Category Archives: Christian Iceland

Island Life

This is Iceland. It’s not so friendly to human life, really, but it is sold to tourists, who want “real experience.”


The image below, made out of the experience above, is “art” in Reykjavik. It is sold to tourists, who want to be warmly received (and want to stay warm in a place not so friendly to human life.)

That’s the art of Iceland: remaining hospitable. It is a kind of mercy. Art and beauty are reduced to a line of thought here, in a language of “eye” and “body” but not so much of mind, and that line is reduced to gentle gestures, lest the bodies of visitors scare.The language of mind (below) might just scare them off.

I’d love to see Iceland market it. Such beauty lies there.

Why aren’t shipping containers, repurposed as homes, sold in souvenir shops in Reykjavik? I think it’s because Icelanders want to give people the experience they came for. They’re generous like that.

Not that there are polar bears in Iceland, but what the heck. The practice speaks to a tremendous self confidence, and the secrecy of all islanders: everyone is the island.

All who come remain within the gesture of arrival, until they choose to either leave or stay. Everyone gets to decide for themselves. No one will help you… unless you get lost. Then you will be brought back and warmed up, and will be once again within the gesture of the island itself. It’s the same if you try to leave. You might find  yourself leaving and staying all at the same time.

The island is the one doing the speaking here. Humans are almost speechless in its face.

In Iceland, Everything is Hay

It used to have trees, and it is eaten by sheep. A little bit of replanting has been done. Here are some Siberian larches in East iceland, placed in like a quilting block.

One works with what one knows. Everything else is a compromise. Spiritually, as I showed you yesterday, the compromise is between paganism and Christianity. Environmentally, it is between earth before and after settlement. Below is an image of Iceland flowing to sea, which is called the force of wild nature.

Well, yes… wild nature with sheep and shivering humans. Iceland is not an indigenous nation. It is a nation of settlers. Settlement is an ongoing process. It is at the root of the country’s past and future. This is what it looks like.

Baa-aaaa!

It also looks like this:

Reykjavik

And this:

Kirkjubær

The point is, when you live on a sub-arctic island, and keep sheep, everything is hay, as the Icelanders say, meaning that when the hay runs out in the middle of the winter you will feed your sheep anything — anything — to survive. Even this:

Yes, in Reykjavik even John, Paul, George and Ringo are hay. And danish beer is hay, too.

Baaaaaaa.

Iceland’s 1000-Year-Long Balancing Act

Elf House, Church, School, Playground. Out of these pillars, the country is built.Þorgeir’s balance from the Þing (the parliament; Þorgeir was the speaker of the house, tasked with deciding the spiritual future of the country) in the winter of 999-1000, in which he decided that the country would be Christian, politically, and either pagan or Christian privately, continues to this day. Intriguingly, the Álfar, “the other people” of pagan tradition, remain hidden. One can see their homes (above, for example), as one could see pagan homes in the Christian Iceland of late 1000, but the pagan content is as hidden now as it was then. But it is OK for children to play there — children who are the foundation of the state. So, it’s not that hidden!

Viking Hydro Power Station

In the 9th century, long, long before Nicola Tesla, the vikings of Iceland changed the course of the Öxá, to create a waterfall in þingvellir. The sagas tell that it was named after a troll that used to chop up early parliamentarians with an axe — surely a witty reference to early spiritual struggles in Iceland, which was grounded simultaneously by at least three spiritual traditions: Norse, Irish and Christian. Wikipedia tells how the waterfall was used to provision campers with water.I will merely point out a couple things. First, the Icelandic killing fields were in this river, either by the drowning of witches, ie reunion with the troll, or by beheading on a rock in the water, ie the cancellation of Christian belonging, as a form of organic justice. This was hydro power before the industrial age. We now call it “nature” and “beauty.” Those are only industrial terms. Beware.

Secret, Spiritual Iceland

Presumably, the boundary in the image below meant something once. I’m no expert, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears to be a turf wall, laboriously cut and stacked, replaced by a wire fence, and replaced by nothing at all except memories of where a boundary once was.
And again:

This is not likely a sign of increasing wealth. Nor is this near-obsolete set of boundaries at Kirkjubærjarklaustur. There’s a stone wall, and a row of birches, for the graveyard, and then a mysterious fence, with one electrified strand, even, serving no purpose now except to mark a boundary for a summer student with a weed whacker.

Fortunately, some boundaries are still full of power. Here’s the sky above the Hvitserkur ogre.

Still, these other boundaries speak of something profoundly Icelandic. Here’s the churchyard again, with its wall…

… and without (by leaning over it.)

Trees and stone: that’s two walls, one for those looking out and one for those looking in. The turf wall is no human barrier…

… and neither is the churchyard:

But it matters a lot whether you are looking in to life, from grass to stone to trees to grass, or looking out from grass to trees to stone to grass. Isn’t all of this the behaviour of people who have spent a long, long time with sheep?

And with the gentle ways of herding them?

This is old, old technology, that only works with respect that goes out at the same time it comes in.

And understands life as a series of seasons.  This is not the modern world, yet it is still alive, and you can enter it in Iceland, and then, well, and then you’ve walked through the gate.

Make no mistake. The image of Reykjavik above and the one of Smyrlabjörg below are the same.No one will tell you why. If you have to ask, you haven’t walked through the air to the air.

The Artistic Windows of Iceland Part 2

The windows of Iceland are for neither looking in nor looking out, but for display of earthly objects in the light of the sun, which makes them sacred: talismans, spells, and prayers. It is an exquisite and complex art form, quite separate from the 1960s New York art that saturates the Harbour Gallery (and which is also beautiful.) In their windows, the people speak; in their galleries, they create a window for the world, based on this style.

Tomorrow, let’s go for a gallery tour.