May the Force be with me

I have a strange relationship with bullfighting. I saw the first bullfight in Spain in 2009. The bullfighting arena was like its own little world with its own rules and aesthetics. It’s like an opera where a dramatic story was told with great emotion. But most of all, the smells, sounds and hot sunshine made me feel very sad.

I was reading Ernst Hemingway’s book ”Death in the Afternoon.” At the beginning of the book, he describe how matadors are transported to the arena. It’s cramped in the car because the matadors had heavy combat jackets on. The book describes this very moment as the worst of the day. The battle is getting closer and the matador can’t do anything about it during the whole cramped car ride. The matador lives with death every day and therefore becomes very distant. After reading that part, I was reminded of the bullfight I saw in 2009. The same sense of sadness overwhelmed me. 

My first bullfighting drawings I made right after the bull fight at the espresso café to my sketchbook. Over the years, I have occasionally made portrait drawings of sad matadors. Now I Googled bullfighting photos, especially old black and white ones. I poured indian ink into a container, took a feather and I painted my the first bullfighting drawings in years. At the same time as drawing those bullfighting drawings, I was wondering at my painful relationship with force and violence. 

When I read more about Hemingway’s book ”Death this afternoon”, I learned more about bullfighting techniques. It felt like when I found out how a magician does his magic tricks, sad when the enchantment disappears. The bullfighter’s brilliance pales in as I read that when a bullfighter forced the bull into quick turns and quick stops, the bull cripples its spine and damages its leg and eventually exhausts itself. 

During this time, when many men value strength and muscle more than real information, it occurs to me from Hemingway’s book where people had asked the famous bullfighter Rafael Gomez ”EL Gallo, what kind of exercises does he do to keep his body strong enough for bullfighting? Gallo replied: ”What on earth would I do with force, a bull weighs 500 kilos. Should I use my powers to be as strong as a bull?” ”May the bull keep its strength.”
Bull or a man? I think man is a bull until he start thinking, then man is a man.

Yesterday When I Was Young

Today, I found my old diary from our “Honey Year – Around the world” -trip we made with my wife in 1989 after our wedding.

Between the pages, I found my passport photo that was taken in India on that trip. It was shot on the street with a pinhole camera made from black cardboard. Under the black cover, the photographer put the photo paper inside the camera and I had to stay still for a few seconds. After a few minutes, the photo was ready. Now, when I looked at myself in that photo, I can still see that relieved feeling on my face when we finally found that street corner where that man was taking those passport photos.

How much is left from that time’s Jouko? How much have I changed in these 30 years? Our body changes all the time, our 37 trillion cells regenerate throughout our lives. So, if my body has regenerated, what is left from the Jouko in this passport picture? If my brain has regenerated as well, what is left? Maybe my thoughts?

So I started reading my diary.

At first, I felt sympathy reading my short notes from those days. It was so clear that I was in a culture shock. Before our trip, my parents warned me not to go. They said: “Our son, look at the news on TV and you will understand how dangerous it is to go abroad. They are killing people over there, is that what you want?” But I had married a brave woman and I just had to follow her.

I kept on reading my diary and it sounded like a little boy’s thinking: “They don’t have toilet paper here in India.” “No even a toilet bowl!” ”Today I couldn’t find a trash can, one Indian man shouted to me ´Here is no trash can, this whole country is a big trash can!´ and then he was laughing!” In the beginning, I was so shocked that I hardly could draw anything in my diary. I had also made small pluses and minuses in my diary, depending on if the day had been good or bad. There were not so many plus marks.

However, when I read the text of the day when my passport photo was taken in India, I realized we had been traveling for three months then.

And that day I made my wife cry.

I had the first very happy feeling that day on our trip. It was a day without any fear. I just said: “People are good.” It was so big of a surprise to my wife that she started crying and she said: “Jouko. Now, this trip has paid for itself.”

As I forwarded reading my diary, the more tired and sad I got: When we had traveled seven months we arrived in Fiji Islands. I was reading about the day we got there and I remembered that before we started this whole trip we thought that Fiji must be the most exotic place in the world. And in Fiji, on our arrival, I had written in my diary that now, when in Fiji, I was really thinking how exotic Finland is with all darkness in winter and when it rains slush. I had finished that day’s text with a thought: “Exotism is always where you are not.”

After I had read through my one-year diary of Finland-India-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore-Australia-Fiji-USA-Finland, I remembered one moment from the trip. One evening in Udaipur, India. We went for a beer with our friend and ended up in this one view restaurant. The sky was full of stars and suddenly we saw a shooting star. Our Indian friend closed his eyes, put his hands to namaste, and prayed. We asked why he prayed and he said: “Always when you see a shooting star, it means that someone has died and the soul is going to heaven.”

