The Principle of the “Principle”

Yackandandah, Victoria, a township existing on the principle of co-operation

Life in the old gold mining  town of Yackandandah, Victoria,  is continuing  on the principle of co-operation

It is good to have principles,

but to insist on one’s principles,

at all times, is akin to fundamentalism

and should be avoided.

To have principles and act upon them is often seen as a positive attitude. We say often about others, “He is a man of principle and he will not violate his principles.”

For sure, this applies especially of good behaviour and is recognised as a good rule of personal conduct to have.

We complain often enough about the conduct of politicians and journalists and accusing them of not having any principles. Oh, they have their principles, but not the ones we expect them to have.

It is possible, that some people have the principle not to have any, bar the one, not to have any.

So, we are actually talking about “good” principles. We live on this earth and try our best to live in harmony with our fellow human beings. Principles will help but what if “our” principles clash with the principles of the others?

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Aleppo, Syria, a city where the principle is, “I’m right and you are wrong”.

If we insist on our principles and the others insist on theirs,  there could  be trouble in the form of a bad argument or even  conflict. Perhaps there should be another principle that encourages us to talk things over. There must be some overarching principles, like human rights.

 Insisting on principles could be a form of fundamentalism. Perhaps the guiding principle should be the principle of approximation.

Approximation” is a term well-known in science and mathematics but could also be applied to human behaviour.

Face-saving” and compromising could fall under the principle of approximation.

Perhaps, next time you have an argument based on one of your  principles you might consider, that you are seen as a fundamentalist or just plain bloody-minded. 

Advent 1948

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The happy “Swinger”

The other day, I was sitting on the swing in the local playground and was swinging into the beautiful, sunny summer morning. Magpies were singing away in a nearby tree and a couple of Galahs, not very musical-minded, chased them away. All normal activities in the park.

Swinging is a relaxing pastime and on this day, during the time of Advent, the memories came flooding back to sixty-seven years ago in December 1948.

It was still a time of shortages and we knew Christmas would be a dull affair again. I was especially sad because my sister Ilse was away in West-Germany because of the blockade the Soviet Union had imposed on West-Berlin. There were shortages everywhere, only of the cold and hunger we had plenty of.

We had a swing hanging from the high ceiling in our hallway. I was mighty proud of it as I knew no other family with a swing. One morning in December, I was alone at home. My mother and my older sister Eva were both at work. I  was  sitting on the swing and was swinging to my heart’s content. Flying through the air, I felt like a bird. As it was the time of Advent I was also singing Christmas songs.

Nostalgia overpowered me and I was wishing for my sister to be back in Berlin for Christmas. I knew there was no way she could be back as all the borders to West-Germany were hermetically sealed off.

The thought of Christmas, without her, made me really sad and I stopped swinging and finally the swing came to a stop. As I was considering my dark mood I heard a knock on the door. I jumped off the swing and rushed to the door and when I opened the door my sister Ilse was standing there with a suitcase by her side. We hugged each other and probably screamed and shouted with sheer delight.

I swamped her with questions about her coming. She had taken a train to the border and joined some other people for a long walk through the forest. Near the border, they were joined by a guide who showed them the way. Today, people would call those helpful men, people smugglers. In those days they were heroes. They made it safely through the night to the nearest railway station in East-Germany and then by train to Berlin. And there she was.

At once we went to the police to report her return and registered her, and applied for the ration cards, with the department which issued the food vouchers. My mother was at work and had no idea what was happening at home. It made her real happy to find Ilse on her return home.

Later, just before Christmas, every person in Berlin received a free block of Sarotti chocolate. It had the familiar picture of the brown milk cows and the inscription that it was a gift from Sarotti for the suffering population of Berlin. It had especially been flown in by the planes of the Allied air forces. What a change that was: Within three years from bombing us they flew in chocolates for us!

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The future looked just that  little bit brighter for us.

Nothingness and Eternity

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“Death” is the state of “not being” after we have been alive.

We have no word describing the time before we were born. But in fact, the condition of our non-being is exactly the same.

Therefore, we can say, we have “experienced” the nothingness  already; without being able “to know “.

“Death” will only be our return to nothingness.

Our angst, or fear, of death, results from us recognising the difference of being and not being.

Therefore, our fear of death is the proof of being alive!

 

What then is life?

It is but a break in eternity!

Time exist only for the living.

Being alive is standing on the crest of a wave, but inevitable the wave will fall back and unite with the ocean of eternity!

 

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The Year 1978

In October, I wrote a blog  about our dear, late friend Ron Bates. He played a  pivotal role at that stage in our life and helped us overcome a family tragedy.

Towards the end of nineteen hundred and seventy-seven, we were looking forward to the arrival of a new member to our family. But fate had other ideas, and my wife Uta lost the baby.

Sure, it was a time of grief and disappointment but we promised ourselves to try again. Just then, Ron came up with the idea of a short vacation with some of his friends up at Numbacca Heads on the Mid-Northcoast of NSW. “That would do you the world of good,” he said.

