4/25/11

Every leaf in springtime

We spent this easter in Aarhus, the 2nd largest city of Denmark, located on the eastern shore of the Jutland peninsula. My girlfriend was one of the godparents for a little girl that was baptized yesterday (sunday) so we made a trip out of it and stayed there for two nights.

I used to live in Aarhus when I was half the age I am now. For three years me, my mother and my sister lived in the central part of the city and we went to school in what might be called south central Aarhus (the neighbourhood is nowhere near as gangsta as that sounds).

While walking around this past weekend we visited the building were our apartment used to be and walked the path I used to take every day on my bike to school. We walked around as much as we could and came by a lot of places I remembered. Record shops, the comics shop, parks, cafés, streets, alleys, squares and so on.

The memories came flooding back and at times I was overwhelmed.

The thing is my mother died in that city. Plain and simple. She spent about six months in hospital and passed away on January 1st 1997. Ten minutes past midnight.

My sister and me spent three of our formative years in Aarhus. We made friends, grew as people, had a life there, and suddenly it was all over. Come 1997 we moved to the Faroe Islands. To bury our mother and to live with our father in a small village.

Coming back to Århus and seeing all these places again reminded me of a life that could have been. There's no escaping the sadness of it. Death, the exit from life, forced us to move from this place, let go of the world we had there, and build a new one in the place we moved to.

The great thing about being back in town for this trip was the fact that this time we were celebrating an entry into life. The little girl, my girlfriend's cousins daughter, was babtized and a lot of family was gathered to celebrate her.

The Lutheran church baptizes kids when they're infants. I was raised in a family with close ties to another protestant church in the Faroes called the "Brøðrasamkoman" (the brethren congregation). It's basically a baptist denomination that advocates baptism only of young or adult believers by total immersion in water.

Baptism is seen as a sort of statement or consolidation of faith, but it happens only after faith has been actively initiated or pursued in the person who decides to be baptized. In the Lutheran church infants are baptized before they're conscious and the decision making comes later. Things are done in another sequence.

I'm trying to see both sides. I'm not entirely convinced that baptizing infants makes sense theologically, but anthropologically speaking I must say it is a brilliant ritual. A rite of passage that marks the entry into life. The name of the infant is made official and all sorts of individual and communal traditions are applied, in addition to the overarching religious ideas. It's a beautiful thing in many ways.

I had to leave Aarhus because of death so it was uplifting to be back for a celebration of life. The fact that our trip and the partaking in the baptism took place during easter had a profound and poetic meaning to me.

Life and death and resurrection. People die but they're also born. These things kept coming back to me while we walked the sun-showered springtime streets of Aarhus, had great food and drink, hung out and had a good time. A moving experience and a great way to spend and celebrate Easter.

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” -Martin Luther


The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

1 comment:

  1. A lovely poetic blog-post, Knut. Thanks.

    I've always wondered (without doing any research on the subject however) if the tradition with child baptism stems from a misreading of the bible quote: “…Whoever Does Not Receive the Kingdom of God as a Little Child Will Never Enter It” (Mark 10:15) . I think this is often used as superficial explanation. But as I see it, this is one the bible quotes that most beautifully describes christianity as a way of relating to the world instead of as a metaphysical system. But i totally agree with you that child baptism as a cultural event is "brilliant"!

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