My dearest friend,
It’s been a while since I saw you last. Needless to say I still miss your smile instinctively telling me everything is exactly how it’s supposed to be, and of course your thoughts. Right now I’m writing to you from Slovenia. I traveled here after an invitation, so I am a guest for the weekend. Left my own rainy city to arrive in sunny Munich some days ago. On the train to Kranj I met the first of many young people, all from different places in Europe with such different backgrounds. When we arrived here on Friday we drove directly up to the mountains, to Jezersko.
«Tradition» is the theme of this particular gathering organized by the thinktank group “Arbeit an Europa”. During this weekend we have been discussing the theme in various ways in a European context, one was about «Tradition in Europe´s intangible cultural heritage». Whether or not to help keeping traditions alive were in focus at the end of this discussion; many asked the question if preserving dying traditions would be rather artificial, like blowing life into something that’s dying naturally out… or could it be that its different times now; that we need to aid dying traditions amongst other considering these days lack of transferring knowledge. Another one was about «Law as tradition», which proved itself to be a challenging topic. Our times of globalization raises a lot of conflict between the (national) law and peoples traditions. As we know it can for instance affect a person’s daily life if the court concludes on the opposite of the individuals tradition. With vaster changes in our climate maybe we will be challenged even more in this area in the future. We also touched upon if traditions could be in the way of progress.
It was interesting to be present in these discussions; it struck me how different the participants are and at the same time how good they are at continuing discussing even when disagreeing. Maybe this is a strength of our generation ? To not leave the table when things get hard. However, the problem could be to get us to the table in the first place. In any case I think it’s a privilege that we are able to take our time to discuss from a birds perspective, to see what we „find on the way“, dive down into detail´s – the past- if needed and to make a path as we go along. This reminds me a little of an old, “traditional” fairytale character we have back home in Norway; «Askeladden». Remember him ?
Askeladden had no plan like his older brothers. His brothers always had a clear goal, which often was to win the Princess and half of the kingdom. Askeladden got into challenging situations in different fairytales but was never afraid to face them; in one particular fairytale he creatively managed to use the «trash» he found on his way, when he met the Princess (who was known to be very challenging). In the end he was the one who won the Princess and half of the kingdom. In general, these fairytales of Askeladden illustrates among others that the road – and to use your time on the road – can be just as important as the destination itself.
Anyway, this weekend illustrated that tradition really is harder to talk about than one would think; it’s almost like the term itself slips away if you try to talk about it too much. It behaves almost like it’s a circle-argument, and you kind of end up meeting yourself in the door somehow,- in every discussion. One person suddenly said after a couple of days; «All these questions, and no answers». Could the fact that there are no answers, be an answer in itself ? I now wonder if tradition is such an authentic matter that perhaps it’s not to be discussed in our „constructed“ ways; that it’s only here to exist somehow, like nature.. that it works through us first of all and survives through generations if it’s supposed to. Or maybe tradition´s can’t be lost,- that it goes „to sleep“ a little and is possible to find again ? Or maybe we are the ones who are sleeping ?
Apropos sleeping; I sleep like a stone here at night. Could it be the cold mountain air with its familiar wooden smell from my childhood which makes me relax at night? Have to tell you that it’s a lovely house we are staying in. Do you remember those days, before all these white walls and the standard furniture,.. when homes had individuality? You should see the alps rising mighty in the distance. They are set in a beautiful light, by the sun at day and the full moon at night. The snow that covers them makes a magnificent reflection in both lights. J´adore !
So, you understand that the latter was the perfect background scene for the dinner on our first night, where we got to hear a speech from the former Prime minister of Slovenia, Mr. Alojz Peterle. He spoke about how he at first did not want to become the Prime minister, but his party won the election so he had to. At that moment I remembered a sentence that someone recently told me; „a leader who does not want to become a leader, will be a good leader„.
Mr. Peterle told us among others about his work as a politician in Europe. What is less known perhaps, is that he took care of a goat when he was little. Further, how he later had to argue for having only one goat when someone couldn´t understand why he did not have five hundred or at least one hundred goats. (To have only one was apparently not common you see); „That’s what we had„, he would reply. Yes, that’s what he had – one goat and his harmonica – and later he became the Prime minister. How beautiful is that ? It doesn’t matter if you have one goat or five hundred. If you are here it’s enough foundation to develop.
