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The Selfish Idealist


Freedom is a word that has been on everybody’s lips for decades, actually a century and more, and changes in the way of life have been going on for the better. 

But we are not completely peaceful beings, and increased freedom calls for responsible behaviour. There is violence and violent reactions to it, and increasing oppression is going on and is on its way, I believe in all countries, and right now it ought to be a time for thinking and talking rather than for rash action.

Winter morning, Oslo

Some simple facts about the Corona virus

Other things Posted on 05 Jun, 2020 01:31

One thing to remember is that a virus is not a living organism.

Some contagious diseases are caused by bacteria, which can often move by themselves and which are of course alive.

A virus is not alive. It can’t move by itself.

The corona virus is simply a piece of RNA packed into a shield of fat, so part of what makes up genes, packed in a type of fat.

You can’t kill it, a molecule is not alive, but you can destroy the fat shield, which is done with soap or alcohol, because both destroys fat. 

Afterwards it is harmless for us.

You may have, chemically speaking again, parts of the stuff still floating around in your palm afterwards, but as long as there is nothing but RNA left of it, nothing happens to us. Without the fat it is not capable of infecting us or harming us.

If you wash your hands with soap and water, in addition to destroying it chemically, of course you rinse most of the stuff off your hands down into the sink. 

Soap works at least as good as alcohol for this, but in shops etc this is of course not practical. Both soap and alcohol work well.

There are also other corona viruses than this one. This is only one type, and a new one. 

They are so called because of the shape – they all look a little similar to a crown (corona in Latin).

Each of them act differently, give us slightly or very different diseases which need different cures. 

Normally, whenever you breathe out, a little moist, small drops of water, follows the breath out into the air.

But if you breathe slowly, not really much comes out.

If you talk, sing etc, there are usually more drops coming out, and of course if you sneeze or cough, a lot more.

There are bigger drops, which normally move faster and not so far, I guess naturally, they are heavier – and there are small ones, which sometimes spread and drift away slowly like a sort of mist. 

But sometimes the small ones go more like in a small «cloud», more collected, and in this case, they also behave more like the bigger drops, and land closer to you, on whatever object is there.

It is not established whether the virus is easiest transferred via the bigger or the smaller drops.

Also, one does not know yet if the direct contagion is the most important way, I mean directly from one person to another, or if the indirect ways, via physical objects, is how it spreads most easily or most often.

Even if the disease may spread to other organs in the body than the lungs etc, covid-19 is basically a respiratory infection. The virus may, rarely, come out via other body fluids etc, but the normal thing is that it comes through mouth and nose.


Other things Posted on 14 Nov, 2019 18:42

“Where do you come from?” is also often not the wrong question to ask if you want to get to know a Norwegian, geography carries a lot of meaning here and has meant even more historically than today.

There were conflicts across those distances, but also friendship. In general, to say that Norway is a small country is of course nonsense if you talk about distance. The 1700 km along the road from Oslo to Tromsø illustrates some of it. Add Finnmark, and you may understand even more, stretch the distance from here to Lindesnes and Stavanger…maybe you’re beginning to get it. Hills, mountains, plains, bays, cliffs, lakes…if you have been hiking in Norway for a little more than a day you might get an idea of distance that hardly lives in a concept, it is not easily described in one word, really. Han hadde gått langt, og lenger enn langt…he had been walking far, and farther than far…maybe a clumsy translation, but this quote from one of our fairy tales tells this story.

I was once told that there is a saying among Sami people that if you have to walk a long distance, don’t think about the distance, just go on walking.

Everyone who has tried, I think, can say that this works pretty well. It may sound drab to some, but if you enjoy walking, it can actually be very nice.


Other things Posted on 30 Jul, 2017 23:48

This is where I wanted to take you
Let’s go to sleep
and wake up
Let’s stand upside down
on our toes

Until dawn
crushes the bubbles

just let’s

For fucks sake,
let’s do something else



do something

about it




Going there and coming home

Other things Posted on 26 Jul, 2015 17:50

The train to Copenhagen…

In the old days, my teens, which means late 70s, early 80s, it used to be the gateway to the continent. To the world, really, because I could afford the Interrail ticket, but not plane tickets to the States or Bangkok or something like it. It didn’t matter, I was anyway mostly interested in Europe.