My wife and I started eagerly to clear up for him that shooting stars just look like stars that quickly shoot across the sky but they are not stars and that in reality, shooting stars are just pieces of rock or space dust hitting Earth’s atmosphere from space. That it moves so fast that it heats up and glows as it speeds through the atmosphere.

Our Indian friend looked at us sadly and said: “No Magi and Jouko. Please, no. It is a soul. I remember how ashamed we were.

“Ignorance is bliss”, said my mother once, and continued: “The more you will know the more you will suffer.”

Naked Truth

Try this position naked and you understand why Rodin’s Le Penseur (thinker) statue doesn’t smile.

Last Saturday I was in sauna with my neighbour. We talked about drugs and how dangerous them are. I said: “If you use LSD it never goes out of your body”. He asked how I know it? I said that my wife told me. He asked how my wife knows that. I said I don’t know. Then he asked do I believe everything that I hear? I said no.

After sauna I was confused. I noticed that there was something wrong with my respect in one truth. I noticed that I have never needed to argue. There hasn’t ever been anything so sure that I have wanted to fight about. I also noticed that I had never been hungry to find the truth. I noticed that I didn´t believe there is one truth of anything. I started to think, why is it so. Why I have lost my self-respect to defend my truth and when did this happen?

Finally, I remembered when it might have started. When I was six years old my father quit working at the paper mill and became an insurance salesman. He was very enthusiastic about life insurances and tried to sell them to all our relatives. I was excited about life insurance, too. I thought that if you have life insurance you never die. I was very proud of my father who was selling eternal life.

One day I got a great idea, I decided to help my father. There were some old people in the neighbourhood. I realised they might die soon if they didn’t buy life insurance from my father. One morning I walked straight to my friend’s grandmother. I asked if my father can come soon to make life insurance for her, that she didn´t have to die. She started to laugh. She said that there was no life insurance or other magic things that can make human not to die. We all die, she said. We all die! 

I was shocked. I waited for my father to come home and to hear straight from him that my friend’s grandmother was not right. When my father arrived I ran to him and I said: “Father, is it so that when we have life insurance we don’t die?” My father started laughing and said: ”We all die, even if we have life insurance.” At that moment I lost my respect to my father and his work. I thought that he was a liar.

The second moment when I realised that I had been lied to was when I moved to Savonlinna to start art high school. My parents had given me a good advice: “Don’t deal with anyone who smokes tobacco and drinks alcohol.” During the first week, I found out that most of my school friends smoked and, at the weekends, got drunk. Soon, I also realised that I was criticising my friends as I were my parents, and made everyone laugh! First two months in Savonlinna were the worst: I realised everything I was told at home was not true. And during those three years in Savonlinna, I learned to think by myself.

On Sunday morning, I got a link from my neighbor to The Erowid Center release, titled “LSD Does not Stay In Your Body Forever.”

Man in Red Pants

It happened again.

This time I saw red pants in a shop, I ordered them in my mind to be on sale for me after Christmas.

I have a weird relationship with clothes: I don’t want to wear clothes which are designed for older men. One could think that I am asking attention that way or that I want to be seen.

It can also be a cause of my childhood or just because of trousers?

That first day when I started school might have had been the happiest day in my early life, but it turned in to be the beginning of a nightmare. My father was working in another city. Every weekend we waited for him to see what surprises he would bring to us. Just that weekend before my first school day he brought me black leather jeans! They looked like cowboy’s trousers! I could hardly sleep that night. I had those pants next to me in bed and I loved that smell of first new trousers in my life.

When I went to school the next day, everything was so exciting. So many kids. When we went to the first recess and went down the big stone steps, I suddenly got a hit on my face and fell down the stairs. I heard someone shouting ”Fucking shopowner!” We lived in Kemi, the most communist city in Finland, next to a big paper factory. That was the first and last day for me in that pair of pants.

My mother made clothes for us. When we visit our relatives my mother always asked if they had old long overcoats. She made trousers and jackets for us from those coats. We all seven kids had the same fashionable clothes. So, I was that only kid in primary school who wore teen clothing. That was one reason more why I was bullied at school. Whenever I got new clothes I was ready to receive punches at school.

I had learned that they will beat me up only on the first day. I couldn’t tell my mother that I didn’t want to wear those clothes because I knew that we didn’t have money to buy clothes. Another reason was that I had seen mother making our clothes at night and I knew she didn’t sleep that much. She always wanted to hear what people had said about my new clothes at school. I always lied, I said that everybody liked them a lot and especially our teacher. I saw how happy she became.

