Each one of us is probably familiar with the "lost land".
|The Boy That Saw The World - Mike Loewenrosen
As a child I would enjoy spending time on the outskirts of the forest. It was the best place to observe the rapid changes that nature undergoes. Taking a step into the woods the smell and the colors changed. I looked up to the tree tops along the branches that always resembled fingers to me. That is where the elusiveness of my universe began. On certain days the green of the leaves would divide the play of colors in the sky. Mostly, however, it appeared to me like an oil painting where you could see the color fading into one another. One step back and I would stand in the meadow. An entirely different landscape, an entirely different feeling. In the meadows I could not see secrets, no ramifications, no dark path. On the meadow there was openness, safeness. I enjoyed the feeling to be able to quickly choose between worlds. I was able to decide between being searched for and being found. I understood the possibilities of the world as quick and yet I decided I would rather stay in between the trees. There I invented stories. Stories that would be forgotten when I reached the next tree. I leaned my chest against trees and marveled at their height and aloofness. Every now and then one of the stories would come back and I used to think that it was because it was meaningful. But I forgot them altogether. Stories were like trees, trees like stories, and by their mere existence - even though I could not see them completely - they gave me a feeling of "being seen". On particularly warm days I would walk a little further into the woods. Thin sunbeams lit up the path and the venture. By perceiving the sounds of the forest I lost my fear, because through them I did not feel alone although concealed. I was most certain that these would have to be the sounds of silence.
For years I disliked summer vacation because to me it was the time in which I lost all of my school friends. The comforting thought that I would see them again in autumn did not comfort me. The loss of this valuable time concerned me. Spending the best time of the year without your best friend made it simply, time. I doubted my parents because I was aware of how easily this problem could be solved. At least thinking the problem through alleviated it. Now I no longer doubted my parents, I questioned the whole world. That was good, because that way I could start to believe in my parents a little more. I was not required to hold such feelings for the world. This thought was to be reversed as a grown-up entered my life and closed up on me. Actually I had known him for years because for an unidentified reason, he was related to us. At the time I did not fully understand in what relation he stood to our family but I never really cared about trivialities like that. Two houses, only separated by a hilly slope connected us. Each year the immensely big ear field approached slowly behind the houses. In front of the houses there was a road that the citizens exaggeratingly referred to as a highway. The people living in the countryside had a perception that was in complete opposition to mine, a boy coming from the city. From time to time an old tractor would chug past. It surprised me each time again that in all those years I had never laid eyes on a new tractor. All of them were old and quite noisy. Additionally, most of them were green. Maybe the reason was improved camouflage in meadows and fields, or so that they would not scare the plants as much when the finished them off. We met each other by coincident on a late summer day. I sat on the hilly meadow and held a yellow spotted ladybug in my hand which I observed carefully. I had never seen such a ladybug before, and thought that he might be sick and that I should therefore squash him in order to relieve his suffering. I held my discovery in front of his face and asked him, whether he had seen such a thing before? A smile fell from his face when he sat next to me. He let me know that those bugs came in many different colors; pink, red, orange and even brown. The red ones were his favorites because they looked like little flying tomatoes, he admitted. He held the yellow one in his hands, moved his hand towards his face and let it fly away. "To be honest, the yellow ones should be my favorites", he continued, "because they look like me, just as ill". I took a closer look at him. He was right. During this afternoon he told me about the amazing characteristics of the grasses and about the universe. In particular it was planet Europe with its thin layer of