This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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It matters not what you look at, but what you see


Every day we walk in beauty. If we only remembered from time to time to look up and notice this crazy gorgeous blue marble. It is not what you look at that matters, it is what you see, said the naturalist Henry David Thoreau. I wonder how many passers by did notice the wonderful cherry trees in bloom by the botanical gardens in Gothenburg? Or the tulips planted one by one in long zig-zagging rows? Or the bird’s nest hanging on a branch right over the busy Kungsportsavenyn street?

Looking is ignorance in disguise. Seeing is mindfulness, concentration, and a non-stop learning experience.


(Gothenburg, Sweden; April 2014)

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Colors, cabaret, and acorn coffee


One night a crowd gathered in a church made of peaches and cream. Shuffling through the doorway they sat down in silence, absorbing the rainbow of colors reflecting from the usually oh-so-dead-bleak statuettes. Suddenly there were four musicians on stage and lovely Philip Glass for strings, floating off the stage like swirly strips of silk. Then the colors changed to red and there was a beautiful creature in a pink evening gown and huge glittery silver jewelry, telling animated stories of Schönberg’s cabarets, followed up by the songs he wrote. Adults smiled. Children laughed. And we did not understand a word. Lithuanian is related to sanskrit, you see.

In the afterglow even a cup of woody, burnt acorn surrogate coffee tasted marvelous.


(Church of St. Catherine, Vilnius, Lithuania: April 2014)

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The marble, the gold, and the cash to fix the façade


How much does it cost to restore a church? To clear out all the damage done after decades of neglect and use as storage space? To investigate the frescos hidden underneath white paint, to replace marble with just the right kind of marble, to fix statues so they don’t look brand new but do not miss a nose or limbs?

How much does it cost to restore all forty churches of Vilnius to their former, pre-Soviet glory? Who is the kind benefactor with so much wealth to give away? And why is it, beyond the restoration of a few monumental churches, not used to the benefit of the people outside of the beautiful bubble of Vilnius? To those who could not afford lunch in the idyllic, clean old town?


And yet, if there were no beauty there would be no tourism, and no steady income to develop a country further.  Fighting poverty is hard. According to the World Bank, Lithuania is doing good on international poverty scale, but according to national statistics, almost 20% of the population is at risk for poverty in the future.

So many difficult questions for a sunny spring day. Each country picks its own battles, just like each one of us does. And today is not a day for battle, but a day to live and learn about this pretty city. I may sneak into another gorgeous church just about now.


(Vilnius, Lithuania; April 2014)

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A castle just like in a child’s mind


A castle on a grassy, green hill, with a flag waving against a clear blue sky. Just like children imagine castles to be, and how they draw them on paper. Except for today, when the kids play on the green grass by the foot of the castle of their dreams.

The Gediminas tower was once built for war and death and now serves as a playground for school children. The irony of the never-ending ticking of time is sweet today.


(Gediminas tower, Vilnius, Lithuania; April 2014)

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Two hundred years of terrorism


Imagine living in a country wedged between two quickly expanding world religions, forced to defend an age-old belief system against new, invading ones. Imagine your neighbors using religion to gain foothold on your land and power over your rulers. Imagine the weapon industry, military as an occupation for the boys, and continuous life in fear required to defend a country for a long period of time. Imagine the numbers of defense forts required for a country geared towards continuous threat of terror. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Now reverse the clock about 800 years and watch history repeat itself.

Once upon a time, Lithuania was an empire stretching all the way from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. In the middle ages it withstood two hundred years of continuous attacks by Teutonic knights. A pagan state had to fight to survive between Byzantine and Western Christianity.

Today’s terrorism troubles feel like nothing when compared to 200 years of crusades into sovereign land “in the name of someone holy”.

After generation upon generation of neverending battle Lithuania realized that the only way to survive was to give up and convert to Catholicism. So much blood shed for the sake of belief can never be called a victory in the name of anything holy.


(Trakai island castle, Lithuania; April 2014)

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The baseline


In-between all the things-going-on it is important to touch home base and remind ourselves of the baseline. While it may be difficult to understand the WHY we are here, it is always easier to ponder on the HOW. The sweet, the bitter, and the bittersweet. Indeed it is a profound skill to both live today and dream of tomorrow – and so much easier and useless to do only one of the two.

Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others. It is all in how we live today, and what tomorrow we dream of. Buddha was wise.