Living in the Future

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When I was a teenager or even younger, I thought the year 1960 was the future. “1984” was the distant future and the year 2000 was the unimaginable, far away, further away future. All those dates are gone now and are part of the history of mankind.

Now, we have the year 2017! I live in a present which was once the future, I was not able to contemplate at all. The last two numbers of years remind us of what happens one hundred years ago. That was a time just before I was born. When I grew up the First World War was still talked about without a quantifying number. It was the World War! That war and its aftermath were so bad that people did not want a repeat nor did they want any world war that had a number attached higher than one. They got one anyway.

My parents were both born in the year 1900 and were true citizens of the 20th century.  While they were growing up new inventions changed their lives. The telephone, movie films, electric trains, aeroplanes and automobiles, the wireless radio,  all those inventions changed the lives of millions. They lived in the most modern city in the world: Berlin.

When I was born, in an almost new hospital, I could not yet know that a madman was already in the process to destroy this modern civilisation. Only smart people could foresee what was coming and if they were able to, they left the country. So much of modernity was transferred to the USA.

All this is, of course, nothing new. There are constant changes and people who bring those changes about have themselves no idea what consequences their ideas ultimately will have. When Gottlieb Daimler fitted an internal combustion engine to a coach he could not imagine that one day it would lead to an environmental disaster.

In 1941 to 1943,  I walked past a tenant building on my way to school in which a young man, Konrad Zuse was inventing the machine that was to became the dominating appliance of human existence in the 21st century, the computer.

The present is always the precursor of the future. We always live in the present but in comparison to what went on before we would have called today’s present the future at any other time.

In today’s world, there are different struggles going on at the same time. There seems to be a religious struggle going on.  I say, “seems to be”, because actually it is not.  It is a rebellion by people who have enough after beeing controlled and exploited by others for centuries, if not millenniums.  Of course. they are guided by their culture, which includes their religion and tribal traditions.

In our European-centric or Western world, we find four main cultural ingredients combined: Roman, Celtic, Germanic and Slavic. All this with a mighty proportion of Jewish tradition to spice things up. Overlaying all this mixture is the Judaic-Christian religion. This is our framework for our  thoughts and actions.

Even if we are not religious we believe in the enlightenment and a basic morality. Apparently, the majority of our politicians don’t believe in any morality. They have been democratically elected to work for the benefit of the population as a whole. But once elected and when they know the ins and outs of the expense entitlement system they go for it like a pack of hungry wolves. They have no shame at all.

The question arises how good is Democracy if it throws up such a mob of parasites? Last century, especially after WW2, Democracy seemed to spread. The two shining examples are Germany and Japan. After they lost the war they took to Democracy like ducks to water.

After 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union true Democracy seems to be on the retreat. New governments are still being elected but after the votes have been counted some of the new governments think they have a licence to curtail the rules of Democracy.

On top of all this, globalisation has led to an increase in the influence of big business over the governments. The voters are reacting now by throwing out the governments that appear corrupt and they elect populist new governments which further erode the democratic way of life. That doesn’t mean the new governments are less corrupt.

The USA have voted themselves an unpredictable president who will probably govern by Twitter. Well, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the other day, the future will begin in a few days. We will see what is new about it.

I say, we have arrived already. We live in a future we did not imagine when we were younger. The climate is changing our planet Earth into an uninhabitable rock. What have we done to our children and all the generation who will follow us?

People all over the world don’t want things to continue as they did up to now and they say so in a recent poll.

They want a strong leader who takes the power back from the big companies and their greedy CEOs.

We are living in a present in which the dark clouds of the future don’t show any silver lining at all.

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Memories of the Past and towards 2017

Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you.

These are the words of the refrain from the beautiful song “Bookends” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. A song about two old friends sitting on a park bench – reminiscing.

 

 

If you have more time on your hand you can be listening to the full version here.

Last month,  Uta and I had our 60th Wedding anniversary. It was a moment to reflect on our past together.

Just before we got married this photo was taken of us two on the balcony of my mother’s apartment in Berlin. In the meantime, this building has been torn down and a more modern one has taken its place.

img_20170106_0001 In the picture, my future wife looks rather sceptical at me.  Or is it whimsical? We were innocent at the time. We believed in a better world and eleven years after WW 2 we had all reasons to believe in a bright future. Out of that belief grew our confidence to start a family.

