Berlin

Berlin

Samstag, 15. August 2015

Providence

I always liked the sound of the word providence. If I had to choose a favourite word, it might very well be it, providence. I also love its meaning.

Today there was a thread on my facebook-timeline.
I posted "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." J.W. Goethe
A friend in a comment continued: „Concerning all acts of initiative there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and endless plans.
That the moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred.
A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, and meetings and material assistance which no man or woman could have dreamed would come his or her way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Begin it now."

I answered: „I wonder: when providence doesn’t move, that might actually mean, one is not truly committed, right? Which would confirm most of my life's experiences, I even know the feeling of wanting providence to move first, so I can see, that it would be o.k. to totally commit, until we both stagnate and kinda watch each other and nothing happens.”

He answered: “Yep, holding back doesn’t work.”

That got me thinking all afternoon.
I am kinda dissatisfied with providence lately, because it seems, in my life, for years it has not moved. It feels like, nothing is happening. I want a new job, a house in the country and my writing to be published, but whatever step I take in any of the possible directions, does not lead to much. Stagnation. Because on the other hand, I think: mhm, that job isn’t really that bad, I mean, I don’t think I will ever find one, that is easier and pays as well, plus my colleagues are nice; or I think: mhm, a house in the country would mean a lot of work, also the daughters don’t want to leave their school, which is understandable, their school is great; also the husband and I neither have a job in the country, nor are we, what one would call handymen, so, what are we supposed to do with a house? or I think: gosh, if I should ever get published, I would have to do public readings, I can not do that, also most people in the literature and publishing business seem to be super arrogant, its just not the kind of crowd, I want to spend my days with.
A little voice in my head has started to tell me for the past months again and again, that I should cease to want so much, that I should also cease to fight all the time, what is in front of me and obviously my life. Withdraw into stillness and acceptance, was pretty much the heart of the multifaceted message, I got. It also said: Try to be alone as much as possible. Try to not get entangled into every little thought, your brain produces. Try to not talk so much, especially about other people, but lets just make it a general thing. Keep your mouth shut, whenever possible. The last layer was something like: most things are not worth thinking about. So this went into the direction, that not only was it smart to keep my mouth shut, but also to watch my thoughts, mindfully, because they were just babbling along all the time, and I believed them and it did not make things better, to do that.
All of this I pretty much ignored. I mean, not ignore-ignore, I heard them, I understood them, on a theoretical level, I was in total agreement with them, but they did not sink in, so I did not live them. Not because I wanted to ignore them, but because a life with a family, a job, in the middle of a major european city, with friends, with taxes to do, school business to attend to, a garden in the country, political situations to react to, is not exactly a still place. Life is fast and full. So the little voice in my head whispered: accept this. This is your life! while I kept complaining: I want things to be different, why doesn’t anything happen? The voice said: Most of your entanglement comes from your not accepting things the way they are, anyways. I heard it and heard it not. There was no meaning attached to those words, I could not connect them with my life or self, and continued to ponder all possible changes, to finally move away from the agony I felt, was my life.
After somebody broke into my gardenhouse in the country and stole pretty much everything and also destroyed the door in a manner, that made it very costly to repair it again, I thought, at least I could sell my garden. That would take some of the complexity out of my life, because I would not have to drive back and forth between Brandenburg and Berlin all the time, I would not have to feel guilty, for not watering my plants or harvest my cherries, for all in all being a rotten gardener. This is, I concluded, one burden, I could throw off right now. But then my little daughter started to cry, I mean collapsing, because the garden is her second home, her soul, her everything, so I decided to keep it and felt trapped again.
I felt so burdened, so overloaded with duties and things to organize, every day was packed to the limit. But every “burden”, I tried to get rid of, stuck to me. Every enterprise I started, got complicated. Life felt like a very thick and heavy jelly. I felt, I could not move, everything and everybody was keeping me from moving.

