A Lesson from the Swedes

Before moving to Sweden I never had any thoughts, desires or dreams about it. For a long time I had to ask myself every morning how did I get here in the first place.  My lack of Swedish aspirations seemed to reflect in all my efforts to adapt as I was immersed in an endless bureaucratic nightmare. The problem seemed to be not only that I had no particular connection to the Swedes. But the fact that I did not dislike them either. There was simply no karmic connection between us and that seemed to be the source of all my mishaps.

My source of information about them was the only English speaking local news, the online newspaper The Local.  The Local is probably the quickest method to get an English speaking foreigner depressed in Sweden.  It is practically full of bitter stories about racism, discrimination, and xenophobia induced unemployment that the foreigners have to face in Sweden. It usually invites a string of comments underneath by infuriated locals but mostly internet trolls that complain about the damage done to their society by those rough looking dark skinned immigrants.

Once you get past that there are a lot of things to learn from the Swedish way of life. Swedes are probably the most drama free people on the planet. They make things happen. They focus on practicality and appear to mean what they say.

They have the highest rates of suicide in Europe, South Europeans often say. Even if that was the case (which I expect is no longer), I suspect the Swedes commit suicide the same way they file for divorce. There is no drama, no bitter accusations or haunting last words. They simply check out.

“After getting their pension my parents moved to Australia and make art” a Swede might say.

You get the picture. Coming from a culture nurtured by pathological family interdependence, sacrifice, obligation and accusations of betrayal, this at times may sound liberating to my ears. Labeled often as a cold and uncaring attitude, I cannot help wondering if this is in fact a more suitable manner for us humans to spend our lives, considering our human nature.

We have to move on anyway in whatever we do. Life is about moving on to the future and about making things happen, not hanging on to the past. It is a way to explore the world and live by acknowledging that we are after all humans. We are here for only a short time to build things out of nothing and feed ourselves and the children we bring to the world every single day. This is our biggest challenge and our greatest achievement.

Why do we ever think we are here to spend our lives babbling, driveling, worshipping, and obsessing like we are some sort of rare gift to the rest of humanity?

Back home in Greece we dwell on history and a glorious past. We have parades and national pride days and well-dressed zombies giving us speeches about democracy, solidarity and growth. We love big gatherings: even on the evening news there are five or six loud live studio connections creating a buzz that numbs our brain. Everything needs to reach a climax, otherwise we cannot feel engaged. And then it simply fizzles out and dies and nothing ever changes.

I am guessing that moving into the Future will be more about letting go than hanging on to what we have known so far.

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