Archive | February, 2012

„Geborgenheit“ or what we really need

13 Feb

Dear reader, I would like to apologize for my long absence. I have started a new job this year and I still need to get the hang of this whole work-life-balance-thingy that everyone keeps talking about. However, I have chosen this specific day for my return because today is Soma’s birthday. So, honored reader, Happy Soma’s Birthday to you!

Today’s word is a bit of a weird one: “Geborgenheit”. Now, imagine you don’t know what it means (maybe you really don’t) and you just look at its letters and listen to its sound. It is not a pretty one. I don’t think that it is ugly; it is just a word that doesn’t strike me as particularly beautiful. There is no melody or poetry to the mere word, but the meaning, oh, the meaning. Leo tells me that the English translation is ‘security’ or ‘feeling of security’. Puh-lease! There is so much more to it.

But I am a good digital native and know better that to trust just one user-generated source. Wikipedia actually has an article on the word and informs me that some panel chose it as the second most beautiful word in the German language and it is considered impossible to translate. The article also lists a whole lot of things that are part of its meaning, for example: security, protection, warmth, closeness, peace, trust, acceptance, and love. Reading this list you could get the feeling it means so much that it ends up meaning nothing. Not true. I know exactly what it means, so does every other German speaker, but I would bet that almost all of us have a hard time coming up with a general definition.

It is much more likely that the person you ask for a translation would come up with examples. One might tell you “Geborgenheit” is when he comes home to his parent’s place for Christmas and sits at the old kitchen table like he always has and his mum is still buying the special pudding for him even after all these years. Another one might tell you a story about that one special friend she can easily cry with without feeling ashamed. If you ask me, I think of a cave. Wow, that sounds weird. But it is the image that springs to my mind. A warm, dark and cozy cave. How about that for Freudian insight into my psyche.

The bottom line is this, “Geborgenheit” as the sum of security, warmth, protection, trust, and love is an essential human experience and the lack of it can and will do great harm to a personality, according to psychologists. We humans are crafty, though. When we really need something we will go out of our way to get it. I have seen how people who didn’t get “Geborgenheit” at home went out looking for it and found it with friends, lovers, in books or music. And sometimes you can find it in words. That’s what Soma did.