In the spring of third grade, one day my mother surprised me. She said that she is making something special for me for the school’s spring festival. She said she will show it to me in the morning of the festival. And then that morning came. My stomach was sore from tension when I woke up, just to get worse at that moment when I saw my mother’s surprise: I looked at myself in the mirror and was sure that I would be killed at school. My mother had made me a tight jacket and trousers from colorful terry. It was full of yellow, orange, black and red Indian mango patterns. I looked at myself in the mirror: I looked like a girl. I looked at my mother trying to smile, thinking: ”Look at your son the last time.”

When I was walking to school I saw other kids staring at me. Some kids nearly drove out from the road with their bicycles because they couldn’t stop staring at me.

When I arrived at school sixth-graders boys were already waiting for me in front of boys’ toilet. But when I walked by they didn’t say or do anything. I was sure that they were thinking that I will be dead after school.

Because it was so beautiful day we had a ceremony at the schoolyard. When the Principal pulled the Finnish flag on the pole, nobody was looking at flag. Every single pair of eyes was staring at me. When the teacher came to give school certificates, she stopped when she saw me, staring. The silence in a class was scary.

When I left school, I just waited for the first punch. I didn’t even dare to look behind me. I only concentrated in to think what good things will happen when I will be dead: No school ever and the best, NO MORE BULLYING.

But, they didn’t kill me. They did nothing to me. When I got home I knew that I had won.

That was the end of my hard times at school. Somehow I accidentally crossed some magic line. Next autumn season, when I started school, I was treated like other kids.

But, those red pants! After Christmas, those pants were waiting for me in that youth clothing store. They were on 50% sale. Only one pair, just my size.

The young saleswoman no longer asked me “What’s the matter? Are you lost, sir?” like the first time when I entered the store. She knows me now.

Now that I feel these tight punk pants on me, I also feel healthy selfishness. I am just as old as I want to believe.

And God Made a Woman

At the end of Honeyyear we still had humor. We took a fun wedding photo at Universal Studio. Sunny Venice Beach was too much for two albinos.

Many things have changed after being married 30 years to a woman with South Ostrobothnian blood in her veins I think the biggest change has been in my beliefs such as that God made a man first and the woman from his rib. God doesn’t make mistakes. I am sure that on the sixth day when God looked at how beautiful the world he had made, He decided to make something special into it. And so God made a woman…

Maybe it went like this:

…After a few weeks of creating a woman, God noticed that her brains were maybe… too powerful. She started to have many ideas about how God could make Paradise better and asked God daily to come and listen to what she has got on her mind. After some time, God got tired of listening. God decided to do something to solve the situation. And so God made a man. A man who didn’t have brains as the woman had. God decided to simplify them just a little bit. And that way, in the beginning, a woman and a man were very happy with each other.

After they had enjoyed enough of each other, the woman wanted to do something and she asked the man to help her. God looked smiling that happy couple and was relieved that finally, there was His own time again.

After a few weeks, God heard yelling from paradise. He noticed that the woman was yelling at the man. God asked what the problem was. The woman said that she is tired of the man because he is only swimming, eating fruits and taking naps. Even there was so much to do. God asked them to find a compromise. God said to the woman that the man was not any more of His business. The woman was angry at God because He had created such a lousy man. So God got angry with the woman. God yelled at the woman that Paradise is a place for fun, relaxing and enjoying. “Take it or leave it! That yelling has to stop, this is the last warning!”, said God.

After two weeks God heard yelling again and went to see what is happening. The woman was yelling that she is bored. She didn’t want to eat any more fruit and she was sick of swimming and she needed someone to talk with. She said that she is leaving. God asked the man what he would do. The man was confused. He realized that he didn’t want to stay alone. He decided to follow the woman. The woman said that she takes him with her if he promises to help her. The man promised to help. God was angry with them. He yelled after them that he will make them suffer!

Wau, now I wrote it!

It makes sense to me.

But there has been also good times, so let’s continue!

(In Finland a woman from Southern Ostrobothnian has good self-esteem, she can do anything, a man is often just her toy boy.)

Everything I believe in

My wife’s first exhibition’s name was Anno illusion, she portrayed me as Jesus to the exhibition. She wanted to crucify me at the end of the photography project. A suitable tree was found on the last morning of the photography project.

