18 August 2016

Pass me another Danish

Today at the gym I was listening to the BBC Newshour podcast. I enjoyed listening to James Coomarasamy's interview with the design journalist and writer Charlotte Abrahams about her upcoming book, Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures, Living the Danish Way. The related Norwegian adjective hyggelig (good, pleasant, delightful, cozy, comfortable) was so very familiar to me from times spent in Norway, where I'd often overhear such phrases as "It was so hyggelig to meet you" or "Your place felt so hyggelig." (The "y" in hyggelig is a somewhat earthier, compressed version of the "i" in "wig." Click on the audio icon here.)

Until I looked up this book on the British Amazon Web site and saw the other books listed under "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed," I had no idea how fashionable hygge had become. Related searches brought me to a slew of articles on this trend, starting with the Guardian's coverage of the new book from Abrahams. Among other helpful articles, I appreciated this linkage of hygge and the long, dark Scandinavian winter.

I've been meditating on this exchange between Coomarasamy and Abrahams:
So, in terms of your book and there are several others coming out on the same theme, is there a quest for this, do you think, in the English-speaking world, perhaps?

I think it's a kind of reaction to all the other lifestyle philosophies that are on offer at the moment ... Hygge is not a lifestyle philosophy, it's part of of Danish culture. But I think that non-Danish countries are kind of adopting it as the next big lifestyle thing -- because it demands nothing more of you than you enjoy the small pleasures of life. You know, there's no guilt involved ... it encourages you to go sit by the fire and eat cake.

Do you think it's something that can be ... learnt is probably not quite the right word -- it's come up organically in places like Denmark. Do you think it's something that people can read a book and say, "OK, this is what we're going to adopt as our philosophy"?

To an extent. I think, fundamentally, that Brits, you know, we're different, I think we're a bit prone to that sort of Puritan work ethic, and guilt, and things, but certainly you can try and adopt some of the principles....
The comparison of "work ethic and guilt" and Danish hygge reminded me of one of the comments I sometimes hear about Protestants from some Russian Orthodox people. They consider us just a bit too ascetic, legalistic, pinched-in, to enjoy life heartily the way they do. As one priest in the Buzuluk region explained, "You Western Christians are all straight lines and sharp corners. Even church architecture tells a story. We are more rounded, more organic."

I'm not exactly ready to concede this point, but it does bear thinking about the relationship between hygge and discipleship in a world where a rescued boy in Aleppo can reduce a CNN news reader to tears. We need to be just as mindful of the sweet times we're granted, and the wonderful people we regard around us, as we are (or would like to be) about the things that break God's heart. We Quakers usually don't have the physical elements of bread and wine in our communion, so it maybe easier for us to forget the spiritual significance of taking in food and drink together, and the pleasure, even joy, that goes with it.

Sing and rejoice, ye children of the day and of the light; for the Lord is at work in this thick night of darkness that may be felt. And truth doth flourish as the rose, and the lilies do grow among the thorns, and the plants atop of the hills. And upon them the lambs do skip and play. And never heed the tempests nor the storms, floods nor rains, for the seed Christ is over all, and doth reign.

As I was putting together these reflections, I came across this just-published post from Mike Farley, whose moving words and well-selected quotations caused me to ask myself if we can talk about a connection between the simple pleasures of hygge and the life of praying without ceasing.

Mark Wutka writes very helpfully on tears and brokenness of spirit.

Canadian Friend and renowned scientist Ursula Franklin, 1921-2016: the CBC obituary and appreciation.

"There are some people you should kill," ... according to a priest!

I have fond memories of this magnificent ship, whose future is uncertain.

"They call me lazy; goodness knows I'm only tired."

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