A few years back we went to an exhibition. of the Romantic Period, in Canberra. Unknown to us there was among all those masterpieces this picture of Caspar David Friedrich. After looking at pictures in several rooms I turned towards a doorway to walk into the next room. And there was this amazing sight. While all the other pictures were hanging on the wall this was on a stand. It was so sudden and it hit me. What was that? I had never seen it before and did not even know it existed. I have a couple of books on C D Friedrich and it is not even mentioned in either of them. But being familiar with his paintings I said to myself it is very much like a painting by C D Friedrich. And it was ! At first I thought it is the sun shining through the early morning fog, but it is not. It is the full Moon ! As it should be, around Easter. The glow of the moon in the original picture is much more intensive. It hits you with such a power. I could not contain myself. It was the main exhibit of the exhibition. I have seen pictures of CDF in Berlin and London but this one was extraordinary. I ran around and started talking to other people visiting the exhibition. Normally I would not do such a thing. What you see here are the Three Marys walking to the tomb expected to contain Jesus. Friedrich never did a stroke with his brush without some symbolism. Everything in his paintings is allegorical. The cemetery is a at the bottom of a downhill path just like life is. The three lonely women in a lifeless landscape in which only the cemetery is awaiting us. It is still before dawn and the new beginning. The trees have no foliage yet. Sorry, I can’t tell you more about the picture. C D Friedrich is one of my favourite painters. Perhaps it suits the melancholic streak in me. Lately more people have joined to follow my blog and I’m grateful to you all. It is amazing that you want to read what I have written. For someone of my humble background it is quite an achievement. I wish you all a Happy Easter, no matter what religion you belong to. It is the season of a new beginning, Springtime, in the Northern Hemisphere. Here in Australia we have Autumn and the nights are getting chilly. Below, you find an Australian landscape from the same period. It could be a contemporary picture. Nothing has changed and there is no new beginning. I think it is timeless.
Hermann, a retired Station Master, had been dreaming that they called him back to work and he felt happy that they needed him again. But as soon as he took up his shift at the station, things fell apart. Trains appeared from nowhere and had to be crossed at his station that lay on a single line. Soon chaos reigned and the trains were delayed. Every time he looked outside the office another train approached the station limit.
This dream was a persistent one. In order for not to be dismissed as a dream, it told him to look around and check that it wasn’t a dream. Indeed the nightmare seemed real.
Hermann was happy to be awake and the re-occurring nightmare was over. He slept in a double bed, a leftover from his life as a married man. He absent mindedly started to touch the side of the bed where his wife used to sleep. He should not have, but he was surprised that her side was empty. Gone – ah, yes, she was dead for years. but his feelings for her lingered on.
Through a gap in the blinds he could see some daylight. But still there was no colour and everything in the room looked monochrome, just as his life, he thought.
The memories of his wife were mixed with the memories of a later affair and he realised that the feelings he had now were actually a longing for a non-existing female person generally. That was what he was missing, the other half of his persona. Especially after his nightmarish dream he looked for the peace and reassurance a woman could give. The balance of his persona was missing.
Herman strongly believed a human being was not a single unit, male or female, but the couple. Without the other half I’m incomplete, he thought. If we could not share our feelings with the other, we were just self pollinating wankers. Love, he felt, was the bond that tied us to one person, to complete the persona.
He looked at the clock on his bed side table. ‘My God – already 6.15!’, he thought. It was time to get up as he wanted to go for a run before the sun got the upper hand again. There was some stretching to be done, too.
Running was his hobby, if you could call it that. More likely an obsession. He had to run early before the sun came up , otherwise it would be too hot and would slow him down and fatigue him for the rest of the day.
Thinking of running made him think of Berlin, the city were he was born and raised. There, running was much easier, never too hot, the air seemed softer than in Australia, and the running was friendlier to the bones too, because of the soft, sandy soil of the woods that surround Berlin.
Herman had barely opened his eyes and realised two things that were missing in his life, a partner and Berlin. A touch of self-pity got hold of him and a tear or two welled up from his eyes.
‘Don’t be silly’, he chided himself and another look at the clock confirmed his suspicion that time had not stopped. Time was relentlessly grinding on and being the envelope in which everything happened, and everything comes to a conclusion.
