Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Respetamos la Normalidad

"Comprendí, en fin, que las cosas sucedían al mismo tiempo a un lado y otro de la vida, pero que no todo el mundo tenía el privilegio de darse cuenta de ello, así que sentí una enorme gratitud por haber amanecido aquel día con esa ventaja respecto a los demás."

It´s Christmas Eve tomorrow. Mañana tenemos la Nochebuena. Ahora mismo nosotros los finlandeses estámos haciendo las cosas normales de la Navidad. Escribir algo en el Internet no está incluida en lo normal en éste momento especial. Lo normal es cocinar, preparar los últimos regalos, limpiar la casa, llevar el árbol de navidad en la casa. Lo normal es que la casa huela a la navidad - de jengibre, jamón al horno y de detergentes. En raelidad todavía me falta lavar el suelo de mi dormitorio. Hay que hacerlo antes de poder sentirme contenta y feliz. La normalidad te sienta contenta, ?verdad? - Aquí tienes una descripción oficial de la normalidad navideña nuestra .

Viendo lo que has visto, puedes ser convencido que las amas de la casa quienes lo han hecho todo respetando todas las reglas de la normalidad navideñ finlandesa, ya están al borde de un ataque de nervios.

Hay tantas cosas para arreglar y mañana a la una ya va a parar la vida normal en todo el país - se cierran todas las tiendas, restaurantes y fábricas de papel. Los autobuses no circulan. Antes pararon los trenes también, pero hoy en día ya no más. El único que trabaja y viaja es el Santa Claus.

Sana´ta deja sus talleres y almacenes en Laponia finlandesa y visita todas las familias del mundo. Tiene mucha prisa. Cunado llega lo primero que pregunta es si nos hemos comportado bien. Es una cuestión que tiene dos respuestas alternativas - o te has comportado bien o no lo has hecho. Y si no te has comportado bien, arriesgas perder todos tus regalos - por eso ahora me voy para lavar el suelo de mi dormitorio. Hay que respetar la normalidad.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Two-second Life-organizer

They say that your brain knew two seconds ago what you will be doing just now.

At exactly this moment your brain knows what you will be doing in two seconds from now.

I´m sorry to have to confess that I have no idea who those ´they´ are who say so. I would like to have some further information about the topic. But anyway, isn´t it comforting to know that somebody knows what you´ll be doing, even though you yourself do not?

All human beings are fallible and make errors. Sometimes we admit it, but there are also times when we hide it. Today I have all reasons to think that there is a human element also in that two-second system of pre-knowing.

In the morning I started prepairing a seminar. My point in the seminar is that small things and incidents that bring us joy in life, will also result in innovations. It is just the opposite to what Proust says. He is of the opinion that pain and suffering are the only real highways to learning.

Maybe Proust is more right than I am. However, recently we have had so many sad events taking place here in Finland that I decided to put Proust aside. What we need in our normal life just at present is hope - simple, authentic, every-day hope.

How do I explain my decision? It has become obvious that some of the consequences of the economic depression of the 1990´s appear with the delay of about 15 years. Children of those days experienced their parent´s pain. They are now young adults. Having one shooting incident in a school is one incident too much. We have had two of them. They are absolute exceptions, but very alarming.

Teenagers of those days are now adults. They may have insecure jobs and debt in the same way their parents and neighbours had when the banks collapsed and jobs disappeared in the beginning of the 1990´s. Those memories are far from being encouraging in the present economic situation of the world. Our suicide ratio has always been high, but current extended suicides are frightening.

What you see in your mind´s eye in the future determines what you do now, what you can cope with, and what you are able to plan for your life in the coming years. You might be unable to dream of anything magnificent for your future just at present. Anyway, you may still be able to recognize small things and events in your life that you have all reasons to be happy about and grateful for. Luckily Proust is not the only choice.

Instead of Proust I pick up Roger-Pol Droit from my bookshelf (Esineiden luonto, ISBN: 951-31-3046-0, original title: Derniéres nouvelles des choses. Une expérience philosphique).

