Interview with Arne Naess
This is the full transcript of an interview with philosopher Arne
Naess, that was made for the documentary film
The Call of the Mountain. The interview streched out over five days
in June 1995 and was recorded in and around
the hut Tvergastein, 1505 meters above sea level on the Hardangervidda
mountain plateau in Norway. The interview is conducted by Jan van Boeckel
for ReRun Producties.
© ReRun Producties, 1996
Blokzijlerdijk 4, 8373 EK Blankenham, The Netherlands
phone: +31 (05)27 200047
Part 1 - MOUNTAINS
Arne, is it always this kind of beautiful weather around here?
This weather is exceptional, I think, one day out of twenty or to thirty would be like this. In winter of course, we have similar skies etcetera, but to have also this temperature is very rare - even in summer. But we need not this kind of temperature. We need not, here in the mountains, we need not have a temperature which makes you just lay down, because the mountain makes you active, and being active you need not have this temperature. So I have nothing against cold weather. But what is demanding is to have a good feeling when the wind is so hard that you cannot stand a quite natural way, but all the way have to adjust yourself towards the wind. And that is too much wind here.
Can you maybe tell from the early start of your life, how you came up to this place, together with your mother, to the area down there?
I have lived here nearly twelve years, if you count the days. To most people it is very unreasonable, very strange. But already when I was ten years, and eleven years, walking sometimes by myself in this direction, towards the mountain. Because, already then, I looked upon this mountain as a kind of benevolent, great father and this was possible because, between five and ten years old, my mother had a cottage, far down there. So we could see that mountain every day. And every day it was a little different, but it was the same. Whatever the changes, it was the same. So I somehow interpreted that as equanimity, that far inside here it is completely - not harmonious, that is a too strong word, but there is a balance inside here, an you look with benevolence on everything that is not directly trying to kill you, so to say. And this big mountain - this great mountain, I mean - seems to be such an entity! So it was alive for me, and therefore I decided the best thing for me would be to live either on top of the mountain or further down on the mountain itself. So I arranged that when I was a student still, I got the plan to have a place here, because I also have a lake, that is important. And you have these climbing possibilities and you have the fantastic view, so that when you sit at the window and write a book it is impossible to write something that is small. It would have to have dimension. Anyhow, in 1937, half of it was made by professional people who really made it very good, very well done, in 1937. And in 1938, I had my first long stay there for four months in the winter. And after that every year, until it is getting a little too hard, life in wintertime. It is not for me now. This is how it got to be. It is a kind of, in a broad sense, religious attitude towards that mountain.
Can you tell how your family was when you were a small boy. You said you were without father...
Well, do I explain why I was already at seventeen, eighteen years old sure that I would be a philosopher? Explain the major role that I was rather unhappy when I was three years old, until I was fourteen. Because the person I felt being my mother was really a nurse and between zero and three years, I meant quite a lot for her and she meant very much for me. And suddenly she was away, because my mother found out I was spoilt, completely spoilt, by her. And then I didn't understand what was going on. And I got very depressed, certainly.
And I think that in order to decide to be a philosopher, you have to have very bad experiences. Because, as I see it, a philosopher asks why, why, where others take things as completely evident. Why, and what is really going on in life? What life is worthwhile, and it didn't deem to me worthwhile what they said was life: to grow up, be good at schools and then marry and get children and get grandchildren and then die. I didn't find ordinary life... had no dignity for a human being. So it had to be something extraordinary, something not successful in... the way my adult environment thought was something very, very different, so you get into philosophy, of course, and I said to the very nice head of the school, when I was eighteen, that I should be a philosopher, and he said: 'But Arne Naess, I have a lot of study behind me, but then I had to earn some money too and I wished to have a family and have you really thought through what...' And then I thought: My God! That I should think of a family and how to earn a living. That I found ridiculous to ask a young philosopher, ha, ha. So it was kind of arrogance. It was my way, my way; Svamarga in Sanskrit - such a beautiful word. I had to be a philosopher and then I could do a lot of science reading, and I liked science also. But as a philosopher you can get into some science and say something. The scientist will say: 'Yes, maybe, yes.' And they are mostly very greatful to have a philosopher, sometimes in seminars. So I can have good relations to science and artists also. That's OK!
