Negative Capability

I'm not a big fan of Bob Dylan, but I'm grateful for him being sort of responsible for me learning about Keats' concept of Negative Capability. Apparently, Bob Dylan with his elusive character is a good example of the concept, at least if you are to believe Anthony Decurtis (in The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan) and others.

According to Wikipedia, Keats introduced this concept in 1817

"to characterise the capacity of the greatest writers (particularly Shakespeare) to pursue a vision of artistic beauty even when it leads them into intellectual confusion and uncertainty, as opposed to a preference for philosophical certainty over artistic beauty. The term has been used by poets and philosophers to describe the ability of the individual to perceive, think, and operate beyond any presupposition of a predetermined capacity of the human being."

Keats' Kingdom points out that Negative Capability "is a sublime expression of supreme empathy". By using it we can become better at understand different points of views or different cultures so that we might be able to express them.
Known to be a keen reader of the classics, Barack Obama has also been recognised as a person applying Negative Capability by for example by Santi Tafarella and George Packer. When he received the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama said in his speech: “We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. ... We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace.”

I think my former boss Lena Blomberg also can be considered to practice Negative Capability. She always emphasises to consider if reconciliation can be achieved, to find a way to choose both alternatives instead of only one.

I also like the notion of the possibility of something being completely logical and still magical.

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child's balloon
Eclipses both the sun and the moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

Bob Dylan, It's Alright Ma


History Lesson

We had a discussion, my friend and I, about an article saying that it was not more than fair that history books for schools covered mostly prominent men since they were the ones that had had the most impact on the development of the world. Of course, I didn't agree but at the time I felt that my words fell flat to the ground. I'm not used to having to defend something I feel is so obvious, but I realise that I have to become much better at stating my perspective.

What I believe young people should know about history (and thus make up the text book) is a number of things. History is a matter of perspective. No historic description is neutral. The winners write the history. Most history textbook writers focus on your own country (quite naturally) and the areas or cultures closest to you, often disregarding whole continents and cultures. It's not enough to only learn about Sweden, the Nordic countries, Europe and the US.

We need to learn history because it tells us things we need to know today. If we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. This is especially true when it comes to the development in Europe and the US today, where we can see fascism grow.

Many different people and situations have had an impact on the development of the world. To believe that only powerful individuals such as presidents, kings, generals and so on are the ones worthy our attention because of their decisions or actions is too narrow. Many individual from all walks of life have had key roles in making history, but their names have been lost. Also, many significant changes have been rather slow and the result of groups acting over time, rather than just one single person doing one thing at a specific moment.
I also think it is important for people to learn about that women many times have been made invisible throughout history. They have made scientific discoveries that their husbands or co-workers have claimed as their own. They have been managers of companies and estates, but been not allowed to own them. Although perfectly able, women have been stopped from entering many professions. There have been societies where women and men have been more equal than most are today. Even though sometimes their role and impact was acknowledged at the time, a deliberate censorship has erased women from the history books.

Just because it is, doesn't mean it should be. Lady Sarah Ashley in the movie Australia

Everybody is responsible for creating the history of tomorrow. The choices we make, the actions we take, the votes we cast. We are all accountable for both creating our society and the story we tell about it.

This is the way I would go about teaching history. And I would never ever say something like the article mentioned above, because I can't see that such a statement would bring me any closer to us having and using history textbooks that embodies those ideas.


Up Close and Personal

The first time I saw an Anton Corbijn photograph was when I bought the U2 album "All that you can't leave behind" in 2000. I very much liked the photos although at that time I had no idea who the photographer was. I tried to convince my boss at the IT University in Gothenburg that we should use a similar style when shooting pictures for the marketing material, but she went for something more colourful which was probably wise.

Having accompanying the members of U2 for several years, Corbijn has been able to take a number of very relaxed and unexpected photos, some of them on display lately at the Museum of Photography in Stockholm
I suppose that it's quite a different situation when you take pictures of people you've just met and will probably never see again. This was likely the case for Pieter ten Hoopen’s who took pictures of Indian entrepreneurs in the area of sustainable environmental work, who are involved in self-help projects initiated by the organisation Hand in Hand in collaboration with the local population. The exhibition is called Spirit of Change.
When I was working at Chalmers, we started to look into what we called "Impact Photography", that is pictures illustrating change as the result of scientific knowledge. It turned out that the database of photos at the university consisted mostly of pictures of university buildings, students or researchers in white lab coats or standing in front of a bookcase. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to set things in motion before I left.

Change is difficult to describe in one photo, since it's a process. But I think we need to try harder. With the access of rather good cameras in smartphones many more people can take pictures, capturing processes. Getting more up close and personal. Because change is personal, not only for people in India. Or Burma for that matter.

The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind
U2, Walk On



It's a bit annoying although perhaps not that surprising that searching for "sportswashing" provides you with lots of links to information about washing machines. The concept seems to have peaked in association with the so-called European Games in 2015. It will probably take a while before it shows up in Google's Ngram Viewer.

I must admit that I hadn't heard of this event before I saw the huge signs still visible in Baku in September 2015. However, since I prefer doing sports instead of watching it this was not so strange.
The Danish initiative Play The Game claims that it's unsure whether Azerbaijan was successful in its sportswashing since it has resulted in at least some relationships gone sour although apparently not with Britain.

