How This Book Came About
This book is, in some sense, the soul, underlying an earlier book that I had
written, a book about modern science, which had the title The Search for the
Meaning of Space, Time and Matter. The book was written for people with
interest in modern science. It had the subtitle Images from Many Travels.
The subtitle of that earlier book and the final decision to write it had its
origin in a restless wanderlust, which, in the last twenty years, has driven
me irresistibly to travel to the most remote places on earth. I traveled into
the Arctic, the waters between North Norway and Svalbard, to Tibet over
the plateau to the foot of Mount Everest, to North India to the remote
monasteries in the Ladakh, along the Silk Road around the Taklimakan
Desert into Inner Asia, to Timbuktu at the edge of the Sahara, to the
Antarctic, and to the Skeleton Coast in Namibia. These journeys were
driven by the urge to somehow grasp the whole world and make it my
own. It was the Brahma in me who is creating a world in himself, in his
mind. It is Odysseus in me, Faustus, the restless, forever searching until
his life dissolves. I had to wander the many roads that all led to the same
place, that vastly complex unfolding essence of Being, in all its colors and
textures and shapes. I had to go and see this wonderful tapestry of life
that is of deep inner beauty, even in its squalor, its suffering and pain and
the dirty ugliness that I saw on some of these travels. I had to wander to
fully accept all that life is, into myself, to feel at home on the earth.
That same kind of yearning had driven me in my youth to discover the
mysteries of space, of time, and of matter. After WWII, at age sixteen, I had
acquired rudimentary knowledge of Heisenberg's and Einstein's attempts
to create that all-encompassing unified theory that captures the observed
phenomena of space and the world of the elementary building blocks of
matter. A sort of obsession to learn all that is known about these things
8 Kai Woehler
accompanied me on my journey to study physics, spending some years
in Heisenberg's institute, and eventually, after circuitous routes, teaching
physics at a graduate school for military officers at the California coast.
The above-mentioned book then is somewhat of an amalgam of these
two kinds of journeys during my life. Many dear nonscientist friends took
an interest in that book, and I recommended to them to just read the first
and the last chapters, which carry more of my personal reflections about
our lives in this cosmos.
The final impetus to write this separate book, which is in your hands,
was the fact that, as an orderly, circumspect person, I had "put my
worldly affairs in order" sometime ago under the title "The Kai-X-File,"
containing instructions for the executer of my will, in the case of my
departure. This file contains a letter, which was to be my farewell letter
to my closer friends, to be sent instead of some standard obituary notice.
The file contains many other writings, some short, others not so short,
reflections about my life, writings, which did not have a good place in that
first book, mentioned above. This then led to this book. It is a collection
of thoughts, essays, some poems of my own, some other poems that were
important to me, some of them German poems, which I have translated
into English as I could, some dreams that had great meaning in my life.
The above-mentioned farewell letter is now at the very end of this second
book. The items in each chapter were collected over a span of time, and
there are themes to which I returned often. So there are some duplications
of "Kai's sayings" in this book, but I will leave them as they are and hope
you understand. I am somewhat arbitrarily terminating the collection
now while I am still here and reasonably coherent, and I will share this
collection with you, my friends, when there is a good time for this.