Rome, Greece, even Yugoslavia, as was the name of the country then. Denmark. Austria. The Netherlands. Strangely enough not France, but I went to Italy several times, Venice, I remember walking round the city until the street got so narrow I almost got stuck, even with my rather slim 17 years, and it ended in a canal. Which was, of course, a fantastic thing to experience, I thought. I was in love with streets, places, little cafés, stairs up and down narrow alleys or squares.

Having to encounter strange languages.

Learning how to pronounce them, get it as right as possible. I was nerdy and ambitious, and got stuck in a situation once, in Sardinia, up in the mountains, because I couldn’t say in Italian what I needed to say, the people at a closed gas station wanted to know whether we would make it to the next town without them unlocking the gas pumps. I didn’t know the exact Italian words, just that we were pretty short on petrol. Of course I could have said something clumsy, but I didn’t want to be clumsy, I wanted to be something else, not Italian, I think, but I wanted to be somewhere else, something else, why not Italian, then. Maybe not someone else, after all, there was a limit there, but still, I wanted to be a proper globetrotter. So I just made a gesture and left.

We made it to the next open pump, barely, and had enough I think 10 000 lire-notes to pay at the automat. It was late at night, but we got back to wherever we stayed, I think maybe in Cagliari.

Copenhagen was always the start for me, the gateway, to the continent. Getting there always gave me the feeling of being on a real travel, getting out into the world. Today there is no direct train to Denmark from Oslo, but you can get some of the same feeling by going with NSB to Gothenburg, then change, it’s still quite pleasant.

The feeling then – of getting past boring Norwegian woods (boring for us, of course), into Sweden, which was a little too similar to Norway to be really exotic, but things grew better and better the farther south you got, through beautiful Skåne, and in the end, normally in the evening, Copenhagen, København, Tivoli, sweet city exhaust or whatever wind that was blowing and a multitude of impressions and people. The flatness of the land, which brought things on the ground close to you and at the same time gave a different sky to walk under.

Everything was a little different, the sodavand looked and tasted differently, even if I spent too many small coins on it of my meagre budget, but of course I drank it, and probably beer.

I could buy thick cerutter in the shop and smoke, a type of cigars.

The parks…they were great places, nice for feeling the soil of a strange place and making it not so strange. Tame it a little, or be tamed by it. Small shops, small restaurants, I guess, but as I said I had little money. Røde pølser I think were more important and necessary, I bought their red sausages from small carriages in front of the city hall and thereabouts.

Down through Europe I think I survived on white bread and ham, all sorts of ham, boiled and cured, sausages, prosciutto cotto, all the other stuff, and the aranciata and whatever they called it in Greece, which I had never
tasted before, not that special type, which seemed tailormade to make you an addict, it probably was, too. I remember once on the way to Corfu, it must have been in Piraeus, I drank three or four in the blazing sun, waiting for the boat. The thirst didn’t go away, but it felt fantastic, I wished it wouldn’t end.

Usually I worked half the summer, then took the money and left for a few weeks, until I was broke again.

* * *

The other day I actually went completely touristic here, at home, even in Grünerløkka, where I spend most of my time right now. I took a real day off, didn’t even bring my laptop, which was all I needed to do to feel free. I did what I usually do, I went to cafés and parks, walked past the Paulus
church which they are redecorating right now, walked round town. But I did it in a different mode.

Usually when I go to cafés I’m at work, writing or planning what to do, but this particular day I just watched, my thoughts and my feet went wherever they wanted to.


I slept, contemplated, on the grass in Birkelunden, one of the small parks closest to my home, but it was like sleeping in a park elsewhere. Karlsruhe, maybe, the latest park experience that I remembered. There I lay outside the castle of the count – Karl was his name – who I think started to build that city, because of an experience of calm and quiet in the middle of
stressful duties, in the nature somewhere. That’s the story, anyway, I think.

