Today is a very special day. I’m going to tell you a little story about Finland, about Russia, and most of all, about sisu.
Many years ago, when man first realized that we don’t actually have to stay in the trees all the time and are free to roam the earth, a group of people made the long trek from the mountains in Russia, although I think it was called the Soviet Union back then, to Europe. Around today’s Estonia, the group encountered a road sign. One arrow pointed south, saying “Over here you’ll find fertile soil, warm summers and mild winters. You will be able to grow anything you want, and you won’t ever have to hack a hole into the ice to take a swim.” Another arrow pointed north. This one said “Here you will find land that is uninhabitable during winter and inhospitable in the summer. You will have to work hard to grow even a single potato. Only idiots go here.”
Now, you’d think that the group took their collective asses south and went on to live happily ever after. But the problem was, like any decent African country, a small part of the group didn’t know how to read. They were stubborn and foolish, and decided to go north. They swam across the Gulf of Finland, some turned around, others drowned. Only a handful of people made it to the other side. What these people found, was Finland.
They immediately invented the sauna. Some would say this is the only contribution Finns have made to human life as we know it. Others might say Nokia is pretty nice as well. However, Finns soon realized that sauna wasn’t enough, and they had to come up with an advanced form of self-deceit, sisu, often mistaken for a property of character.
Sisu does not translate into any other language. It’s not just a form of courage. It’s the ability to persevere in the face of adversity. To keep going even after 2012. It’s the ability to live next door to Russia and say “Yum! This Chernobyl Chicken is delicious!”
Sisu is the ability to keep going against all odds. (Maybe Phil Collins was actually Finnish?) Sisu is to keep going even after you failed. Sisu is the sole reason why Finland is called Finland and not Russia. During the Winter War the Soviet forces had three times as many soldiers as the Finns, thirty times as many aircraft, and a hundred times as many tanks. The Finnish army resisted the Soviet invasion far longer then anyone expected. Long enough to retain their sovereignty. Which is awesome, because I don’t know a word of Russian and it would suck to live in country when you can’t even say “get me outta here!”
Sisu, in all its glory, is also completely made up. It’s the only way we can deal with living so close to Russia. I wake up every morning with a scream and a sense of doom. Then I tell myself I’m a Finn. I have sisu. I can make it.
I’m off to bed. Perhaps I’ll wake up with a smile on my face tomorrow.
I doubt it.
Oh well, it could be worse. We could live next to Sweden. *