I have lived several years on the US west coast (Oregon and California) and am very comfortable with the more mature spiritual communities I find there. They draw on decades of experience with exploring spiritual traditions and practices, and combining them with western approaches to therapy, bodywork, and healing.
In Norway, where I grew up and find myself right now, I haven’t found any communities where I feel at home in that way. And, if I am honest, not many – or perhaps any – individuals I resonate with in that way. Of course, there are many spiritual communities and even more individuals I don’t know about and haven’t yet met.
What I have found is less experience, less variety of experience, and overall less maturity. It feels a little provincial. And for good reasons, since the contemporary spiritual community in Norway is provincial. It’s not as rich or old as in some other places.
Of course, this sounds a little arrogant. But it’s also real. The US west coast is unique in this way due to its unique history (partly because of the large Asian population and the counter-culture of the 60s and 70s).
What I have found more of in Norway are people being more dogmatic about the one approach they have found and are familiar with, or people with a lose grasp on reality who seem to want to believe anything that’s weird (and the more weird the better). Again, this is perhaps to be expected since contemporary spirituality is relatively new here, and it’s perhaps also a not entirely fair description.
Whenever I write these type of posts, I am very aware that they reflect my own hangups and wounds. I am holding up a mirror to myself. I find myself in how I see the US west coast and in Norway. I have the more mature, inclusive, and innovative forms of spirituality in me, and also the less mature versions. And those projections come from beliefs, identities, and wounds that I can explore through inquiry and find some resolution for through a variety of approaches.
There is an ongoing debate in norway about whether we should have wolves or not, and how many. The fault lines – as so often these days – seem to go between the urban and/or more educated, and the rural and/or less educated.
Here are some of the arguments against wolves, and my comments.
They take livestock. They do, but they take far fewer than trains, traffic, and disease. And the farmers receive compensation from the state if any are taken.
They are a risk to humans. No, they are virtually no risk to humans. The real risks are what we all know about, including traffic, suicide, poor lifestyle and food choices, and much more.
They are evil and scary. Yes, we may culturally have learned to see them as evil and project our shadow onto them, and they may trigger fear in us. That’s no reason to get rid of them. (I suspect this is what’s really going on since the apparently rational arguments are not very strong.)
And here are some arguments for having wolves.
For the benefit of the wolves. They have as much right to be here as we do. They are sentient beings just as us and wish to live.
For the ecosystems. Our ecosystems evolved with large predators, and healthy and thriving ecosystems depend on large predators.
For our benefit. Just as ecosystems, we need the wild. We evolved with and in the wild, and with high level predators. We need it for our own health and well being. We need it as a reminder of who we are, in an evolutionary context. We need it to feel alive.
Why are people really against wolves? I suspect primal fear of wolves is one aspect. Specifically, fear of losing animals to wolves may trigger a more primal fear than losing them to illness or trains. Another may be instinctual competition. Humans and wolves are both large predators, and it’s natural to try to eliminate the competition.
In my view, the arguments against don’t hold up well. And the arguments for are far more important – for them, for us, for nature as a whole.
As usual, I can add that this view is very predictable for someone with my background. I grew up in a well educated urban family. I love nature. I want to consider the rights and needs of other beings, including nonhuman species. I am liberal in terms of politics. If I had grown up as a sheep farmer in an area with wolves, my views may well have been different. And that doesn’t mean I won’t speak up for wolves. They need someone to speak for them.
Since my teens, it’s been obvious to me that Norway needs to invest money from oil into research and development in renewable energy technology. That way, Norway has (had?) a chance to be at the forefront also in the age of renewable energy. They didn’t, and the age of oil is really already over. It’s not too late, although the current government don’t seem to be very reality based on this topic.
It’s hard for me to understand. They have the opportunity to create a graceful transition from an oil-based economy to a renewable technology one. They have the opportunity to let Norway be in the forefront of the new age of renewable energy. And they don’t. Instead, they pretend we are still in the age of oil and they miss a golden opportunity.
