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… Morocco adventure, fourth part …

31st Dec 2007 … The dogs must have eaten something unsavoury during their beach run. Ulla worries. Ali is unwell, though recovers during the afternoon. After fresh prepared fish meal for lunch, I consult the I Ging. It’s tempting to veer decades back into the past, a time I consulted the oracle daily during my solo trips through Italy in my VW Bus. Such free strands of associations would easily make a novel of this report.

Anyway, the I Ging brings up ‘determination. What the heck for?’ Not having to make decisions is a fascinating experience for me, if slightly unsettling. I reckon Ulla’s moods slow my futile attempt at reducing ruminating thoughts, like I puzzle over how frequently she marks events in a negative frame. ‘I knew it was going to be a bad day,’ that sort. I made the decision (ha ha, I made a decision after all)  to trust in her powerful guardian angel. The sharp way she sums up the occasional unpleasant person we meet, I fully admit, creates an instant emotional clearance, which I like, as long as an analysis of my congruence follows. I was born that way, and too easily succumbed to my mother tabooing cuss words from my vocabulary. Further, with vital exception in cases of injustice, or when pushed too far by idiots, which sparks pure anger in me, I tend to neutralise my attitude when negative reactions towards people perk up. That is to say I trained myself stepping into other people’s shoes, even when they pinch. I fully own the torture of this tricky ideology. I’d not recommend the style. Phew, that was a droll effort at self-observation.

1st January 2008 … Last night was a non-event, though a hilarious late TV show diverted me away from sulking. We wait ages for a camel dish. I’m unsure about eating the mutton of such useful and loyal creatures. The dish tastes fine, but scenes I witnessed of how animals are treated before slaughter always trouble me. Just then Ulla storms off in disgust as a truck with cramped chicken cages arrives at the restaurant. She eventually returns. Our waiter friend packs up the content of her plate for us to take along. On way back to Bou Jerif we almost turn around when another troupe of four-wheel drivers showers us with clouds of dust. Short of time, we call the fort and order a tent for me. All turns out well. I get a tower room for the price of a tent. And the manic French group leaves shortly, for whatever reason.

2nd to 3d January 2008 … After a walk following a parched river bed with patches of blooming desert, we return to an Oasis below Bou Jerif. Later Ulla takes the van to the fort to recharge batteries, while I have a hot shower, and read. Tomorrow we’ll head up the Atlantic coast.

4th – 5th   January … We get meat for the dogs in Goulimine and drive on to Sidni Ifni for a late lunch at Suerto Lorca. My choice is octopus. I’ve run out of colour film and have been using a spare black and white film for a while. We plan to shop in Tiznit. I access my email to check whether Julio has answered my query re: a room at his Marrakech Riad, Dar Pangal for the day before my flight back to London. No luck so far. Off to Tiznit. After I rent a room for the night, we have lunch and go shopping. Ulla strikes a bargain for a beautiful hand-embroidered Kaftan, intended for cushions. She frowns when the trader asks her to smile. A deal that is not sealed with smiles seems to signal disapproval here. The trader relents, is forgiving, ‘Inshallah.’

Near Agadir we stop for the night at a place called Paradise de Nomade. I’m impressed by the fresh sheets in my Berber tent. And the massive boulders in the dry riverbed nearby are an epic sight. Unfortunately the night turns noisy from 11:30 pm onwards. Four wheel drivers arrive, dogs bark, music, jolly talking … until 3 am.

Next morning we hear the sudden influx was due to a desert rally being called off at short notice, because four French tourists were murdered in Mauretania. The locals, it was said, asked the party for some money and were refused, so they killed them. Sadly, past political grievances, lack of deep listening, arrogance, and the refusal of dialogue can have terrible consequences. Morocco has a complex history and a hard won independence.

