Driving in LA

IMG_1680 trafikklysYou will not be able to drive in LA, it’s the craziest traffic, our friends in the Midwest told us, just as we were going to move to California.

I believed them. The first week I got my CA drivers license. Did I go anywhere? Hardly. Half a mile for groceries doesn’t count does it?

The first month I gradually drove further afield. All the way staying away from the highway, taking the very scenic route for everything.

Then one morning I was going to the doctor’s office, and I could not find it. I drove in circles, the GPS insisted I was close by, I was getting late, and suddenly I was on my way onto the highway. I stopped.

Then a police officer on a motorbike drove up on my left side. He stopped too, leaned over, and said, very quietly :You may go now….

And I did. I still did not go into LA though.

Until the last week of our stay. My husband was driving down to have  his Harley shipped and I took the car to pick him up. And suddenly I was driving alone in LA. The tarmac was just like any other paving. The signs were the same as the rest of the state, the cars behaved like cars all over the world. The sun was shining, I had the top down, and I was driving through LA. I even arrived at the shipping company way before my husband did.

I keep telling myself that story. Never let others define what you can do or not. At least give it a try! And I’ll let you in on a secret, a lot of others were driving in LA, and they do it every day….

Now, when a whisper tell me it can’t be done, at least not by me, I get my LA cup, have a sip of coffee and just go for it. You can see me on the cup can’t you!

IMG_7579 LA cup

The unplugged voice

P1020880 bottlepostWow, it looks like a message in a bottle! And it was! We opened it carefully, used all our ingenuity to get it out of its container. Put it to dry on a paper towel, and waited eagerly to read the message. As it was, two young people had met, were sitting together in their car at the beach, and wanted to communicate how special it all was to the world. Facebook was not enough.The bottle was washed ashore in the first tide, just some miles from where they had been.

Let's go into the world!

Let’s go into the world!

It is still like that, and I think it will always be; the touch, the feel, the interaction between people needs to be present in the material world to be felt as significant. Even our social media, is social only as long as we know there are people out there. I do know when I have been to long at my computer because I get restless from lack of fresh air, but I never tire of hearing other people’s reflections on life, their stories, their joys. to me it not a question of plugged or unplugged, it is all about life.

Two in one, time for thought and a garden!

Two in one, time for thought and a garden!

I just looked through some of my pictures when writing this post, and I realized that I always do the same, writing, talking, reflecting, creating, caring, taking pictures, reading, traveling.

This is more like it!

This is more like it!

Either connected or unplugged, I always look for light, beauty, joy and truth.

And then there is totally unplugged coffee time

And then there is totally unplugged coffee time

To do what works, to know what does- a daily post on learning

Life is not that easy

Life is not that easy

I am a hands on person, even the theoretical stuff has to work on some level or other for me to grasp it. So when I studied theology  I could feel my brain go all mushy when studying theories of ethics, to do what’s right? Yes.

Lloyd Schermer: An America Puzzle, 2005

Lloyd Schermer: An America Puzzle, 2005

To be able to categorize the different intellectual schools defining” how and why and if so”s? No.  Even God makes it simple,  to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it.

To me that is what life is all about, understanding this: to know what works we have to ask, not presume that I know what is best for someone else, but constantly learning, asking, being willing to think new thoughts, look for new solutions.

Greensboro Lunch Counter, Museum of American History

Greensboro Lunch Counter, Museum of American History

The irony is that when I went back to do my MBA at a business school,  ethics was suddenly interesting, necessary and important, even as an academic subject. I think the reason was just that, I was older.  I had lived, asked, wondered and been curious so that I could grasp  the existential questions behind the theory.

Now Aristotle and his ethics is my constant companion when I am working with groups of people. He insisted that the highest wisdom, phronesis, is the practical wisdom, the one we learn through doing, reflecting, sharing, to be able to repeat doing what works. Not that books and tools is not important, it is just that they alone can not be a road to happiness, still according to Aristotle.

There is an enormous energy and endless possibilities in asking people to contribute, to share their practical wisdom. There is no force stronger than  a group of people who stand together and has decided, this is our values, this is what important to us, this is what I have to stand for to respect myself, this is how we will build a better world.

Last week I walked from Union Station in Washington DC, down Constitution Avenue, to the Reflecting pool. Next week it will be 50 years since the March on Washington also followed that path. Have we learned? Yes. Are we still learning? Yes. Do we still have a long road to go till that dream is true? Yes. Is it possible? Only if we keep asking, sharing, standing together, only if we keep being willing to learn from one another.

