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Sunday, December 4, 2011



Scandanavia has occupied my mind the last several days, more each day. I've discovered at netflix Danish films. By now, I've seen maybe 10, totally impressed with every one I've seen. It had never occurred to me a little (relatively) country like Denmark that isn't in the news much, with one major city, Copenhagen, has so many world class directors and actors. Every Danish film I've seen has been up there among the 100 best films of my lifetime. Suzanne Bier, Lars von Trier, Bille August, Ole Christian Madsen, Jacob Gronlykke, I won't go on listing; these people make films that knock my sox off. I watch Danish films in awe that I've never heard of Copenhagen as a place where great films are made. I took Bille August's film, The Color of Freedom, for one of the most important films I've seen. It was the story of Nelson Mandela's prison guard over most of the 27 years Mandela was a closely watched prisoner. Ralph Fiennes portrayed the man, who started his job as racist as a white man can be, the kind of racist that never thought about it, took it as the way things are without questioning it. Over a period of about 20 years the guard's respect for Mandela got him in some trouble, but he lost his racism along the way and gained self-awareness. I say the film is important, because I mean it is important telling of the time Mandela was in prison. I regard Nelson Mandela with infinite respect.

I've learned by googling that Norway, Sweden and Finland have different language bases. I wondered why Finnish was so full of double t's, k's, v's, long words with complex pronunciation. Or so it appears until hearing the words spoken. Finnish is a Ural language like Estonian, the northwestern part of Russia and Hungary. I have tended to think of Scandanavia as almost a unit, like Central America. It's not, but somehow the map makes it look like a unit. They're up there with Alaska where it's cold all the time and there are long periods of time when the sun never sets. Sweden is famous for its suicide rate, but it's no more than Alleghany County in percentage of population. Estonia took a terrible beating from the Nazis, as did Belarus, Ukraine and the other countries along there. When Lenin returned to Russia to set the revolution in motion, he entered through Finland. Finland's border with Russia is about like our border with Canada. One whole side of Finland connects with Russia.

I like looking at my wonderful Oxford Atlas of the World, 2009 edition, that has satellite maps without lines. The countries with lines are on topographical maps. I notice Finland is largely flat as a table top and above sea level about like the NC Piedmont. Norway is about all mountains with mountains going over into Sweden in it's northern two-thirds. I see one big city in each country, Helsinki, Stockholm and Oslo, and all the rest little dots with highways between them sprinkled over the land like stars in the sky. It tells me these countries are almost entirely rural, hundreds of communities of country people on the mainland and the hundreds of islands, more like thousands. I hadn't thought of Scandinavia with so many islands in the Baltic. Gdansk, Poland is on the Baltic. Norway has rivers running everywhere through the mountain landscape and the highways run alongside the rivers. Now I understand why Norway has so many mountain climbers and skiers. Finland has lakes like Canada north of Minnesota. Wet country. Sweden has some large lakes too. I'd guess in the northern parts of these countries it's winter year round. Maybe in the southern parts they have a 3 month growing season. To heat by wood in that part of the world would keep a man cutting wood about all the time.

I like to look at my atlas while watching a foreign film. I saw a Finnish made film today, Jade Warrior, directed by Antti-Jussi Annila. In the beginning it told what part of Finland the story took place in. Later I saw Helsinki in the background over marsh and water, went to the atlas to see points of land and islands that could have been where that part of the story was filmed. I see landscape and city scapes in foreign films. I like seeing landscape all over the world. China and Africa are perhaps the most interesting landscapes. No, South America has some great landscape, too. USA has great landscape. My interest in Scandanavia was kicked off by seeing some Bergman films, finding my temperament in the nature of the Swedes, wondering how it got that way, then remembering the preacher in the church I grew up in was a Swede who went to Kansas City from Minnesota. I grew up in Swedish Protestantism in Kansas City, Kansas. This may be why in places I've been in Europe, I'm told again and again, You're not like other Americans. This Swedish temperament may be part of the answer why. Plus, I read books and don't watch television. Very unAmerican inactivities.

Denmark sticks up from Europe above Germany into Scandanavia from below. Denmark is flat as East Texas. Studying the atlas this week watching Danish films, I've studied the map of Denmark like never before. It's an archipelago of islands. I've seen Copenhagen in several films and find it a beautiful city. I found pictures of Tallinn, capital of Estonia, a place I'd never heard of. It's a beautiful city on the Gulf of Finland, directly across from Helsinki. Evidently it was not destroyed in WW2. The Nazis killed all the Estonian Jews that didn't escape into Russia. StPetersburg is just over the border, Moscow a straight line from there.   

We seldom hear anything of a Scandanavian country on the news. When we do, it's a freak event, like 2 paintings by Edvard Munch stolen from a museum in Oslo. Not too long ago a guy who styled himself a "terrorist" killed fifty-some teenage offspring of Oslo liberals. He was stopping the next generation of liberals before they started. Stupid people are everywhere. These countries appear to me to have sane governments. Their prison systems are possibly the best in the world, where incarceration is for rehabilitation, not punishment. The punishment is being removed from society. The purpose is rehabilitation. That's unheard of in our prison system except in denial. Scandinavia also seems to be a group of countries where the people matter. I think my inner self is searching around the world for places where they don't have a colonialist history, where they don't attack defenseless countries and get bogged down in wars with all the people of the country. And most important, a place where the people of the country matter to each other and their government. I wonder if it is possible to find such a place in the Age of Television.

One of my greatest fears for my next lifetime is to be set down in front of tv as a baby and raised in front of it. That makes me not want to come back. I don't know what I want for next lifetime unless it would be no television. I can do that anywhere. Television is a matter of choice. It has an on/off button. I'm leaving my next lifetime to the Master. He knows far better than I. I've never been good at knowing what is good for me. Getting a little better at it now by letting go and letting God. I'm alone much of the time and even suspect I have found my flow, am flowing with it like supine in a canoe. I've slowed way, way down. It's occuring to me that our natural human flow is much slower than television has us spinning. Since I've slowed down, I feel like I've found my flow. I want to stay with it, so I've begun to pay attention to it, note it when I feel like I'm out of the flow, and note it when I feel in it. I like being in it, because everything works out. I've reached a place in the life where there is little to nothing I want. I don't need to rub elbows with anybody for influence. By now I know nothing rubs off from elbow to elbow, unless it might be cooties. I want to stay with my flow. That's about all I can think of that I want in this time.


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