Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thoughts on the morning bus

Once again strange morning glimpses of the hard working modern Finland: busy, tired people on their way to work, to school. I always aim to look at our Western post-industrial civilization, any civilization, like an anthropologist would: there have been a myriad ways to live and there will be a myriad more to come. This, our current way, is just one them, and so, very, very odd, very exceptional. I look at the cars, the buildings, the street advertisements, clothes, TV programmes, and can often reach a state of pure wonder – how strange, how inexplicable that we should have arrived to this particular constellation. And how ephemeral it will turn out to be: one day, historically not a very long time from now, we will be one with Niniveh and Tyre.

There have been so many before us, strong beliefs, deep structures, self-evident truths now completely forgotten. On many levels this has already happened to my grandparents’ and my parents’ generations: the deeply rural, agricultural Ostrobothnia vanishing during their lifetimes, so rapidly replaced by the post-industrial, high-tech commercial society. In our village in January 1918 at a pietist prayer meeting was the local White Civil Guard established, very eager to fight against the Finnish Reds and Russian revolutionaries. I can just about imagine that mental and spiritual world: the sounds and smells of it, the pitch dark winter nights, horses and sledges, the burning and self-confident faith, that strange rural civilization, so permanent seeming – now one with Niniveh and Tyre.

6 comments:

helsinkian said...

Isn't it strange how totally societies change? Finland is such a prime example of a very quick change. It's so hard for me to comprehend how my grandparents thought when they were young about almost anything since their world was so different. My grandparents were all born after the 1918 Civil War, so it was actually their parents who faced society disintegrating right in front of them. Yet it must have been an exciting ride for anyone who made it from the early part to the late part of the 20th Century.

I sense also the feeling that when I look out of the bus window or stroll down the city streets, that all of this is soon to be documented in a museum as something reminiscing from a long-gone era. It's like walking at Sofiankatu and looking at the pre-1917 trilingual street signs, a place that used to be real but exists now on display for us who came after them. Somebody after us (if we're lucky, including ourselves at a later date) will see pictures and exhibits about our way of life and sigh, how was that ever possible.

stockholm slender said...

My feelings exactly: one day people will wonder about this way of life and see it as something totally dead and gone. And we still take ourselves, our passing concerns so deadly seriously. It is also very true that Finland has changed very rapidly - probably the quickest transition of any Western society, in many areas passing directly from agriculture to the service industry. And so much changed along with that vast transition. It must have been very strange for those that lived in the middle of all that tumult.

petteri said...

But isn't the vast transition still with us? It might be not so much bricks and mortar type but on a ideological level and the most of all on a economical. For better or worse, we hardly resemble even ourselves, as a thinking spieces, just some 30 yrs. ago.

In order to really succeed, one must be able not to see ones surroundings in this kind of temporary light. This is, ofcourse, a denial of the fact but it is also the only way, for us, to remain serious in our daily pursuits in achieving those goals that have been deemed, at that particular moment in time, to be important. Naturally, somebody looking back a couple of decades later, might summarize it with a terse statement; much ado about nothing.

stockholm slender said...

Well, but could it also be that when regonizing this ephemeral nature of our pursuits, we might be able to focus our efforts to more meaningful things? This feverish activity might not be wholly beneficial. It is very hard, ever, to think of alternatives for the actual occurrences but I think it might be the key to all meaningful progress. But you are right of course: the great transformation goes on.

Petteri said...

It would be so interesting to know; how many people are and have been channeling this recognition, as you rightfully suggested, to more meaningful things and how many might have and still are defeated by it?

stockholm slender said...

That's quite the eternal question: I - quite cloudily - think that awareness is or could be a route towards more rational control. In many ways our society is not aware at all: we have all this feverish activity directed towards immediate self-interest channeled by the accidental, ever-changing structures of history. If we would be aware of this nature of things, would we not act otherwise, more wisely?