Night thoughts

I have heard many times that there exist two kinds of people: morning people and night people. I certainly belong to latter kind. I think that many creative people tend to be a bit stuck in their heads. I count myself as one of these people. My lunar character makes me turn my gaze naturally inwards. I love to daydream and to dream at night. This is why I need a routine for the mornings to get my day started like I described on my last post, but I sure don’t need a routine for the night. I begin to thrive at nighttime. When the sun sets, I find my creativity surfacing instantly. When I look outside my window, I don’t see the dark. I see a canvas with blank spots that I can paint on with my imagination. I live in an area in Helsinki where I can still find little spots without electric lighting. I am thankful for this since I can enjoy the atmosphere of the dark and I am able to see at least some of the night sky. I love going outside for walks with my dog after the sun has set and stare at the stars and the moon.

Silhouette of a forest. Photographed from my balcony while writing this text.

Elias Lönnrot, the author of the Finnish national epic Kalevala, has said that the rune songs which he collected for the book were born out of “night-knowledge”. Lönnrot suggested that the sages who sang these songs had a way of tapping into a stream of eternal wisdom. He suggested that these songs were born out of an altered state of consciousness, from night-knowledge. The contrary of night knowledge is of course day-knowledge. Day-knowledge can be described as our mundane state of consciousness.

In Kalevala, new perspectives are often searched for from the dark, from under the earth, from the land of the dead, from the furthest north where the sun never shines. In Rune XIX, ‘Ilmarinen’s wooing’, the eternal forger of the sky Ilmarinen descends to the land of the dead in search of a bride. In order for Ilmarinen to get the bride, the empress of the land of the dead Louhi gives Ilmarinen multiple challenges. In this rune Ilmarinen has completed the final challenge of fishing a great pike from the river of death.

”Then the blacksmith, Ilmarinen,
Took the pike-head to the hostess
Of the ever-dismal Northland,
Thus addressed the ancient Louhi:
“Let this head forever serve thee
As a guest-bench for thy dwelling,
Evidence of hero-triumphs;
I have caught the pike of Mana,
I have done as thou demandest,
Three my victories in Death-land,
Three the tests of magic heroes;
Wilt thou give me now thy daughter,
Give to me the Maid of Beauty?”

– Kalevala, Rune XIX.

In his search to find beauty and his counterpart, Ilmarinen needs to travel to the underworld and face the depths of the river of the dead. In the river there lies a monstrous pike which he has to defeat. The pike is damaged in the battle and Louhi is disappointed when she receives only the head of the pike and not the whole fish. After hearing this Ilmarinen proceeds to defend himself:

“When the victory is greatest,
Do we suffer greatest losses!
From the river of Tuoni,
From the kingdom of Manala,
I have brought to thee this trophy,
Thus the third task is completed.”

– Kalevala, Rune XIX.

After hearing this statement Louhi accepts that her daughter will be married to Ilmarinen.

There are monsters to be found in the dark but the greatest of rewards also lie there. A dive into the depths is a dangerous task but the one who survives it is gifted with the Maid of Beauty. One can only do this if he has the ability to acquire night-knowledge. To go where the sun doesn’t shine, to dive into the depths, in modern terms can be considered as a metaphor for encountering one’s subconscious.

The night doesn’t hide what can be seen by day. It unveils a different mode of consciousness, a different mode of being. Only some can see what the night has to offer. Some are too scared to take a look. The call of the night can only be heard by those who are willing to listen.

Morning thoughts

I just finished my morning routine. After finishing the routine, I started analyzing it. My morning routine starts with a 10-minute stretching session which consists of the same movements every time. It’s a great way to rub the sleep out of my eyes with a bit of movement. I try to concentrate on just the stretching but usually my mind starts to wonder around. When this happens, I try to solely focus on the video’s instructions and my breathing. This usually works and I can focus on the moment again.

After the stretching I lay on my bed and start my breathing exercise. The breathing exercise consists of controlled heavy breathing which is then followed by breath-holding. I do this exercise for three rounds, and it takes me another 10 minutes to finish it. This exercise usually feels a bit challenging in the mornings. The heavy breathing is hard, but the breath-holding is relaxing. Completing the three rounds requires some patience but after finishing the exercise, I feel great and relaxed. The breathing exercise reduces tension in my body and makes me feel light as a feather.

After finishing the breathing exercise, I get out of my bed and go into the bathroom to take a shower. I put the shower on and get the water as cold as possible. I let the water run for a bit and brace myself for the trial. I have a routine in the shower where I get every part of my body cold except for my hair. This initially creates a shock that really wakes me up. When experiencing cold like this you automatically start to hyperventilate. To fight this, I control my breathing and try to relax my muscles. From my own experience I can say that this actually works. The worst thing you can do in extreme cold is to fight against it. You sort of have to accept the cold and try to resist the urge to contract all your muscles. Controlling your breathing and the mental attitude towards the cold is the most crucial part in enduring it. Taking cold showers and increasing the time in the cold requires practice and repetition but the progression is easy if you stick to the routine. The cold shower takes me three to five minutes to finish depending on the day. The cold shower reduces tension in the body and wakes me up. It takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me feel alive. I would recommend cold exposure to everyone. Cold showers also have well documented health benefits, but I find that the mental attitude you gain from enduring the cold is the most important part of the exercise.

Glorious morning view from our apartment. Photographed this morning.

