Saturday, December 15, 2007


Some three years plus a few months ago I returned home from the hospital and was recuperating after surgery, under less-than-ideal conditions. Yes, I knew the big lump in my back was gone and that I would finally be able to play again. But the joy of this was dimmed by ugly articles in the local news media, placed there intentionally by evil people. I kept on telling myself that this was nothing but a test. The character of Satan is interpreted differently in our various monotheistic religions. Many Christians see him identical to the Devil, yet in parts of the Old Testament he is God's servant, sent here to test our strength of belief, to tempt us. It would have been easy to put a face, or a few, on my personal Satan, but deep inside I knew everything was meant to be and at the end it all would turn out for the best. I even came up with the "Law of Talvion", a modified version of the oldest law in the books, the talion, or "eye for an eye".

Unrelated chronic pain keeps me often awake at night for hours at a time. I have often used this as an opportunity to contribute to this blog. Lately, as many of my readers have noticed, I have been less active. I do write, but much of it is in my native tongue, some ending up as long emails or perhaps comments on a Finnish website, the rest being filed away. There are too many writers in the family: my wife has been busy with her memoir (she is quite a talent), and last month belonged to my daughter Silja Talvi and her fabulous first book, "Women Behind Bars". Yes, I shall come back to this hobby; after all writing in my own language feels almost too easy, although there is a certain joy in being able to express oneself effortlessly and with finesse. Instead of trying to run away from pain by getting up and attacking the keyboard, I have managed to escape to deep thoughts, to a world where there are no discomforts. Many questions have found their answers this way, even if they are not all pretty. People don't live happily ever after and the world is not often a nice place.

Since this is a festival season, I've spent a fair amount of time analyzing different religions, what they represent and how the people belonging to these faiths live their lives. One easy conclusion is that most congregations are run like clubs or social circuits. Faith and desire to improve the world and help the less fortunate couldn't be farther away from minds of these people. It was at first painful to realize that the little local Lutheran congregation my countrymen have here in town decided to disown me as soon as they read some of the nasty stuff printed locally. No more begging to play for their Xmas morning services, something I always had a hard time turning down as I thought it really meant something for these folks. Based on their dwindling numbers they may be doomed; at least I won't feel sorry if the ship sinks. And, as a benefit, I have a rare free morning!

That fall I played Kol Nidrei at a synagogue which operates on two locations, and did so beautifully and from the bottom of heart, as my two daughters present will always remember. The other location had an amateur child of a "society floater" perform. Guess who was written about at length in the local paper and whose name was omitted? At least my daughter is honored as the president of her university's Hillel and she is doing great work. Most Jewish congregations seem to fit the prototype of a club, or they belong with the loonies, living in Stone Age. Don't get me even started on the corrupt megachurches. Aside from Mormons and other secret societies, there are a number of truly decent independent organizations that serve their members well, yet don't really welcome strangers, and the largest donor usually decides how the congregation operates.

There is an exception, the mighty Catholic Church, where a wealthy individual still is a small fish in a pond and is more or less equal with everyone else. The church has been in the teeth of the public because of past sex scandals. We'll never know how many of the victims are truly such, as these cases have been settled quietly. I would claim that there have far more predators on the loose in the school system, and some of the most vocal popular leaders of other faith movements have been found guilty of terrible sins. As an institution, the Catholic Church has, for a long time, taken the side of the poor and unfortunate in parts of the world where no other power could stand up against the repressive governments and military juntas. They have often been the only ray of hope for many. Obviously I wasn't raised as one of them, yet the church here has been the most welcoming of them all, and has offered powerful healing experiences when I have had the honor of being part of their first rate music making. Yes, I have my issues with some of their ways and traditions, but that doesn't prevent me from appreciating being made feel at home. If I were young and searching, I would give it serious thought, together with a peaceful Eastern philosophy.

So, today I consider myself healed and back on my feet, surrounded by good people who like what I do and how I do it. Perhaps it is fate, or "luck", if those two terms are that different. I like to think of it as a blessing. It is interesting how different cultures wish each other success. In my native Finland we give an onnenpotku, a gentle kick of luck. The French have their merde, and in this country we tell someone to break a leg. Some people may have experienced both of the latter literally, perhaps deservingly. Even with my high I.Q., supposedly surpassing that of Einstein's, I'm not smart enough to answer that. Some things are best left alone.

"The Eighth Night of Hanukkah"
by Ilkka Talvi © 2007