"The supposed ideal of the Olympics – and by extension the European Games – is to unite people through sport. With this in mind, a regime that relentlessly proves itself to be an autocratic oppressor of civil liberties is not the sort of partner the International Olympic Committee should be aligning themselves with, let alone actively supporting." Vice Sports

According to The Guardian, Azerbaijan continues its sportswashing, holding the European Grand Prix recently. However, according to Sport for Rights, their luck might be changing since the UN Human Rights Committee has published its findings on the civil and political rights record of Azerbaijan which it examined during its latest session.

I only whish they had used a bit stronger language than that they are "concerned" about the state of affairs...


Transit Town

A couple of weeks ago, Peter LeMarc was the guest in Tomas Andersson Wij's music show on TV. Having gone through some troubling times, he still put on a wonderful performance. Apparently Tomas didn't tell him that the last song, Little Willie John, was to be included. The audience gave a standing ovation in 15 minutes.

A song that stirs up all that longing
A bird returns to my heart
Feelings nobody can stop
I hear the words, remember the joy
Feel the pain,
Peter LeMarc, Little Willie John

One of the things Peter LeMarc told the audience during the show was that the saying that you write your best songs when you are feeling the worst simply isn't true. When you're really down and out, you can do nothing else than try to survive.

It reminded me of how wrong the Swedish translation of the saying "Necessity is the mother of invention" is. In the Swedish version, the word "necessity" is translated into "nöden" which is more of an equivalent to a sever form of "need". It's hard to be inventive if you lack water, food, clothes and a safe place to sleep. It's hard to be creative if your loved one is fighting for her life.
Since visiting Trollhättan again on a regular basis I find myself hearing Peter LeMarc's music in my head. He's depicted his hometown in his songs and I walk through the avenue, across the square, past the kiosk and into the cobbled street. I remember what it was like to visit the town in the beginning of the 90's, when I was heading into a new relationship looking for something out of the ordinary and found it. Always be careful what you wish for.

I played the CD I bought back then called "Hittegods" (Lost Property) and found that I still remember most of the songs.

He said: Where're you going?
She said: Wherever!
He replied: I know where it is. Come into my vacant heart and look for yourself."
He says: Where is our life? What have we done?
Tell me, how could we become so old so soon?
The one staring back at me in the mirror is not I.
Do we have to fight for weeks in order to love one day?

Peter LeMarc, Sången dom spelar när filmen är slut (The song they play at the end of the film)

I'm looking forward to listening to his new record "The Thin Line", released yesterday.

I need someone's hand, to lead me through the night
I need someone arms to hold and squeeze me tight
When the night begins an' the dew remains
I need your love so bad
I need some lips to feel next to mine
I need someone to stand up an' tell me, when I'm lyin'
When the lights are low, an' it's time to go
I need your love so bad

Little Willie John, Need your love so bad


Nature Calling

The UN Sustainable Development Goals was the theme for this year's Lights In Alingsås. Every year students work together with professional light designers to create thought-provoking installations. I very much enjoyed the walk in the dark, especially where the lights were reflected in the water.

The first station "A Time to Reflect" was at the church and aimed at making us think about "Peace and Justice. I wonder if they chose the purple colour deliberately.
By pressing "The Red Button" at the river we could change the paradise into an inferno, reminding us of our actions have an immediate impact on the goals regarding Life on Land and Life Below Water. The nicely lit tree in the other direction provided a provoking contrast.
Next stop was at the Abandoned House, referring to goal number 10 regarding reducing inequality within and among countries. Here the lights told us a story of what it's like to be an outsider, only vaguely seen by others.
The installation "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" put the spotlight on the first goal: "No Poverty. Here the refugees were hiding in the bushes, but we could see the trail they left behind in terms of bags and books. We could also experience what it's like to live in a rescue tent.
 The very long installation along the river, illustrating the past, the present and the future of gender equality was both somewhat scary and beautiful. The colour red was frequently used, sometimes as a warm glow but also as a cold warning signal.
"Climate Action" was the goal related to the installation "Nature Calling". With so many people gathering at the spot, it was somewhat difficult to hear what it said. I think it was "Go away!".
The last station was a rather long (in time) but also very beautiful installation called "Life Below Water", providing both insights and hope. The red lamps just below the surface looked rather sinister, like the Nautilus was trapped there.
Since not all of the UN goals were used, this makes room for our own creativity at home. I use a lot of lights in my home, on my balcony and even up the stairs to my apartment. They welcome me and my visitors during the dark part of the year, why I consider them contributing to the goal of ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.


Management By Chocolate

When I was working at Innovationsbron, my then colleague and now friend Maria commented that I did something she called "management by chocolate". I had a habit (still do) of bringing chocolate or cookies to all my meetings to share with the participants, since it made the process much smoother. If you use really good dark chocolate, you get satisfied with only a few bits (in theory at least) making you benefit from the antioxidants without getting fat from the sugar.

Being a chocoholic it's good to learn that the chocolate industry seems to work harder and harder on sustainability issues, both social and environmental ones. While browsing the Swedish JournalChocolat I found out that there are several large initiatives going on such as the Cocoa Horizon foundation started by Barry Callebaut, one of the largest cocoa producers in the world. Together with another major chocolate player Mondelèz they have started Cocoa Life, helping the cocoa workers in Africa to improve their situation. They are also a member of the World Cocoa Foundation who support "support cocoa communities, education, field programs and scientific research". This organisation also partner up with other funding agencies such as the Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation in order to create a bigger impact.
Also small producers such as the Swedish Gefle Choklad make their own sustainable products and Scottish Chocolate Tree is famous for their bean-to-bar concept (although I'm a bit hesitant to their Haggis Spice bar...).

In a chocolate shop in Gothenburg I came across a sign saying "Strength is the ability to break off four pieces of chocolate but only eat one". True, true!