6th Jan … Images along the road to Essaouira, and some reflective thoughts … As the light, colours, food, scents, the warmth and hospitality of ordinary people in Morocco grow on me, I ponder on how outer impressions oscillate with my inner pilgrimage. Sound plays a powerful role in stirring the unconscious. The tunes I hum unawares, I realise, include folk themes, lyrics from German romantic poets set to music by Schubert, even Kurt Weil songs; melancholic echoes from childhood and teen days. Yet even then I probed the meaning of home, of belonging. Being a stranger seemed more exciting. There is a kind of accord with other strangers around the world, due to a gap in narratives, demanding keen attention, shaking up perceptions and allowing for the unfamiliar to astonish.

On this stretch of road, the predominant sound, whenever Ulla stops the engine, is the rhythmic surf of the Atlantic, Sea of the Atlas, into which many rivers flow, and which, through a narrow strait, connects to my beloved Mediterranean. The high and low tides of this expansive body of salt water, dividing Europe from North America, and Africa from South America, make up the drone to dreams criss-crossing cultures from East to West, with ancient legends adding a shimmer to images that present themselves each day. To these inter penetrating worlds a constant wind adds turbulence, creative chaos.

Approaching Essaouira, we’re both a bit tense. Neither of us slept well at Paradis de Nomade. We search a hotel for me, after Ulla missed the earmarked camping place. She has the beach in mind, to give Ali and Leila their deserved run. Her stress and impatience adding to mine, I accept a hotel at the outskirts of Essaouira. The receptionist makes to pretence about relishing my embarrassment when I mistake E120 for 120 Dirham. A shock, considering my dwindling finances, but I can’t just walk out and sit on the curb. Overcoming the inner struggle, I decide to switch attitude, enjoy a hot shower and have sublimely quiet night.

7th of Jan 2008 … I find my kind of place, affordable and relaxed, in the Medina of Essaouira. At Hotel Souiri my inner harmony is restored. Ulla and I meet at 2 pm for a meal of irresistible fresh-smoked sardines at the harbour. The dogs enjoy a walk along the fortress walls, but are less pleased when we trundle through narrow streets in search for bargains. We both find items after appropriate spans of haggling. I buy a carpet runner to cheer up my kitchen at home. The labyrinth Medina has a lively and friendly atmosphere, and a well sustained patina of hippy charm, inviting a longer stay, but not this time, since I must catch a plane in two days.

Ulla offers to drive me to Marrakech.  In hindsight, I should’ve made the decision to refuse and organised a bus. Marrakech does not welcome dogs, which traditionalists consider unclean in Morocco. We were rejected at the outside table of a restaurant at central market place, Jemaa el-Fnaa,  even while sitting on the fringe, because our lovely friends, Ali and Leila were unwelcome. It was a sad downer.

In all, the journey reminded how moving to England in 1978 marked a departure from my crazy life in Germany, with all its professional successes and private failures, opening another crazy section of my life, with equal successes and failures, coinciding with a change of my name. The bridge I crossed then, offered a deep learning, and it allowed me eventually, through another language, to find my way back to writing. But that’s a story in itself.

My friend and travel companion, I must add, while inclined to retreat into her shell, is to my heart an iridescent pearl. I’m grateful she suggested the pilgrimage, and thank her for her companionship during these remarkable weeks.

Note: Please ignore grammar quirks in this spontaneous sharing. Thanks .Also, the underlined blue words in this text open safe links to Wikipedia, and bring up a separate screen.

Blessings for 2021. Wishing you, us, a better year ahead, one that makes pilgrimages possible again.

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… a father/daughter odyssey …

Opa Weiss - smallerIn frequent transit between countries, I’m also travelling through malleable realities with my dying 98 year old father. Experiencing past, present and future flowing into each other makes me realise, more than ever, that time is an invented concept.

I’m blessed to have some good friends in and around Munich, who are very supportive in this long anticipated, difficult time.

My dad never fired a shot during the last war, but excelled and won accolades in ‘Sportschießen.’

And he almost shares the August birthday with his famous namesake, the Bavarian Fairy King, Ludwig II, for whom annually a huge bonfire is lit on the Kogel in Oberammergau.

