Stay in the Fucking Bus

Rosa
Rosa
Dec 1, 2019 · 5 min read
Excuse me, where’s this fucking bus going?
Can I get a window seat?

It’s been a while. Sorry about that. But I don’t want to stop writing this blog and neither do you. In the meantime, we still had many important discussions in real life. One of them was about commitment. Which brings me back to why I decided to stay in the fucking bus. Let me elaborate.

You, and anyone who knows me, also know that my writing is more eloquent than my speech. By writing, I manage to express my thoughts and emotions in a clear way. If I may say so, I sometimes manage to elevate everyday experiences and grasp some of the poetry that I see in the world. As it turns out, I also manage to formulate my thoughts into analytic philosophy sometimes: I just defended my Doctoral Dissertation in Philosophy, as you know. I’m not saying it to get praise, just saying it’s been one hell of a process.

Years ago, when I had just started working on my PhD, I ran into a speech by Finnish-American photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen. It was a commencement speech that he had given to a group of photography students. Turns out it has been widely quoted among photographers. It’s about finding your voice as an artist. I’m not exaggerating for dramatic effect when I say that for all these years, two lines kept ringing in my head.

“Stay in the bus. Stay in the fucking bus.”

Hey, this is not about my fascination with swear words. It’s not about my need to rebel. It’s about the message. I also literally spent a lot of time in buses in my life. In fact, I’m sitting in one right now. If I had given a speech in my graduation party, maybe this would’ve been the speech. I’m not sure what all this is about. It’s something about life, philosophy, art and commitment.

Minkkinen calls his view the Helsinki bus station theory. He explains that we should choose a bus and stay in it. Eventually they all circulate around the city and return to the central bus station. You can keep doing this over and over again with different buses.

“So once again, you get off the bus, grab the cab, race back and find a new platform”, he writes. “This goes on all your creative life, always showing new work, always being compared to others.”

“We can do a whole lot of things in art, become ten different artists, but if we do that, there is great danger that we will communicate very little in the end. I say ride the bus of your dreams and stay the course”, he writes.

For the longest time, I didn’t know what I want my career to be. But I always felt like I’m going the right direction. So I stayed. And I want to challenge the theory a bit. I didn’t stay doing the same thing all my career so far — not at all. But I always felt like I’m moving toward what and who I want to be, no matter how irresponsible or irrational it seems to others. So for me, that’s one bus.

A while ago I visited an exhibition of another Finnish photographer, Pentti Sammallahti, in Tallinn. The photos in the exhibition were touching, peaceful, meaningful, humorous, loving, humane. A photographer (an artist) is a bit like a philosopher. I mean, the kind of photographer that I usually like; a capturer of moments. Most likely it’s not an objective standard, it just represents what I want to be as a writer, as a philosopher, as a musician. Just as a photographer, a poet, a musician or a painter captures moments and meaning in life, a good philosopher sometimes manages to recognize meaningful things and some kind of truths from the reality around us. It’s not sentimental, it’s just something that feels real once you run into it. Just as a photographer has their camera, philosophers have their tools. Photography isn’t just snapping pictures and philosophy isn’t just blasting your opinions on paper. A philosopher makes claims about the world. Perhaps you’re thinking that a philosopher is an academic, a photographer is an artist. Perhaps. Yes. But I think that there is a creative element deeply involved in both. A photographer is also making claims about the world. A philosophy student or a philosophy researcher makes claims about philosophy, a philosopher makes claims about life and about the world. Philosophers are rare and most of us will never get there — but it’s something to aspire. To see life, and to capture and share what you see, what else is there.

I’m not a photographer but I greatly admire photography. I’ve always loved different forms of art. I wanted to be an artist, to paint and draw. I use to draw comics. I used to study art history, media and philosophy. I have been a researcher, a coordinator, a cleaner, a singer, a journalist and a producer in an art project, just to mention a few things. My bus has certainly been around. That fucking bus.

If I would be speaking to a bunch of students now, as Minkkinen was, this is what I would say:

if you remember anything from this day, remember that you can find your own way to capture meaning and beauty in life. Photography. Philosophy. Take your notes and pictures when you look through the windows of that bus.

It took me several years and quite many detours in working life to end up finishing my PhD. I ended up face to face with ethical problems in reception centers. I kept doing music and art in different forms. I also went through various issues with my relationships and mental health. But I feel that every step was one I needed to take and actually enabled to see my work from a different perspective. And now I feel that I have finished not only a thesis but an era. I feel like in the past eight years, I have lived three lives and made a million observations about life.

I stayed in the fucking bus, and for that, I feel proud and grateful. Let’s keep driving.

I’m not sure what I just said but I feel like I had to say it anyway. I’d like to hear more about your thoughts on commitment.

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