On a sunny and warm spring day I accompanied my wife to an appointment in Bonn Bad Godesberg. We found there directly a very beautiful park where I could pass the time with our dog until my wife wanted to pick us up again in two hours. It was a remarkable two hours in which I was subjected to a treatment by the residents of this district that seemed strange to me at the time.
Everyone I met either didn’t look at me at all or if they did, they looked at me seriously, almost unfriendly. Even the dog owners, with whose dogs we came in contact, abstained from any gesture of friendliness, like a smile or a direct look. They were apparently anxious to call their dogs back to them as quickly as possible and to gain some distance from us. to avoid contact. At the same time the animals got along so well! The pedigree dogs and our mixed breed girl. I was puzzled because of these peculiar characteristics of the inhabitants of Bad Godesberg. Later at home I realized how naïve I had been when I went to this city. Bonn was, as I read, still the seat of several federal ministries, and Bad Godesberg the former diplomatic seat. So all in all a, let’s say, „dignified“ place. With tradition and style. I showed up there that day with a washed-out green baseball cap, baggy brown old jeans, a shaggy beard and a dog that I was leading on the remains of a thin red former leash, which could well be interpreted as a rope by the casual observer („Hobo rope“, said a friend from Munich later, grinning sarcastically. She had to know. Munich is even more „dignified“ than Bonn Bad Godesberg). So what was fashionably all right in the backwoods of the provinces, on that beautiful spring day in the dignity of a diplomatic quarter immediately aroused the impression of a „subject“ by whom one would at least be snored at on contact, if not immediately robbed of one’s handbag. Sometimes the situation is really clear, but then one is simply too naive or naive to immediately figure it out. I told this incident amused among acquaintances and paid the reserved Bonners fullest understanding for their reaction to my appearance. As I had almost expected, a tirade of indignation was immediately poured out on the poor Bonners. How blasé that was! Always judging everything by appearances! Cities and incidents were dug out, in which my acquaintance had likewise happened similar things. For example, when one was on the road with his son, a two-meter giant with a rasta haircut up to the belt. How one has been stared at there by the people!
I now perceived their attitude as blasé. I was bothered by this predictable and reflexive „blame search“, while I actually just wanted to tell an amusing story about my naivety. Completely non-judgemental and without culprits. Simply because it is amusing and should remain as it stands there. Captured by the soul and not by the analysis of the mind. Unfortunately, it is often not so. If I am lucky in storytelling, then the tirade pours out on the other protagonists of my stories. But if I am unlucky, then I am met with a lecturing „But you have to look at yourself!“, although I have not complained at all or even put someone else up against the wall as the culprit for something. Sometimes I don’t even feel like telling anything anymore, because my words are steered by the listeners directly into a psychological guilt track, which I absolutely didn’t want to get at and which obscures the view of what was essential for me in the story.
Guilt is, as already said, a construct of the mind and of space and time. It has nothing to do with eternal truths. That only incidentally. There I wanted to complain now nevertheless once about it.
Replying to the above tirade, I remarked that I, too, could not speak freely of „irritated“ behavior. If ten „white“ Germans (or non-Germans) pass by me, then I pass by and do not give the slightest thought. I do not notice them at all. If a „colored“ German or non-German comes towards me, then I notice him and sometimes I then behave differently. Not reserved or dismissive. Just different. I suddenly ask myself: If I look at him, am I not staring at him like something extraordinary? Do I not look at him, do I not give the impression of ignoring him? It all comes out of the conspicuousness. The mind sets in and has no concept. It gets stuck in its moral constructs and naturalness is lost. Is like that. Is a reflex. It is exactly this one moment in the encounter with the stranger. If one is in conversation with this person, then the questions no longer exist. Then one is on the usual level.
In contrast to the exemplary „colored“ German or non-German, I could have prevented these complications with my fellow citizens in Bonn simply by choosing appropriate clothing. – Great astonishment: „How? You would have dressed differently then, if you had known that beforehand?“ ‚You would have adapted? Given up your identity? Subordinated yourself to what these smug diplomatic officials demand of you? You wouldn’t have demonstrated how little appearances mean to you and taken a stand against all this Armani crap? You would have denied yourself and refrained from showing who you are and how you stand by what you are and not insisted on your independence and shown them the limits??..‘ I hear as an unspoken subtext. Stories follow of laughing and standing by the fact that you just looked a little odd and people around you were alienated. The subtext I hear: ‚That couldn’t happen to me. I laugh about it then. Nobody has to look at me if they don’t want to. No one has to talk to me if they don’t like it. I don’t need them then. I remain me! This is how you have to react to something like this. Keep your position and don’t let yourself be unsettled. Give an edge. And don’t give in.‘ – As I said before, I had somehow expected this reaction, which cannot go beyond one’s own ego (and its boundaries, which have to be defended). I play dumb a bit and say, seemingly surprised, ‚Sure.‘ I think that the encounters that afternoon would have been more pleasant for me and for the people I met if I had put on a shirt beforehand and maybe had my hair cut. If I had an appointment in a Bonn ministry and had to achieve something there, I would also show up there in a suit and not as I am sitting here before you now. It is the territory of the federal officials. It is their domiciliary right. And it is their rules. To conform my appearance to their rules, that’s not a problem. Now that I think about it, I come to the conclusion that my appearance doesn’t define me at all. I don’t walk around the way I do now because I want to make some kind of statement. I walk around like this because it’s practical and comfortable. Because any fabric that is not coarse and not at least a little earthy would be dirty within seconds in this environment here. How many times have I gotten a „good“ pair of pants so filthy 30 seconds after putting them on that I could change right back into them. Here, it’s just the rules of the forest that dictate what I wear. If I think about it further, I’m not even sure I’ve ever thought about whether I even want to wear the clothes I’m wearing, whether they look good on me or whether I even like them. Whether I like myself or whether the question of liking myself means anything at all. Staying strong inside, that seems important to me. To be effective on the inside. That is what is important, not the outside. If appropriate clothing facilitates acting on the inside, then so be it. “ – Later on, when my wife and I had gone for a walk together along the Rhine on that trip, her „appropriate“ outer appearance softened a little the impression I had made before the Bad Godesbergers. We got thereby the possibility, as „normally“ usual, to come with other dog owners into the conversation. And when I talked to them, they were no less reserved, but their gaze became searching, as if they were looking for something in my face. As if they could not reconcile my sight and my words. That is working within. And that’s easier when you don‘t care about the outside. And being indifferent doesn’t mean to bash the people of the world in the head and to lecture, provoke or exaggerate oneself through one’s clothes, but to see both the jute bag and the Armani suit as the same thing. And to be able to wear both if it helps to maintain one’s strength inside and to serve people. This is then the path that goes beyond one’s own limits. Because the limits are only outside. In our inside we are boundary-less.