Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Out from under the old

The world is in travail, its agitation boiling over as chaos and confusion increase daily, even hourly. Some days, I barely get my eyes open before the spectre of these assails my inner and outer senses.

Thankfully, many of us recognize this time of immense transition for our human family, this new stage of inner evolution we’re being summoned to. I could say “invited”, but I must remind myself that, whether or not I accept, the big event is going to happen, with or without me.

If left to the limits of my human nature, I would surely be in despair. I would live there, like a permanent address.

“The true joy of every soul is the realization of the divine Spirit,” says Hazrat Inayat Khan. “Absence of realization keeps the soul in despair.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá offers an observation that is particularly timely about this process of realization:

“When woman’s point of view receives due consideration and woman’s will is allowed adequate expression in the arrangement of social affairs, we may expect great advancement in matters which have often be grievously neglected under the old regime of male dominance — such matters as health, temperance, peace, and regard for the value of the individual life. Improvements in these respects will have very far-reaching and beneficent effects.”

What remedies lie waiting if we give such due consideration and allow such adequate expression?

How does it FEEL, within us,  to contemplate what it means to be “grievously neglected”?

Artwork: Judy Wright

And what curious term did ‘Abdu’l-Bahá choose to describe something grossly imbalanced that has ceased to provide benefit and, quite often, causes harm? He calls it a “regime”.

What has any of this to do with my own choices, perception, and thoughts — the powers of my own birthright? It’s so much easier to read a passage like this and feel pulled downward, toward hopelessness, or outward, to make judgments about current conditions and others’ behavior.

Yet what keys do the things ‘Abdu’l-Bahá identifies here hold for the “realization of the divine Spirit”? He also said:

“The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.”

As he points to the bright possibility of this balance, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is saying that the regime of dominance, which has ruled with force, is losing that dominance. Two questions that immediately come to mind are: Do I believe that?” and “How am I working in harmony with that reality?” Other considerations might include: “Are there ways that I still resist that liberating truth — or in which I prop up that obsolete regime?”

As travail, chaos, and confusion escalate, even engulf our world, I can recognize the effective remedy that awaits me, and the world, in the qualities described here. Of course, part of the paradox is how much the social conditioning of that “old regime” degrades these very qualities, even seeks to destroy them, when it can’t co-opt them for its own self-serving agenda, most of which doesn’t sustain life, but imperils it.

The delightfully good news is that these qualities ‘Abdu’l-Bahá names are unlimited, and indestructible. Unlike that regime.

What does a world in which “mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service” are valued — even prized — look like? Feel like?

In the midst of any noisy, confused chaos, I can look for and discover this in myself and others, every day.

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Life in the shadows

Eva

 

As I receive feedback from book-discussion groups and readers, I reflect on how much the world’s continuing hunger to “understand” Hitler is aided by understanding more about Eva Braun.

Much of what’s conveyed about her (huge amounts of it inaccurate) has been based on presumed understanding about him. But the reality is that more complete information about her can help us better understand more about why Hitler, despite the evil he represents (or perhaps because of it), has occupied collective consciousness for more than 70 years. 13254414_10209370773770054_731193591111533469_n

Far from attempting to redeem her, however, The Munich Girl follows along patterns of how Braun’s life in Hitler’s shadow, which ended alongside him when she was 33, is emblematic of what many women have done, and still do, in a world still hobbled by inequality. Unable to enact their own potential in a direct way, they resort to doing so from the invisible sidelines and background.

In Eva Braun’s case, that public invisibility lasted the entire 16 years she spent with Hitler. EB pix Germany and more 432

As one reader puts it: “Women, even well-educated women such as [Anna], the novel’s protagonist, are groomed to give up their lives for the ‘larger’ missions of their husbands and lovers. … one of the many ways in which the feminine aspect of humanity is subjugated, Fascism being the most extreme form.”

