Shape of Things: To Write is Action

Remembering the Junkerngasse… Remembering Berne…

A bit of context on what is going on right here…

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When Mathias and I returned to Berne from Ithaca, NY in 1992…
Officially it was a move from Munich as I had kept an apartment in Munich while in Ithaca, and the initial plans were to return there. Plans change. It was 1992, and I had one single word on my mind: discipline. That was roughly 15 years ago, and it was when Michael and I met. That was when Mathias attended the International School for his second grade. Roughly one year later we moved back to Germany again, stayed there another two years, and back to Berne once more.

Then in 1998 I moved to the Junkerngasse and lived in Berne’s UNESCO World Heritage Patrimony, and when I entered that nobel apartment it became clear that I had returned to Berne to do something very specific, to write. Mathias took a look at the empty apartment looked through the kitchen window onto what became his room, and concluded that the place had something perverse about it, he liked it. The years at the Junkerngasse were a bit trying for both of us, we both went through adolescence during those years as his adolescence sparked my own and we had quite a go at it. We came out on the other side of the ordeal as good close friends, not necessarily an expected outcome for a parent-child relationship. When he decided to go study in California, I was the one with the big surprise. Of all the possible scenarios, that was not one that I had imagined… my very Swiss son returns to California!

In 2006 I left the Junkerngasse and went up the hill to a smaller place with a garden, and that is where I am now. I like it here, and both the thing with the discipline and the writing are making progress. Right now I am working on what I call the third manuscript since the writing adventure restarted a few years ago after I left the Swiss Patent Office. This third one – schemata – has had me firmly in its grip for over two years… and it really has made me wonder if all freaking writers go through this process and why is it that a story that is clear in my mind ends up taking me for such a ride. From all that I have read, this is nothing new, others have walked this path before me. What I had not bargained for, much less planned, were the other two manuscripts. The first one – nameless for now – spewed out of me before i realized what was happening, but it had to be written and it is autobiographical at a certain level, but not completely for I have taken with it a fair amount of poetic license. The second one is also autobiographical, and that too was not planned, not really. I just wanted to keep on writing no matter how badly the writing of schemata was going, and I kept on addressing one specific question, and that question had harpooned itself on the entrails of what the central theme of schemata is. I have needed a lot of help to crack this one, but crack it I did. It cracked wide open a couple of weeks ago after being in Geneva for Lift.

A friend of mine is right, plans are created for failure, he says. If you did not know that he is quite a capable thinker and doer, you would discount such an outburst as noise, and not realize that that is actually the signal. Still, there is more than what meets the eye in such a statement. Plans are only created when there are goals, and goals that represent a challenge and a desired outcome. Goals, challenges and desires do not care about the details of the plan. Some prefer to be sticky with the plan and plain stubborn about following the plan, and I do know that there are cases when plans are appropriate tools, still… the plan ain’t so important, the challenge is. Right now I have one great challenge in front of me, and really not much of a plan. To write is action, not a plan.

Still upon returning to Berne after Geneva last month I found myself talking with my landlady, neighbour, and gentle soul and telling her that I was thinking of moving towards Geneva within the next year, but that first I would write this story. What came out of my mouth that day did surprise me. Had I just said that? Yes, and there were no doubts in my mind. It is also not a plan, but there is a goal there, and a challenge, to say nothing of a few dreams brewing.

See, already in 2005 when I had searched for a new place to live, I did consider leaving Berne towards Lausanne or Geneva. I did look, I talked with people, I got the network machinery going, and then I thought about it a bit more. The time was not right yet, Berne was not ready to let go of me just yet, the work was not done.

All of the above just to say that blogging here is going to be sporadic and perhaps rare as I get more and more focused on the challenge that schemata represents for me. It is a wonderful challenge, and one that I fully embrace. Today my Aikido Sensei gave me feedback on an essay that I have written about my own relationship to Aikido, and her feedback contained exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you. Slowly the pieces of this puzzle are falling in place without effort.

I am still available for lectures and workshops. The next workshop will be in Zurich next month, however it is not a public workshop.

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