On Sunday we in Germany celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.
There were big festivities in Berlin and they even re-constructed the former path of the wall with 7000 white balloons and at one point let them ascend into the sky— one by one— honestly, a goose bumps moment…
There were also lots of reports on tv about the time when the wall still stood and interviews with people who lived in Berlin during the time of the wall.
One of the reports that moved me quite a bit was how West Berlin developed during that time.
I mean imagine, West Berlin was an Island in the “red sea” as they called it, surrounded by Russian territory. People were afraid that they would try to overwhelm West Berlin as well.
There were 6000 american soldiers stationed in West Berlin during that time to signalize it would be unwise to attack – and yet – there was fear. Traveling to the rest of West Germany was done mostly via transit paths by train or car through East German territory and a bit of a ghostly experience.
Now people in Berlin lived with a wall right in their face.
They had to deal with the feel of being closed in, the enemy at their doorsteps, some of their relatives and friends out of reach even though so close.
How did they manage to cope?
And it was interesting to see how Berlin developed a microclimate of a special kind – from extensive party life (doing away with closing hours for clubs etc.) and orgies to trying new forms of living (Kommune 1) to strong political currents and student movements. It was a hot and bubbling melting pot and attracted more and more people who dared to think differently in an otherwise quite conversative Europe. It became a symbol for not giving up, for finding new ways even though some of them were rocky and bloody.
On his visit in Berlin on June 26, 1963 John F. Kennedy said
“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner”.”
So – wow – a tremendous freedom in the being closed in – big space for trying new things and walking across lines you wouldn’t usually within the borders of a small, small island.
And maybe that was just for me but–
that was what actually made me think on in the direction of personal life.
The times when there are walls around us – real or imagined. When we feel closed in. When we’re motionless in a certain way. When we live in fear of being overwhelmed— by sickness, in a relationship, in work life—
What survival strategy do you develop?
How do you deal with such times?
Does it need outside freedom for inside freedom?
Smiles… a long article….if you made it til here… it would be cool to hear from you in the comments…
What a rich bunch of ‘stuff’ to think about Claudia. It’s hard to believe it has been that long. Iremember watching the wall being knocked down on my tv. I really like where you went with this, the freedoms and constraints. I will spend the rest of my day (that is mentally free) thinking about this. Thanks!
yeah – i’m still thinking about it as well… brought people like marie durand to mind as well who were imprisoned yet made a big difference…
Madeleine Begun Kane said:
I’m feeling closed in
by the election results,
so must write haiku.
i hear you… i was so shocked when i heard about the results…
25 years! I have a piece of that wall, picked from it by an ex-boyfriend. I felt boxed in with him and had to get out. LET ME OUT! Sometimes I feel like Hamlet, but Thoreau and MLK and “Man of La Mancha” and others testify how they could be free in prison, too, by saying NO to mind-control, by letting their voices travel beyond walls in esays and news articles. I fear that won’t be enough, that even poetry won’t be enough in places like Gaza and Guantanamo Bay.
i think it needs a lot of strength to be free when literally closed in…
Claudia, an interesting article! And I do remember when the Berlin Wall came down. I knew it was happening, but I don’t recollect watching it on TV….though I must have. I do recollect the time when JFK said, “Ich bin eine Berliner.” How very moving! I remember having a pen pal who lived in West Berlin while there was still a wall, but lost touch with her after the wall went down. My very long-time German friend did give me a piece of the Berlin Wall. I still have it. Hard to believe it was 25 years ago already. Time goes way too fast.
i once went to west berlin when the wall was still there and for a few hours we went to east berlin as well… it was an experience i will never forget… even though we went as a group, i was afraid somehow..
It is interesting how the initial euphoria died down and the cultures really clashed – with the changes required on both sides for assimilation. I had a friend who was heavily involved in the integration of the banking systems – those were very interesting times for sure. Freedom is a fragile flower.
freedom is a fragile flower indeed… and yeah… it needed a lot of adjustment on both sides..
The two things I recall were: the pollution in East Germany was very intense and unregulated, and that the older people had a very hard time adapting, Change is always painful, and often left for the children to enjoy. But as I once read, people fight for freedom so their children can have a better life.
I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall and the hours spent in front of the TV at the time. For someone who had grown up not far away from Germany in the 60s, it was an emotional moment. I could hardly believe my eyes. I then saw the wall, of what was left of it, in person about 15 years later.
i had a friend who left east germany and her friends and parents cause she married a west german boy – she thought she would see her parents never again probably – and what a joy when the wall fell and they were free to travel back to visit her fam
Yes, I can imagine she was overjoyed. Conversely when the wall was built I guess families were torn apart and some siblings never saw each other again.
