Solitude

 

I took last week off and spent it in my family’s cottage house on the countryside, between Enköping and Strängnäs, about an hours drive from Stockholm. Arriving Friday evening for ten days of peace and quiet. I spent the first six days alone and then had company over the weekend before going back home together.

November has been mild so far. No snow and almost too warm to wear a winter coat. It’s grey and lifeless after the leaves have fallen off the trees and no snow that lights up the darkness that hits you by surprise every winter. Isn’t it weird how one can forget what winter feels like every year?
Every summer, it feels unlikely it can ever become cold and white with a darkness that never lets go, but every winter you wonder how it is possible to ever get warm again. In this weather, walking around in shorts and a t-shirt and sweating seem impossible.

A few times a year, I think we need some time on our own. To get away, turn off our phone. Not checking e-mail or facebook. Just sit in a couch and be bored. Spend our days reading, going on walks, sit in front of a fire drinking tea. Not read newspapers about sovereign debt or watch tv shows. Not go shopping or running from activity to activity.
I have found, that the best inspiration comes from silence. We are so used to constantly being bombarded by sights and sounds and consuming experiences that we never really allow ourselves time to let things sink in before we are well in to the next thing. When we take a time out we let this happen, start the sorting process inside us where everything automatically finds it’s right place. It becomes the foundation on which we have new experiences, a self-correcting therapy, and when we get back changes come by themselves without our intervention or force.

To sit down by the water of lake Mälaren watching the sunrise is both better therapy and considerably cheaper. No matter how many museums we go to, how many beautiful paintings we see or how often we go through the centre of Stockholm with it’s beautiful architecture, we humans will never create anything as wonderful as what we are surrounded by daily. A sun rising is worth more than all the Rembrandts’ and Picassos’ combined.

We live without breathing sometimes. Thinking we enjoy all the activities we are in the middle of but they never really satisfy, and because of this, we need to repeat them, over and over, throwing ourselves into new ones constantly. Better and faster than the ones before. While we are watching a movie, we are thinking about what we will do when it is over. When we eat our dinner we think about the dessert and while eating our dessert, we think about what to do when it is finished.
In silence, there is no after. In silence there is no before. There is only now.

The first days I feel restless. But eventually it gives up and I become bored.
I am bored because I am so used to doing things all the time. But I realize that boredom is not about not having something to do, but rather to constantly be looking for something to do. And when I close my eyes and stop, let go of all the thoughts of doing something, all thoughts about what has been or what will be, boredom disappears.

I no longer remember what happened last week and no thoughts about getting back show up either. Being here feels like an eternity, like every second lasts for hours so I can savour it, enjoy it fully. When I get back home, I feel like a new person.
It has only cost me some of my time, but the pieces swirled up in the last few months has finally found rest and everything feels clear. I notice the difference and I am filled with wonder that all of this came on it’s own.
Now I will go back to activities, experiences and doing and I find myself enjoying them more than before.

 

 

A visitor from the road

 

When in Bangkok in May last year, I was staying with Peak in her couch surfing community N6. A place where I met a whole bunch of interesting people. One of those was Paula, originally from Argentina but now call the tar roads of the world her home. She barely got in the door before we started talking.
Sitting in the living room of the place for hours, we shared our adventures and found a common interest in India where I had just arrived from and where she recently spent nine months.

A few weeks later we met again in Pai in northern Thailand and ended up travelling together in northern Thailand and Laos for over a month. In the end of June, when Paula celebrated her one year anniversary on the road we parted ways and I returned to Thailand while see continued on to other parts of south east asia, ending up spending quite a few months in China.

A year later, after celebrating two years on the road she hitch-hiked through Mongolia and Russia to finally cross the EU border in Finland. After hitch-hiking north all the way up to Rovaniemi, entering Sweden in Norrbotten and coming down the E4, she ended up on my doorstep.

She stayed with me for five days, and has now continued on to make the roads of central Europe unsafe.
We spent our days and evenings talking, drinking tea, cooking, listening to music and talking some more. Just like we did most evenings the last time we saw each other.