He got up and tried to walk, but as was the case lately in the mornings, he stumbled as he did not have his full feeling in his feet and legs. ‘Getting old, Old Man’ he mumbled and knew that there was a price to paid for being seventy and over. But he slowly made his way to the toilet to have the first pee of the day, which was sometimes such a pitiful, dribbling affair, that he had to repeat it in a few minutes with some more satisfaction. He also knew, he had to drink apple cider vinegar again.
But he was up and once again able to face the day and all its complications. Which could not be avoided, unless of course one wanted to end ones life now. But that, was never on his agenda.
Soon he was out of the door and started to walk. The sun, not at full power, warmed his legs and he fell into a trot. While passing one of the houses a woman, watering her front garden, gave him a cheery “Hello”. “Attractive woman”, he thought and increased his steps. His trot became jogging and he was happy with himself.
I am a subscriber to the New Philosopher Magazine and I like it tremendously. Articles of the magazine are getting a mention on their Face Book page and they are then being discussed.
The publishers of the magazine think that “Happiness” is an important subject to discuss, because most people strive for it. In their striving for “Happiness” people overlook the fact, that their real motivation in life is “Fear”. Life becomes a struggle and there is not much to be happy about.
I think, “Happiness” in an imperfect world is almost impossible to be achieved and since we, we humans that is, are an imperfect lot we rather tend to destroy other people’s “Happiness” if we can’t have it ourselves.
The other day they quoted Edgar Alan Poe (Edgar Allan Poe, from New Philosopher magazine issue #3 “Happiness”):
“I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active – not more happy, nor more wise – than he was 6,000 years ago.”
Edgar Allan Poe was right of course. When the enlightenment came people thought it was the age of reason. But today, as 6,000 years ago and before, fear is running our lives. Reason is only a tool, not more, we can use it to counter fear, but not many can see through the fog of fear. The most we fear is “the others”. We think “the others” will devour us.
Here in Australia we regard boats as the vehicles in which those “Others” arrive, like aliens from outer space, arrive at our shores. Everything bad, we can imagine, they bring to our shores. The fear of others even gave us a government we really should fear though.
Climate change we should fear, but no, we fear the costs of electricity. People who live on an island always fear the arrival of “Others”. And we know why ! We are guilt ridden and fear that someone will come, like Mr Putin, and ask for their island back. Fear runs our lives the same as it ran the lives of Neanderthals, who were sitting in their caves and feared the arrival of Homo sapiens. New arrivals always have a little bit less fear because they are motivated by a possible future less fearful than the present. This is called “Hope”!
You remember the Vikings? They gave us the fear of God as we cowered in our little villages in England. The Vikings did not fear death, as by dying on the battle field they would go straight to Valhalla. Their fear was not to die on the battlefield.
So fear runs our lives. We fear the power of the stock market, the collapse of the housing market but not that young families can’t afford a home. I wish we all could be a bit more stoical about life on Earth.
No wonder we are all so concerned with this elusive “happiness”? We need it to balance our “Fear”. “Happiness” is being discussed since the ancient Greeks and probably before that. In any case, it is not a feeling of permanency; more a fleeting moment. It is hidden, somewhere, like the “G” spot and we can’t pin it down. It is more like a beautiful butterfly we can sometimes hold in our hands before it disappears again in the blue yonder. If we try to catch it and keep it, it will wither.
It is like a subatomic particle that registers only for a nano of a fraction of a second. If we humans experience it, it shows up as a smile in the face of a lucky person, most likely a child who hasn’t learnt to fear yet It can be infectious and it jumps from face to face till it appears again to where it came from.
But please, don’t perpetuate this moment of Happiness. It is with us, but only as a visitor.
Last Tuesday I had a cataract operation in our local hospital. One of Aunty Uta’s followers got wind of it and wanted to know more about it. I wrote him an answer but after this I thought I could make it a post on my blog as well. Here it is:
The operation was on Tuesday. All went smoothly and I have no complains regarding the procedure. Next day when the dressing came off I thought I was in London experiencing the fog there. There was no vision in the eye. Luckily I have the other one. The doctor told me this sometimes happens when the patient has glaucoma (which I have). She gave me some tablets to bring the pressure down in the eye. Come back on Friday. Yesterday after two days of taking the tablets I started to see Daisy Duck. She is hanging on the wall in our toilet making sure people don’t misbehave. I call it now doing the “Daisy Test”. At first I could not see her at all with my brand new, reconditioned eye. But Yesterday afternoon she appeared, if ever so faint, out of the fog.