Victoria C. Slotto said:
There’s a novel waiting for you to write it.
oh that would be a good story… smiles
Björn Rudberg (brudberg) said:
I have clear memories of that time. Maybe even more the week preceding .. The Trabants trickling through from Hungary. It seemed destined to happen.. Sometimes the lack of freedom, constrictions and limitation sparkle my wishes for freedom in words. I think sometimes limitations give us an extra sense of what’s really important that can find new outlets through art.. Yes I would venture to say I would write even more.. Probably different.. But it would be an outlet..
very cool how art finds ways to get over those walls esp. in difficult times or countries where it’s not really allowed to say what you think…
Victoria C. Slotto said:
This anniversary has been all over the news here, of course. An incredibly important even in history. The balloon thing gives me goose bumbs.
As for surviving–I’ve been working at that for a little more than two months, now. The only way is to take it a day, a moment at a time and to decide to enjoy the process. Have been very busy, but what I feel the most is that this has interfered with my poetry writing. I resorted to photography for a while as a quick means of artistic expression. But very soon, this whole remodel thing will be over.
taking it a day seems a good way… and glad the remodel thing will be over soon… we’re doing some remodeling here as well… so i def. hear you…
A fascinating topic freedom is and a tricky one indeed to live…
First of all the reality that we at times must qualify that a 12 paragraph discussion of which 6 paragraphs are 3 and fewer lines and the other six are no longer than 7 are too long for the masses of Poet’s to even wade through.. WHO BY NATURE READ..
IS A reflection of a society and now a global one at that..
THAT overALL lives in instant gratification of FREEdom.. RATHER than the KINGdom of struggle that humans are evolved for in intermittent gratification.. for environmental adaptation for true human strength.. per Mother Nature ‘True’s’ version of freedom..:)
And your description of the change that comes in your country very much reminds me of the generation I was born in..in the 60’s where FREE LOVING WAYS moving greater toward instant gratification.. is MARCHING ON THEN..
NOW to the greatest ways of instant gratification that many of us in the US ‘enjoy’ now with the addition of anti-depressants and pain killers to get through just one day of life…moving ‘GREATER’ towards 50 percent or so of the population… each day…
But the greatest thing of all.. is the generation of the late 40’s.. 50’s.. the so-called greatest generation.. for middle-age hetero white Christian guys.. admittingly.. similar to me.. NOW by ‘book cover’..
IS now one that women.. minorities.. the disabled..
And even those with different religions.. or none at all.. and sexual orientations can OBSERVE AND LIVE.. in their own tradition of freedom they create for themselves…
But the pitfalls do continue.. and enlightenment is often not what people WANT TO HEAR.. as instant gratification is a powerful human pitfall to the herd at large..:)
That’s why i write ‘tricky’..
for any chance at all that someone can go more.. than two or three sentences at a time.. these days.. the days..
of ‘heaven’ of instant gratification.. or ‘hell’.. depending on which pill one is on…
to get through..
still.. ALIVE.. 🙂
AND THAT’S 17 PARAGRAPHS.. NOW.. but no more than three lines
long.. in FULL RESPONSE.. TO YOUR FASCINATING TOPIC..;)
so many people live in an environment of freedom but still don’t manage to live it..
peach blossom moth said:
In attempting to type the word “conservative,” you came up with a pretty great typo of a new word: “conversative.”
I dig it, at least.
oy… i’m a sucker for new words… smiles
So interesting. I find myself inside a wall right now with a decision I must make. Usually I rely on some silent time and time in general to allow some focus and inner direction. I like your write about Berlin. Thanks Claudia.
all the best for your decision-making myrna… it’s not easy… silent time is something i also think is helpful.. just listening closely to what your heart says…
Kathy Reed said:
I remember the emotions of the day when the wall came down. I imagined what people must have felt. Here, it was the time of Camelot, and it was supposed to be the end of all wars everywhere. But ideals were dashed with the beginning of a new war and one after that and again after that one…the world has not know peace for more than a very short time. Thanks, Claudia, for your story, from your perspective and the translation of what it means in our everyday living with or without walls. 🙂
kennedy was a hero in many ways… a camelot indeed…i wonder how things had developed if he had had the chance to reign for some more years
I was in Berlin 5 years ago, and it blew away all my misconceptions of a grey concrete jungle. I loved it and vowed to go back, but increasing decrepitude makes my wall now. My freedom is this computer on my lap and the people and places it allows me to interract with on a daily basis.