I read a story about possible large untapped oil reserves in the Barents sea outside of Norway. The implication is that Norway’s economy can continue to float on pumping and selling oil to the world. This is obviously a naive assumption. As someone said, the stone age didn’t end because of lack of oil, and the fossil fuel age will not end due to lack of fossil fuel. It will end because a better technology comes along, and that technology is already here and is continually being developed.
We have known that for decades, and we have also known that Norway needs to channel oil money into developing renewable technologies. With the wealth currently generated by oil money, Norway is in a unique position to be on the forefront of this field, and continue to be on the forefront of the global shift into renewable energy. And yet, that’s not what they do. Politicians, media, and people in general, still seem transfixed by a path that’s already outdated. And there is still time to make this shift.
Norway is one of the few western countries that do not allow dual (or triple) citizenship. Only a few of the smaller political parties support it, while the larger do not.
I have communicated with politicians from several of the larger parties on this topic, and am baffled by their response. Their main argument for denying dual citizenship is that people “will become less patriotic”. I am unable to see how that could be the case.
For most of my adult life, I have lived abroad, and if I could have dual citizenship the main difference would be practical. It would make many things easier for me. I cannot see how it would influence my “patriotism” or lack of it. (I can think of many other things that would influence it more, to be honest.)
My guess is that their aversion to allowing dual citizenship is more rooted in xenophobia and perhaps even racism. They don’t want to make it too easy for people from other countries become Norwegian citizens. But even that argument doesn’t make sense. If foreigners live in Norway while being citizens of other countries, they are still living and working in Norway. That won’t change.
It’s possible that I am missing something essential here, but this aversion to dual citizenship does seem irrational, illogical, and based in unquestioned tradition and perhaps emotional reasons. It does not seem to be based on a thorough examination of the situation, and what makes most sense in the world today.
In mid-May, I noticed a numbness in hands, feet, and face, and weakness in my hands. Two weeks later, I discovered a red ring on the underside of my arm, near the armpit. I went to a doctor who thought it could be Lyme disease and gave me a five day antibiotics treatment (this was in the US). The numbness went away after one day.
Two weeks later, in Norway, the symptoms returned and were much stronger. The numbness was back in my hands, feet, and face, and now also tongue and mouth (and a bit later lower arms), along with stiff neck, very strong brain fog and grogginess, and fatigue. (The initial extremely strong fatigue and brain fog could be related to jet lag, and I also have a baseline fatigue and brain fog from the CFS. Although the unusually strong grogginess remains now even after the jetlag is gone.) I also have weak grip (things slip out of my hands), and when I get up after resting I move and feel like an old man.
I had gathered that Lyme is a controversial topic in Norway. The official position seems to be that the infection itself doesn’t last very long. (If the symptoms are longer lasting, it’s something else.) Doctors who treat this “non-existing” disease in Norway risk loosing their license, and one did even last year.
When I called my regular doctor, I got an appointment the same day by the receptionist. She called back within an hour and said that when the doctor had heard why I wanted to see him, he cancelled the appointment and said I could possibly get an appointment two months later. A bright spot: Some days later, I was able to get an appointment. My doctor looked at the red ring, did some neurological tests, and agreed that Lyme is a probable diagnosis. He gave me a relatively mild two-week antibiotics treatment.
From what I understand, it’s important to treat it more thoroughly, especially early in the process, to prevent problems later on. I got the names of some doctors who may be more knowledgeable about Lyme, and contacted several of them. The pattern was the same with all of them: When they heard why I wanted to see them, they either didn’t respond or said they possibly had an appointment about two months in the future (and to call them then to set it up).
The last one I talked with was initially friendly and welcoming, and when heard why I called responded “that’s a controversial topic in Norway, I need to go now and will call you back later, goodbye”. And then didn’t respond to my later attempts at contacting him.
The essence is that it seems impossible to get quality treatment for Lyme disease in Norway. That’s why most Norwegians with Lyme disease go to Germany or Poland to see doctors there.