I remember times in my life, when I wanted something so badly, I was so convinced and committed, that the next step I actually took, set the fulfillment in motion. Like a miracle. Do you also know these kind of situations, in which all of a sudden, everything seems to move into your direction. I mean, that is, what Murray and Goethe are talking about, right? Providence really worked for me, with me. That was for example the case, when I knew, that I wanted my daughter to attend a Waldorf School. A pretty utopian idea here in Kreuzberg, where four kids apply for every available place and they clearly prefer kids, who are in a Waldorfkindergarten, which she was not. One morning, while meditating, I had this flash in my conscious: Call the Waldorfkindergarten today. I called and they said, they had an open evening that night, and I should definitely come, because they were looking for girls her age. She got a place and a year later, she got a schoolplace too. And all just, because in the middle of stillness, the solution popped up. Call the kindergarten now, something I never would have actively thought about doing. 
The schoolthing was one thing, I was so clear about, I wished, I could always be so clear. But I am not. Most of the times, I want several things at once or what I want, is so bad for others, that I can not really want it, without feeling totally guilty.
Something like providence has not happened to me in years. My lesson much rather seems to be, not to get, what I think I want so badly. The last years were filled with disappointments, losses, failures, disillusionments and the like. Still, they were among the best years of my life. Disillusionment can be so liberating. Really!

I am still thinking. What I realized this afternoon, was that I truly have seldom committed to anything in my life. A memory came back, a memory to the time, where I had just moved to Berlin, coming from Cologne, and partly Richmond/Virginia. For years I had gone back and forth between those two places. I wanted to live in Richmond so badly, but I never committed. I thought, if I am supposed to live there, providence will show me how. It never did. So I thought: Well, I am not supposed to live there. I moved to Berlin, because a friend from Richmond had moved there and asked me to join her. I came, thinking, I will stay for a year and then we will see. This was twenty years ago.
My philosophy in life was usually: what is supposed to happen, will happen. I never took over control. I was always open to accidents and coincidences and interpreted them as that, what was supposed to happen, providence. I anyway most of the time didn’t know, what I truly wanted.
The situation I was remembering all afternoon, I almost forgot to mention it: I was sitting on my meditation cushion and tried to not be nervous, because I was waiting for a man, I thought, I was in love with. At that time, I was in love with approximately 3-5 men. Looking back, they were all interesting, slightly crazy, pretty deep guys, who could not commit. As far as I know, they are still all singles today. I could not decide, which one I loved most. So I thought: let providence decide. Whomever I end up with, will be the one. Of course, I ended up with none of those guys, but with somebody who was able to commit.
At the same time, I was wondering what I could do in Berlin. I wanted to write, of course, and instead of focusing on one project, I wrote on five things at the same time, and had a new idea, where to apply, practically every day. In the end, I found a pretty dissatisfying but well paying job at a radio station, no writing involved.
I always found dissatisfying, not demanding, well paying jobs, in which I did not have to work five days a week from 9 to 5 and in which I could be myself. That has always been my specialty up until today. Some of my friends envy me for it. But I never had a dream job, I never worked as a writer. I held back. For whatever.
Is it oneself, who forms life by ones own plans and the commitment to it, or is it oneself, who forms life, by becoming so still, so receiving, that one can see, what providence has in store, so that dream and providence become one – magic.

I remember my friend Leo, a very old friend. He is and always has been the total opposite to me. He always knew exactly, what he wanted and he went for it. The word obstacle did not mean anything to him, but a little planning, how to overcome it. Me, I hate obstacles. They seem to tell me, that I am going in the wrong direction, so they often leave me confused and hesisant. Leo never seemed confused and he always got, what he wanted, I think. 
I am not saying, he is happier then me, I can not judge this. But I always, even 25 years ago, when I first met him, saw, that this was a major difference between him and me. He knew what he wanted and shaped reality, often with a lot of energy, into his direction. I waited, never really sure, what I wanted, for reality to tell me, what was possible. I am not even sure, if not both concepts work. Our lives, Leos and mine, both seem to be pretty happy.
Behind those two different strategies to meet life are two different philsophies about, what life is. I do not believe, that Leo often thinks about providence, but since he knows so well, what he wants, providence often works for him. While I totally, I mean totally, believe into providence (it should actually be my middle name!), so much so, that I never understood, that providence is not much without me. That I am providence. What I really want, will happen. If I want too many things at once, nothing much happens, or everything happens. Me and providence get totally entangled in the endlessness of everything, which could be my life, which is my life. So, this inner voice, telling me to shut up, is really smart. Because only if I am still enough, can I hear, what I really want and go for it.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.”

