Sharing Common Needs
About half of our recent trip to Scandinavia was spent in Norway, traveling first in a clockwise loop from Oslo Harbor back to that city, then flying from there to Tromso, north of the Arctic Circle. A large portion of Norway’s population live in or around Oslo, the capital city. Easy to understand—the country has a long rugged coastline and is mountainous, not to mention the frigid winter weather.
While in Oslo, we were given a guided tour through the city hall and Frogner Park which contains over 200 sculptures by Norwegian artist, Gustav Vigeland. Using bronze, granite and wrought iron, Vigeland created figures of men, women and children, some alone, others in groups. The statues were sculpted nude to convey the things we all share in common, regardless of time periods, culture, economic status and race. Human relationships, experiences, emotions and the continuity from one generation to the next were portrayed.
The focal point from almost anywhere in the park was a pillar of stone at the top of a large platform, sculpted to resemble people climbing upwards, each upon the shoulders of those underneath, the ones on the bottom being crushed under the load, the ones at the top reaching for the sky. Reaching for heaven? Trying to reach a lofty goal at the expense of others? Descending in all directions from the pillar were series of stairs, with gigantic stone sculptures posed on pedestals, people sitting together, couples, children with parents or grandparents and others all by themselves.
One section of the park had a large fountain, the basin of which was supported on the shoulders of six mighty men, all in bronze. Dozens of clusters of metallic trees surrounded the fountain, each harboring people or one person in some stage of life from babyhood to death. Another sculpture that Vigeland called “The Wheel of Life, resembled a difficult synchronized swimming stunt, where swimmers form a circular chain by each hooking their toes around the neck of the other!
The woman who was taking us through the park positioned our group on the steps next to a few large statues for a picture. It was funny to view the photo later, with us smiling and mostly unaware of the backdrop of nude statues! Oh well! Life!
Later that day, we visited the city hall where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually to those who have been outstanding advocates of peace throughout the world. Gustav Vigeland designed the medal, using the face of Sweden’s Alfred Nobel who is credited among other things for inventing dynamite!
According to our local guide, during the 1890’s Nobel’s death was reported to a local newspaper. The famous inventor, still living at the time, was surprised and shocked when he read his obituary! The article emphasized the harm Nobel brought into the world with the destructive potential of dynamite. Wanting to leave behind a legacy that would be positive, he made provisions in his will for five annual awards in Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Literature and Peace to people worldwide who were outstanding in those areas.
After sightseeing in Oslo, our tour group flew to Tromso, home of the world’s most northern university and botanical gardens. Lots of people were out training for cross country ski season using skis on wheels or skates. Then it was on to Alta, crossing fjords by ferry with views of glaciers on the Lyngen Alps along the way.
An excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage site that afternoon gave us the opportunity to see stone age rock carvings on polished granite slabs near the ocean. Stick figures of people fishing in canoes and hunting reindeer using spears and bows and arrows portrayed some of the aspects of life in that desolate area long, long ago.
The rock carvings also drew attention to those things all people have shared in common through the ages: the quest for food and living together in community. Not pictured in the carvings or Vigeland’s sculptures, our common need for love, acceptance and self worth.
If we valued and loved others, how much better the world would be. If we found ways to leave behind a positive legacy, everyone would benefit. Lord help us!
“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 NIV
Rock Carvings near Alta, Norway.