money for that. It was a very peaceful situation. We were poor, but we weren’t afraid. At that time, we lived in a peasant izba in Chelyabinsk, in the Urals. It was a young and unusual city—there were skyscrapers, izbas, peasants and city streets.

But we left rather late, the week before the Germans were to enter Kharkiv. My father stayed behind to blow up his factory. Do you understand, a person who built a factory had to blow it up so that it wouldn’t fall to the Germans? Later he rebuilt it. I didn’t see the explosion, but I saw the mountains of ruins. It was a first-class factory that withstood the challenge of knowledge of the Union of Ministers. Apparatchiks worked in white lab coats. Well, for my father, this factory was like his own personal factory. He worked six-and-a-half days a week, and took off only half of Sunday, after he’d travel to the factory to see that the temperature hadn’t let go. This was a result of the constant chemical process. He was a man of the communist future. When we got sick, Mama would tell him: “Petya, bring home some aspirin or something.” He would say: “That’s what the drugstore is for.” In his entire life, he never took one nail from that factory. He was a rarity, an honest and decent man. I never heard one foul word from his mouth. A very sentimental, strait-laced and severe man. The director of the factory only took care of the social work, so my father had complete carte blanche. And when I visited, I had the feeling that it was our factory. Everyone ingratiated themselves with me, as if I was the heir of Ford: “Volodya, how’s school? How’s it going? Have some candy,” etc. He could do everything, from granting dismissals to technology. From my father, I inherited my judiciousness.

I’ve had a soft-scientific education—journalism. I wasn’t drawn to the hard sciences, except architecture, but nothing was being built then. It was just after the war—1950. And then, it was the eve of the Korean War, and I thought: “Why should I enroll at the institute? The Third World War will begin soon, and we’ll all be called to the front.” I was feeling indifferent and hopeless. I automatically enrolled at the institute, thinking that I would soon be killed at the front. With those dark thoughts, I entered.

But in three years, the war was over. In 1955, when I graduated, my mother died. It was quite a blow for me. I had a real Oedipus complex. My mother was an artist’s model. I got my ethical principles from my father, and my creativity from my mother. She was a musician. She knew poetry. She loved paradox, the grotesque and English jokes very much. And the few quotes from English poets she knew helped formulate my artistic points of view. Somehow, in the evacuation, a magazine with stamps fell into my hands. I really didn’t have anything beautiful, because we left during the evacuation without books. I cut out the stamps and made myself a little gallery-book. Then I decided to collect stamps, and later, placards. At night in the city I would unglue these placards for evacuee theaters, ballet, etc. They were rough advertisement placards, but they seemed to me part of another, a higher cultural life. I went into evacuation when I was nine years old, and I already had some cultural experience; I’d seen a few ballets, such as Swan Lake, Harlequiniade and Chopiniade. I saw the opera Evgeny Onegin, and a few children’s plays. I walked around with my father in an art gallery and a historical museum. My father loved parks, galleries and historical monuments. All of it gave me the feeling of a lost paradise. To this day Kharkiv and Dnieper-Petrovsk, where my mother’s sister lived, are images of paradise.

I would go out at night with a knife, and cut off the placards, collecting them. I had all kinds of interesting war placards. Later, I swept up broken dishes, and began collecting splinters of the dishes with drawings on them. I had a trunk full of splinters. I decided that if I copied over the drawings on paper, then storing them would be more compact. So I began copying the drawings from these broken pieces of dishes. My father said: “You know, you could be successful doing that.” He’d heard of a school for artistic education and took me there. He showed them my drawings and they decided they could work with me. I was told that, for the next exercise, instead of an easel, I needed to buy a photographic tripod and a folder with braids. This folder was attached to the tripod. We fastened the paper to it, and drew (at first with pencil, later with watercolor). Later, we began to use oil paints, but there were only two colors available—green and brown. I painted a landscape with these two colors, trying to use different tones. My father saved the picture, and I still have the folder with my childhood drawings.

After this, I was inspired to study music. Before the War, I studied the fortepiano at a music school. Then I saw a violin at a commission store and was stupefied. I really wanted to play the violin. My grandfather played the alto, and this was just a violin. My comrade and I nailed together some boxes and decided to earn money shining shoes. I procured a brush, shoe cream, and we shined shoes together at the entrance to a city park. At the time, soldiers and their ladies would come visit. We accumulated the sum very quickly and I bought the violin. I went to take my exams, alone. There was a Leningrad choir in Chelyabinsk. There were excellent pianists and violinists there, and I performed my exams in front of them. But I knew that I had no ear for violin. Or perhaps I didn’t have any synchronicity with my vocal chords (no sense of pitch) and when you can’t sing, you can’t play notes by ear. And it was then that re-evacuation began. So I was forced to sell my violin, so that it would not break during the journey back. We rode across Russia in a heated boxcar, and when I returned, I learned to play the piano.