We went up by train and on arrival were met by Ron at the station. He took us to the home of his friends, Snowy and Eve. What a lovely couple they were. They took good care of us despite not having met us before. The next few days they took us, and Ron, to show us the exceptionally wooded hinterland.

There  is a beautiful spot from where you could  view the mouth of the Numbacca River and  the landscape beyond.

We had a picnic at a nature reserve with a stand of beautiful  tall Sydney Blue Gums.

Uta and Eve among the trees

Uta and Eve among the trees

Snowy prepared a barbeque lunch.

Snowy and Ron

Snowy and Ron

 

Next day we really ‘went bush’, as they say in Australia.  We drove to  the village of  Tailors Arm.  To call this settlement  a village,  is probably a bit over the top. It is a location that has a pub. This pub became famous in the gestation of the  song, “The pub with no beer”.

Uta, Snowy and Ron posing on the veranda.

Uta, Snowy and Ron posing on the veranda.

I can tell you, we enjoyed a beautiful, refreshing beer on that day. Should we have charged the pub with false advertising?

On the next day,  Ron wanted us to meet another friend of his, Mary Boulton. She was a local identity and  had established a Pioneer Cottage at Macksville.

The Pioneer Cottage in 1978. You find other pictures on the webside.

The Pioneer Cottage in 1978. You find other pictures on the website.

Mary Boulton, Snowy and me mascarading as an explorer

Mary Boulton, Snowy and I masquerading as an explorer

Ron and I at the gate of the Pioneer Cottage

Ron and I at the gate to the Pioneer Cottage

We had a great time on that short vacation. It was also memorable because only days before I took up running and ran along the  roads at Nambucca Heads. I wanted to lose weight as I was weighing 88 kg at the time. I’m still running now about three times a week.

Nine months later we had a baby girl. Our daughter, Caroline, just had her birthday a few days ago.

Caroline and her partner Matthew.

Caroline and her partner Matthew. What a great couple they are.

That year, 1978, had a sad beginning, but it ended well.  Life was kind to us and with the help of  friends and family we found our way back into a full life. Actually, we still live in the afterglow of that year.

Everything that is happening now is the result of what has happened in the past. Be mindful of what you are doing today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A unwelcome Guest

We have a pet fly. Perhaps I did not express myself properly. 

What I meant was, we have a fly living with us and who, for unknown reasons, has adopted us as her pets.

She follows us everywhere. But I have the feeling she is more attached to me than to my wife.

At first she appeared at our dinner table.  Every time food was put on the table there was a buzz in the air. This, no doubt, comes naturally to a fly. I tried to catch her many times and I thought I did so. I felt her in my closed hand. On opening my hand to release her outside, I could not see her. On walking inside, I saw her flying directly into my face to welcome me back.

After the meals and doing the dishes, she would be flying happily around my head assured I could not harm her with my hands in the water. Honestly, I do not want any of her caresses. She is a nuisance.

When I carry out the rubbish she follows me too. She flies around my head and shows off her acrobatic tricks. She never flies too far away afraid I could sneak inside without her. I can tell you, she is a smart cookie. As soon as I turn to walk back in, she settles down on my back.

Once inside she flies ahead, makes somersaults in the air and would laugh her multi-eyed head off if she could. 

After the evening meal and doing the dishes we usually settle down in front of the TV to watch the unfolding horror of the daily news. At first I can hear her buzzing around my head. Then she flies in front of the TV set as if to shout,  “Here I am. I’m here!”

When the Minister for Immigration comes on to announce, to my displeasure, that his Borderforce has stopped another boat loaded with desperate asylum seekers, our fly delights me by trying to crawl into the minister’s nose. Of course, she gets frustrated and instead attacks my ear.

Today we did go  by train to Sydney. We were hoping to get some relief from our fly. You won’t believe this  when we entered the train carriage she was already sitting on the windowsill looking at us expectantly with her beady  eyes.

I was  hoping to  take a picture of her. But she did not settle down long enough for me to do this. By refusing to be photographed,  she wanted to show the whole world how paranoid I am. I have no proof!

Once in Sydney I expected her to get lost. The smells of so many people would surely confuse her as she is just an innocent little house fly from the country.

It seemed to work and we were not bothered by her while in the city.

But as soon as we stepped onto the train for the return journey there she was again.  She was flying happily around our heads indicating that she was pleased to have found us again.

“Alright,” I said, “let’s go home together.”

“Bridge of Spies” – Glienicke Bridge

Today, 26 years ago ( on the morning of the 10 November, Australian time) the Berlin Wall was opened. Next day, Berlin Time, the old border between West-Berlin and the GDR (East-Germany) was opened at the border to between Berlin and Potsdam.

Sign on Glienike Bridge, today

Sign on Glienike Bridge, today

The sign reads, “Here was Germany and Europe until the 10th of November 1989 at 1800 hour divided”.

