Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Carl Gustav Jung, for some the psychoanalytical Rib to Sigmund Freud´s Adam, developed the idea of synchronicity in an attempt to understand and explain the magic of Coincidence. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary a coincidence is the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection; also : any of these occurrences. Other dictionaries also mention words such as “uncanny” or “unlikely” in their definition. However, it being psychology and an academic issue to boot, there had to be more to it that Jung had in mind than simply telling the world why two strangers sitting on one park bench should suddenly blow their noses in unison. The events do happen at the same time, they take place by accident, their simultaneous occurrence is rather uncanny and the connection is there as well (the bench, for example…) And since it is no coincidence that I am writing all this and doing my best not to sound too much like a dilettante, I ask you, Dear Reader, to bear with me.
For synchronicity to occur another important condition has to be met: “the suggestion of a larger framework” must be in place. Things that happen do not cause each other (the new word of the day being causal), they seemingly do not influence one another but you feel that that there is more to them than just a shared time-space dimension. They are connected Somehow and that means Something – we are getting here into the Alice in Wonderland or Winnie The Pooh reasoning zone. If I accidentally bump into my university supervisor from Berlin on the corner of a street in Kreuzberg, it is a coincidence. However, if I accidentally bump into the same university teacher on a street corner in Perth, Australia, not knowing she would be in town (or, come to that, on the continent either) but having just been thinking about our last meeting, then things get a bit weird. That would be a story to tell at all future parties you attend. And I hope my dear friend and the hero of the above anecdote, has been doing it ever since.
Jung´s favourite example for synchronicity was his famous encounter with a beetle. And his quotation of choice, ‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ remarked the White Queen, came from Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll whose books, by pure coincidence of course, also happen to be one of my favourite treasure troves with quotations.
And now for those among you who have suffered through this apparently endless introduction, here is a reason why I´ve taken up studying Jungian psychology by night (it is 03:07 AM as I write this). In 2010 I began to seriously read, look up and collect information about the borough I am living in. It was then that I found out that the park of Hasenheide used to house a children´s hospital. The Elisabeth-Kinder-Hospital in Hasenheide 80-87 stood where today the mini-golf woos the passers-by with its wonderfully old-school charm and and its innocent air (this innocence is brilliantly and ironically underlined by the very much not innocent presence of the local drug dealing armada in the nearby bushes). The hospital moved to this address from Pionierstrasse 7a and 13, which is today´s Blücherstrasse. Right behind the corner from my street. The hospital was run by Diakonissen (deaconesses), the non-Catholic answer to nuns, or women who served the Lord and others by caring for the sick, the weak and the needing.
I became fascinated with the place as there is no trace of it left today and finding any images of the hospital online proved to be a futile endeavour. In short, I had no idea what it looked like but I really want to know. And then while reading about it (but still without any visuals), I learnt that it didn´t close down and perished as I thought but moved. The Elisabeth-Kinder-Hospital needed more room for its little patients and they found it in Oberschöneweide in today´s Treskower Allee. There a new big, bright and surrounded by large gardens hospital was built. Then the WW2 came followed closely by the Red Army and the deaconesses had to pack up and go again. Their final station was the former city asylum in Lichtenberg. In today´s Herzbergstrasse in the stunning complex of buildings known today as KEH – Königin Elisabeth Herzberge hospital. To which my Dear Betrothed cycles daily (including weekends, yes, thank you) from Schleiermacherstrasse to medically tend to the sick and the needing.
The fact that my husband – a Hessian by birth, a Berliner by choice and a convinced Kreuzberger – works at KEH which is the straight-line descendant of the Hasenheide Kinder Hospital might be a coincidence. But then how do you explain the following “causally unrelated event”, which I have kept up my sleeve as Piece of Evidence Nr 2: last summer, as some of you might still remember, we had to shorten our holidays significantly and go back to Berlin instead of toasting our pale bods on a Baltic beach. Since our oldest (the heir and scion, with a tender moniker of Stammhalter) was with his grandparents, we the parents of two more, albeit then still easily manageable, scions had a bit more time for such luxurious activities as eating, reading and researching. During one of such Bacchanalian, wanton afternoons I continued looking for the images of the children´s hospital in Hasenheide. I found none but there was an article I had never read before. It said that the Elisabeth-Kinder-Hospital was very happy and extremely grateful for the donations which allowed it in 1890 to open 200km away from the capital a small sanatorium, a Kinder Seehospiz for its sick little patients, run under the highest auspices of the Kaiserin and Queen Auguste-Viktoria herself. The children were to fully recuperate there after being hospitalised and after their illnesses were cured. You do know what is coming now, don´t you? The place they chose was called Kolberger Deep, today known as Dzwirzyno and as you again might remember, that is where Kreuzberg went Pommern last summer only to be flooded and have its hind-side whipped by tough Baltic winds. We lived some 500m away from where the old seaside sanatorium for the little patients from Hasenheide used to stand. Sadly, this house is gone, too.
And the last example, unrelated to Hasenheide but even closer to home: my street, Schleiermacherstraße named after Friedrich Schleiermacher. I read his short biography online and one possibly insignificant for many piece of information immediately caught my eye. In 1802 Schleiermacher left Berlin after he had made himself unpopular with the local Big Fish (both clergy and men in power). He went to take over a clergical post in Stolp. Slupsk today. My home for more almost 30 years. Out of all place in the world and the Reich, he went there. Uncanny.
So what remains is a feeling of “uncanny coincidence, of “the experience of two or more events, that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner”. To me this “meaningful manner” is a proof that I am moving in the right direction, that those seemingly pointless little things I am doing here might after all be leading me where I would like them to. It´s a proof for my own Kreuzberg Synchronicity.