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Catalyst

What is the greatest source of inspiration?
What can really make you contemplate
and urge you forward to complete something?

Well, if you’re happy and content
you might never see the point
of changing anything,
right?

You cannot know the light
if that is all you’ve ever seen –
you will not understand it
or appreciate it’s there
until you have lived through a night –

  And what a night. I don’t plan to moralize, but I do plan to speak my mind. I lived through a night like I hope you’ll never have to. And you probably won’t have to. Most people don’t. I was just the one out of thousands who drew the shortest straw. And then I was stuck in a nightmare that lasted 25 years. A long, drawn-out sleep that left me with nothing in store and everything to rebuild.

  But I did have one thing through that time. One thing that carried and supported me. And that was poetry. If I had lived a happy life, I don’t think I’d ever have started to write. I don’t think I would’ve seen the point, since I would’ve lacked nothing.

  As it was, I lacked – not only material things – I lacked a voice and words to express my thoughts. I lacked expression. And humans are social beings. We have an innate need for words and speech, but I had no words and weren’t heard when I tried to speak. So I wrote. Everything I couldn’t say out loud I wrote – poem after poem, essay after essay – and found a voice along the way that seeped out into my everyday existence and coloured what I’d do and say.

  It’s been an amazing journey, but if I’d never had problems, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to move along the way – I’d probably just have wanted to stay where I was at the beginning. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, right?

  I have no regrets – I chose a path that advanced me, however slowly, towards an understanding of my abilities, and what I truly wanted at heart. It just so happens, that at the end of the road, what I wanted was to continue writing, since I had not yet nearly told everything I had to tell. And since I had come to be able to write fairly well, there seemed to be no reason to stop at all.

What is this stupid construct
the world calls happiness?
A soothing balm
to keep you in your place.

I’d rather feel the pain,
the sadness and the cold
the world too has to offer
instead of growing old
to see that I learned nothing
because I was content –
who on this Earth would truly
want that to be their end?

  Whenever I was at my lowest, no matter the circumstances, I always felt the urge to write. Mostly because no other solution was in sight. But that was what kept me going, and it was a sure and reliable guide to have at hand throughout that long and lonely night that was the uncertain stumbling steps I took towards the light.

  And the worse I felt, the better I wrote. Paradoxically. That’s how it goes.

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Whatever Comes Of It, At Least I Tried, I Did

I would write,
I would write but I am tired and the words don’t come –
perhaps tomorrow
or any other day but today.
But if I say that every day
I may never get to write again
and that thought is so scary
that I try – at least try –

Because what else would I do?
How else would I express myself?
I would explode eventually
with all those words inside me
that cannot make their way out
unless I write them down
and hand them to you.

So I write –
so I try to write
and whatever comes of it
at least I tried,
I did.

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The Arrival of Spring

Spring arrived
or so I decided
today.

The dark fog
hovering in my head
I willed away.

At least for now
the sun shines
and the air is clear –

the cold awakens thoughts
and silences
the nightmares –

The snow of yesterday
already melted,
disappeared

it took with it all traces
of our movements there –

the sludge seeps through my shoes,
no longer waterproof.
It’s good,
it helps me stay awake –

I hung away my winter coat
this morning
since I choose
not to allow the winter to go on –

and if the winter disagrees
so be it –
I’d rather catch a cold
than stay inside

My feet are freezing
but it helps me breathe –
it helps maintaining focus,
not to feel

and I will walk today
and stay outside
and try to think

and I won’t sleep until
the thinking
has been done

Spring arrived today
because I need it now –
I cannot wait two weeks
for clarity of mind.

I’ll air out my brain
and will the darkness away
and see what I can find –

perhaps some energy
that I thought lost –

perhaps a way to will away
the nightmares of the past –

perhaps a flower sprouting
in a pool of half-thawed
ice-encrusted mud –

perhaps to catch a cold –
that would be something new to think about –
perhaps I could –

perhaps a beam of sun
that cannot yet be felt –

perhaps a stray thought
that could help me write a poem
again –

perhaps some lungfuls of the air
might help me sleep
a healthy sleep
with no nightmares –

My feet have led me
out into the park
where they sink
into the thawing soil –

the earth seemingly knows
that I need to feel grounded –

With feet like icicles
I proceed
ahead –

the Spring of my making,
right here and now,
a stuttering breath –

an interlude between darkness
and darkness –
light, cold and wet –

alive –

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I Had a Vision

I had a vision
when I first browsed the web:
An open world
where information
was available to everyone –
information to improve the world.

