Part three in our series of texts looking at the theme of isolation. Armin Heinemann left his life behind in Germany in the early ‘70s, moving to the island of Ibiza and founding the cult shop and clothing label Paula’s—a locus for extravagant outfits and parties back in the day. This fantasy of life was, and still is, complemented by another: Armin’s rural farmhouse, sitting in the mountains where access isn’t easy and where seclusion is the norm.
The primary question is: who am I?
Humans are born as herd animals, and as a result we are accustomed to looking for answers through social contact—but will it also be possible to find the answer through social distancing? What will happen if I live isolated from the social world in a place where I cannot speak with a friend, cannot touch another body, and where there is not eve n an internet connection? Will I feel lonely, will I get depressed, will my life come to an end? I don’t think so, because I believe that living alone—surrounded by nature and observing my own actions—can provide answers to the question of who I am. I also know that after being alone for a while, going back to social contact will give immense pleasure.
I live in the country, 20 km away from town, in an old house built of stones and earth. The roofs are covered with wood, seaweed, ash, and clay. There is no electricity (also no solar panels), no running water, and no toilet. I grow all kinds of vegetables and cultivate all kinds of fruit. Instead of being dependent on other people and what they produce, I accept and eat what nature has to offer. When I have to go to the toilet, I walk with a bucket of water, a tumbler, and a shovel to the end of a terrace where I dig a hole.
I am eating from the earth and I am feeding the earth. The earth is my food and I am food for the earth: a basic cycle that is equally valid in the social field, as well as on any other higher level. Experiencing my complete being as part of nature, I know that nature is more simple and more intelligent than I am. Does being part of nature mean that I am the same as other mammals, animals, insects, and plants? Yes and no; to a certain degree I am. The cells of my body and even my mind work in a similar way to the cells and the minds of animals. We are both fully adapted to the conditions we live in, and some animals even seem to function in a much more perfect way than I could ever do. I am just speechless when I observe birds finding their food, building their nests, and feeding their young. I am overwhelmed thinking of the never-ending energy behind everything, keeping all parts of nature in constant movement.
But there is a significant difference. Animals and other beings are highly subject to their instincts and to the information stored in their genes, whereas humans can be conscious of themselves and the conditions they live in, thus being able to act more independently from instincts and genetic information. From consciousness results imagination and from imagination results belief. It is that belief in our visions that gives us the energy to act in accordance with our ideas and to experience joy and satisfaction.
Realising that I am body and mind at the same time makes it difficult to understand the unity of both. I can say that I am a combination of both, but I can only describe the whole through the definition of its two components. It works in the same way with other pairs of contrasts, like rhythm and melody, light and shadow, freedom and structure, stillness and movement, or mass and energy. Where there is no food and no sleep, there can arise a consciousness that I am not the body. Where there is no thought and no speech, there can arise a consciousness that I am not the mind. In times of meditation, where there is no activity in the body and no activity in the mind, there can arise a consciousness that my most inner self is the same as the self of the sun.
Armin Heinemann was featured in issue #15. Interview and photography by Nacho Alegre. You can read the full interview here.