Tindergarden is the Ode to a Nightingale – choose your own Word of the Year

tender is the night in the Upper Palatinate


Word of the year: How about Tindergarden?

Or if that doesn’t grab your fancy, what about Hopfen-Smoothie? That’s a euphemism for beer, as Hopfen is the German word for one of beer’s essential ingredients. 

No? I’ve got at least one more. Here’s Posttruth for you. 

We’re already deep into the holiday season, and soon enough we’ll be subjected to Word of the Year nonsense before we stumble into the new year. 

I’m still chuckling at Tindergarden, which is a comical play on the word Kindergarden. Your garden of acquaintances you met on the dating platform tinder? There’s a word for that now. 

Lucky us. 

Tender is the Night

And when I think of that soft & gentle dating app, I’m immediately making jokes playing on the word ‘tender‘. Jackson Browne singing in my ear, and I’m a preteen again. Completely unaware of tenderness. The very thought was lost on me. 

Then my thoughts meander to the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of the same name. Should reread that damned thing at some point. But then I remember that the title Fitzgerald used was actually ganked from a Keats poem. 

And who wouldn’t agree that we could all use just a bit more decent poetry in our lives. Here’s Ode to a Nightingale:
Ode to a Nightingale

By John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains 

         My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, 

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains 

         One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: 

‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, 

         But being too happy in thine happiness,— 

                That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees 

                        In some melodious plot 

         Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, 

                Singest of summer in full-throated ease. 
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been 

         Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth, 

Tasting of Flora and the country green, 

         Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth! 

O for a beaker full of the warm South, 

         Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, 

                With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, 

                        And purple-stained mouth; 

         That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, 

                And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget 

         What thou among the leaves hast never known, 

The weariness, the fever, and the fret 

         Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; 

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, 

         Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; 

                Where but to think is to be full of sorrow 

                        And leaden-eyed despairs,

         Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, 

                Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow. 
Away! away! for I will fly to thee, 

         Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, 

But on the viewless wings of Poesy, 

         Though the dull brain perplexes and retards: 

Already with thee! tender is the night, 

         And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne, 

                Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays; 

                        But here there is no light, 

         Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown 

                Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways. 
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, 

         Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, 

But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet 

         Wherewith the seasonable month endows 

The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; 

         White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; 

                Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves; 

                        And mid-May’s eldest child, 

         The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine, 

                The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves. 
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time 

         I have been half in love with easeful Death, 

Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, 

         To take into the air my quiet breath; 

                Now more than ever seems it rich to die, 

         To cease upon the midnight with no pain, 

                While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad 

                        In such an ecstasy! 

         Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain— 

                   To thy high requiem become a sod. 
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! 

         No hungry generations tread thee down; 

The voice I hear this passing night was heard 

         In ancient days by emperor and clown: 

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path 

         Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, 

                She stood in tears amid the alien corn; 

                        The same that oft-times hath 

         Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam 

                Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn. 
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell 

         To toll me back from thee to my sole self! 

Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well 

         As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades 

         Past the near meadows, over the still stream, 

                Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep 

                        In the next valley-glades: 

         Was it a vision, or a waking dream? 

                Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep? 

 

exactly because it’s so dreadfully painful that one has to drop it

last day for me on the Camino

So vividly I remember this last day walking on the Camino. Knowing I’d soon be saying goodbye to the simplicity of a normal day there. Getting up before the sun, pulling on my boots & hoisting my pack before trudging out along The Way.

Bidding farewell to all of it had as deep an impact on me as actually being there to begin with. Knowing I was only going to be at it a single week meant it was always in the back of my head that I had to savour it as much as I possibly could.

Makes me think of other times I’ve had to let go of something meaningful to me. Moments when I’ve known a situation wasn’t good for my well-being, but I so desperately wanted to hold onto it anyway.

One of the illusions of maturity is that when you’re older, you’ll somehow gain wisdom. The fallacy of this is that just because you experienced a setback, or a complete failure even, that  wisdom doesn’t automatically result from the situation. One can be faced with the most obvious life lessons and continue to respond to it all in the same old predetermined manner.

Breaking out of that pattern seems to take a certain amount of persistence. I will NOT keep responding to adversity by banging my head against this wall.

Yet that’s how so many of us approach sick and twisted circumstances. I know that if I just stick with this at all costs, then this time it’ll magically turn out differently.

Nope. Just stop it. Quit. Give up the illusion.

I so enjoy the metaphor of each of us carrying round a huge rock. It’s individual in it’s size and density – some folks just don’t have any use for carrying a small boulder, but they are the exception.

If you were to fully let go of that rock that’s weighing you down, what’d you even have left? My personality is so steeped in holding onto that rock.

It’s my rock, after all. My entire persona is this rock, and I find myself hunched over it quietly insisting that I could never let it go.

Mine,’ I whisper pleadingly. It’s exactly because it’s so dreadfully painful that one has to drop it. ‘Not yours,’ a voice responds. No idea whose voice that was, but the message was unmistakeable. Drop it.

Drop the rock. You might think you could always go pick it up again, but why would you even want to? Just drop the damned thing.

