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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Copenhagen Journal #15: Hamburg

This past weekend was Mom's last of her visit (she's now on her way back to Montana), and we spent it in Hamburg, Germany. Hamburg is a big industrial port city, and it was recommended to me by my host at DTU, so I thought we'd see it while my Mom was here. We took the train, which involved a ferry crossing mid-trip, and rented an Airbnb for Friday and Saturday night. It was an enjoyable weekend. I really like Hamburg. It's not as beautiful as Copenhagen (few cities are), but it's bigger and more diverse, just as Germany is a bigger and more diverse country than Denmark. We had good, cheap ethnic food, and saw some good sights. There was a large retrospective show of work by the artist Phillipe Vandenberg at the Kunsthalle, which I loved (see photos below). Also, the model train museum Miniatur Wonderland was insane - Jen and Mom liked that best. I loved the Christmas Market at the Rathaus, which made me feel like I was really experiencing Germany. After three days of pounding the pavement, we were all exhausted. The trip was a great way to cap off Mom's visit.

I loved this piece best. The artist removed almost all of the paint from a finished painting, nearly back to a blank canvas. 

The Elbphilharmoni.

Hamburg Harbor is one of the world's biggest.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Copenhagen Journal #14: Mom

My mother arrived last week, on Wednesday, and we hit it hard over the weekend, seeing the National Museum, the Danish Design Museum, and the Glyptotek Art Museum. All were beautiful, and we had a nice time together. Most of the pictures in this blog are from the Design Museum, because the visuals in there were arresting. And then the Glyptotek had a bunch of large Auguste Rodin sculptures, which I always find affecting, especially when there are many and they are large. I was especially struck by The Burghers of Calais, which you can see below. There was also a really nice exhibit of work by Odilon Redon. This weekend, we go to Hamburg, Germany.

Things have been really busy these past few weeks. I've been teaching every Thursday 8-12. I finished a paper with my PhD student that he submitted over Thanksgiving week. I've been writing a grant proposal, which was submitted yesterday. And I've been writing a paper with my host at DTU, a first draft of which I finished today. 

Things will be equally busy over the next few weeks. I am giving a talk in Helsinki next Thursday and still have to write the talk. I teach for the last time this coming Thursday. I will continue working on the paper with my host up to when I leave. And I give a two hour talk at a workshop here at DTU during the week of 17 December. By then, Mom will be gone and Ellie and Jen's Mom will be here. It's going to be packed right up to our departure.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Copenhagen Journal #13: Darkness and Light

For a while now, it's been getting dark early. If I haven't started my bike ride home from work by 3:30 pm, I'm riding in the dark. It's also been getting colder, and I wonder how much longer I'll be able to keep up the bike commute. My PhD student was here for two weeks and just left yesterday. It was great having him here. We submitted a paper and he got some traction on his next (and final) research project for his dissertation. On Friday, we had a belated Thanksgiving dinner.

Things have been lightening for me personally. I struggle with how to write this without being too confessional, so I'll use The Brother Karamazov, which I am still reading, to get my point across. The two brothers Ivan and Alyosha are relevant here. Ivan is a cold rationalist and avowed atheist. Some of the most famous passages of the book are his interactions with Alyosha, who embodies the ideal of Christian love, in which he levels devastating attacks on religion and God. Alyosha can't respond to Ivan's attacks intellectually, but his life is his answer. He loves all without condition or judgement and is loved by all in return. Ivan's philosophy, on the other hand, leads him to increasing isolation and desolation of spirit. Thinking of Ivan and Alyosha as ideals of the cold rationalist and warm lover, over time, I think I've come to embody too much Ivan and not enough Alyosha. And as I give more love, things keep getting better, so I think this is assessment is right for me.       