Last night I went to bed hoping for a further improvement. Bur in the morning it was all foggy again and Daisy wasn’t to been seen anywhere. Perhaps I used up my power of vision during my REM periods during sleep when I was able to see colourful flowers and bushes.
This morning it was back to my Ophthalmologist. She was happy with the progress I had made (did I ?) and she smiled with happiness as she reported, the pressure in my eye has gone done to “9″. Her smile and friendliness is so generous that I would forgive her losing my eyesight. But, she said, nothing to worry about, stop taking the tablets, increase one of the drops from one to six times a day and come back in five weeks – unless, of course, my eyesight has not improved by Tuesday; then she wants me back next week. On questioning her, she assured me, that the operation was a full success only my eye is a bit swollen and she is sure all will return to normal.
Meantime I run to to the toilet more often and check whether Daisy Duck is appearing out of the fog.
After having written the above and checking “Daisy Duck” again I noticed, it is not Daisy at all, but Donald’s Grandma herself. That tells you how old I am that I see an old Grandma as a spring chicken. Perhaps I thought Grandma Duck used to wear glasses and this image doesn’t.
In case you wonder what sort of toilet our toilet is, I can show you what you see when you sit on the throne.
Men can very easily transfer their love from one woman to another.
They seldom grief long when their partner dies, goes away or is otherwise unavailable. They love what women are doing or providing for them. They love women, because they feel women love them and they love them back for it.
Some people might think this kind of love is shallow. But it is not. It is not the person they love but the giver of love they love. This love can be enduring - till death do us part – but it also has survival value, because it is easily transferable.
Men’s love is more a loyalty program. A lot of women died during childbirth and men must have had the ability to find a new partner quickly to look after their earlier brood. If the man was able to love his new wife and his new wife felt that love and was able to reciprocate then they could live happily ever after.
A new newspaper was born today, The Saturday Paper.
A heartfelt “Congratulation” to the many, brave parents. To bring up a new baby in our times is an undertaking that requires a lot of stamina, financial commitment and lots of love.
This new paper promises to be a quality paper. But do we have a quality readership? A readership that puts the dollar where the mouth is. We used to have a quality weekly (The National Times) from 1971 to 1986. It is defunct because, despite its high quality content, did not make enough money.
How will the new paper, in our new electronic age fare?
I’m an avid newspaper reader and have always been. In fact I can not remember not reading a newspaper. Newspaper reading must pre-date my school years. Whereby the word “reading” must not been taken literally, of course. But as soon I could stitch the letters into words I started reading. The same with shop signs. One can “read” the name of the shop before one actually can read.
When I came to Australia, I started to read “The Age” and when we moved to NSW I switched to “The Sydney Morning Herald”. It helped me greatly to learn English. During the last year many good journalists have left the paper. Some of them write for the Guardian and some are with the Saturday Paper. Refugees are everywhere in all shape and forms.
I have seen a lot new newspapers in my life. After the war in Germany a raft of new papers came to the news stands. People were eager to see papers that at least sometimes write the truth. One of them, Der Tagesspiegel, I’m still reading today. On the internet of course.
On the 1 October 1810 Heinrich von Kleist published a new newspaper in Berlin (Berliner Abendblaetter). He must have felt that his paper wouldn’t last long because he knew that people “were only interested in their blindness, in wretchedness and trivialities”. It was a bad time for newspapers. Berlin was occupied by the French, under Napoleon, and censorship was harsh. The paper lasted only six months and a further seven months later Kleist committed suicide in a suicide pact. He was depressed for many reasons. His fiancée suffered from cancer and he hated Napoleon and saw no future for himself.
I hope the publishers of our new paper fare a little bit better. But you never know under our PM Abbott, who doesn’t like the public to be informed. Anything is possible. He has attacked our ABC and will do anything to neuter it.
I wish the publishers of the new paper all the luck they can get – and more.
Today is the First of March – the beginning of autumn on the Southern hemisphere.
Normally we wouldn’t notice any difference from the summer of yesterday and the autumn of today. But when I opened the front door today this is what I saw.
As it is a rather slow rain the plants love it.
The Grevilleas are in full bloom and are producing nectar for the Rainbow Lorikeets.
In the backyard it is not much different and we won’t be out there for tea later in the day.
Aunty Uta was heading straight for her computer and she is busy hammering out another blog.