In case you are wondering about the plate on the wall, it has been painted by Anselm  Feuerbach and is of his favourite model, Nanna, in a classical pose. This plate is still in the family and belongs to my son now.

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From then to now it was a time of great changes in all our lives. We moved to Australia and raised a family. Of our four children, our eldest daughter passed away nearly five years ago.

2016 was an especially bad year all round. The election of Donald Trump to be the new President of the US makes for interesting times. Interesting, because he seems to be unpredictable. He loves conflict and will have a fight on his hand, among others, with the American secret services. The establishment believes the advice of the services are sacrosanct without considering that they might have their own agenda.

Terrorism is an old game but since 9/11 it has become global, as so many things have since the end of the Cold War. We shake in our shoes as our governments think of more useless schemes to stop this menace. But all those measurements make the would-be terrorists more cranky.

On a personal level, my health is precarious. At least this is what my doctors tell me. Next week I will know more. At my age, anything can crop up in my body. When I was born my life expectancy was just sixty-four years. Fifteen years later I am still here to tell my stories.

A few years ago, I talked about this with one of my neighbours. We called it bonus time and laughed about it. This was on a Friday and the very next Monday his bonus time came to a sudden end. So, you never know.

In case you wonder what happened to the couple in the first photo. We changed into an old couple day by day without noticing it. And now, sixty years later, we look like this.

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We have come a long way and I’m happy that last year we were able to visit Berlin, our hometown, once more. If we are lucky, we will be able to see Berlin again in two years time. Our health allowing, of course.

I nearly forgot. For the fifth time, we became great-grandparents. So the family is growing and we hope the politicians are not mucking up the great-grandchildren’s future.

For 2017 I wish all my followers all the best. Most of all stay healthy because without good health life can be a drag.

Pauses

 

 

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The backyard of Ruby’s Restaurant at Mount Kembla, NSW

 

Life can be pretty hectic. From the time we are born to the moment we die, life can be full of activities that don’t leave much time for reflections. If we stumble from event to event we could miss the important moments when we could realise, that life is not only a string of events.

If we don’t stop from time to time we are just driftwood in the great ocean of events. The events in the Universe appear to be chaotic. We have been given our five senses to make some sense out of this chaos. By doing this our intellect is only creating an image of reality, according to Deepak Chopra. But do we stop to correct that false image?

I know our sensory experience is an illusion, but nevertheless, I, and we all,  need it as a guidance in our daily life.

Sometimes a pause is forced upon us, like when we miss a train or a thunderstorm compels us to take shelter. The chain of events in which we were drifting is broken and we pause.

Some of us are creative in pausing.  A photographer might be looking at something with his inner eye and discovers that, that has always been there but would be unnoticed by people who hastened to their next event.

A poet is in pause-motion when he writes his poem. He reflects on his feelings and the circumstances that caused those feelings.  And we, the readers, pause again when we try to absorb those very feelings. This could be over a large span of time and distance proving that time too is an artificial construct of our intellect.

And what about music? Schumann’s “Kinderszenen” are such reflections on life as a child and how our childhood shapes us. But do we stop and pause to reflect on it? Children are still daydreaming – pausing in fact – even if they stare onto their iPads. We used to stare out of the windows in the classroom; daydreaming of the world outside that window. Modern children look at the iPad and expect to see beyond to what the screen has to offer.

 

I think pauses make us into proper human beings because they interrupt our constant reactions to the events that shape our lives. In those pauses, we might discover who we really are and our relationship with the world around us. It is worthwhile to reflect on the fact that we are just a temporary collection of atomic particles.

Hanukkah and Christmas are upon us. And when we light the candles it is time to look into the light and let it shine on our inner knowledge.  The holiday period at the end of the year is the big pause when we have the opportunity to recognise that we are all brothers and sisters, made from the same stardust.

 

I wish all my followers a “Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas or just plain Season’s Greetings”. Let the light brighten your consciousness to a better understanding of yourself and the world around you.

 

 

 

 

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The old mining village of Mount Kembla, NSW

 

 

 

 

 

Life is (mostly) a Tour de Force

 

 

 

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On a perfect sunny day, life seems to be perfect

Life is a race to the end  and it  is run in stages. Some are easy stages, we later recognise as happy times, and some are torturous stages, the hill sections, when we learn about ourselves  and others.

