February action

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February has historically been a month of inaction and hibernation for me – this one has been no exception. Last year I did jump on a plane to Berlin on a whim just to see a movie, and ended up in a mild debate with someone about the Holocaust while I was having lunch in a Jewish restaurant. Hmm. Seriously. It was a cold but bright day, and I was glad I had broken out of my routine to do something completely different, unexpected and spontaneous.

I had no intention of doing anything similar this year, but today I happened to see that Belle & Sebastian is in Oslo, so I quickly bought a ticket, got a train ticket and head over to Oslo in the afternoon. It’s not quite the distance of Berlin or somewhere further afield, but it’s still something (a band) I’ve wanted to see forever, especially as I have Glasgow so much on my mind these days. Bonus: Jane Weaver opens! Brilliant. Two birds, you know…

Any other day I might have ignored this urge to go, but I had a dream last night in which I kept wanting to do things but kept putting them off, and I started writing a poem in the dream, which I never had a chance to finish before someone would interrupt and drag me off somewhere:

If I light a fire, I will stay warm.
If I light a fire around myself, there will be no way back.

In dreams, never going where I want to go, but always with a fistful of melting popsicles.

Photo by Lindsay Moe on Unsplash

Book ends

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“…feeling of humiliation is simply the feeling of being an object. Once this is grasped, it can become the basis of an aggressive lucidity thanks to which the critique of the organization of life can no longer be detached from the immediate inception of the project of living otherwise.” –The Revolution of Everyday Life, Raoul Vaneigem

Each time I find myself falling into the kind of doubt brought about by being too much in my own head, luckily, last-minute spontaneity (is there any other kind than last minute, though?) propels me back into a world full of people and noise. With absolutely no plan I dashed away for all of 24 hours, door-to-door, even though I had only just come home, had only just done the long drive from the airport, had only just settled in to enjoy half of the Midsommar weekend before returning to work from a too-short vacation. Unsettled by a strange melancholy, though, when a sudden opportunity arose, I jumped at it, and off I flew off to a former stomping ground for an event that served as a kind of an end of endings.

But my god how tired I am now. Do I feel more settled? No. Perhaps, though, more determined. I can’t easily explain this. What kind of determination?

Between reading just about everything Naomi Klein ever wrote (these books make me so angry), I found my “quick-read break” in Roxane Gay’s Hunger. Not that it was a breezy book, but it was further evidence (all thoughtful memoirs seem to provide this) that humans are cruel; humans are resilient; human individuals are beset and defined by tremendous fear and doubt; human individuals do not love themselves much but may come to love themselves, piece by piece, against all odds, only through some miraculous maneuvering, experience and remarkable perseverance.

And it seems, at least in a world where we have too much time to luxuriate in the suffering of our own misery and self-reflection, these experiences and doubts are fundamentally universal. How many of us have gone into some kind of self-imposed exile, real or within our own bodies or minds? How many of us have self-medicated pain away in a thousand different ways? How many of us have indeed desperately wanted to curry favor with some other person, or god forbid, make them love us, losing or never knowing ourselves or our desires, by submitting to whatever they want – or even what we think they want?

I don’t know that this strange combination of need-to-hide but need-to-please ever completely leaves; it shifts and is not the primary driver of one’s behavior. It does not get one into as much trouble. Less patience and tolerance for the whims, fantasies and projections of others, yes. Pushing back and asserting boundaries, yes. Finding healthier management mechanisms, maybe. But complete immunity? I don’t think it exists. Is this process, though, what I mean by ‘determination’?

Photo by Matt Alaniz on Unsplash

Dubbing needs drubbing

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I confirmed and reconfirmed no fewer than three times that the film I went to Berlin to see would be in English (its original language) with German subtitles. But you just can’t trust the Germans when it comes to dubbing versus subtitling. Turns out it was dubbed into German – except for the songs, which were subtitled. Yes, it’s a musical, and therefore primarily music.