Several things come up for me around this:
I had expected Norwegian doctors to at least have the integrity to tell me they can’t treat me since they may loose their license if they do. Instead, they either cancel my appointment, don’t respond, or tell me to call back in two months. (Which seems irresponsible considering my symptoms,)
Since there is disagreement about Lyme internationally, I would expect the Norwegian doctors and government to take a precautionary approach. To treat any possible or likely Lyme disease thoroughly (initial four or six week antibiotics treatment + anti-cyst medication). Instead, they chose to not treat it, avoid patients who may have it, or they treat it in a minimalistic way that may make it worse in the long run.
I don’t know the politics around this, but the official policy on Lyme in Norway does seem to be influenced by politics, and perhaps arrogance and wounded egos.
I should mention that I am among the more cautious when it comes to using medication and antibiotics (also to reduce the risk of creating more antibiotic resistant strains), but in this case, the risks of leaving it untreated or wrongly treated seem serious enough so I chose to go the medical and precautionary route.
This also triggers the victim identity in me, since it comes on top of my existing struggles with CFS, and it happened just as I left the US (where I could have received proper treatment) for Norway (where I can’t).
Update: It seems there are three possibilities when people are infected by Lyme. (a) It lasts for a relatively short period of time, and then is gone, perhaps due to antibiotics treatment. (b) It can become longer lasting, due to continued infection. (c) There may be an auto-immune response which creates problems. I am sure there are other possibilities too. I haven’t read much about it yet.
Update 2, mid-July 2015: I went to Poland to see a Lyme specialist there. It turns out that he also specializes in CFS. It’s possible that there is a weakness in my system that makes me more susceptible to both CFS and Lyme. He took a good number of tests to get an idea of what’s going on, and what the best course of treatment may be. One of the main questions is why my mitochondria seem compromised, and unable to produce as much energy as they normally would. I feel a little better, partly from what he gave me, and partly from feeling I am in good hands and that someone actually takes my case seriously and may be able to do something about it.
Update 3, July 16, 2015: I had an appointment with my regular doctor in Norway (about referal to nevrologist for CFS), and he interrupted me and changed the topic as soon as I tried to give him an update about the Lyme. I still have numbness in arms, legs, and face, a stiff neck, strong headache, very strong grogginess, memory problems, diarrhea, and more, so it seems irresponsible by him to dismiss it – to the point of not even wanting to hear about it. (The symptoms are stronger some days than other, and obviously quite debilitating.)
In a poll in Norway asking “do you believe in God”, about a third answered respectively no, yes, and maybe.
I realize that the question probably makes sense to most people.
And I also wish it was more specific.
What type of God do you believe in? What’s your image of God? As transcendent? Immanent? Same as reality? Something you relate to on your own? Or through a religion? Or both?
And what does “believe” mean? Have you had direct experiences of Spirit, or God (or whatever you wish to call it)? Is it something you mostly relate to second hand? Does “belief” cover it? Or doesn’t the word “belief” apply? Is it something you are actively engaging with and exploring?
Do I believe in the official Christian image of God? Not really. There is a lot there that’s more about theology, and I see as not very insightful or important.
Do I believe in the God of Christ or Jesus? Not really. I don’t “believe” in it, but I do have a relationship to that God. I relate to something that seems very similar to what Jesus did.
Do I see God as transcendent or immanent? Yes, both.
Do I see God as equal to reality? Yes. I see God as reality, as what is. As what we explore through science, and spirituality, both. (And also art, literature, music, dance, and much more.)
Does the word “belief” cover it? Not really. I appreciate pointers and even maps, and use these sometimes to orient. Mainly, it’s something I am exploring through own experience. Through various forms of meditation, prayer, inquiry, body movements, being in relationships and nature, and more.
What would I have answered if I was asked that question? I would probably asked what they mean by the question. They would have said “no idea”, and I would have been about equally likely to say yes, no, and maybe. Yes, since all is God. No, since I don’t connect to much of the Christian theology. And maybe, since I don’t know exactly what they are asking. I am split about equally in the three answers, just like the Norwegian population.
And I know from other surveys that many or perhaps most Norwegians relate most closely to a more personal and non-denominational form of spirituality, only indirectly – if at all – related to traditional Christianity.
Since the world’s attention is on events in Norway right now, I can say a couple of things about it.