Meeting fresh ideas equals experiences of joy. To my mind it is nice to know that there are two kinds of objects. There are objects you can put into a wheelbarrow and others you cannot. In other words, there are objects that you can touch and other objects you can reach only by means of thinking. Those reachable only by thinking can be subgrouped into ones comparable with the reflection of the moon on the surface of the sea and the other ones existing only as ideas.

On the empty pages in the beginning of the book I have collected some intereresting words: ´objects reachable by thought´, ´objects unreachable by thought´, ´part time objects´, ´dense objects´, ´transitional objects´, ´a bladeless knife without a handle´, ´an educated violin´etc.

People have different sources of pleasure. Roger-Pol Droit reframes jewelry as ´skin objects´. He says that we should be able to drill our head from inside out. He also says that a ticket is a sign of business and it only functions in business context. Learning to know all that brings me joy. To my mind the greatest blessing we have is other people´s creativity and intelligence.

Some time ago I went to check the Spanish shelf in the library again. Being in a hurry I just checked if there were any books by Juan José Millás. There was one - Laura y Julio (ISBN-13:978-84-322-1228-4). Starting to read it I realized that I knew the book. That was no reason to put ot aside. Second reading was equally enjoyable.

I didn´t remember - for example - that there are people whose essence is in the ideas they have. That is why they dress, in a way, in the direction inside out. When dressing up they cover their ideas layer by layer by clothes, make-up and hair-do.

Other people dress in the direction outside in. They, in a way, construct themselves by decorating themselves. Their primary message is in their appearence. They use their clothes, hair-do etc to tell us who they are and what they are worth for.

It´s two weeks since I read the book which makes it possible that my description is a very rough approximation of what Millás really says. Fortunately we in this case have the source available.

"Nunca se le había ocurrido que las ideas estuvieran por encima de las personas, pero quizá fuera cierto, puesto que eran los ideas, no las personas, las que movían el mundo. A diferencia de su vecino, Julio se movía en el terreno de las personas, de las cosas concretas, porque no tenía capacidad para elevarse al mundo de las representaciones. Ordenaba los objetos, mantenía limpia la cocina o el cuarto de baño, porque carecía de un mundo imaginario al que prestar aquellos cuidados."

According to Droit - and my own experience - this world is operated by objects. According to Millás and social constructionism it is operated by ideologies which are packets of certain ideas and thoughts. - If you think that objects are part of various ideologies, you might be right as well.

If you want to read some more about ideologies it is worth reading An Introduction to Social Constructionism by Vivien Burr (ISBN: 0-415-10405-X).

As to the human aspect of our two-seconds pre-knowlwdge system, you had better mark all business and other appointments in your agenda. I was wandering among ´part time objects´ and ´transitional objects´, when somebody called me. She was wondering if I was going to arrive in a meeting or not.

Tickets are a mark of business and so are credit cards. Taxis are nice. You need not open and close the garage door before leaving. Neither need you find any parking place when arriving.

On the back seat you can quickly check what the topic of the meeting is. You can collect your ideas. Yoy can plan how to turn the meeting into business profiting you and all other partners as well as their networks. In other words, you have time enough to make sure that your two-second organizer of life is synchronised with your short- and long-term goals - and that they are in harmony with your dreams.

I have a ticket and hotel reservation in Madrid in a couple of weeks´ time. That is part of my twenty-year dream becoming true little by little.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Constructing Memories and Prizing Books

Estoy leyendo el libro Mira si yo te querré por Luis Leante (ISBN: 978-84-204-7195-2). El texto me fascina. Es uno de los libros que no quieres dejar al lado antes de haber disfrutado las últimas palabras, uno de los libros que te abren un mundo nuevo sin visitas anteriores. Por lo menos a mí me pasa éste.

One day people in the radio were telling how the world economy is stumbling and probably falling down.

"In Japan unemployed men still go on living their daily routine as they did before. They leave their home in the morning. With their briefcase in the hand they go and walk around in the parks until it´s time to come back home. They want to hide the fact that they have no job to go to."

If you think of your memory span, it normally is as long as your life. However, we need not consciously carry around all that has happened to and around us. Our subconscious mind takes care of the administration of the stored material. We remember something just when there are enough reasons for that, when there are lively enough triggers to wake the memories up.

