Finding Stability during Adolescent Restlessness
When it came to matters concerning the entire tribe Zoska, Günther with the uncomplimentary nickname Little Chicken was in charge and took care of the organization of the big events. Two things stand out for me as truly memorable: the bike ride to Arnhem in Holland and the regional jamboree at the youth hostel in Wesel. Arnhem is the first major city in the Netherlands not far from the German border about an hour’s drive by car from Wesel. The country is as flat as a pancake, especially on the Dutch side of the border where bicycle trails are often totally separated from the noisy traffic arteries. On these trails the combined clans were pedaling in a giant snake-like formation towards our destination, the youth hostel in Arnhem. It was a beautiful sight to behold, some fifty boy scouts in their traditional black attire. Those wearing their uniform-like khaki shirts proudly displayed their honor badges they had earned in the last couple of years. I was at the tail end of this giant human snake winding through the gentle curves on this wonderful bike trail. My job was to make sure that we would not lose any stragglers on our one-day journey. While the sightseeing in Arnhem and the communal life with all its exciting games and best of all the singing were fun, it was the trip itself, the getting-there as one body and soul that I remember best and treasure most as a powerful metaphor for my own journey through life.
The year 1960 was going to be my last full year of service within the Union of the European Scouts. I had just turned eighteen, brimming with physical strength and vigor, yet very clumsy at sports, full of ideals to create a better world, yet often confused by my own contradictory behavior. I again began to slip academic achievement, which became more and more important in the senior years. I also lived in an artificial world not of my own making, but by a society that was still stubbornly clinging to archaic traditions in a rapidly changing social environment. One of the traditions was the complete separation of boys and girls in the high schools. There was no provision for interaction with the opposite gender. We boys lived in a bubble filled with an explosive mix of ignorance, half-truths and acute awareness of our own adolescent stirrings. Lacking any objective knowledge either from home or school, we gathered information about sex mainly from highly questionable sources. The rumor about a pregnant student at the girls’ high school at the opposite end of town and her subsequent expulsion ran like wild-fire through the gossip mills in the senior grades at recess and lunch. Sex was on everybody’s mind, surfacing thinly concealed even in our monthly student newspapers. Some would-be scholars made an attempt to lend a degree of academic respectability to the topic by passing notes around in the classroom mostly during the boring geography lessons. It was a never-ending stream of Latin phrases of highly questionable content. As witty as some of them were, they could only warp even more the already distorted views we held on the topic. The meaning of a healthy relationship that goes beyond the physical to embrace the social even spiritual aspects of a lifelong partnership was completely foreign to us.
A source of true comfort and stability continued to be my involvement in the scout movement. It provided an anchor in the turmoil of the emotional storm in which I was being tossed about. Commitment to a worthy cause, action repelling the evil spirit of idleness, order being pitched against chaos, in which a multitude of vices surface and thrive. In short, these virtues provided fixed reference points, which I could use for my own moral orientation. Little Chicken organized a regional jamboree at the Wesel Youth Hostel, to which he had also invited an all girl contingent from the town of Geldern. Except for my elementary school years in Rohrdorf I had never participated in an event on a large scale such as this, where boys and girls were doing things together on an egalitarian basis. While the playing of the customary games, the presentation of humorous skits, the singing of our favorite camp songs pretty near followed the familiar pattern, the girls added a new dimension to our gathering.
Jutta, their leader, impressed me with her gentle firmness in her voice, with which she directed her clan in the various activities. To exercise her authority, she did not need to raise her voice. Her strength lay in the calm assured manner, in which she delivered her instructions. Perhaps more importantly I discovered in the girls a kind of beauty, which distinguished itself through their simple attire and appearance. Just like flowers displaying their natural beauty, these lovely human counterparts needed no artificial hair color, rouge, lipstick, perfume and other distracting accessories to cover up what was already inherently beautiful. Thus, I had developed a liking for natural beauty in girls and this attitude became a guiding principle in my search for a spouse in the following years.