On my first visit to Europe, I saw the Berlin Wall and both Berlins up close.
Two friends and I went on a month long journey throughout Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. It was December 1986, I had just turned 28, and I was ecstatic to see the world.
We planned to be in Germany for Christmas and the New Year, and to travel to East Berlin for a couple of day trips while we were staying in West Berlin. This meant going to the other side of the Berlin Wall, through the Iron Curtain. That wall, that dividing line inside of Germany, was a sharp reminder of not only a horrific war, but the many divisions human beings create between themselves in daily life.
This, however, is not the only lesson in unity from that trip. An experience in an East German history museum is one that I am reminded of often, especially during this contentious election year in these so called United States.
First we went to the history museum in the west. I honestly cannot remember a single exhibit I saw there, but I recall that the overall energy of the West Berlin museum was about how Germany had been healing since WW2. Everything was shiny, new, and modern.
The West Berlin history museum was beautiful, and the East Berlin history museum was unforgettable.
On the other side of the Berlin Wall, the East German history museum featured exhibits about World War Two.
Those exhibits included an actual cell from a concentration camp, Buchenwald I believe.
An entire wall in the WW2 exhibit, floor to ceiling, featured a massive graph listing all of the countries on the planet that in some way participated in or were affected by that war, and the deaths and casualties each suffered. The U.S. had a low casualty count by comparison because, except for Pearl Harbor, the war didn’t take place on U.S. soil. As you can see from the graph here, worldwide casualties were significant. (This is not the graphic from the museum I visited.)
But wait, there’s more.
More fascinating to me were the pie charts featuring all of the political parties that existed in Germany in the years leading up to the rise of Hitler, and the percentage of votes each one received in the elections before Hitler was declared Chancellor of Germany in 1933. It was chilling to see how, year by year, the National Socialist Party gained in strength and numbers, but it still didn’t have a majority. The other parties combined had a much larger margin.
But Germany was already divided, Hitler used the post WW1 trauma in the country to seize power. He further divided people from each other, setting up an atmosphere of daily fear and violence. Even before he was appointed chancellor, he had a huge army of over 400,000 brown shirts out on the streets of Germany, sowing violence, hatred, and fear – basically dividing the people even more so that a Nazi takeover would happen more easily.
Yes, it was the division among people that made it possible for the Third Reich to come into existence.
“The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
It made no sense to me that the people in Germany couldn’t see how powerful they’d become by uniting with each other. For that matter, it made no sense to me that people in the U.S. couldn’t see it, or in any other place on earth. But I’d been looking in the wrong place, and for years I’d blamed the division between people on outside forces. It was at the point of seeing those pie charts in that East Berlin museum that a new truth began to make itself known to me.
Unity comes from within.
This was a few years before I began to ‘wake up’, to become spiritually conscious. The pie charts in that East Berlin museum helped me see a deeper truth, helped me to crack open a closed place for myself so that I could know something true for myself.
The divisions that come into being in the world around us, come from within us. In the face of terrifying violence and loud bullies, it’s easy to believe that one person has no power to change anything. Yet if one person decides to change herself, to look within and see what’s true for her, she influences others into doing the same. She is able to inspire others to create pictures of new, happy possibilities and outcomes.
Together, working from a place of love, listening, and forgiveness, we create a more peaceful conscious world, a growing healing world that works for everyone. This is the message that’s coming across loudly and clearly in these United States in 2016. This is what we need to remember: each of us has the power to change ourselves, and by doing so we have a powerful effect on how we change our world together.
“What I’m not confused about is the world needing much more love, no hate, no prejudice, no bigotry and more unity, peace and understanding. Period.” – Stevie Wonder
Please make sure you are registered to vote, and that you exercise your right to do so!