Böll died the year I got married. Like many Germans, my love for Ireland developed when reading his Irish Journal. Böll had a cottage on Achill Island and published the Journal the year Pat was born. So there are many connections. (There are always connections if you search long enough.) One of Böll’s most famous stories, however, is his “Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral“, or: Anecdote Concerning the Lowering of Productivity”. He wrote it for a May Day programme for the NRD, the Norddeutscher Rundfunk in 1963, the same radio station from where Pat gave the interview on Cormac ag a Cúig about a week ago. (Yet another connection.)
Yesterday’s post made someone think of this story, and when I read it again today, I felt a rush, an urge, a spirit, like that of many years ago. In short, it’s a story about a fisherman looking relaxed out at the sea and a stranger telling him that if he only took advantage of the ideal whether conditions and worked really hard, he could earn so much money that he could then retire, relax, and just look out at the sea on days like these – to which the fisherman responded: that is exactly what I am doing right now.
People say it in different ways. Life is not a rehearsal. It is always “now”. There is no future that’s going to be better. If you want change, change now. Nobody ever said on his deathbed: had I only worked harder and stayed more time in the office. We are social, we think, we are free.
The trouble is, that it might sound and seem, cool and romantic to think that way when things go more or less in the right direction. When life has just stopped and you wonder why the world’s hasn’t stopped too, it takes a lot to think and feel that way: that, ultimately, you are in charge, not of what happens to you, but of how you deal with it. Opting out is not an option. You are social. Never alone. Not out into the wild. You are your family, your friends, your neighbors. What helps me is stepping back, from a distance the world looks blue and green, and for moments I feel like Böll’s fisherman, unable to understand what all our common worries are about.
When we were with Pádraig today, he was grand. He opened his eyes when we got into his room, he reacted with his hand when we were talking to him or asked him to give us a squeeze, as almost every day, and his general condition was good. I finally managed to get all the song you proposed together onto a CD. A lot of it is really good music for dancing. As many of you, when i listened to this music with him today, I could see him dancing, and was wondering whether that is what he saw too,
One day, after the rose garden, we will have a big party, with plenty of food and drink, and the best of music. We’ll learn the lyrics off by heart. We will sing them along while dancing the night away, not worried at all about tomorrow, living in the now.
Wenn du so bist wie dein Lachen,
möchte ich dich wiedersehn,
krumme Dinger mit dir machen,
streiten über tausend Sachen,
mit dir schwimmen nach Athen.
Wenn du so bist wie dein Lachen,
würd ich für dein Wohlergehn,
daß die Knochen nur so krachen,
auf dir Purzelbäume machen,
und dich kitzeln an den Zehn.
Today’s German Music Tip
Ina Deter, Wenn Du so bist wie Dein Lachen (1976). Incredible, but true: this song came 10th in the competition to represent Germany in the Eurovision Song Contest. In my Cologne Wohngemeinschaft being able to sing along Ina Deter’s song was a prerequisite, for the girls; boys had to be able to hum along, at least. I had completely forgotten about this music.
The German word/phrase/verse of the day