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But that doesn’t mean you have actually subtitled the movie when all the dialogue is forcing Ryan Gosling to speak unnatural German. In that sense, it was a hilarious footnote to this adventure – I would not, as I told someone afterwards, watch a dubbed movie at home if someone paid me to do it, but today I spent considerable time, effort and money just to get to and watch a dubbed movie. However, it is a testament to the power of the film that I could still leave feeling moved and crying. I didn’t expect to – with all the hype, it being a musical (two strikes, automatically), not being particularly fond of Emma Stone either way and not that keen on what appeared to be a love story. Not to mention that it didn’t grab me the first minute or even in the first 20 minutes (especially, of course, because it was in German haha). But even in English it really wasn’t doing it for me. I don’t know when or how it changed, but there were small moments that started to win me over.

But again I can’t even be irritated about the dubbing. The experience of just running off and doing something different and virtually unplanned was enough. Uneventful flight, gorgeous but bitterly cold Berlin weather, visiting some favorite sites, everything running smoothly and on time, nice lunch at Jewish restaurant, Masel Topf, in Prenzlauer Berg, watching the police assigned to guard the synagogue pace back and forth.

And good film, if a bit strange – like the time I saw a Norwegian film in Mexico before I ever lived in Norway or gave Norway or Norwegian a second thought. As soon as I sat down in the cinema, I thought, “Hmmmm.” Norwegian voice, Spanish subtitles. Brilliant.

I did figure out finally what made me feel I had fallen out of love with Berlin when I was considering moving there last year. It was that for me it is not a city to do by myself/by oneself. It has always been something I explored or wanted to explore with someone, so wandering around alone actually felt empty. I had forgotten that I felt that way sometimes when I was working there. Other cities have not been like that – Swedish cities don’t feel that way to me, for example. But I feel a bit lost – not literally – but emotionally untethered without a Berlin companion, strange as that sounds.

And now it is definitely and desperately time for sleep – only about six hours to go until I can achieve that.

Spontaneity

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One of the biggest reasons I live the life I do and have cultivated the lifestyle I have is its flexibility and the ability to be spontaneous. Do I often do anything with that? Not in my opinion. From other people’s regimented perspectives, maybe it seems like it, but to me, spontaneous is buying a ticket to Japan in the morning and leaving in the afternoon.

The other night, Sunday, the internet connection in my house stopped working. I was already half-asleep and it was 2 a.m. so this should not have mattered to me in the least. But somehow it made me irritated, and thus wide awake. And suddenly, after speaking for some time about the film La La Land earlier in the evening, and getting excited to see it (even if it had not registered in my head before this conversation), I thought at 2 a.m., randomly, “This would be a good time to jump in the car, drive to Oslo airport and fly to some city where the film IS playing!” (I had already checked to see that it’s not been released in Sweden or Norway yet.)

Exercising freedom and flexibility is always in my reach and I never take advantage, certainly not fully. This seemed like the right opportunity. Of course, is it rational to jump out of bed, where you’re already half asleep and dressed for sleep, get your things together, buy a ticket and go to Berlin (city of choice) just to see a movie that, even a day earlier, you would not even have given a second thought to?

No, pas du tout. But it was never about what is rational. Seems like lunacy, but it’s less about the movie and more about just doing something crazy and unexpected because I can. If I don’t have kids, complications, obligations (other than work, which I can do at any hour), should I not be taking full advantage of the freedom that that affords?

I didn’t do it when that middle-of-the-night urge struck – the internet connection started working, so my tiredness took over again, but I was halfway out the door and then spent the next day, Monday, debating whether I should go Tuesday instead. I was not as spontaneous as I might like to be – but now, sitting at the Oslo airport working for a few hours while waiting for a flight to Berlin, I can say that I was spontaneous enough at least to go for it the next day.

The last time I went to a cinema was in 2009; I had returned to Iceland to visit and saw whatever Star Trek movie was new that summer. And somehow have never returned. This seems like, if not a monumental way to break the dry spell, a novel and memorable one.