Saturday, December 31, 2005

On seeing Narnia

The magic of the books of my childhood: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Susan Cooper, Ursula Le Guin, Noel Streatfield... (Culturally quite an anglophile list I notice). How they once lit my world (and the flame has never since been put out - to paraphrase Hugh Latimer).

I must confess that I watched the film today in a half-horrified, half-amused disbelief - such a crude story, so militant and militaristic, so coldly calculated to the last second. This is not what my imagination got out of it 25 years ago. Not at all. It is a boundless tragedy if the modern generations of children won't read the actual texts and end up substituting Hollywood's simplistic special effects for their minds' eyes. Dear me - such a remarkable experience: fundamentally, I think, of cultural decadence. Of course it was very competent entertainment, professionally done and will undoubtedly get a very healthy return for the investment - but oh how crude we are getting nowadays. And, bloody hell, the controversy about the Christian prozelytizing: please, let the children read the Bible, let them run to the priests if they want to know anything about the Christian religion. If they would get any idea of Christianity from this movie (which they anyway won't), it would be religion as a cheap magic trick or as an obviously non-credible fairy-story like any other. Atheists should insist on their children watching this horrible mangling of religion. To be honest, much of that was already in the original text - no wonder Tolkien was so furious about it. The movie only finished the touch with this crass, throughly calculated commercialism, and a sound investment it no doubt will turn out to be.

It is quite interesting how these Hollywood mega-productions just cleanly kill the real effect of these amazing stories. Peter Jackson's highly competent and outwardly even somewhat faithful storytelling did not leave a single trace of Tolkien's beautiful, deeply tragic, conservative vision of the long defeat that worldly human life was for him - and very little indeed of his obsessively crafted huge, slow vistas of histories and cultures, of landscapes painstakingly walked through. No doubt it would not have sold very well. But I think it also would not have been understood. We are beginning to forget even Christianity these days. These films, these investments, represent the triumph of crude, calculated materialism over any spiritual world view, whether religious or secular.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Philosophy of the Blog, Part Three: Escapism

I have been varyingly desperately searching for various justifications for this blog ever since I started it - fundamentally suspecting that there really are none. To me this has seemed like a pure vanity project, typical to its vain, pathetically egoistic age: these poor ramblings are either easily destroyed or then expressed infinitely better elsewhere. In actual complex, reasoned texts and thoughts that is. But now I think I have found something else than pure ego, if nothing especially flattering: my professional life is filled with total, brain numbing trivia - to come here and address the long views is to clear my mind, to breath ice cold, refreshing mountain air. To do this privately would seem somewhat pointless. Of course also the act of serious public writing is in itself often a joy, so far removed from the crude, functional texts I have to "create" at work. '

The way we live now: so much energy is spent in so meaningless things. So, to here I escape and address the long views, the permanent questions, the serious issues.

Monday, December 26, 2005

In praise of uncertainty

I wonder to what degree this is an educated guess (considering my lack of understanding of mathematics and modern physics, probably to an uncomfortably large degree), but I would say that any rational human action and thought must be based on probability. We lack so much experience, information and understanding - and what we have is bound in a very relative and complicated way to our narrow and non-stable cultural and personal perception - we simply do not have any way to base our thoughts and actions to any fixed certainty of their meaning and long term concequence.

In these circumstances the rational way to act is to base everything on uncertainty, probability and doubt. The historical problem with this is that most people will react in feverish, irrational, aggressive and immediate action and conviction, and will end up creating all sorts of power structures and organizations resulting in continuous blind, chaotic and uncontrollable change. While the rational few are in paralysis of doubt and uncertainty. Our whole existance is thus based on unstability and chaos - I actually doubt that there would be a way for us to act rationally as a collective. We would be something else if we would be able to do that. And I do wonder what this thought, if true, says about us, about our future in the world.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

History is linear

It seems to me that referring to history is often only one of those mental safety mechanisms that give us a sense of security rather than offer any serious new analysis of our present state and future course. Of course there are certain deeply meaningful themes and patterns (of which some words later) - yes, history is crucially relevant. But not in the way we popularly think. In reality we live in unprecedented times. Of our species history of ca 200 000 - 250 000 years 95% have been spent as hunter-gatherers, a majority of this time apparently without what we would today call specifically human culture, human language and self-awareness. After these huge expanses of time and experience followed then the agricultural era of ca 10 000 years, an age of empires and kingdoms, of great religions. The industrial age lasted roughly 200 years, ending with gigantic wars and holocausts.Now we are in most parts of the West and the "developed" world ca 50 years into the post-industrial age. Fifty years. How can we say, how could we imagine what will happen next?

History is linear, it has meaningful themes and patterns - a very controversial statement actually in today's postmodern academia. But apart from the various cul-de-sacs of French theory there are two basic competing ways to see this huge, inexplicable arc from scattered animal like groups without human culture to reality-tv and global capitalism. Or maybe they fundamentally complete each other. The optimistic school sees stubborn movement towards greater sophistication and complexity leading to increased self-awareness and control. History as a painfully slow and chaotic process of enlightenment. The more pessimistic version sees continuous gravitation to greater and greater forms of power fueled by our permanent, animal reflexes outside any rational control. Here we are: panicky apes with weapons of mass destruction.

As usual, I have tried to construct a messy, unsatisfactory middle way - I simply think there is no way to know yet which trend will turn out to be more significant. This experience with complex societies has been so recent, so short that we might only be witnessing the painful birth pangs of something unimaginably better. Certainly much also points towards the pessimistic, even apocalyptic views: so much aggressive, instinctual passion, so little wisdom and control. So many weapons, so many structural problems. We live in unprecedented times - and I do have a certain fearful sense that we are engaged in a race with time. Trends collapse, histories end, species die out. Who could say: we live in unprecedented times.

