“Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”
Everybody knows how fallible memory can sometimes be. You remember certain fragments precisely, but as soon as you try to join the fragments together, for a story, there is a certain – not falsification, but a shifting.
– Gunter Grass
Learn more about these men after the break.
“Tolle asks the reader “not to stop thinking, but to step out of being completely entangled in the stream of thinking”. This, he believes, “is the the real meaning of spirituality. People still think spirituality is having certain belief systems — in God or angels — but ‘spiritual’ means to be able to step beyond the conceptual reality in your head. In other words, accessing the dimension of stillness within yourself.”
Does he consider himself enlightened? “Well, one could say that,” he says, and pauses. “But that leads to delusion. When one says I’m enlightened or you are enlightened, that enlightenment is a personal achievement or possession or some kind of attainment.”
He feels his way cautiously. “There is simply a state of peace, clarity and aliveness.”
It wasn’t always so. Brought up near Cologne in Germany as Ulrich Tolle, he had a miserable childhood, largely because his parents constantly argued. “Even aged 10 or 11 I was trying to figure out ways I could commit suicide.”
Refusing to go to school, he was taught at home and learnt several languages, as well as studying philosophy and astronomy. At 19, he moved to London where he worked in a language school teaching businessmen.
But “suffering from depression, anxiety and fear”, he started “searching for answers to life”. Believing these lay in philosophy and literature, he took evening classes, and then went on to King’s College, London. He was 27. “For a moment I thought, ‘I’ve finally made it’. And then after a few weeks I got depressed again.”
One night shortly after his 29th birthday, Tolle says he was in a state of suicidal despair. “I couldn’t live with myself any longer. And this question arose without an answer: who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void. I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved.”
He pauses and reflects. “The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or “beingness”, just observing and watching.” He laughs lightly. “I had no explanation for this.”
In his mid-30s he lost interest in research and abandoned academia, drifting for two years, staying with friends or occasionally in a Buddhist monastery, sitting on park benches and sleeping rough on Hampstead Heath. His family thought him “irresponsible, even insane”.
It was, though, after this “lost” period that people — former Cambridge students, those he met by chance, friends — started to ask Tolle questions about his beliefs.
More students gravitated towards Tolle over the next five years, and he moved to Glastonbury — the nexus of “alternative living”. In 1993, he arrived in Vancouver. It was there that he wrote the first question in The Power: What is enlightenment?” (Source)
Günter Grass was born in 1927 in Danzig-Langfuhr of Polish-German parents. After military service and captivity by American forces 1944-46, he worked as a farm labourer and miner and studied art in Düsseldorf and Berlin. 1956-59 he made his living as a sculptor, graphic artist and writer in Paris, and subsequently Berlin. In 1955 Grass became a member of the socially critical Gruppe 47 (later described with great warmth in The Meeting at Telgte), his first poetry was published in 1956 and his first play produced in 1957. His major international breakthrough came in 1959 with his allegorical and wide-ranging picaresque novel The Tin Drum (filmed by Schlöndorff), a satirical panorama of German reality during the first half of this century, which, with Cat and Mouse and Dog Years, was to form what is called the Danzig Trilogy.
In the 1960s Grass became active in politics, participating in election campaigns on behalf of the Social Democrat party and Willy Brandt. He dealt with the responsibility of intellectuals in Local Anaesthetic, From the Diary of a Snail and in his “German tragedy” The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising, and published political speeches and essays in which he advocated a Germany free from fanaticism and totalitarian ideologies. His childhood home, Danzig, and his broad and suggestive fabulations were to reappear in two successful novels criticising civilisation, The Flounder and The Rat, which reflect Grass’s commitment to the peace movement and the environmental movement. Vehement debate and criticism were aroused by his mammoth novel Ein weites Feld which is set in the DDR in the years of the collapse of communism and the fall of the Berlin wall. In My Century he presents the history of the past century from a personal point of view, year by year. As a graphic artist, Grass has often been responsible for the covers and illustrations for his own works.” (Source)