Thursday, January 27, 2005

Frugal and Rich

This is from Finland Forum:
"We live near Finland's Bible Belt, and my husband knows some Lestadiolaisia. From what I can gather, they tend to be considerably wealthy, presumably because they receive a lot of government aid (mostly in child support I guess), and live frugally; as mentioned no TV's, no booze, a diet of porridge and bread, and apparently they usually buy cheap merchandise and use a lot of hand-me-downs. The father of the family is usually the breadwinner; most Lestadion wives are stay-at-home mothers, but there are some who work. From what I've heard, Lestadions own at least 2 major "bargain basement" retail chains here."

"They're big into house building. As they no real hobbies, they have lots of time to do something productive. Build a house, with cheap labour (relatives) then sell it two years later for hansome profit."


Comments?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Crapula Mundi

Seems many of you readers are shy about posting comments. That's okay. Kind of. For a while. Now get over it and join the conversation!!! Ask questions, share an idea or rant, whatever, but please help keep this boat afloat.

That said, kiitos to the reader who asked me to share my impressions of "Fragments." (I haven't read very far because -- whine alert -- my new poetry blog, ikebana lessons, volunteering, job, housework, hubby and two spunky kids. Not necessarily in that order.)

The book is fascinating. I'm getting a sense of Laestadius as a rebel who used language to shock and manipulate.

At the age of 43 he wrote his pastoral thesis "Crapula Mundi" (I'm told it means "world's hangover"), in which he railed against the Swedish theological rationalism of Enlightenment. The first ten theses were written in Latin, the 11th in Finnish (the sale of liquor in Sami territory was done mainly by Finnish-speaking traders and new settlers) and the 12th in Lappish. Seven of the 12 are included in the Introduction to "Fragments." Here are the last two:

11. The friends of temperance go astray when they speak more about temperance than about the Christianity.
12. A Lapp is a man of better quality than a new settler or a non-Lapp.

The last one is quite revealing. Seems ethnocentrism was at the very genesis of Laestadianism, whether due to actual belief or by design.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Fragments of Lappish Mythology

fragments

I've begun reading LLL's book on Sami myths, which was published in Finland in 1997 and translated into English in 2002. Very readable. The foreward and introduction are fascinating.

Already, I have a more complex take on Laestadius, as someone gifted and flawed and deeply human -- and not without a sense of humor. I'll write more about this later, but I want to encourage everyone with an interest in Laestadianism to read this book, and if you are so inclined, to comment here.

It is also available through amazon.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Direct to L Double L



I thought you were inspired, then disturbed
Perhaps both are true. After all you knew
The power of myth and used it
Like a hammer and a bell,
For vengeance and for love.

But however gifted, however driven
The teller doesn't own the tale
Two centuries later
Your words, out of Lapland
Out of proud men,
Are swung like axes
Young hearts -- like mine was --
To fell.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Parlez-vous Suomi?

Thanks to kind reader Theoforos, I have been corresponding with a remarkable former Laestadian, Bengt Pohjanen, who comes from the Tornio valley in Sweden (home to my great-grandfather). Pohjanen is not only a prolific writer but the first to publish in Mienkieli, the Finnish of the Tornio valley. He has translated some of the gospel into Mienkieli. He has written for stage, film and opera.

Bengt's 1981 novel "Ropandes röst" (Voice of the Crying) is about Laestadius. Unfortunately the novel has not yet been translated into English.

Of course, I am dyin' to read it! What should I do? Take a crash course in Swedish or Finnish?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

God's Pocket

halfearth

Walking home with groceries in the cold
January dark that starts at four, our
six-year old pulls at my glove and points
at the brilliant, semicircular moon.

Look! he shouts
It's poking out of God's pocket!

We laugh. So it is. And the earth? I ask.
(Ambitious is a mother's pride.)

Well, it's a big coat! he reasons flawlessly.
We're all inside.

*****

Poem based on actual event. Photo courtesy of NASA -- doesn't our planet look peaceful from that distance?
Readers, thanks for all your posts this week. I've enjoyed reading them.

