Monday, May 26, 2008

Upon My Brother's Grave

Today being memorial day, I took the opportunity in the evening to drive out to San Dimas (or rather Covina Hills) to visit my younger brother's grave at the Forest Lawn cemetery/mortuary. I honestly do not remember my little brother at all--after all, I was only two years old when he was born and he died on the third day of his life. Nevertheless, according to my knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I know that one day I will have the opportunity to meet him. Anyhow, when I arrived at his grave I discovered fresh flowers in a vase upon his gravestone. My parents had already arrived earlier in the day. It is a tradition for my parents to cut flowers from their own garden in order to create a bouquet to place upon his grave.
It gave me opportunity to really evaluate my own life as I thought upon what my brother might be doing on the other side of mortality. I also had a profound sense of gratitude for the atonement of Jesus Christ which makes it possible for all of us to be resurrected--to live again with a perfect body in the life to come.
I should like to include a poem that I had written some time ago when visiting my brother's grave. It is titled "Upon My Brother's Grave" and is in honor of Marc Jeffery Hall (July 20, 1976-July 23, 1976):

There is a quiet hill where thousands sleep
Beneath the grassy waves tossed by the wind,
Where peaceful moments rest in hearts and minds,
Where people rest beneath the azure sky.
There have been days when distant thoughts have fled
And somber reminiscents take their place,
And I, within the valley, turn to look
Upon that green hill, not so far away.
I've glanced upon the beauty of the life
That springs in great abundance from its height
And thought upon my brother and his life
In realms where mortals only dream to dwell.
I've driven, on occasion, to this hill,
And stood, betimes, beside the road where lies
The headstone, and the body there beneath,
Of my dear brother Marc--an infant death.
At times, when young, my parents stood nearby,
And I would watch them with their loving hands,
Place the fresh flowers, from the garden plucked,
Upon the earth in loving memory.
I'd wandered on this hill once unannounced,
Long after all my youthful years were spent,
In search of that dear spot, for what it meant
To my own heart throughout the passing years.
I had not found the spot that summer day,
But gloried in the grand serenity
Upon the grassy hill, beside the trees,
Beneath the clouded sky, within the breeze.
A thousand dead, and my poor memory
Could not recall the spot where in my youth
I held my parents' hands and watched them weep--
I held my parents' hands and watched them smile.
I wandered lonely on that silent hill
Viewing the sculptures and the distant church,
Reading the names and dates of other souls
Who passed breathless silence through the gates,
And pondered briefly on their mortal lives,
I dreaming of the way they might have lived.
Today I have returned to pay respect
And find myself upon this hill alone
With flowers in a jar within my hand
Which I have plucked from the garden of old.
I place them just above the metal plaque
And stare upon my brother's written name,
Then glance upon this glorious of scenes
And ponder on his life and there reflect:
To understand as he would understand.
To view this world with eyes abstained from sin.
To live my life as he would have me live,
Free from the guilt with which I wallow in.
To view my hand, corrupt in mortal spite.
To view his hand long withered in the earth.
To love mankind as he would surely love,
Had more he lived than three days from his birth.
I think upon the life he did not live.
The memories of youth in loving arms--
The blessings of a faithful family.
The pain of suffering a woman's charms.
The joy of simple pleasures in the sun.
The dreams and longings of a youthful mind.
The rapture found within a first love's kiss.
The gratitude that comes with being kind.
He may have been a poet well renowned.
He may have been an artist well revered.
He may have been the dream of all our dreams.
He may have been. . . he may have been. . .
And now his body buried in the grave
And I having been buried in my life,
Live less insightful in daily routines.
Perhaps his spirit watches me this day.
Perhaps he feels my life wasted away.
Perhaps he has a hope unparalleled--
The hope the unseen world keeps in its soul
While we upon this busy mortal plane
Blind all our knowledge with such useless cares,
Living our mortal life yet unaware.
Upon my brother's grave I now reflect
And listen for a whisper to my soul.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Bad Wind Blowing

