I spent the morning of my 40th birthday last month at Helsinki’s excellent Kiasma art museum, where they had a special exhibition by filmmaker-artist Alfredo Jaar, his first solo showing in Finland. His work is a critical comment on current politics and the human situation.
One of the works of art, titled Dear Markus, is a series of prints and text on a billboard. The description in the museum’s guidebook says:
In spring 2011, Jaar travelled to the Turku Archipelago to plan a work for a local exhibition. When he asked the captain of the Uto ferry why it was leaving at 5.45 am, he learned it was to get a boy called Markus to school. Impressed by a society that arranges its transportation around the needs of an individual, Jaar invited 11 Finnish thinkers to write letters to Markus. He displayed them on billboards along the ferry route and published them in a book that was distributed on the ferries.
Here is one of those letters, written by writer Antti Nylén.
Have you ever thought about where the centre of the world is?
I’ve thought about it a lot. I’ve come up with two answers.
First of all, there is no centre. Paris, Moscow and New York are just names of places, and you can’t travel to the heart of the earth except in adventure books.
On the other hand, the centre of the world is always there, wherever anyone senses and apprehends the world. Every sentient human being or animal is at the centre of their own world.
The Ostrobothnian poet Gosta Agren said the same thing when he once wrote that only mother tongue is spoken everywhere in the world.
I hear you were sleeping when that New York artist saw you on your way to school.
I think that, at the time, he also thought these impossibly simple thoughts. He probably believed he was far from the centre of the world.
One thing I’ve learned about travel is that it centres you. It takes you to that place inside yourself you can call home, no matter where you are in the world. My birthday vacation did that for me; it took me to the spots that really mattered to me — my love for God, my family, my writing, my expression — and helped put a distance between my material life and my inner one. So I could come back home and feel more ‘together’ than when I’d left.
The result of this alignment has meant that I no longer feel the need to chase fast cars any more. I only now wish to allow Life to use me as an instrument for Its work. I only now wish to inspire and be inspired. To truly live before I die.
So I have taken certain decisions since my return a few weeks ago, and no doubt there are going to be repercussions; the naysayers keep appearing to plant their own limited thoughts in me. But strangely, this time, I am not even looking for answers or opinions. I can feel it in every cell in my body that I’m on the right path. When it’s past, I will write about it here.
Like Jaar’s work of art, I found inspiration miles from home –and I found home in inspiration.