Monday, January 17, 2005

I Have A Dream

What do Lars Levi Laestadius and Martin Luther King, Jr. have in common? They were both Christian preachers of subject races. Yet their legacies could hardly be more dissimilar. Can one dream that someday, tolerance and inclusion will be the hallmarks of Laestadianism?

MLK

Some interesting quotes:

"The Lapps have had the ordinary fate of a subject and defenceless people; they have been utilized with little regard to their own interest or inclinations . . . the Birkarlians began in the 13th century to farm the Lapps . . . they are regularly spoken of as having or owning Lapps, whom they dispose of as any other piece of property. In Russian Lapland matters followed much the same course . . . monks are declared masters of the Lapps . . . and they soon sought to extend their control over those not legally assigned to them. Other monasteries were gifted with similar proprietary rights." (http://66.1911encyclopedia.org/L/LA/LAPLAND.htm)

". . . .the invisible gods are innumerable, and the heathen serve them the most, such as the devil of fornication, the devil of honor, the devil of greed, the devil of anger, the devil of drunkenness, the devil of arrogance, the devil of deceit and the devil of envy, which all rule in the hearts of the heathen. The drunkard’s favorite god is the visible flowing liquor, rum, or whatever his name may be, which we call the devil’s shit, for the devil teaches people to ruin God’s grain and to make it harmful to body and soul. The people who drink it become animals. And what is the favorite god of the liquor merchant? Why, nothing other than that round liquor barrel, on which the liquor devil sits astride, as the heathen have painted him in their pictures. What is the whore’s favorite god? That which she loves the most, some whoremonger, who deceives her and makes her an animal. What is the favorite god of the slave of the world? Moolah or money, objects, possessions, beautiful buildings, beautiful horses or other worldly vanity, which are of no avail in death. All these transient things are the gods of the heathen. Some also have their belly for their god. Gluttons and drinkers are servants of idols, for they view their belly as their god." (Lars Levi Laestadius)

"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Friday, January 14, 2005

Cambodian Mennonite Laestadian

My husband, raised by cerebral skeptics, finds my history with the OALC interesting, kind of like he finds the orangutans at Woodland Park Zoo interesting. He is kind, he is tolerant, he is occasionally clueless. Case in point: the first (and only) time my parents visited us was after our first child was born. We tidied the house. We put the TV in the basement. We welcomed them warmly and took photos of them with Baby (their sixty-somethingth grandkid). We made small talk. We ordered out for pizza. And then my husband graciously offered Dad . . . a beer. A BEER! Might as well have been moonshine.

Dear hubby has many talents, however. While courting me, he invented this silly song and we still have fun with it. Our children are going to forever associate Laestadians with Tolstoy. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

To the tune of "This Old Man, He Played One"

This old Cambodian
He plays the accordian
He plays the accordian all over Cambodia
With a wickety wackety pickety packety
Give the dog a bone
This old Cambodian plays the accordian all over Cambodia

This old Mennonite
She plays the vibraphone
She plays the vibraphone all over greater Los Angeles
With a wickety wackety pickety packety
Give the dog a bone
This old Mennonite plays the accordian all over Los Angeles

This former Laestadian
She reads Anna Karenina
She reads Anna Karenina from the beginning on through the end of it
With a wickety wackety pickety packety
Give the dog a bone
This former Laestadian enjoys reading Anna Karenina

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Journal of a Doubting Laestadian

The link above will take you to Ben Kilpela's "A Journal on Doubt," an interesting if somewhat bloviated exploration of his search for certainty. (Zut alors, another gabby Finn. And they say we're the silent type!)

Kilpela was raised in the Apostolic Lutheran Church, not to be confused with the OALC.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Universal Golden Rule

Brahmanism
This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.

Buddhism
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.

Christianity
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law of the prophets.

Confucianism
Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you.

Islam
No one of you is a believer until he desires
for his brother that which he desires for himself.

Judaism
What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.

Taoism
Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss.

Zoroastrianism
That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Tie That Binds

Hallelujah! My handsome husband and I have a date on Saturday night. We're going to a friend's 40th birthday "prom." Having never been to a prom (wouldn't Laestadian Prom make a great name for a movie?), I'm not QUITE sure what to wear, but that won't stop me. Maybe I'll shellac my hear and don glasses and a whistle and be a chaperone.

