This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Helsinki from above (today)

HELfromtheairThese are the Eastern suburbs of Helsinki from above, at night. The bright spot to the far left is Vuosaari harbor. The black triangle cutting in to the top third from the right side is Vartiokylä bay. I grew up running around it and taking a plunge at the end. When my family moved to this part of town in the early 80s, our street was unpaved and ended in fields of crops and horse stables. The houses were all built right after World War II. There was an old broken horse-pulled rake of some kind lying by the side of the road for years. There were meadows and forests and a brook.

Now most of that is gone. The brook is still there, protected. But the meadow is tiny, and the forests, fields, and horses are gone. I am glad I had a childhood where I got to climb trees, jump around in ice cold water, and roll around in the meadows. The kids who grow up there today will not have such a childhood.

(Helsinki, Finland; March 2018)


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About Amsterdam and existentialism

amsterdam-1After 6.5 years I was back in Amsterdam. It was beautiful, as always in spring, and every cell in my body screamed “get me out of here!!!”. For four days I stayed on the South side of the Singel, and mostly even on the South side of the Amstelkanaal. At least I got to explore areas new to me.

I am currently reading a book on existentialism (Sartre, Beauvoir and the likes. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche if you are liberal). Existentialism as a philosophical movement claims that nothing has a purpose and that everything just Is, until you yourself make a choice and thus make meaning out of chaos. While existentialism is not my cup of tea, I can see how liberating it is to just let go of every meaning, memory, and association to pain: simply stating that I am free to choose and if I do not choose to make meaning out of it, it does not exist. It never did. Pain only exists when we choose to give it existence and meaning in association to something else important in our lives. If we just choose to be free, pain is gone. Poof. Neverwas.

(Thank goodness I could return home after just 4 days)amsterdam-2(Amsterdam, The Netherlands; March 2018)


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What is beauty?

factoriesWhat do you think, is this photo beautiful? Do you see light, color, and fluffy clouds matching the fluffy smoke? Or do you see a planet in destruction, no trees and no Nature anywhere?

Is there a collective, pan-human sense of esthetics, or is what our mind considers beautiful conditioned by the surroundings we are subjected to? How much of our sense of esthetics is objective, focusing on for example form, color, and light; and how much is subjective, weighed down or lifted up by our personal values, memories, and associations?

Complicated thoughts one morning above the Netherlands.

(The Netherlands; March 2018)


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A glitch in time

zurich-3Just for a moment I slipped in-between the seconds of time. I was not happy nor sad. Not awake nor asleep. There was no sun nor shadows. Nothing brand new and nothing very old. Nobody coming or going. Nothing beginning or ending. Just an old tree and a lady reading underneath it.

I wish there were more of these in-between moments, these glitches in time.

(Zurich, Switzerland; February 2018)


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Hasa diga eebowai

musicalThe Book of Mormon made me laugh so I shed tears. Yes, it is insulting, intelligent, and vulgar. My colleague in London told me she saw it when it was new, and one-quarter of the audience walked out during intermission and never returned to their seats. But what most people miss (perhaps?) is the sweetness in the second half: how people try so very much their best to live in a harsh world seemingly filled with limitations. The deep lessons in the ending: how another’s culture is always understood through the filter our own culture, programmed in our minds when we grew up. How, in the end, the characters on stage were all trying their very best to help each other live as good lives as possible, all in their own ways.

It seems that most viewers remember the phrase “hasa diga eebowai”. “F*ck you God”. This is also the reason many people leave the musical in the middle of the show. But what many do not seem to remember is that it was used as an expression of survival and strength in a world where individuals are targeted with numerous inexplicable sufferings: AIDS, poverty, natural disaster. “If you don’t like what we say, try living here a couple days. Watch all your friends and family die; hasa diga eebowai!”.

There is strength in words. And sometimes those words are terrible. Because the world is sometimes terrible.

(London, United Kingdom; September 2017)


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In transit

pajeboatDear Africa, after two months it is time for me to go home. It would have been easy for me to spend another two months getting to know you better, but then I would have much explaining to do for those back home. I have barely seen anything geographically, but experienced vastly greater expanses.

A year ago I went through the apartment following the KonMari method, removing every object that does not spark joy and keeping those that do. Surprisingly many Ikea bags and garbage bags left that relatively minimalist home. For the past two months I have carried my entire home on my back: clothes for 4 seasons, including outdoors, yoga, and beach wear, a yoga mat, books, and much else. Twenty kilos plus a daypack. I really do not need much else either, and yet I have so much more stuff waiting for me at home.

Perhaps life in transit means life without a proper home. But life in transit also means only taking as much as one can carry, and being sure about the essentials and the superfluous things. Being sure about what, physically and emotionally, we want to carry on our backs from point A to point B.

Some years ago the blogosphere was raving about the Burning House challenge: what would you take with you from  your home if your house was burning? You would need to be able to carry it yourself, and take a picture of everything at once. I am going back home to a reverse Burning House challenge: from being able to carry my entire life for two months to further minimalizing my life so the “click-point” of Marie Kondo’s definition for “enough stuff” is much lower than what it used to be.

During this journey of two months I have carried more mental and emotional weight than physical weight. I have not shared much of it here and do not intend to now, either. It has been a difficult journey and in my private journal I have written pages and pages about pain. But in the spirit of a deeper insight, when I dump my backpacks on the floor at home I will let it all go and see what stays. And that which stays will need to be laundered, tended to, thanked, and made ready for the next adventure.

(Dar es Salaam airport, Tanzania; August 2017)