 

We know actually right from the start that the finishing line is waiting for us. But it is rather nebulous and as long as the sun shines we could not care less. The finishing line is so far out that it doesn’t matter where it is. We are happy to complete the stages. Even the numbers of stages are unknown to us.

Some of us come around a bend in our lives and before we know it, the finishing line is there right in front of us and we have no time to contemplate our  fate. It is all over. It happened to me one cold winter day when I fell off my pushbike and  lost consciousness. I might just as well have  been dead.

I  belong to the ones who went through many stages. We believe, despite knowing otherwise, nothing will happen to us and the universe will make an exception for us.  “Pustekuchen”, we say in German when our expectations aren’t being met. All our assumptions are then blown away. The assumptions were just hot air.

A couple of weeks ago, I went   to see my friendly family doctor with a minor complaint. After a few tests, he looked at me sternly and told me  straight to my face:”You have a tumour.” When  he saw my stunned face he added: ” You know,  a tumour!?!”

Oh, I heard him loud and clear. What he was saying to me, was that he had discovered  something in my body that marked my point of destination – my finishing line had come into view. It is not clear whether I’m on my last stage or the second last one. It depends on so many variables. If I pace myself properly, I might be able to add another stage to my life. If not, the next bend could bring the end.

Of course, my adult children are in denial and tell me,  I’ll be one hundred one day. The stage I’m now in, there is still a flat section before the final climb,  and I am still enjoying the race. The sun is still shining.

 

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A Black Swan is sorting out the eggs it is sitting on.

 

 

I have been a marathon runner and ran many road races over several distances and I have learnt to cope with pain. I don’t now how the pain will be in the end,  but I hope for the best. So far, I am still pain-free (which makes my situation surreal)  but I do expect the medical profession to add to my discomfort. It is all part of the cards I have been dealt for the final stage (or stages).

I will still be blogging,  and from time to time I will report on what is happening to me.

The motto of my blog is:

“It is about life, as I experienced it, how I see it and how I imagine it…”

 

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Is this an exit or an entrance to something new, as the mountain beckons in the distance to be climbed?

 

 

Sculptures by the Sea Pt.2

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Another sweeping view of Bondi Beach. On the left of the picture, one can see people walking, ant-like, by the rocky shore.

There was more to see than the results of the various artists: plants that are clinging to the meagre rocks, the changes that Bondi went through since the European people arrived, and the present day activities.

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Bondi Beach has changed over the years since the new settlers arrived.

In the beginning, Bondi Beach was just that, a sandy, long beach with sand dunes in the background. Then people discovered the beach and the surf and used it first without any amenities. During the twenties and thirties, it slowly  changed into what it is today.

While walking along the crowded path we saw a sign that amused us.

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What are they up to. we were wondering. Working below the waves. Later we found more signs that gave us an answer.

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There was even an artist in residence. She was busy creating a mosaic on the rocks that lay there for aeons.

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There weren’t only bare rocks but there were also  signs that life was hanging on on those bare rocks.

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A flowering plant found a home at the base of an old, rusty pipe.

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A little corner full of flowers

 

 

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A plant with giant leaves had found a new home

 

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A single flower starting out a new existence

 

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This bush was once alive and looked more like some of  the sculptures nearby: a symbol of the passing of time 

We had seen enough that day.  We were tired  and were heading home on a nearly empty train.

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Sculptures by the Sea Pt. 1

Last Tuesday we went to Sydney to see the free open air Exhibition “Sculptures by the Sea”

We had planned this visit, for that day, because the weather forecasts promised us sunshine and summer-like temperatures.

A few das earlier a mighty surf had damaged some of the exhibits.

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The famous, iconic Bondi Beach, Sydney

We started off at the Bondi Beach. And soon enough we saw the first of many sculptures.

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Ha someone left his bag on the rocks? In the background, you can spot the Bondi Beach pavilion.

It is an arduous walk along the rocks from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach. Young people use it for their fitness workout. Old people like us,  hope to survive.

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Almost like the “Great Wall of China”. My wife could not help photographing me.

This exhibition is a yearly event and this year it was held for the 20th time. The artist come from all over the world.

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The faces of people who wonder in awe.

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Whatever it is, I liked it! Perhaps aliens left it there to spy on us Earthlings.

