From feather-in-hat to hole-in-sock

Abdullah and Erzsi are sitting in a tree.

Erzsi: “Say?”

Abdullah: „Never in a trillion light years or a trillionth of a second can I ever become who you are. Maybe to grow more like you, but that is a natural process and the utmost I could do is just hang out with you a while longer. Anything else is phony, phony baloney.

But I will put on your clothes, your dress, your shirt. Your bikini tops.

I would start feeling like I were you. Would I feel good, would I feel blue.

A step in the right direction, but I still need the goods. Why would I approach your angle, nuzzle your chakra? Fun and games to start with, but in the end someone always gets hurt.

We’ve already discussed partnerlook. A beautiful thing even if aesthetically questionable at times. But we won’t go there now.

How about I try on your struggles? Wearing that striped brown and white sweater, I think I can just grab a snatch of your daily grunts, unfurled by that pestering colleague of yours who always brings up your ….

In a dream I tried on your purple monokini and went for a swim in the ocean. And then I realised, yes, I am you. My first thought was Oh no, do I have to attend the next WHO conference in Kuala Lumpur in August, but then I rather started to think what it must feel like to swim against the stream, and I began to appreciate more the things you do and how difficult it must be to push through your agenda on all those hard-headed fuzzy-brains you have to deal with all the time, and well, I think the bottom of it is, I’d like to give you a big hug, a hug to express my empathy, my increased understanding.

Now, though, after I shook off the drops, I am once again occupying my own self-satisfied self. I’d love to, love to, love to care more, but it’s so hard, hard, hard to plant myself on the turf of any other.

Maybe next time I will put on your 1928 vintage satin dress and go for a stroll in the park. Then I might start really digging into you. All that nasty tax return stuff from a few years ago.

Or perhaps your desire to be the next marathon champ.

Or your stubborn stance on marriage.

I was gripped lately by a feature article on the bad way of these Kolkata street kids. I am surprised that things haven’t changed more rapidly over there. You just expect… well, yes I’d like nothing more than to sack the Indian minister of Education… you know anyone I can talk to?

Your green-leaf dress wraps me tightly, triggering a breakthrough in empathetic button-push that clinches my chest, tightens itself like a turban around my heart-strings. In my mind’s eye the picture of you in the same outfit. Next I throw it all off, violently to the ground, run a marathon without stitch on, find your green leaves and put them back on.

Bring on the opponents to your free bio-feedback pre-test phase plan. I’m ready for them.

Your wardrobe is a place where I wallow around, I squeal out of joy like a pig with fun and mud. It brings me to magical places.”

Erzsi: “Almost like plucking an apple from this tree.”


How often have I been overcome by the desire to slip into someone else’s think-loft, into the mind of another. But that was long ago. I am really fine with myself. But am I? After all, black is beautiful. But maybe I wouldn’t want to be someone else, just try out for a little bit. I had a dream once when I was younger: A whole bunch of people were standing in a room, and suddenly all of our heads were chopped off, but just landed on the person next to us – every head moves one to the left.

In ninth grade a friend of mine said she would love to sit in my mind once, just to understand how it works, to unravel the mystery. Our teacher warned her that she would probably not want this experience. But if we can’t actually be other people, perhaps the next best thing is to be around a lot of different kinds of people. The more contact we have with others, the more we understand them. Which is actually the best running excuse that I’ve heard for flying in spite of CO2 emissions, because you get to know more cultures and thus become a more balanced person. That should be possible with slow travel as well, but alas, that’s another topic.

But it is true, the more we can venture out of our own comfort zone and scoop up the hilarity and the horrors of the world around us, the better chances we have to laugh or to get so angry that we want to do something about it. Solidarity is an expression that rests on empathy. Empathy is a sensation or a state that rests on openness as well as a
predisposition to caring. Perhaps some people just have more of that than others. But you can grow into it as well.

It is always a chain of events leading there: Something catches your attention, you get sidetracked by it. You look more into it. Your imagination is gripped. Then maybe you leave it alone. But next time, well, next time maybe you don’t drop it so easily. Everyone has their story how they got excited about something in the first place. But not everyone carries their initial excitement to a place where they can live a passionate life, sticking to the hot buttons.

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