IMG_8402 capitol

Have you eaten today? Blue pills and red pills

Come on, breakfast is ready, where is everybody?

Come on, breakfast is ready, where is everybody?

It was a late saturday evening. I was in hospital, seriously ill, and not able to eat at all. The nurses went in and out while I was more or less asleep. Hospital doors shut in their own way, they just glide silently at slow speed until they are almost closed. Then they stop, and shut in a final quick swish. Just as the door closed, this last swish brought with it a vanilla waft and a peal of laughter. Someone was baking waffles in the nurse’s kitchen, hoping for  an easy shift with time for socializing and friendship.

Trying to fool me with a blue pill are you?

Trying to fool me with a blue pill are you?

That smell brought so many memories of my grandmother’s tradition of serving waffles to everybody on saturday afternoon, of happy meals in the garden and by the fireplace. It brought longings for companionship and joy. It brought regrets for  the times I had not appreciated being with my family or taking time to share a meal with a friend. The smell of that simple and unpretentious food brought resolve to never take fellowship or sustenance as a given. To me it is not about what we eat, but eating together, sharing meals that take so long that thoughts, questions and reflections have time to arise and be dwelt upon.

I want to take part in the fun

I want to take part in the fun

I have been told that the chinese used to greet each other with ” have you eaten?”. The most important thing to know, implicating that if you had food, your day must be good. We know that many could not answer positively to that. Even today, we will find hunger, malnutrition and need very close to us. So, on the other hand, if developing pills that would take care of everybody’s need was possible, if I could eat pills so that all of us were given the chance to live, then I would do it. Until then I am happy to being able to eat. Until then, you’re welcome to sit down at my table sharing a meal.

Having a cup of coffee by the lake, come join me!

Having a cup of coffee by the lake, come join me!

Gandhi on integrity, to fight or flight

Be the change you want to see in the world

Be the change you want to see in the world

We were strolling through San Fransisco, taking photos of all the interesting skyscrapers, having a snack at Ferry building. There he was, bent, but intent on justice, humbly waving but never giving up on what he thought was right. Never fighting back, never afraid of adversaries.

My father visited San Fransisco many years ago and followed another minister on his rounds to the homeless, the desolate, the downtrodden. He warned me, you will find so much misery in that town. As our visit had a different purpose, visiting an academic conference, we were in a nice hotel, saw the sights and had wonderful meals. To us, it was so easy to look at all the homeless people not as a misery to themselves, but as a threat and a danger to ourselves. To us it was a beautiful city….on the surface. To me the constellation of Gandhi and those symbols of power and money was a reminder to be willing to raise questions, to not accept injustice, but also in all things strive for peace and nonviolence. To me, the Bible verse : blessed are the peacemakers, are the way I want to live my life. Sometimes it means not to get involved in a meaningless fight, sometimes it means to be willing to hold our ground, sometimes it means working out a compromise.

The more the merrier, a daily post on a cloned me

Old computers at Bletchley Park

Old computers at Bletchley Park

I do remember an old Duck tale story my children used to love. One of the ducks is so fed up with his duties that he constructs a robot to do his chores. The problems start when the robot self duplicates and his other selves takes over his life, until he starts to wonder which of those ducks am I? That’s the moral take of course.

The enigma

The enigma

The thing is that I already have a lot of totally obedient clones. The one who works most is happily whirling along in the laundry room and will deliver clean towels in an hour or so, thanks to her I do not have to spend my days in a cold brook swirling clothes in the stream and hauling then back. The great thing, when she is done she shuts up until needed.
I do have some stand ins too, some grow food, some spend days on the road to deliver it to me, and some take care of the food in the store until I need it. Wonderful, I can do cooking and baking for fun, knowing we will not starve if I decide not too for a day or two.
IMG_2778 hullkortThe only clone I am having trouble with is my thinking clone, this glass tablet that I spend my days fingering is luring me to think that lots of stored facts are thinking. My clone’s infinite capability of storing information and giving it back on the slightest nudge, is fooling me into thinking that I possess knowledge.

IMG_2768 kretserEven if my computer is totally non intelligent I tend to trust her more than my own mind. Perhaps we are letting the clones take over? I know for sure that the more tasks I do not perform, the more knowledge I do not possess, the more important it is to guard as a great treasure what makes me me. Is it what I do, is it what I know, is it what I remember, or is it just what I am?