Arne, you didn't explain that your father died when you were one year old, and maybe the relation of that to the father-like aspect of Hallingskarvet.
Well, of course I must add that, not only did my beloved mother disappear, but my father disappeared before I was one year old. So I didn't have a father either. And that makes it more understandable that this big mountain was not a good mother but a good father. Later I was very glad that my father died, in this sense for me, because he was fairly strict, whereas my mother gave up easily. Gave up seeing that I... [sigh] 'Couldn't you go out and play with other children!' and so on, and then she gave up.
But how can a mountain be your father?
Well, of course people think it is very strange how a mountain could be a father. But not to me - at all. Because, very soon, I saw that humans live in symbols. So much of their life really in terms of symbols. And that a mountain is just minerals. No culture exists; no old culture has looked at the mountain as minerals! On the contrary, they have always looked at very strong symbols. For instance, the contact between the earthy life and heaven. Gods are very rarely thought of to live anywhere. They live in heaven or they live on top of mountains or are mountains. Some mountains are holy in so many cultures, and you speak to them, you ask them for good advice, and so on. And it is a different symbol - it's kind of enormous amount of symbols - then the symbols of the ocean. The ocean is somehow less understandable. You cannot rely on the ocean as you can on the mountain. You see from the mountain; you see: aha, a storm is coming and you have half an hour or something. Here you have, at most, half an hour to get somewhere were you can get down.
But you can say: a mountain as protection... Your father gives protection. A mountain is also fear or not? Does the mountain give protection like a father?
I must say that, in understanding the kindness of mountain, you can always find protection, as I found when I was a teenager here, climbing around, getting under the top: you would always find protection, and especially in the more vertical places. Of course, there is no wind, mostly, very rarely wind in vertical places. I could see then people, skiers for instance, in terrible wind like this, fighting against the weather, I could sit on a shelf up a near vertical place in full security, and protected by the mountain.
Why do you call the mountain 'benevolent'?
Because the shape is for me the shape of some being that is benevolent and the expression for me is benevolent, and it is benevolent for me when I go to this mountain and find and get this view which is so philosophically important. Only a mountain you can get me that view with this fantastic horizon, and where you feel also powerful, at the same as you are very, very small, that is important philosophically. That the less you are in relation to the surroundings, the stars and the mountain, the more you intensely feel that you somehow symbolically get part of it. You get greater. You get on par with it. You get to feel good with it. So, the tinier you are, the more in some sense you are together with something great and therefore, get something of that greatness. I cannot explain it better. But it is sure that it has double effect. It is like the stars which I saw in my youth. We had really no lights on the streets and nothing like that. There was very little. And we had really the stars straight over us. When we were children and later. And that makes a different feeling from being inside a room! To be playing outside, even in darkness! So I have a special relation to the vastness of the heaven or stars, which is different from modern physics about the cosmos, which is not... I don't feel any benevolence or any greatness, reading about black holes, white holes, galaxies, and so on.
What makes the difference between the two ways of viewing?
Well, in physics, you learn about tremendous explosions, you learn about things which have no symbolic value of a positive kind. And the distances are such that you can never get in touch with them, never. If Einstein is correct, there is absolutely no hope of contacting galaxies far away, for instance. This cannot mean, for me at least, cannot mean anything very positive. So I can't have... Now there is a lot of theology about the cosmos, that you should have a kind of religious attitude towards the cosmos as described by modern physics, but that's not for me, I say. There are gods, especially in Hinduism that make universes like this and - psssjjj, psssjjj - throw out universes! And if such a god were kind enough for me to see what he is doing, to be together with him for some time, and I could then see in one of his universes a mouse that was swimming, trying to get to land in a river and I would say: Ah, stop! That mouse should be able to get ashore! And this god would say: 'what? a mouse?' Haha. 'What is a mouse!' haha. So I don't feel at all the greatness of universes, some thrown out and galaxies and collision between galaxies and so on, no, not for me!