While this exhibition was going on for the last twenty years mother nature was busy for aeons and formed its own spectacular creations.

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The elements have shaped massive rock face.

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How many millions of years did nature work on this piece of rock?

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Cloud formations on Jupiter? No, rocks near Bondi Beach.

Back to the human artists. There was so much to see. Every few minutes we had to pause as our legs are more than four times the age this exhibition is going.

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This is very spectacular too.  Another of those communication devices with another galaxy?

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What is the meaning of this one? I have no idea, but it is made of wood.

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This ball is made from bamboo sticks.

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This must be the most beautiful exhibit of them all. There is, without doubt, a spiritual dimension to it. 

Many people walked in either direction. They spoke in many languages. It was Babel all over again. But people were not confused in dealing with each other.

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This cone must have a meaning, but it escapes me.

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This picture gives you an idea of its dimension.

 

 

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This one was called “Chaos Theory”. Why?  It is not more chaotic than the rest of the man-made world.

 

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“In Awe”, indeed, it survived the onslaught of the wild surf a few days earlier. 

We had arrived dead tired at Tamarama Beach and felt like the rhinoceros in the last picture, flat on our backs.

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A deceptive Encounter

 

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The entrance to a hospital ward at the former Prince Henry Hospital. Little Bay, NSW

 

 

We were on the way to the funeral of a friend of ours. Someone had asked us to stop by the hospital  were the friend spent the last  weeks of his, in the end painful, life  and pick up some of his possessions that were left behind. We had enough time on our hand and agreed to do it.

After parking the car we went up to the ward to see the matron. While my wife went with  a nurse to a store room I was waiting near the sister’s desk. Nosy as I am, I  looked around the ward.

To my surprise,  I saw in a corner a “wooden tank”, which I knew had the function of an iron lung, such as our daughter used to spend her nights in while she was still alive. As I stepped closer to investigate I became aware of an open door to a room in which two nurses prepared a female patient for the day and were in the process of transferring her into her  wheelchair.

There was something familiar in the way the body of the female patient looked against the bright background of the window at the end of the room. Normally I would not enter a hospital room with an unknown patient in it. But, I was intrigued, to say the least.

The young female patient looked up to me as I stepped closer. She was not surprised and gave me a cheery, “Hi”. I have no idea what she thought as she saw me. But I was surprised and shocked to my bones. She looked like a younger version of our late daughter who had passed away  suddenly more than four years ago. That could not be, that she was alive. We had seen her body and had been to her funeral. We had grieved for a long time and carried her memory in our hearts.

As she did not seem to recognise me I did not call her by her name. I was fascinated by the situation and looked around for any clue that could help me to clarify the terrible dilemma I found myself in. People don’t come back from the death.

Close to the wall was a chair on which was a handbag that had spilt some of its content. I could see an open envelope, as our daughter often carried with her,  with some printed photos. Some of those photos were from a funeral and to my shock, I could see myself, on one of the pictures, at my daughter’s  graveside.

The girl, who was by now sitting in the wheelchair did not seem to make a connection with what she should have known from the picture and with the man who was standing in front of her. She just started to chat with me in the same easy-going manner as my daughter would have done.

I don’t remember much what we talked about, but I remember that I asked her her age. She seemed to be young, more a teenager than a young woman,  and she was able to use her arms and hand in contrast to our late daughter who could not. The nurses were fussing about her hair by now.

“That depends on when I start counting,” she said and continued, “my whole life or when I started to be like this.” She was nodding her head down to her body to indicate her predicament.

“I am like this for thirty-three years. What happened before, I have no memory of and I regard my life started again when I became a paraplegic. That is why I’m saying, I’m thirty-three.” She smiled at me, not the least embarrassed to talk about herself. There was no self-pity in her voice. I felt she was used to talking about herself in a not self-conscious way, the same as our daughter was. The similarities were uncanny. Still, they could not be the same person.

In the mean time my wife, who was looking for me, entered the room.  I took her to the side and told her what I had seen. She wasn’t surprised at all.

“I knew about the girl,” she said, “but did not dare to tell  you about her.”

I knew something was not right. My daughter seemed to be alive after dying four years earlier. But she did not recognise us.

My wife stepped out of the room and was calling me out too…

 

She called me by my name , “Peter, it is seven. It is time to get up!”  

I woke up and  saw her drawing back the curtains to let the spring sun in.

 

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