The person who was telling about the desperate behaviour of Japanese unemployed men had to be very small in the beginning of the 90´s. Had he been an adult living normal life in Finland, he wouldn´t have needed to situate his story to Japan. The same happened here. We, too, had people pretending to go to work in the mornings. As they had no job to go to, they went somewhere else to hide their shame.

The memory span of an individual person extends to some 90+ years, maximum. The memory span of a culture can be shorter. New generations construct new worlds. In their construction work they do not necessarily use the same material the previous generations did. That is because they do not have the same first-hand experiences the previous generations had and they may also consciously refuse to listen to those who have them.

I still remember how a famous Finnish pop singer and actress burst out in the 70´s that the Finns haven´t experienced anything dramatic. She had friends in Greece then.

No doubt the situation was difficult in Greece, but twenty years earlier it had been much more difficult and unbearable here in her own country. In fact it had been bad enough to largely soften the traumatic memories of the civil war in 1918.

Finns as a nation had experienced bad times, but they were not a part of her own personal experiences. That´s why they became insignificant to her. The 1968 generation did its best to re-evaluate what their grandparents, fathers and mothers had gone through. Later on growing age has given more perspective...

Reading Mira si yo te querré by Luis Leante is of utmost interest to me, because my personal memory bank was empty as regards to the material concerning the events in Spanish Sahara in the 1960´s and 70´s. I had to read twice the following chapter of the book to make sure that I understood it correctly:

"Eran tres Mirage F1 franceses Los conocía bien: los mejores aparatos del Ejército marroquí. Se acercaron como una punta de flecha, descargando su carga mortal con precisión. En cuanto cayeron las primeras bombas, el pánico se apoderó del campamento. El napalm y el fósforo blanco..."

Yes, it really says that napalm and white phosphorus were used to kill civilian people having escaped the war. Napalm bombing in Sahara is not difficult to imagine, but it certainly is disgusting to admit it having taken place also in Sahara.

When reading the text I started wondering why, all of a sudden, there is a certain odd character introduced by the author. What was this character for? As you might read the book one day, I´m not going to tell anything more about that. Having reached the end of the story I understood that the author had very few choices. It is exactly this character that makes me remember what was taking place in the Spanish Sahara thirty years go. That particular figure functions as a Gestalt.

They say that the most remarkable difference between human beings and dinosaurs lies in the fact that dinosaurs were not capable of artistic expression. We are able to describe our perceptions and experiences to one another by means of words, movements and pictures. Dinosaurs weren´t. Art makes it possible for us to extend and enlarge our memory bank to cover what hasn´t happened directly to us. It makes us priviledged in the sense that we can efficiently learn from other people´s experiences.

How often do we make use of that possibility? Maybe on the individual level every now and then, but on the level of cultures, the answer is more difficult to give.

Perhaps you noticed that our former president of the state Martti Ahtisaari has been rewarded with the Nobel Prize for Peace. If we really learned from other people´s experiences, we would arrange peace negotiations before napalm and white phosphorus are used, and not just after that.

Every autumn Finnish editors select a politician or another prominent person and hand him or her a plastic bag full of books of the year. Lists of the books are published. Their sales go up. In a few weeks´ time this person arrives at a special press conference to announce the winner of the Finlandia Prize for Literature of the year.

What follows is a lot of talk about why just that person was chosen to choose, why he or she made that particular decision, what the current state of the Finnish literature is etc. Sales figures of those particular books go up again. People feel relieved. Deciding what books to buy as a Christmas present has become easier. You either buy the prize candidates or you buy the ones never mentioned in that list.

Having read interesting books in Spanish I have learned to appreciate the book prizing systems. Had Mira si yo the querré not had the red tape telling that it is the winner of the Premio Alfaguara 2007, I might never have found it. You can find the English translation of it with the name See How Much I Love You. Somebody might enjoy having it as a Christmas present or para hacer un regalo de los Reyes.

Which would give better results - to choose what to read from the list of Premio Alfaguara or to check the books on the shelves of the city library to see if there are more prize-winning books there?