In his speech Mr. Peterle underlined how he thinks we now are living in “fluid times”. That it’s more difficult for us to see now compared to earlier. Looking at us in this bigger picture; what do you think we have today ? Can you see it from where you are? I’m not quite sure if we know what we have anymore.. It’s a feeling that might be best expressed with the saying; „you don’t know what you have until you lose it.„
After the internal conferences there was a public debate. Three young politicians from Slovenia were interviewed. When they spoke they seemed older to me – like they carry wisdom and energy they have yet to use. During the interview session it became clear to me that the young generation of Slovenia badly wants to build their country further, and I learned that they definitely have the people & mind craft to do so. The problem seems to be that no one takes them seriously. Therefore many minds that should have stayed in the country – leaves for better opportunities. They expressed that it’s consequently hard to develop further, and it’s also hard to continue to engage themselves due to all of this.
However, they know -just like you and me – that you can‘t blame others for how life is at the end of the day. A country can‘t do such a thing either I guess. Well sure, for some time it’s necessary to „lick the wounds“, but then one needs to make a choice at some point; then it’s up to yourself how to proceed. The young Slovenians said that they will continue to work. Hopefully they will be heard soon so they can use their energy where it’s needed, to participate in the responsibility that still awaits.
It was such a strange meeting in a way, like two different worlds meeting. We who are from more stable countries economically,.. there we were meeting someone who just got their country economically stable,- but who is afraid that the leadership don`t see the obvious rocks in the water.. and this ship is apparently heading straight towards these rocks with full speed as we speak. If so, I do hope they somehow will be able turn their ship away from setbacks, and rather set full speed for building their future.
What about the «comfortable» rest of us? Where are our ships sailing ? Are there rocks for us as well under that apparent clear surface? Can we even recognize rocks when they appear in the horizon ?We had a guided tour in Kranj Sunday afternoon. In the tunnels under the city, which was built during the Second World War, we tried a simulator that simulated an air strike. Even though I knew it was just a simulation, I got cold inside when the alarming sound took completely over this small, dark room. Then the benches started to shake…. any previous laughter and small talk from the group died out immediately. In this moment you could only imagine the power, this massive force that would not hesitate to destroy… And we were under the ground, we would have been the lucky ones. My thoughts wandered to all those people who actually lost their lives through centuries of war above ground.
Sometimes it almost feels like there`s a veil, a certain fog.. that silently seems to appear in the distance, could it lead us somewhere that would be unknown to us ? Somewhere there are different rocks than what we have seen before ?Who knows. I just know that to go hiking for a long time in the fog would demand a compass in order to survive. And I can`t help to think that – just like in that simulator – our speech and our laughter can quickly be silenced.
One night, when we danced in the moonlight with those mighty alps reflecting in the lake beneath us .. I could feel that this was real, a good thing. Nothing more – nothing less, just being close to nature and celebrating life. When our forefathers lived they danced too, under the exact same moon. They celebrated life and honored the different seasons. Made life durable together, thought the same thoughts as today and tried to find a meaning to all of this- while at the same time they looked ahead and built for the future.
You know, the full moon was supposedly closer to earth this weekend. I heard on the news that the combination is making the tide stronger, the sea is going to rise back home soon. I would like to think that perhaps – in some magical way – this weekend helped to accelerate the momentum that these young skilled Slovenians seek.
I’m ending this rather lengthy letter on the night train back to Munich… feels like I’m reluctantly pressing “play” again on the route back to everyday life. Well, this weekend has been something else. It has reminded me of many things and filled me with new questions and ideas. Actually, I think that it’s also given me more hope for the future; listening to all these young people’s thoughts and reflections and not to mention their great humor.
I want to give you a small poem in the end. Look at it as a thank you for all your poems, or when you hummed your tunes so they vibrated into the evening air and all the way into my dreams. You saw everyone & everything. Taught me that nature has the most powerful sound that exists; silence. What a gift. I will never forget.
Circle of life
I can see your hidden smile
in your worried appearance
wanting to do your best.
At the station tonight
when you opened the door.
In the sound of that distant bell.
Can almost hear them
underneath this ground.
The whispers from those who built
who died, so we can choose today.
And buried in your eyes there’s sunlight
hope shining through present confusion.
Sometimes this heart bleeds for us all.
It’s hard to make life listen if we run away.
Do you think we had it all the time ?
Maybe we need to take a deep breath,
fill our lungs with new life
lift our eyes to the stars again.
Will you dance with me in the moonlight ?
Dance into our ties to the past and back again,
find the way to the future together ?
Sail towards another, better time
where we see & accept our reflection for what it is.
A time when truth prevails.
Dance towards a time where nature finally let us in…
Keep on dancing my friend & good night.
Jezersko & Kranj, January 2020
Photos by: Arbeit an Europa
Brynhild Blikra was born in 1985 in the west coast of Norway. She studied law in Bergen, Dundee and Cergy-Pontoise. Currently she is working as an advisor.