Lately the media was full of news from the Ukraine. People in the 1532 years old city of Kiev demonstrated on Kiev’s Independence Square, only to be shot at by security forces. On Saturday, the 22nd of February former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko was released from the prison hospital and appeared in front of the demonstrators at Independence Square.
When I saw her there, with her traditional hairdo, I was reminded of the occasion I saw Ukrainian women for the first time in my life.
This happened at the beginning of April 1945. A beautiful sunny spring Sunday invited my Mum and me for a walk in the nearby “Viktoria Park”. And lo and behold, when we turned the first street corner on the way to the park an amazing sight awaited us. Like a swarm of the most beautiful butterflies we saw dozens and dozens of young woman in traditional Ukrainian dresses wearing their hair in a braid around their heads like a crown, indeed this style is called “Crown of the Peasants”. The very style of hairdo Timoshenko wore when she addressed the people on Independence Square.
This fresh sight jarred my memory. The clothes these women wore on that day were all embroidered with beautiful flowers. When they were talking to each other it sounded to me like birds chirping. I was astounded and asked my mother, “Mum, are they angels?”
“No, Peter, these women are Ukrainians!”
When I heard this I decided that Ukrainian women must be some kind of angels. These young females worked in Berlin at the time. Coerced or voluntarily, it does not matter now. They had their day off and they all went to the park to enjoy the first sign of the coming spring. What they were not doing, as I know now, was looking forward to the Red Army coming to Berlin. People of the Soviet Union who were found in Germany after the war, be it as prisoners or workers, were not liberated but treated as traitors. Women suffered the indignity of being raped and then sent off to a labour camp in Siberia.
Ukrainians had a special relationship with Germans at this time of the war, as they saw Russians as their common enemy. And in the present struggle they look to Germany for help in achieving their goal of joining the European Union.
We live in Australia now and we have met many former Ukrainians here at work and in a family way. Two of my grandsons had Ukrainian grandparents on their father’s side. Later this year they will travel to the Ukraine. Little did they know, when they made their travel arrangements, that they were heading towards a country in the midst of a revolution.
The Ukrainian women I saw in the Spring of 1945 must be, if they are still alive, in their late eighties now. I wonder what they would still remember of what happened to them then. Perhaps they don’t want to remember.
None the less they are being remembered for having brightened a nine year old boy´s day in early April of 1945.
The word “what” has may meanings and can be used in various ways. But I don’t want to write an essay about it as I’m not a linguist nor am I a philologist. I want to write about an eighteen months old toddler, our Great-grandson Lucas, and the way he uses this word and I’m sure he does not know too many meanings of it.
Every time we see him after a short break we are surprised how he has grown and developed. So. it is no wonder that we gaze at him with curious eyes and wonderment. In earlier days he would hang on to Mum’s or Dad’s neck and consider for a moment whether he should cry. Over time he has got used to the sight of us very old people (Great-Grandparents) who stare at him and can’t get enough of him.
Now he can, while still hanging onto the neck of Mum or Dad, or Grandma, produce a very slight smile of recognition. His lips twitch a little and he looks back at us without showing any fear. But if we dare to look, what he considers to be for too long, with our doubtless adoration than he will call out, “What?”
What indeed? Why do we look at him like this? Haven’t we ever seen a boy before? Our behaviour seems incomprehensible to him. He wants us to clarify our behaviour. All right, we calm down and he starts to explore our home. He wants to check out a wild theory he has developed during earlier visits.
He runs away from the dining room, through the kitchen, turns left into the hall way, left again through the living room and arrives at the dining room were he finds the same people, sitting around the table and still jacking away. His face is beaming, he knows his theory must be right; if you walk in a circle you return to the place of your departure. No matter what. And he also knows that some of the people will welcome him with cries of, “There you are!” This commotion, while not unexpected by him, is going too far and he will shout, “What?”. This time you can see in his face that he is puzzled by our behaviour and he thinks it is time to give us a lecture.
He takes a backward step, rises his right arm and points his outstretched index finger, for emphasis, like an old Greek philosopher into the air and starts to speak. It is incomprehensible to us because we have forgotten how to speak like a toddler. As far as we are concerned his words could be in a language from another planet. Words of his invention are pouring out of him. You can see in his little glowing face that he is serious, deadly serious. And if any of us grown-ups is still laughing he will direct another “What” at him or her.