I have always been impressed by her photography. She is sensitive to good composition and oppurtunities and several times I have commented that she should really get a good dSLR instead of the compact camera she is using.
But if your budget is $10 a day, a new camera is not high on the list of ncessary items.

However, she was lucky in timing her visit with my birthday, when I decided to get myself a new camera as a preent to myself, so to support the development of her gift, I decided to give her my old camera, with the catch that she is not allowed to put it in auto except in rare cases.
A better camera doesn’t, however, mean that you automatically become a great photographer. But if you already have a good sense and talent for it, imagine what you could do if you also learn the technology?
In photograpy, the hard part is developling your vision, but the tool is still the prerequisite to get anything at all, so now I hope I get to see even better photos from her. But feel no pressure!

Below you see some of the photos from her trip so far and if you know spanish, you can find her blog here http://depocuntodo.blogspot.com/. More pictures can be found here: https://picasaweb.google.com/pdepli

Volt festival 2011

 

Yesterday I went to the Volt festival in Uppsala, an annual festival for all kinds of electronic music.

It was a varied mix of all kinds of music and a very interesting and exciting experience. In the end I have to list Darkstar, who did an exellent performance, as my favourite. Around midnight, it felt like it was enough, my brain was about to collapse from all the noise and visual effects trying to steal a bit of my brains attention. A bit sad I have to say, because the bus didn’t leave until 03.15 in the morning.

I brought my camera with me to try and shoot as much as possible. Shooting music and concerts is a bit different, especially indoor since the light is very unpredictable. Just because of that, I wanted to experiment as much as possible in a place where it was actually ok to bring your camera. It turned out to be challenging but rewarding.

The meaning of Life

 

I am in New York.

Walking the streets, arriving at the southern tip of Manhattan and step right off. I step of solid ground and fall straight down into the water.
The crystal clear water embrace me, I can see far off into the distance. The steep beachline next to me, going far down into the depth of the ocean and I start grasping for something to hold on to.
But the sand is not solid enough. It can’t hold my weight. When I grasp for it, it slips through my fingers. Leaving me floating in the water.
I start to panic but realize that my search for security will not work.

I let go.

Give up.

I start sinking to the bottom, moving out, away from the shoreline. I realize that this is it. Nothing within me try to resist it, nothing keep the fight for survival up.
And just when I’m starting to run out of oxygen, I wake up.

I wake up, get up from bed and start my morning routine. I make my bed, get in the shower. I get dressed and make my breakfast smoothie. I sit down for a thirty minute meditation. Drink my smoothie. Brush my teeth, pack my lunch. Put my jacket on and leave for work.
The entire morning at home, the hours at work, when I brush my teeth, meditate or write e-mails to my customers. When I talk to my co-workers or listen to my new favourite music, Mogwai, it is there.

The feeling of having died.

I can’t say what would have happened if it was real. Had my instinct to live made me struggle for survival? Had the reflex kicked in to do whatever it takes to keep on going to the extent that nothing else would have been left in my conciousness?
I can only answer that if it would happen.

But what I think about those long, long hours is the meaning of it all. What is really the point in living?
And before I go further into this, I just want to make clear that I have never had the thought of ending my life, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I can’t find any kind of meaning in life.

People always speak about the meaning of things. The cause of it. That we must find something meaningful to do, find what meaning is for ourselves. Ask what the meaning of life is. When I read the blog post on Elixir (swedish only), I get inspired to think more about this. But I can still not find a reason.

Life do not have meaning. Life is completely meaningless. All the reasons we can find is the ones we have created, made up.

Because, there is no reason or cause for the tree to grow. No reasons to get up in the morning. No reason that we have a job or that the sun is shining.