First, it’s beautiful to see when people respond with caring, love and an open heart. I spent a few hours by the main church in Oslo, where they have the sea of flowers, and soaked in and shared in that atmosphere. It’s also good to see when people respond with compassion for the one who pulled the trigger.
Then, something about terror. There is a whole set of stories I can look at here.
Update 2: He was beloved by the Norwegian people, and received a state sponsored funeral attended by the prime minister and members of the royal family. There is something beautiful – and profoundly right – in that happening for a life-centered eco-philosopher….
Since the movie about Max Manus is coming to the theaters in Norway these days, there is a resurgence of interest in the Norwegian resistance during WWII. A couple of things has puzzled me about it. One is why the communist resistance continues to largely be ignored, even after the fall of the Soviet Union and so many years after the war. The other has to do with how the Norwegian resistance is sometimes talked about, as if it had more – or different – impact than it really did. (Not that I am a historian.)
A recent essay in Aftenposten addressed the last issue and led to some controversy.
But it seems that this too doesn’t have to be so complicated.
The Norwegian resistance acted in genuinely heroic ways, giving everything – including often their lives – for a free Norway. Their existence lifted the morale and gave a sense of purpose and hope to many in Norway. And their actions did have an impact, although often local and limited.
It is also pretty clear that their activities were often no more than a nuisance to the occupying forces. Mosquito bites. Not contributing significantly to the outcome of the war. And quite often, the Nazi retaliation against civilians (executions) was predictable and maybe not justified by what the resistance achieved.
As they say in Norway, it is possible to keep two thoughts in the head at the same time. We can greatly appreciate and value their efforts and sacrifices. (If I had lived then, I hope I would have joined them.) And we can also acknowledge that their actions led to needless loss of civilians, and didn’t contribute significantly to the outcome of the war.
An episode of Pompel & Pilt, an anti-pedagogical Norwegian children’s TV series that made a big impression on one or two generations of Norwegian kids. I believe it was meant to get kids familiar with the absurdity of life, and question authority…! Worked for me, at least. Sorry about the lack of English subtitles, but it doesn’t make much more sense even if you understand Norwegian.
Pompel & Pilt are repair men, looking for something to repair, and get into uncomfortable situations with Gorgon The Janitor and some other creatures.
It would be better if Americans were less stupid. (Came up for me most recently in reading about Obama in Muslim outfit, which apparently – in the minds of some Americans – is supposed to incriminate him!)
In my exploration of new – to me – Norwegian music, I came across Hanne Hukkelberg. I like her quirky, wobbly, very sweet, slightly off-beat approach to pop music, inncent on the surface yet very sophisticated as well.
I my teens, I discovered a tea which had a profound effect on me, nourishing me deeply throughout the body and energetically. It is made by Stangeland who worked with energy medicine, and put together different teas to nurture us in the ways our modern foods and life often does not. I have used it occasionally since then, most recently right now, and am still amazed by how deeply nurturing I experience it. Especially when I feel depleted for one reason or another.
The tea can be ordered through their website, which is only in Norwegian. (But you can email.) The basic tea is called “basis te”, which I now use in combination with the chakra tea.
They recommend simmering for a couple of hours, store in the fridge, and drink half a cup two or three times a day. I cheat and make it as an infusion (which in my experience works as well, and is easier): Fill a jar with hot water and add the tea (a couple of large spoons), let it sit for a while, and store cold. I also refill once or twice with hot water to get more out of the herbs.
There is a new opera being built in Oslo, and the big discussion is whether they should have used the white marble they decided on, which is great for statues and interiors but a nightmare for exteriors, or good old Norwegian granite, which is more appropriate in terms of maintenance and because it is local.
What very few has mentioned is the obvious question: what happens when the sea levels rise? If current trends continues, and the models are even close to being accurate, the sea level will rise several meters within a few decades, and it seems clear that the building has not been designed with that in mind. The architect’s presentation above is not after a several meter sea level rise, it is before, under current conditions.
I guess they built it on the same principle as sand art: something to be enjoyed very temporarily. How post modern of them.
