A question of trust

By Mathias Maurer, November 2013

Dear Reader,

Lars has grown up in well-ordered circumstances and a loving environment with two older siblings. He has a lot of time to play and stimulating, well-educated social surroundings in which a religious life is also cultivated; he spends a lot of time outside in nature. His parents would have been hard pressed to do better.

When he is nine years old, things begin to change: Lars becomes very hard work. Few lunch times pass without a shouting match, few lessons from which he is not thrown out. Lars lives as if he were alone in the world, including the way he expresses his feelings and acts. His style of learning and communication is becoming an “insurmountable” problem, people say. Lars appears to have no awareness of this problem, he only feels unfairly treated. He becomes increasingly socially isolated, his parents are at their wits’ end, his teachers irritated. He refuses any therapeutic help. Lars rebels. On his t-shirt it says Smash the System. He scrapes through his exams and leaves school while his siblings sail through school and later go to university.

His new friends have a dodgy background, drugs and the courts “embellish” his subsequent career. He embarks on a world trip. The last time anyone heard from him he was in the Middle East. The imagination of the people at home runs riot – drug dealer, terrorist? Then contact with his parents breaks off completely.

Today Lars is in his mid-forties and lives with his family on an organic farm caring for young people with behavioural problems. He still refuses to let people interfere with his life and goes his own way. He had to carve out his own path in the face of well-meaning love, expectations and advice, but also mistrust. Even as an adult Lars does not bend to the delusion of self-optimisation. He simply wants to be a free person and do his “thing”. But the things he has gone through and experienced have taught him something invaluable which no university, school or parental home could have given him: how it is possible to form a community with young people at the edge – instead of leaving them to fend for themselves or excluding them.

Such a biography, which is by no means unique, can reassure us. Because even where the imagination needed to bring up a child, educational advice and a ready-made career ladder run out of options, an individual can radically assert himself in order to bring something new and of his own into the world. And how else could it otherwise come into the world if it does not fit into the present system? Clearly his environment was impervious to Lars’ life impulse – out of fear of failure at school, out of the parental ambition to implant the best in material and ideal values in a young life.

Mathias Maurer


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