Trees grow because trees grow. That is the reason. It’s only cause. I get up in the morning because I get up in the morning. I work because I work. End of story. And as the philosopher Alan Watts once said, just like an apple tree apples, the world we live in peoples.
We can say we work to survive. But that is really the meaning of surviving? Why should that be so important? And if it isn’t important to survive, work has no meaning. At least not one we can prove. That is why we can look at animals and wonder what purpose they serve. Feel that it must be extremely boring to be a cow and stand on a meadow eating grass all day. But it is really only boring for someone who try to find purpose, looking for some fun. The cow does not have those concepts, it just do what it does until it doesn’t.

Why is it not enough to say that we work because we work. And that we will continue to do so until we no longer don’t. Then, we’ll do something else, or nothing at all.

It might sound horrible. Too much. Depressing. But when everything is meaningless, I feel a strange kind of freedom.

Meaninglessness is suddenly very meaningful.

 

The dog days are over

 

I’m sitting on a train again. And I will not make myself short. I’m bad at it. To limit the amount of words I use.

Sometimes I think that I should write something fast and do it more often. But when I sit down to write, it just starts pouring out. Just like that.

But it’s not only because I have a problem limiting myself that I write long posts. I think there is a point in doing so too.

More and more we do things quickly, our attention span sucks. Everything is consumed fast, only touched on the surface. Ten easy steps to do this and that, speed cooking. Short Youtube videos, newspapers made for commuters. Quality time with our kids.

We belong to a generation that has forgotten how to wait. Who hardly knows what it means to go deep or spend years and years mastering something. We change jobs quickly, multitask, work less hours but do it twice as fast.

Of course there is positive things about that, but I believe real satisfaction  is to be found in the depth of things.

I like tv-series better than movies because you can get to know the characters better. I usually prefer books to movies because you get a more thorough description of things. I rather hang out with a few people for many hours than grab a quick lunch. I rather read a blog in a specific subject than read a newspaper. Food gets better the longer it cooks. Slowly prepared.

I believe kids feel better if you spend a lot of time with them instead of running around from activity to activity. I rather have five close friends than a hundred aquantancies.

Quality time means to do a specific, chosen activity together. And that’s great. But I think it is incorrect to call it quality time. Quality for me is rather to spend hours and hours together just by being in the same room. Not doing anything particular.

But to be able to do this, we need to create the time and space for it. If we always make plans, always doing something, we never have the time to create real quality.

I believe it to be valuable to own less, get rid of things. That life because better when it is simple.

I believe even more to create space in our lives, to cut out activities, focus on less things and do it longer.

But I believe the most on clearing out our mental clutter. Let go of old ideas, habits. Allow ourselves to not have so many opinions. Not set so many goals, always thinking about where we are going.

The paradox is that I feel more inline with myself than ever before. I carry less mental baggage and at the same time have never before in my life been so active and productive.

You would think I’m really tired when I get home at night, but I have an endless amount of energy. It’s like I could take on anything.

It is like waking up after a very long winter, having been dead and suddenly being reborn, ready and willing to take on life and explore it with the curiosity and enthusiasm of a child.

I am compelled to live a simple life. Straight and honest. Not entangle myself in problems and negative thoughts, just turn my back on those things and move on. As if there was no problems in this world at all.

Spring is here. The dog days are over.

 

In Rainbows

Have you ever considered how we find out new things we like sometimes?

 

Like with music for instance.

Sometimes you hear a name of an artist or a band millions of times. But you never listen to them.

My ex-girldfriend said to me years ago, that I should listen to Radiohead, that they were my kind of music, yet, despite having already heard their most famous songs Creep and Karma Police, I had never really cared about listening to them.

It would take me several years more, until the realease of their latest album In Rainbows 2007 before I gave them a proper try. By then they hade been one of the greatest alternative rockbands for over ten years.

 

With In Rainbows they tried something new, you could download the album from their website and choose yourself how much you wanted to pay for it.

I chose 0kr and downloaded the album.

 

The winter of 2007-2008 came to be a time I will most likely always remember.

Grey seats on the 06.23 train every morning to work. To step out on the empty silent city streets outside my house, long before people go to work. To imagine how many books and movies you can consume when you commute three hours a day and then realize that those pitch dark mornings would instead be about In Rainbows and gazing out the window on a winter landscape, a country in hibernation.

