Writing in the mid 1930’s in Germany, novelist Hans Fallada was forced to tell his stories cautiously.

Nazi censors were poised to pounce on any writer in whom they detected the slightest hint of criticism against their intolerant fascist regime. However, read today, in the light of what we now know of the Nazi reign of terror, the warnings in Wolf Among Wolves, seem fairly clear. Fallada offers deep insight that, had it been followed in 1936 when the novel was first published, might have helped forestall some of the horror that afflicted much of the world throughout the middle years of the twentieth century.

Guided by Hans Fallada, here are some suggestions for ways of being that have the potential to prepare us to live well in the future when it gets here:

1. Stay present as much as possible in this moment. It is so tempting to spend our energies projecting into the future, believing the illusion that if only we can figure out what is coming, we will be able to master our circumstances when they arrive. But too much speculation about the future, hinders us from having the energy necessary to live well in the present. The more attention we bring to this moment here and now, the better we will be at navigating the next moment and the one after that.

The richness of life can be found here in this present moment, no matter how difficult and challenging this moment may be.

Fallada portrays the power of the present moment in a memory of Sophie Kowalewski the chambermaid at Neulhoe who remembers a time as a child in the forest when she experienced the deep contentment of opening to the beauty and mystery unfolding before her:

It was the joy of living on this earth, of wandering in the light – the joy of life! The little heart in the thin body throbbed. Dancing into ever new greenness, into ever different worlds, into ever deeper mystery. With sounds such as the birds sing, interrupted to watch a beetle lost in a wheel track… and begun again, all without thinking, like breathing… 

No matter how constrained my circumstances may be, it is always possible to find points of beauty and light. But, Fallada’s vision is not merely naïve sentimentality swept along by the beauty of creation. He knew that the circumstances of the present moment are always shifting. And so Sophie is about to experience the loss of her joy in the present.

It was the joy of life, the happiness of being – that for which grown-up people eternally yearn, whether they know it or not. Happiness – for which they are always seeking, and which they will never find again. Joy which vanishes with childhood – only to be glimpsed afterwards in the weak reflection of a lover’s embrace, in the joy over some work. 397

Joy comes in this moment. Because as a child Sophie’s world had not yet become circumscribed by fear for the future and the anxieties of adult responsibility, she was still able as a child to experience the beauty of “living on this earth, of wandering in the light”. As adults, we lose toch with this childlike ability. This is why Jesus said,

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

To “become like children” is to live in this present moment without being overwhelmed by the cares of the present and anxiety for the future.

2. Stay open to the reality of what is. Paying attention to what is happening now, will always help us to be in a better position to deal with whatever comes next. We need to pay careful attention to the reality of our circumstances as they are right now.

Fallada writes,

Man is not free from the prejudice of investing other creatures with his own failings; for instance, there is said to be no truth in the story that the ostrich when frightened hides its head in the sand. Yet some people certainly shut their eyes to an approaching danger and then maintain it does not exist. 273

We do not prepare well for the future when we live in denial of the present.

One of the present realities Fallada aimed to show in Wolf Among Wolves is the essential reality of connection. We are one with all creation and with all of the human community.

Near the end of his book, Fallada puts into the mind of his hero Wolfgang Pagels, the one thought that perhaps more than any other might have helped ward off the horrors perpetrated upon the world by the Nazis. Fallada writes of Pagels that,

He hardly came to any decision; calculated decisions hadn’t gotten him very far. But he let something grow within him which had quietly always been there. He gave it all the space he could. It was something very simple: To be as good and as decent as possible. Because we are all of one flesh. (p. 686)

We cannot afford to close our eyes to the complex web of relationships within which we all live. Paying attention to the interconnectedness of all life will help us to live now in ways that are more likely to prepare us for a healthy future.