Kogel - with half-moon

The Kogel rock can be seen from my father’s apartment, and during a half-moon night earlier this year he captured this image on the left.

Presently my father is in care, eating little and sleeping lots. We have been going through a process of releasing the frames we put round each other.

Exhausted, I shortly returned to my UK home in order to recover from arranging care and sorting paperwork, and to catch up with my own stuff … post, cutting grass, clearing my mind etc.

When life requires complex actions, and becomes a bit overwhelming, we need to look after ourselves, as well.

I’ll be returning to the Alps next week to continue the father/daughter odyssey.

Not surprisingly, my first book, which I hope will finally be published this year, has a father theme at its core.

 

For those interested in the Kogel, I found this lovely post by Tricia Anne Mitchell, which was written last year …

http://triciaannemitchell.com/2015/08/16/koenig-ludwig-feuer-oberammergau-king-ludwig-bonfire/

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… here is everywhere …

Nationalism is the pathology of modern developmental history as inevitable as neurosis in the individual.   – Tom Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain

The growth dynamics of nations and those of individuals have striking parallels, especially when it comes to the forming of an identity in relation to the other, and the ongoing struggle to maintain or adjust set habits to changing circumstances. For instance, when religious authority declines, the blame for the ills of a nation can no longer be projected onto the omnipotent godhead. People find themselves challenged to reflect on how they contributed towards the ills and become accountable for their actions.   The psychological development towards spiritual independence and interdependence – for individuals or nation states – is a humbling process in that it confronts us with our failures, imperfections, and the need to learn from our experience and cultivate human qualities.

I’m German-English, my official citizenship is Dutch. Though I live in England, I have felt at home in the Arabian deserts, along the Mediterranean coast, among friends wherever they are. But is there one location from where I look out onto the world, one place that is traditionally called home? To not betray all my loves it would have to be the bridge, in a metaphorical sense. The theme of my first novel starts out with a bridge across opposites. On that bridge my protagonist has an encounter with herself where here becomes everywhere.

I feel like an ancient being torturing language to express the simplicity of experience, digging through layers of false evidence, sifting through sediments of unreliable gossip for grains of truth. Words fall from my pen like dust settling after another hole dug, showing the trifle of an image that needs a night of dreaming to cohere into a sentence, and then more sentences, resonating with a universal narrative, re-arranged in time as if the story is yet to happen.

Germany – Before print was instrumented by Luther’s Reformation, the Latin language represented the voice of divine authority – the father. A lone human hero, Martin Luther (1483-1546), Doctor of Theology, not a prophet, disputed the church’s practice of selling indulgences, which urged him to write his 95 thesis, among them: Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?’ When Luther’s followers printed his 95 theses and displayed them in public places, their controversial contents spread like wildfire. The papal hegemony was rattled. Convinced that salvation was not gained by merit but by the grace of God alone, Luther went into hiding and translated the bible into the most spoken vernacular. Time seemed to call for a voice like his. In some historic records he is accused of hiding under the mantle of the princes rather than siding with the folk, of not grasping the opportunity towards the forming of a German nation. Luther’s theme of grace was limited. When his efforts of converting the Jews failed, his loathsome sentiments incited their persecution. Yet he was seen as encapsulating the struggle of the German people for an identity while living under the shadow of the slain father, the Roman Empire, which compelled the German psyche to emulate its glory.

A.J.P. Taylor writes in The Course of German History: ‘Since Charlemagne founded the Reich in 800, more political energy went into maintaining German states independent of the Reich, or even hostile to it, than into the Reich itself.’ By the fifteenth century, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nations was divided against itself. Through the intense struggle for wholeness emerged some of the world’s finest philosophers, scientists, writers, musicians and mystics, as well as the most ignorant and corrupted leaders.

Walter Benjamin had a vision of Hope and Despair, inspired by a painting:

A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating.  His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread.  This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet.  The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.  But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them.  The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.    