There is one last story I want to share, rather proving my view on providence, before I finally close this much too long post: Last year, after my mom died, I got her car and the job to sell it for my brother and me here in Berlin. I actually dreaded that job, because I had never sold a car before and also, it was my moms car and I had kind of difficulties to part with it. I still started to think about the deal and put it on the internet. My brother said; I should sell it for 5000 €. I said, no way, that car is brand new and I will, if at all, sell it for 8000€. He said, good luck. He laughed condescending too, like, it was okay for me, to be so naive and I would learn my lesson. I put it on the internet and put flyers into its windows. Nothing happened. 
One morning I woke up thinking, I should park it in an area, where a lot of retired people live. Because this car definitely is a car for old people. Heinrich Heine Street ws the perfect choice, I found. Its located right between my work and Lillys school, so I could get it after work, pick up Lilly and park it again next morning. The first day, I picked it up to get Lilly. I got into a traffic jam on Heinrich Heine street, and I thought: "Gosh, I am driving around in this car, what, if I have an accident? Then I can not sell it at all!" The second I had this thought, the guy behind me crushed into my car. I was like: maybe I should make my money as a fortune teller? The damage was not that bad, but it was bad enough to really really lower the prize.
He was an old guy, retired, and he was a cancer survivor, and while we were discussing the accident, he told me his life story on the side of the road. I had to pick up Lilly within the next 15 minutes, so I didn't really have time for police and all this stuff. He admitted, that it was his fault and wanted to give me 100€.. I was like: "Sorry, I have to call the insurance, I have to fix this, because I want to sell the car." He said: "What, you wanna sell it? For how much?" Me. "For 9000€, but if you want it, you can have it for 8000." He: "I think, I am falling in love." He looked at me: "I mean, with the car." Me: "Right!" So he gave me his phone number, his address, his insurance information and we both left. My brother was like: " You are courageous, but also stupid. He will probably never call again and he gave you a wrong number, ever thought about that posisibility?" I could not sleep all night, worrying about the damn car. (remember? nothing is really worth thinking about it?) He called two days later, he looked at the car five days later, we took a little trip across the city, so he could get a feeling for it. Mostly we actually parked on the side of the road and he told me more about his life, reaching back all the way to WWII. He asked, if I would accept 7999€. I said : "Definitely!" He gave me 400 in advance and two weeks later he came with the rest of the money and took my moms car. It felt like, the right person had gotten my moms car. It felt like, providence had provided me with the essential information: park the car at Heinrich Heine Street, so that on that particular day, he could drive into it and get it. He needed a new car, because his old car was no good anymore. He was in love with my moms car, which was for me as good as loving her. Which was important!
I was not committed to sell it. I was in my typical: lets see, what happens-position. What does that prove? Nothing. I still think, I might learn to commit more often. We will see.After the car deal, my brother was like: You should make a business out of this!

All the quotes in the text are actually one very famous quote from W.H. Murray, a Scottish author and mountain climber. In his quote he quotes Goethe. I found the W.H.Murray quote with the Goethe couplet in this fabulous book about mindfulness, Voices of Insight, which I am currently reading for the second time. I found it in Joseph Goldsteins text The science and Art of Meditation. I was really intrigued by his words and explored further into his teachings, where I found this site Dharma Seed, on which you can listen to 444 different of his dharma talks. 


 © Susanne Becker






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