Knowledge shared
and built upon.
Improved,
passed on.

I thought; finally a medium
for everyone.

This must be the future.
And a future worth working on
(so I learned to code)
but I shouldn’t have been so sure…

I lick my wounds today
disturbed at the ugliness
I helped to access the world
full of unsuspecting prey.

I can say that I didn’t know
it could ever come to that
and it would be true, though –

The honest words might be
that I wanted to believe
in humanity
despite its apparent flaws.

I gambled
and I lost –

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The Possible Connection

I am rumored to be a rather cynical person. In some ways it’s true. But when it comes to the internet, and its powers to connect people and share knowledge on a scale that is unsurpassed – I was all starry-eyed ideals to begin with.

I remember writing those first few lines of HTML code that is the foundation of a website, and looking at the result, heart pounding in my chest, as I realized that I had just published something that anybody, anywhere in the world could access – so long as they were connected to the network. It was a moment of pure joy; hope and the vision of a bright future where the world was interconnected in ways we used to only dream of. It looked like a dream that was about to become true, and I so badly wanted to be a part of it.

Continue reading The Possible Connection

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Red Interlude

I wanted equality for all. Or did I simply want to feel better about myself? I wanted justice for all. Or maybe mostly for myself? I wanted a bright future for all. Or perhaps dominantly for myself.
But all I knew at the time was that the words that came out of my mouth sounded mature and convincing – at least to my own ears.
I was so proud of having found something to prop myself up on that it hardly even mattered what it was – at least at the time.

Teenagers are fragile – more so than even they themselves think. And through the haze of hormones and emotions, making decisions at all is a near miracle.
I had been flirting with the idea of socialism for a while – the exact reason eludes me today. But at the time I really wanted to believe that it was because I was naturally predisposed to care about the welfare of others, and society in general. Because I wanted to believe in something.
I was living in a small, lazy industrial town with a high unemployment rate. There didn’t seem to be any bright future prospects. And my family seemed to have resigned themselves to that fact – whatever they might say in a political discussion, it was clear to me that they really only cared about their own lives, and failed to see the bigger picture. Later on I realized that such an observation did in fact not just apply to my parents, but to much anyone.

I met R in high school. He was a socialist (at least in speech). I was so impressed with how deeply he claimed to believe in what he claimed to believe in – as if he had life experience enough to know what he was talking about. He was the force that sent me over the edge into joining a communist party. I had been flirting with the idea for about three quarters of a year, but not seriously thought it through. After all, I was only 15.
Being idealistic is so easy as long as you aren’t paying your own rent or signing your own papers. As long as you’re eating at somebody else’s table and can’t vote. Keeping that idealism alive once you have to put your own bread on the table – that’s the tough part.

Everything was coated in red all of a sudden. The songs my mother and grandfather had taught me to sing as a child were all about red flags. When I was little I didn’t know that was a socialist symbol – the flag of Denmark is red as well after all. I just figured that’s what it was about. It wasn’t until my early teenage years that my brain became able to make the distinction. After all, my mother sang the Internationale and the Danish national anthem interchangeably – so why couldn’t the flags be interchangeable as well? It was all jumbled up for me until I started reading about politics seriously as a young teen.
I can’t even recall why I started taking an interest in politics. Perhaps it’s just in my blood. I grew up in the reddest municipality in Denmark (naturally, a poor one for Danish standards), with a proudly socialist mother and a loyally social democratic grandfather. It could be genetics – or contamination.

I wanted so badly to believe in something. To prop myself and my teenage insecurities up on something. And here was this hot teenage guy who had all the answers; and answers that fit in neatly with the songs I’d listened to in my childhood. Neatly coated in familiar red. And here I had a chance to impress him… And you could even fill out the form online.

I have no regrets about joining when it comes to it. I learned a lot in the communist party. That communists are paranoid and live in the past, namely. That fixed truths are too fixed to stay truths in the long run. That pragmatism wins out in the end no matter how well thought-out theories you counter it with. A theory is just a theory. Ideals are not reality. Predicting the future is impossible. And everything change, so looking for a final state of society isn’t worthwhile.
Granted, I don’t think that’s what the communists WANTED to teach me. But that’s what they DID teach me. Not with their words, but with their actions.

However, at the time, the world was a red haze. I was in love and I was fired up by the lethal concoction that was hormones, beliefs and emotions. The stuff that makes people make mistakes essentially. Good things mistakes are opportunities to learn.