The number of Spanish books in the city library is not too large. Anyway it is larger than the one offered by the Academic Bookshop. They used to stock more Spanish books when we had very few Spanish speaking people here. Now that you can hear Spanish almost daily somewhere in town, the stock is smaller. How come?

When pulling the Spanish books out from the shelf one by one in the library, I check if they are covered with any tape indicating a prize won. That is how I found El amante bilingüe by Juan Mars, Premio Ateneo de Sevilla 1990.

Had I known the name of the author for some particular reason I would have found even his horoscope in the internet. Maybe even his favourite food and the contents of his wardrope.

Somehow - and so far - I like my own touch-and-look searching method more than any systematic Internet search for famous prizes and their winners. No doubt my method is dusty, but the role of the random chance grows bigger. You never know what you´ll find. Additionally you might meet someone special in the library or on the way there. The city library is popular and it has become our common livingroom.

Thinking of the economic recessions and other personal catastrophies we meet in life, it is very important to have nice and free public places where we can go to spend time and meet friends. It is not fun, nor is it comforting, to go to shopping centres, if you are broke or just feel miserable. We need shared space free of commercial push and pull.

Maybe we should pay more attention to creating interesting shared spaces. In Finland the approaching winter reminds us that most of the time must soon be spent indoors. We are just saying a seven-to-eight-month good-bye to the time spent lazying around in the parks and streets. Who decides now where you can sit down for a nice chat with your friends?

It´s funny that we prefer summer pictures to those taken in winter. If you looked at the photos of the Tampere City library above, only the first one of them shows some melting spring-time snow. The picture is far too sunny to have been be taken in October , or even in January.

Maybe it is normal for all of us to live in a dream world. We Finns have about four months more or less warm weather and eight months of cold and frost - warm overcoats, boots, mittens, scarves, socks and stockings - and anyhow we want to emphasize that it mostly is sunny, nice, warm and cosy here. We do not do that for the purposes of tourism only. We do it for ourselves as well.

A piece of advice - it´s no use of trying to sell, market or present candles in Finland in summer time. As we have no night then, the candle light is difficult to see and makes no impression. It makes no difference that would make a difference you aimed at.

This is the time for candles, hot coffee, chocolate, good books and literary conversations. You do not meet so many people by chance now. Anyhow, it is nice to know that a person who reads is never lonely. Having read something you´ll have ideas to share. You feel inspired to take the initiative to call your friends for a cup of coffee. You even want to talk to people whom you don´t know yet as you want to find out what they want to share with you...

Be careful with candles! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Life Doesn´t Stop

"Sí, yo también había luchado cuando estaba en la universidad durante la dictadura franquista, e incluso después, también fui a manifestaciones y corrí ante la policía."

I fought when at the university at the time of Franco - and after that. I went to to demonstrations as well. And ran followed by the police.

I was reading La canción de Dorotea by Rosa Regás (ISBN: 84-08-04214-9) and watching how my Spanish friends of today were demonstrating and running in the streets of their youth.

"Having been hit by a policeman I said to him that he could be kind enough to help me to find my glasses." one of them told me years ago.

A short meeting with Flavia - our first one - in August brought her to the pages written by Rosa Regás. She, too, is a university lecturer, intelligent and elegant as the protagonist of the book.

What does the book La canción de Dorotea have to do with normal life in Finland? The book deals with the police in Spain - the confrontation between the big-bad-masculine and the good-small-feminine.

Maybe I´m naive, but in this case I have to say that probably all Finns are naive in the sense athat we trust the police. We think that the police are reliable and trustworthy. If the police asks for help to find out some information, people really help them. Helping them was to self-evident that I was surprised to hear that, for instance in Poland, people refuse to do that. They don´t help the police. Well, that is easy to understand and even to accept, if you think that the authorities in Poland have so often been representatives of a foreign power. In Finland the police is ours, not theirs or of any group that would have taken the power by force.

This does not mean that the police would be somehow respected. They aren´t. Some years ago two policemen were walking in the open market place in Kuopio. A foreigner approached them asking "Do you speak English?" The policemen shook the head. The man asked "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" and got the same answer. He asked "Talar ni svenska?" The answer remained equally negative. He went on asking in French, Russian, Spanish and Italian. As none of them gave any positive result, the tourist turned to walk away.