The thoughts wandered from Birkelunden, but they came back home. Oslo in the summer is still fantastic, the feeling of eternal leisure, calm, quiet.

I love sleeping on the ground. You can feel the earth breathing, working, maybe, some big machinery down there, and if you’re in inhabited places like a city you can consider its history while you lie on the lawn, what all those people did there a hundred years ago, two hundred, three hundred. At some point you may even feel the need to visit the library, to check.

In a moment like this I love being home. Come what may come, I don’t care.

* * *

But still, travelling was really necessary. To Copenhagen first. The City of the King, as it is still sometimes referred to in Norway, Kongens by, was the beginning of the big world for me, for us, I think, people I grew up with. I never got any overview of the city, I didn’t need to, didn’t try, all I wanted was to dive in and be there.

I still treat some things like that in order to keep them fresh, to avoid getting fed up or bored. Some people think I’m completely ignorant because I regularly entertain the habit of turning off my knowledge, in order to get everything right. Or I just stay away from information, as I said, sometimes it’s better to be innocently ignorant when encountering new things.
Ok, I’m lazy too, and choose to go my own ways as often as I can, not least
when it comes to work.

Copenhagen too, I think, is like that for me, something and some place I visit whenever I want to and don’t think much about in the meantime. I am bigger, even my mind has grown bigger or is more full of things, it is more difficult not to know, but there is enough to explore.

I recently brought my daughter of seven there, we took the train down, I tried to show her what I love about it all. We roamed in Østerbro, even, which does not have a lot of shops or cafés, at least not in the part where we were. But you don’t necessarily need a flock of things to have fun, sometimes you need only one thing. At seven it is an obvious fact, something to learn again at fifty. We had lunch at a local baker shop, and could watch the bakers working, through a window inside. Cool.

Bringing a new person to a place you love is another trick to refresh them in your mind. Bring a good friend, a girlfriend or a boyfriend. He or she will see things differently, do different things than you do. You’ll be a stranger at
home, in a very good way. Of course you need to be flexible if his suggestions doesn’t match your imagination at first. I’ve grown physically lazy by the years, so it can be trouble for me sometimes, but not mentally.

* * *

In those days, when I was a teenager, Oslo was not much of a city. Of course the city centre was as small or big as it still is, and without all those money bins that were erected later, too many of them by people who don’t love cities. The old buildings were worn then, but it wasn’t important.

For me, in the mode of exploration, the whole city thing was exciting, new. I went to have beers as soon as I could, even if I was too young to drink, earned my position in one restaurant as a familiar guest. Not quite stamgjest, but being greeted in the doorway with a smile at 16, I think by a Greek waiter, was not bad. I was proud to have achieved such a status. The feeling of fooling them and still getting what I wanted, which still prevails in Norwegian mentality. Askeladden.

The point for me was not so much the drink, even if I enjoyed the beer, but the company. Still is.

Copenhagen was bigger, more, different from Oslo, but still, the language gave me no trouble, it was much like home too, thinking about it now it was a little like visiting an old aunt. Later I met some people who could have been my aunts or my grandmothers, but that’s another story. One of them looked like the Norwegian writer Torborg Nedreaas, with a cigarette in hand and of course a glass of wine.

This we always loved the Danes for, their laidback attitude to drinking and smoking, as opposed to the socalled Vestlandsfanden, the Devil of the West, still very much alive today, but unfortunately without the nickname, now he is only always present in discussions on the Internet about moral issues, which in His dictatorial view every thing has to obey.

* * *

Whenever I came back from more southern places, getting to Hovedbanegården always felt like coming home. No language trouble, no being cheated a little with change at shops, no feeling of not understanding at all what’s going on. A feeling of familiarity. Maybe some of the Copenhageners cheated me without me knowing it, but I think, not seriously. I would have understood that much.

I turned down quite a few invitations that came on the trains I travelled on, I can remember that. Not very clever. Maybe the trips was an escape from my own loneliness, the freedom without commitment which you can entertain on a travel, both practically and socially. And the fact that you can sit on a train, and someone else does everything for you, you’ve paid for it, you’ve earned it, no one can take it away, and you’re actually going places.

