When the sun sits in the air like a beach ball until 11pm, it is easy to eat 5 meals a day.
It is hot here in Kuopio. Lakes surround the entire city. If one feels real sultry, one can jump in a clear, refreshing lake. Unlike the sea, which has it’s own allure, the pure saltless blue of the lakes makes you feel purified. People here and there punctuate the pristine beauty of pine trees and blue waters. A few girls stroll along the lakeside path paying no attention to what else. A dad sits on steps with his two bright eyed toddlers who smear ice cream over each other’s faces. A group of guys stand at one spot talking for 30 minutes, then move to a new spot 50 meters away. Ladies on break strut quickly. The elderly inch their way. Bicycles whizz past. Drinkers sit around on the ground, derelict.
The problem with all this warm summer idleness is my packing arrangements. I have one rule in this matter: if there is more than I can carry on my own, it’s more than I need. It is time I send some gear back to the states.
The exciting thing about being rid of excess clothes is the newfound room for books. Today I found a used book store and purchased a very nice Suomi – Englanti dictionary and a Finnish Donald Duck (Aku Ankan) comic book. Colorful language, dialogue form, and short sentences, make this book a hit with me. Most of the stories include Scrooge, too! I drank coffee at a table in the shade and worked my way through the first 5 pages as the strollers, cyclists, loiterers went by.
At one point, two construction workers came over and almost made eye contact as they took chairs from my table so they could sit a bit aways and smoke. I made the “you’re good to take ’em” American hand-gesture with my pointer finger, but I doubt they saw it. They didn’t need permission anyway.
Although, I moved the table once to escape the blazing sun, it caught me again. That was my signal to wander elsewhere.
Swimming at Midnight. The Record Store. Soviet Statues. The feeling of being by the sea when you are actually surrounded by lakes.
On a rock, with new friends, under the sun, near the sea, in my trunks.
I started out with the intent to write something dealing with my current sentiment and surroundings, but instead I have found myself writing something sentimental and abstract. I’m 35,000 feet above the earth so this piece perhaps fits my state in life. My feet are suspended above the earth, so I wander with a few loose ramblings. If I offend you with cheery moralizing, let it be known I offended myself first.
Robinson Jeffers, the misanthropic poet, outlines part of our worldly situation in “Be Angry At The Sun.” Now Jeffers might spit that “the cold passion for truth// Hunts in no pack.” But it certainly does, and he knows it. Now the pack may be small and spread out over ages, over time, and over space, but that does not make us not part of a pack. It is a pack of individuals, scattererd individuals who build things like Tor House to get away, individuals who enjoy dancing, or sipping wine with their mothers, or singing songs loudly and badly while quite sober, or individuals who quietly solve a jig-saw puzzle before sleeping (although I never understood jig-saw puzzles – why would you cut up a perfectly good picture and put it back together the exact same way?). You can’t bring these people together for a political movement; sure, politics matters, but not enough to divert them from reciting a poem. This pack is beyond politics. The members do their duty to the state, maybe take office to avert some catastrophe, but then they get back to studying Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, or learning how to change the tire on a car, or teaching their daughter how to make an excellent mud pie.
The biggest institutions we can believe in consistently are called “family” and “festivity.” Anything more big than that, like a fancy journal, the DMV, or the state government may do good things, provide some service or entertainment, but it is a happy accident – to be appreciated before it all goes awry and fades away. Maybe it is only when institutions serve family and festivity that they thrive, else they rot.
Who can say how many such individuals there are who know how to truly seize the day? Perhaps the guy you think is a sheeple is playing a long game of charades that he won’t stop until 10 minutes before he dies, then reclaiming his normal senses from a lifetime of health food and condescension, apologizes for all his insulting behaviour, snooty trespasses at his friends’ dinner parties and demands a slice of pizza.
Perhaps Jeffers is right despite himself. “[T]he cold passion for truth// Hunts in no pack” not because the truth is hard and the throngs of people in government, corporations, and social institutions are a gang of delusional egotists led by pandering demagogues, true perhaps but not important, because while it may be alone on occasion, the passion for truth is never cold. A burning star might be distant from other stars, but that does not make it burn less, or cause fewer stars to exist. Even if we cannot see the stars tonight, we might see them tomorrow when the sky is clearer.
The passion for truth is a relish for life. The world is a strange crime scene, and you only get to look for clues for so long. I found one clue in a contemporary novel, another there in the off-handed comment of a good friend, here in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, there in the philosophy of McIntyre. Sometimes the clues point towards a vicious or indifferent world, but not always. The hope is that the pack of starry-eyed clue-hunters is too wild to ever be stomped out by cold, alien people who wield knowledge like a weapon, charisma for a ’cause,’ or pettiness, jealousy, and fear to suck joi de vivre from others. Each of these types achingly clutch their puny gods, while the keepers of spontaneity find friendship and worthwhile things in odd places. When we are frustrated at the course of fortune, don’t be angry at the sun. The sun energizes the hunt. If and when we must be angry, be angry at whatever in life keeps us from enjoying music, cold beer on the porch, and bike rides in the afternoon, for those are things worth hunting.
For all you nervous to fly alone, namely Don whom I met at the Sprint store today: no worries. You read and follow a few directives to get to the airport terminal. It can take a while, but no sweat. It is not any worse than lining up before recess, or doing fire drills repeatedly because the sensor system at your work is broken – but think recess, not fire. Waiting in the terminal seats you get assaulted by CNN (they would play NPR if they had any bit of mercy) and the extremely disorienting sensation that you have no idea why anyone else is travelling. It is not like a road, where you can guess based on your knowledge of the streets, direction, time of day, nearby places, whether people are going to work or the YMCA. But in an airport, you can hardly tell if it is business or pleasure, and those categories are intentionally broad enough to avoid narrative. The powers-that-be will keep you updated if your plane will enter at a different terminal, in which case you just follow the instructions given and the other would-be passengers of your flight to the new terminal. Once there, you wait in line, they scan your ticket, and you enter a small uncomfortable room with a bunch of strangers. But now you are strangers with a common purpose, and that is some relief. You wait in this room, and just follow the instructions of the oracles. The magic roars, the plane rises, and the mysterious augurs in the cabin summon favorable winds. Do as you wish. No effort of yours is required for the argosy to take you to a distant land, so why not do it? Get to Seattle or Tampa or Quebec City.
Tomorrow morning I take off for Turku. May the winds be favorable, the passengers thin, and sleep deep.