                   – Walter Benjamin, Ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History

The extremes of enlightened spirituality and regressive brutality happen wherever human fallibility seeks to reconcile itself with the divine ideal. A geographically hemmed in Germany was not relaxed about its identity, which was further knocked by the Versailles Peace Treaty. Debates about the effects of the treaty are ongoing. Germany was blamed for the First World War and had vindictive reparations imposed that aided hyperinflation. The crushed self-respect of its people called in a saviour, who tragically sublimated his oppressed childhood with vastly inflated ideals.

Sanity might have prevailed in the darkest hour had Germany given more value to its folk tales. They leave nothing of human nature untold. The secret mysteries of the heart are found in mythical tales all over the world, and while set in local landscapes, their themes are similarly transcending race. These coded treasures are basically the stuff of all yearning for the home or source, a human phenomenon riddled with the tensions of fixation and avoidance.

A hint of the tenacity available to the German people can be found in the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm when storytelling was still practised with the potency of embodied memory. Children growing up with the characters, animals and landscapes of these stories are absorbing timeless themes through symbols and metaphors. Censors protested, and still do, that these themes are cruel and unfit for the innocent child.

The Grimm brothers comment in the introduction to the second, updated 1819 edition of their collection: ‘The right usage discovers nothing bad is in these tales, but as a beautiful word has it – a testimony in our heart. Children point without fear into the stars while others, as popular belief has it, would insult the angels.’

Was the melancholy that gripped so many German people their nemesis or their salvation? Tales that contain symbols of mythic time need to be deciphered again and again within a temporal context. Yet because the emotive power of symbols defies rationality, the sentiments evoked are always in danger of being abused by myopic national concerns. When a nation loses balance by being overly defended or irrationally unleashed, differences of religion, race or politics are thought to explain the matter – yet we all know there is no pure race.

England, like Germany, struggled through internal conflicts but achieved a sense of unity by conquering the world. Felling forests to build boats which sailed under the banner of the Royal Navy, explorers and missionaries spreading across the waters formed a Colonial Empire that brought great wealth and influence. The Commonwealth still lingers like a halo and gives Britain a sense of sovereign pride. Cultural Imperialism, natural to nations with access to the sea, had created the other at a safe distance rather than at home. Yet spoils of victory, too, come at a cost.

When the flagship of King Henry VIII was lifted from the depth of the Solent Estuary into the twentieth century on 11 Oct 1982, the Mary Rose flared back into view and boosted national confidence, adding a powerful impetus to Mrs Thatcher’s resolution to win back the Falklands. It worked – just. Yet now it seems conflicting images of the past, informed by freed-up information providing more and more varied perspectives, are testing every nation’s conscience.

In the twenty-first century, with migration being a global reality, nations are obliged to open their doors to the other. Given changing policies, foreign individuals are often able to acquire legal membership. Since the Schengen agreement, European borders, apart from Britain’s, can be crossed freely, though the agreement is regularly challenged by exceptional circumstances. http://www.migrationinformation.org/Feature/display.cfm?ID=859 

Migrants – who are we?  If there are tendrils resembling roots, they connect to the deep impressions left by parental figures and childhood landscapes, and to the layers of national symbolic themes, ancient, historic and contemporary. Social and ethnic codes ricochet among children in every school-playground, even between neighbours like Germany and Britain. We use icons to sum each other up. At times they move us to tears, at times to laughter, often they serve humorous self-reflection, but mostly they envelope us in a ritualistic trance:

Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, Fish & Chips, Schubert and Kurt Weil songs, God save the Queen, the first four notes of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, a blinking eye of Shakespeare in a hologram,   Goethe’s Faust, the Thatched Cottage, das Edelweiss, The Royal Jewels, der Adler, Jack and Jill, King Ludwig’s Castles, Stonehenge, Rapunzel, Big Ben, Karl Valentin, Spike Mulligan, Lorelei, or the Mary Rose:

In order to preserve them, we gave the Mary Rose Trust a chemical solution called polyethylene glycol. Once these items (such as wooden bowl and leather shoes) have been soaked in this solution, they undergo a freeze-drying process that will preserve them for posterity … ‘You can be sure of Shell.’     (Shell advertisement  1985)

