Monday, July 06, 2020

The Death of Jaan Tõnisson

Surely not nearly as important as the life, and therefore important too. Date and manner not known, though well imaginable. And not that it would have necessarily been particularly heroic and filmatic, most deaths are not. His integrity was already established elsewhere, untouchable. A pedantic, fussy man, not good imagination, rather like our K.J.Ståhlberg, both respective fathers of liberalism of their countries. Known for stubborn insistance on rights, liberties and the rule of law. K.J.Ståhlberg writing "Tulevaisuuden lähtökohtia" in April 1918 when the slaughter was still going on. Tõnisson not moving an inch for Päts and Laidoner, nor even, when the game became deathly, to Stalin.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

4am - from Temple Bar to Phibsboro in 1999

The day after the St Stephen's Day I think. We were too generous, surely, or at least I only too good pretending to be, and just maybe even the others too. And, yes, to a degree that is true (in the way it is inevitable in this fallen world) - but still no, no, not at all: we really were generous, shining, even if just a little a bit. Even me. And he really was a good person, a good young man, effortlessly better than the brooding, crooked me: handsome, generous, confident. And to my credit if so not ease, I did see that. He was. And so then, walking bitterly crying back to Phibsboro and eventually thinking of knifes and wrists, but also as I now see, shining. We did have large generous untimid hearts. Erring, yeah, oh how much erring in those years, but generous, yes, daring, yes, even me, the least of us.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

And I am a citizen of two countries

Weird to think about it with the benefit of actually understanding things, in hindsight. You never tend to do it in real time. But actually I have been a good Finnish Pietist all along, strange - here in this waking world and even before these days when I am not at all as hopeless as I used to be. And so there it is: art and knowledge and feeling, the long views - and so I am here, and not totally here, a citizen of two countries:

Poetry and friendship and love and the pursuit of understanding do accompany me just as well as the Hymns of Zion do (but not all hymns at all). So then, I don't only walk in this waking world but also in the other one of art and love and understanding, a citizen of two countries.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Not much pride left

I still vividly remember that one debate in Helsinki in the fall of 1987, in the small Pietist student hostel, my first home after home. I argued, passionately and full of true conviction, that I would not pray nor beg for loved people being entitled for justice, not mercy. Now I obviously would, no question, and do. Not much pride left in that respect. Have been lucky. Weird how some scenes, vignettes stay in memory, or better put, are transformed into vignettes by the act of remembering.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Love in the time of plague

It is strange to witness history after a lifetime of being so securely out of it. Fukuyama was both very naive and very perceptive: at least he approached history as a serious, coherent thing. But to think it would have possibly somehow ended in the early 90's - that was surely the height of neoliberal folly, before all the following follies. And obviously there is no certainty of whether history even would really be a serious, coherent thing, instead of being a random ape evolution to whatever carnival of craziness and greediness and violence. But just as obviously one does keep on hoping.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

No time for decency

In these times Orwell does rather regularly come to mind. A weird, largely unlikable person, a shining light. Artists are strange people: often brutally limited in their private lives, often creating an antithesis of those limitations, a near complete rebuttal of their own persons. Strange things. His beliefs were much better than him, but to have had them, tells also a story - an overcoming of situation and person. His attitude, his writing, and yes, his person, are so much missing from this shameless cold era of prostitution and exploitation.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Musing on Howard's End or Why won't England ever grow up?

E.M. Forster was radically civilized in his private life, a living indictment of his savage, primitive era. The pre-war fiction is strange, I believe it is clearly better than its reputation, which is not exactly bad but still somewhat lukewarm. This is not to deny it's obvious limitations and shyings away - somewhat tame tales of Liberal and Conservative England. But with a ring of truth around them: an extended family with always the worst members in charge. If possible even more true now than then - certainly the material conditions were much worse a century ago, but there was also a spirit of optimism about, of progress mitigating them. Now we have only endless vistas of corrupt finance capitalism and gradually ever less of meaningful democratic politics, meaningful discussion. Little sense of hope.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The river keeps keeping its name

I recently visited a place once very significant and warm, a fountain of great friendship and of so much laughter. And yes, the steps and the voices did echo, memories did flood, the bird did urge speed etc. But there was something else in that experience too, in a place so intimately recalled: something less sweet and more real. It is not that nostalgia should be automatically bad, just that it is automatically inaccurate. The sharpness, the vividness of experience, of the moment, is forgotten, that feeling of living poised on top of a great roaring wave of time with always the fear of crashing down, of drowning. Yes, those good things were true, they did happen, but that is just a part of that experience, at the time it was no fountain, it was life.

Monday, December 30, 2019

A lower and even more dishonest decade

The previous decade seemed bad enough: a decadent, cynical war of choice - the late empire gathering good ratings for homeland. And then that lame interlude did not seem so lame at first. But now these garish colours: reckless, compromised late empire, the stench of decay. Corruption, spite and ignorance. Conservatives forgetting all conservatism, forgetting history, getting easily bought. Liberals only semi-convinced of anything, only half-heartedly offering some feeble defence for half-forgotten positions.

Admittedly, only local, fleeting issues - these questions will be resolved, become utterly irrelevant soon enough in the longer perspective, and that longer perspective in itself only a moment. But we are here and now, and can only so be. So this is the moment and the place to engage: our absurdly short moment. The only time we have.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Cultural fugue

We don't live by bread only. A certain addition to this retro-30's (lite) era is another central theme of this blog: the increasing decline of christian-humanist values - and the concequent emptying of liberalism into a shallow official creed not understood, not believed in, but practiced as a handy way to increase various concentrations of capital. We are consumers, not citizens. Yes, this has been said before and by very doubtful people, like Heidegger, like Nietzsche. They had little understanding of liberalism, little understanding of history. But here we now are in the West, rich but with no convictions or ever vanishing convictions. Faith is not by far the only thing necessary to keep a civilization going, to keep a society coing, but it is the minimum requirement, the base. We are losing our memory, we are forgetting our beliefs, our convictions.