|20/12/2019||This article as .pdf|
Taking Prussia for a walk
The federal state of Brandenburg advertises itself with the motto: »Dieser Weg ist das Ziel« (»This path is the goal«). The Radio Eins station has collected further slogans from its listeners. »Dieser Weg ist das Ziel« has only 19 letters and is therefore said to be quick to grasp. »Tja«.
»Taking Prussia for a walk« is my association on podcasts by and with Judith Holofernes. Anyone who has heard the songs she wrote with the band »Wir sind Helden« knows that they contain happy and thoughtful notes about the Prussian work ethic, about endurance, about being carried and about going for walks. Her podcasts under the title »Salon Holofernes« can now be found on Patreon for little, well-spent money. I listened to them during a short trip to Brandenburg.
Only the name Judith Holofernes disturbs me every time. Of course, art can, should, must unsettle, childhood and youth as well, antiquity anyway. Ask Kafka or Kleist. One may know Theodor Fontane’s rather not unsettling »Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg« (»Walks through the March of Brandenburg«). But those writers, did they too take Prussia for a walk?
This time I was at the Stechlinsee near Rheinsberg. Stechlin like Slavic steklo – glass. It is unknown whether the name refers to the crystal-clear water of the lake or to the glass-makers who heated their ovens for centuries here, where there is plenty of sand and wood. The name Rheinsberg refers either to the Lower Rhine, from where settlers came here in the 12th century, or to the running and flowing of water. This origin also remains unclear. A melting in many ways, from the melting of the last ice age onward, that shaped this landscape 12,000 years ago. Between the Stechlinsee and Rheinsberg lies the Nehmitzsee. Its name is derived from the Slavic word for »mute«. Tja.
There was a time before Prussia and now is the time after. For now, Prussia remains an inner state for me. I want to summarise this state as the compulsion to pursue goals with all my strength, the consequences of which I will never be able to think through completely. Asking questions is allowed, as long as the asking is serious work. What must not be is tiring, giving up. Then others would win. Who these others are remains yet another question. But it is clear that the descendants of Protestants cannot simply stop protesting. Only Christ, only through Scripture, only through grace, only through faith. »Explain to me work«.
As if everything that stayed still in one place ran the risk of sinking into the swampy, sandy ground and freezing to ice again. So should I not occupy myself with the writings of Thomas Mann before I continue writing here? Until 1924 psychological insight and perceptiveness dominated in his work. Even the attempt to think about Prussia is probably still a Prussian quality.
Brandenburg has no doors and windows. Saxon Switzerland has pierced rocks and the Malerweg (Painter’s Path). In Dresden, on the »Balcony of Europe«, there is an empty window frame in memory of the painter Caspar David Friedrich. The Brandenburg landscape does not need the view into the distance, it needs no frame. Here the images merge, melt, never stop, www.bezgranic.eu redirects to www.ohnegrenzen.eu, the red eagle refers to the red rooster.
The red eagle is the Prussian heraldic animal. It goes on a drive on the seal of every vehicle registered in Brandenburg. »Steige hoch, du roter Adler, über Sumpf und Sand…« (»Climb up, red eagle, over swamp and sand…«) In his novel »Der Stechlin« Theodor Fontane sets the red rooster to its side. The red rooster rises less often. Recently it is also available in the form of a footprint. In the flat Brandenburg landscape the movement of footprints is predominantly horizontal.
»We should love everything old, insofar as it is entitled to, but we should actually live for the new.« I have laid out this Fontane sentence as my guideline and my attitude for the coming technological, social, political changes. This sentence is tautological. What we live for can become the new. And the joke with Fontane and the binary tree is a good one.
Is aimless and unintentional walking on words or on feet a counterweight to the inner Prussia? Can Prussia become more intelligent, more creative, more human if we internalise it and take it for a walk through Brandenburg? It is worth trying. »For the sake of this task, to preserve at least shame for mankind, Kafka sometimes found back to a kind of ancient joy.« Giorgio Agamben in »Idea of Shame«. Perhaps this will »make our roots wide«.