Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Finding Meaning

Ok, heres an arty farty, existential post about mortality and our narrow grip on it.

Penny, Matt, Lara and I probably saw a man die the other day in Narvik. He was plopped in a roadside verge, scruffy, overweight and a paper bag in his hand. Another Norwegian man had his cell phone out...

"is he drunk or heart attack?"

"I'm not sure, I rang the hospital 10 minutes ago, they're not here yet"

The mans colour was death. The same colour as the bottom of the sea. There was a pulse and struggling air movements. We cleared the garden from around his face and attempted to rouse him. I grabbed the paper bag, a box of heart medication not cheap booze. Funny how we make assumptions. The paramedics arrived as his heart stopped. We hadn't been looking forward to desperate CPR. The lifted him out of the garden, ripped his shirt off and shocked him with the defibrillator. We stood around. A second group arrived, with white suited medical students in tow. We stood back further. They huddled around, chest compressing, 15-2. We looked at each other and picked up our bags and wandered down the street to the train station.

We don't know what happened next, or indeed what had happened before. Was he a good man? Was he a Norwegian or was he one of the many refugees that have turned Narvik into a multi-cultured ice-box. He was a nearly dead man lying in a roadside garden as we walked past.

The train ride to Kiruna was grey and scenic. Winding round the fiord or canyon. Norway turns to Sweden when the seaside influence ends, when the final canyon fades into the plateau of Lapland. Summer houses site beside small tarns. There is a sense of permanence in this landscape except for the trees which now have their last throes of colour. Yellow now clumps the woods where greens and golds flared when we entered this country 10 days before. It is easy to understand the worship of spring gods when travelling through an environment like this.

Kiruna was shutting down to. The bus service had ceased for the season when we were in the hills, and the owner of the Yellow House backpackers had decided that he had done enough cleaning for the year. It was just a night there, before we flew to Stockholm and went our seperate ways. Penny and I bound for Helsinki then Bangkok, Lara and Matt for Goteburg, America then home. By flying south we had rejoined the indian summer, the gold was just beginning to strike the leaves of Stockholms inner suburbs as we strolled through them to our ferry, the Silja Symphony.

The ferry was big, comfortable and completely unsophisticated. Duty free alcohol left the shop in trolleys. Bollywood tunes, banners and costumes littered the ships mall. The overall feeling was kind of like being in Willy Wonkas factory. Lifts hoisted people to the upperdecks like syringes.Meanwhile outside we glided through the Stockholm archipelago silently and effortlessly 30 metres up.

We woke up in Helsinki, and alighted. It was Sunday morning and people were out walking with their dogs around the waterfront where we found coffee. It seems Finnish people are allowed to smile on Sundays, even to scruffy strangers. In fact even the trees in Finland smile on Sundays.

In no hurry we strolled into the city centre. Heading eventually for the Kiasma, Finlands premier contemporary art gallery. There were wierd types there and wierd type. To explain a blank image "some of the meaning can be traced back to the structure of the image and our initial perceptions of it when faced with a lack of figurative motifs". Meanwhile I was making profound notes myself"whirring kaliedoscopes, industrial video and the glow of a golden rabbit did not show me the way out of a darkened room as I bumped my head in the corner".

I guess it all comes down to whats art? And if theres no such construct as art, can one construct such thing as a purposeful life? So identifying art might help us out of an existential dilemma, but can you? Which of the following photos are a) "art" b) pieces of a building c) pictures of me d) a moomin..........

Answers at a later date. But meanwhile I'll have to conclude with an observation that we all hang to life by a thin thread for a short time. So go hard.

(UPDATE) Oh yeah some answers: top row, art - building - building, bottom row, art - moomin - art....yeah thats actually art not me being erotic. So if you scored 100% I think that your art identification skills are such that maybe you can live a life that you believe is purposeful. If you didn't you might as well just have an absurb journey. I recommend reading a bit of Camus here.

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