Thursday, October 11, 2012

The American Dream and all of its Incompetence

    Everyone dreams of that moment when the world suddenly jolts into intense clarity. It is the american dream to be successful, to find importance in ourselves and our surroundings. When reflecting on the american dream we notice the black an white blueprint for success. A wife and kids, a quiet life in suburbia where you drive a nice 15 minutes to your 9-5 job that pays handsomely and then you come home to beaming faces sitting in the front porch swing below the century old maple trees.Ok so maybe I just described "Leave it to Beaver" but let's be honest, how much has really changed since then? Maybe it is a loft in NYC instead of quiet suburbia...Maybe it is two dogs instead of kids or maybe it a flight attendant instead of a 9-5 blue collar job. Taking all of this into consideration, regardless of how different it may appear on the outside, it is still the same life. No matter how the outside appearance changes it will always be the "American Dream", a dream and never reality. As long as we follow this blueprint of success we will never be satisfied because the American Dream is based on a mindset but instructs us to achieve this mindset through material objects. This can't happen, it's impossible, the physical whorl will never satisfy us. God made us in his image, there is a part of us that is beyond this world that needs more than this world has to offer. To truly be satisfied we have to accept Christ into our lives. Let me clarify that I did not say "Fill your lives with religion" or "monotonous rituals". Instead fill your life with the essence of christ, the core of his teachings, fill yourself with love.
     I have spent my life pursuing the same goals as everyone else. That is what I was taught and that is all I knew until several months ago when I started to entertain the thought of jumping. I didn't have suicidal thoughts, it was society that I wanted to leave. For a while and even today I think that to leave society it requires a physical detachment and at 2am I will find myself sometimes looking up airline tickets to random places around the world. What's holding me back? Well, it's the love. Breaking from  the flow of society may be the first step to gaining satisfaction in life but that is not the end. The second part is more important and far more complex. We must focus our energy, our lives on love. Relationships, compassion to those who are nameless, noteworthy and even nasty. Love bridges all conflicts, all obstacles. What can keep us from being satisfied is we love others. If we invest our lives into loving our family, our friends, our children... we won't have time for the other nonsense that fills our lives. Traffic jams and fights and political poppycock will become obsolete things of the less noble past. If we love, the American Dream will become a reality and we will transcend all of our expectations of happiness.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Remember and never forget

Saturday- Today we left Schongau and headed for Munich. Heidi(the GPS) did a wonderful job again and got us right to the Museum Doors. We entered the Neue Pinakotech and let me tell you, it is one beautiful museum. There were so many greats, Matisse, Klimt, Picasso, Rembrandt, Goya, Gauguin, Monet...and I saw Van Gogh's SUNFLOWERS:)))))))) It was amazing to see all of these famous works in person and to see such a range in content and style. I will always cherish that visit. After that we headed in to town to look for a Jack Wolfskin T shirt and it was crazy! The entire city was a sea of red (Bayern) and small islands of blue (Chelsea) due to the Euro Futbol Champions Finale that night. People were wasted at lunch, screaming, cheering and singing. It was a little scary but invigorating at the same time hahaha. (This game is like our superbowl.)
After we left the city we headed to the outskirts and a town called Dachau. A once prsoperous artist community this name now instills great saddness in the masses of the world today. Dachau was the site of the first concentration camp  opened under Hitler's rule. It housed over 32,000 prisoners ( only designed to hold 6,000) by the end of the war. Walking in I felt as if my own freedom were being stripped. It is amazing how tangible the fear and evil is that radiates from this place. I felt more scared than sad, the's unparalleled. I entered the maintenace building, built by the prisoners, and walked through the same door that over 60,000 jews, homosexuals, catholics and other "inferior" groups passed through. Passing through each of the monochromatic rooms I read of the horrors that occured, each room containing progessivley worse attrocities. Prisoners were forced to count lashings as they were whipped, and if they lost count or there words were slurred with pain, they had to start back at zero. Guards stole caps and through them over the fence, forcing their owners to retrieve their caps and then they shot them as they climbed over the fence. The empty exspanse that was once the yard where they conducted role call was probably the most intense space in the camp. The desolation and coldness of this area, even the blazing may heat was unreal. You could imagine the hours that passed as the multitude of prisoners were forced to stand, some falling dead of fatigue and exhaustion. I will never forget this visit.
That night we stayed in Rothenburg, which is a beautiful bustling city located on the banks of the Danube. I wish we had more time to spend here. ON the way back from supper I heard singing in a church and walked up the steps to peer in. A lady saw me and in a flurry I was pulled in and she was talking to me hurridly in german. Bewildered I told her I only speak English, and with a kind look on her face she explained to me the service, handed me a candle and told me to go to the altar and speak with the Lord. Now I havent metnioned this prior to now but I had the goal of going to a german church service but had overslept last sunday. I know without a doubt that God led me up those stairs and gave me a chance to experience it. I haven't felt so alive in a long time.
 This was an unforgetable and absoulutely amazing trip.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A day from a dream