This is how I got involved in books. My school friends and I would collect books for the liberated regions. We went from apartment to apartment, rung bells door to door, and asked: “Do you have any extra books? We’re collecting them for the liberated regions.” And we carried out some pretty respectable books. In the process, I saw how people live. There are different kinds of people, and they all live differently. The books saved me. I was sorry to give them back unread, to miss such an opportunity. So I began to read the books we collected, turning them over already read. I came across literature in this way; no one forced me to read them. When I collected a few hundred books, I was given a certificate, which gave me the privilege of records at the library whenever I visited.

I was a very dreamy, sentimental boy, who was always thinking about something during my lessons—noticing the play of light on walls, and how music lessons gave me a halo. In my mind, I had the status of an artist. But I didn’t know then that my observations were the subject of poetry. Inside me was the purely childish negativism of thinking that some people were unworthy of life, acting poorly, amorally, etc. I found the lines from a book of Lermontov poems: “I sadly look upon our generation. / Its future is either barren or dark.” I read this quote aloud and it stunned me. This was precisely what I was looking for! Later, at my aunt’s house I found a collection of Yesenin and read it. I began to feel inside me the rudiments of poetry, of some artistic thoughts. I really liked Yesenin. He excited me, but I felt that he wasn’t my own. I had very little experience. In Leipzig we had a printing press that published Russian-language books in German type. My friends and I dreamed of buying Edgar Poe, Conan Doyle. I saw Mayakovsky there, in a book like this one. I knew it was Mayakovsky because in 1940 some stamps were published. I went to school, and on the way, there was a man selling stamps. I looked and saw this man depicted; how strange! A man of contemporary appearance, in a tie. And I thought that a poet must look something like him.


(Untitled) by Vladimir Burich

I glimpsed myself in the window at night

And saw
I was not there

And understood
I could not be

Я заглянул к себе ночью в окно

И увидел
что меня там нет

И понял
что меня может не быть


I bought Mayakovsky’s book. When I opened and read it, I knew that this was my writer, and I’ve devoted my life to this realization. I was just conquered by it, and Mayakovsky was my idol at age 15. I worshipped him and was overwhelmed with thoughts about him—about his creativity, about his poems, all of which I knew. And, of course, I tried to imitate him. But I couldn’t completely imitate him, because it was already a different time, different pose, different pathos. So I loved his memory, but to carry across everything would have been a joke. I had enough in my mind. I attempted to carry across everything straightforwardly, but it didn’t really work. Later, when I got to know Pasternak, I wanted to unite those two styles of poetry and create my own style. I had a cycle of poems called “Kharkiv Notebook,” little of which was published. But after the book came out, I had no  problem publishing. I need to restrain myself now, because everything that I write will be published, out of pure momentum.

Early on, I published a few poems in meter. I used to be a formalist, and I used form quite virtuously. Later, of course, I came to free verse. I used to get together with another famous formalist, the virtuoso Semyon Kirsanov, of the LEF group. He said, “Write in that spirit and I’ll be the editor for your first book of poems.” You know, Formalism is also a religion. You need to feel the charm and beauty of Formalist methods. But my life re-educated me and gave me substantial meaning and philosophical experience. When I began to assay into free verse, Kirsanov said, “I just don’t understand. Other people have already tried that. There was a guy named Sergey Meldikhen who published two books, but nothing ever came of it, and he disappeared.” (I later found out that he died of hunger during the barricade.) “Why do you want to go down such an unproductive, dead-ended path?” But I had other passions. Whitman was the greatest passion. Then there was the famous translator, Mikhail Zinkevich, who published an anthology of American poets before the War. I know [Edgar Lee] Masters and other poets from that. I became absorbed by Lorca. At that time, I called myself a “Whitmanite.” But later on, Whitman seemed too cosmic to me, too generalizing. I directed my poetic focus more on details, on microcosms, not on declarations. But his influence was, nonetheless, a strong one.

Our first “American” was Mayakovsky, who also experienced the influence of Whitman. And the aesthetic of LEF, Constructivism, architecture, construction—I professed all of it. I read mountains of it. I had a friend about 10-15 years older than me, Vera Aleksandrovna Tuchko, who was a philologist. We had a warm relationship, and she had an excellent library. Because of this, I was able to read people that were discovered 15-20 years later—Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva. I began to write at age 15, first epigrams to my friends, and later lyric poems. That’s a little on my sources and genesis as a writer.

