A few days ago we drove from Sarajevo to Ljubljana and back. Some 550 kilometers oneway, that takes far more time than the distance indicates. The highway is short in Bosnia, most of the journey is driven on ordinary roads that roll by villages and small towns. Our Defender rumbled between the lorries and the trucks, the 20 year old WV Golfs and long distance coaches. The traffic moves often so slow, that there’s time to look around, see how people along the way are spending their afternoons.
We saw people in their seventies, eighties, working. There were men with mattocks walking, and young guys sawing overgrown branches off the fruit trees. There were women kneeling to the smallest of green sprouts, and boys and girls running with chicken. Some were standing outside their car repair shops, some were fixing groceries into baskets at their small stalls. We’re they happy doing so, I don’t know. But it looked natural and peaceful, in an ancient kind of way. You know the way it feels comforting when the sun rises from the East, when it snows on a cold day in January, when birds make nests in the spring. It made me feel good and calm.
My point is not to rate physical work over any other type of work, or glamourise working beyond your abilities or strength. But I do believe, that for many of us there is a lack of feeling important. The feeling of being important for who we are, and being apart of something bigger than ourselves. We can’t all be on the cover of a magazine, there just too many idols and supermodels as it is. And – I claim – we don’t want to be. There is a deeper need to feel important: for somebody relying on us, for us being able to help someone.
On the drive between Sarajevo and Ljubljana – two cities that used to be in one country, Yugoslavia – three things came to my mind:
1. It is human nature to work. To want to work. To use your head, hands and the rest of the body, no matter what your age is, no matter what cards you’re given. You work because your body wants to do something, you work because otherwise there wouldn’t be food on the table, you work because you want to feel important. Anybody that says he doesn’t want to work, has lost the true meaning of the word.
2. With all this land, nobody needs to be hungry. In Bosnia we saw endless lines of houses with vegetable gardens, already growing salads and kale and broccoli. In the small patches of land, families are planting as much as they can. To keep away hunger, to cut the costs of food, to stay happy and well. By putting their hands in the soil of their land.
3. Life, in it’s essence, is simple and universal. When you damp the screams of ego, the needs, the wants, and the clinging-on’s, it’s just simple. You wake up, you see, you touch. Love and let go. Walk, work, eat. You breathe, you serve. You are.
If only this was as easily lived as said.
I think all borders – we spent almost two hours on country borders – are fictional, man-made. We are strangely preoccupied with building fences and determining ourselves and others. You can’t really forget that when driving from the seemingly borderless EU to the still war-torn Bosnia. And every time I go through the same questions: How did this become my life? How am I – a citizen of a free-speaking and wealthy nation of Finland – loving this, living here? Though, I believe, there are more similarities between us than there are qualities separating us.
And sometimes, in a passing moment, one might see clearly and ask the other questions: What is the fuss all about? What are we protecting, defending with borders of any kind? Why make so much drama?
Sitting in the car, I was reassured again, that everything that’s happened and everything we’re doing now, is happening for a reason. We’re no longer building careers as such, we’re just working. We’re often in a situation with no options, just have-to’s and necessities. And it feels right. If feels right to cook, feed the animals, and grow our own food. It feels good to serve.