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Copenhagen Journal #12: In Is The Only Way Out

The hanging ball moves around the room hitting the singing bowls along the way.
On Saturday, Jen and I went to an old water reservoir in Copenhagen called the Cisterns. It was built in the 1800s, and served as Copenhagen's water supply until the 1980s. Now it's empty, but they let people go down into the man made cave that remains for a fee. I think there is always an art installation there, which is what we went to see. It was a cool exhibit, by Danish artist Jeppe Hein, called In is the Only Way Out. Personal transformation was the theme, and particularly that you have to "confront the darkness in order to see the light." This is apropos for Jen and I, as we continue working on our marriage. Transformation sounds great, but it's hard work and doesn't always feel like progress, though I have faith that we're heading in the right direction.

On Friday night, we saw some art of a different kind. My host here in Denmark is a big fan of Jazz music and wanted to see a concert by the Danish Radio Big Band. We had him over for dinner and then joined him for the concert. It was a great evening.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Copenhagen Journal #11: Speaking Truth

“Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” 
― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

I am currently reading the Brothers Karamazov. The above quote is by Father Zosima, an elder monk and the spiritual mentor to Alyosha Karamazov, the book's hero. Elsewhere in the book, Dmitri Karamazov (Alyosha's sensualist, scoundrel brother) speaks about the difficulty of truth telling, and how even if small errors are made in execution, it goes wrong. His answer to this conundrum is to always be deceitful, but to be  honest about it. He's an appealing, but dangerous, character.

I've been striving to speak my truth of late and can attest to its difficulty. On the surface, it's about speaking words or ideas that you think/feel are true, but truth is many layered. For example, if you speak true words with contempt, I've learned from experience that this negates the truthfulness of the words. So, truthful speech contains within it right action, and it's turtles all the way down.

In the above quote, Father Zosima intimates that we each have a truth sensor within us, but if we lie to ourselves over and over again, we will damage it. I heard a quote from Carl Jung, that the goal of life should be to unite your reason with your inner truth sensor.  This is hard work. As Dmitri says, when we fall short, things go wrong. Well, I fall short all of the time, but I believe that if I keep trying, the process will make me sharper, and over time I will be more and more able to speak my truth.
Father John Misty on Saturday. Great show!!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Copenhagen Journal #10: Shedding Your Skin

One of the goals of my sabbatical is to do 'inner-work' and get to the bottom of what it is about the way I've been living that has felt off, but that I've not been able to put my finger on. Life in Missoula is so full, and largely of good things, but filling your life with good things makes it easy to overlook the areas of your life that need work. Could this be a shadow side of living in our great town - that it's so easy to escape from what needs attention, into the mountains, into friendships with cool people, into University politics, into a local brewery? Anyway, I intuited that some things in my life needed work, but I didn't know what they were, precisely. I feel like I'm getting a handle on that and am now moving in the right direction. It's not been easy, but it's been a gift to get away, reconnect with Jen, and retool for whatever is coming next.

The photos from a trip to Arken (a modern art museum south of Copenhagen) last weekend, and the video is from a Punch Brothers show that we went to this week.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Copenhagen Journal #9: Normal Life

My office at DTU.
I've titled this blog post Normal Life because these last couple of weeks have been about settling into my routine, which is more or less the same here as it is in Missoula: wake up early, enjoy some quiet time before the busyness of the day, head off to work, and at the end of the day, come home for some rest and rejuvenation, then repeat. Honestly, it is this mundane, repetitive living that I enjoy most about living abroad for an extended period. Sure, the new places and exotic experiences are great too, but I prefer 'normal life' in a new place to exotic travel. Of course, it helps to have that place be awesome, as Copenhagen most certainly is. 

Living down in Nyhavn, which is as 'in the city' as you could be, has meant adjusting to a long commute. No matter which way you do it, it takes about an hour, although biking is the quickest at about 50 minutes. It is also the cheapest, so I've opted to bike the 18 mile round trip and have come to really enjoy it. I realize that I could do this (a longish bike commute) if I had to back home. And I've become embarrassed that I got into the habit of driving the 1.5 miles to UM from my house in Missoula several days a week.