After the project reports and academic articles of this year, here comes my second personal post on this blog. “There’s a crack in everything” I wrote on 24 March, quoting Leonard Cohen’s famous anthem, as I lay coughing and wheezing on my sofa after two strenuous long-distance flights within a week and my father’s funeral, but relieved that at least Team X and doctoral student Rebecca Dengler made it back to Germany just in time before the first lockdown. The line continues “and that’s how the light gets in.”
Everyone experienced more cracks this year than they probably ever imagined could exist, but we also witnessed light coming in through those cracks, from family and friends, neighbours, colleagues, and total strangers. Almost overnight, Germany became a flexible country, and a new awareness that we need to build a new world started sinking in, gradually. Here in Karlsruhe, on 10 July, we also had the very good fortune to celebrate our 6th German-Lao Friendship Feast. All through that magical evening, I was fully aware of the fact that this would be the highlight of the year for me, and that the memory of this evening would help brighten the darker moments in store.
At the end of the year, the tradition is to look back and review the good things that happened.
Here is my list:
1. More people in the industrialised world have started realising that continuing to exploit the planet and living unsustainably has consequences. These consequences will very simply not destroy Earth, but us.1 More people have therefore decided to not watch, but to act.
2. A new awareness of the need for decolonisation has emerged and even made the headlines. Colonialism may be in the past, but its long-term effects are still affecting most societies.
More people have therefore decided to not watch, but to act.
3. Digitalisation in our field of Higher Education may have burdened us with the loss of live contact, but it has also catalysed many creative new kinds of collaboration.
Our Lao partners have started to realise this new potential and put it to good use.
Every experience would be lived to the full. The spiritual advice of “mindfulness” and “living in the moment” may be commonplace by now, but this will not deter me from sharing
1. the following photo (taken by a friend, Bernhard Weil),
2. artistic advice (by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke), and
3. drawing (created by volunteer Charlotte O’Dell, Team XI)
with you on this New Year’s Eve, maybe as an inspiration for your next meditative walk outside, or for an arts or language or Global Citizenship lesson with your pupils or students next year.
“Hiller Moor, Huellhorst” (by Bernhard Weil)
English translation of “Ueber die Geduld” (“About Patience”) by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), excerpt from “Letters to a young poet” (http://entersection.com/posts/833-rainer-maria-rilke-on-patience)
force its sap,
in the storms
may not come.
It does come.”
“Tree in Four Seasons” (by Charlotte O’Dell, 31.10.2020)
Rilke’s letter continues: “But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast.”
English translation (by Solveigh Goett PhD, http://solveighgoett.blogspot.com/2012/02/man-muss-geduld-haben-one-must-be.html)
“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and to try to love the questions themselves
as if they were locked rooms or books written
in a very foreign language.
Don’t search for the answers,
which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
My very best wishes for a hopefully healthy and reasonably contented New Year for you,
…and we all hope you all continue to stay safe!
Text by I. Martin
Photos by S. Uhlig & B. Weil (published here with his kind permission)
Artwork by C. O’Dell (published here with her kind permission)
1 “The Limits to Growth” by the Club of Rome was published in 1972, and one of the most prolific and versatile British writers, Peter Reading, chastised a world gone ecologically, politically, and morally insane in his remarkable oevre throughout four decades since the late seventies, but came to the conclusion that “somebody there in the back/ ain’t been [f***ing] listening.” (I wish he was still alive to see that more people have started listening.)
Goett, Solveigh (translation of Rilke). http://solveighgoett.blogspot.com/2012/02/man-muss-geduld-haben-one-must-be.html (last accessed 31 December 2020)
Entersection. http://entersection.com/posts/833-rainer-maria-rilke-on-patience (last accessed 31 December 2020)
Martin, I. (2000). Reading Peter Reading. Newcastle: Bloodaxe Books. https://web.archive.org/web/20120428130614/http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/titlepage.asp?isbn=1852244674 (last accessed 31 December 2020)