If one honestly is looking out on the horizon of the American social scene, one will see a storm arising. There is a bad wind blowing that reeks of the decomposition of America's morality. The traditional family is under attack by special interest groups that wish to redefine what is considered marriage and family. For those who proclaim that legalizing same-sex marriage will not effect society as a whole, they are sadly mistaken. All who know me know that I love all things Scandinavian, so you also know that it is no small matter for me to point out flaws from Scandinavian governments, cultures, or societies. Yet, if we look at Scandinavian society, who legalized same-sex marriage in the 1990s, we see the ramifications of making such a move: the deterioration of the family unit. There is an interesting article concerning this fact by Stanley Kurtz which you may find here. Other warnings are being sounded throughout the United States as is seen in this article by Rick Santorum. There is also a warning voice presented by Dennis Prager found in this article.
Of course, I have written my own views on this matter before. One may find that blog here.
Needless to say, same-sex marriage hasn't destroyed civilization in Scandinavia--it is alive and well the last time that I have checked. But it has changed the face of Scandinavian society and the demographics of the family. Perhaps these countries can handle the out-of-wedlock birth rates, the increased divorce rates, the single parents, and all of the social problems that come along with it, better than can America--after all, they are socialized forms of government with greater taxes to fund such programs that will alleviate such problems. I don't want America to become socialized and I surely don't want my tax dollars being spent on people who made poor decisions and now want me and you to pay for it. I'm not saying that every child who endures these conditions will turn out bad, but they surely are given a handicap compared to the child who has been born and raised in the traditional family unit.
Ultimately, whether or not this issue has a lasting impact on government affairs of our nation, whether or not it has a lasting impact on the social fabric of our nation, it is in direct conflict to the spiritual well-being of our nation.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World
is an interesting warning that has been issued to the inhabitants of the world by modern prophets. Believe it or not, that is up to you. You are free to take whatever position that you like on this matter, but I am just as free to take mine. So please spare me the hate-mongering titles of bigot or homophobe. I am neither--I am simply stating my position on the matter just as freely as the opposition is allowed to freely state their own. Think upon it and decide for yourself.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai--Fjords

Alright, so the fjords of Norway are not really a part of the "culture" but they certainly are a part of the Norwegian landscape that leaves any visitor to the country in awe of the beauty and splendor that Nature provides us. Anyone who does not take the opportunity to visit the Norwegian fjords at some point in their lifetime is truly missing out on one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Whether you are hiking above the sea, looking down into the fjord, taking a cruise through the fjord, or enjoying one of the towns beside a fjord, you are bound to be both content and awe-inspired as you absorb the atmosphere of near-perfection. If you love mountains, the sea, forests, waterfalls, small towns, or even large cities, there is a fjord for you to enjoy. Here are some pictures so that you may see of what I am speaking.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai--Stavekirke (Stave Church)

Among the Norwegian culture is one unique form of architecture that dates back to the viking age, or rather, the end of the viking age and the advent of Christianity in Norway. Stavekirker (Stave Churches) were built in the 11th and 12th centuries. Supposedly there were close to a thousand of them scattered throughout Norway immediately following the viking age and some thirty of them have survived through today. Upon visiting Norway, one may visit this old structures that oftentimes contain both Christian and Pagan elements. If you look closely at the photographs you will see both the cross (Christian) and dragons, as well as other animal figures carved into the church (Pagan). When transforming a pagan culture into a Christian one, it was helpful to use pagan elements to attract individuals, hence pagan symbols alongside Christian symbols on the churches in order to attract those who had not fully converted.
Anyhow, it is an interesting style of architecture along with interesting artwork carved into the structures. You may wish to research more in order to see the details. In the meantime, enjoy these photographs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai--Rosemaling

Please visit (some of the pictures below are from this site).