The sole purpose of my morning routine is to start the day with a deep focus on my body and nothing else. I try not to think about my chores for the day until I have finished my routine. I have realized that if I start the day by looking at social media or the news I get off on the wrong foot. By following a routine consisting of relaxation and self-overcoming I have made my mornings very enjoyable. My morning routine gives me time to focus on myself and my well-being instead of letting a social media algorithm poison my mind just minutes after waking up. Despite all the benefits of my routine I still don’t make enough time for it in my schedule every day. Some days I just feel lazy, and I simply do not have the willpower to execute the routine. It’s astounding how big of a difference it makes to my day if I follow the routine or if I don’t. It’s like night and day. The morning routine gives me positive energy that lasts throughout the day. My routines impact seems to be the greatest on the days I really don’t feel like doing it. This is something I need to keep in mind in the future. I guess self-overcoming feels the best when you really have something to overcome. So do as the day does, and rise.

When they [the mystics] descend to the depths of their own being they find ‘in their heart’ the image of the sun, they find their own life-force which they call the ‘sun’ for a legitimate, and I would say, a physical reason because our source of energy and life actually is sun. Our physiological life, regarded as an energy process, is entirely solar.

– Carl Jung, Symbols of transformation

Gathering around a fire

I was browsing through pictures I have taken on my phone that I have had for six years now. I am not a person who takes that many photos. I try to experience what I consider meaningful and picture worthy moments with my own eyes rather than filtering them through a screen. That being said, I am actively trying not to be too stubborn with this trait. After all photos can capture important moments and foster precious memories. While browsing through the images I found an interesting pattern reoccurring in the albums. A lot of the pictures from the most precious moments I had captured included a fire.

Gathering around a fire in. Summer of 2021.

I have a similar blurry pictures like this from every summer since I have had this phone. These pictures are all taken at my friend’s cottage which we visit at least once a summer every year. We have done these trips for at least 8 years now. The people attending these trips for the most part have been the same people every year. One could say that we are a tight knit group. My friend’s cottage is located next to a small like in the woods. There is only one neighboring cottage on the other side of the lake, and I have never seen any signs of life there. This means that we can enjoy the peace and quiet of nature completely by ourselves. The place is truly idyllic. At night the only thing you can hear is the diver bird’s song echoing through the mist floating on top the lake. I often say that the cottages scenery is like a reflection of my inner essence, a mirror of my soul. The only thing interfering the peace and quiet of the woods is our reckless consumption of beer and whiskey. In the evening we bathe for hours in the sauna and in the lake. After the back and forth bathing we all gather around the fire pit where we share stories and memories throughout the endless summer night. The combined effect of the consumption of spirits and staring at the flames for hours always brings me to an ecstatic state. Sitting around the fire makes me feel connected to the surrounding nature and to humanity itself in a special way. All of our ancestors’ lives have depended on the light and warmth of a fire and I can’t even begin to imagine all of the feelings and stories that have been shared around a fire across time. There is something very primal in gathering around a fire with a group of people and staring at it. During our stays at the cottage the fire pit acts as center that we circle around for the night. The fire connects us just like our friendship does. It holds within itself something that we all share and are attracted towards.

Reflections on debating

I have been attending a debating group once a week since I started ALMS. I have always considered myself to be a natural debater. I love to reflect on my own thoughts and see how others react to them. I often find myself debating with my friends and even sometimes with new acquaintances. This is not always beneficial for me, since not everyone wants to get to the bottom of things or discuss the meaning of life after meeting someone five minutes ago. I am not afraid to voice my opinions since I have always believed that conflicting ideas don’t have to lead to conflicts between people. I have also found out that in real life this is not always the case. In relationship to truth, I find this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche inspiring and relatable:

“The strength of a person’s spirit would then be measured by how much ‘truth’ he could tolerate, or more precisely, to what extent he needs to have it diluted, disguised, sweetened, muted, falsified.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Nietzsche did not believe that we could discover universal truths, since we are only capable of observing the world through a human perspective. He however believed that we should live with brutal honesty and align ourselves with what we call ‘truth’. Otherwise, we will live a life of self-deception.

Participating in the debating group has been an eye-opening experience for me. I consider myself a seeker of truth and knowledge at heart. This of course doesn’t mean that I hold huge amounts of knowledge of truth, I am just passionate about the search for them. Therefore, I am not afraid of taboo subjects or arguments, even in debates. During our debating sessions I have realized that in order to win a debate, it is not always necessary to present the most truthful argument. Sometimes you just have to present the most persuasive one. My style of debating can seem emotionally cold and off-putting to many. Like I stated earlier, I believe that the facts and arguments should have a fair chance to really battle it out and see which one comes out as a winner. In our sessions I have found out that a good debate doesn’t have to lead to a discovery of what is the most truthful argument. A good debate can also reveal a greater understanding of the subject at hand through the different arguments presented.

In our sessions I have also had to present arguments for statements I don’t personally believe in. In these cases, I have often relied on persuasion and imagination rather than solely on facts or reason. I have received compliments in these occasions for my poetical and imaginary use of language. I have written lyrics and performed music since my teenage years, and this has turned out to be helpful in debating. Due to this newfound skill, I have discovered a new side of myself. A sort of a populist side. Thanks to the gods I am not interested in a political career.

All joking aside, I have learned a lot from participating in our debating group. I have learned to listen to others more carefully. In order to have a good debate, you must really listen to what the other person is saying and respond directly to what has been said. Otherwise, you may end up straw manning your opponents argument very easily. I have also learned a lot about my own believes. When you are faced with opposition, you really must think through your own thoughts and see how deeply they are rooted. In defending believes that are not your own, you really have to use your intelligent and place yourself in another person’s shoes. Debating really is gymnastics for the brain.