Decadent Norway

Is this all?

That question has been lurking in the back of my mind for most of my life. I remember it being especially strong when I was young. I didn’t feel comfortable in any setting, in my family, in church, as a part of the student body, as an adult etc. I don’t know how to explain it, but even during my best periods as a member of these different structures, I wasn’t content.

There’s always been a feeling that something was missing, that I was missing something. I couldn’t be the son, brother, grown up, church member, friend, employee other people expected me to be. I have, as some of my readers know, struggled with faith and relating to people for big parts of my life. I have described the different challenges I’ve had through life (autism like symptoms, depression, anxiety, difficulties in relating to people, difficulties keeping a job), and these could of course be the whole explanation. There was a period when I felt a bit like Holden Caulfield from the novel A Catcher in the Rye. I saw phony and emptiness wherever I looked, and it was clear to me that I couldn’t trust anyone.

I struggle as much with my relationship to God as I do to people. I am still keeping a certain connection to God, so I feel that I have more than nothing, also when it doesn’t feel like it. I don’t go through life calling people phony, but there is a lot of it around. It’s one of the reasons I ignore people.

It’s Maundy Thursday today, the day Jesus had his last supper with the disciples. The Norwegian name Skjærtorsdag comes from a Norse word meaning purification. It might be a translation of the same word, but I think the same word is used in purgatory. On the other hand, if I could travel a thousand years back in time, and they said I needed to purify, I’m sure it wouldn’t make feel better. They did after all use the sword diligently in their evangelizing, but I digress. 😉

I remember Easter as a low scale celebration from my childhood. It was a time when families did things together, played board games (this was of course long before internet and gaming), quizzes, walked in the park, read books, and of course watched some TV.

I have mentioned in a previous post that we have a bizarre tradition of crime shows on TV during Easter. I used to like reading and watching adaptation of oldfashioned British crime authors like Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. The problem today is that there is too much. Even with just the basic package from the cable company you can spend all night, every night watching CSI and and the different spin-offs. That’s just a small part of the shows, so there really isn’t anything to anticipate for Easter.

It’s like with Christmas. Many spend so much money and effort on Christmas food and parties during Advent, and when it’s finally Christmas, they couldn’t care less. It’s something similar for Easter. I saw a newspaper headline yesterday. The Police are warning parents against leaving their teenage children home when they leave for their holidays. Apparently there are home alone-parties that get out of hand. Somenthing is clearly different today.

St. Olav Church
St. Olav Church on the island of Karmøy. Being interested in history this church from 1250 is my favourite local church. This helps me feel a connection to the eternal God. As the Norwegian king had his farm here, and lived there for a while, this was technically the capitol for a short period.

Easter used to be a time when people that had a country house spent the holiday there, and many went to cabins in the mountains. That still happens, but it’s a lot more upgraded. It’s basically a second home with satellite dish, widescreen TV, computers and broadband, playstation/Xbox etc. These are wonderful tools if we don’t spend too much time not communicating inside the family. I wonder how much happier it has made us.

We measure success and happiness in how much we own. There are a lot of happy people, but sometimes I wonder. Everything appears to be perfect on the surface, but maybe some people are just better at faking it? There is a reality show that I watched a couple of episodes of. Translated from Norwegian it’s called The Luxury Trap. In this show two advisers from a bank and a psychologist help families out of debt. They give them advice on what they can do to deal with the debt they have, as well as trying to change their behaviour. They also act as mediators with the debtors, but the families have to do everything themselves. What struck me when I saw that show was how these people were using money as a drug. If they needed to feel better they didn’t care what it did to the rest of the family.

They use loan and credit cards to cover loans and then they continue this crazy lifestyle instead of paying down debt. I’ve seen a couple of episode of the Swedish edition too, and most people on this show spend at least a couple of thousand dollars more every month than they make. It makes me wonder. This is something new. Maybe it’s a part of the fascination with the rich and famous. That existed in the early history of the Hollywood studios too, but now we have reality shows where anyone can pretend.

The Luxury Trap irritated me. I’ve never had much money, but I often wish I did. I’ve never been in a situation where I didn’t have to pay only the oldest bills and see the pile grow, or buy the cheapest possible food. This article in New York Post is quite thought provoking. I don’t have any romantic feelings about being poor. You can still be happy as a low income family, but it also makes you very vulnerable and it makes it harder to help your child on the autism spectrum.

I don’t really wish I had someone else’s life, but as a long time resident of the village of Limbo, I can assure you it’s not all pleasure. All in all I guess I still feel I have a better life than my financial status would suggest, but I agree with Caulfield on one point. Hypocrisy is rampant and still most people don’t feel that the Church has anything to offer them.

There’s no going back to the 70’s I grew up in, but I think Norway had potential back then. We were different.

I guess I was ranting, but hopefully there was some point in between here somewhere.

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5 thoughts on “Decadent Norway

  1. I couldn’t be the son, brother, grown up, church member, friend, employee other people expected me to be.

    None of us can do this, John. And worse yet, we can’t ever seem to achieve the levels of excellence we expect of ourselves.

    So we go looking for some way to feel complete. Accepted.
    This relates to something I’ve meant to post on, so I won’t unload my entire brain here. But I think you’ve expressed a pretty universal frustration of simply being human.

    The positive aspect of your experience is that you recognize the emptiness, where many do not. They just drift from one unsatisfying experience to another…hurting other people and themselves in the process. But they never identify the hollowness of existence that has to be faced directly in order to conquer the trolls that lurk in the shadows.