Rosmaling is a Norwegian folk painting style that has been passed down through the generations. One may find examples of Rosmaling dating back into the 1700s within houses and on artifacts that have been preserved over time. Rosemaling continues to be a popular art form in Norway and in countries such as the United States where there are Norwegian immigrants who have adopted the style. Often times, just as in the traditional costumes of the Norwegian people, the design may be traced to a particular region of the country. However, most designs are either universal or unique. There are plenty of books and websites that will teach both the history and the technique of the art form. This website will give you several links to different Rosemaling sites. It is interesting to learn about, view, and try one's own hand at Rosemaling. Some artists are really good (and when you try your own, you quickly realize that it is much more difficult than it looks--anyone who has been to my apartment can see an attempt I made on one of my grandparent's old barn windows, which is sitting in the entry way).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai--Edvard Munch

Perhaps the most famous artist to come out of Norway is Edvard Munch. While many people do not recognize the name, there is truly no more famous painting in all the world than what Munch has produced. Not even the "Mona Lisa" is more recognizable than Munch's most famous work. Love it or hate it, all are familiar with Munch's "The Scream."
Munch certainly had a troubled life, which is certainly reflected in his paintings. Many of his works are seemingly neophyte, but when one considers that Munch is an expressionist painter--one who is more concerned with the feeling and emotion that is associated with a work of art than the aesthetic beauty of the art itself--one then begins to recognize the genius of the artist. There is much to learn of Edvard Munch, but you may do that through your own research. I shall simply post a few of his paintings and let them speak for themselves.
While "The Scream" is the most popular work, I really like such paintings as: "Melancholy," "Girls," "Ashes," and "The Sick Child." They are all posted here--take a guess as to which is which, and enjoy the emotions that they evoke within you!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai--Henrik Ibsen

If you haven't figured out what in the world my blogging address alludes to then tonight (or today, depending upon when you read blogs) it shall be revealed. Henrik Ibsen is my all-time favorite playwright. He is known as the father of modern drama and outside of Shakespeare is probably one of the most recognized playwrights the world over. My favorite plays by ibsen include: An Enemy of the People, Ghosts, A Doll's House, The Wild Duck, Rosmersholm, Pillars of Society, The Master Builder, and When We Dead Awaken. Admittedly, his plays are a bit heavy and dark, but there is always thought-provoking material that is presented in such a way as not to preach a moral, yet to allow oneself to teach oneself a moral based upon the observation of the play.
I also appreciate Ibsen's candidness. He was once invited to speak at an awards ceremony for a woman's group who was honoring Ibsen for his views advancing women's rights. During his speech he said something to the effect: I could care less about women's rights. What I am for is human rights and if it happens to be a woman whose rights are being violated, then I am for her cause (of course, I am paraphrasing--these are not his exact words, but essentially the same message was given).
The following are some quotes that either Ibsen made directly or that are presented through the voice of one of his characters (most of these quotes come directly from one of his plays):

“A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.”

“Do not use that foreign word ‘ideals.’ We have that excellent native word ‘lies.’”

“It is inexcusable for scientists to torture animals; let them make their experiments on journalists and politicians.”

“Look into any man’s heart you please, and you will always find, in every one, at least one black spot which he has to keep concealed.”

“Marriage! Nothing else demands so much of a man.”

“One of the qualities of liberty is that, as long as it is being striven after, it goes on expanding. Therefore, the man who stands in the midst of the struggle and says, ‘I have it,’ merely shows by doing so that he has just lost it.”

“People who don’t know how to keep themselves healthy ought to have the decency to get themselves buried, and not waste time about it.”

“The devil is compromise.”

“The spectacles of experience; through them you will see clearly a second time.”

“The worst enemy of truth and freedom in our society is the compact majority.”

"Life is a battle with the trolls!"

"Victory is impossible for any cause that's rooted in guilt."

"Any cause that aims to win a lasting victory--needs a leader who's free of guilt and full of joy."

"No, it is the small losses in life that cut one to the heart--the loss of all that other people look upon as almost nothing."