PM: How did free verse appear, and what effect does it have on Russian readers?

VB: Generally speaking, I don’t think that my book reached American readers, or, if so, then in very small numbers. The fact is that about five years ago I was studying history, and even left for a while to do a practicum. And I wrote a few works, one of which was called “The Typology of Formal Structures of the Russian Literary Text.” I decided to examine free verse, so that there wouldn’t be any more discussions about whether it’s characteristic or uncharacteristic, inherent or unnatural, whether it fits or doesn’t fit in with the Russian tradition. Rhymology is the science of combining units—combinations of stresses and non-stresses. I went off of this knowledge to create my own theory of the text, and discovered that only eight types of texts exist. One of them is free verse.

At the institute, a group of us interested in poetry began a group dedicated to reading the history and theory of poetry; this year we celebrated our 25th anniversary. When it began it was a small circle of people. The theorist Leonid Ivanovich Timofeev was our overseer and patron. He had a notebook on the theory of literature. Later, I came to disagree totally with Timofeev, and the more he wrote, the further he departed from my notions of the subject. It never came to direct conflict, though, because in science one tries to discover one’s theoretical relationship through scientific texts. I would give him my work. Yes, the last version of my work was published in 1989. It actually came out earlier, in 1982, from the Institute of Language Study of the Academy of Sciences, in a collection. In 1972, the material from a 1971 discussion came out in an article called “Why Free Verse is Free.” This work created quite a furor, for it was here that I expressed my first thoughts, views, etc. And in the almanac Poetry, I finally wrote a small poetic manifesto. It’s called “The First Poetic Tradition,” and details my notion that free verse is the first poetic tradition. I don’t include The Lay of Igor’s Campaign, because The Lay came to us in the form of prose. The question of prose and verse is a question of the will of the author, and a question of the skill of dividing text from syntagms. It can be overgrown with rhyme and meter. And prose can be metrical or rhymed. We know Bely’s Petersburg, and other things written in conventional prose, that have internal rhyme.

I decided to sacrifice and take this on because someone needs to study this, so that future generations don’t need to, and can go down a more open road. It’s true, Lilly Brill’s husband, a friend of mine for 25 years, said: “Volodya, don’t get into theory! You won’t be able to write—the poems won’t come.” And in part, this prophetically came true. Because when you think logically, imaginative thought becomes secondary. I read all the poetry criticism that was written, determined the level of science involved, analyzed all the postulates and so on. But I did not begin any kind of hodgepodge—did not collage all the theories. I created one harmonious theory, in spite of the authorities. Generally speaking, I’ve never had any admiration for authority. I’m a very polite person, but when it comes to art, I’m very principled. It could be that I’ve always been fearless because I’ve never been punished severely. I “knew the limit and fell” (that’s a Russian proverb) and I was never frightened, terrified of the totalitarian regime. I thought of it as something tasteless. Well, one day I was going to school, and in the basement there was a store. In the window, at the level of my feet, stood a portrait of Stalin covered with flies. I thought: Does he really need that? Does he need his portrait standing next to my feet, next to cigarette butts? How tasteless! It may even diminish him. That’s what I thought then. And for this reason, I saw the cult of personality as an artistic category—tasteless. In the book, Moscow, 1937, the author describes an episode: Feichtanger asks Stalin, “What is this cult of personality for?” And Stalin says, “Well, the people want it. And I’m a servant of the people.”

When things began to change, I openly criticized the “First Course in the History of the Party.” But naturally, since I didn’t have any knowledge of the facts, it wasn’t anything substantial, just a stylistic revolution that my old comrades showed me. Naturally, it proved to me that I was smart, that it was my doing. But because of this, I didn’t travel to Kiev. I was afraid something bad would happen to me. And then I continued to have that feeling here. All the writers know that I’m an independent person. I entered the Writers’ Union quite late, and was essentially a poet outside the Union. I entered in 1983, a month after the death of Brezhnev. That’s how it happened.

PM: What goal do you strive for when you write poems?

VB: You know, when I was writing poems, they were becoming more and more sad. I was published, critiqued, etc. But I asked myself a question: What am I doing this for? Perhaps I’m only causing people unpleasantness. Yes, we’re all going to die, but why do we have to remember it every day? What kind of goal is that? What truth is in that? Why am I so sad?