After a while he turns and gives up on us dummies. Only Great-Grandma knows how to calm him down. She leads him to another room. A small case full of Matchbox cars can be found in there. Some of them are thirty years old and have not seen the light of day for a long time.
The cars are brought to the table. Lucas is settling down with them and plays like as if he has done this before. After a few different tries he puts them all in a line, bumper to bumper so to speak. Cars of many types and shapes, like a tractor or a Berlin double-decker bus, a bus he has never seen before. Everything he lines up in the same direction.
Here is a photo of a reconstruction of what he did. We were too slow in thinking of taking a photo while he was doing it.
Lucas is a serious chap and anything he does has meaning attached to it, at least for him. We, the old people, are only to ignorant to grasp the fact that every day a toddler like him can make great discoveries. We are too old and hardly anything surprises us. But seeing Lucas we can re-experience with him the world with fresh eyes and we can say with astonishment, “What ! That’s amazing.”
And with that we mean Lucas and the beautiful world, that is out there, for him to discover. Stay tuned.
Mary was alone in the house and sitting at the table trying to write a letter to an old school friend. Her husband, a taxi driver, was out working the night shift.
As it was Friday night her two teenage children, a son and a daughter, were out too.
“Look,” her daughter said before leaving, “We are sorry Nan is in hospital, but we have to go. We’ve planned this for weeks and I think Nan would say ,’Go out and have fun’. So, we’ll have fun.” She grabbed her little bag, swung it around and moved to the door.
From outside one could hear the horn of the car as her brother was eager to get away. “I’m coming,” the daughter shouted and slammed the fly screen at the front door. Mary heard the car taking off with its wheels spinning in the driveway. Then – all was quiet.
Mary tried to collect her thoughts. She wanted to write to her friend, that Mum was in hospital for tests and observation. “Nothing to worry about,” the young doctor had told her, “You probably have her back in a few days, as good as gold.”
Mary had stayed with her mum at the hospital for a few hours but had to go home as her husband needed her help to get ready for work. That’s how it is, in a traditional family. “You go,” her mum had said, “I’ll be okay. Nothing wrong with me those doctors here can’t fix.” She waved with her hands as if shooing away chooks.
“I’ll see you before lunch tomorrow, Mum,” Mary told her and with that walked out of the ward and along the long hall way to the hospital entrance.
“Dear Debbie,” she started to write to her friend who lived now in faraway Townsville, “I know how fond you were of Mum and she is still fond of you….”. She stopped writing as she heard the fly screen creaking at the front door. They lived in an old house with a hallway running through the middle of it. Mary had to get up from the kitchen table and walk to the hall way. The sun had set hours ago and it was close to midnight. The front door was open and in the dim porch light she saw a shadowy figure who she thought was a woman.
“Mum?” Mary asked as she walked to the door where the woman was standing, holding the screen door. “Mum, what are you doing here? Did they chuck you out?”
“Mary, darling, I came to say ‘Good bye’.” Mary looked puzzled at her mother and just wanted do say something to her when she heard the phone ring in the kitchen. “Come in, Mum, I’ll make us a cuppa” Mary said, turned around and walked quickly to the kitchen. It was most likely her husband to tell her, that he is coming home. Nobody else would ring that late.
She lifted the receiver and said, “Yes Ted?”
“Sorry Mrs Miller, this is the hospital and I have to inform you, that your Mum has passed away a few minutes ago.”
“There must be a misunderstanding,” Mary said confused. “You don’t know were she is, do you? She just turned up at my front door. Is that how you take care of old people?”
Mary turned to the door with one hand still holding the receiver, “Mum, tell those nurses at the hospital that you are alive and kicking. They think you are dead.”
She looked along the hallway but could not see her mum. She dropped the receiver which fell, with a thud against the wall and was then swinging like a pendulum.
“Mum?” Mary was calling out in panic as she ran along the hallway looking into the other rooms. Nothing! She was nowhere to be seen. A terrible fright over manned her. She went back to the kitchen and grabbed the receiver with her shaking hand, “Did you just say, my Mum had passed away?”
“Yes, Mrs Miller, that is what I said. And we are terribly sorry it all went so quickly. If you could come in, the doctor will explain everything to you.”
Mary was in shock. Could not understand what had been happening. After a few minutes of recovery she went to the phone and rang the taxi company to ask her husband to come home. It did not take long before Mary heard him pulling into the driveway. On the way to the hospital she told him what had happened that evening.
She was still shaking.