". . . All the sources of our moral life are poisoned and that the whole fabric of our civic community is founded on the pestiferous soil of falsehood. . . And so, with my eyes blinded to the real facts, I reveled in happiness. But yesterday afternoon--the eyes of my mind were opened wide, and the first thing I realized was the colossal stupidity of the authorities. . . I can't stand leading men at any price!--I have had enough of such people in my time. They are like billy-goats in a young plantation; they do mischief everywhere. They stand in a free man's way, whichever way he turns, and what I should like best would be to see them exterminated like any other vermin-- . . . Nor is it folk of that kind who constitute the most pressing danger to the community. It is not they who are most instrumental in poisoning the sources of our moral life and infecting the ground on which we stand. It is not they who are the most dangerous enemies of truth and freedom amongst us. . . the most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom amongst us is the compact liberal majority. . . The majority never has right on its side. Never I say! That is one of these social lies against which an independent, intelligent man must wage war. Who is it that constitute the majority of the population in a country? Is it the clever folk or the stupid? I don't imagine you will dispute the fact that at present the stupid people are in an absolutely overwhelming majority all the world over. But, good lord!-- You can never pretend that it is right that the stupid folk should govern the clever ones! . . . The minority is always in the right. . . I propose to raise a revolution against the lie that the majority has the monopoly of the truth. . . these 'majority truths' are like last year's cured meat--like rancid, tainted ham; and they are the origin of the moral scurvy that is rampant in our communities. . . It is the masses, the majority--this infernal compact majority--that poisons the sources of our moral life and infects the ground we stand on. . . That the common people, the crowd, the masses are the real essence of the people. That is only a newspaper lie, I tell you! The common people are nothing more than the raw material of which a people is made. . . The kind of common people I mean are not only to be found low down in the social scale; they crawl and swarm all around us--even in the highest social positions. . . It is ignorance, poverty, ugly conditions of life that do the devil's work! In a house that does not get aired and swept every day--my wife Katherine maintains that the floor ought to be scrubbed as well, but that is a debatable question--in such a house, let me tell you, people will lose within two or three years the power of thinking or acting in a moral manner. Lack of oxygen weakens the conscience. And there must be a plentiful lack of oxygen in very many houses in this town, I should think, judging from the fact that the whole compact majority can be unconscientious enough to wish to build the town's prosperity on a quagmire of falsehood and deceit. . . What does the destruction of a community matter, if it lives on lies! It ought to be razed to the ground, I tell you! All who live by lies ought to be exterminated like vermin! You will end by infecting the whole country; you will bring about such a state of things that the whole country will deserve to be ruined. And if things come to that pass, I shall say from the bottom of my heart: let the whole country parish, let all these people be exterminated!"

And on that happy note, pick up a copy of one or more of Ibsen's plays or find one that is being performed and attend it. You will not regret it! As a matter of fact, any performance of Ibsen that I learn of (within driving distance) I purchase tickets to. . . and never once have I been disappointed!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

You Are Invited To A Syttende Mai Celebration!!!

Hey everybody!
I am having a Syttende Mai celebration at my place on Saturday, May 17th at 8 p.m. There are a lot of other activities (not related to my own) that are going on that day--hence the reason for the late start (these activities include: Gold Prospecting in Azusa Canyon, Chris and Mary's Wedding, a luau at Upland First Ward, and Chris and Mary's Reception).

Anyhow, I figure that by 8 p.m. people will have been able to get their fill of other activities and will be ready to come on over for some Scandinavian desserts, good people, good conversation, games, movies, swimming, hot tubbing, and for the more adventurous--night hiking. The night hiking will come much later in the evening and if you are not into it, you may always stay back at the apartment and continue to enjoy the festivities there.

Anyhow, all are invited, so spread the word and hopefully I will see you next Saturday!

p.s. You will want to bring a good pair of hiking shoes if you intend to go on the night hike. Also, you will want to bring a towel and swimming gear if you intend to use the pool or hot tub.