Postscript: There is of course a third, and currently quite prevalent, view with which I have some sympathy - to deny all coherence from history, and to see all constructions of logic and shape exactly as such, as purely "artificial" constructions out of fundamental formlessness. I too think that history is fundamentally random in the sense that nothing is pretermined and everything is determined by chaotic, unique constellations. At the moment. Of course, to say even this is to say that history has coherence beyond any individual view point, that it has unmistakeable linearity and direction. We only are not in the position to say how temporary those apparent trends turn out to be: what we have now is only this one brilliantly shooting arc with no ability as yet to determine its fundamental nature and direction or lack of them.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The silvery springs of Rökstubacken

If I would ever doubt the deep connection between Finland and Sweden, Dan Andersson would convince me otherwise. I have to confess that Tommy Tabermann's translations sound more authentic than the Swedish originals. These are the Finnish forests of Central Sweden, and the poems are full of Finnish longing for home, of Swedish longing. He has such a feeling for the landscape, for nature, such a touch: beauty and sadness become one. Much of that, I would argue, originates directly from the experience of the Finnish forests - losing your language, your home. A universal message from a very unique, very local perspective. The texts were of course originally written in Swedish but listening to the Finnish translations it is almost impossible to believe to be true: such familiar sound. Our common Nordic lack of home in the middle of these dark, beautiful, hostile forests...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Economics of unreason

It is always amusing to see the market economy characterized as a rational process. Of all adjectives. Of course, I can understand this on the individual level, but since when has individual short term rationality (we almost all are individually and in the short term rational within our own varyingly eccentric perceptions and definitions of rational behaviour), but since when has this translated into reason on any collective level?

The thing that keeps the bubblenomics that is the American economy going at the moment, is the irrational trust in it. By now this trust has been going on for so long (about 3-4 years) that already the first voices are being heard to say that this will go on for ever, that this is now the "new economics" and the old rules are no longer in force. Which is the surest of signs that the bubble is about to burst. And burst it will: American private and public deficit financing can't continue for ever. The trust will turn out to be brittle and the longer the grim reality is referred the more painful the adjustment will be. For all the world. This time things might actually get very nasty indeed. If only we would be able to operate a rational economy... (Which we obviously aren't for a very long time to come.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Down with Friedrich

It has been a longstanding visceral, deepseated reflex of mine to abhor Nietzsche – no doubt largely thanks also to my protestant pietist background (and the rational-liberal present) to which this constant strutting, this ridiculous posturing is a total anathema. I hardly can read the bloody stuff: the feverish hysteria, the girlish exclamations... That is supposed to be good style? God is dead, most likely, but why should we have a collective tantrum about such a thing? And is it not ridiculous to aim to be “masters” of our own fate, when firstly we definitely are not, and secondly, are not even capable of defining what that mastery could really mean.

But, and there is so often a but with him, in later years there has grown some reluctant respect for his thinking. Or, more accurately, for his attitude towards the experience of being in the world. In this vehement insistance to think, to be for yourself, to make your own definitions, there is actually much to admire. Of course we must live like that – life would not be meaningfully lived otherwise. But (hmm, another one) apart from that I still have very little actual interest for him. He either says self-evident things or obviously silly and meaningless things. And not at all innocently: I can well see how the Nazi misreading grew out of his thought - if profound, theoretical strutting is aped, you will get nasty, brutal and primitive real life strutting. And worse. Himmler’s misreading for example was very chilling indeed. Nietzsche is not innocent in this as little “Nazi” as he actually so obviously was.

But the most striking image of all are of his later years: his lost sanity, his incoherent, mad, pitiful ravings - and the awful misuse of his philosophy by his poisonous sister. Not a master of his fate then, not a master at all. As none of us ever is and never will be.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Passionate intensity

I am quite a structuralist when it comes to power: in my view elites don’t use power, power uses elites. The common theme of human history has been a struggle for power based on our atavistic, primal fear, almost panic and the concequent craving for instant, short-term security. These actions create organizations and structures that in turn shape the individual actions and interact chaotically and unpredictably with each other. That’s how at the core of any human institution are the impulses of a permanently scared animal. Reason and enlightenment have had some limited effect towards rational, measured behaviour, but so far any real progress has been minimal.

So, power is structural and behaves structurally but depends on primal human impulses. On the individual level we concequently see how it continually keeps ending up in the wrong hands. The best do lack much conviction, as they are rational and base their actions on doubt and probability. The worst instead are full of passionate intensity and act accordingly: decisively and aggressively. And end up with the short term perceived security, short term power. Some institutions do curb this pattern and let reason prevail to an extent at least (rarely, if ever, fully). Most don’t. And so we stagger on.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

This ecstatic air

I did not choose the name for the blog by complete accident or for purely esthetic reasons (as important as those always are for me). Botanist on Alp (No. 1) has always been a very essential poem for me as it brilliantly, fiercely accurately sketches our historical situation (in haunting, beautiful language) : what composition there really could be in all this - only statues and stars without a theme? And still, surely, despair cannot be the specialty of this ecstatic air. Can it? But here we are, gradually forgetting Christianity (echoes of Botanist No. 2 here - I wonder if I could tolerate the earth without it) and our Classical heritage, inventing all variety of practical things, enjoying previously unimaginable material wealth - getting lost. Poised, I suppose, confusedly between two worlds, currently having none. Botanist on Alp defines our present location but only asks questions of our future course: will it nevertheless end up in despair and incoherence?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Lines are straight and swift between the stars

In a positively Standish O'Gradian fashion, in a state of fairly high drunkenness on the train between Pitäjänmäki and Leppävaara I was wondering what way ever there could have been to extrapolate from that quietest of quiet villages in the summer of 1968 to this place and moment in time, through those paths and those landscapes, and concluded that lines are not straight nor swift between the stars. Strange, very strange our lives are: who could have ever foretold such a story?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

One cheer for postmodern thought

Despite of most of the ”new theory” having proven to be such a blind alley for humanities it must be acknowleged that it has raised awareness of the polyfony of human experience: it has listened to silenced voices, to minorities, to the marginalized. There is much true value in that. The whole postmodern family of theories and schools of thought have also very analytically focused on the complex way that language interacts with the structures culture and society, and vitally important questions have been thus raised. Even if never satisfactorily answered. Yes, enormous amounts of energy have been wasted, incredibly much time has been lost to scholastic trivialities, but even amidst this gathering backlash we should remember the genuinely valuable contributions which have profoundly changed our perspectives for the better.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Life and death - and life

Our lives give us an illusion of permanence: there are slow years, decades, and in the beginning not even a real sense of their eventual ending. But in reality it is such a brief moment we spend in the world. At heart we are rootless, nomadic species, at the mercy of random fate: in no place and in no time do we truly settle in. The Enlightenment is not very effective in capturing this truth: it is not good with impermanence and insecurity, with tragedy, if you may. Art and religion do much better, are more tuned to long views, to this human predicament, human condition. These darkish thoughts I suppose are largely due to the fact that this weekend we will begin burying another generation of my family after a 20 years break since the previous one. In the coming years there will be many of these occasions, and some that I am still very much afraid of - in the 80's these leavings did not touch me this personally: now I see to the both directions, to youth and to old age, and many of those that will be going, that are going were once the permanent, loved cornerstones of my own life. They seemed permanent. It is a very brief, fleeting moment that we spend in this world.

