An Peter D., Goldern, 6. Dezember 1989
I was very happy with your last letter, Peter. It felt as if I'd stopped over at you new place for dinner, seing your good old harpsicord with Han-San and all kinds of things on it, hearing the bright red plane over head pulling that sign behind it, that sign, which called for more local autonomy or for I don't remember what, it is as if I'd travelled with you into Portland one morning in "bumber to bumber traffic", and I tuched the seat of your motorcycle all ready to for a long ride into the big, unknown, romantic world... Both, Urs, my room-made and good freind down in Basel, and I enjoyed your letter a lot. It gave us a very strong sense of what your life felt like at the time. I could, by the way, read it on my "Convertibraille"-equipped computer with no promblem. The formatting program you've used to make your texte IBM‑compatible seems to have done a good job....
I have returned to Goldern in the Bernese Oberland yesterday night after a two days stay in Bern and one week in Basel. Travelling back and forth between Basel and Goldern is part of my life since more than a year now. Up here in the mountains I live in a nice sunny room on the top-floor of an old wooden building, the "heart" of the Ecole d'Humanité, the "School of Man Kind". There are about twenty more people living in the old house, most of them 14, 15 or 16 years old, some of them real old like me - 34!! - or Will, an American teacher and Barbara, a theology student from Germany who is working here since spring. Just this morning we have celebrated the 18th birthday of Ann, one of the girls in our "family" with a "family-breakfast", that is with a breakfast in our own house instead of the big dining hall across the school yard.
O man! So much to tell! - I have just finished my morning session with Margot, a woman who lives and works in this school since 1953 or 54. She still new the founder of the school and was very close friend with his wife, Edith, who died only some 6 or 7 years ago. We have just read a series of letters, which Edith and Paulus, the founder of the school, got thrue the years 1934 to 1946. They had in 1934 left famous boarding school in Germany and come to Switzerland. Now their old secretary is telling them, how things go "back home" - a place, they never considered "home" anymore after having left because of the Nazi politics. - We just finished reading a long letter, in which this former secretary of them tells Edith about her situation in the year 45/46: the end of the war, the denazification of her sister's husband etc. etc.; the letter ends "o God! At last I am again able to write all this without fear of punishment ...
And while I try to capture what I had just gone thru to give you a little taste of the many events, that make up my life, the gong sounded out there, telling people to come to lunch! Therefor ... so long! Lunch time. - The gong said it and my stomac quite agrees.
Some 20 Minutes before dinner: Reading these old documents, these old letters - there are about 30 thousand of them in the school's archive - is since more than a year my main job. - I have taken tons of notes since this research project entered in its "serious" phase 14 Months ago. All this reading and researching should eventually amount to a biography of the famous German reform-pedagogue Paul Geheeb and his wife; something like "how they lived and why and what they did and wanted when they lived and what's left of what they wanted and what we can learn from them if we wanted!" - In addition to the direct sources which are in the archive of the school I have begun to get dig into German hirsotry of the second half of the 19th and the the 20th century, so as to get a somewhat clear picture of the social, political and cultural events which took place during the lifetime of my "heros". - All in all a lot of paper to work my way thrue (with the help of quite a few people who read all that stuff to me - directly or on tape. The way, in which this project keeps growing and expanding, is quite amazing and at times pretty threattening. The school has decided to hire me for two years to write this book and I have allready spent more than half of this time without writing one line, just preparing, gathering more information, bringing the avaluable material in some order, getting an idea of what is around and avaluable etc.. I sometimes long for a person to tell me, that what I'm doing is o.k. and "necessary" to write the kind of (carefully researched) book I plan to write. This person could also insure me, that I am certainly capable of writing such a book when all the preparative groundwork has been done and that we will find a publisher for the book after all. - Although I do work pretty closely with Margot, the woman I mentioned before, I often miss this kind of psychic and concreat technical support... ... The gong wants me to go and have dinner and stop complaining. Compaired to the worries of other people, my "worries" seem pretty luxurious after all! And, I want to say that, before I quit for today, I very often enjoy my work and in a way I am pretty confident, that I have been doing a fairly good job at it so far. It is just a bit too much at times! O.K. - Dinner! - My stomac agrees once more.
