St. Jakobs Church in Bergen is simple. Small. Dark. Cold. An established feature of several Norwegian churches, especially during this specific time of year when everything goes quiet, slows down and stays still.
Being welcomed by a cup of warm gløgg, or glühwein as some may know it, the sounds of Bach and Arvo Pärt performed by Hansakvartetten, the lovely voices of Silje Mørch and Zsuzsi Zeni, and beautiful renditions of beloved Christmas songs from Gabriella Garrubo, Johannes Nøkling and Thomas Lossius does provide a perfect escape from daily trifles. Samklangfunnet have given a truly wonderful, modest taste of the holiday season.
Indeed, the holiday season holds different meaning to all; however, it can evoke a calm, a hint of serenity and reflection if one allows. Stepping away from the bustle of daily life, the material hue that has emerged over the years to fill our minds during this time, from exam revision and deadlines for annual progress reports – to turn it all off and submerge oneself into a world of dampened sound, of simple presence – can offer a chance to finally breathe properly for a minute or two. We spend our days so fixated on continuous progression, on incessant movement, that it eliminates any opportunity to actually just remain still and perceive our surroundings.
The concept of being aware is something that seems to be generally decreasing throughout industrial-capitalist society. Engaging in a myriad of technical and social avenues that entrap us within a world so far from the one surrounding us, we have a tendency to lose grasp of the environment we are a natural part of. The sounds, smells and emotions that our environment affects in us are taken more and more for granted.
To take a pause, take time to listen to soft strings or song clear as a bell - being slightly cold since the heating system makes too much noise when it is on, legs numb due to the hard wooden benches, perceiving some slight shouting from the outside where two people dispute over something or other, hands are slightly sticky because you spilled some of that very sweet gløgg earlier, the exam you had hours before and your brewing cold are all but forgotten - gives you an opportunity to be in the moment, to be in the world. Not to seize it, but simply be.
Although we may each be masters of our own fates, we can never truly part ourselves from this world. We are intrinsically bound to it and its fate, and to ignore it; to take it for granted, because of trivial things seems foolish. Little time-outs, if you may call them that, like these that enforce an increasing awareness and immobility can perhaps allow us to see that very fact. Any opportunity that arises which offers a chance to achieve some sense of serenity, in whichever form, should not be passed by lightly.
By Lina Halvorsen