Berlin Postings – #2
Our first full day in Berlin had a recurring theme. Bringing to light what once was intentionally not seen. Hidden treasures and hidden atrocities.
Our first stop was the concentration camp Sachsenhausen. As usual my own emotional reactions came after a delay. While walking through the exhibition my focus turned quickly to my daughters and how they were taking it all. In the first building dealing with the rise of fascism, there was still some conversation, but we all got increasingly silent.
Things got really rough at the “killing station” with its chilling matter-of-fact descriptions of efficient extermination procedures. Immediately afterward we weaved our way through larger than life-sized pictures of dead Russian soldiers. These images were printed on sheer cloth banners hanging from the ceiling. We had to zigzag through them and avoid their eyes. We were walking among ghosts.
That was when we all felt it. We had taken in as much as we could handle and it was time to go. At some point both girls wondered at the reasoning behind showing all these things – as if it were a tourist attraction. We talked about the importance of seeing these things with your own eyes. Of knowing what happened, facing it, and then maybe recognizing the warning signs in times when it could happen again.
That is all the words on this I have at the moment. For a moving and more detailed account, read Lyart’s blog posts “Sachsenhausen” and “Sunday Matinee”
In the evening we went to the movies and saw “Hidden Figures” which did what it could as an antidote for the morning’s impressions. It wasn’t a perfect film, but this time it felt GOOD to see the once unseen being seen.
Cringe-worthy – Part 5
First Best Austrian Friend and I once debated the greatest capacities of human nature. He said “love” and “tolerance” and I countered with “generosity” and “respect”. Love – or at least romantic love – I told him, was really a self-centered emotion at its core, not to mention the fact that it has been made trite through overuse. And tolerance was a downright arrogant attitude. “I tolerate you. I tolerate that your existence occurs simultaneously with my own.” Should one be grateful for being tolerated? That might be a good first step, but it is entirely insufficient to truly dismantling prejudice. No, people could do better than that.
I believe in kindness. I believe in giving what you can with no expectation of payback. And I believe that if someone reads this and thinks it is a bunch of sentimental crap and that the world doesn’t work this way, then he/she will have reasons and experiences to back that idea up and they are right. That’s where respect comes in. It doesn’t mean I will change my own views one iota.
I thought I was always this way – that it was in my nature – and that my upbringing and all the luck I have had in life simply reinforced my natural inclinations. I thought I would get glimpses of this essential nature as I read through my childhood journals.
On March 21st 1978 (at the ripe old age of 16) I wrote about a silly argument I had had with my boyfriend “C” at a party. (It should be noted here that I had since completely erased this boyfriend from my memory.)
Here’s March 22nd :
C. called me and apologized & I did too. We’re all made up. J
He was in a bad mood because he had just found out that his dad told his mom that after the divorce, (which coincidentally is on C’s birthday), he didn’t want any ties with that house. That is so shitty. C. & his dad are, or were, really close too. It hurt C. so much that he started to cry. The whole thing gets me sick. His family (except for the brother) is so shitty. It depresses me . . . .
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Good ol’ Socrates. Say what you want about him, but he supplied me with the closest thing I have to a life philosophy. It seems to me that the entire discipline (Philosophy – at least the “Western” part) started off well with him and went downhill from there. My life experiences have only tended to confirm that suspicion.
I dated a philosopher once and don’t recommend it.We were both studying in Freiburg at the time, so he was not only a Philosophy major, but a German one! Oh boy. When the romance started, all I knew was that I knew nothing. But that was okay. Our relationship was fairly Socratic with lots of dialogue and discovery. Unfortunately, it quickly turned more and more platonic. After a month or so he went all Descartes on me. You know – “I think (I’m right), therefore I am”. Then his Germanic roots started sprouting and Freud’s observations of 19th century repressed women became relevant. I started wondering what it was I really wanted. I think it was Schopenhauer who dealt the first truly fatal blow to our relationship. His views on women were so irrational with no sense of justice. I got tired of hearing them. The final pronouncement came with Nietzsche, of course. Love was dead. There was no more Truth to be discovered.
Which brings us full circle back to Socrates. So . . . what do you know?
But at least, now, you know that.