Recently the Bavarian multi-artist Herbert Achternbusch passed away at age 83. With his eccentric films and his books he was the emotional polar star of my chaotic late teenage years. He shaped and sharpened my mixed emotions towards our both “homeland” Bavaria. And probably he was the first one introducing me to a Zen way of approaching life, with his famous Koan “You have no chance, but make use of it! (Du hast keine Chance, aber nutze sie!)”.
So many of my adolescent and young adult period heroes and teachers have already passed away. Getting elder, far beyond half-time of life, I find myself more and more in conversation with the friends and teachers who are no more, learning from the dead. Practising Shakuhachi I sometimes listen to old tape recordings of the lessons I took with my late teacher. I hear him playing his flute, listen to his breath. I hear his voice when giving some of the rare and short explanations. I imagine my understanding of what my late teachers wanted to share with me slowly grows over the years, and I feel guilty for my ignorance at younger age.
Besides my very straightforward approach successfully completing school and studying Physics later, I always felt strong inclination towards the arts and artists. Towards those who do not fit in, who do not subscribe to the generally accepted explanations and solutions. Those who made up their own minds and went their own ways, no matter what. Hanging around with eccentric folks, yet leaving the party before dawn because I had to be fit for Math and Physics lectures describes my life style during my student years.
I remember night long discussions at the kitchen table of our shared flat, talking through all that is in life and death and beyond. My point of view, heavily biased by an increasing understanding of science, was seldom appreciated. We all wished to have water with a memory, stones with healing spirits, talking trees and magic realities beyond this one of the notoriously untidy kitchen in front of our eyes. Just I could not believe it, because I knew better. Still, I loved and envied my friends, who obviously could believe …
Now, half a life later, I see those once magic people again. The same minds untouched by reasoning and science, but with a firm believe that reality concerning Covid-19 is whatever their intuition tells them. The same patterns of argumentation, a similar energy in fighting for their own reality of whatever life is. These days I do not envy them any longer. I feel terribly sad that what was once making my life rich and colourful, had become a danse macabre, a display of sheer ignorance in the face of a very real and very much superable pandemic. They dance and sing and shout shoulder on shoulder with those fascists, who abuse the current situation and the naivety of ageing paradise birds for their very own agenda.
Mourning those who passed away and mourning those who turned away is characterising those difficult days. When in the end, you realise your friends and teachers who gave you so much are either dead or behaving stupid: you have no chance, but make use of it.