A few weeks ago I met several hundreds of “gilets jaunes”. Protesters in yellow warning jackets marching through the streets of a French town. Angry faces, frustrated faces. Men and women of all ages. Violence was in the air, policemen were taking up their positions. “La France en colère” – France in anger. Initially the marchers protested against rising petrol prices. Through its tax increase the government however released all the frustration of France’s struggling middle class and the aggressivity of the working class. The victims – real or presumed – of a deregulated and destabilised economy feel ignored by the ruling elites in Paris. It’s about us and them and the feeling of alienation.
Schnell und rastlos – quick and restless – is the name of the first movement of Wolfgang Rihm’s String Quartet No. 5, a piece that itself has no proper name. Quick and restless – that’s me, to the great despair of my contemporaries. I have little patience and I like to get things done fast. At times my attention span is limited too, and I like to do several things at the same time usually messing up one or two. Quick and restless – is that the corollary to an ardent desire to live, to see, to hear, to do? I suppose it is.
A meditative piano piece. Minimalist music. “Auf einem anderen Blatt” – on another page. The German expression that gave this piece its title invites to change the perspective. While listening to it my mind started wandering: changing the perspective, being flexible, giving the other the right to have a different view than myself. Empathy, putting myself in someone else’s shoes, feeling how he feels – how difficult that is at times. “Auf einem anderen Blatt” also refers in German to the unsaid, often opposed to what has been said or written. Yes, but…
A few years ago I sat on a transatlantic flight to Europe. All was well. The excitement of embarking had died down, the plane was quiet, dinner had been served and passengers were getting ready for the night. I felt comfortable. I was flying home. I had a window seat, I looked outside and for the first time on a plane I saw the sun set. The sky changed its colors in fractions of ten, twenty seconds and it was beautiful and overwhelming to watch. An idea of the vastness of space. An idea of the vulnerability of earth and humanity. A glimpse of God.