Saturday, December 9th 89 after Dinner: One thing which strikes me in my research project is the fact, that most letters I read do not or only to a very small extent reflect even enormous political events of the time. If I didn't know, that Germany was at war with Europe between 39 and 45, I would not guess it from most letters of that time: no mention of anything but sicknesses, personal life things etc.; this may have to do (to some extent) with the fear of sensership, but also in other instances (world war I for example), where this fear was not around, people almost never write about such more general issues. This discovery -disappointing as it is for someone who is condamned to read thrue so many letters - makes me want to change this a bit -, therefore - listen - look - read and be amazed!!!
I am sure that the news media in the US cover extensively all the changes happening in eastern Europe. Just now, some minutes ago, they said in the news, that the tschecoslowakien president, Husak (I am sure, that I misspelled every single word here, but I hope you get the idea) is announcing, that he's will resign today or tomorrow. He became president after the Sowjet Union and some other countries had invaded Tschecoslowakia in 1968. In the same news they anounced, that the SED (the communist party of east Germany) decided to abolish two of its cebntral institutions (I forgot the exact terms) and maybe rename the party next week. In economic life they want most emphasis on private inititiative etc. etc.
Sometimes all this changing makes me really mad, for it shows how little character people seem to have after all: I am pretty pissed, that soldiers or policemen who would (and did) shoot people in certain cases for years suddenly jsut stand there (on the Berlin wall for instance) with a smile, not doing anything anymore. Of course I am very happy, that they have at last been told to give up the shooting and all that, but I would be even happier if they would start to finally just do, what they want to do rather than just behave like mindless cardboard figures. - Well but that's not really the point. I just mentioned eastern Europe because this is not what I want to talk about, since you know all about it, as I said at the beginning. But here comes, what I want to talk about.
Switzerland - a funny country! Did you know, that the Suisse just voted on the question whether they wanted to give up their Army or not! - Some utopian minded folks have started an initiative by the name of "Schweiz ohne Armee" (which is "Switzerland without Army") some seven or eight years ago. This activity produced a lot of discussion and a very strong opposition, for - and this is really interesting - many Suisse have a very strong emotional relationship with our army: not only do all Suisse men, who are healthy enough and don't dare to say no, serve in the Army, but the generation of the over 60 year old people have lived thrue world war II with the continuous feeling of threat and the sensation, that Hitler would have invaded Switzerland long ago, if we did not have our strong army placed at our borders. Historians - old party poopers! - do say, that Hitler had more important reasons than our army to not occupy Switzerland and they also critisice the defense strategy of our military (a strategy that has not changed since and which lives all big cities and the populated parts of the country pretty much unprotected, because what the army would defend is a very elaborate system of fortrices tunneled into and thrue and all under the alps). - But in any case: to even consider abolishing the army was a real heavy challange for many many people here. And - now comes my joy and pleasure - just about 36% of the people who are allowed to vote voted (two weeks ago!) for the initiative, for abolishing the army. Considering the enormous emotional value the army has for so many Suisse, this resolt is a real thrill. This resolt was a surprise for many people. For a long time it seem even daring to think, that 15% of the people would be for the initiative. To me the great thing in all this is the naiv idealism or the utopien spirit behind such an idea and the fact, that there were so many yes-votes made me - for a change -feel very good about this country, which normally shows so little utopian spirit or idealism.
Another funny thing happened here just recently. Because of some scandal in the federal administration a special committee looked into our FBI or the agency which comes close to the FBI in the US and you know, what they found! The strange fools and state protectors in this agency have a huge archive with information on 900,000 people living in Switzerland. This means that they have gather "top secret" information on one out of seven people in this country, because they are a threat to our state, to the freedom in our country and the money in our banks, the swimming-pools of the rich or God knows what. - On one hand all this seems to be so silly, so absurd and commical, but than on the other hand, this agency really used all the crap they stored or they could have used it (one never really knows) to keep us pedestrians in line, keep the utopian spirit down and the work-immorality and kill, fight, cheat and plunder mentality high. Well, now they are promising all kinds of things they want to do to get this agency back into a more presentable shape; the embarrassment of course is great -, my disconfort in a way too, for if this can happen once it can happen all the time it seems. We just had some public hearings simular to the once you had some two years ago around the Iran-Contra-Connections and there will most likely be more to this than is apparent so far. I am pretty curious to see, what kind of information our Secret Service Agency has collected about me! I am going to write them these days; they allready got quite a few curious request like this.