The strangers that knew me – a postaday on the daily prompt

IMG_0718 seascapeI was on my way to Norway from Indiana to attend my mother’s funeral. She died quite unexpectedly while traveling, which meant there were weeks from her death to having the body back home  for burial. Weeks of intense grief and stress. During those weeks I experienced to be part of a caring society, I have told many stories of the many ways people we knew only vaguely were a great comfort. I did not know all the ways one could be a comfort to others before then, I guess that is another post.

IMG_0728 landscapeEven so, I was totally exhausted. I was traveling alone, as the boys had their finals and my husband was staying with them. Of course there were delays. In the most unorganized way, as only airports can muster, we went back and forth between the gates at Newark, not having time for eating, being lined up and then dismissed for several times. When we finally were at a promising gate, I was so tired my legs were shaking. I tried to rest against a pillar while trying not to think sad thoughts as I had no strength for crying.

IMG_0294 purpleThen from the other side of the crowd a woman came over and stood beside me. She started to talk, softly, comfortingly, not asking any questions. Turned out  she knew a wonderful person I had worked with, I got her card, and while we boarded the plane she disappeared. I never found that card again, and I my friend had never heard of her.

IMG_0697 brownThen I got to my seat, a small crowded plane and a transatlantic flight. My heart sunk as I saw who  I was to share the row with. A young couple with loads of hand luggage, guitars, bags, pillows, everything spreading into my seat too. I needed just a small private space, and it seemed that even that would be denied me. I sat down with a sigh.

IMG_2528 greenThen it was as the scene changed before my eyes. Turned out the young man was blind, and his girlfriend was also taking care of things. Before long all the paraphernalia were stowed away, they both sent me warm smiles and settled into their seats, the girl in the middle, me in the aisle seat. Then she turned towards me and had a closer look. You are cold, she said, let me get you a blanket. And she did. Put it expertly around me, turned towards her boyfriend and went to sleep. I am normally  a person who takes care of everything and everybody. It is not easy to help strangers though. Even so, when I needed it most, someone else listened to the small voice in their heart that showed them what to do  and did it.

IMG_0292 sunnyI do believe in angels, and if this was fiction I would have given this persons an added glow. They were humans though, as I am, given new possibilities every day to give a gift of comfort to a passing stranger.

IMG_2808 light

Go with the flow – the expected unexpected in a postaday post

Go away!

Go away!

My theory that life is so much better if you are just enough organized is grounded in the basic fact that life seldom is what we expect it to be.

When I am in a realistic/pessimistic/blue/ just too tired mood, I expect the worst to happen, that an unexpected call will be the police telling me of an accident or our vicar to tell of a death. It almost never is.

You are not welcome

You are not welcome

When everything is going my way and I feel happy, expectant and relaxed, I do expect callers that brings news of new-born babies, love that is found, competitions that are won and invitations that are given. Quite often it is. Most of the time unexpected calls are neither, but just interruptions. Someone wants me to buy things, do something, sign up for almost anything. Even so, the calls are made by people who do deserve that I listen and am polite.

Not today

Not today

And then to most of us life is just that. Someone will try to sell you car insurance even when you are ill in bed. Others will want to share their joy when your soul will shed only tears, as grief and sorrow will not wait at the door until we are through with our party. Of course one cannot expect and plan for all this, if you do anxiety will cripple your attempt at living.

I want you to feel like this

I want you to feel like this

Even so, knowing that the unexpected are to be expected, gives a relaxed way of living that makes room for both joy and sorrow. Even if most of my callers are expected, I want even the unexpected to feel wanted and cared for. To be organized for this is something I work on being better at.

Let us just sit down

Let us just sit down

I do it like this: I try to leave open spots in my schedule so that I always have a real possibility of taking some time off for the unexpected call, even if it is not the catastrophic sort who forces everything else away.

I normally have something nice to eat in the freezer, either to add to our meal or to make a new meal when guests show up unexpectedly.

I try to keep my house in order, not only for guests, but so as not to waste time running in circles when I really need to respond to something.

The more the merrier

The more the merrier

Most of all, I sit down. I used to be so happy when the cordless phones came, which meant I could keep on doing whatever I thought was important when somebody called. I thought the caller could not feel my resentment  for being interrupted. I surely was so preoccupied with trying to do things when listening that I completely missed the blessing of walking a part of the road   with a fellow human being. I did not stop doing that until my son answered the phone the first time. As soon as he had said hello he rushed to the window and started to deadhead the potted plants, then he tried to water them all the time listening to his grandmother. Afterwards I asked him why he did that. That’s what you do, he said. As soon as the phone rings you start to run about, you never do that when people are visiting!