For you participation is important, the contact...
Yeah. It must be symbolic of something more positive, and I don't find positive symbols there, which I could if I had just the stars which we were seeing.
Could you maybe relate the story from your childhood, that you made holes in your tents to be able to see the mountain for the tent. It is a nice story!
I suppose early life has very much to say for the rest of the life. All these things I was talking about belong to early life. I remember that when we started going into the highest mountains in Norway, I made a tent myself and made a window in the tent, without the ability to shut it, a small window. So that when I was nearly asleep, I could still, through this small window, see the summits, through this small window. I remember this, because it was very cold, those summers, and I was fifteen years, fourteen years, fifteen years, sixteen years old and bitterly cold, and this window made it impossible to get heat in the tent, so it was so stupid!
And also, other things. We of course made a lot of pictures with very primitive instruments, and I decided that no friend should be in between the mountain and my camera. It's like in Muslim religion. You shouldn't have god and humans at par, to have pictures, o no. So the symbolic value of mountains was very deep seated at that age, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, and it made me suffer quite a lot. Suffer quite a lot because the coldness of course in this highest mountains in Norway, Easter when we had to go to the summit. And we went back from Easter, all other boys were brown and nice and pretty and we were violet and red noses and looked what...
Can you explain a bit more why you felt it was sacrilegious to make pictures. It is an interesting point.
Perhaps I had not quite as positive opinion about humanity that I should have had, because the adults I found stupid. Nothing wrong with their intelligence. But the life! The life they made! Nine to four work [sigh] I couldn't find a human being, whereas I read about elephants and bears and other big animals and they seemed to be living a more adventurous life. But there were certain humans, like explorers, Norwegian explorers - Amundsen, Nansen - having a good life. But they had a lot of administration. Napoleon had a lot of financial troubles. I decided that money was tremendous important, because they ruined people's life. So already at that, eighteen, nineteen, I decided to find out how little money one would need to satisfy every essential need and I found that very little was enough to live as a fairly poor student. One could live the rest of the life just now and then getting some income and not between nine and four, of course! So I was then living in a way that didn't develop any habits, so that you were dependent quite a lot of the market. The term market had already then some kind of negative association. Positive also, because I could have for instance some years when I absolutely must buy some classical music discs of certain kinds and so on and then I said that: 'If you now go to a restaurant, it will cost you as much as one of this, what you call, discs. It will cost two.' Then: 'O no, no, no!' So I certainly used the market, but for essential things. And looking towards my later life, it was obvious that to live with simple means was very easy for me. Rich life, simple means, is one of the things I repeat, the last twenty years. So I did admire tremendously some people, like Nansen, Amundsen. I looked up to many of the philosophers and specially Spinoza. So I certainly had ideals among human people, but the rest I found, adults to me were always nice. I had no bad experiences with adults, but they were so stupid in life philosophy! Nobody was very bad with me, so far I can remember. So I had a good, very optimistic view of them, their heart. But their brain: there was something wrong with their brain!
But you didn't want to have people in between yourself and the mountain on the pictures?
No, because it was the greatness of the mountain. And some stupid man - myself or others, standing there and smiling... ha... no.
Was it a religious feeling?
Sure, whatever is called a religious feeling, and I am sure that this kind of feelings has a great future. Certain symbols, you live in symbols, very much. And then you have rather rigid rules: No, no, no, no, no, no, no not that, no, no! And then: Yes, yes! And mountains: Yes! But because sometimes we had pictures there. But you shouldn't stand on top of mountains and looking arrogant, having conquered the mountain. That is very stupid. You never conquer your ideal!
You at one time said that it was sort of a cult, a cult of the mountain.