So it was astonishingly appropriate that we, my wife Uta and I, saw a film today that had that bridge as a dramatic backdrop. It was another story, from the time of the Cold War, that was told in the film “Bridge of Spies“.  Here is a trailer of the film.

As a former resident of Berlin, I’m not unfamiliar with the bridge. I visited her many times and the bridge was once before the background for a movie. “Under the Bridges” was the last German film made before the end of the war but only shown after the end of the war.

This particular construction of the Glienicke Bridge was only completed in 1907.

In 1986, three years before it re-opening we were visiting her.

View across the River Havel towards Potsdam

View across the River Havel towards Potsdam (1986)

The bridger with boadersign and guard's hut 1986

The bridge with border sign and guard’s hut (1986)

This really was the border of the Western world. Whereever you were in West-Berlin, you always faced the East.

This really was the border of the Western world. Wherever you were in West-Berlin, you always faced the East. (1986)

Today, you should take a walk across the bridge and let the full impact grab you.  In the middle is a line marking the former border.

This masrks the old East / West borderline.

This marks the old East / West borderline.

This the approach to bridge from the Potsdam end of the border. Today the bridge is the border beweteen the City of Berlin and the Federal State of Brandenburg.

This is the approach to the bridge from the Potsdam end of the border. Today the bridge is the border between the City of Berlin and the Federal State of Brandenburg.

And if you have made it to this spot, you are right in front of the beautiful cafe “Garage Du Pont”.

You can sit and ponder the history of the bridge while you indulge yourself.

 Garage Du Pont

Garage Du Pont

Here you can enjoy a coffee, an apple tart or a brandy  or all three of them.

Bon appetite!

Bon appetite!

The film is not only based on a true event, but it is also a stark portrayal of the American justice system. Justice is not always been done but depends often on people  like James B. Donovan  100 out of 100 for Tom Hanks too. The scenes at the border, in August 1961 when the wall went up, were just frightening to watch.

A few times I had to fight back tears as I saw how Berlin suffered.

Ron Bates

Two weeks ago would have been the 102nd birthday of our late friend Ronald (Ron) Hamilton Bates. We got to know him during the sixties when he gave speech lessons to our daughter Gaby while she was in the Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney, Little Bay. after contracting poliomyelitis.

Ron became a dear friend of our family and stayed many a weekend with us. We even got to know his mother and his sister Jean,  a well-known piano player, in Sydney.

I don’t want to write his biography  here but would like to mention, that he was the grandson Australia’s icon, Daisy Bates. He grew up in Goulburn and was able to tell us a lot about early Australia.

Why I’m writing about him. Well, today I looked at some photos from 1986 when he and his sister came to the airport in Sydney to see us off  for one off our trips to Germany.

You see the late Ron Bates in the centre besides my wife Uta. on the left is sitting me and behind us my son Martin with his son Tristan.

You see the late Ron Bates in the centre besides my wife Uta.I’m sitting on the left and behind us is our son Martin with his baby son Tristan.

He gave us a self-made bon-voyage card and six post-card-sized drawings. I think they are all worth showing to the world.

This drawing is not bigger than a postage stamp. The is a little cottage he always dreamt about once owning.

This drawing is not bigger than a postage stamp. There  is a little cottage he was always dreaming about he could be owning one day.

The next drawing shows a minimalistic  landscape. It shows how with a few strokes he was able to create  a landscape in which the observer finds a lot to interpret.

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The next drawing shows a jumble of items and I have the feeling he wanted to show the creation and life on Earth, culminating in the Dollar. It is not very optimistic but then, he was not very optimistic about mankind. But he understood people well and had a good attitude towards them.

Creation?

Creation?

If people were the pinnacle of creation he shows us on his next drawing that he had his doubts. There is a pair of lovers, but they are outweighed by others arguing.

People being people, loving, arguing and discussing

People being people, loving, arguing and discussing

In the next picture, we see an  elderly woman contemplating the world. She is not in the centre but at periphery looking at a white canvas, so to speak. She tries to understand but can’t see head or tail.

Elderly woman can not see much

An elderly woman cannot see much!

In the next picture, I think, Ron gives us his own interpretation what he thought of the Dollar: he waves it ‘Good Bye’. I don’t think the person in the drawing wants to grab the Dollar, even so it is hovering like a Fata Morgana in the distance.

Good Bye, Dollar!

Good Bye, Dollar!

The last drawing is similar to the first one. It shows the cottage again, but this time surrounded by some trees. Perhaps he meant it for us to come back to, after  our trip.

The dream cottage in the bush

The dream cottage in the bush

Ron became a good friend over the years. Growing up after WW 1 and during the great Depression he missed out on a good education, as so many of his generation did. We had many discussions on a wide range  of subjects with him. Australia needed people like him but could not care less. Australia was the real loser.

The next generation of intellectuals left Australia in droves for the home country, Mother England.  During  the Menzies years, Australia became a white canvas for people to stare at or seek other outlets for their imagination.