Who were that on the phone I said, I do not know he said, looking puzzled. To him the phone was the signal for rushing, not for relating.

Who was that?

Who was that?

I am not an angel, most of my friends or people that call me are not either, I think. I like to think of the verse in the Bible who says we should not forget to show hospitality as we could be hosting angels (Hebrews 13:2). That would certainly be unexpected, but if even that is what should be expected, I think I’ll just go with the flow, receive whoever is calling, and expect some surprises.

You are very welcome! See you! You are always expected!

Why do the birds sing? Or a postaday answer to Why do you blog?

Blogging is reflection

Blogging is reflection

Carl Barks has this legendary story about why birds sing. His character Gyro Gearloose starts an experiment with a bird and three theories:

May be it is sad, maybe it is happy, maybe it just sings?

IMG_1120 sandpiper

What would the sandpiper tell us?

After having trapped the bird, in the ordinary way ( you did know how to do that did you not? By sprinkling salt on its tail of course!) he questions it by wiring it’s head. The answer is : May be I am sad, may be I am happy, may be I just sing.

Perhaps I am sad

Perhaps I am sad

Just like with blogging. The thing is the communication, to share into the world regardless of who is listening. Which to me is what being a human being is all about, to communicate, to share and to learn from another. Whether I am sad, whether I am happy, whether I just want to sing.

Perhaps I am happy

Perhaps I am happy

The beauty of it, both in talking and writing, is that by arranging my words and sorting through my mind, I get closer to understand  why I am singing just now. The best part of it is to grow wiser both by knowing myself and by listening to the thoughts of others. Blogging is like a big campfire, where there always is a new story to listen to, new wisdom to take part in and a new song to join.

IMG_0352 sharing joy

And then again, sometimes I just want to sing.

Done is dead – a daily prompt on imperfection

Quite imperfectly perfect

Quite imperfectly perfect

There was a time, when I was young, that I could read the 13th chapter of Corinthians, the one about love endures everything, and think: I will find that love.

There came a later time, when I was older and thought: If I show perfect love, I will be given perfect love in return.

There came an even later time, when I read the whole chapter, and saw that Paul was telling a story about maturing and understanding what life and love is all about.

Who lived here, what would they tell?

Who lived here, what would they tell?

He says that love will never end, and then that we understand in bits and pieces.When I was a child, he says, I thought as a child ,I understood what  a child may understand. But now, as I am grown, I see that I see everything as pieces, as glimpses in a clouded mirror.

Not quite clearly

Not quite clearly

And then he goes on to say that love is still  the greatest. He relates to the love and complete understanding God has for each of us. While doing so he tells me, it is OK not to be perfect. To be grown is to know that we see different pieces of the puzzle of life. To love is to live that truth, tell me what you see from where you’re at!  I’ll tell you what I see, together we see more, but still pieces, still through a glass darkly.

Then I read Aristotle,the book where he tells his son Nichomachus, about what’s most important in life. One swallow makes no summer, he sais. To us it is a proverb telling us not to be too optimistic, thinking spring is here. To him it was a profound truth, the truth about the deepest wisdom, what he called phronesis, or the practical wisdom.

IMG_2850 dark trees

The true meaning of life, the essential ethical question, he tells me is: What can I do, to contribute to  “the good life ” for everyone? Anyone can learn things through reading or doing, he continues. To be wise, to know what to do in a given situation, to use the phronesis needed to create this good life, we need to reflect. Every situation will teach us something that could be better, every new person we meet is a potential source of reflection, a way of knowing more.

OK, close to perfect...

OK, close to perfect…

Every time we do contribute in a good way, every time we know what to do, our deed is a swallow, a token of a summer to come. To grow and to mature, to come closer to the good life, takes reflection on practise and reflection in practise. It will never be complete though, only when our life is over, is it possible to judge if it was a good life, still according to Aristotle.

A room for reflection

A room for reflection

Then I remembered what we were thought in physics in high school, the law of reflection. The angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence. Perhaps that’s true for mental reflection too? It is not very complicated, it is not a challenge, it has nothing to do with brain power, and it has nothing to do with perfection. For every angle there is another picture, from every soul there is another thing to see, as we all see what we see from where we stand.

In bits and pieces

In bits and pieces

The greatest puzzle of them all, never perfect, still imperfect, life and love. So what do I cherish about imperfection? The fact that imperfect means not quite done yet, which means I got my whole life to collect and gather wisdom. Every day to live this truth, that in the middle of imperfection we get to create the good life for each other.

Never perfect, still working on that....still alive!

Never perfect, still working on that….still alive!