Find myself thinking about human relations today. Not because I hate the xmas season, which I do. But because solitude seems to glue some aspects of society in some pretty weird ways. Take for example a man I saw today while I had to wait for my departure train to arrive on its tracks. This man was like any ordinary Swede except until he sat down on one of the benches used for waiting. He started knitting a a solid color sock out of the blue much to the quiet surprise of the few of us who dissimulated not to be in utter shock to see a fully bearded man quietly go about knitting as if the very act did not defy conventional rules of society as to what a fully bearded man ought to do in public and in a train station with people, who, luck would have it, were headed elsewhere. Not that the whole unwanted scene seem less pleasant to endure.
As an immigrant to Sweden I find it pleasantly amusing to still be surprised and taken aback as to how little I’ve changed when it comes to my own conventions and rules. For example, while seeing men in pink shirts doesn’t cause existential issues in me anymore the very idea of a half bald and fully bearded man knitting clearly still shocks the foundations of what I think a man ought to be. Oddly enough I think I was not alone when I dissimulated not to be in shock at the sight. Though it surely did rock our foundations whether one was Swede or not. I can be sure of the last statement because I was in the bible belt of Sweden when it ocurred. Small town Sweden, four churches and all for its 900 peeps. We, as in I can’t even imagine the intentions of the bearded guy knitting a sock and then even having the gull to measure the half knitted sock right in front of us, as if he was in his house by a fireplace all by himself. Surely there must’ve have been an intent to shake foundations, surely the right to claim public space as one’s for acts that defy the very ens of a society’s core values when it comes to gender must of induced the bearded lad to commit in soul and body to knit before us. Or so I guess. Hence the We.
I sat to read a book to let the time pass by as the knitter faded into an unexpected yet forced normalcy. This display of bravado, or so I imagine my rebellion, was to flash my book, which I think everyone knew was an old volume by August Strindberg. Fjärdingen och Svartbäcken (1877). The volume has no blurb which goes to tell it is of the late 18th century. People then had to find out through other means their blurbs but suffice to say they are writings of Strindberg from his youth. In fact this is the second author from the past several weeks which have nourished my soul,or quenched its thirst for youthful insights, bearing relation to the last millennium. The other one was Octavio Paz and his Primeras Letras (1931-1943). These writer’s letters have somehow given a new breath of fresh air to my being. Curiously, both dealt with solitude which would seem a modern malaise in our society and moreso these days when boredom is treated more like a disease rather than a natural state of human kind. Go figure kids going about in groups bored to death with each other making phone calls or sms:ing to other buddies equally bored as they are with the own group. As if a tight knit company did not suffice. All in all we hate sequestration except that everyday boredom (as opposed to here-and-now) then brought insight and created stuff we here in this century can ponder upon so as to realize how much in common we had though space and time separate us from one another.
Whereas Paz explores the solitude of the Mexican in mass, Strindberg focuses on the pettiness and solitude by choice of the individual Swede. Strindberg’s characters in Fjärdingen give an accurate description of loneliness and poverty so keen and painfully real they transcend time because, in effect, they describe how the Swede hasn’t change in its manners in the last 100 years or so. Same with Paz and his description of the solitude that the Mexican embraces. Both books deal with student life as it was and the examination of their peers. Acute eye and observation; reflection old style.
I had to pee.
So I decided to buy bottled water, a piece of chocolate which I deluded my mind to believe I would eat in small size bite amounts until I reached Gothemburg. It’s a little game I play with my mind to show intent of mind control and discipline when it comes to food and drink. I simple do believe that I can actually do as I think. Alas! I took a bite and a few minutes thereafter the wrapper landed nicely and securely in the garbage bag under the table in my seating area. I also bought a newspaper called Svenska Dagbladet, morning edtion of the 23rd of December 2013 which I intend to leave in Rome, because, oh yes, am on my way to Rome, Italy, as I write this. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to accomplish at least that feat because I do love doing that sort of stuff when I travel. Somehow I love that, leave pieces of Swedish culture in other countries. I always imagined that other people might wonder about it or that Swedish people might find them and cause a minor surprise of sorts in their minds and faces. I read it and most memorable was to read the yearly chronicle of solitude in Sweden right about this xmas season and how the ink of the newspaper caused a minor panic in me because, frankly, reading newspapers and feeling the ink on the tip of my fingers is an event that seldom occurs these days, indeed far and between. I got a few gold nuggets from the reading, nice article by Anna Asker which gave me a few new and sharpened insights as I related in awe to what the person described as the terrible angst caused by the Christmas season in people who are (destitute and alone) single. What struck me the most is an observation that nailed what I had known but lacked a word for it because it is so true to the behavior that the interviewed described and that I lacked a term for: she called it, in Swedish, kärnfamiljfundamentalism. Which translates to nuclear family fundamentalism. Hence why am running away to Rome. To skip that shit and crap because I too am destitute and alone, be that as it may be, I can’t muster the loneliness of the Swedish Christmas because frankly, it’s goddamn awful in all its myriad forms. Most in its family gore to force a picture of family that am sure doesn’t even comprise a 10% of the population.
How can we be a normal nuclear family as specified by the Christmas spirit? Aren’t we far from it?
Enter Fumio from The River Ki by Sawako Ariyoshi. A rebel as told by third persons. A youth whose childhood exploits and academic interests surpass the present and future in every fashion. Yet she must obey conventions and give in to the norms of her era for legacy to remain. A misunderstood kid whose few laughters are retributed in pain. I am Fumio too.