Everything you believe in is true. That sentence stopped me. ”Everything you believe in is true.” It read in one book and I had a feeling I wanted to believe what it said. If it is so, how important is it to know where I believe in? For the first time in my life, I saw grace in faith. That simple sentence seemed to contain great truth.

My faith has never been as strong as a rock. My spiritual journey has been more of a balancing act between hell and heaven.

Hell was pop in my family in the 60’s. My parents were talking about it every day. They often thought of “sure hell-goers”. The end of the world was also expected: it was at the door, but no one knew for certain time when it would begin. God punished us every day, at least that’s what my mother claimed when we fell or otherwise hurt ourselves. God seemed quite unfair from the child’s point of view. Our family lived in fear of the God and, according to my parents, it was just the only one right way to live. Only that way we were able to stay away from sin. Those years’ only reason to pray was guiltiness and fear of ending up in hell. When I heard that there is no hell I decided not to believe in anything ever again. Later on, when me and my wife got married and started our round-the-world honeymoon, I decided to find a new religion to my self. I focused more on what I would look like as a holy man than my inner beliefs and India would have been the right country for that, I rationalised. I was very interested to see temples and other holy places.

Four months had gone from our trip, we had our last days in India and I hadn’t turned to be a Hindu or Muslim. We decided to go and see the new Shiva Temple in Madras. It was huge. It was made of white marble. After two hours of waiting in line, we were only halfway in the temple stairs. I turned to look back in the queue. I saw that they were afraid. They carried gifts to god Shiva. The thought of ”God is angry” came to mind from my childhood. Then, I suddenly noticed the word “grace” in front of me in white letters. I had hallucinations for the first time in my life! I was sure it was due to heat and thirst. Anyway, the word of grace looked and felt good. I didn’t want to go to Shiva Temple anymore. I got down from the stairs and went under the tree to wait for my wife. The word of grace felt so powerful. I’ve been in contact with God ever since. I decided to return to my child’s faith.

When we adopted our daughter from India, we had our home temple with god statues of every religion. One evening my daughter was looking at those statues. Suddenly, she asked me: “Father, why that man is hanging over there?” She was pointing Jesus at the cross. I was just about to tell her that he is there because of our sin, which we have done. But when I looked at my daughter I just could not say anything. The whole idea of telling her that didn’t sound right anymore. I felt good that I was free from those believes. I also offered freedom to my daughter for looking her own way to God and faith. There was other stuff in that book, too. It said that our brain has no sense of humour. And that for our brains, everything we say and believe in, is true. Wow. If this is true, how important it is to know what I am talking about and to what I believe in.

Laugh during Hard Times

Not untill now can I understand my sorrow and fear behind this clown mask!

When I was a child our big family laughed a lot. Our mother used laughter as a therapy already in the 1960s. For example, we always knew when the money was running out when we heard mother’s laughter in the kitchen. We went to see her performance:

Mom was sitting on the floor and leaned on the electric oven. She wiped her eyes and said that laughter is free comfort for the poor and that’s why it’s worth laughing a lot. Mom didn’t stop laughing so that laugh grabbed us and then we all just laughed for the joy of laughing. If someone farted, mom said that the potatoes and peas were talking and we laughed again!

Our mother was our hero. She could do anything. She had a solution to every problem. She also had a miracle medicine for everything. If we complained about some pain, she said to us: “Go out and breathe ten times deep of fresh air, it will heal the pain.” We did, and were amazed because it always worked! We also noticed that our mother was very tired and we wanted to make her happy. So every day after school when we came home, we competed who would make our mother laugh the most.

When I got old I got to know how much sorrow was behind my mother’s laugh. However, the naive positivity I learned from my mother and the laughing to myself has kept me alive. Although the root of laughter has many times been shame and sadness.

So, there I found my clown mask. That feeling, when I was able to make all my brothers and sisters listen to me quietly and I got all of their attention, it felt like heaven! In that way, I was finally seen and accepted in my family. That was when I was doing my show. Today, I focus in that same connection. I find an anecdotal style perfect to do that. I call it my organic stand up. The magic for me is when I see that everybody is listening to my story.

The audience is different always. I remember when I did my first PÅRNÅ show, I called it my erotic travelogue. The man who ordered the show was having his 40 years birthday and he was thinking that PÅRNÅ-show might be good for his birthday party.  Party was going to be in a cabinet of one fancy restaurant. I was asked to be there at 8 PM but when I arrived it seemed that there was no party. After waited for 30 minutes I thought that maybe he had forget my show or maybe there were only men at a party, totally drunk. I asked a waitress if there is any 40 years birthday party somewhere in the restaurant. She said that she can go and check what is going on. She came back and said that yes there is, and now they are having coffee and cake so it is a good time for the show!