Friday – Today was another day made magical by God; His creation, His ideas and His uncanny ability to hold off bad weather. We left Lindau this morning and rounded the eastern tip of the Bodensee into Austria. Following the alpine road we wound through lush green valleys full of towering Hemlocks, hills studded with small villages and aquamarine rivers tinted by the stone that the water falls over. The sheer size of the mountains took my breath away. Snow glistened on the multiple facets of these stone giants. We entered Hogenshwangau and the two castles, Schloss Newschwanstien and Schloss Hogenshwangau sat on the ridges above us. Newschwanstien looks like a page torn out of a fairy tale. The white towers reach into the sky and are sharply contrasted agains the green of its surroundings. A wooden bridge spans the gorge beside the castle and the roaring lacht falls can be seen over 200 feet below. Turrets grace every corner of the castle’s keep and the walls seem to meld right into the stone outcropping it is built on. N.S. was built by King Ludwig II who was eccentric to say the least. The man was captivated by myths and fables and was even declared insane right before he drove the country into bankruptcy. He mysteriously ended up dead in a lake two days after his diagnosis WITH the physician who diagnosed him. Murder or suicide??? Ludwig had stories illustrated in murals along the castle walls, each depicting a strikingly handsome tragic hero who many believe he identified with himself. Although he only spent 172 in the castle he did not refrain from adding any luxuries. He even had a scene form Richard Wagner’s musical reconstructed in his castle.(It is speculated that him and Wagner were lovers and that his homosexuality is what categorized him as insane) Regardless of Ludwig’s long line of blunders it is clear that his castle is more magnificent than any before it. I felt like I was in a different world, I can’t imagine how he must have felt, knowing that every mile of the distant lands that can be seen form the windows was his and at his disposal. After viewing the castles we headed into the nearby town of Fussen, where we strolled through the Altstadt and shopped. It was amazing how close the alps were to this brightly colored town. There were a lot of outdoor gear/sporty stores which I enjoyed looking in and I’m sure they’ll come in handy when I live here someday….
               From Fussen we headed north and are now in Schogenau. It’s a nice town, quiet, but very charming. We ate supper at this old house and were on like the 4th floor in the attic. You could look down though an opening and see the staircases cross haphazardly, it was really neat. I have never seen such a huge wine collection, there must have been over 100 and they were all unique to a particular region which I thought was cool.  Tomorrow we’re headed back to the Art Museum in Munich and we are visiting Dachau, it will be an emotional day for sure. I pray that I have the ability to fully comprehend the range of events that took place and the chain of events that led to such a tragic period.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Thursday- Good afternoon, it is quarter til midnight here and I have had a looong day so I’m going to make this recap short and sweet. Woke up this morning and toured Konstanz. Something seemed fishy at about 10:30 when none of the shops were opened. Come to find out it is Father’s Day….Happy Father’s Day!!! Whooo….yeah…..the Germans really celebrate their papas. The banks are closed, the stores are shut down and the streets are filled with people… now don’t get me wrong, I love people but I’m not too big on crowds and today was a crowded kind of day. We left Konstanz for Mainau, the island of flowers and butterflies but had to bypass that stop due to CROWDS. We headed down the north bank of the Bodensee to Meersburg, a stunning little seaside city that falls in terraces to the water. I got some great pics of Burg Meersburg, the oldest castle in Germany and we enjoyed a Swabian meal from the porch of a café on the sea side promenade. From Meersburg we continued to Lindau and let me tell you, nothing compares to the beauty of this place. It’s a small port on the eastern tip of the Bodensee that looks out on the water. Directly across the lake are the Austrian and Swiss Alps, still snow covered. Hundreds of sail boats dart across the crystal clear waters in the afternoon sun. Over the past 6 days I have seen more terrain change and land diversity than anywhere else in the world, all within a day’s drive form each other and some within sight of each other. It really is spectacular.
 Hohenzollern Castle
 Sigmaringen Castle

The Austrian Alps

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Just to put a few places with the names....

Ulm Cathedral, Tallest
Steeple In the World

 The Crucifiction In St. Josephs
 A wasserfall in the Black Forest
 The Black Forest
 Harburg Castle
ENO at Harburg:)

Chastan Hohenzollern ??? It has a nice ring to it....