Countdown to Syttende Mai--Magne F

A-ha is the most popular band to come out of Norway and while the group has had much success over the years the individual band members are not without their individual aspirations. Each member of the band has engaged in his own side or solo projects both in and out of the music industry. This evening I would like to focus on Magne Furuholmen (also known as Mags or Magne F). He is not only a musician but an artist. His official website is an interesting one that is certainly worth visiting. You will want to make sure that you have plenty of "idle" time to waste as you navigate through the site--there is much to explore and it is fascinating in such a non-conventional manner.
Below are some videos, not just of music, but art and other random features.
In this video you may seem him working with glass and you also get to hear the Norwegian language:

This video is short and has some of his latest music as the background as it passes quickly through a project on which he was working:

And you may listen to his music here.
Well, we are now six days away from Syttende Mai. . . we shall begin to move away from music to other things Norwegian in the coming days! Ha det bra!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai--A-ha

Amongst all of the music that has come out of Norway, none is more popular world-wide then that of the band A-ha. Whether or not an individual is familiar with the band, most everyone is familiar with their first hit "Take On Me." While a-ha's popularity in the United States declined after their first few albums, their world-round renown has remained strong. According to Wikipedia, a-ha set an impressive record for rock history: "At the Rock in Rio II festival in January 1991, a-ha shocked the international entertainment press by gathering a paying audience of 198,000 people at Maracanã Stadium - a world record for paying audiences." But it is a mistake to think of a-ha as a one-hit wonder or a band from the past. In my own opinion they have several strong albums and a few weaker ones. Also, in my opinion, the weaker albums occurred in the late 80s and early 90's. Since that time they have produced stronger and better albums that far out-weigh their debut album which everyone knows them for. Their last three albums are nothing short of amazing: "Analogue" (2005), "Lifelines" (2002), and "Minor Earth Major Sky" (2000). Each of these albums has proven that a-ha continues to get better and better with each release. Following these three albums "Hunting High and Low" (1985) and "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" (1990) are my favorite. While "Scoundrel Days" (1986), "Stay on these Roads" (1988), and "Memorial Beach" (1993) have some good songs on the albums, the overall creativity, talent, and pleasure of listening is lacking in comparison to the other albums.
Ultimately, the band has matured in both content and sound and honestly has become one of my top 5 bands of all time (actually my favorite, depending upon my mood at the time--if one looks at the play count in my itunes, three of the 10 most played songs are from a-ha).
Anyhow, here are a few of the music videos for the band. I will load them in chronological order for you.
First, the hit "Take On Me" from the "Hunting High and Low" album:

Next, "Crying in the Rain" from the "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" album:

Also, "I Wish I Cared" from the "Minor Earth, Major Sky" album"

Here is a live performance of one of my favorite songs, "You'll Never Get Over Me" also from the "Minor Earth, Major Sky" album:

Here is a video from their album "Lifelines." This song is titled, "Did Anyone Approach You." It is another of my a-ha favorites:

And from their most recent album "Analogue" their song "Analogue," which is the number one song on my itunes play count. It is a song that I have also had many of my friends get addicted to!:

Anyhow, I hope that you have enjoyed a little journey through some of the music that a-ha has produced over the years and that you have rediscovered one of the greatest bands of all time. . . and they happen to be from Norway!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai--Röyksopp

I'd love to write a lot about Röyksopp, but it is Friday and I don't have much time between completing work and heading out for the night, so I will let the music speak for itself. Needless to say, Röyksopp is a Norwegian band from Tromsø (located on the northern coast of Norway). Do a google search for more info. In the meantime enjoy such songs as "Poor Leno":


"What Else Is There?":

And "Remind Me":

I hope that you have enjoyed these cool electro-chill songs. I'll be "chilling" to them on my drive out to L.A.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai--The Kings of Convenience

Music always plays an important role in any given culture. Now that we have explored Grieg, Bull, and Nordraak, it is time to move to the present music scene of Norway. The last time I was in Norway (2004) I took occasion to speak with various people while waiting for a train to my next destination. One conversation with a young man led to a discussion of music and I was introduced to the Kings of Convenience. I later stopped in a music store in Stockholm, Sweden, found one of their albums, gave it a listen and instantly loved it! Ever since, I have been promoting K.O.C. (Kings of Convenience).
Anyhow, K.O.C. are from Bergen, Norway (the same hometown of both Bull and Grieg). Bergen is a beautiful city located on the west coast of Norway and is known for its music festivals. The rail-line from Oslo to Bergen is fantastic! If you are ever in Norway you must take the train between the two cities and be sure to take a little side trip to one of the fjords for a cruise--you will be blown away by the beauty and serenity that you will experience in such a location. But I am here to focus on the music not the nature in this entry, so check out a few of the videos by K.O.C. and enjoy the beauty and the serenity that comes from their music!
This first video is to the song "Misread," which I absolutely love. It is this song that initially stuck in my head and was reminiscent of a modern and much improved Simon and Garfunkel:

Next, we have a live version of "I Don't Know What I Can Save You From," which happens to be my all-time favorite K.O.C. song (actually it is tied with "Summer on the Westhill"). Needless to say, I have heard that they are awesome live. One day I shall have to make it to a concert (that would be a good excuse for a trip to Europe):

The song "I'd Rather Dance With You" is probably their most popular song in the United States:

"Cayman Islands" is a really relaxing song (as is most of their music):

Anyhow, there is so much more for true music lovers to explore both with K.O.C. and with bands from Norway. Rumor has it that K.O.C. is supposed to be working on a new album (which I hope is true). Enjoy the tunes!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai--Ole Bull and Rikard Nordraak

While we are on the topic of classical music and now that you are familiar with Edvard Grieg, it is important to note two great influences on Grieg who are also Norwegian: Ole Bull and Rikard Nordraak. Ole Bull was a great violinist (well renowned throughout Europe in his day) who saw within Grieg a great potential at a young age. It was Bull who made it possible for Grieg to study overseas and develop his talents. During his studies in Denmark, Grieg met and befriended another student of music, Rikard Nordraak. Nordraak is credited with assisting Grieg in championing the folk influences from Norway into the classical compositions which he wrote. Nordraak is the composer of Norway's national anthem, but unfortunately, he died from TB at the young age of twenty-two. Grieg composed the following funeral march in honor of Nordraak (Sørgemarsj over Rikard Nordraak):

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai--Edvard Grieg

Most Americans know little to nothing concerning Norway, yet most will readily recognize things that are Norwegian without knowing that they are Norwegian. Case and point: Edvard Grieg. By mere mention of the name Grieg many are still at a loss, yet once the music begins to play seemingly all reply, "I know this song!" Hence, most everyone knows Grieg without knowing Grieg!
Edvard Grieg has many famous compositions. He wrote during Norway's National Romantic Period and employed many elements of the Norwegian folk tradition. I could go on and on about the life and works of Edvard Grieg, but I won't. If you are interested in learning more you may wish to check this out.
You may also wish to listen to a few of the works of Edvard Grieg. Some of the slide shows found on youtube that accompany his work are good, while others. . . well, you know.
This first video has pictures from Norway and is a composition titled, "Våren" (Last Spring):

This second video (which isn't a video at all) is a composition titled, "Morgenstemning" (Morning Mood). It is the one that most American's recognize as it has been used in many commercials and Saturday morning cartoons:

"I Dovregubbens hall" (In the Hall of the Mountain King) is another popular composition by Grieg. It has also been hijacked commercially in the United States:

This next composition is hauntingly beautiful. It is titled, "Aases død" (The death of Aase):

And finally, let's end on a happy note with "Anitras dans" (Anitra's Dance) from an old vinyl record:

Well, I hope that you enjoyed your exposure to Grieg! There is much more to his repertoire and I own a lot of it, so feel free to come on over for a listen or borrow one of the cds!
p.s. All of the above compositions are from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, which happens to be the first songs of Grieg that I was exposed to, causing me to become an avid fan of Grieg and leading me to a love of classical music.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Countdown to Syttende Mai

So I was contemplating what I could do on this blog to support and promote Syttende Mai and I thought that on the very day of the celebration I could post a blog celebrating all things Norwegian. Then it occurred to me that I would be spending all day on the 17th blogging--that is not how I want to celebrate the day, so I have decided that I will do a countdown to Syttende Mai. . . or in other words, each day between now and the 17th I will post something in relation to Norway.