ice, and questions whether beneath it there were living organisms, that fascinated him. He was alright with everything, with the Up and the Down, just not with that which was in between. It was something he still was able to wrap his head around. Even though I hardly understood anything of what he was telling me, I listened to him because the sound of his voice calmed me in the strangest way. I said I wanted to either become a pilot, police officer, dancer or explorer when he asked about it. This did not make him smile. He simply nodded his head. That was how we made it a habit to meet. It was always a coincident that led us together. We never arranged anything for the next day. It was the first time in my life that I felt a sense of boundary-lessness. Our age difference did not seem to matter. That made me enter a state of liveliness like I had never experienced before. I began to take notice of nature around me a little more. He said things like, that he was never able to find a profession that made him become visible, and that for that reason he felt isolated, or: Everything around him was invisible in a magical manner, because we cannot see anything that might be happening on earth or in the universe. One time, he dug a hole into the ground just to prove to me the differing degrees of humidity. "If you care well for your home you will not dry out as quickly", he said then. He was the first person I was privileged to meet that was a little different. Sometimes I thought about him at night. I determined that he was utterly humane. That was the difference. That is why he was not taken seriously, because he was the way he was. Was it really possible that the enemy of humans was humanness? I did not know how to answer that question. The only thing I knew was that he was like healthy dung for my ground. He increased my fertility. Throughout the course of these holidays I came to know many other things. He told me that it was the tremendous pressure of the Big Bang that remained as the noise on our TV screens. Or, that it cost the deaths of many stars for us to be provided with sufficient oxygen and nitrogen. Yet, his knowledge did not impress me very much because at the time I still did not know that all the things he said were true. It was years later when I realized that nothing about him was a lie. During the following school year I thought about him very little. When I cleaned the lumpy dirt off my soccer shoes or baked Christmas cookies with my mother and used a star-shaped cutter, then I thought of him. Apart from that my thrill of anticipation started to grow about three weeks before vacation would start. That is how I spent two more beautiful summer holidays. One day my father told me that the man had died. I could hardly believe it. Astronauts do not die! He was a heavy drinker and maybe where he was now he would have it better, my father tried to comfort me when he saw perplexity on my face. I never noticed any of that. Could it be that my father was wrong? It took me a whole lot of time until I realized that this question was not important. The only thing that mattered was how much it meant to me. Secrets of the heart. Milky ways and daisies.
Many things in my life became secrets. Unwanted secrets. Secrets, like this world writes them. Secrets that arose from the cuffs of not being allowed to be the way I would want to be. Nothing was ever unjust as to be in need to be kept secret. Chains were slowly tied around me as a reminder of the flowing blood within my body. However, in the secretive existence there was also the realization of the other. Initially I noticed the chains on my family, my relatives and friends. Later I was even able to perceive them on most strangers. I understood that the carrier of many secrets will become one himself. Traces of limitations started to become clearer, bonds burst, are worn or simply observed. The commencement of this journey was filled with fear. I stood there and did not really comprehend what really was happening to me. I shrugged it off as a phase in life but it did not let up. Sometimes it woke me in the middle of the night, often I cried and was left isolated until it finally taught me its silent beauty. It inebriated me. I dived in and came back as a sea of color. Tears were collected. Hidden senses discovered. I do no longer question it because it gave me the calamity that is found in detail. The No wasted away and was substituted by readiness. Secrets became reflections through the looking glass, that quietly and wholesomely unnoticeable brought messages to me that I slowly learned to read.