"It would be so useful to speak some foreign languages." one of the policemen said watching the helpless-looking foreigner going down the street. "Maybe I should start learning some." he pondered.

"I don´t think it´s worth the trouble." the other one said. "Didn´t you see what happened to this man? He speaks seven languages and none of them was of any use."

One of the most popular Finnish authors is Mika Waltari. His book The Egyptian has been translated into several languages. It was published in 1945 and it still remains as one of the mark books most Finnish people really read.

My grandmother told me that my grandfather made her read The Egyptian aloud when he was lying on his deathbed.

However, you need not be in any exceptionally active process of dying to read The Egyptian.

You can also imagine that especially in the after-the-war situation people must have appreciated the idea that life goes on, no matter what happens. It has been going on since the ancient Egypt. Additionally it still offers you exactly the same periods of pain and short moments of happiness it always has offered.

As it is the 100 anniversary of Mika Waltari, you might be interested in reading some of his books. What has been translated into English are his historical novels, but Waltari has written about the Finnish police as well. One of his protagonists is inspector Palmu. I happen to own one of the inspector Palmu books in Spanish. The name is Juego Peligroso, una traducción de Komisario Palmun ereydys, Editorial L.A.R.A. Barcelona, Primera edición, 1953. It really says ´ereydys´ instead of ´erehdys´. At that time ISBN-numebers didn´t exist and every letter in the book has been selected individually. The paper is thin and beautifully brownish.

"De los días de la semana que más aversión produce permanecer en una comisaría de policía, el lunes es el peor de todos. Aquella mañana, ademas, el comisario Palmu estaba de peor talante de lo que tenía por costumbre." the book starts.

If you have any opportunity, you might be interested in seeing some of the Komisario Palmu films shot by Matti Kassila. Seeing them and reading the Palmu books would reveal to you how to be a respected and trustworthy police inspector in this country and why intelligence and efficiency are not the most important requirements for being able to make a good, harmless Finnish policeman.

"El asesinato - me dijo - es la forma más concluyente del delito, ya que no existe reparación posible. Los bienes robados pueden ser recuperados, y el honor en entredicho puede ser restablecido. Incluso una falsificación, con el tiempo, puede ser olvidada... El tiempo lo borra todo, todo, ya que las personas poseen una memoria muy débil. Pero a una persona muerta, asesinada, nadie es capaz de devolverle la vida."

My Spanish friend Teresa asked me in an email, what happened to the boy who some time ago shot eleven people in his class. We all have been asking the same question: What happened to him? Why did all that happen?

He was not an extraverted person, but neither was he outstandingly introverted and isolated. He had been mopped by other students, but so have many others. Mopping is strictly forbidden and largely eliminated in schools, but it finds new and "sophisticated" forms. As human beings we are very talented in pointing out otherness around us. Finnish schools have received record results in PISA-research, but simultaneusly students say that they do not like school. If you were aa authentic, real teen-ager, would you confess that you like school?

He was twenty-two - and thinking from the inspector Palmu time-perspective he could have been a family-man in the 40´s and 50´s having to carry the corresponding responsibilities. In 2008 he was a student trying to find out where his place in the society would be.

Since the year 2002 he had been playing in his head with his bad memories, guns, internet, the ideology of human life as a source of all bad on the earth, as well as with the idea of leaving his own footsteps in the history of the humankind.

I find it very difficult to say who are to blame for not having been able to stop him - or any other people having done the same.

Maybe you know that the boy was interviewed by a policeman before he was given a permission to buy a gun. The policeofficer didn´t find out in a short discussion that the quiet, neat-looking young student was totally queer in his head.

Having been able to hide it for so many years in front of so many people, why would he fail now in front of this policeman? Had he been interviewed by a physician, would it have changed the situation? Had he not been given a legal gun, would he have looked for an illegal one instead?

