„Oh, today it’s your birthday“, said the doctor. „Congratulation“
I am not kidding: after several attempts of celebrating my birthday in an unforgettable manner since I became 69 (I wrote about it before), my birthday this time is the first one which fitted in the overall situation and athmosphere in the world around me: fragile, partly broken, dystopic. I do not only refer to the terroristic attack in Berlin shortly before christmas. I mean the gush in of disturbing events which were so near to me in space, time and emotion that I could not turn away.
Midst August, my husband and me went to Italy, to a nice place at Laggo Maggiore, to celebrate a birthday of a friend and collegues who invited a lot of people from our common past. We met a couple again who were beloved friends and we had nice hours in a wonderful weather with good food and excellent wine. Hours before the programm started with an evening-concert in a church – all around Händel – I felt a heavy pain in my back. No doubt: it was a damaged disc! I was full of anger and frustration because I could not take part in the programm and the wonderful excursion with the boat next day to the isle of Borromei and the expected excellent lunch. Instead I was occupied in thoughts how I could go on with my husband to our destination in the south of Italy, an area in the Marken, where we were supposed to meet friends who are living there several times in a year. I could not walk , not a single step, but I could sit. Next day, it was a sunday, we went to the emergency unit in the local hospital and after an exploration by the doctor and a first injection we decided to go on and drive several hundreds of kilometres to meet our friends. How lucky I was in my bad luck that my husband is a doctor who could give me the other 5 injections to heal my pain. It was due to this treatment that I had no longer pain in sitting and sleeping, but I could not walk more than 10 steps, later 15 and than 20, till the pain came back and forced me to sit down immediately. With these conditions in mind, we four: Anne and Chris, Otto and me, had a wonderful week. It was the most inspiring and wonderful time we had together, ever. Our meals took place outside the house with a wonderful view to the mountains. We sat under a tree overloaden with figs which were riping while we were there. My friend Anne cooked phantastic meals, Chris offered self bakened bread and wine. And til late in the night we sat under a growing moon and were discussing and exploring a lot of themes, especially personal ones like being creative in our age or how to deal with the fear of and the abhorrence at death. No thought was unspoken.
One day before the first earthquake in the night 23./24.8.2016 Otto and me had to go home, and next day we heard at a telephonecall from our friends about the damages of the earthquake. The house was nearly rotten, but the final blow came weeks later in the second period of earthquakes. Since then the house is no longer a place to live in, to repair it would cost an amount more than 100000 Euro. And our friends decided to give it up.
Meanwhile, there are other thoughts. Beause the area is so beautiful, so quiet and their friends in the near-by village are so familiar, there is a new plan, that their son Nick is building a wooden house on the ruins of the old ones after the final demolition. A wooden house is supposed to stand against earthquakes. We will see, but something is clear: This project will be the project of the next generation. I have to repeat it: Projects of the next generation. We old ones are out. There is only limited time left for smaller projects. And what is interesting enought to start with and take the effort and trouble of a beginning? My former chief in the psychosomatic hospital in Heidelberg started to learn surfing after his 60th birthday. I try with over 70 to learn the baroque-flute. And I know that this will not lead to a kind of mastership.
What can help to explore and learn new things in old age? How it is possible to be curious of the world and other people even there is a lot of dark and insecure atmosphere and political and social scenery around us?
I will mention two people: The journalist and writer Roger Willemsen who died this summer with 60 years was a person who was committed to several social and political activities. He love to interfere in different things. I think he loved to interfere in the structure of the world. I miss his voice to the ongoing madness.
Timothy Snyder in Lettre International (issue 115, winter 2016), read by Arno Widman and mentioned in the Berliner Zeitung 7./8. january 2017: twenty proposals to keep the freedom in the deprivation of freedom. Proposal nr. 10 says: Try yourself in new body-politics. Power will like to see how your body become soft in your easy-chair and how your emotions will fall flat ineffectively on the television screen. Go out of the house. Abandon your body to unfamiliar locations and unfamiliar people.
It is that why I am here in Berlin?