Depth & Substance
I was diagnosed with a light form of autism when I was barely six years old. To this day I have no idea how they were able to determine it back then. Much about it remains in the dark. I had always been a very quiet boy who did not speak much, but neither did I feel sick nor very much excluded because of that. Words were a gift that I could not share with just anybody out there. Subconsciously I drew a social line, expressed myself or did not. Maybe this was viewed as a deficit in my communication skills? It surprised me just as much as it hurt. All my life I tried to avoid too brute opinions. They overwhelm you without knocking at your door first. As a child I was not able to guard myself from that. I did not know that it was necessary. Back then I still trusted. I was taken out of kindergarten without knowing why. I spent half a year with my mother at home. She told me that she wished I spoke more. I promised her I would, and got my first pet as a reward. A small tabby cat. Immediately we became friends. I had to think about my promise very often and finally came up with an idea: As most of the times I sat in my small room, I started to speak to the cat. I just tried to tell her something. But even just doing that, was a struggle. Unconsciously I was not able to comprehend the recurring regularity of language. Even worse, I feared language because I had realized how it penetrated your life. What a great impact it had. What I feared the most was how untamed it was. It was not possible to categorize it, it did not follow a clear pattern. One and the same thing could deeply hurt one person, while the next one could not care less. Words are weapons that none of us are able to handle. When my parents were informed that I had to attend a special needs school, my mother decided that she would not just simply accept that, hence we consulted a new doctor, asking for a second opinion. This doctor was a so-called coryphaeus in this area. Fear evolved. Would I soon have to face a new beast wearing a white cloak? Things were different to the way I expected them. Unfortunately, I have no recollection of his treatment method. Except for his name, I remember nothing about him. My mother told me that, after the treatment was finished, the doctor let her know that I was alright and that she should forget all the flummery she had heard about me. He dismissed us saying, Your son will make you very proud one day. My mother was very relieved about this because she felt confirmed. Even though I was happy about that, I still was able to sense the bitter connotation that it was the sole power of words that dominated my life. On our way home I observed the world a little closer. Everywhere I could see signs, shops, posters. All of them were subject to the power of the word. The world started to scare me through its homogeneity. When we hopped on the bus I closed my eyes for a few minutes in order to escape from it. Commencing resistance, noticeable blaze, happy day. In hindsight, I fall in love with the child that I would have been. Those shrinking fragments of memories are like smells that pass by our souls. Not knowing what I was like when I was stuck in this little body raises questions: Are there many souls living within us, moving in and out? As opposed to people, they leave their home when it starts to get too big for them? Are they smart enough to know what they can bethink and what not? Not knowing about your own childhood carries the biggest comfort. It comforts the doubts and wonders that come over me when I question my beliefs. Since I know so little about what I used to be, I can think less about the apparent lack of all godly things in life. The fire of my childhood that still resides within me as a spark is the messenger of this knowledge. The fear of having to continue to exist in this wonderless reticence diminishes at the inability of our recognition of our own life. What we think we know best retracts, and that way the unknown draws closer. Not to lament over the absence of the other, only to understand your own absence. Life can do so good sometimes.
The wonderful apple
When I had long passed puberty an old man told me an anecdote that his grandfather told him years ago. I listened carefully, not knowing what flood of images expected me. Not knowing that this short story would contain so much life, that would not remain secret. Too much happiness, too much grief. One too much on each end. He recounted: "After my grandfather had spent four weeks in a concentration camp, it was released by the Allied." (Just this sentence alone already carried happiness and grief. Happiness that he only had to be there for four weeks, grief, because he had to be there for four weeks). "After our release, there was little cheering. Because they had to suffer so many deprivations, there was no such thing as jubilation for them anymore. They found themselves in a state of fright about the fact that once again they were jammed together in a train in order to leave the camp. They were given no food, no clothes, only the command to get on the train that would bring them to the next big town. They were not told what was going to happen after that. Still, there was no resistance, because all of them knew that it could not possibly get any worse. They spent months and years in a place in which the insufferable was made sufferable. This was also the lesson they had learned from this place. The only insufferableness was that anything seemed sufferable. Masses of people allocated around him, leaned on one another and silently waited for nothing. The packed train was very slow. After some time, that none of the passengers were capable of measuring by any means, they were able to see through the cracks of the train that nature started to become greener. Every once in a while grandfather would hear a deep sigh of joy about this state. When the train came to an abrupt stand, he noticed the pale, lean face of a tall-grown woman. She stood in the middle of the train and kept her eyes shut. It seemed as if she wanted to push away all life around her. She conveyed more sadness than the others did. Although the train had not been moving for