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.