Lying on my back
I watch the ceiling—
my ears full of tears


Я лежу на спине
и смотрю в потолок
с ушами полными слез



What do I expect from tomorrow?


Чего я жду от завтрашнего дня?


Black and White

searches for white
to kill the light in him
and to turn him gray


ищет белое
чтобы убить в нем светлое
и превратить его в серое


the gradual removal
of masks

to the last

from gypsum

Жизнь —
постепенное снятие

до последней

из гипса


Art, for me, has always existed only in the form of eternal themes, or frank humor, satire. I don’t really recognize other genres, like naturalism or realism. The remaining themes are life, death, love, hate. I had one more big theme, which sadly, I did not finish. Because I’ve always been preparing myself for it. Maybe this summer I’ll incorporate it and finish.

I’ve arrived at the fact that I’m no longer a poet, but a philosopher. I’ve already begun developing a philosophical system—Adaptationism. Literary studies is to blame for it, because this nagging idea led to a nervous disorder, and only with the help of medicine have I emerged from this disorder. I developed phobias—agoraphobia, claustrophobia, constant terror, obsessive conditions. I could not wash myself in the bathroom without the door open. I could not be alone in the apartment. My wife, when she could, stayed with me. I could not be alone. I had to be around people constantly, to feel their breath, their bodies, especially at night. I could not sleep alone in the apartment. One day, I even ran away. I could not fall asleep. I began shaking. A kind of numbing terror began to paralyze me. It was a sacramental time. I constantly overslept, in a numbing, paralyzing terror. I don’t know what I was afraid of, but I feared heights and bridges. I stopped driving because I kept feeling like I was going to steer off the bridge into the river. And then, one night, I ran away from home in search of people. I slept in sweatpants because I knew that, at some moment, I would be turned in. I couldn’t even close the apartment. It was a condition of estrangement from reality. As if I were walled up in glass. I had the feeling that it would never go away, that it would be like this forever. I didn’t even notice a person who happened to pass by me that night. It was like a ghost. I lost total contact with reality.

Somehow, that night, I arrived at the police station. In spite of everything, my unconscious was working—I understood where no one would be sleeping. I could not just go to a friend’s house at 2 AM. That would have been taboo. So I went to the police station, in a delirium. At the station, I saw a strange scene: All the police officers were leaning over some drunk who swore at them, scolded them, insulted them. They just listened to him, did nothing, didn’t beat him up. They just watched him and waited for this “concert” to end. I also stood and waited. Finally, someone noticed me and said, “Are we bothering you?” He thought that I lived in the apartment above this police station. I said, “No, you’re not bothering me, I just wanted to ask if you had any sleeping pills. I can’t sleep, and I’m out of pills.” They said to me, “You know, over there is an emergency room that’s giving them out. They have some.” I went and they gave me an ampule. But you have to crush them and dissolve them in water. I went back to the police station and asked for some water. They told me they were closing up. They led out the drunk, and closed the office. It was already 4 o’clock in the morning. Then I went to another station. They were trying to solve a crime; someone had been robbed at the airport. I asked for water and they said, “Here you go.” I drank it.

When I woke up, a man in a white coat was standing above me. They had called the psychiatric hospital, and the emergency psychiatric unit arrived. I wasn’t suspicious of anything, and just said, “I’m going home. I live far from here. I took a sleeping pill and fell asleep here and now should be getting back home.” But they said, “Fine. Come with us.” They took me in the car. And when we were driving, I looked from side to side and began to understand where we were going. We were going to the Central Psychiatric Clinic [Sailor’s Silence, the same hospital where Sergey Gandlevsky spent time, which he compared to Bedlam]. I said, “What are you doing? This is perfidy! I didn’t ask for this!” And they said to me, “Don’t worry. The chief psychiatrist of the city doesn’t make mistakes. And he decided that you would be better off here.”

And in 15 minutes I was in a ward of the violently insane. Some distorted people came up to me and began pushing me. It was horrible. I lied down in bed, put my hands over my face and thought: “Whatever happens, happens.” And there were no doors there, just various violent and crazy people. The quiet insane and abnormal people all walked around. After two hours they called me out to see the doctor, and I told him: “You’re going to laugh, but I’m an absolutely normal person. I ended up here by accident.” She said, “Tell me how it happened,” and I proceeded to tell her the story. She said, “That may be so, but the chief psychiatrist of the city does not make mistakes. You’ll have to stay here for a week in our sanitarium, as a matter of course. You will take vitamins, and on the weekend we’ll let you go—we don’t need you here.” And so it was. On Friday, my wife arrived by car, and we went to the dacha. On Monday, I returned.