The party is a few blocks away in the Masonic Temple, a pale blue building where we held our wedding reception many years ago.

What exactly are the Masons? I seem to remember that in the OALC, a former Mason (name escapes me) wrote the words to the hymn "Keys Are Given to the Christians." Anyone remember that story? I grew up thinking that the Masons were kind of freaky. (Actually, I still think that. They rent their hall for $200 when it could easily bring them more.)

Another OALC memory is "Blest Be the Tie That Binds." The internet tells me that the lyrics were written by a BAPTIST minister. Heaven forfend. I must have sung it at a lot of funerals, because it still makes me sad.

When I mention this to the adorable husband, he laughs and says "Oh, we sang that song in high school in a production of Our Town." Funeral versus musical. Well. That pretty much sums up our respective childhoods.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Snow


Snow on Boston Street
Originally uploaded by Free2beme.
This morning when I saw the outdoors blanketed in snow, I thew a wool coat on over my pj's and wandered out to enjoy the unique hush that comes to our neighborhood with this rare (for Seattle) weather. This is one of my favorite trees on Boston Street. It is older than the houses around here, which are nearing the hundred-year mark.

No church today. We'll take the kids sledding, build a snowman, have cocoa, read from their new book about penguins, make soup, listen to Prairie Home Companion. Abundant life indeed!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Gula Gula (Listen Listen)

Taking advantage of my restored health, I went the library today and checked out "Gula Gula" a CD by Mari Boine, a Sami joik singer who was raised in a Laestadian family. (Joiking is traditional Sami singing. You can listen to samples by clicking on the link above.)

This is from an online article about Boine:

"Joiking smelled of pantheism to members of the Scandinavian revivalist Laestadian Lutheran movement, who moved into Sámiland (AKA Lapland) in the 19th century and discredited native customs and art forms as they began making Christian converts. When Boine was a teenager in the small village of Gámehhisnjárga in the 1970s, the Laestadian Sámi community discouraged her interest in joiking not only because her assertiveness defied the Laestadian view of a woman's subordinate place in society, but also because her music asserted the worth of Sámi culture."

What a coincidence! I too was a teenager in a small village in the 1970s. Boine had Laestadian parents; so did I. She sang folk songs; I sang in a jazz choir. Her first song was John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" -- I sang Lennon and McCartney's "Let it Be" for a talent show. She left the church. Ditto. She went on to record with the likes of Peter Gabriel. I went on to, um, sing in the shower.

Oh well. Wonder if she tours. Would be fun to meet her.

Monday, January 03, 2005

In the World


Mikko and his family
Originally uploaded by Free2beme.
The OALC in particular and Laestadians in general would make fascinating documentary subjects. Perhaps the reason PBS hasn't come knocking is because, well, who would agree to be interviewed or filmed?

Apparently Laestadian reticence did not stop Pia Andell, a Finnish film director, who made a lovely short film called Maailmassa (In the World) in 2002 using actors. I stumbled upon the title in a web search and requested a copy from the production company, then had it transferred to VHS (fortunately it already had subtitles in English).

What a discovery! The movie is beautifully photographed and its story deftly told through the voices of two men, Mikko and Sakari, both of whom were raised in large Laestadian families. Mikko remains in the faith, becomes a massage therapist and preacher, gets married, has 9 children and stays in the country. "Too curious" Sakari leaves, is rejected by his family, becomes a photographer and lives alone in Helsinki.

The translation into English is sometimes clumsy, but many of the phrases are pitch-perfect Laestadianese. Even the title is a familiar phrase. "In the world" is the equivalent of "unsaved."

Hearing the men explain their decisions, one feels compassion for both of them. It is easy to see why Mikko stayed and why Sakari left. (But how I wanted to reach out to Sakari, to alleviate his loneliness!)

I found myself dreaming of a new movie, with a similar story but from the point of view of two women: one who stays, marries at 17, has a dozen children. The other who leaves, goes to college, has a career, marries and has two children. Sisters, perhaps.

Hmmm. Anyone know a producer?!