Racism is not only an attitude of seeing people of a certain ethnic background as inherently inferior, and then treat them accordingly. It can also be more insidious. Whenever we attribute something to someone based on their membership in a particular ethnic group, and act on it without checking if it is true, it is racism. (And if the group membership is based on sex, then sexism, or age, then ageism, and so on.)
This second form of racism has real life effects as much as the first one, which a current case in Norway is an unfortunate example of.
A black man in his thirties was knocked down in a park (he asked some guys to take it easy with their soccer playing because there were several infants in the area), fell and hit his head, was unconscious for a while, then delirious and lost control of his functions which led to wetting his pants.
When the ambulance came, they apparently thought “black man, in a park, delirious, wet his pants” so assumed “he must be drunk or high on something” and decided to not take him, to the shock and protests of everyone around (several witnesses, including his girlfriend, had stayed to wait for him to be taken to the hospital). Apparently, their trust in their own logic was so strong that information from a large number of witnesses, contradicting their flawed assumptions, did not sway their decision.
Maybe the most amazing thing is that the ambulance personnel and hospital administrators insist they did everything right, and that racism was not in the picture. And this is understandably what disturbs and upsets a large number of people right now.
If they had found a 10 year old girl in the same state, would they have sweared at her and left her there, as they did with him? Or a 70 year old nicely dressed man with his wife at his side? Or even a white man in his thirties? It seems highly unlikely.
I assume health personnel are trained in noticing symptoms of their own racism, and not let it affect their decisions and behavior in these types of situations. But something it obviously still missing, including an acknowledgment that yes, this was probably racism.
Not the blatant “niggers go home” one, but the one assuming certain things about individuals from a particular group, and not allowing contradictory information to get in the way of acting on that assumption.
We all do this, of course. We all make assumptions about individuals based on their group membership. But we can notice this, avoid blindly acting on it, and also more actively look for information to contradict these initial assumptions.
This is one of those heart wrenching stories that shows us what blindness to the shadow in ourselves, and not standing up against it when expressed in others, can bring about (there are of course many other aspects to this issue besides projections.)
We all have our ideas of what it would be good to teach and learn in schools, and a top candidate on my list – along with interpersonal skills and learning about group dynamics and facilitation – is projections. How do we recognize, and then work with, our projections, and in particular our shadow? And how do we deal with others, as individuals or groups, when they are in the grips of their shadow?
Some of the warning signs of being in the grips of the shadow are…
A strong sense of separation between I/us and you/them
Seeing us as good/right and them as wrong/evil/bad (or reversed, in unusual cases)
Strong emotions of fear or hatred, and variations of those (disgust, unease, etc.), and seeing “them” as triggering or even causing it
A certainty of being right
A dehumanization of the “other”
A lack of empathy with the “other”
An inability to recognize our common humanity, seeing in myself what I see in them, and the other way around
Reacting in a stronger way than what the situation seems to warrant (as seen by others who are not in the grips of a similar shadow)
Overgeneralizing and broadening the group of “other” to include people who rationally do not have anything to do with what triggered our fear/hatred in the first place (such as the children of German soldiers in Norway)
A fear/hatred, combined with dehumanization, which – in its extreme expression – can go to the point of wanting to eliminate the “other”, or at least make their lives miserable
We all do this of course, although rarely in its extreme form. But the difference is (a) whether we recognize what is going on or not, (b) how we express it (we always do, even when we try not to), and (c) how we work with it if at all.
I have heard people talk about working with projections in general, including through processes such as The Work, as impractical – just an interesting philosophy. Fun to explore superficially, but nothing of real value. But if it is engaged with wholeheartedly and with sincerity, there are few things as practical and impactful in our lives, and for those we are in relationship with.
It goes to the core of what it means to be human and how we live our life. It can even prevent or soften the impact of the horrors the “Nazi children” in Norway, and in other European countries, went through… and others go through daily around the world.
When we sincerely work on our shadow, it is a practical act of compassion, not only for ourselves but for others as well. It helps us act on our own shadow less blindly, and deal with it more effectively – and with more clarity – when those around us are in the grips of their own shadow.