In short, I started my private cult of mountains. And so many people in so many cultures started cult of mountain. But even if it was a small culture, I could have had some influence in the ideology of that culture with mountains or something. Like in Sherpa culture in the Himalayas, they have Tseringma, a tremendous mountain, bringing storms, but also water. A terrific mountain. And the name Tseringma is the Mother Of The Long Good Life. The Mother Of The Long Good Life: this tremendous mountain. So you see, you can combine this, in a sense, dangerous aspect of the mountain, and storm coming on, with a cult and you have a mother symbol. Nevertheless, a mother symbol. [clicks his tongue] Also a princess. And they would say, in the original culture there you say: 'Yes of course, minerals, yes, yes, yes, and stones, but this is also a princess, and this is also a mother. And for us, who have a lot of symbols, this way of thinking, the mythological way of thinking, is so natural and can combine with being a mathematician or a physician, so that's OK. But it's both minerals and a princess and a mother. Yes! Not more minerals than a mother, not more minerals. So that's important for my, what I call 'total view'. This importance of symbols. You cannot live without that a human dignified life, I think.
When you were young, weren't you yourself in a way trying to conquer mountains? To always go to the summit?
One may ask, of course, why one has to go to the summit of a mountain. And there of course you have a combination with Western typical sportive way of looking at things, that you also should be able to reach the summit, able to reach the summit. And then I made a lot of statistics about how many summits, and, for instance, if you had a real tough day and night, I was then calculating the kilogram-meters lifting myself up, let's say, to go to three summits up there, down, and up again. So: kilogram-meter, how big this event was, see. So I could combine it with ambition. But the mountains didn't mind at all that I calculated that. I didn't have the feeling that it was bad behaviour. I was fond of the mountain, even in terrible weather. And sometimes, you had to feel with your hands so to say, the very summit. You didn't see anything, practically.
So, but there you have the combination with completely different kinds of attitudes. This love of bigness, not greatness. Big numbers, big mountains, big achievements, that term: achievement. I felt, when I was twenty-one, twenty-two, that the term achievement was too important, that I should go into psychoanalysis to analyze my doctor thesis, where the term achievement is very important. So I went into fourteen months of psychoanalysis. There was only two months left and I would go to that written document, saying I had done my analysis of the kind you have to do to be a professional psychoanalyst. But I could not go into the mountain for fourteen months, except Sundays. Saturdays, it was eight, nine in the morning: psychoanalysis. And Monday eight to nine. And the analyst, a collaborator with Freud, said: 'O, these Mondays are completely meaningless. You only talk about the mountain!' And I had some terrible things to say about what I had done, of course. And this analyst was very fat and he was sixty years old, I thought he was ninety. But I was twenty-two years old and a man of sixty was what I would call hundred years old and he was sailing in inland seas. [strong sigh] He couldn't understand anything of mountains. But, anyhow, what I am talking about is this, that I had a critical attitude towards achievement, the term used by me so much, also in my doctor thesis. So I had there something unrelated to cult of mountains, certainly. Cult of mountains can be without going to the summit for more than hundred of the highest mountains of Norway, for instance. Why? pffff. That is something very different.
You were not out on conquering.
The term 'conquering' was completely unknown to me, I mean... pfff... conquering? no, no. I was conquering myself, sometimes, going the last hundred meters, instead of saying 'ahh this! why should we absolutely go to the very summit?' So I was conquering myself. And that was important. Conquering any stupid kind of attitude. And immoral attitude also. But immorals was not quite the same as conventional morals.
Yet you did like to go up the mountain, like this mountain you talked about, earlier, the Tseringma?