Dark thoughts? I wonder. It would seem meaningless to complain. This is the human condition, this has been our strange fate. And of course, this impermanence gives us a high value to our lives, to our brief and fundamentally tragic moment. It is all we have and it can be taken away or wrecked so easily. Much of our feverish modern activity is aimed to conceal this truth. But yes, there is also wild exhilaration in this beautiful landscape with its ice cold air of chaos and danger. And boundless sadness.

A brief postscript. I would not address here the hope of the Christian theology (such that is not so clearly stated in what is reported of Christ's actual teachings) that is so widely shared in my family - it would seem to be a separate matter, out of our hands, something that cold Enlightenment reason is better in handling. For me religion is not very much about its literal truth but of its description of the human experience in the world, in a sense also of its potential worthiness of being made true. And that seems a very far away thing in relation with the current reality of death and human impermanence. This is a very abstract, and in many ways a very mystical way of seeing religion, far beyond the literalness and crudeness of its mainstream practice, and in many ways not very far from some aspects of Finnish Pietism that so much dominates my family's spiritual heritage.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Oh, what a lovely war

I am a cold war liberal, I strongly supported the first Gulf War against Saddam, I strongly supported the use of force in Bosnia and Kosovo. No pacifist or a friend of bloody dictatorships I, but never could I have believed that the US would choose to have a war of aggression against a country that was not an imminent threat and who was being contained effectively by other means. A state of affairs that was very well known to the Bush administration.

To have a war of choice in these conditions was guaranteed to split the West and in effect leave the US to go solo. No strings attached. And that was not seen as an unavoidable cost by the neoconservatives but, incredibly, as a welcome bonus. Talk about hubris. So, intelligence was cynically manipulated, a purely Goebbelsian propaganda campaign was started, Iraq was attacked and then occupied in a criminally negligent fashion. It seems that if you break it, you don't nowadays own it, not if it would mean a draft and a costly, real commitment for decades. Instead what you hoped for was a friendly strongman that would keep the oil flowing and take care of the housekeeping efficiently, should I say, in a quite Saddamian fashion.

And then, and then, after having ended up in the predictable bloody mess, you say to your critics that let bygones be bygones: what is done is done and we are all in this together. No, we are not in this together. This is what you get when you go it alone: you get to be alone. I am not totally convinced that a speedy US withdrawal would make things worse. It might actually help the situation. What I am totally sure about is that we can't make a success of this morally corrupt, disgusting imperial adventure. Now that state of affairs would be an imminent threat to the West.

There are certain moral positions we have to defend to the last - one of them is that we are not torture loving pirates. We have been lucky in that evil means have led to disastrously bad concequences. Yes, lucky, and yes, evil. With a capable, adult administration the situation would be even more horrible: the naked aggression would have succeeded and the ends would have ended up justifying the criminal means - and would been corrupted by them. We can only hope that one of the characteristics of capable and adult administrations would be not to engage in morally corrupt and criminal wars of choice.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Finland my Finland

I consider myself to be a Finnish patriot. Not a nationalist: genes, cultures, skin colours are totally irrelevant here – I feel loyalty and pride towards the Republic of Finland and its historic democratic and liberal structures. Their precarious birth in the early part of the last century and their unlikely survival between Hitler and Stalin is one of the miracles of the recent Western history. Our peculiar Sonderweg last century ended only with the EU referendum in 1995, and some last vestiges still remain: one of those is that we still remain outside of Nato. For a nation of 5 million people we are have had a very quixotic self-image, not a Belgium us. This hubris was based on the war experiences and the successful continuation of the struggle for independence by Paasikivi and Kekkonen – and quite an illusion in reality, there never was this imagined self-sufficiency. But what great nation has not based its belief in its greatness on illusion? Of course, I still am a lukewarm EU supporter but increasingly worried about the anti-democratic and supranational European structures. A genuinely democratic and rooted United States of Europe would be fine for me, but I don’t think that is in the offer. So, I hope that we still will retain an independent judgment and that our elites will continue to represent the Finnish nation in Brussels and not the other way around

Somewhat dark thoughts on history

We have reached a comfortable plateau in the West: there is unprecendented wealth, unprecedented material progress, internal peace, societies where people can concentrate in their private matters, relationships, amusements – we can forget history even if still subject to biology and accident. Yes, there are the occasional follies of imperial adventures, worries on terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction, and on the horizon rise majestically the warning signs of environmental collapses to come, of climate change, pandemics, natural disasters. But at the moment things are fine: we have recovered from the nightmares of the world wars and the looming, oppressive threat of the Cold War one day turning hot and ending the whole world with it (suprisingly little is nowadays said or remembered of that atavistic fear that endured for so long time). No matter, we are now comfortable.

And it is so obvious to see that even in this fragile stability the engine of history has been blind passion, not reason. Capitalism has proven to be the mechanism that can use our base, grasping human nature for a kind of general advancement, for a kind of stability and progress – fundamentally, of course, based on unstability, on purely materialistic values, on this blind competition for growth and profit. So far it has worked: we have advanced, not because of our ethics and moral dispositions but despite of them. That advancement no doubt won’t last for ever. But aside from that immediate point, history looms very dark: at heart we are still animals, still mortally afraid of the night, acting reflexively to gain short term security and comfort, motivated by passion, not reason, being subject to biology and accident. With this world, these tools, this cleverness and these blind, destructive instincts: for how long can our luck hold?

Monday, November 21, 2005

On sexual politics

The title could just as well be "On cultural politics": I would argue that the modern Western sexual identities ("straight", "gay", "bi" etc. etc.) are an integral part of the perpetual modern quest for fixed identity and personality (which of course is doomed to failure). Before this era of anxiety and fluidity of meaning, personal identity was formed differently, the constellation was different. I may sound like a latter day T.S.Eliot, but I would say that for example there was no such thing as a medieval self-identity: the self was more organically a part of the surrounding culture, not so aware and insecure as it later became, it was both more fluid and more secure than the modern (illusion) of the fixed self.