There is no end to these questions... Some papers wrote that the life stopped. They were wrong. Life does not stop. It goes on. No matter what you do and what happens to you life goes on. Isn´t it a comforting idea, after all? Life goes on and it is our only opportunity to laugh and cry, to fear and to be courageous...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mortality and Procreation

"It is remarkable indeed how we human beings are capable of delighting in the mating call of a flower while we are surrounded by the charred carcasses of our fellow animals - but then we are remarkable creatures. Perhaps it is our nature to recognize subconsciously the link between mortality and procreation - between, that is to say, the finite and the infinite - and we are in fact driven by reminders of the one to seek out the other."

That is an extract of The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid (ISBN:978-0-141-03602-1). The book caught me at the airport. I have no idea why it happened, but I am really glad it did.

We are remarkable, as Hamid says, and obviously some of us are even more remarkable than others. Reading the book you might tend to classify Moshin Hamid into the group of the more remarkable among us.

Having written that I remember a particular occurence that took place maybe fifteen years ago.

In Finland seeing any beggars was an absolute impossibility before. Today, if you see one, you know that they come from elsewhere in Europe. They are one of the consequences of our membership in the European Union and Shengen.

In a thoroughly Protestant country you know that giving out money or anything else to anybody is not an investment in your own better future. Giving away your riches, looking for personal suffering, fasting etc. does not bring us Protestants any special benefits, not in the eyes of other people nor in those of God. This thinking does not favour the institutes of begging and beggars. However, this does not mean that we would not take care of the poor and needy.

For us taking care of them is not the responsibility of individual people. Taking care of the poor and weak is a joint project which needs to be organised as a joint effort. To be able to do that we pay taxes. Taxes are means to construct common good. Taxes liberate us as individuals. We need not worry about the poor and weak. We have systems that take care of their well-being. As individuals we can concentrate on other things - like working hard, for instance.

Why to complain about taxes, if they make your everyday life safe and comfortable? You can send your children to school - walking alone. You need not build walls and fences around your house. You may forget to lock your door for the night and nothing happens.

Would you be a happy tax-payer, if you had that kind of every-day luxury in your life - all paid for by your taxes?

"You have high taxes, but you also get things in return." my Spanish friend said and opened my eyes to see that it is true. In fact, statistics show that Finnish people are willing to pay their high taxes provided the poor and helpless people are taken care of, the educational and health care systems work properly, roads are in good condition and electricity runs as steadily as it does. The government collects taxes. In return citizens get services which makes the normal life run smoothly. So why to complain?

Why do I write about this? I have been reading some Robert Kiyosaki books lately. He seems to be telling that the rich people in his own country - the US - do all they can to avoid taxes. It is as if finding ways to avoid taxes were the main motivation to become rich and wealthy.

From the Finnish perspective the consequences of that kind of thinking look questionable. In a society where just some have and many do not, those who have must make sure that the many stay outside. However, to keep them outside becomes more and more costly which means that in the long run you are losing money anyway. You are forced to build a wall around your house, to reinforce your door, to bar your windows, to pay a high price for your leasure time and sports facilities, to find expensive educational institutes for your children, to escort them to school etc.

Kiyosaki emphasizes avoiding taxes. Maybe Kioyosaki just forgets to tell us about the positive things wealthy people do in the society. If he told that avoiding taxes makes it possible for the rich to employ people, for instance, even us Finns would feel less puzzled with his texts.

Who of the world-famous sociologists was it who said that the development of capitalism is a direct consequence of the protestant work ethic? It must be true in the sense that we Protestants are taught not to be lazy. However, we are also told that all you need to do is just to trust in the unconditional love of God. There is no need make any effort to please him. Just trust and accept his love. You are good and loved just as you are.

No special activities, no searching for special feelings or anything like that is needed, just simple, childlike trust and belief in God´s unconditional love. Really simple, isn´t it?

All these explanations come from what I wrote about Moshin Hamid above. I realised to have written that Hamid as a person might be somehow more remarkable than others. Seen from the strict Protestant perspective I made a mistake. For Protestants all people are normal people. All have have the same "value" as human beings. Some may use their mental and physical capacities more intelligently than others, but each one of us is equally important and valuable.