Tseringma. Well, there is question, of course: in Tibetan culture and Sherpa Tibetan culture, they thought it wrong to go to the summit of sacred mountains, like Tseringma is a sacred mountain. In other cultures, like Inca culture, South America, it was a plus for you, religiously, to go to the summit of a mountain, to go very high. I was then, of course, admiring the sherpa's very very much and no question of going to the top of Tseringma. No, on the contrary, I decided to make an expedition to Sherpa country and then try to see whether the people in a certain village straight down from Tseringma, whether they would go with me, to get it out of range for any mountaineer, to make it a fully protected mountain against humans. So, there were forty-six families in that village. We were three of us: Sigmund Kvaløy is another member there. We were three of us. Forty-six families voted. Forty-six against zero! That they would rather not have all that money they could have through expeditions and have their mountain un - so-called - conquered, and together with the head of the village, we went a way that is considered to be eight days and nights away to Katmandu, the capital of Nepal, to deliver a document asking the king to make it outside range of any mountaineer in the future. It is on the border to China. So it was, at that time, 'out'. You couldn't do it. But if the relation to China gets better, then, immediately, there would be many, many expeditions with people who have no real sense of the holiness of the mountain. So, with the head of the village, we went with this document, and we couldn't even reach the tiny, tiny of officials. They just looked at my friend, who was a Buddhist, and coming from the mountains, as some inferior kind of being. So, I don't think the document was delivered to the king, and we heard nothing about it. And it was open then later. Then we tried to make mountain clubs all over the world, make a kind of petition to make it sacred and nobody getting up. But at that time, at early nineteen-seventy, the climbers didn't look upon these cultures as something interesting. They were interested in so-called conquering the mountain and get to the summit and they didn't understand what we were asking for. 'What you mean, why shouldn't we go to the summit, ha!' So we had very little response, and in time, there were then a lot of expeditions. And they let the last meters being unconquered, until somebody said: 'Why these last meters here, pfff.' So I am all for the cultures, whether they look at it as a plus or a minus, to get to the summit, and we of course wouldn't touch...
But is it not special for Western people that they want to go conquer the mountains, really conquer it? Is it not European?
I think there have been, for many hundred years, people who would like to conquer a mountain. Even where religion plays a great role, there are so many different attitudes within the number of minorities. And I think that, from older times there have been people who would like to reach a summit, as an achievement, and felt is as a conquering - not of themselves, but also of the mountain. But within Western culture you have, as of course in many other ways, you have specialization, certain attitudes, go to the extreme. You are permitted to go to the extreme more than in traditional cultures. So you have then thousands of climbers who would feel they conquer a mountain. Thousands, especially young ones. And later they would find: 'We were really very fond of the mountain, we looked up to the mountain, we found the mountain great, but that was not 'in', we were not talking about it.' So, many of the younger climbers were looked upon as primitives, in a cultural sense, complete primitives. They have layers which are not primitive, which would see the symbols.
Talking about Sherpa culture, ha. It has been a culture of a completely outstanding character. It was non-violent as Buddhist culture, it is a Buddhist culture. Sometimes there is an eagle... And I saw the eagle there, some place... that would rob them of tiny sheep or goat baby or a hen, if they have hens and they let that. Nobody would like to shoot it or anything like that, not at all. And they never would kill a goat to eat or a cow, when it fell down a precipice and was dead: they would eat it. So they were not against meat, but they had marvellous, non-violent relations to their animals.
But there were other things which were just as admirable, for instance, this way they were punishing people. They thought that if you make a child cry, a small child, before they are three years old, if you make it cry, whatever the cause, you get a minus in the register of what you have done in your life. I mean, it's bad for your next life. And so many things which have a minus. It was things which had to do with hatred, lack of benevolence, and so on. And for instance, talking about marriage, the men were traditionally on their way between India and China, carrying things over the Himalayas. It took a long time, and that's bad for the women. What should they do there without men and so you could have the brothers, always the brother was available in the bed. Yes, during marriage. But if you were unfaithful, that is to say when the man was available, then, of course, you should not be available then. What it costs. What was then, what should the community do? Yes! They should themselves provide so much beer, that a whole community could have a great feast. That was how, instead of going to prison or something. And what we liked also was that if a man was unfaithful, he had to provide even more beer then if you were a woman, haha. That's very nice, haha.
And then there were, of course there were feasting, speaking of that, they were, their use of energy was eight units in a certain kind of way of measuring, where we have three-thousand in Norway and six-thousand United States. I mean, they use only wood from trees that were dead, never living trees. But during the feasts, of course, they used to have a lot of good fire to warm themselves, it was so cold.