So, briefly back to actual sexuality. We all are sexual beings, scattered on a broad scale: this tremendous, atavistic force will out, but its concrete expression is heavily influenced by the prevailing culture. I am tempted to say that the majority are variously "bi-sexual" in these modern, crude terms, but that would already be misleading. So, what maybe could be realistically said is that practically all people are sexual and that they will end up engaging in various sexual actions in a undetermined, unpredictable mixture of biology and culture. Always beware the modern categories of identity: they will more confuse and restrict than clarify and liberate.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

He was not anxious to go

It is good to have time - to revisit old friends for example: Undertones of War came for some reason to my mind today (probably due to lots of work trivia being currently cleared out of it). A treasure of a book. And that reminded me of the one that got me reading Blunden and Sassoon, Owen, Graves and that personal idol of mine, Charles Sorley: Fussel's Great War and Modern Memory. I believe it is quite out of fashion in the shouting match that goes for academia nowadays. But it was sheer magic to read in the first year that I spent in Helsinki having started my studies, a modern classic. He gets Blunden right, Undertones is a long poem of a book, beautiful, intense, intensely controlled, haunting. Blunden never really got to the same heights ever again, and one wonders whether the innocence was completely real in the first place. But it certainly was the most innocent generation our civilization has so far produced. A very tiny minority experience of course, but one that encapsulates much of the modern Western liberal history, the Western liberal hopes and their bitter, horrendous collapse. Otherwise known as the early and middle 20th Century. We might not have saved the best from the ruins.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A man for all seasons – or none?

Once I got through my long muddled youth I have aimed to be a man for all seasons, perfectly balanced: choosing the extreme middle way, poised between hope and despair. Life has been somewhat opposed to Art and intellectual curiosity has reigned. The experience of being in the world has seemed so infinitely varied, so infinitely strange that there has always seemed to be room for more questions, more speculation, more knowlegde. And life has been somewhat opposed to art: friendship and love have been celebrated, the iron structures of our limited civilization visited, lived in. All this needs energy and hope: the air is ice cold but the landscape has been breathtakingly beautiful even if full of random danger. Such exhilaration. But the iron structures can drain away the energy and hope and some moments are very dark indeed and all meaning, all shape is dissolved. This is a way to put it into language: as incomplete, as misleading as ever. As true. Other and less high words could also have been used – between these two worlds, two perspectives I have been poised in my adult life, seeing, not choosing. I hope that this balance will not be lost or that it would not turn out to be a blind alley.

Religion matters

It is due no doubt to my Pietist heritage that I take seriously and respect the religious world view. It is no doubt also due to Pietism (in Finnish "herännäisyys") that I don't mean organized religion, its petty or viscious powerstructures, its obscure, irrelevant theologies and muddy and intolerant thinking. But I do think that regardless of any possible supernatural reality (whose existence I tend to doubt) there is a deep inexplicable mysticism in our being in the world, and often it is the religious experience that captures some of the essence of this. In the way that the relatively materialist and rationalist Enlightenment (not to speak of the postmodern inanities) does not.

Of course the organized religion is not concerned about this mystical being in the world: it is concerned about earthly power and control. Even our mild Finnish Lutheran Church of the latter-day social democrats cynically compromices between radical, open vistas of the true essence of Christianity and the influential conservative perversions of it that reluctantly and tortuously have retreated from actually murdering non-orthodox minorities to just actively discriminating against them. Of course it is debatable whether this mystical essence is worth the other worldly, ignorant and intolerant 99%, but I don't think that this utter corruption of all honest seeking is peculiarly characteristical of religious organizations but of all human organizations.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A burning shame

A brief note on the times. In crisis situations nations and states are capable of amazing feats: long established political taboos are discarded, good housekeeping is thrown to winds, risks are taken, sacrifices made in order to defend what is most valuable to us. Our living standards are now highest in our history, our economy has never been stronger. Yet we can't afford taking decent care of the elderly and provide public healthcare with necessary resources and adequate salaries. We are defined by what we accept and what we accept is the betrayal of the old, people who have often worked their lives to build the country to get it so wealthy that it can no longer take care of its citizens when they have outlived their usefullness. Do you think Jorma Ollila will touch on this when he quizzes the top presidential candidates on MTV3? We have no crisis, and no shame: a timid, docile nation.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Politics of no alternative

In Finland the loosely leftwing or anti-market intellectuals (in practice the overwhelming majority of them) have now spent over 10 years bitterly criticizing the prevailing economic policy of accommodating to the market needs and trimming down the welfare state. It does not seem to matter which parties or combinations are in power: economic policy - the very foundation of the political process - has been reduced to mechanical technocratic procedures outside any serious ideological or ethical debate. Or rather, there is a fierce debate in the society and the consensus view (rhetorically among the majority of the politicians as well) is that this should not be the case: economic politics should be a matter of ideology and ethics, a matter of rational choice. But this widespread consensus has no visible impact on the actual decisions. There never are alternatives.

Well, over 10 years is a long time - one would think that you would start wondering why nothing ever happens, why it is the factual case that economics are outside of ideology and ethics and uninfluenced by public debate and national consensus. To me it appears fairly straightforward: the Nordic welfare model never was anti-capitalist, rather it relied on capitalism to produce continuous growth which made it easy to redistribute wealth and provide humane safety nets and easy access to essential and highquality public services. Now the dilemma is clear: the essential motor and foundation of the welfare state must be modified in order for it to continue providing growth. But this time in this era of globalization and decontrol of the capital the modifications that are needed are mostly hostile to the principles and aims of the welfare state. Of the two I suspect the welfare state needs much more the market economy than vice versa: the servant has become the master (probably it always was the case). In this situation the old mechanics don't work - but how can we ever fix the situation if we don't first acknowlege this crucial bond between the free market economy and the Nordic model? Though, chillingly, this endless moaning might be the only - and totally useless - tool we are left with.