Going places and doing things. And even if you do exactly the same things as you do at home those things are not the same as at home. On the contrary, there are surprises everywhere, the sensation of buying a sausage through the window of the train, somewhere in now Serbia or Slovenia, the loos in Italy in those days, with only some moulded feet on the floor and a hole in the middle.

There were other things, like entering into a dark church, in Rome, with the feeling of breathing the actual air of something so old that you really don’t know what it is. Only a darkness filled with mystery, pleasant but exciting, full of the unknown.

Maybe the church was from the 4th century or something, I still don’t know, I never found it again. All I think I can still remember was that it was down some stairs, a little beneath street level, and not very big.

Of course, being those places was a thrill. I loved the feeling of cities especially, the brick around you, sculptures, gardens, the houses often worn, maybe dirty, but that was not the point, the point was…

Every city has an imprint of all those who built it. Art also has its human presence. I always appreciated that, even if it was not a conscious thought at this age, just a nice feeling of something I didn’t know what was.

The possibility of meeting someone also triggers me, still does, and the feeling of having many people around you. The possibility of anonymity, the fact that you can go somewhere and no one knows you. If you meet someone you can start from scratch. This is even more so, of course, when you move, but even in your own city, if people in your neighbourhood know you, you can just go to another part of the city.

* * *

Some of the loneliness in me is still there. You have to grab the chance when it’s there, if you sit in your café and someone comes who might be worth talking to, if you don’t react it can be a really bad feeling. Kiss the girl before she falls asleep. Talk to your friend before he gets fed up with your silence and actually leaves you.

Art is fine, but you need both that and real life.

But getting on the train was always the start of the travel to freedom, even if it was temporary. You don’t consider that fact in the beginning of a journey.

Getting on the train, when it started moving, the sound of iron, the feeling of determination and safety at the same time. The train was serving us, serving me and my need of air.

I even had it illustrated at some point. When I got back home I listened to Arutunian’s trumpet concerto which came my way for other reasons, and its opening exactly mimicked my feeling of the train moving out of the station, into the world. Here it is.

A Poem in the Night

Other things Posted on 16 Aug, 2013 00:41

Rabindranath Tagore:

Om kjærlighetens natur

Natten er svart, skogen har ingen ende;
hundre tusen mennesker trår der på hundre tusen måter.
Vi har stevnemøter i mørket som vi skal til, men hvor
eller med hvem – det er vi ikke klar over.
Men vi har denne tro – at lykken for et helt liv
vil vise seg når som helst, med et smil på leppene.
Dufter, berøring, lyder, en bit av en sang
stryker oss, kommer forbi oss, gir oss utsøkte sjokk.
Så – kan hende det kommer et glimt fra et lyn
Den jeg ser i dette øyeblikket kommer jeg til å elske.
Jeg snakker til den som er der, og roper: ‘Dette liv er velsignet!
For din skyld har jeg gått alle de lange veier!’
Alle disse andre som kom nær og gikk videre
i mørket – jeg vet ikke om de finnes eller ikke.

On the Nature of Love

The night is black and the forest has no end
a million people thread it in a million ways.
We have trysts to keep in the darkness, but where
or with whom – of that we are unaware.
But we have this faith – that a lifetime’s bliss
will appear any minute, with a smile upon its lips.
Scents, touches, sounds, snatches of songs
brush us, pass us, give us delightful shocks.
Then peradventure there’s a flash of lightning:
whomever I shall see in this instant I fall in love with.
I call that person and cry: ’This life is blest!
For your sake such miles have I traversed!’
All those others who came close and moved off
in the darkness – I don’t know if they exist or not.

From the collection ”I won’t Let You Go”, translated from Bengali by Ketaki Kushari Dyson.

Translation from English, done in a hurry: Erik Gøthesen.

The poem is written by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), born in Kolkata (earlier Calcutta) in West-Bengal, close to today’s Bangladesh.