Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Word of the Month: Lebenskünstler

Word of the Month: Index

Leben means "life" and a Künstler is an artist. Lebenskünstler refers not so much to people who turn their life into a piece of art than to people able to face whatever life throws at them with equanimity and a minimum of fuss. It's not so much that they see something positive in every situation (a form of self-delusion); rather, they always seem to find a way out of problems they encounter without kvetching and self-dramatization. It's also not a matter of "grace under pressure"—Lebenskünstler don't let pressure get to them in the first place.

As you may guess, I have great admiration für Lebenskünstler and wish I myself had more of one in me. I'm surprised that there does not seem to exist an English equivalent with exactly the same shade of meaning.

Note: Attentive readers will have noticed that I have been using Lebenskünstler also as a plural. This is correct: It's one of the German -er nouns whose plural is the same as the singular.

13 comments:

Marlene said...

Like you, I would give anything to be a Lebenskuntsler. Is there a course?

How does someone learn to handle everything without being throw by events. For me it's an unattainable ideal, but it's nice to know that there are people who can react to the world that way. Or I guess there are. Otherwise the word wouldn't exist.

Ulrich said...

@Marlene: Rhinelanders, a tribe I'm a proud member of, have the reputation of being Lebenskünstler. I just bought a book by Konrad Beikircher, born in Southern Tyrol but living in the Rhineland now for many years, in which he praises the temperament of his adopted tribe. This is an example he gives: Several years ago, the Elbe, a river that once defined part of the border between East and West Germany, flooded heavily. TV showed a victim who lamented endlessly when his roof could be seen floating down the river. Beikircher claims that a Kölner (person from Cologne) in a similar situation (TV showing his roof floating down the Rhine) would have pointed this out with glee and announced proudly; "That's my roof!"

Marlene said...

I adore the example. Unfortunately, I would be the other one, the one lamenting the loss of my house. So if you are a Rhinelander, how did you miss out on being a lebenskuntsler?

The new book is drop dead gorgeous. I look forward to your new post about it.

Victoria Phantasmagoria said...

So this is different than happy-go-lucky?

Ulrich said...

@Marlene: Good question! I guess I'm the famous exception to the rule, or perhaps Rhinelanders are not what they are cracked up to be.

@Victoria: After posting the WoM, I found websites that suggested "happy-go-lucky" as an English equivalent for Lebenskünstler, and it does come close. I just have the sense that a happy-go-lucky is less conscious of her disposition, but who am I to argue?

Natalie said...

@Ulrich Having just come through four days without power due to Hurricane Irene, I can only say I wish I were a Lebenskunstler, who, I am guessing, would say something like, "Doesn't everything look lovely by candlelight?"

Ulrich said...

@Natalie: Yes indeed. When I posted on facebook a photo of my wife and me having dinner with--appropriately--a hurricane lamp the night after Irene had paid a visit, a friend's comment was "When was the last time you two had a candlelight dinner?" And he's from Taiwan, not Cologne!

Natalie said...

Well then. I guess Irene did have her good side. Is your Taiwanese friend a lebenskunstler or can he only see the up side when the bad stuff is happening to other people?

Ulrich said...

Good question. Since he is a follower, I do not want to answer for him--he can do this himself.

Jonah said...

The person in question, I, am no lebenskunstler... I complain bitterly before I can conclude with a c'est la vie with a shrug. Got to vent first. ;-)

Ulrich said...

@Jonah: I thought as much:-)

Thx for stopping by!

Ulrich said...

I saw yesterday a demonstration by Lebenskünstler from Cologne that was real. The local soccer team, 1. FC Cologne, is a team that can drive fans crazy--they may be fantastic in one match and really awful in the next one. The latter was the case yesterday in Dortmund, where they ended up losing 0:5. When it became clear that the team would go home with an embarrassing defeat, the FC fans who were present started to sing "Oh, wie ist das schön" (Oh, how beautiful it is), which fans normally do when their team is winning. And when one of the Dortmund stars tried to initiate a wave after the match, the FC fans enthusiastically participated...

Anonymous said...

I am told to be one such specimen, a LIebenskünstler! - but as it comes from fellow Swiss, there is beside the envy also the subtle reproach of having left the tribe behind....

Whatever, the good news is: you actually CAN learn it.
YES@YESNESS.NET will invite you to the Sahara desert, just to learn TO BE! Not bad.