In Finland you are not disturbed by beggars, but it is highly possible that you will be disturbed by drunken men wanting to communicate with you. It is embarassing and unpleasant.

Years ago I was travelling with my children from Tampere to Helsinki. A goup of drunken men were noisily exchanging their ideas about topics I didn´t like my children to hear anything about. But the train was full and we could not move anywhere else.

Next morning at the hotel breakfast similar not-for-children-to-hear conversation was repeated by another group of drunken men. I felt angry. Later I complained about the occurences to a friend of mine. She listened to me with empathy and burst out: "Yes, isn´t that disgusting! And think that God loves them just as much as he loves us!"

So far it is the best sermon I have ever heard.

Hamid´s text is provocative. As promised by the back cover, it makes you think. I would say that it captures you. You need not go to the Amsterdam airport to find the book. The ISBN will find it to you in any bookshop. Having read it you may realise that many of our thoughts are predetermined, "zu Hause gebacken" much before we find ourselves in the situation proper. We are strongly preprogrammed by our fears and prejudices.

Preprogrammed or not? You might want to test yourself. There was a story in a newspaper:

"They met in a bar in New York. It was getting late. He promsed to drive her home. She realised that he took a quiet, dark route. Suddenly the car stopped. He turned to her saying: "This shortcut is so much quicker. Thanks for your nice company."

Mortality and procreation side by side, all the time, everywhere.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Existing or Strangely Inexisting?

"The word you just said does not exist." says my native Spanish friend having listened to my explanation of the difference between commercial and financial thinking in Spanish.

"Abrigos de verano no hay." "There are no summer overcoats." Julio answers when I ask him if I should wear a summer overcoat when coming to Madrid in october.

"No entiedo. Este no suele pasar. Nunca pasa." "I do not understand. This does not happen. It never happens." the hostel staff keeps on repeating after my trousers have strangely disappeared from the wardrope of my room in Madrid.

It seems to me that beside the worlds of either-or and both-and there is also a world of existing and strangely inexisting things. Not simply inexisting things, but strangely inexisting things.

If something does not exist, it does not exist. And that´s that. But if something is strangely inexisting, your thoughts or your hands have been in contact with the thing. If they hadn´t, you would never be able to have an idea about it. In other words, something has been normal first and then slipped out of the reach of normality into the inexistence.

This quick slipping into the world of inexistence is easy to understand when you think of the inexisting words you might just have uttered.

"Zu Hause gebacken." "Home baked" my teacher of German used to say.

Home baked words and expressions are concrete in the sense words normally are concrete, but they do not correspond to the generally accepted linguistic standards. Luckily all communication is as tightly context-bound as it is. In suitable circumstances we get surprisingly well along with home baked linguistic material. - In fact, if you become too much conscious of it, you might never learn proper ways to express yourself in a foreign language.

In folk music and foreign language learning there are no mistakes. All depends on what you do next.

It takes a bit more effort to accept the existence of the strangely inexisting things, when the inexistance refers to concrete objects and not just to words and expressions.

There are clear climatic and cultural reasons for some things to exist or not. The idea of summer overcoats is ridiculous in Spain. In Finland we need several types of coats and shoes for every season. Even summer overcoats are of several variations.

Maybe we should conclude that the existence and inexistence of something is geographically bound. But if there are no geographical reasons, the slipping into inexistence of a concrete thing may result quite astonishing, even annoying. Let´s take my trousers as an example.

Our Finnish summer has been normal - warm and rainy. Maybe, exceptionally rainy. In Madrid the weather is hot. What is a proper business outfit like in such a hot weather? What to wear in the streets?

You pack your suitcase carefully, although you know that your choices will most likely go wrong. Anyway, in August it is too late to go shopping for something new as it is autumn here. Summer clothing has been sold out long ago. You pick up simple, most generally acceptable garments - like black trousers - knowing that even that choice will go wrong.

In the Mediterranean you concretely feel how the people you meet for the first time let their eyes travel down along your body and then come up again, you almost hear how they decide who you are and what you are good for. In those cultures clothing speaks loudly.

It is quite understandable that you would like to say something reasonable in the same language in return. Anyway, you know that the likelihood of disturbing interference - is all interference disturbing? - is so obvious in so many levels of communication that you try to make your best to minimize it.

