Date of Publishing:
November 3, 2014

2014 © Anderwald + Grond

Footnotes on the Unknown

Ruth Anderwald

Every day I do things that I normally do. Every second day I do things that I do not normally do. Then there are these periods in life where I sink into another state of being, a place where well-trodden ground can suddenly trigger incomprehensible responses.

Why does this happen?

This state of flux, that we call dizziness or ‘Taumel’ to use the German word, makes me feel like my head is swimming, like I’m stumbling and staggering and trying hard not to fall. Thresholds somehow seem moved, the ground’s structure and distance changed, even the air seems heavier and the sunlight more fluid.

How can this happen?

Well, there is the possibility of something swallowed or inhaled that causes this condition, however, we will set that aside. Instead we consider our physical response to this world, the way it contracts and expands when we fall in love, lose a loved one or make personal and professional discoveries. How we are when we are overwhelmed, making life-changing decisions or suffering from sleep deprivation, to name just a few possibilities.

It’s important for me to realise that these moments or phases of being lost, particularly in relation to a crisis, are both common and crucial experiences of being alive. I think now of my everyday routine and how I pass a lovely tree that blooms in autumn when all other trees have lost their fruit.

There are a multitude of ways in which we drive the feeling of the unknown away and replace it with a system. Everything from rules, maps, compasses, lighthouses, palm readings, daily routines, diaries and other memory enhancing helpers. The system works on a meta-level and has symbolic value. For example, the symbol of the red traffic light generally stands for an action forbidden. As we can intellectually own the symbolic and fit it to our need, we prefer the symbolic over the phenomena.

The Portuguese Manueline architectural style tried to incorporate all the discoveries of the new worlds of that time and within it all the unknown as well. Its symbol was the girdle that encircles the known and unknown alike.

Turning to the unknown it can be said, can feel like a burden, yet along with the potential for fear comes excitement and adventure. As artist Joachim Koester says it has little to do with pleasure, but a lot with a satisfaction we can get from such an experience.


We discovered this submarine in the mountains of Montenegro.