When I arrived at the cabinet there were middle-aged couples talking gently with each other. There was feeling like in the memorial event. I also noticed that they were all Finnish-Swedish. I was thinking if the man of the day had really understood the idea of my show. But it was too late. He introduced me to his guests and told me to take them to my journey. After the show, their faces were all red like white penetrants. Hero of the day had a totally red face. They were all clapping and looking straight forward. They were all quiet. 

I said thank you, have a nice evening and run to my car to check from my phone’s emails that I had explained to this man the real nature of my show. Aaah! Thank God I had! I was sure that I am not responsible for what happened. I went home and told my wife what just had happened and that I felt like a dog who had walked to nice people’s birthday party and shat on the table. She started to laugh and she could not stop. The next night she bursted into laughter many times. I didn’t laugh and I sweared this was the end to my shows!

My wife was sure they had liked it. Maybe they haven’t just understood everything because they were Finnish Swedish. The next day at noon I got a message from the  man who booked me. He thanked me from an action-packed show. He said that my show gave them speech topics for the rest of the evening. He also asked my bank account number and wanted to pay! The joker will never know if the audience will hate or love him. 

How close to madness is a laughing man?

Back Against the Wall

My mother said that when the child is born, guilt begins. I didn’t understand it then.

I always dreamt of becoming a father. The siblings’ kids liked me and I was sure I would become a perfect father. I couldn’t understand how everything changes when a child comes into the family and how everything changes again when the second child arrives. That ideal day never came when I had dreamt of playing with my kids. There were always many little problems in my everyday life destroying my mood and not being there for my daughters. I always explained to myself that after my day at work, I needed a few hours to clean my head and relax.

Four years ago, one evening, my daughter read a letter to me with one condition: After hearing the letter I would leave the room and say nothing. The letter started with, ”Hello Dad, Jouko or what would I name you. We waited for you to have dinner with us many nights and we no longer wait …” Everything in the letter was painfully true. I listened to reading shocked and left room.

I went to bed next to my wife and I said that I’m a shitty father. My wife said, ”Don’t talk, otherwise I lose my dream” and went back to sleep. I was awake all night. This letter made me open my eyes to my family’s everyday life. I couldn’t fool myself anymore.

Furthermore, I began to notice that many daily issues and problems were my fault. The tone of my voice really had a big impact on how my family misheard me. And even though I understood that, I felt totally powerless over changing that. After a day of stressful work, I couldn’t control myself and I childishly tackled every even the smallest things. I was even more annoyed when my daughters didn’t listen when I told them how and why things should be done. They just asked me to submit a link from where I got that information. They also promised me they will check the reliability of the link. At first, I couldn’t see that my daughter wanted to help me to show how smart they were. Naturally, they wanted a father’s admiration that I couldn’t provide that time.

How much can the guilt teach me? Just as much as I’m willing to admit.

The best time of life starts after 60

Anyway, the first 60 years went pretty well. The beginning was more painful than the end. At the age of 30, I found the world’s most incredible woman, magical Magi, and between the ages of 40 and 50, the most beautiful daughters in the world. Now I am ready to start journey to my 70 birthday. I promised to my self to have sixpack when I am 60, I got it! Now there is no limits. Now I promise to my self that when I am 70 years old I will win old mens bodybuilding contest. Follow my journey! Photo by Uzi Varon

When my father turned 60-years-old, he went to a photography studio. He gave his own portrait to all of us at his birthday party. He said in his speech that when a man turns 60, it’s time to put the anchors down.

I notice I’m not like my dad. I feel like I’m rather lifting an anchor. If someone would have told me that when I’m 60, I’m paparazzi model, stand-up comedian, body builder, I would be sure that (s)he is crazy.

It took me 60 years to get rid of my religious background, shame, and fear of living. My idea of ​​masculinity has changed many times over the decades; when I was a little boy, I might have been the first boy in the village to wear high heels. I was happy to make big grooves on the dirt road with the long heels of the shoes. At puberty, I immersed myself in drawing. Because I was bullied at school, I always hated muscular men, muscles were always symbols of violence. Anyway, for decades, my body was just a way for me to get my head to work and home.

Thanks to different therapy methods and a loving wife and accepting friends, I can finally accept myself as I am. I can also see a strong body as a positive thing. Right now, I see my body as a multi-million dollar multi-system that still has time to even be superman-shaped.

I will now begin my pursuit and journey to happiness. Can I find the key to happiness in fashion, lifestyle, art, gym, people or humor? Follow my journey to happiness!