Today I sat down for a coffee with a journalist from the New Yorker [hi Ian!] who was in town for a few days. He’d read my post about going to the symphony and was a little puzzled that people here are still doing stuff like going to concerts and shopping and suchlike. He wondered whether we’re all in denial … he said we seemed kind of like cartoon characters who have run off a cliff and are hanging in mid-air, completely oblivious to the fact that we’re about to plummet down any second. [Which I thought was a really cute image and which probably proves that I’m totally and irrevocably in denial.]
But is it true? – I pondered to myself afterwards. Are we really making running motions in mid-air while a hollow abyss gapes beneath us, waiting to swallow us whole?
The only answer I came up with was another question: How exactly are you supposed to behave in a kreppa?
Is there a correct form of behaviour? Should we be walking around with long faces, all gloomy and defeated, preferably emaciated, with snot coming out of our noses? Moaning about the hateful kreppa and how it’s totally ruining our Christmas?
Or should we try to enjoy what we can?
I don’t think we’re in denial – I don’t think anyone in this country harbours any illusions about the circumstances we’re in. I think we all know that things will get worse after Christmas. But Icelanders have this peculiar facet of character, this ability to adapt and to shrug things off, that can be both an asset and a liability. In its worst manifestation it appears as complacency – a willingness to let things slide, even when faced with gross incompetence and corruption. In its best manifestation it appears as the “Þetta reddast” mentality – the blithe belief that everything will work out in one way or another. And it usually does.
I find it healthy that people are just getting on with things. There’s an Icelandic saying: Að láta hvern dag nægja sína þjáningu* which essentially means that each day has its own volume of suffering – no more, no less. And you shouldn’t try to add another day’s suffering onto this day’s, in order to get it over with sooner, or to try to dilute it. If there’s money today, you should enjoy it today. And if there’s happiness and joy today, you shouldn’t block it out just because there may be difficulties tomorrow.
Today I went to a concert at Hallgrímskirkja church – a choral recital of Christmas music. It was sold out and the [large] church was packed. The singing was sublime and had everyone enthralled. I’m willing to bet that every single person in that church was in some way affected by the kreppa – but they came to the concert anyway. And I’m also willing to bet that, this year, they enjoyed it even more than in years when they were not facing difficulties. I’ll venture to say that it gave them a sense of comfort.
Something else giving people comfort: Yoko Ono’s peace tower. Last year when it was lit for the first time, it kind of missed the mark. Many of us wrote the whole exercise off as another Yoko Ono eccentricity that moreover seemed slightly misguided. But to my amazement, this year I’ve drawn a surprising amount of comfort from that column of light that reaches into the sky – particularly in October when it was first lit, when all the sh*t was going down and we were being shell-shocked on a daily basis. I’ve heard many, many people say the same thing. There’s been such a radical shift in values in the last few weeks. We’re starting to see what really matters. And that’s good.
THE WEATHER HAS BEEN FANTASTIC TODAY
By which I mean, fabulous weather for December – snowy and blustery and cold. Everything is white out there right now and there are coloured lights in just about every window. Looks really festive and lovely. Right now it’s 0°C [32F]. The sun came up at 11.02 and went down at 3.36.
* At least I think it’s Icelandic – perhaps it comes from somewhere else originally.