Could you tell about that big achievement in your life when you climbed the Tirich-Mir mountain?
It is impossible not to look forward to see the Himalayas, as a climber. It is very difficult at least, for many of us. Because of the greatness, it is the greatest area of mountains and the most fabulous, with big mountains. So clearly, I had to visit the Himalayas. Therefore, we asked very good friends in Great Britain, what they would conceive as possible for Norwegians to do. And I was all for getting high up on one of the really high mountains, where nobody else had been. And we decided upon a mountain called Tirich Mir, which is the highest mountain in [Hinducush?], and Himalayas are in the wide senses Himalayan. A little more than 25,000 feet high, 7,705 metres and some expeditions had tried and were not able to reach the summit, so that suits me well as an achievement. And of course, I didn't mention that, but for some years, also the achievement in being able to reach the summit had a meaning for me, certainly, as a Westerner being interested in sports. So in 1949 - I was already quite old - I was able to get one Norwegian climber with me, to reconnaissance, to see what could be done. We didn't dream of reaching the summit that year, but then, the next year, and we found, and I studied everything known about the mountain. And we found that beautiful mountain, beautiful mountain! And the climate is very good in May, June. In late July, it starts getting worse. So we had an expedition next year, in 1950. And that time, yes... and really I got too much of it, because when you were on the mountain, it was not beautiful any longer, it was at a distance. When you were on the mountain it was not very different from other mountains. And it was also difficult, as a leader of the expedition, not to be harassed by practical problems, always practical problems in expeditions. But I tried to make my friends - we were, then, many of us - understand and except that we should have some part of the day for ourselves and not thinking about the expedition, just being together with the mountain. So it was difficult for me to stand the life that was required of a leader, on such an expedition. But we reached the summit. And from near the summit, I could see far into many countries: China, Afghanistan, India. And I knew that in certain directions there were thousands of kilometres of mountains, mountains, mountains, mountains. It is a fantastic... this world of mountains! And at the summit I could look down upon mountains being as high as the highest in Europe, Mont Blanc and others and they looked so tiny down there! And I could look down, far far down, where a small river that was going like this, indicating it was flat and green, flatness and greenness - it was very interesting. So symbols there, suddenly, different. So, I decided never to go again to the Himalayas in order to climb. And also, this symbolic thing was so important. The first time I could see the Himalayas, the hills were not higher than, not as high as Hallingskarvet, not at all. But I knew that this is the start of something that is going on for thousand kilometres, into Russia. The vastness, this feeling, was so tremendously strong! But to be there, it was not so great at all. So it was the symbol of the highest and most grand of everything, that was important. Not to be there, inside there, no.
Tirich Mir is not considered a sacred mountain?
Incidently, some of the porters we have, looked upon, of course looked upon Tirich Mir as a mountain that did not like humans to go there. Not sacred, it was not considered sacred, but some of them would think it would not like it and send down avalanches. So they left us. We didn't have anything in 1949, but they didn't like to come with us, certainly, but that didn't matter. We could go without the [hirers?], high up, they didn't go far. But we didn't violate any sacredness, certainly, but as they say, the mountain perhaps didn't like us, they thought, some of them.
Was it a primitive thought, or was there something in it that was true? That you have to respect the mountain instead of...
Obviously, people, there are old people there in the neighbourhood of Tirich Mir, they warned children and others to go, and they maybe have used to say: 'Don't go higher up there because they don't like it, the mountain doesn’t like it. And certainly, you could get terrible weather, and if you are inexperienced, you don't see its coming. And you get one metre of snow, during one night for instance and you are stuck, but that's not according as I feel it, the mountain wouldn't like to do you any harm. But they had to obey the laws of nature and nothing else be done.
You once said, the mountain never fights, it will hold back avalanches as long as it can.