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

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Light on the River Isar that runs through Munich

For quite some time, I’ve intended to change the tagline on this personal blog. I’m not certain how long it’s been, but it might’ve been from back when I started that if you clicked on my site, you’d see:

pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

It was an allusion to the Wizard of Oz, as well as a commentary on the way in which each of us creates our persona online. Essentially, I was saying: read my thoughts here, but please don’t expend any energy looking backstage.

I’ve chosen to live in a country that takes privacy very seriously. Because of Germany’s complicated history with the government surreptitiously observing its citizens, there is a genuine desire to ensure users ability to control how much of their private lives they display. It’s easy to be cynical about such a position, and my friends who work in cyber security would quickly insist that most of what we think of as online privacy is an illusion. However, I continue to respect the lengths to which they go to keep fighting the proverbial good fight. Europeans in general and Germans in particular are earnest about this. Quite commendable, if you were to ask me.

Yet the above tagline no longer works for me. It’s no longer the message I want to get across here. Not remotely. Instead, I’ve decided to take on an entirely new position. Frequently some event will happen hereabouts and I’ll receive queries along the lines of, ‘What in the world is going on over there?

My response is to write this blog as a meta answer to that exact question. The new tagline:

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

Implied in this is my eagerness to take on whatever questions you might have. If you read something here that you’d like to know more about, say something in the comments or drop me a line via email.

Hope you enjoy the new direction, and I’m already looking forward to some lively exchanges.

Our Lady in the glimmering sunlight

 

There’s a church at Mariahilfsplatz

 
Above is a photo I took only several days ago. It’s ok. I know it’s a decent shot. However, as much as I like it, it reminds me so vividly of one I didn’t get. It was years ago. Perhaps even in the first few years I’d lived in Munich. If I had a mobile phone at the time, which I’m not entirely sure if I did, I’m sure it didn’t have a decent camera. 

Let me set the stage. It was wintertime and very early in the morning. I had to be somewhere, and I was very likely grumbling about the time of day that I was expected to arrive. I’d just left the main train station in Munich, which was positively bustling with excitement. So many people rushing here and there on a weekday morning before the sun had even made a proper appearance. The scene reminded me of New York’s Grand Central Station on a Friday afternoon, and I suppose I even asked myself, ‘Where are all these Germans off to at this ungodly hour?’ I’ve since found out that what I saw was a common sight in one of our local train stations. People like to awaken early and get where they’re going, preferably before everyone else does.

Yet that morning, I had neither the time nor the consciousness to consider such things. Almost as if on autopilot, I trudged on toward my destination. Soon I was coming out of the underground system at the Marienplatz station, which is right in the middle of the historic city, and if I remember correctly, I was suddenly and miraculously more awake. Only several hundred steps from coming out into the fresh air, I found my eyes inexplicably drawn to look up at the Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Lady). 

At that moment the sun broke from behind the rows of buildings to the east, and the church was bathed in the brightest sunlight. Yes, I know it’s preposterous for me to be writing this down while telling you that words can’t describe how beautiful it was. It was similar to the photo above, which is why I’ve included it here – why it made me think of that shot of dawn all those years back. Here’s how I’d like to describe it, though, because I’d like to make a bigger point. If I can get you to think of a similar experience you’ve had, you’ll know exactly what I’m getting at.

Can you think of a moment in time that was so beautiful and so otherworldly, yet you didn’t have some device nearby in which to record it? No app that seamlessly allowed you to shoot a glimpse in time and instantaneously share it to acquaintances and future acquaintances far and wide? Maybe your camera was back in the car. Possibly you were out running and you’re one of those sorts that enjoys being out on the trail without such distractions.

Your memory could be like mine from years ago before these ever-present moment capturing tools took on such a central role in our lives, but it could also be something that happened last week or last year. Look, I read enough stuff about eschewing technology that I don’t want to fall into a clichéd pitch about how great life used to be before we sold our souls over to the machine. I read something years ago that you know a device or program or app has really made it when people start writing about how great it used to be and now they’re so over it. That’s not at all what I’m trying to get at. Not remotely.

Nevertheless, I’m frequently reminded that I couldn’t have experienced that moment looking up at Our Lady in the glimmering sunlight all those years ago if I’d been absent-mindedly stumbling through my day glued to my screen like I sometimes still am. 

This is a plea that you take a moment to look up sometimes. If you can’t let it stay home without you, leave your phone in your bag when you’re meeting up with a friend you’ve not seen in ages. I’m not advising something I’ve not done. It’s something I’m constantly telling myself. Constantly.

Up in the night staring at the full moon and pondering the melting snow and an Imaginarium

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What’s an Imaginarium anyway?

Suppose I could blame the full moon. Or the pots full of tea I drank before I should’ve gone to bed. Maybe even the fistfuls of chocolate I was shoving in my gob at some point hours ago.

Yet whatever the reason, here I am up in the night not even trying to fall asleep. It’s even past the Witching Hour, whatever that is.

Friends in Australia were just waking up as I sat down and started writing earlier in the evening. They kept me company virtually as I shot off an email to a list of my regular readers, and for the most part they went about their day. A few night owls here in my timezone were up in the night with me, but I’m assuming all of them went off to dreamland long ago.

