Frau Beckstein lived in Austria at the fag end of the 19th century. She was a noble and idealistic school teacher and she loved poetry, novels, opera and painting. To say that Frau Beckstein was cultured would be an understatement. She loved the life of the artist and she swooned when she pondered the inspiring story of the eccentric, poverty-stricken bohemian living in a rat-infested garret.
How many times had she fallen in love with Richard Wagner, Goethe and Novalis? Very hard to say. These Great men of Genius inspired her and moved her to tears of joy. How grateful she was to the divine spark that indwells this temporary bodily kit. This electric spark of the divine was wonderfully manifest in these very superior artists.
And now the summer had arrived and Frau Beckstein was looking forward to the camping holiday. All her young boys were excited and enthused. ‘Camping is so much fun’ was a popular conviction and Frau Beckstein could not hide her delight when the tents finally arrived.
The young Austrian lads were so looking forward to the Spartan simplicity of the late 19th century camping scenario. No showers. No toilets. No insect repellent. A total negation of comfort and luxury. But it was this very fierce attack on our bodily cravings that filled the young bloods with such zeal and anticipation. In some sense mystical experiences of our inner identity with the cosmos were almost inevitable in the camping milieu.
Finally they had arrived and Wolfgang and Heinrich, two elderly but jovial men, supervised the erection of the tents. Old Willi rushed about the camp site waving his mallet in comical mode. How the boys laughed!
In the evening all the happy campers swarmed around the blazing log fire. Delicious Austrian ginger beer was quaffed with titters, gurgles and sighs of inner refreshment. The three elderly gents imbibed excellent Austrian lager beer. Twiglets, unfortunately, were lacking; they had not yet been invented. A dark and sombre feature of this historical period.
Frau Beckstein was nervous and jittery. She refused all offers of fizzy pop and the ubiquitous sausage was spurned. How she longed to bring this year’s work to a satisfactory and spiritually-sated conclusion. She knew that she had to speak but would the boys respond to her deepest longings?
With much trepidation and foreboding, the young Frau stood up and begged leave to speak. There could be only one response. Total silence descended upon the merry throng.
“Boys, we have learned so many facts this year and you have worked so hard. We have studied Austrian geography and your German grammar is beginning to impress me. All of you have grasped Newton’s theory of gravity and Boyle’s theory about gases. Well done! But meine liebchen what does this mean?
“All these facts are really nasty, grubby things which hide the true essence of the world. You cannot see the divine in man and nature if you focus only on these boring, brutal facts! There is a higher world and a better world that will never be discovered by the scientists and the vulgar men of commerce.”
“If only you could journey into your hearts and touch the eternity of your deepest longings. There you will discover rumours of glory. There is a spark of God in each of you and as the poet Goethe remarked: “everything is feeling.”
“Boys, I want you to follow your hearts and put your faith in this inner spark of divinity. Follow your dreams! Do what your heart says is right! If you long to write great novels, write great novels. If you long to compose beautiful music, compose beautiful music. If you long to be a great architect, follow your heart. The artist participates in the divine life and this is the highest and best life. Again I beg you – follow your hearts and become great men of destiny.”
By now Frau Bechstein was weeping and sobbing with raw, pure emotion. The boys were pensive and hushed. This sweet serenade had moved and touched them in the deepest recesses of their manhood. Young Adolf was not the only one who wept that day; even Wolfgang and Willi could not hide their tears. Adolf made a secret inner vow. Some day he would follow his heart and the world would change forever.