Patrick Wright in his book ‘On Living in the Old Country,’ recounts the findings of a young journalist, Charles Moore. He was commissioned in 1982, after Lord Scarman’s report on the Brixton disorders, to interview the really oppressed people in the area, defined as the elderly white people of Lambeth. The findings expose a national sentiment which, in essence, could equally apply to other nations and individuals: it remembers the state of grace and laments the fall which is said to occur when ‘the blacks’ and the welfare state arrive:

In the beginning there was order, friendliness, dignity, sharing and mutual respect: ‘Everyone mucked in and was properly neighbourly.’

A betrayal of the idea of paradise – in the absence of divine certainty someone or something other needs to become bad, in order to preserve the good.

Seeking fault with the other is meant to shield paradise. An oversight – truth stagnates in the fenced gardens of eternity. Enduring human vitality flows from change and is born of vulnerability. The trance of blame sucks us into its gravitational slow time. Unawares, we perpetuate the shielding in the collective psyche, leaving it for the next generation to absolve.

Recorded history is like a rope broken in many places and knotted together again and again. In the light of new truths these knots are strained and made brittle until they snap. Tribes, nations and ideas are strung along this rope. But new concepts of time are changing our perceptions; many individuals struggle to free themselves of knotted history. The desire to make things solid is an automatic reaction to the fear of losing the familiar we nurture – people, environments, passions and beliefs we bond with, that are mirroring us and allow us to discover ourselves. The problem is not loss, but the manner in which we deal with loss, as if it is destroying our identity. Inevitably, if not death, someone or something will be the agent of change in our lives.  Something dear is wrenched from us, a way of life is gone, those around us and the rest of the world may care for a moment, but our identity, the sum of all our embodied experiences, is ours to keep or lose. The valid anger in the face of change is not lifted by words of wisdom, only plastered up. The heart has to suffer and soften before the conscious decision of an individual can unplug resentment and embrace the enduring presence that truly connects us within. Only individuals can release blame and lift the veil of ignorance.

Dich im Unendlichen zu finden, must du unterscheiden und dann verbinden.

To find yourself in the infinite, you must first distinguish then combine.

–  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A truly global citizenship must be composed of enough individuals brave enough to explore their own psyche, brave enough to think for themselves and realise that our collective identity unfolds beyond the existence of individual transitory lifespans. We know that, given respect, tolerance and stimulation, a child will engage with life creatively and trusts in the future. Applying this insight to how we educate our children nourishes the collective intelligence of humanity.

The German filmmaker Edgar Reitz has with great sensitivity restored a balanced meaning of the German Heimat in his TV series of the same name, spanning from 1919 to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The series follows three ordinary families and comprises 52 hours of film. The yearning to belong, so distorted by the idealism of the Third Reich, is shown in localised context and conveys the human aspects of the war story. The impetus for the creation of this document was an American Holocaust series on TV in 1978. Reitz was horrified that German intellectuals seemed to accept the sentimental spin as treatment for national guilt.

The knots in the rope of time we constructed are brittle with guilt, the burdening guilt of not loving humanity enough to fully take on its pain, the way Christ did. He said, ‘Thy will be done.’ Does such surrender of will, even if taken symbolically, really release us of using our own will to effect change?    The concept of surrender is more subtle than giving up the power to will. I see surrender as an alignment of our conscious will to the dynamic flow of change, the universal will, enabling evolution to happen and work freely through us, so that here is everywhere. In instances when this shift happens inside, we are.

*    *     *

References other than mentioned in the text:

The Angel of History: Walter Benjamin’s Vision of Hope and Despair – by Raymond Barglow, published in ‘Tikkun Magazine,’ November 1998

Recently 500 more tales, collected by a contemporary of the Grimm Brothers, were uncovered:

http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/books/2012/mar/05/five-hundred-fairytales-discovered-germany

 

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