I figure that a good place to begin the countdown would be from a journal entry I wrote the very first time I visited Norway. This particular entry was written on July 21, 1999:
". . . I arrived in Narvik [a city in Northern Norway, located about 200 miles above the arctic circle] just a little before 1 p.m. today. I made many notes in my notebook concerning the scenery during the train ride today. I shall share that progression of thought with you now, writing as if at the moment as that is what I did in my notebook.
I feel like a young lad on Christmas morning; each scene by the train window is like a new gift being opened up to my eyes and I sit with eyes fixed in awe and wonder at what next passes by. The purple and gold flowers that line the embankment nearby the railroad tracks is a symbol to me of nature's embroidered nobility here in the north. The forests are as thick as darkness on a long winter night and occasionally open up to a lush meadow or a brilliant lake. I cannot sit but five minutes without passing either another lake or river.
It is a bit overcast today and a great mist or fog lies hunched over the hills and is creeping slowly downward, stretching its fingers through the valleys. The flatlands have turned to hills and hills to mountains and as the train races ever upward I peer down upon a giant lake like a hawk that views a writhing sea of snakes slithering towards the shore.
There is snow to be seen upon the distant mountain peaks. Rocks protrude through the forest's skin and rivers course their way through the land like veins that carry the lifeblood through the earth. Every scene seems to build upon itself, heightening what you feel will soon be the climax only to realize that nature's plot only thickens and increases your love and respect with each passing mile.
Further in the north there are not so many trees. Mountains awake and hills swell and wrinkle through the land. It is very rocky here and small streams and ponds scatter themselves between the hills. Grasses and shrubs surround the rocky hills and mountains which bring about a green and gray jig-saw puzzle. Homes leap across the way from hill to hill, rock to rock, sparsely showered about.
The trees have returned and the train pushes forward on the edge of a rocky cliff. Below in a ravine winds a torrent river and an occasional waterfall cascades down the face into the depths below. There is a stillness and beauty all her own here in the north, untainted by our grotesque human hands. The only movement seen besides the train is nature herself singing and dancing about in her traditional course which she has ever so stalwartly performed throughout the years. Her's is an art that we rarely truly behold and understand.
The train passes above the fjord, peering straight down a cliff into the magnificent waters below. Mountains appear to mirror each other on either side of the sea. It looks as if they were all just one mountain range that the Lord parted and said, "Let there be fjords!" That is the power and majesty that is presented with their sight. I was so excited upon first seeing the fjord. My heart began to pound, my body began to quiver, my mouth stretched forth a smile that could connect the rims of the Grand Canyon, and I felt like I was going to cry. At last, my life long dream of seeing the fjords is a reality, and my ideal dream cannot compare to the real life magnificence that I beheld. . . The mountain peaks soared into the heavens and they appeared to be the gateway to the Celestial Kingdom. If not so, than it is at least a real life Valhalla--home of the gods. . ."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Syttende Mai

Well, it is hard to believe but Syttende Mai is already fast approaching. Syttende Mai (May 17th) is Norway's Constitution Day--a day filled with festivities in the country as they celebrate their independence. I use it as a good excuse to bring friends together to enjoy good company and good food in celebration of my ancestors traditions. Usually I invite a few friends over for a Scandinavian meal and then invite even more friends over to enjoy the evening. This year, a friend is getting married on May 17th and the happy couple is having their reception that evening. As such, I shall have to forego the meal this year (sorry), but I am planning on having people over for Scandinavian desserts. So mark your calendars and head on over at 8 p.m. (that should give everyone ample time to stop by Chris and Mary's reception). If you have any questions, please let me know.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Anyone Interested in Learning a Little Hebrew or Greek?