I made progress quickly. Sat in on the high-level meetings. Was sent to Brussels to speak about the state of the Danish educational system at an international meeting for left wing parties. Played with the thought of starting a communist youth organization along with one of my friends. A friend who soon became a boyfriend. R was not forgotten but just out of reach, and this guy was truly devoted to “the cause” and we worked together. It seemed a match made in Heaven. We would fight together side by side, joined together by love and beliefs… Except that we weren’t. We were just teenagers who went through a phase.

I started writing for the newspaper of another worker’s party. However, I did so covertly because the two parties were fighting. They were both paranoid because they had attempted a merger recently (just before I joined), and the result had ultimately been that my party backed out, with the consequence that a significant minority left the party and merged with the other party on their own. Cue the drama.
I was happy writing culture stuff for the newspaper, which was even a daily, albeit a small one. I received free books and CD’s. I had a really nice editor. But I had to write under pseudonym for fear that my own party would find out. This very quickly started to bug me.

Gee… The idea evaporated into thin air as soon as my fingers hit the first key. What was it I had intended to write? I couldn’t remember. It was just that his face kept obscuring my thoughts. The intention of writing was always there, but the ability came and went like the wind – even when it was an article with a strict deadline I was working on. It didn’t seem to matter to my brain.
What had I intended to write? How would I get back on track? I needed to deliver that article on time or I would surely hear for it. I would rather avoid the scolding that would follow – but how? My mind took some sharp turns without warning. I just couldn’t seem to keep up anymore.

All the drama got on my nerves. I’m not a drama queen by nature, and even the teenage heat couldn’t keep up with the exhaustion I was starting to feel. I just wanted to live my life and here was this party limiting my opportunities. I could not write for the newspaper I wanted to write for, except in secret. I couldn’t hang out with the people I wanted to hang out with because my boyfriend got jealous. I couldn’t say what I wanted to say because anything to the contrary of official party line was met with demands for “schooling”.
Was it really worth it? My “belief” started to falter, little by little.

It was a farce beyond words. Three small communist parties, who might have been able to make something of a difference if they worked in unison, all Hell bent on stabbing each other in the back over who got to be the leader. Who got to have the last word. Who got to go to whose arrangements. Who paid for what.
I sat in on a meeting where my party – who held an annual festival in Copenhagen – decided to ban the newspaper I was secretly writing for (a daily), from said festival, out of fear that they might steal attention from the party’s own newspaper (a monthly pretty much only received by party members). It didn’t matter to them that the product was better, the texts better, the sales numbers infinitely better (if still small)… They just didn’t want competition. And that came right after issuing a statement in favor of collaboration.
Official party line vs. real life decision-making behind the scenes.

The pride of being a socialist waned. With that, the emotions for my boyfriend went out the window. It turned out that once I didn’t see him as a conquering hero whom I was fighting side by side with on the noble course of creating a stiflingly fixed “better” world for all, he was just a loser. A whiny teenager who didn’t have a single coherent thought in his head. Who really couldn’t fight to save his own life.
No, don’t get me wrong, he was a nice guy. He just wasn’t the one for me. Not at all. I grew up and my mind started working itself out – and he stayed in place. And stayed. And stayed. And never bothered starting to think for himself because, really, once you get used to letting other people make your decisions for you, learning to do it yourself is just too much bother…

The colour red evokes strong emotions in people. It is the colour of love, of passion, of war. For me, it is the colour defeat and loss as well. I love it because it still symbolizes my country, and also the ideals I was proud to share – even if they turned out to be no reflection of reality whatsoever in the long run – but it also makes me sad.
Going back to being what I really should have been all along – a social democrat – was a difficult decision. A more difficult decision than it should have been considering how right it was for me. But there was a lot of red haze to shake off. A lot of disillusion to overcome. A crazy high to come down from after having pledged one’s life to a cause that demanded so much – and going back to being an ordinary party member of an ordinary party that wasn’t populated by old people who desperately wanted some younger members to plan that impossible revolution they themselves must’ve long since realized that they were too old and frail and too out of touch to ever carry out themselves. What they never realized was that a revolution would never work in as stable and secure a country as Denmark anyway. Age is no guarantee for wisdom I suppose.

I was 15 when I joined. I was 16 when I left. It was less than a year but if felt like a lifetime. I wasn’t the same person going in as I was stepping out. And after that, it took a few years to clear my head enough to realize what I had taken with me from the experience, and how I could turn the chaos and confusion into something constructive.
I came out wiser and more composed. More at ease with myself. So all in all, it was good for something. But admittedly, I also felt kind of stupid.