To me it begins to look as if the Social Democratic compromize was just a brief phase: we tied ourselves to a far too dynamic and destructive force - and we proved unable to control it, unable to control the forces of history. So, economic growth is no more automatically beneficial to the welfare structures, rather the opposite, but the welfare state will still desperately need growth to stay viable. That's why we are paralysed and unable to do what we would want to do: there is no mechanism to do that - to turn back would need a global, rational consensus to control capital and investment. I can't see that happening. The crux of the matter might be that we simply are fundamentally not able to direct our path in the way necessary - destructive capitalism is the only mechanism that delivers but it functions because we are not capable of rational and ethical control. If we were capable of that, we would abolish much of the present economic structures, much of the present autocontrol and blind, destructive change. But we can't. This is no doubt quite a bleak view but then times are bleak.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

On corporations

Just a note on a most self-evident thing that curiously seems to escape the free market enthusiasts: companies behave like the classic economics would have people behave - in their rational material interest. The corporations operate to maximize their own perceived short and middle term economic interest. So even though the top management might fervently belief in free competition and free market principles in general, the organization they lead will attempt to quench competition and restrict the free play of supply and demand at every opportunity. That is why we need state regulation: the private corporations would unsupervised destroy the free market and establish mercantilist baronies. The most self-evident thing there ever was: this is how human nature works in institutions and organizations - or how institutions and organizations work through human nature.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Reasons for attendance

"And what's the profit? Only that, in time,
We half-identify the blind impress
All our behavings bear, may trace it home.
But to confess

On that green evening when our death begins,
Just what it was, is hardly satisfying,
Since it applied only to one man once,
And that one dying."

The subject, of course, is that miserable sod, that marvellous poet, Philip Larkin, the last of my personal pantheon to be presented here. What he does with rhythm and thought is a rare virtuosity: these poems will ring in mind for days and weeks when first read. And yes, he is morbid, miserable, and yes, in his private life he was quite the reactionary misogynist and racist. I don't care - his poetry transcends his limitations in a way I have never really seen discussed anywhere. His questions, his doubts, so exhilaratingly, so chillingly put into a flawless form. His questions used to be partially mine, of course, a thing which brought him very close indeed.

Now then I finally do feel that I have found my person and my place and do think that I have not misjudged myself. Or lied. But once they were very crucial issues for me: I also was weighing reasons for attendance, and also listened to the call of the rough-tongued bell. In that very burning, very foolish youth I felt that I understood his issues, that they were mine: "And at his age having no more to show / Than one hired box should make him pretty sure / He warranted no more, I don't know." His true morbidity comes from the fact that in his poetry the questions, fundamentally, are left unanswered and what we have left is an overreaching, chilling doubt, carved in a breathtakingly beautiful rhythm: objects of art in language.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Left and its discontents

I hate the Soviet Union and Communism as much as I hate Nazism and Nazi-Germany. In fact, I think of the two Communism is far more dangerous: you don't have the swastika as a trendy fashion statement but you do have the equally blood dripping hammer and sickle being routinely worn by young, intelligent and idealistic people. It seems that you only need a few drags of Enlightenment to disguise your irrational and bloodthirsty ideology and all will be forgotten and forgiven. Just like that.

But Communism had a coherent theory of historical change - yes, a very silly and utterly discredited one, but even so: they had the analytical tools to comprehensively confront capitalism. I am afraid that modern social liberalism and social democracy lack these tools completely and have thus been doomed to be at the mercy of events, or, even worse, being forced to offer the political excuse for every single twist and turn of the dynamic, destructive and irrational global markets.

Capitalism works because it relies on human nature to function as has done throughout history: selfishly, shortsightedly and - within brutally strict limits - calculatingly. For a while it seemed that the messy social democratic compromise worked, but the immense power of capital seems now to have broken free of those rational, moderate limits that the democratic left imposed on it. One wonders what slow beast is now slouching towards Betlehem - what is clear in any case is that we have no control over history, no chance to moderate this mad continuous structural change that is the true meaning of capitalism. There is no long view to be taken and if these train tracks are going over a cliff, over a cliff we will go.

So, what is so desperately needed is a comprehensive theory of historical change for the rational Left: tools to confront capitalism, to control or transform it. Of course, one of the multitude of curses that the awful Soviet terror state left in its wake was to discredit all such theories and tools. And yes, all such aim to control the direction of history contains horrible temptations to our base, fearful and aggressive nature but the enlightened, moderate left is the only force now left that still can keep us on that extreme middle way, between irrational terror and destruction on either side of it. The tragedy of our times is that the enlightened, moderate left is in an abject state of confusion and demoralization: we are now on automatic control - and for how long will our luck hold?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The autumn of our discontent

I think I am now hovering on the verge of a mild (or even not so mild) burnout. IT is charming: the work I do in a huge corporation is a minuscule part of a feverish effort to keep the return of investment at a maximum level. The quality of service is only distantly connected to the stock value, so I end up doing 2,5 persons work with predictable results. Strange to see these iron structures of the modern world from inside, to see how lives are moulded by impersonal forces. Including mine, ours. Of course the work, the structures are not opening any long views, they are closing them, eating up energy and intelligence - so I should not be so concerned and stressed: I should find a way to avoid getting bogged down in this trivia. I have drifted pretty accidentally to IT work, as I had to do some work anyway and the pay is good, so why not? And I was curious to see the iron structures from inside, to understand how our present history works, the impersonal forces functioning. Now I hope it was not only a rationalization, the pay is good and oh how you need money in this society. Did I or did I not have a plan B? Interesting times once again.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Quick, said the bird

Memory is strange, the past not a stable territory. Having a work trip in Dublin, walking known streets. A vivid year and half I once had here, and now the memory of that is of distant but still clear echoes, and faces slowly fading. Most people have left, the constellations long since changed.Intense time with intense feelings: I am half-inclined to nostalgia, but only half - I would not exchange those experiences for anything, but I would not be anxious to repeat that time, so often terrible, painful. Not that it would be possible: though the river keep the name... So, memory is very strange - an immediate, intense life transformed into a recollection, distant but clear echoes, conversations, experiences slowly fading. I have kept the name but am not the same having lived here once.