The wardrope was empty. The staff was genuinly astounded by the idea that my trousers had slipped into the world of the strangely inexisting things without having left any more traces of their existence than my idea of them having served truthfully in both everyday and special occasions.

Having got back home again it was safe to feel the plus ten degrees weather to greet you - not too coldly. In Madrid it was thirty-five abouts. I also went to buy two pairs of black trousers to replace the untruthful ones. I´ll go back to Madrid in the beginning of December. You can be sure that i`ll keep an eye on my simple black trousers to find out how the slipping into the strange worlds actually takes place.

Maybe we should pay more attention to the different versions of the world we function in, because each of them offers different types of opportunities as well. You know, the worlds of either-or, both-and and the one of the existing or strangely inexisting things.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bits and Qubits

Once I took part in a seminar about the use of stories in therapy. For me it was an excellent learning experience. The speaker was Baruch Shulem from Israel. In the beginning he told us a story:

In the forest, under the tallest of all trees there was a solitary, whining baby eagle, obviously fallen down from the nest. It was deemed to death, unless a miracle happened.

Expectations are the gate miracles use to materialize. If a miracle is expected to happen, it normally does.

A farmer happened to be walking in the forest. He saw the miserably whining baby eagle, felt pity for it and wondered whether he could do something to save its life.

He remembered that he had hens and chickens in his farmyard in the open air. There was just a fence to stop them from running away. He could easily place the baby eagle in there. And that was what he did.

Day in, day out the hens and chickens lived their normal life running around looking for seeds and grain to eat and running away from any presumable danger. Leading their normal life new generations of chicken learnt to find eatable seeds and to escape somebody having seen any shadow of a hawk. Doing the same everybody else did the baby eagle learnt what was proper chicken behaviour, which aims were correct to aim at and what was worth fearing.

One day there were some children playing on the farmyard. They got interested in the chickens and gathered at the fence. Chicken life was interesting to look at. Some deviations in it were even more interesting. "Look, at that one. It´s not any chicken! It´s an eagle!" one of the children exclaimed.

Everybody heard that. For some strange reason the eagle paid special attention to the words. They somehow stuck in his mind. He got a curious thought: "Who do they mean? If it´s anyone of us, it might as well be me." He knew that eagles fly high. They have wings. He had wings as well. He moved them. There they were! He flapped them. They hit the air with force. For some curious reason they lifted him up a bit. Then some more. Then he found out that he could really fly.

He flew over and above the fence and the farmyard. From above he could see what the life at the farmyard was like. He could also see the forests, lakes and rivers around the farm. He could see the beauty of the world and he knew that he was free to choose.

Life among the chickens and hens had been good enough, but it wasn´t by any means the best life he could lead. If he just used his wings, he could fly free. He could fly high...

Having told the story Baruch Shulem started talking about eagle behaviour and chicken behaviour. Everybody in the audience understood what he was referring to.

A couple of days ago I heard a radio programme about information. A telephone catalogue may have the equal amount of letters as Shakespeare´s plays do. Anyhow the information value carried by the letters in Shakespeare´s plays is much higher, because they are not the letters that carry the information. The information is carried by the relation of the letters to each other.

It´s not your resources that play the decisive role in your life. It is the relation between your resources and your environment that is decisive. Our life is not determined by the opportunities that exist. It is determined by the opportunities that we happen to pay any attention to.

Dreams are the stuff life is made up of. However, in the course of the years our ordinary, normal life makes us believe two things - we have no wings and if we had there´s no need for them.

If we ever had dreams, our normal life makes us shrink their size and soften their motivational power.

If - all of a sudden - you heard somebody say "That one is not a chicken. It´s an eagle!", would know that it is you the words refer to?

The world of bits is digital. It is an either-or world. In that world you are either a chicken or an eagle.

However, there is another world of qubits. Instead of either-or, it is governed by and.

In the world of qubits you are both a chicken and an eagle. Which of them "is on" depends on your desires and expectations and they are determined by your normal life, by the surroundings you have experience of.

Expecting any nice change lately?