So much for local, national and world issues, so much for the revolution in international letter writing patterns! - I am going to bann this letter once more into my computer until I am back in Basel, where my printer is waiting for all the letters produced during these printerless times in Goldern. Maybe I will then add another page or two to it (since it is yet so short!). - Good night.
January 16th 1990, eleven o.clock at night: Since weeks I want to complete this letter, but every day passes and I either seem to not find any time at all to sit down and talk to a friend - just a friend! - or I am so pooped, that I just don't feel like talking or writing to anyone. Either I am not a very good (fast and efficient that is) worker or I just have pretty much to do ... I wanted to write to some other friends during the more pieceful days between Christmas and new year: well I wrote to some people, who are not on my list, just because they came to my mind at that time. But all others I haven't written yet. Instead I have written at least 40 or 50 business letters, some of them fairly long and some of them in 50 or 60 copies, to 50 or 60 different institutions. - Most of the time I really enjoy all this.
I have played quite often all my instruments, especially a wooden flute (or is it "floot"?), which I bought at the Eugene Saturday's Market in 1974 for some $12 or $16. I had never really treated this thing like a decent instrument; I just liked because of the way it looks and because of the simplicity of its make. Well. In September I just didn't have my other instruments with me, so I started to fiddle around a bit with this piece of bamboo. Since then this rather primitive instrument has been my almost dayly challenge and pleasure! I am quite thrilled by the way the two of them get along! It makes very beautiful sounds, when I treat it nicely and it is very patient at showing to me, how it likes to be treated. Considering the fact, that I don't know how to play a flute (where you have to blow across the instrument unlike the recorder, which I sort of know how to play), considering this fact I am quite amazed about (and proud of) my playing. Very often I play while I drink my morning coffy and this to me is a very nice and good way into a new day!
Well. There is so much more to tell you, but I feel like stopping here. I just wanted to make sure that you don't have to wait longer for an answer to your last letter. Maybe I do find the time, the peace and quiet and the right mood to write to you again during these coming weeks. This letter seems to be all filled with external events and happenings, which I sort of threw together whenever I had some time. I do want to write differently - more about "inner" things maybe - and I will do that sooner or later. - I would like to ask you - for example - what you think about coming to Europe (with or without Mary). If there were no obstacles like money, time etc., does the idea of spending one or three or seven mounths in the old world, in Florence and Roma, Paris, Berlin, Athens, Buddhapest, Moskau, Basel and Goldern still appeal to you? If so, why are you not here? If not, why not? - Well that's one of the topics I would like to discuss with you (and it looks like I have just started the discussion by asking you this interesting question). Another topic is "love", love in general (don't yawn!), love in your life, love in my life. Closely related to this is "personal happiness: what it is, what it is not, what it means to me, to you and in general!". Another thing is "the future: expectations, fears, hopes and plans". - Well. The list envolves some quite impressive themes, as you can see! No: seriously, these are things I would really want to discuss (or diswrite) with you. If you fell like starting, do it! I feel very good about knowing you and whenever I get a letter from you (short or long) it will be something like a sunray into my heart!
Peter, I love you! I wish that your life is going allright at the time or even more: that you are enjoying life and that have many good things happening around you. Whatever the case may be, I am very interested in what you are doing, what you are thinking and pondering about (love, personal happiness, future, Europe, Work, dreams etc.). Don't feel that you have to write a happy or positive letter: if that's not the way you feel just write the way you do feel or talk onto a cassette for a change.
I am very much looking forward to your next letter! A big hug to you, to Mary and greatings to Bear and Hanshan! Ciao Pietro.
Post Script on February 5th 1990: When I wanted to mail this letter, I couldn't find your address anymore; then the computer power supply system broke down... Now The moment seems to have come at last! This letter will be in the mail this afternoon, while the communist party in Russia discusses the possibility of a multi-party-state and people in eastern Germany are preparing their march elections!