 

Inevitably my thoughts turn to that period in my life when I hear that album. Remembering the new, to be in motion, giving up the old.

I remember that period in time, but it feels more like it happened to someone else, because I can no longer relate to a person with such bad taste in music, always resisting change or that which is different. Sometimes I think about what would have been if I had discovered all these things back then, fifteen years earlier like so many people. What would my life have looked like today then?

 

That person seem so distant from now that it can’t have been me at all. It wasn’t.

 

It was just a dream.

 

That’s how things work. We hear about things so many times before we actually check it out and sometimes you hear a word once and you are stuck.

 

Sometimes, our lives make a very sudden turn.

 

We are so proud of our values, our interests and our taste, but really, they are just like those words that hover around our lives and suddenly stick to us. I don’t think anyone can tell how that happens or why at a certain time. So all these things we think and feel is just a consequence of our history, our experiences and what we have learnt and how all these things mixed together react in relation to our current situation.

And all those things showed up just like that too.

 

Free wil is therefore an illusion, but since we have no clue what is going to happen in the future, how we will react to what happen, we have to live our lives as if free will really did exist.

To live with the idea that I chose to listen to In Rainbows, when in reality it just happened a day like this.

 

Sitting on a train going forward.

 

Forward towards another thing I think I have chosen.

Cocktails Galore! and the art of doing it your way.

This friday, I invited a bunch of people over för a cocktail party, and I was pleasantly surprised when fifteen people showed up, mixing cocktails until early morning. In any case, it turned out to be a success, even though I was not sure about that anymore the day after.

Earlier during the day I got a message by a friend, saying she wouldn’t show up. That was sad, of course, but what was different about it, was her honesty, that she didn’t have a “good” excuse not to come, except that she didn’t feel like it.

Isn’t it weird really that we must make up excuses so that we can do what we feel like.

Maybe it is a Swedish thing, that the social pressure is so strong that you have to go if someone invites you. So strong that people make up lies just to get out of it.
I think everyone has done it sometime in life. Told people we are sick, already promised to go somewhere else, broken a leg or just a vague, “I’m already busy”.
Or, even worse, how many times have we not gone to events where we don’t even want to be? Some obscure relatives party, someone we would rather not be in the same room as, the christmas party at work, dinner with the in-laws. And, taking the risk of never getting invited again, I have never understood christenings. Why people want them, or why people want to go to them. It’s not like the babies care, and I don’t need an excuse to eat cake.
If you like these events, sure, it can be nice, but why would you otherwise feel obligated to go?

Instead of just saying. “Hey, I’m not coming”. And leave it at that.

The fact is that sometimes we want to go, but not that day. Maybe we just don’t feel like it. Sometimes it might not be your thing. Sometimes all we want is to sit at home, watching tv in our underwear, not feeling guilty and then having to make up an excuse the next time we meet why we didn’t come.

Even though I wanted my friend to come to my party, her honesty felt great. Because when we are honest, when we are ok with disappointing others. We also give them the freedom to choose themselves. Then maybe they won’t even be disappointed.

Then, maybe, we can have a relationship without expectations and force.

And those kind of relationships, are always a lot better.

So, although it is hard to fully let go of life long conditioning, I think it’s worth the time and effort to notice the expectations and hidden demands we put upon others. Maybe give each other a little bit more space to choose for themselves how they want to spend their time today.

Downsizing

This week I have been full of energy. I feel calm, relaxed and present.
Who know where it comes from, but the feeling of disharmony in my life just disappeared. When it disappeared, something else came forward.

An inner determination. Motivation. Inspiration.

A voice that say that if you want to do something. You have to do it Now.

Gradually a longing for simplicity and focus has grown inside. All by itself. There is so much I want to do and I feel that it is no longer possible to procrastrinate. What has been has been. Now I have to do what I an in my new everyday life.
That means to let go of all distractions, bad habits and activities that does not really give me anything.