Friday, August 19, 2005

A Confession or Et in Arcadia ego

The recent, grand Henry James Project floundered today in such a through fashion that I retreated in disorganized haste to the British Collection at the Rikhardinkatu Library and got myself a copy of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. What's a boy to do, to paraphrase Dorothy Parker (reading currently her magnificent, desperately funny reviews from the 20's and 30's): I just needed a very strong antidote to get over that endlessly significant street crossing in the previous chapter. Maybe this is a superficial thought but I would gladly exchange all the qualifications, meanderings and subtleties of James for five lines of hard, polished Stoppard dialogue: sparse, efficient, brilliantly economical, brilliantly funny. And not superficial at all. I will probably collect the remnants of once proud forces and hurl them again at the impregnable Henry James defence but not with much hope. Hmm, anyway, it's certainly a great play - also in Arcadia, I, Death...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Glory Days

Let us now proclaim the end of the American dominance. China and India are rising fast while the Late Empire is entangled in a throughly botched military effort in a region centrally important for the production of a rapidly fading energy source (this sorry and futile spectacle largely financed by foreign - Asian - credit). Internally the country is being torn apart by a vigorous religious fundamentalism and a throughly corrupt political system. The economy is being kept going by a rapid succession of bubbles which are likely to run out very shortly - and one of these days the markets will make one of their temporary returns to sanity resulting in a very painful end to credit financing the various imperial adventures.

But maybe there should be a qualification: perhaps it is only the end, the strange death, of liberal America that we are here proclaiming. In an era of scarcity an openly military Empire might be able to prolong its rule however disastrous the concequences would be. The last hope is probably the emerging progressive movement that is determined to return to politics of reason and co-operation but the hostile structures of the government by lobbyists and abundantly financed and morally corrupt conservative machinery might be able to stop this return to sanity. I guess we'll see but somehow I'm afraid that we really are reaching the end of the era of American leadership. And no, I don't think it's a good thing for the values of liberty and global justice that I hold dear.

Monday, August 08, 2005

An artist of his own life

I would not trust a writer further than I can throw a piano. Well, of course not really, mostly they seem to be charming people but today I was musing about the fact that so many writers seem to have been utter bastards in their private life (while browsing in that blessed place the "book storage" of the Student Library). Looked up Larkin and Waugh among others. Besides a compulsion to create, many artists have great personal ambition and also a certain insecurity of personality (this I idealistically associate with utter bastardhood). Above all, life is their material, friends and loved ones or bits and pieces of them may end up as text which can be a cold, offhand process for those concerned. It is such a curious profession - as a grateful member of the audience I don't protest but the price seems at times very high.

An interesting process: your life and your experience is your material and you create something out of it - what is the relation then of your art with your personal life as it is, and must be, something separate? I suppose the answer is infinitely individual, the degree of dissociation is not a constant but surely there has to be a degree of dissociation. So no perfect artists of their own lives - not if you are one... (Hmm, I wonder if the distinction is really a meaningful one - the point is polemic, a beginning of a discussion, rather than a statement of fact or reality.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The philosophy of the blog

Talk about pomposity... I seem to be losing my interest already: so just a summer fling, maybe. In a way that would be ideal: blogs are about broadcasting and I do disapprove myself - well, to a degree - for starting this one - or at least question myself and my motives for starting it: why should I broadcast? I suppose it would be ideal to really be scattered, to have accidental odds and ends stored here with no theme and no purpose. Not to broadcast. Would that make any sense? (As I could very easily refrain from any publicizing by stopping publicizing. Hmm. Though writing in English is great fun.) Anyway, to change the subject to something completely different, I have a strange urge to read Henry James - due no doubt to my current work trip company, the classic biography of him by Leon Edel. Strange in the sense that I have always stayed well clear of James being easily, too easily, bored, and those sentences do go on. But there seems to be a burning intensity in him, a burning purpose - based on Edel anyway, so maybe I should try: with the holiday coming there would finally be time for meaningful things instead of IT industry things. A very pleasant thought.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Young person, go Billmon

I have not yet found energy to figure out how to add links to the page as I have to insert them manually, it seems, in to the HTML code. In any case the Whiskey Bar confirms to my understanding of political debate: very sharp, but still analytical, dealing with structures and not with the surface foam, and on the side of the angels. Alarming is the only word to describe current US politics with this semi-criminal administration in charge of the only superpower still drunk with hubris in its moment of near monopoly on power politics. (On second thoughts, lose the "semi" from the previous sentence.) Strange how things change: we are all politicized now....

Saturday, July 16, 2005

To have no boundaries

For some reason the word esthetic looks incomplete and silly and the word aesthetic somewhat pompous and silly. Go figure: no language is perfect.

Anyway, my aesthetic vision of writing is to have no boundaries in language, no genres. I would have wanted to include into my master's thesis on the first Home Rule crisis (or rather on high political rhetoric during it) sections of "pure" fiction - not that the boundary between fiction and non-fiction would be in any case very clear, especially with historical writing and research. This is probably an over intellectual attitude but to me all writing, all thinking is speculation about our experience in the world: we don't describe, we speculate even when describing. And to have it in freely flowing, beautiful, rhythmical language - to have no boundaries, no "natural" structures.

So, in effect, I don't believe in pure fiction, and would not want to write it myself. (These highly theoretical musing probably well describe why I never ended up as a writer: you need to be more instinctive, more viscerally in touch with language, with experience.) This is not to deny a certain distinction between the perceived reality and purely fictional accounts, but you can only attempt to reach this perceived reality through speculation and exploration whether it then has the form of fiction or non-fiction. So, no genres for me, no boundaries in language. There exist none naturally, nothing is naturally, self-evidently fixed in language. I think this is why we are only partially at present even in directly autobiographical text: why this text also is only one dimension of many in myself, and purely in itself misleading: we can only speculate about ourselves, we can only attempt to reach ourselves - the personality is never there in the very moment, never constant, never whole.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Thoughts on Haapsalu

I was impressed, surprised: a trip to Astrid Lindgren land. I wondered would it just be comfortable nostalgia for the (mostly) bad old times, but at heart I think it really was aesthetic appreciation, an aesthetic experience. Silence, the summer around us: sleepy streets out of another time or from imagination, Astrid Lindgren streets. Such satisfaction for eyes, for ears, an appropriate rhythm of life - even if only in imagination. Not hysterically clean, self-satisfied Sweden but wounded, imperfect Estonia, probably the most suffered modern nation along with its Baltic cousins, even Russia itself does not begin to compare. Strange experiences history hands out to us, strange music, but amid rebuilding, along quiet sunny streets I enjoyed myself.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sailing towards Byzantium

"Once out of nature, I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make"

Maybe I say something controversial here, something overly romantic: but as far as art is concerned I think we are always sailing towards Byzantium and are out of nature with such forms as Grecian goldsmiths make... This is an aesthetic view or an oldfashioned view of aesthetics: art as beauty and art as otherhood. What we are in "real life" is something different - art is not a mirror. For me the interesting thing, the aesthetic thing (also) is this conflict between experience and art, in that sense I want to reach beyond it, beyond art. (I wonder if this formulation makes any sense.)