27e1c9916b3d1248541e4984a92eda3bThe story of The Munich Girl is about many things beyond Eva Braun and the time of the war in Germany. It’s about how women share our lives with each other, the power of our friendships, and the way we protect each other’s vulnerabilities, perhaps as part of how we begin to gain compassion.

So that our world can, too.

Find more about The Munich Girl at:

https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast-ebook/dp/B01AC4FHI8/


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All that an “ordinary” Munich girl reveals

munichgirl_card_frontWhen I reconnected with Germany as an adult after living there in the early 1960s, I wanted to understand more about that nation’s experience during WWII.

Almost immediately afterward, I was given a biography about Hitler’s mistress – later wife — Eva Braun, written by British-German writer Angela Lambert.

I knew I needed to read more about Hitler and the Third Reich in order to understand more about Germany and the war. Eva Braun seemed a likely place to start.

Hotel Schwan-2

Hotel Schwann, Wertheim, my family’s first home in Germany, and a favorite stop of mine still.

I just never expected how close that would bring me to Hitler’s living room.

While she’s a main character, Braun is not the novel’s protagonist. (That’s Anna, born just as the war came to an end in Germany.)

But Braun’s 33-year life provides a metaphorical motif for exploring the effects of self-suppression in many lives, especially those of women.

For research, I immersed in reading about her life, and the time period (120+ books), and that “inner circle” that Braun moved within as part of Hitler’s life. I spent hours watching the films she had made, and looking at many of her photographs.

EB pix Germany and more 382Eventually, I made two trips to the National Archives here in the U.S., where photo albums of hers that were confiscated by the Allies after the war have been stored ever since. Looking at those probably provided my closest sense of connection with her life, and with her as a “character.” As with most of my research, I was looking to read between the lines of what was known to be factual. I was looking for more of the emotional story that her life showed, that the pieces of her experience pointed to.

Among the discoveries my research turned up is the little-known (or infrequently shared) information from testimony given at the Nuremberg Trials that shows how an action she took in the last week of her life saved tens of thousands of Allied prisoners of war. She likely did this to protect Hitler’s reputation – he was going to have them all killed. Among those who were saved were British members of my own family. That discovery stunned me when I unearthed it, and was definitely a turning point for me, as a novelist. EB pix Germany and more 191

While she is famous because of someone infamous, Eva Braun came from what would be perceived both then and now as an extremely “ordinary” life. Lambert’s biography revealed how much of what was believed about Braun was inaccurate, right down to frequent misidentification of her in photos.

Lots of assumptions and judgments about her have masked key information that her life could provide about Hitler. Paradoxically, although much of what has been conveyed about her was based on presumed understanding about him, it’s a more complete picture of her that can provide the most accurate view of Hitler. EB pix Germany and more 484

She loved him, I have no doubt. Yet, in many ways, she gave up both her sense of self and of self-determination to “prove” that love, show her loyalty. (Loyalty was very important to Hitler, who trusted so poorly, if at all. But he trusted her.) I think the distorted self-denial she showed is still cultivated in collective culture today in ways designed to keep inequality in place. Many, especially women, give up the freedom of their own wholeness for the sake of proving love, and loyalty. I think the false value this behavior is given is a big part of what allows oppression and repression to continue, along with the imbalance of power that always accompanies them.

I suppose it’s natural that people might assume this novel aims to exonerate or redeem Eva Braun, but that’s never been its goal. She came to represent, for me, the many things that we can form conclusions about without ever delving deep enough to uncover the whole story, in order to genuinely find truth.

If the story aims to convey any sort of message, it’s that no human being is all good or all bad, and human circumstances are always more complex than they appear. If we’re not willing to accept and understand this, we’re unlikely to learn from history. EB pix Germany and more 433

This is also a story about outlasting the chaos and confusion of war and other kinds of violence and destruction by valuing — and protecting – all of the good that we are willing to build together in our world. Many Germans did this, though until recently, their stories have remained unknown.

The novel is also about the eventual homecoming we must all make to our truest self, and the role that others often mysteriously play in that process.

Find more about The Munich Girl at:

https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/