several minutes now, joy should outweigh sadness, thinking about the fact they had just escaped hell. But this woman did not seem to think this way. Aware of the woman, he suddenly noticed that the men next to her caressed her. At first he did not suspect anything bad but as the man's hand moved up to her chest, he knew what was going on, and that it could not be right. Hardly out of one hell, a new one already opens up. Was he the only one that noticed all of this? At least that is what he thought. He started to think about his powerlessness during the past few weeks and realized that it would never really be fully overcome. Suddenly a silent moaning was audible in the wagon. When he looked up he saw the woman holding up a red apple. She kept her eyes closed. You could feel the silence that cut through the wagon. What would happen next? Would the starved people attack her? Apart from the fact that the man now started to become nervous and kept his hands to himself, a little miracle happened: Dozens of pairs of eyes stared at the apple, and the people suddenly started to look at each other, perceive one another and eventually even talk to one another - it nearly seemed as if that apple possessed magic powers. They told each other stories about their experiences in the concentration camp, how they felt and what near future might bring. All this was achieved by a single apple. How much bigger would his opportunities be? An apple, held up to change something without even knowing what exactly would happen. To escape out of this personal hell without being overly afraid of what might happen. To create situations that can change people. Making wonders through the creation of opportunities." Finally, the stranger said to me that only when we start to understand more of how big our real influence on things is, do we become meek. I remember this story so well because it gave the one who was most hidden a bit of daylight. This story, maybe even only a nostalgic memory, was worth the value of the essential. It showed me something I never knew, something so big that I wanted to keep it forever.
When I was twelve I wanted to become a painter. At the time there must have been a street painter living and working nearby. Frequently I would see one of his works on my way to school. Either, it was the rain that had blurred the colors to an extend that all you could see was faint shades of color or, careless pedestrians had smudged the painting with their shoes. I was never able to see the perfect, finished image. And I also never saw the painter doing his work. This just heightened its sense of magic. A relentlessly recurring motif marked the street painting: a bearded man with a sad look on his face. Never before had I seen such color transitioning, never before did a normally grey street captivate me in this way. I invested my next pocket money in pastel crayons. Eight pieces. For days they remained unopened on my night stand. Sometimes in the middle of the night I would grab the box, smell it and contemplate about the best way to go about drawing a big painting on the street. I thought about the unknown painter and simultaneously wanted to be better. Finally I came up with an idea: I simply had to catch the most beautiful animal on planet earth and then draw it. That is how I would create a masterpiece. For that reason I caught a butterfly in a big mason jar. Now I was ready. When I started to pain the butterfly in the jar had calmed down and only seldom showed his opened wings. Partly I painted from memory, partly I shook the glass in order to see the colors of its wings again. Surprisingly enough I was very successful drawing the contours, but whatever way I tried it, the pattern on the wings and the color transition were just too difficult. I sat on the curbside and stared into the glass. How beautiful this butterfly was! I opened the mason jar and the butterfly flew away. I had to collect myself for a few minutes after this harsh disillusionment and then finished off the painting. I was not able to duplicate the world's beauty but at least I could add something to its livelihood. In big black letters I encircled my painting with the words "Save the Butterflies!" Now I was my own hero again. Even though I never developed a big talent for street painting, I continued to paint for two more years. It was thrilling to be myself proclaimed Robin Hood of the animal kingdom while challenging mankind with a wake-up call. Nothing could compare to this feeling.
A mother's wisdom
When my sister found herself to get off the starting blocks of puberty, mine was in its final throes. I experienced it as a magical moment because we seemed to be locked in the same time. Just around that time my parents decided that they wanted to give my sister a cat as a present. It should not just be any cat from the countryside, they wanted a cat from an animal shelter. I believe it was my mother's idea because she liked things like that. She referred to it as the "creation of own causalities". I never really understood what she meant although she did try and explain it to me several times. The principle of cause and effect could be expanded by reacting differently based on the cause, she said a lot. I did not understand that. What different effect would it prompt to get a cat from an animal shelter rather than the countryside? I had no idea that soon enough I would understand that principle. It was already fairly late in the evening when my sister and I arrived at the shelter, so we had to hurry because they would soon close up. We ran along the extensive, brightly lit corridor of horror. To our left and right there were hundreds of cats kept in little kennels. As I was in possession of a male heart I did not want to experience or show any signs of emotion. The situation, on the other hand, was different with my sister. At the beginning she ran quickly and excitedly down the corridor, however, her pace started to slow down quite soon. When we finally decided upon a tabby cat with white hind legs she had tears in her eyes. Now I understood my mother. By showing us the cruelty of the world we were made aware of the sensibility within our hearts. My wise mother.