Of course, I wanted to talk about Yeats here, but reading those lines for the quotation, that poem, brought very naturally, self-evidently back these thoughts. If you speak about Yeats, you speak about art - he is the quintensessial artist, craftsman. In many ways especially his later poetry exemplifies my thinking of art, of the beauty of art and also its conflicts. Yeats is almost beyond comparison in his language and skill. Maybe Wallace Stevens and T.S.Eliot can reach where he reaches. But such follies! Such idiocies: his "thinking" was silly beyond words, his experience so far from his poetic mythologization of it. Yeats is I think a good illustration of Plato's well known disdain of literature, his follies are the follies of an artist, or of art. But this said: who reaches further, Plato or Yeats? What can philosophy do without art, what can it be without art? My answer would be: very, very little. Maybe art in itself is not enough, but without it we would barely be alive, barely be human.

But this is the last day of a week's holiday for me, have to go through my emails, to prepare for the dreary Monday morning. Maybe more of Yeats later, but these words to end the post, the beauty and the folly of art:

"I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind,
In balance with this life, this death."

Monday, June 27, 2005

Listening to Mr Eliot's sermons

T.S.Eliot seems to be utterly out of fashion which is most unfortunate. Of course the long story of his reputation is in itself highly interesting: his place, the way his place has been seen in the modernist pantheon is an independently fascinating cultural theme. The way the Waste Land seemed to speak directly to the 1920's high brow reading public, that clear, triumphant and pure poetry of J. Alfred Prufrock in the middle of Europe's hideous collapse in 1917. And not least Tradition and Individual Talent, its perverse but forcefully put and highly misleading arguments - a romantic praising classicism (in Eliot's terms, that is). Also highly interesting is his complicated, even tortured relationship with his poetry, his tendency to mislead and hide his path. His conservatism, his Christianity, his very unpleasant anti-semitism, his definite anti-postmodern thinking (ceaseless hankering after authority) have likely caused this present disfavour. All this seems nevertheless quite beside the point: you still listen with high enjoyment and respect to this strange music and strange thoughts, this eye witness to the death of a civilization: "I had not thought death had undone so many."

Monday, June 20, 2005

A touch of Betjeman as the evening comes

There is nothing like verse from Betjeman to lighten up your mind – listen to this:

Kirkby with Muckby-cum-Sparrowby-cum-Spinx
Is down a long lane in the county of Lincs,
And often on Wednesdays, well-harnessed and spruce,
I would drive into Wiss over Winderby Sluice.

A whacking great sunset bathed level and drain
From Kirkby with Muckby to Beckby-on-Bain,
And I saw, as I journeyed, my marketing done
Old Caistorby tower take the last of the sun.


Suicide on Junction Road Station after
Abstention from Evening Communion in North London

With the roar of the gas my heart gives a shout -
To Jehovah Tsidkenu the praise!
Bracket and bracket go blazon it out
In this Evangelical haze!

Jehovah Jireh! the arches ring,
The Mintons glisten, and grand
Are the surpliced boys as they sweetly sing
On the threshold of glory land.

Jehovah Nisi! from Tufnell Park,
Five minutes to Junction Road,
Through grey brick Gothic and London dark,
And my sins, a fearful load.

Six on the upside! six on the down side!
One gaslight in the Booking Hall
And a thousand sins on this lonely station -
What shall I do with them all?

Or a what about this - Group Life: Lechforth - such wicked, wicked satire:

Tell me Pippididdledum,
Tell me how the children are.
Working each for weal of all
After what you said.
Barry's on the common far
Pedalling the Kiddie Kar.
Ann has had a laxative
And Alured is dead.

They may say he is a minor poet, but one does wonder... When he was not sentimental he was amazing.

The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel

He sipped at a weak hock and seltzer
As he gazed at the London skies
Through the Nottingham lace of the curtains
Or was it his bees-winged eyes?

To the right and before him Pont Street
Did tower in her new built red,
As hard as the morning gaslight
That shone on his unmade bed,

I want some more hock in my seltzer,
And Robbie, please give me your hand -
Is this the end or beginning?
How can I understand?

So you've brought me the latest Yellow Book:
And Buchan has got in it now:
Approval of what is approved of
Is as false as a well-kept vow.

More hock, Robbie - where is the seltzer?
Dear boy, pull again at the bell!
They are all little better than cretins,
Though this is the Cadogan Hotel.

One astrakhan coat is at Willis's -
Another one's at the Savoy:
Do fetch my morocco portmanteau,
And bring them on later, dear boy.

A thump, and a murmur of voices -
( Oh why must they make such a din?)
As the door of the bedroom swung open

Mr. Woilde, we'ave come for tew take yew
Where felons and criminals dwell:
We must ask yew tew leave with us quoietly
For this is the Cadogan Hotel.

He rose, and he put down The Yellow Book.
He staggered - and, terrible-eyed,
He brushed past the palms on the staircase
And was helped to a hansom outside.

These amazing lines from his early poetry - light yes, but light does not mean unserious. This is not to say that he was serious, but there is high seriousness in great skill. And greatly skilled he was.

What is to be done or a quietist alarmed by modern politics

Something originally written in my diary at DailyKos:

At first 1989 seemed like the defining moment: walls came tumbling down. Muscular liberalism was vindicated: Kennan, Truman, Marshall. And even Churchill, Eisenhower and Adenauer backed up of course by domestic social democracy and strong labour movements. American forcefulness and European engagement had worked their overwhelming combination against the hostile pseudo-stalinist structures in the East. Maybe history was not ending but it seemed as if the first baby steps were being taken towards ending history. Visible progress in front of our very eyes - reason and enlightenment finally on the march.

