What did I think, Manja, when I wrote ‘to be continued’? I thought I had more warm memories to share. My primary emotions associated with the word Switzerland are warm and positive. All related to my youth. To admiration for the ingenuity of the engineers, the train system (Wassen! The ‘crocodile’ locomotive! The Zahnradbahn Jungfraujoch). To the beauty of the mountains (in my family ‘Mürren’ stood for the smell of blossoming Alp meadows, the Staubbach fall, the sound of cowbells, the monumental and dangerous Jungfrau massive nearby, the cogwheel train and it’s incredible tunnel through the rocks, the unfulfilled wish to be up there in the ‘Adlersnest’ at the Jungfraujoch), foremost the happiness in the eyes of my parents whenever that land came up in the conversation. This positive emotion is so strong, it needs only the smallest incentive to come alive. I am thinking now of Johannes Brahms, one of my favorite composers. At the end of his life he retired to Thun, where he wrote some of his best works. It is inscribed on the first page of the third sonata for piano and violin: ‘Komponiert in den Sommermonaten 1886–88 in Thun’. Those words open the gate to my own memories of the summer months in Switzerland. (And vice versa- on hearing the word Thun or Thunersee I hear the majestic melody of the Allegro in my mind’s ears)
But it struck me suddenly, how we are prone to easy and lazy generalization. How quick we stick to labels, frames, stereotypes and myths that seem to bring order in the chaos around us, but only maintain the general misunderstanding of the other. ‘Dutch’, ‘Americans’, ‘the Swiss’. ‘Muslim’, ‘Christian’, ‘Hindu’, ‘atheist humanist’. It all helps us to suggest order and understanding, but it leads to misunderstanding and false judgments.
Therefor I spare you my secondary emotions, not all positive. The log and the splinter. Above all, sharing the positive emotions has the important function of adding to happiness, whereas the sharing of negative emotions and the judgments behind them could only be functional if they added to better understanding of problems and finding solutions. Our relationship here is not one of problemsolving, but of friendship. Am I right?