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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Comment 2018 on Freedom

Where there is beauty, there is hope.

Following most chapters of my  2018 book, I added a Comment. Being plagued by doubts, I picked up the book and opened it casually at the end of Chapter 10. What I read is worth sharing, so here it is:

During the difficult first weeks in Lenda Province with the anxiety about potential isolation or dangers in an environment that was at once familiar and strange, I experienced both flashbacks and nightmarish dreams. Often, they had something to do with ambivalent relationships with men. For example, there was my dying father who nevertheless took me, for the sake of my health, from the Russian to the British sector as my aunt would do later. There was the German soldier who, although held by the Russians and knowing that helping us would mean his certain death, nevertheless guided us to escape deportation to Siberia. Finally, there was my husband who, although he encouraged my efforts, would reap our separation.
I took my dreams to mean that I must free myself of being a burden. How to gain this freedom from burdensomeness and what it would look like was not clear. So far it consisted primarily of rupture. Distant past relationships ended in deaths and more recent ones were beginning to look suspect. What was missing was affirmation and, before that, acceptance that “the world is cockeyed” (James Welch, 1974, p.68). Sometimes one had “to lean into the wind to stand straight” (p.69). The notion that one could be free “toward” the inevitabilities of life, and that our capacity for responsibility might be the very foundation of humanity, was foreign to me. Freedom meant freedom from … not also freedom toward … Since my past would not go away, however, I would have to learn what freedom toward my past, and from there forward toward my future, could mean.
Returning from Germany July 2016, I did what the then President of the Federal Republic of Germany told me to do, read his little book Freiheit (Freedom 2012). Before reunification, he had studied theology and was a pastor for a while, but with reunification he decided to enter public service. Like many of us, he had experienced “freedom from something,” but now wanted to practice “freedom for” the sake of something else (2012:24). He understood this latter sense of freedom as genuine yielding of himself toward serving democracy, which meant putting concern centered on one’s self on the back burner (ibid:26). Joachim Gauck interpreted the peculiar Christian metaphor that “man is made in the image of God” as meaning that the human being was created with “the wonderful capacity to assume responsibility” (ibid:33). Furthermore, he sees that “faculty for responsibility” as holding “a promise, one that applies both to the individual and the entire world, namely: We are not condemned to fail” (ibid: 34, my translation).
When they felt strong, Lenda women often said to me that they had amaka (power). But did that power also include having the authority to shape freely their life, family, business, public office and other spheres of private and public life? Did they understand that the Christianity, which they and their men took up, promised that they were not condemned to fail? And did they realize that promise? Those who answered, Twikala fye, we sit, that’s all,” answered “no.”
With then Federal President Gauck in Schloss Bellevue, Berlin, 2016