Well, that was my crisis. And that all happened as a result of my constant search for the meaning of life, the meaning of creativity. And after that I arrived at a very sad discovery—there is no meaning in life. But there is a goal. This goal is adaptation, as it is for every living thing. And literature is one of the great means of man’s adaptation. We read, and we adapt. My sad poems are like healing with the use of poisons. Just as poison in small doses can heal, I can heal a person from terror using my small, minimalist poems. But Adaptationism proves to be so universal! The view of official Marxism is that the fundamental question is not “What is the meaning of life?” but “What is primary—matter or mind?” In this, I saw the original substitution of the thesis. Because the question of philosophy was always “What is the meaning of life?” not “What is primary, what is secondary?” And I just couldn’t understand how Marxism could answer the question of life’s meaning, if there were meaning. And somehow answering that question for myself (not knowing how Marx, Engels and Lenin answered it), I said: “There is none, but the goal of life is adaptation and the maximal improvement of one’s adaptive possibilities, in all spheres. A person strives for this even if he does not attain it.”

One day I met with a German of Iranian descent. Her father was an Iranian communist. I asked her: “You’ve probably read Marx in the original. Does he address the question of whether there is meaning in life?” She said that there was not. I thought that this was good, because if Marx had said there were meaning, then Marxism would have turned into a religion. Religion says that there is meaning. Atheism says there is no meaning. Hence, the desire to create a paradise on earth that we would never leave. It’s been said, by the way, in Marxist literature, that the meaning of life is in work, in helping your neighbor, in improvement. But those are not meanings of life. Those are norms of ethical behavior. It just doesn’t exist.

I arrived at the fact that religion is a philosophy in pictures [consider the Russian Orthodox tradition of iconography]; very accessible to the elementary mind, but it also uses adaptation. It consoles. I have a more severe theory. I have to be honest, decent, moral—understanding that there is no meaning. Because it’s so easy to give way to crime, to amorality. But this is moral in the purest sense, without any protection or aid from the outside—that someone is watching you, consoling you, will save you, will give you another life. It’s a terrifying thing for a person, but it’s for the strong. So I strive to observe all the Christian commandments. One day, an Orthodox religious person asked me if I believed or not, if I was a Christian. It was the kind of situation where I could have offended or angered them. It’s considered good form to be in the Faith, to be religious. I told them: “I revere the person of Christ.” I said it well enough. I do believe that there was such a person. I read his ethical teachings. I don’t love it when he scares me with punishment or repression, the fires of Gehenna. It’s worse than a death camp. But I think that there was such a humanist, Jesus Christ, that he lived—but I don’t believe he was holy.

My Adaptationism answers all questions. It is so universal that even a few philosophers told me that it’s not incorrect. It decides all questions. Why do heroes exist? A hero is a person whose process of adaptation is placed lower than the process of adaptation of the society. What is sport? Sport is a means of physical adaptation, of improving one’s adaptive apparatus, of living strength. This is a multi-layered philosophy. If Marxism consists of classical German philosophy, English economic and political theory and French Socialism, then my philosophy also has its compilation of blocs. For example, Hans Selye’s theory of stress-distress, his well-known teachings on stress—this is the physiological foundation of my philosophy. He was a Nobel Prize winner, I believe. When his books on adaptation came out (the controversial adaptation of pilots or mountain-climbers), I finally understood that Marxist doctrine doesn’t allow for adaptation, and that adaptation is the chief philosophy of life.

What does the afterlife promise us? The same thing as in this life. The Muslim conception is totally literal. A man wants a woman, so he’s given a harem. He wants to eat, he’s given food and music. That is, nothing irrational. Nothing mystical. In all its forms, there are the same conceptions of life. I understand that if there is a physics of elementary particles, the happy person doesn’t understand what’s going on. That’s a real mystery. But the level of people who created religion has not answered to the level of the mystery of contemporary science, and they cannot place it at the foundation. They placed it where it was appropriate and known.

PM: In your philosophy, how are people connected to each other?

VB: Well, I agree with Marx that freedom is a fundamental necessity. Even in governmental treaties and ethics. Ethics evolve. What was ethical at one time is unethical in another, and vice versa. And we don’t know how ethics will transform in 100-200 years. Ethics transform themselves as a result of conditions. For example, today there are five billion people in the world, and you already sense the strain of resources, demographic strain, the overpopulation. If we have over fifty billion people, then perhaps there’ll be some prohibition…

[The interview continues with further description of adaptationism. Burich died the following year.]


Leave a Reply