it is cool how modern technology helps us connect with people from around the world without having to walk too far..
i fell in love with berlin – with its history and heart and even with its ugly spots… for me it’s the most fascinating city i ever visited
I remember watching the Wall come down and crying. I hope in a few years to do the same when Israel’s Apartheid Wall across Palestine comes down. One can only hope that Israel has a hero in waiting of the magnitude of Mikhail Gorbachev who was responsible for the Berlin Wall coming down.
Gorbachev is despised in Russia because he presided over the fall of the Soviet Union, probably inevitable anyway, but he more than anyone else was the great international hero of his age and I am sure history will recognise him as such in general, as many already do, in the particular.
mikhail gorbatchov is a hero for me… the things he changed in russia and the role he played in the fall of the wall…
On a personal note, when challenged, and it has been frequent, my approach is to ‘make the best of the bit I am in,’ and to strive for understanding of what has happened, what part, if any I might have played, what I can learn from the situation and experience – what positive can come out of the worst of negatives, and to remember ‘this too shall pass.’
I have also long believed that everything happens for a reason; there are no absolute victims; we participate in our lives and play a part in whatever comes to us; within every curse there is a gift and in every gift there is a curse; and, while it is not a fixed belief, my sense is that we are spiritual beings in this material world and we choose the general outline of our lives and experiences before we incarnate.
In essence, there are no walls but those we build. And to lesser and greater degrees, as different individuals, we can choose whether or not to build walls, and, if we need them temporarily, when and how to take them down.
I also hold the maxims, self-defined:
‘People are more damaged than evil and more frightened than cruel’
‘People matter, all the rest is things and stuff.’
oh i just love that people matter quote… so very very true…
Sabio Lantz said:
Holding a basket of aphorisms may help: be patient, take little steps, be daring, seek out guidance, listen to fear but not seriously. There is always damage in change. There is always death in stagnation. For no advice holds true always.
Good essay, Claudia — I wish you well, if it is born of your present life. For certainly it is all of our lives at some time.
There is always damage in change. There is always death in stagnation… i like that… and yeah… we need to keep moving… step by step…
geraldine snape said:
great post Claudia…my niece works for BZ and sent us all a video of the white balloons going up …so emotional!!…but you are right there are many walls that we either build ourselves or others build up around us….deciding which to knock down and which to keep for security …is the hard question in life.
it is a hard question and i wish we all could live with less walls…sometimes though we need them… cool that your niece sent you a vid… i was holding my breath in front of the tv… smiles
Excellent topical article Claudia. I remember seeing this on TV, the feeling reminded me of being in the Revolution in Santiago, Chile. The people’s feelings formed into a group mind wanting change and freedom so much it was tangible.
yes – it was tangible… need to read a bit more about the revolution in santiago as well.. i love when people that have been silent for a long time stand up and change things..
I remember those days so clearly still -and the almost palpable sense of excitement and hope that we all held. Even if our expectations have not been quite fully met (perhaps they were impossible to meet, to be fair), it was the most liberating experience of my life. Losing the fear of speaking your mind. I’ve vowed never to have that fear in my life again.
honestly… sometimes i’m still afraid to speak my mind… i need to learn to act in that freedom
The wall was a physical representation of what others still feel throughout the world…I wonder how they are surviving.
The Course of Our Seasons said:
I remember the day very clearly. I watched the news with my dad. He and I had always been on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but we felt the same joy at the fall of the wall and the chink in the armor of that repressive state.
I have recently felt very walled in – being the caregiver for my Mom has taken most of my time, leaving me very little space to be out and about on my own. I am trying to steal moments to write, be creative, just breathe, but the walls do close in.
Seems petty and mean to wish for respite, with all she is enduring. So I muddle on, the best I can – taking it one day at a time.
i hear you… that is not easy at all… wishing you much strength kathleen
Thanks for sharing that. It was very heartfelt and emotional. That was the BEST thing I have ever read of your writing. It was well researched, it had your own point of view, it was current. I loved it.
thanks so much tammy… and good to see you…
Vanessa peterson said:
I read every word Claudia and I remember when this wall came down. I felt so good for these people and often wondered how did they go about their life when those they loved were so close but untouchable . Great post . Freedom for others frees something in everyone.