But now the defining moment seems actually to be Monica Lewinsky and the morally bankrupt and cynical response towards the psychopatic attack of 9/11 as encapsulated in the presidential election of 2004, the scary symbol of our times. If you would rationally evaluate Kerry and Bush campaigns from the loosest of common perspectives: some sort of arrangement of market economy, the most basic liberal democratic values of liberty and equality, a respect for the right to pursuit happiness - if you would do only that, there would still be no competition. The Kerry campaign did not have all the answers and it had many very bad answers, but no comparison: if reason and information would be the determing factors, Kerry would have annihilated Bush even more throughly than Johnson destroyed Goldwater. But Kerry lost. Faith prevailed over reason, passion conquered rationality, blatant disinformation was more effective than genuine information.

For me as a liberal (more in the classical European sense though in local politics I am a sort of pragmatic, agnostic social democrat) the election was a sickening process. The Bush administration's policies after 9/11 have been a horrible moral bankrupty, the rational and effective Euro-Atlantic alliance is now broken, the centre cannot hold any longer. How did the original theory go? That people are fundamentally rational and enlightened and need only to be liberated from the reactionary structures and they would then establish a humane society based on compassion and reason? But this is clearly not so. History seems to be not only a crime but a punishment for a crime: reactionary structures are not only a cause, they are also a concequence.

At first it seemed that capitalism necessitated liberalism and that liberalism in turn necessitated social democracy which would then control the worst excesses and instabilities of the markets. But we gravitate towards power structures, not towards reason: what best protects capital has always proven to be the most successful historical arrengement. For a time it was Protestantantism, then followed an upgraded version with Enlightenment and Liberalism and during the dark times of the early 20th century capitalism's inherent instability even required social democracy for its protection. But those times are long over now.

Now we have the mindless entertainment industry (backed up by a very unequal and steadily worsening educational system) and morally and intellectually castrated fundamentalist religion to safeguard capital which is and has been for the last 600 hundred years the highest form of power in our civilization. In the election intelligence and information pointed to one direction and one direction only, there was no comparison: Kerry was infinitely the better answer intellectually and rationally than Bush. But intellect and reason do not guide the mankind as a collective: blind passion and fear do. Stupidity is programmed to overcome intelligence.

So, what is to be done? Who would actually know? History is a chaotic process and no-one can determine the long term concequences of action. But we do have a moral imperative to act even if perpetually outnumbered and outgunned. For me personally the immediate reaction has been a sort of political radicalization and re-examination of my previous cold war liberalism. Fundamentally my values are still the same: to me anti-communism is still exactly as heroic and self-evident than anti-fascism and Joe McArthy the greatest gift ever to Soviet Union (a state founded and governed by terror and torture) - but it seems that what I thought was the fundamental engine of the postwar era, was not the fundamental engine.

The military- industrial complex is a self-perpetuating machine: it was a lucky co-incidence that the Soviet empire happened to be as brutal and as anti-liberal as Nazi Germany, but the most important thing was that it was also hostile to capital and private investment. And now there are no Trumans or Kennedys needed to guide and lead the West. What we have now left is the naked power and unreason, no velvet gloves necessary any more: Bush and Cheney with their short sightedness, with their distructive and self-defeating policies, their moral bankruptcy, their blind agency of global market structures. The sheer irrationality and emptiness of capitalism which I now fear is not a cause but a concequence. So, what is to be done?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Why English?

To be honest, I prefer it in some ways to my native Finnish. Though I do think it largely gets wasted on the native speakers: for them it is relatively boring routine, it is also routinely raped by hundreds of millions of business users every day. But it is the language of Shakespeare, the scariest, most comprehensive writer I know - and of an amazing and quite unique literary tradition. The thing I most love is the vocabulary with its immense choice of nuance and tone. This is due to another lovely quality: the open nature of English, any word can be absorbed into it, almost anything goes. This is not to say I don't love Finnish: it is a beautiful strange language, dark, heavy, emotional. English is to me a light, intellectual and rational language - in many ways the opposite of Finnish, always more flexible but sometimes more emotionally shallow language. Purely subjective opinions, of course, and as a non-native speaker my relationship with English is more distant, more aesthetic, more intellectual, more humorous also which naturally colours my understanding of it. It simply exhilarates me!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The way we live now

Back at home after a busy day of doing nothing - luckily there is a broadband connection subsidized by my company to enable doing nothing also here. Today happens to be my birthday: 37 years now. Could not have imagined this society, this way of living during those slow years in the middle of the quiet Finnish countryside in the 70's. Often darknesses at noon, but often also bright days in the midst of a settled society, settled, secure ways of living. By my own standards I have succeeded, I have found my person and my place, my voice, private happiness in this transitory age and in this superficial, busy, stressful society. Still, there is so much to do, or so much not to do; as far as I understand the only worthwhile thing to do is to slow down, to stand still, to contemplate the long views, this beautiful but cold landscape. In this I haven't succeeded yet - there have been other priorities, more immediate, and at times desperate, goals. Such a lovely season to be born in: the subarctic nature joyfully bursting into life, the sun making everyone mad and energetic, celebrating the short high season. So, discordant, contradictory notes even here, even today, no harmony yet reached: the way we live now.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Botanist on Alp

Why Wallace Stevens, you may ask. Well, his early poems are beyond words: such amazing lightness of language handling such profound themes - uniting irony and humor and dancelike, capricious rhytms with deep cultural observations. Naturally the academia has more or less sidestepped the poetic side of his poetry and concentrated on his "meaning" and "message" whether in a post-modern or in more old fashioned format. I suspect that the thing that unites academic critics is an intense dislike of all good literature and any virtuosity in writing.

Hmm, enough of me - listen to this:

"No more phrases, Swenson: I was once
A hunter of those sovereigns of the soul
And savings banks, Fides, the sculptor's price,
All eyes and size, and galled Justitia,
Trained to poise the tables of the law"...

or to this:

"That would be waving and that would be crying,
Crying and shouting and meaning farewell,
Farewell in the eyes and farewell at the centre,
Just to stand still without moving a hand."

By far the greatest of that great first modernist generation - maybe also in some way the least modern of them and least dated. Or not at all dated when it comes to this amazing, serious, light hearted music of his early poetry.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The first post or Lions in Sweden

No more phrases, Swenson: I was once...

Somehow I doubt that I will be much interested in updating this blog. Blogs seem to be about broadcasting - I'm more of a reader than writer, an attendant lord, at most, and I doubt if my personality is of interest to anyone else but myself and maybe for a few other people who will not need a blog to stay updated. But perhaps a venue for some occasional public thoughts, more a discipline for thinking than in the sense of being in any real way "public". We'll see.