    Your thoughts on hypocrisy remind me of several articles I had posted years ago to my old blog site. There is a lot of insincerity in our society as a whole and, sadly, within the church as well. US Christianity is often very much like the Laodicean assembly of Revelation. As a culture, we are “rich”. Decadent is an excellent description for the lifestyles many of us live. We think we have no (spiritual) need as we fill our days with meaningless fluff instead of the “food” we were designed to consume. But we are actually homeless paupers who need to be rescued from our own wretched state of blindness.

    I had to admit, after writing several rants of my own, that I could be as bad as anyone else…even though my crimes generally were over relatively inconsequential issues, I hated the tendency in myself. And I still sometimes chastise myself pretty severely for not being as direct and honest as I think I ought to be. It’s hard to find that sweet spot where you’re not indiscriminately blabbing everything that goes through your head while still striving to speak what is true and helpful…and sometimes even painfully necessary.
    None of my immediate family is Catholic, but I joke sometimes that I inherited a “Catholic conscience” by way of the compulsion to always confess my errors to someone. :/

    It’s just a personal observation, but I think one of the reasons we see so much dishonesty is tied to fear. It looks something like: If I tell you what I’m really thinking or show you my worst side, you’re going to decide I’m an idiot, jerk, pond-scum, chicken, (insert insulting opinion here).
    There’s not a lot of grace in this world, and ultimately, I think many people wear masks because they fear rejection. If you can’t ever be free of those chains, you will never be able to move beyond that type of approach to life.

    When you meet someone who is “real”, the stunning contrast between them and all of the fake nonsense is unmistakable. You’ll know it when you see it. I did, and it made me want that type of freedom for myself.

    Being poor can be hard. We never had a lot of money growing up, either. And, in spite of Craig having a decent job, we have barely cleared the poverty line in the past few years.

    I do understand you desire to be able to adequately care for your family. Any decent husband and father does.

    Being wealthy comes with its own set of potential problems, I guess. I’m not sure that most people are strong enough to be able to handle having a lot of money wisely. I don’t think I am.

  2. To make a long story short, sin ruined this world.

    Christ isn’t going to fix it — He’s going to replace it.
    (“new heavens and new earth”)

    So there’s no use expecting other than broken churches, families, etc.

    That’s both a historical constant and prophetic constant. We’re told clearly through The Bible that the wide way which most take leads to destruction.

    This world can best be described as a prison camp. And indeed the rest of the enemy angels will be rounded up and cast out of heaven soon enough. And of course those that don’t want to be rescued by Christ will end up with them.

    Cultural christianity is mixed with all kinds of ungodly nonsense. Most “christian” churches are really cults or better described as “false christian.”

    Isaiah 59 expresses all this wonderfully…

    1 Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened that it cannot save — neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear:

    2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God
    — and your sins have hid his face from you that he will not hear.

    3 For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity — your lips have spoken lies — your tongue hath muttered perverseness.

    4 None calleth for justice nor any pleadeth for truth — they trust in vanity and speak lies — they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.

    5 They hatch cockatrice’ eggs and weave the spider’s web — he that eateth of their eggs dieth and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.

    6 Their webs shall not become garments neither shall they cover themselves with their works — their works are works of iniquity and the act of violence is in their hands.

    7 Their feet run to evil and they make haste to shed innocent blood — their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity wasting and destruction are in their paths. {This is where Prov. 6:16, Eph. 6, and Isa. 59:17 link}

    8 The way of peace they know not and there is no judgment in their goings — they have made them crooked paths — whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.

    The rest is glorious. Only Christ saves. Hope only come through Him. All good things come from God!

    Even the wisest are but children when they die having lived but a moment compared to Christ (resurrected and ascended). 100 years is nothing compared to 2000+ (or to even a 6000 year creation). We can not claim to do good. We don’t live long enough to experience the full repercussions of our actions — or inactions. For “those who know to do good, and do it not, this too is sin.”

    Abraham got it — identifying as a “stranger in a strange land.” And Hebrews gives us that he sought The City — whose maker is God (Heb. 11:10).

    So why joust windmills? The Armor of God has much better use.

  3. You claim to no longer be a teacher, but it seems as though even your personal articles offer a chance to learn something new.

    Apparently, I’m quite ignorant of the existence of many major Christian holy days. But I just finished Googling Maundy Thursday, so you won’t be asked to explain this time. 😀

    It’s also interesting to be able to see photos of such things as the old churches etc. that you all have in your part of the world. The oldest building in our state is a Catholic mission which has only standing about 170 years.

    I would guess the ability to connect with ancient landmarks in such a tactile way gives you a completely different view than we have regarding the study of history.

    1. Thank you. Yes, I suppose I’m still a teacher in a way. I’m glad I have this chance to offer people information, and to share some of my experiences. This is the perfect platform for me as I can write what I can’t speak.

  4. Since, Heather and Nomemoleste stated it all so well, I really can’t think of much to add…except a little….

    I envy you those old churches, John. I remember the first time Eva told me about attending a church that was over 800 years old, and the very idea just sort of blew me away: a church approx. four times older than the nation I live in. I can imagine that Norwegians have a very different sense of the passage of time than we have here in the U.S.

    With regards to all those “happy people,” I am not sure they are all quite as happy as they appear. I concur with Heather, that in many cases, that is a mask or an act. Granted, they may have a more comfortable life in certain respects. But it is altogether possible that in many cases (particularly here in the U.S.), that those happy people who appear to own so much, don’t really own anything at all except debt up to their eyeballs that they can probably never pay off in their lifetime.

    As for “owning stuff,” I have made the observation that rather people actually “owning” the stuff, that all to often it appears as if the “stuff” really “owns” the people.

    So…there’s my proverbial 4 cents worth.

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