When I think about it, it actually still surprises me how all dreams that I ever dared to have, that I ever knew, always remained unattainable to me. Those dreams were accompanied by a seemingly insuperable obstacle. As if there were no dreams without such obstacles. One of these dreams blossomed when my mother intended on introducing me to classical dance. My excitement was not very overwhelming when my mother revealed her decision to me. But my mother had decided, and so one evening we found ourselves on two of the cheap seats in the local opera house. At the time I was eleven years old and I would have much rather spent the evening with my friends in the park. Sullenly I sat next to my mother and tried to forget this evening - even though it had not even really started yet. I pictured myself playing fun games with my friends in the park. I thought it would be much more meaningful to ring the bell of an intercom, and if someone would answer, giggle: "Ho, Ho, Ho - Santa came a little early this year" into it, rather than having to sit here. But I was put right. Shortly after the curtains of the opera were lifted I dived into this abstract world of dance. Movements that I had never seen before penetrated my retina. Music that felt like a slight quiver in the centre of my body, and a blaze of light that seemed to come directly from another world, left me enchanted. What struck me the most was the infantile thought that all the performers on stage had to the best friends in this world, otherwise they would not be able to master such tasks. I was absolutely positive about that. On our way home I started to feel a dream within me. I too wanted to swirl and spin around like that on stage and have ascetic friendships. To simply let time pass was too little for me. I wanted to make room in time to really make use of it. It was a big surprise for my mother when I asked her if it was possible for me to join ballet dancing lessons. She simply smiled and agreed. And indeed, a few days later I stood in a ballet hall. Everything was so foreign. The people there wore weird dresses and their looks were stern. You could feel that there was a mutual monopoly of thinking that was based on discipline and left no room for individuality. Still, I did not want to give up just yet. The sensation of the evening, I had spent at the opera still lingered within me. I still believed in the friendship of the ascetics. After a few months had passed, I did not discover this feeling of friendship and I started to meditate about the issue. All of a sudden it was no longer easy for me - it really required major effort on my part to even attend classes. Nevertheless, I stubbornly continued. I noticed that I was able to run faster and further. But all those achievements were never my goal. I wanted friendships that were built upon higher goals. One day I had a silly fight with one of the dancers concerning the dress code, and that is when I realized that this was not the way you start friendships. People would not draw closer just because you shared parts of the same dream. When the illusion I had created for months and months on end started to crumble, I was not sad. It was worse because I felt a new, hitherto unknown emptiness within me. For weeks I had lost all dreams of this world in me. At least that was what I thought. Yet fate, made up of seemingly zero divergence field lines of many secrets, wishes, hopes, thoughts and actions were to put me right very soon. Still existing only in the time of emptiness, I stood in the school yard. When the evil ring of the bell sounded to inform us that we now had to return to the boredom of everyday classroom routine I collided with a girl that I had not seen before. Slightly embarrassed I wanted to look down on the floor but for the fracture of a second my eyes caught sight of her shirt. A little too long for her not to notice. "Do you like boobs or prima ballerinas?", she asked bluntly. Sheer fright pervaded my body. After seconds that felt like constantly repeating eternities, I lifted my head and told her about my short dancing career. She smiled. I felt rescued. It was only then that I noticed a dancer pictured on her grey-white shirt. She kept her smile the whole time we were walking down the corridor together. The feeling that out of the blaze of a slowly dying dream, a new one can arise.