Wednesday, October 28, 2009

you are (not)

This post is dedicated to my friend at Buoyantville, whose generosity introduced me to the work of Antonio Munoz Molina, which I quote here.

You are not an isolated person and do not have an isolated story, and neither your face nor your profession nor the other circumstances of your past or present life are cast in stone. The past shifts and reforms, and mirrors are unpredictable. Every morning you wake up thinking you are the same person you were the night before, recognizing an identical face in the mirror, but sometimes in your sleep you've been disoriented by cruel shards of sadness or ancient passions that cast a muddy, somber light on the dawn, and the face is different, changed by time, like a seashell ground by the sand and the pounding of and salt of the sea...

You are every one of the different people you have been, the ones you imagined you would be, the ones you never were, and the ones you hoped to become and now are thankful you didn't.


And your room is different, the city or the countryside you see from the window, the house you live in, the street where you walk, all of it growing more distant, disappearing as quickly as it's seen through the glass, there one moment, gone forever. Cities where it seemed you would live forever but left, never to return, cities where you spent a few days only to preserve them in memory like a clutter of old postcards in bitter colours...

Perhaps what changes least, through so many places and times, is the room you take refuge in, the room that according to Pascal one should never leave if one is to avoid disaster. "Being alone in a room is perhaps a necessary condition of life," Franz Kafka wrote Milena...

All human miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone. I saw Lorca's room, and I wanted to live sometime in a room like that. The white walls, the floor or large flat stones like the ones in my boyhood home, the wood table, the austere but comfortable bed of white-painted iron, the large balcony open to the Vega, to the sweep of groves dotted with white houses, to the bluish or mauve silhouette of the sierra with its snowy peaks, tinted rose in the sunset. I remember van Gogh's room in Arles, just as sheltering and austere, but with its beautiful geometry already twisted by anguish...

I wonder what the room in Amsterdam was like where Baruch Spinoza, a descendant of Jews expelled from Spain and later Portugal, he himself expelled from the Jewish community, edited his lucid philosophical treatises and polished the lenses from which he earned a livelihood. I imagine it with a window that lets in a clear grey light like that in the paintings of Vermeer....

-- From Sepharad

Not entirely disconnected, this poem by my friend at Buoyantville, first revealed in the middle of a raucous party, on a Blackberry --

... This homesickness for the other, where
Does it begin? And why do we value
The familiar comfort of a quite room

So little? What answer to your question
What would have been the content
Of our fates hadn't the path forked?

We say to ourselves this stranger will
Lead us back to paradise that we have lost...

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