It is easy to find time to write, photography and contemplation when you are travelling and have all the time in the world. When I’m working and have responsibilities I have to make that time if I want it.
We do not need disciplin or willpower. What we need is to find out what we really want. The rest will take care of itself.

Simplicity does not mean single-minded.

During the weekend I cleared out my apartment. The wardrobes, the kitchen. Did laundry. Spent the time with friends who knows how to do nothing. That doesn’t look to others for entertainment.

Sunday evening life was simpler. It was me and Cow-Jesus.

A pen moving with inspiration.

A book that started to take form.

The last few weeks…

The last few weeks has been tougher than I like to admit.

To come home has been wonderful in so many ways, but also a battle with old enemies. A battle for my attention.

I have tried to put my finger on what is wrong here and with all my capacity try to  solve it once and for all. I look for security, confirmation and garantuees. A desire to concretisize what I have, put it in boxes, label it and lock it up in a safe, where I have the key, control.

Maybe this happen because of my confusion, my feeling of having no solid ground to stand on in my old world, or maybe it is because of us living in a society that keep on promising that which it can never fulfill. We are constantly bombarded by advertising that tell us to never settle. To never be content.

The more we focus on what we don’t have, what we are lacking, what we can have, the more the contrast increases, the distance to where we are standing right now.
The eternal dream that soon we will be happy. Always soon. To loose weight, get a new job, find satisfaction. Buy this, do that, think like this. Write a policy, organize life, live by principles.

The society we live in is sick. I have willingly been it’s patient.

But we must reach a point were we have had enough.

To stop.

Realize that we can never cure our existential conflicts with even more medication, because it was the side effects of the same medication that made us sick to begin with.

Realize that no matter how much we try, our mind will always use everything we say and do as a strategy to try to get what we think we want, what we think we need.

Our attempts to find a solution, our longing for security and confirmation, our obsession to find an answer, our striving and ambitions takes on a life on their own and start to reproduce themselves in a neverending loop we can never escape.

If the suit we are wearing is too tight, what we need is not more of them, but to take it off. Or maybe get a larger size.

Now, I’m leaving what has been behind me.
Every moment is a fresh start, an oppurtunity to communicate who we are not by words but by just being who we are. Because our words have nothing to do with our actions.

And I have used too many words.

No matter what I have said. No matter what I have done. No matter who I thought I was. No matter who I thought I would be. It’s enough.
I have straightened my back. Lost my past and I see no future.

The only thing I know for sure, is that I exist. Everything else is a castle made of air. And talking about castles of air is meaningless.

My photos

During ten months I shot 9978 photos. Out of all those I have saved 1751. Most of them are not very interesting or worth looking at for other people than myself, but out of them I have picked 45 photos that I especially like.

Today I put up a small exhibition with 23 of those photos at work. They will be hanging there for everyone to see them for at least a few weeks. To be honest it feels both great to see your own photos cover the walls of a room and strange to put my own stuff up for others to look at.
The feedback has been very positive so far, my manager told me to change my career (does she want me to leave?), but also a bit embarassing, recieving compliments from left and right.

Unfortunately not everyone can come by my office to watch the photos in big print, but if you come by my place after the exhibition at least some of them will cover my walls.
If that is not possible at all you can watch a slideshow of them on Flickr by clicking this link: Slideshow

You are more than welcome to buy prints of my photos. I will make sure they are printed and mailed in protective packaging in a standardized format to fit regular frames in whatever country you live in. I think I will be able to find an online print company that makes good quality stuff in each country needed so that I don’t have to ship them from Sweden.

Price and format in centimeter are:

40x50cm and 50x70cm – 600kr/US$80/€60
70x100cm – 900kr/US$120/€90

I’ll make sure that the prints are standardized to your country when printed.

So just let me know if you are interested or even if you are not, I would be happy if you want to share the link to this post on facebook, twitter or by e-mail to your friends. :D

The 23 I put up at work you can see below, the rest shows up here tomorrow.