barbed wire in between – March 1979

first published online by the then World Haiku Review in 2002

shared for d’Verse Open Link Night Mar 2022:

March 1979
This article is dedicated to Dr Yedidah Cohen, Safed, Israel, and her study of truth. – BS Nov 2014

I have returned form East Germany yesterday, after three months of study. It was not an easy time. I was born there, brought up in the West. My parents’ rejection of their roots took me, as an adult, back to see for myself. –

My critical questions while permitted, were not encouraged, rarely answered, mostly dismissed. Our teachers were my age when the GDR came into being. Their enthusiasm and quest have long been stifled. A scheduled visit to Sachsenhausen concentration camp memorial site last week brought a shift, as I stood there, in one of the dark rooms of the exhibition, next to a glass case with documents, and with people silently passing me by.
I had no words then and still  have no words for that moment. Yet, something happened. After reflecting on this many times, the best I can say is: A Vow was taken, for me.
Several of my fellow students had declined to attend, “we have seen it all before”. Taking us back where they themselves started, teachers suddenly seemed to understand: I need to go to the roots of the motivation, that this may never happen again (here and now, physically), and renew the motivation from facing that which must never happen again – where else?

“He asked me, ‘son of man, can these bones live?’ – ‘Only you know’, I answered.” (Ezekiel)

“The GDR has been an experiment – what else could we have done?” (Stephan Hermlin)

“Communication and discussion take place through concepts, but all insight lies behind the conceptual scene. … there is always a danger that (a reader) will attend to the concepts rather than the underlying insight, (particularly) when the point to be grasped by insight is merely that there is no point.” Bernard Lonergan)

So in the end, I left East Berlin with a sense of freedom, clarity and reconciliation- out of confusion.

Barbed wire in between –
Love overflows train window sun,
Patrols both on guard.

Home, last night – I found myself free from a compulsive neurotic symptom, a freedom always already there, but never yet reached fully still.



-Ezekiel, 37, 3

-East Berlin Author Stephan Hermlin

-Bernard Lonergan, Insight, quoted from Lonergan Reader p.65


first published by World Haiku Review online, ca. 2002 

~ by Barbara S on June 9, 2021.

7 Responses to “barbed wire in between – March 1979”

  1. If nothing else, on that day, the affirmation-in-dialogue – beyond the thinkable or unthinkable, confirms that to come alive the affirmation indeed has to surrender to letting the roots, the radical be nourished from there. This what I am discovering deeper with Valarie Kaur.

  2. A dear, sensitive catholic priest once quoted in conversation a phrase he knew to be used in deep spiritual direction: “In that which you can’t surpass, there is God for you.”

    I am ashamed to say that, despite that liberation hinted upon here, throughout the 40 years since, I have still often belied my own radical outlook by allowing much inferior concepts to be in my way.
    Yet, 12-step-recovery (in this case of the fearful child inside) points to the fact that it is a process akin to peeling an onion – not only in the weeping (about one’s own shortcomings) but in the removing of more and more layers. Even Thomas Keating OCSO, in his nineties, speaks credibly of this as an ongoing process.

  3. The greatest clarity and trust go with the greatest insecurity. – Wasn’t that a brush with an insight, offered that morning, on the train, that moment when the train approached the border control?
    It would be a long time before I even remotely grasped that.
    There is also in the experience an early reference to the observer perspective which can grow into what Lonergan calls “the universal viewpoint (as) concerned with the interpreter’s capacity to grasp meanings; it would open his mind to ideas that do not lie on the surface and to views that diverge enormously from his own; it would enable him to find clues where otherwise he might look but would fail to see…”

  4. When first compiling this haibun, some twenty-odd years after the Dialogue in Sachsenhausen, I was, independently, studying theology and had found the reference in Ezekiel. I pondered for some time whether to include it as some readers read the lived experience then as illustrating the story. Whereas for me, the story illustrates lived experience.

  5. Experientally or structurally, there appears a similarity between this and the Psychodrama experience in that the actual encounter or dialogue happened in the museum yet – it was followed by and in some way consolidated by a personal insight that arrived, as if the former had opened or prepared the body of insight.

  6. Chronologically, this was the first of such Moments I never forgot. I have, however, decided for the order in which the Moments are represented here as this one for me shines a light on deep-rooted motivation for humanism and social justice. As Jess Philips writes in ‘Truth to Power’, the subject matter found me, not the other way round. –
    This theme seems to me more one of my mature years and indeed, it has come to the fore over the last 10 years, and again now, as I am learning with and from warrior spirit Valarie Kaur and write my speaking truth to power.

    • In some respect one might say, the psychodrama experience compelled the subject to learn to be attentive to it by understanding it. The early Dialogue with the Upanishads compelled her to be attentive beyond understanding which had been comforting initially, but as she got older increasingly painful as she felt outside of the lived meaning (having forgotten its origin for her). in this the third Moment, she is compelled to remain free of her neuroticism and free for a grounded approach to justice – in the words of Lonergan’s concept, she was grounded in her ability to take a radical stance when it came to such matters in society – being responsible through attention beyond understanding (of the horrors of the Holocausst)?

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