Avalanches, yes. Yes, I had the feeling in the Himalayas that the mountain would hold back avalanches as long as it could, but then... And we had to find out where the mountain would send the avalanches and not go there. And if there is a chance, if you see the chance this avalanche would come within a week, because of some snow, then give up the expedition; the expedition had to be given up. No great changes should be taken. That is not worthwhile. It's not worth it, to reach the summit of a mountain and you are killed or... It is a great suffering for the whole family and your husband or your wife. So, I can't see the point of adventure in the mountains. I like to read about adventures, people talking changes, and half-dead, and death in the mountain is a theme for some books, and to read about expeditions where they do one error, then one more, then one more error, and then still one more and pffiiit.
To read about it I like very much, but I don't admire it at all, especially if you try to stay alive. It is not very admirable to try to stay alive. It is well done, but philosophically, I don't see the point.
But you think a mountain has its own will, like a human? If you say it can hold back avalanches?
Saying that the mountain holds back avalanches, what I am saying is expressing the kind of attitude I have, and I would have no hypothesis about whether it could be treated... whether it has certain ways of avoiding sending it, and something... So it is on the level of symbol, and like the Sherpa's, when they say that Tseringma protects us, they have absolutely no hypothesis how Tseringma does this. How the Tseringma acts as the Mother Of The Long Good Life. The mythology has meaningfulness and is adequate for the mind that has these ideas, without being able to explain how it could be done, and so on.
Seeing the mountain as a living being, so to speak.
Certainly, as I did with Hallingskarvet, I see it as a living being! Certainly it has this life, and when they place a lot of stupid green things on top there, in order to make it more difficult for people who are without really knowledge of the mountain, to avoid that they were killed going a wrong way. This, to place such things on top of Hallingskarvet, was against the dignity of the mountain. Dignity of mountain. And the dignity we, of course, I feel it, dignity of the mountain and psychologists would say: these are certain feelings I have, and there is nothing up there.
But how can minerals be alive?
Well, you only ask because you have only read biology, classes of biology, and you have in biology a good definition of an organism being alive, and something else being not alive. But the term 'being alive' has a vastly more comprehensive sense among ordinary people. For instance, the greatest slogan they used in northern Norway in a big direct action, the greatest slogan was the following: Let the river live! Let the river live, ha! Not: Letting us have the pleasure to go fishing there and to look at it and so on. They said: Let the river live. So there, to be alive, the river was alive. That is how many so-called ordinary people feel it with natural... mineral, the mineral kingdom, what is there. So, biology has good reasons to define alive so-and-so, but it has no effect on the mind of people. It is just a speciality. As just a science, it has very little to do with human life.
I don't say: let the mountain be alive, because whatever is done, I feel the mountain would only be hurt, diminished, in a certain sense, but still alive.
Do you have an example of that?
Well, in China, Mao Tse Tung was looking at mountains as a military man and they had all sorts of military vocabulary when they were, for instance, mining. And they even tried to get rid of a mountain. They had some mythology where people were able to simply move a mountain away. So this is a very different way of looking at it. Then you really destroy the mountain, and you could say: it died.
But are there mountains hurt in Norway?
I don't like to have too much things going on at the very summit of certain mountains. But I don't know of any mountain that is severely hurt by humans.
Maybe you can tell a bit about the Gaustatoppen over there.
Hallingskarvet has a kind of brother-mountain. About hundred kilometres from here you can see it very easily in this weather. Gausta, it is called, and it has not a very impressive shape, but at least it is as high as Hallingskarvet and that make a kind of feeling of nearness between Hallingskarvet and Gaustatoppen.
Peter Zappfe once said: because it was so beautiful, it had to die. Do you remember that? Because they put all the stuff on top of it, rubbish and apparatus.
There is a difference between Hallingskarvet and Gausta, that poor Gausta has a lot of instruments and all kinds of fancy... even buildings I'm sorry to say are on its top, which reduces it of course. The instrumentality there and the domination of man are really making a mark on it, and it cannot be seen as alive as clearly as Hallingskarvet can be seen. It is now more an instrument. More mineral and less symbol.
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