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My name is Thomas Zieringer. I am an artist and author. So that's the story that led to the Garden of Freedom:

It was March 1998. I was driving the long drive from Bensheim to Traunstein. The debate surrounding the Berlin Memorial was discussed on many different radio stations. I then asked myself: Why do people want to work through their history, or the history of their country, and still remain in the dark, instead of turning towards life as a reaction to this darkness? Why does a country that has brought so much guilt on itself throughout history burden its children with feelings of guilt, instead of using this guilt as a reason to educate them to become truly free and mature citizens? Why do we not want precisely because of the dark German past to construct, besides admonishing memorials to remind us, monuments that can offer our commemorative culture also hope and new life? A culture defines itself through the symbols it establishes. To what extent are their monuments and symbols an encouragement to invest in peace and freedom, and wouldn’t that truly mean that we “learned a lesson from the past”?

That night in Traunstein, I had an unusual dream at the break of dawn, like a short movie. I saw a detail of a monument, a circle of large stones that was broken open; the
Peace Mark. This was the first part of a puzzle that sparked a deep fascination. My subconsciousness must have wrestled quite a bit with this issue, which I kept distant until then. This was the start of an inner journey of discovery. Fifteen years later, finally, with the Peace Mark and seventeen years later with the entire Garden of Freedom, the actual monument in the outer world was created. The “journey of discovery” continued… The courage necessary to even consider constructing this elaborate Peace Monument was inspired by the first positive responses of Holocaust survivors, to whom I suggested this new approach in the way Germans commemorate their darkest chapters.

Here, you can read, among other comments, a reaction by Kurt Hacker, President of the International Auschwitz Committee. Behind that link you also find some information about a book i began writing in 1998 about my new approach for the German commemorative culture.

A personal word

Thomas Zieringer, January 2015

Life has incredible depth to offer. Personal development seems to be endless. The following holds especially true for our country, with its reasonably good living conditions: The greatest obstacle to happiness is oneself. So you often can and you should change what is causing the pain in yourself. We are offered fantastic riches but fail to see their value. To me, life appears to be a process that leads away from petty, egocentric thinking – towards freedom.The “free will” is a curious concept. You are seldom truly free. Decisions depend on past experiences and every decision that any person makes at a certain moment is the “right” decision, even if it seems like the fervent “creation of suffering” to someone from the outside. Freedom is created if I can free myself from my ossified perceptions with all their prejudice, fear, and expectations and seemingly unfounded follow my yearning.

What exactly is this passion? I want to dance, love, and sing through life, be in touch with my inner joy and express it. It is a marvellous philosophy. I consider it the greatest philosophy there is. Life must be studied to learn it. Above all, those moments in which one obstructs oneself must be studied. Jesus scolded the scribes; and they assumed power a few centuries later in his name... – the path we must walk is narrow. Are you acquainted with this joy, this inner glowing? What I mean to say is to continuously express this glowing in new ways, in love and gratitude and change the world by doing so, to charm her in love – by words and movement, with music, poetry, art… – what a philosophy! It should be full of life and a work of the heart. It can’t be studied, only expressed! Life! It is composed of the courage to assume responsibility for it, with dignity and fidelity.

This also means that people should stop expecting others to encounter them with fairness and retreating with their feelings hurt if this doesn’t happen. It requires a recognition of the current state of the world and the significance of the contribution people can make to this world in their daily lives, through love. It is your own responsibility to take mastery and - instead of expecting this from others - to have a positive impact.This leads away from victimization into a new awareness of one’s own dignity as a human.

Similar to the most influential philosopher of the classical antiquity, Plato, who already spoke of the “Theory of Ideas”, I adhere to the idea that the things of this world are subordinated to a realm of ideas. As such, each attempt to effect long-term change in the world through mere political actionism without any vision becomes puerile. In order to change the world in the sense of a spiritual progress that becomes visible, one has to focus on the level of ideas – addressing the causes of suffering, instead of the symptoms (similar to a good doctor). The same holds true for this Peace and Freedom Monument, this “vision of a new humanity”. Its about an idea that is introduced to the world, efforts that take place in the “realm of ideas”. It is to be understood that the ideas and joint visions pursued by a society outweigh the importance of everyday politics in the long-term, as also everyday politics merely follows the etiologic ideas. “States can only flourish if philosophers rule or the rulers philosophise.” (Plato)

This work belongs to the realm of Judeo-Christian mysticism. Because it represents a process of the soul, which follows its own yearning for light and love, this work is closely related to the lives of people: It is concerned with the question of healing our pasts in the recollections of personal experiences and in the collective consciousness of a nation. This provides us with an answer that at the same time contributes to a peaceful organization of the “global village” – which is also situated right in front of one’s own door now – with its many different cultures and religions.

Christian mysticism flourished in the Late Middle Ages. One can only hope that it experiences a revival, a revival this project might contribute to. Karl Rahner, one of the most important Catholic theologists and religious philosophers of our modern times wrote: “The devout Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic’, one who has ‘experienced’ something, or he will cease to be anything at all”. This work was created in all spiritual freedom and is wholeheartedly committed to a search for truth and wisdom, trusting in God.
Thomas Zieringer, January 14th, 2007

PS: The picture was taken in January 2015. The butterfly was real. He was in my house and landed on me. :-)

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