Warum bin ich ich, und warum nicht du?Having singularly failed to appreciate Die Stunde, da wir nichts voneinander wußten, my respect for Peter Handke has just massively improved on learning this poem is his. These are the words spoken by Damiel at the beginning of Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) - a great opening to a great film.
Warum bin ich hier, und warum nicht dort?
Wann begann die Zeit, und wo endet der Raum?
Ist das Leben unter der Sonne nicht bloß ein Traum?
Ist was ich sehe und höre und rieche
nicht bloß der Schein einer Welt vor der Welt?
Gibt es tatsächlich das Böse und Leute,
die wirklich die Bösen sind?
Wie kann es sein, daß ich, der ich bin,
bevor ich wurde, nicht war,
und daß einmal ich, der ich bin,
nicht mehr der ich bin, sein werde?(Peter Handke, "Lied vom Kindsein", verse 4)
When the child was a child, it was the time of the following quesitons:
Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When did time begin, and where does space end? Is life under the sun not merely a dream? Is that which I see and hear and smell not merely the appearance of a world before the world? Is there actually evil, and people who really are the evil ones? How can it be that I, who am I, before I came to be, was not, and that in time I, who am I, will no longer be I who I am?"
What is a real shame is that in so many cases these really are questions one associates with childhood, as if past a certain age people give up asking them. I regard such lack of interest in maximally important issues as insane; C.S. Lewis apparently thought it the result of satanic conspiracy:
By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it ‘real life’ and don’t let him ask what he means by ‘real’.I think that sometimes an important part of evangelism is simply getting people to ask themselves these kinds of questions. After all, didn't Jesus himself command us to "change and become like little children" (Matthew 2:3)?(C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, I)