As I was leaving the campus at which I work for lunch today I heard the voice of one of my students calling out to someone at the flagpole in the front of the school. She was saying something to the effect that she was coming to join the small group that was gathered there to pray and that someone or other was a "butt-hole" for not showing up. I had to laugh at what I view as the irony of the situation and words. Here is an individual of faith about to address her Heavenly Father in prayer and calling others of His children "butt-holes." Perhaps it is just me but I don't think that I would like to degrade a fellow son or daughter of God in such a manner, especially right before I address my Heavenly Father, who also happens to be the Heavenly Father of those whom I would have just demeaned.
Anyhow, I had this student in my class later in the day and I had mentioned to her that I heard her going to pray at lunch (I didn't mention anything more--I do not wish to either accuse or diminish one's faith to any degree and knowing the way in which teenagers think, even mentioning what I have written above in good humor would easily be misinterpreted as an attack on the student's character or belief. I much rather promote faith than to destroy it, even if it is a faith that is different than my own.
Needless to say, this student wanted to get into a religious discussion in class, which I cannot do (and which, in truth, she is more likely than not using as a means to get out of the day's lesson rather than engaging in such a discussion out of sincere interest). She also mentioned that she would like me to debate her pastor on Christianity and Mormonism. I simply smiled and continued my lesson on literary terms.
This brief exchange did cause me to think a bit upon my drive home (I have about a 30 minute commute, one-way) about fundamental and sincere differences that exist between most Christian faiths and restored Christianity (or Mormonism). There is a lot in common, but there are also some key differences that exist. Being an English teacher I am fascinated by the Biblical language of one particular concept concerning the Godhead and the relation of the pre-mortal existence of each human being and the role of the creation. Mainstream Christianity believes in the Trinity--that there is one God and one God only who embodies three roles: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And that this singular being is the sole Creator of the heavens and the earth. And that mankind did not exist in any form before this creation. Restored Christianity (Mormonism) believes the Godhead to be three distinct individuals: God, the Father; Jesus Christ, the Son; and the Holy Ghost. While they are three distinct and separate beings, we believe them to be one in mind and purpose. Furthermore, we believe that Jesus Christ created the heavens and the earth under the direction of God, the Father. And that we (human beings) existed before the creation of the earth as spirit sons and daughters of God. I express this so that we might better understand where I am coming from as a teacher of the English language when I think and ponder upon the Old Testament scripture of the creation found in Genesis 1: 26, which states: "And God said, Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness. . ." I have added the emphasis on the plural pronouns within the verse. I cannot understand how some in Christianity justify the use of the plural when God is speaking before the creation if God is in fact one singular being. To whom then is God speaking? It makes sense in the light of restored Christianity (Mormonism) that God, the Father, would be speaking with Jesus Christ (two separate and distinct Gods)--hence, the use of the plural pronouns "us" and "our." But then I thought, "What if the use of the plural is simply a matter of mistranslation from the Hebrew to the English?" So I decided to track down the original Hebrew and sure enough it uses the plural form also--it is not a mistranslation!
And this concept of going back to the original fascinated me, so now I am thinking about purchasing an Interlinear Bible with the original Hebrew and Greek alongside the English. And I am thinking about learning some basic Hebrew and Greek. So, I have sitting in my Amazon Books Cart the Interlinear Bible, and a couple of books on learning Hebrew and Greek. They are just waiting for me to click the button. I think it would be fascinating to learn the basics of these languages and to compare biblical passages according to language (I've also thought about purchasing German, Norwegian, and Latin Bibles to extend the concept further). Needless to say, the whole purpose of this post is to see if there is anyone that would be interested in learning a little Hebrew and/or Greek along with me? I figure if I get the books I could have a few people over, a couple of times a week, for a short amount of time (something that would fit our schedules, even if it is just 20 minutes or so--something doable) and learn the basics of the languages. Is anyone game? If so, I will click that button and get the ball rolling. I think it would be awesome! Let me know what you think.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Summer Moved On

For this week's music adventure we are heading back to Norway to explore the sounds of a familiar band that most people believe is a one-hit-wonder. It is truly sad that most people think of A-ha in such a way. While "Take On Me" was a great song, and what the band is known for, it isn't even close to their best song. Most people don't realize that in the 1990s, A-ha set the record for the largest paying audience for a concert and that the band continues to create albums even to the present time. Apparently there was a falling out with American record companies and A-ha has since produced on a German label and tours seemingly everywhere but America. Anyhow, "Summer Moved On" is from their 2000 album "Minor Earth, Major Sky." It is a really good song, but once again, not their best. I am confident that anyone who takes the time to discover their most recent albums will be very impressed both by the quality of the music and the depth of the lyrics--this is certainly not American pop music, thankfully. Jeg elsker dette musikk! Det er meget god! Enjoy.