Wednesday- Today we left Ulm after another delicious meal. Pancakes with powder sugar, assorted cheeses and fruits and hot tea…. Enough to make any of pavlov’s dogs’ mouths water…bell or not.
We had designated today as our Tour de Castles of sorts. Heading south west our fist destination was Lichtenstein Castle, built and named after the book “Lichtenstein”. Now we had prepared ourselves for some dreary weather because the forecast had shown 50’s and rain but so far the day had been unexpectedly nice. However, when we reached the base of the castle a dark boiling wall of clouds could be seen approaching fast across the valley. When we came into view of the Castle it took really surprised me. The structure was much more majestic an impressive than I had expected. Built on a spire of rock that jutted out of the valley below, the castle, small as it was, stood atop the spire and almost glowed in the sunlight. Did I say sunlight? I meant snow. YES, SNOW. That dark mass of clouds had brought not rain but snow and I’m not talking a flurry….It was coming down in blankets. Instantly I became a little kid, I was fascinated once again with God’s unquestionable uncertainty. I laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. I was dancing in the snow at a castle in Germany in May! What an amazing amount of impossibilities! Descending the mountain we continued south and within the hour our next destination came into view. Now Lichtenstein may have been perched on a spire of rock but Burg Hohenzollern was sitting upon a whole mountain overlooking the Neckar Valley. For a second I fell into the fantasy of my childhood and I truly believed I was finally going to Hogwarts. We toured the chambers of Hohenzollern and I have concluded that I will trace my lineage back and find my relation to the Hohenzollern and thus inherit Burg Hohenzollern. I also concluded that after seeing the treasury I would spend my afternoons in the castle keep strutting around in an ancient golden laurel wreath with a diamond studded snuff box in hand…just for fun.
The last of our castle sampler was Schloss Sigmaringen. Located on the Danube River Sigmaringen sprawls out on the Cliffside. The beautiful tan stone gleams with a rosy vigor in the afternoon sun ( between the intermittent snow showers of course). From Sig we hoped on the road and drove through what may questionably be the most beautiful stretch of country I have ever seen. The Danube river valley/gorge is flanked on both sides be rock faces and fingers that jut up out of the tree line and shine white in the afternoon light. A castle sits atop almost every pinnacle of stone and villages dot the river’s edge. It was a backpacker and climber’s paradise. Miles of wooded land and untouched meadows called to me and my eno but alas! My time is ticking…. We reached the Klauster Beuron Abbey after the closing time but lucky me the doors were open. Now I have seen some ornate frescoes and architecture in my time but I have to say that the Duomo of Florence and St. Paul’s Cathedral have nothing on this place. Ever surface of the arched sanctuary was covered in flowing white vines that twined around columns, split, leafed and blossomed. Cherubs filled the corners and sat among clouds with outreached arms. At the altar a fresco of Jesus crowning the Virgin Mary stood center while two sculptures, one of St. Paul and the other of Joseph stood to the left and right. I sat in reverent awe at the skill of the artist who molded this place and at the skill in the Creator who molded this world. I realized as I looked around that nothing was duplicated. Every flower, cherub and vine was unique, just as everything in this world is unique. The room began to fill with attendees and I realized that a service was about to commence so I bowed out graciously and we headed for the Bodensee and Konstanz. (If I had any knowledge of the catholic traditions or knew any German I would have stayed for the service because I think that would be phenomenal to participate in a worship service 5000 miles from home, in a different language, with complete strangers yet brothers in Christ. And he, don’t we all speak agape?)
I am now in Konstanz, which is on this massive lake called the Bodensee. The Bodensee lies between Germany, Switzerland and Austria and it has an unexplainably warm climate that allows fruits to flourish along with a variety of moderately tropical plants and animals. The local food is greatJ I had my first schnitzel tonight with some delicious spatzle (regional dish consisting of fettuccini like noodles in a crème sauce) and some locally brewed beer. Well, that is up to date… Its after midnight here so I better hit the sack. Goodnight!

A night in the Fishermens' Quarter

Tuesday Night-Tonight we got back to Ulm around 4ish. I was pooped and with the defeat of the art gallery fresh on my mind I had little desire to do much of anything. After a brief rest we decidied to head off to old Ulm for a little exploration and food. Behind the ancient walls fortifying to tightly packed streets we walked around between the half timbered houses. It was beautiful, the streets paralleled a small river and the houses all leaned over it, in a very venetian style. Water wheels churned and candles flickered in some the waved glass windows. Our search for food ended at a small house butting up to the river, I had to stoop down to walk inside (the place was 400 years old) but the experience was phenomenal. The restaurant was in an old house in the fishermen’s quarter, and it served a variety of Swabian meals. Everything was spiced heavily, soaked or tenderized. Oh and don’t forget the beer, there is always beer.