Castle Krokowa in Kashubia
A philosophical Walk through the Eulenschlucht (owl canyon)
Written by Annika Kiehn, March 2020
These days, people artificially try to reflect nature — they make up terms like “forest bathing” when they simply mean “being in the woods.” Recent articles tell us about the beneficial impact this “green” has on us — how it boosts our immune system, enlightens us, and supposedly makes us more creative. While walking daily down the Eulenschlucht near the Polish Castle Krockow in Northern Kashubia, the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte found time to reflect on himself and his way of thinking: Is it really like I think it is? Or are there other possibilities? Go on and find out for yourself!
Recently, I started going for a run in the nearby forest regularly. It only takes me a minute to get there, and I am immediately caught up in a world of birds’ songs and ground rustles. This silence and peace of a certain quality bring me back on track with myself—and it often saves me from midday fatigue.
Indeed, I developed a strong affinity for trees.
Sometimes, I just stop running and walk for a little while to enjoy this state of being alone with myself in this green environment. Since I began to set my mind on manorial heritage, I have developed a keener eye for trees and the shapes of landscapes. Indeed, I developed a strong affinity for trees. For instance, I find myself smiling as I stroke the gnarled skin of an oak tree, admiring its thick crust, which reminds me of a super yummy loaf of bread. It also amazes me when I think of its strength and longevity, considering that many people with different appearances already walked past it years ago, before mankind could anticipate something like a car or smartphone.
Whenever I am in the forest, I am also walking down my inner path, asking myself, “Is everything okay? If it is not, why is that so, and what can I do to change it?” It is this reflection that I appreciate most as I take my steps.
I dare say I am a self-conscious person. I find it essential to develop myself; therefore, I like to explore my multifaceted being.
The German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte used to walk down the Eulenschlucht of castle Krockow at least once a day. In November 1791, he was sent there by his famous mentor, Immanuel Kant, and he stayed for two years. He was employed as a teacher for the children of Countess Louise of Krockow.
Fichte gained a reputation as the pioneer of German Idealism. He already knew about the potential of self-awareness as a tool of inner health and finding peace. In his book, “So sein wie Fichte“ – “Do it like Fichte,” the Polish philosopher, author, and life-coach Marcin Fabjanski writes: “A decent walk for an hour is supposedly the source of regaining our energy level—our concentration works better for 20 percent. It is said that people who often “bathe” in nature are less likely to take medicine and that looking at trees reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol by a mere 13.4 percent.”
However, according to Fichtes’ philosophy, there is one major lesson of his Eulenschlucht manifesto that Marcin Fabjanski stresses for the modern soul: Try to avoid prejudices and judgment as much as you can.
Once we have overcome this anxiety, our minds will be calm.
The more you judge, the more it confuses your mind. Instead of making up your mind about anything and everything, just try to be. Rest in the here and now. The goal is to achieve the state of ataraxia – to liberate yourself from psychological harassment, from destructive emotions in order to stop suffering and gain positivism.
These are wise words but hard to internalize in our modern western lives, where people are struggling with handling to-do lists and finding peace in everyday chaos. I am consciously trying to stop judging those who surround me, but I still find it hard to continue from time to time. As human beings, we can only define ourselves through our reflection in others. However, there is a fine line between acknowledging a certain development in another person’s life and judging that person’s ability to deal with it in terms of making yourself feel better.
This is where the energy balances either towards the negative or the positive. These days, I am mostly drawn to people who just do their thing, who are aware of their limitations and have found some solace in them. Once we find the ability to disconnect ourselves from the spiral of negativity, we will reach an even more important level of being, free from neurotic habits that stem from a simple cause: fear. Because it is mainly fear that makes us bite here and there. Once we have overcome this anxiety, our minds will be calm.
However, how is this accomplished? The Eulenschlucht is a perfect place to practice! (To establish the habit, start with any tree nearby.) In his book, Marcin Fabjanski offers five philosophical exercises that we can all try out easily. I will sum up three exercises to give you an idea of his intention.
Contemplation of growing old
Look out for a willow tree, preferably one with two branches and little twigs. Now look at the contrast between the old and new parts of it and ask yourself: “Is death really the opposite of life, or is it, as Roman emperor philosopher Marc Aurel puts it, ‘Death is just one of the tasks of life to fulfill.’” Ask yourself, “Am I, like this tree, capable of growing older without judging the process?” By doing so, you might want to admire the trees of the Eulenschlucht, which have formed the shape of a dome.
Contemplation of space
As you walk further, turn right, and you will enter the Eulenschlucht. A small path will take you more into it and out of it. Now that you are fully inside it, look into the little pond, which has a smooth surface—but is it really that smooth, or are there slight waves? Is it always as we see it, or do we want to see things the way they suit us?
Contemplation of intention
Does a toad think about how many flies it will catch today? Probably not. If it did, it would rather die as a result of overthinking it than simply doing it. Maybe we should stop worrying too much about our actions and instead act intentionally. Try to be open. You might have changed a little bit after returning from this walk. Perhaps the next time you come across a willow tree, you will wonder: Does it care? It certainly doesn’t. So maybe, from time to time, you shouldn’t worry too much about others—instead, enjoy the moment of being. (My addition: and rather focus on liking yourself a bit more.)
Visit Castle Krokowa in Kashubia
Castle Krokowa was built by the von Krockow family. Today, it is a museum, hotel, and tourist attraction in Pomerania, northern Poland. It is surrounded by a park, which was once the pride of Luiza von Krockow, and hosts a foundation for Philosophy.
Zamek w Krokowej
ul. Zamkowa 1
84-110 Krokowa (woj. pomorskie)
Tel. +48 58 77 42 111
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