I told myself that everybody makes mistakes. And that is true. And a hormone-drugged teenager who is even in love is all the more prone to such moves. But still… I should have known, on some level, that ideals are ideals exactly BECAUSE they aren’t real. If they were real they would’ve become reality at some point.

I know why I stayed those eight months after joining. Why I actually got caught up in the politics instead of just having it being secondary to my turbulent teenage love life. I know that beyond a doubt because I wrote a highly exultant poem about it about a month into this time-span: I felt that I belonged somewhere for the first time in my life. They made me feel that I fit in. They made me feel needed. They made me feel as if my life had a purpose, and they made me feel that they had the key I needed to attain said purpose. I didn’t feel like an outsider for the first time in my life. Getting a boyfriend inside the party was definitely a contributing factor to this as well, but they did groom me a good deal, and I was susceptible – for a time.
I would have done most everything to feel like I fit in. What teenager wouldn’t? And it wasn’t as if they asked for much in return except loyalty. It just so turned out that loyalty to a communist party is too much work to keep up once reality sets in.

Having to leave the communist party meant giving up my entire belief system and a good deal of my network. And surrender to fate. Throw in the towel. It was my luck that I met a Chinese guy just at the right time (oh, yes; the hormones were still raging) who was able to shed some light on the matter of communism in reality. His stories matched a lot better with my own observations than anything the comrades claimed it was all about. And when it came to it, you can feel like you belong in a relationship as well. You can feel a part of something bigger than yourself in a relationship as well. And it’s generally safer to look for it there than in politics.
Anyhow, that relationship granted me a respite in which I got to think everything through and definitively decide that communism wasn’t the way to go for me. That it was a beautiful ideal that didn’t work out in practice. That the communist parties were deliberately backstabbing their allies for “the greater good” and waiting for a revolution that would never come while jabbering about “class consciousness” as if it’s something that matters in the Western world in the 21st century where the working class is practically extinct… The more I read up on the subject, the more disillusioned I became. I’m glad I didn’t have to face it alone but had a citizen from a (so-called) communist country to support me through all this.

I have no regrets about any of the things I did. Neither joining or leaving. As I said; I learned a lot from the experience, and that is the most important part. The only things I regret is that I didn’t read Karl Popper earlier (it could have saved me all the trouble, really).

This is a powerless narrative. Those who wish to do what I did will disregard my words, and the rest will read in them whatever they want to read. But that doesn’t matter. I mostly wrote it for myself anyway. To admit what happened back then. To get the words out of my head and onto paper.
It’s funny all the same. When I re-tell the story it sounds like such a farce. Because that’s what it was. A farce. A political and sexual mish-mash comedy. But back then it was dead serious to me, and anybody who’d claimed otherwise would have had to answer for it.

But oh do I miss the high of believing in an all-encompassing worldview, and oh do I understand those who search for such a one and allow their whole lives to be entangled in it so that there’s nothing left besides it – whether it takes the form of politics or religion or anything else. I understand them. It so safe – floating in the fetal water of one all-encompassing comfort zone where everything is thought out for you so that you don’t have to do anything but allow yourself to surrender.
The only problem is – that life is not your own. It is owned by those who told you what to think and how to behave. Absolute truths are exactly what they are – absolutes. Nothing beyond and nothing besides. And no room for who you are outside of them.

The red haze has lifted. I still show up under red flags every once in a while at social democratic gatherings. But it is a world apart. It is the difference between being dictated to and accepting due to hormonal imbalances and a desperate desire to fit in; and having fruitful discussions amongst equals.

I can never go back. Nor do I want to. I grew up, I grew past it and I developed a brain that doesn’t take well to either making decisions based on emotions and hormones, or being told what to do.
But boy did I learn a lot.

I certainly did something constructive with my teenage years. Even if the thing I ultimately ended up doing wasn’t at all the thing I thought I was doing at the time.

It wasn’t the ultimate means to an ultimate end that I allowed myself to believe. It was an interlude. A red interlude that catapulted me from adolescence to young adulthood.

What a time.

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Song of a Youth

My spirit flourish
with adventurous longing
and lovesick yearning,
where before I languished
away from the known
I now feel at home
wherever I’m blown

I leave others to ponder
the meaning of life,
I see no strife
and I’m off to wander
to wonder and to be
amazed, crazed and free
I’m off to feel and see!

In garment of freedom
and light-headed naivety
I’m defying gravity
in attempt to attain some
illusory goal whereupon
I can let my spirit run
in circles, undone