There are still plenty of my people stateside who’re still awake and have taken turns chatting away while they go about their Saturday evening. Some on the East Coast are holed up for this year’s annual Blizzard of the Century, while others strewn across other parts of the America look on smugly at how mild winter is for them…at least in comparison.

I’m staring at the moon and enjoying the sleepiness that’s finally creeping upon me. There are so many old photos saved on my hard drive that I could easily go through the archives and find plenty of visual content with having to produce anything new for a good long while.

That’s how this blogpost started, incidentally. Not that it’s such surprise, is it? Start with a photo and see where your thoughts take you. There are certainly more creative ways to come up with content. However, for this early morning with an evening of reflection already behind me – this is how it has to be.

Yes, this’ll have to do.

 

Just one more thing I wanted to read before I actually get something done

 

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Sometimes just want to wasch your brain and start back at zero, don’t you?

Rarely do I want to repost something word for word in its entirety here on the old Miscellaneous Blog, but today I desperately want to do exactly that.

I’ve got tabs open on my laptop with articles I’d like to read and blogposts on which I’d like to comment. I’ve been devouring pieces about time management since the new year began, and I’m knee-deep into various Thirty Day Challenges.

It’s too much. I give up.

No, I mean it.

Here’s one of the many things that really spoke to me in my daily attempt not to get bogged down:

Addicted to Distraction

I know it’s from waaaay back a few months ago. That’s an eternity in the online world. Do you know how many hours of content have been uploaded to YouTube since this Opinion Piece was published in The New York Times? A lot, I tell you.

I could make a rough estimate if I looked up the data and did a bit of calculation, but what’d the point of that be? Why am I so obsessed beyond reason to know that specific piece of information? Does it benefit me or anyone?

Don’t get me wrong. If I’m making an argument and want my point to be convincing, of course I want to employ facts in said reasoning. Come on. There’s plenty of knee-jerk palaver floating around. I’d prefer not adding to the noise, I promise.

Yet I’d like to cut down on the barrage of information. Tony Schwartz the author of the above mentioned article, makes the point so well that I’ll just give you a taste of how he phrases it:

‘Endless access to new information also easily overloads our working memory. When we reach cognitive overload, our ability to transfer learning to long-term memory significantly deteriorates. It’s as if our brain has become a full cup of water and anything more poured into it starts to spill out.’

I like that simile, so I’ll just leave that with you as I move on to the next thing.

I’d like to believe all of this has cured me from my time-wasting habits. Wouldn’t that be lovely. Instead there’s just one more thing I wanted to read before I actually get something done.

Searching out a uniquely Teutonic answer to those rowdy refugees in Cologne

 

Cologne is Nordrhein-Westfallen’s largest city and not to be messed with

 
A whole bunch of refugees freaked out on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and allegedly both robbed and sexually assaulted women who unfortunately were at the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn’t immediately covered in the German media, but not because of any conspiracy. It simply wasn’t known about. 
There’ve been allegations that the local police played down the event to avoid attention to their poor handling of events. Politicians insisted that the perpetrators’ countries of origin weren’t as important as the fact that they were criminals and would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

To say that this has been ignored by either the German or the European press is disingenuous. It just took a while for the story to come to light, but come to light it did. And then some. It’s been a major topic on political talk shows, and the opinion pages of the major papers have explored every possible angle. And then found entirely new angles. 

One particularly opportunistic politician has said aloud what many citizens have thought – that German taxes should not go to pay for keeping lawbreaking refugees in prisons. It’s gotten plenty of airtime, as well it should. Many Germans have a long fuse when it comes to this sort of thing – especially in public – as they would generally like to avoid being seen as racist or xenophobic, but this has hit a nerve. 

There’s certainly a sense that what happened in Cologne, as well as similar albeit much smaller incidents in Hamburg and Stuttgart, has crossed a line. Staying quiet and trying not to make too much of a fuss might’ve worked a week or so ago, but for increasing numbers of Germans it’s no longer an option. 

As I write this, there’s a huge protest going on in Cologne. Hundreds of women protesting against sexual abuse, as well as the newest incarnation of the Pegida protests which made so much noise this time last year. In addition, there are counter protests that insist the rhetoric on the streets is dangerously reminiscent of darker times in Germany in the Thirties

I’m not going to wade into a debate here about either Pegida or those protesting against their tactics. Not that I won’t at a later date; I just don’t think it’s particularly useful at the moment when these events are still so fresh. 

However, I have seen people insisting that Germans don’t care about what’s happened in Cologne or what’s going on in Germany right now. These assumptions are being made with little or no connection to what’s happening on the streets here. Whether during conversations at the dinner table or in cafés or pubs, people are talking and arguing and figuring out what needs to happen next. 

Here’s one of the things I like about living in Germany, though: there will be a measured response. Something positive will be done. Will it be as much as either radical fringe wants? Absolutely not. Will there be a thoughtful consideration of multiple possible ways to deal with all of this? I can almost guarantee it. 

Stay tuned for a uniquely Teutonic answer. One often seems to be found.