Only 10 days left. I'm totally out of the schedule; hopefully I can take my work with me. I have a whole year to catch up, isn't it?
I've been using these last days to grow, intensively, striving to touch the bottom. Perhaps I've managed, I will have all the crying done by next Thursday, when I fly to Paris.
I've been closing all my old life. It's hard to believe, it's a quarter of a century that I'm closing. The years of Portugal, the years of studying, the years of squeezing in a context. It's a pity I don't feel euphoric about going to France. It is a cute perspective indeed, but what I feel inside is a great burden, a work to do, all the growing.
I miss speaking Dutch, and I miss feeling like a scholar, kind of big person. I miss feeling my intellectual strength. My brain has been thoroughly emptied these last two or three weeks, till the very slime on the bottom. I know all the importance of it, of this quasi-religious poverty. Different than last year when I landed in Lisbon.
Nonetheless, I'm thinking about travels again; that's a sign of my improving psychological state. I didn't even upload the photos after I came back from Sicily and Malta. And now, I'm back to planning. I will have Ljubljana and Jena very soon. And then from France, quite a different set of destinations must be available, I imagine. Perhaps some places in sub-Saharan Africa, like Benin or whatever. But also France in itself is worth having. I've been thinking about Christmas, will I come back to my apartment or what? Africa's tempting me.
The days passing by, and me still throwing papers. It's late, I know, I should be working, solving practical tasks, at least improving my French, but instead, I'm still among my books. I pack them into a bag, and when the bag is full, I take them to the public library. At the same time, I'm still slowly rambling across my Arberry, and I hear the classical Persian poet Rudyār commenting wisely upon my packing: Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet...
It takes so long, because I'm crying over my books in order not to cry later on every time I remember them, as Zielinski allegedly did. I cry now to get all the crying done before I go. Or rather, I understand now to get all the understanding done, of what happened to me. Largely beyond expression; the metaphors block our way, Nietzsche said, and all wisdom is in him (not Shakespeare).
As I throw all these books and papers now, the real question, the real matter that requires understanding is to know why I had never read all those things in their due time.
There had been some obscure psychological mechanism that prevented me. My apartment is full of accumulated things that I didn't dare to open, to look; books I copied because I didn't dare to read them. I translated intellectual appropriation into material possession. I postponed insight, because I didn't dare. Even now, clearly there is something I don't dare. Perhaps I don't dare to face my international career (a short name for something bigger and much more complicated).
Does it matter now to understand? Or do I rather get rid of the answers, of books carrying those answers. I remove the problem together with its answers. One of the books I pack in my bag was written by my colleague, another professor here at the old university. It is a short story about a student, one of those students in cultural studies, getting that woeful, 3rd class education we impart to them. The story is about old letters the student gets from her grandmother: an insight into the human condition she has in her hand as she reads them in a train. And her blindness. She reads, but she doesn't understand; she misses the meaning, because it's not the kind of thing she is after. She seeks something else, ignoring what is the essential to be sought. In cultural studies, in life. And in the meanwhile, the darkness is falling. At the end of the tale, she comes to her room, and tries to read again. There is no electricity, the battery in her phone is low, she switches a candle. And she tries to read something under the title "Memory, space and identity in the light of cultural anthropology". But the words are too long, the letters too small, the flame blinking...*
There has always been the light of cultural anthropology, and philosophy, and literatures of East and West burning bright on my table. And what have I done all those years?
I didn't dare to read and to see. I accumulated. I strive to read it all now as a punishment, as a compensation. But what's the tragedy, if I saw at the end?
I remove all those books and papers from my possession, in a frenzy, as I excrete the toxin of resignation, of blindness, of being minor. Of memory, space and identity in the light of cultural anthropology.
*Agata Sobczyk, Opowiadania o pogodzie, Nowa Ruda: Mamiko, 2012. The short story's title: "Metafizyczne śmieci", pp. 129-150.
Among all those accumulate papers I've been reading and throwing to the recycling bin, I've also found one about Thaddeus Zielinski and the library he "had left in the hands of the Bolsheviks". It was said that every time he remembered it, he cried.
I wonder what books he had. The longer I look to my own ones, the lesser is the value that I attach to them. I don't know where my love of knowledge has gone; or better say, in what it is deposited now. I suppose there is a great technical difference between thence and now, in terms of epoch; this is why the books don't mean to me what they might have meant to Zielinski. Certainly. Or perhaps, somehow, he also had better books.
I've a growing sensation of their insufficiency, as if I'd got so very few books truly at my level, good enough for me. Sooner would I repeat with Aquinas: mihi videtur ut palea... All what I've learned, all what has been passing for knowledge and wisdom where I've been... So deeply insufficient that I have no choice but to start everything anew. Collecting books, reading, writing, thinking.
This is why I'm craving for emptiness, to start building upon it. Ich hab' Mein' Sach' auf Nichts gestellt... - that's Max Stirner, but it could be Nietzsche as well, and perhaps it could be me.
In fact, as I go on making order in my papers, I start to feel the emptiness, das Unheimliche the sudden absence of chaos brings about. Perhaps I was accumulating all this stuff during all this years just to avoid the confrontation with this creative openness, the possibility of such a new beginning, of maturity.
And the new beginning is upon me, and I conform and accept it.
As a convalescent, I've lived as slow and repetitive life; yet now I see it close to an end. The French colleagues start sending me not only forms to fill, but also planning for speeches and activities. In a few days, my summer, as hard as it may actually have been, and in more than one way, will be finished. And the research and writing I've got in front of me is much more serious than I've ever attempted. There is no way of messing it up now.
I wonder what kind of answer I will get from Amsterdam in October; it would free me from the necessity of providing for my next year's sustenance. Hopefully it can be safeguarded at a distance of many months; it would give me a kind of lightness to go on attempting what I really want, to be choosy.
Overall, it costs me little. There's no sound or fury about leaving the safety, what an illusory safety!, of my employment and my academic small world. There is a certain bravery on display, I presume, but I'm still very far from my limits. Nonetheless, I can imagine many people might feel uneasy in my place, just for stepping into that other erudition and that other art of writing; not mentioning money, credits, buying apartments, hearing other tongues. I'm beyond those many kinds and ways of stress. On the contrary, the decision I've taken gives me certitude and clearness of target, and as a consequence, greater comfort. Even if I were not reading Maalouf's Léon l'Africain, as in fact I did.
It is after all such a natural destiny, or such a cultured one, should I say, with so many roots, examples, paradigms and wisdom left behind. I'm just marching on such a safely trodden path.
These are exhausting days. Not for research or writing; on the contrary, I look forward to serious things as a respite. This is the labour of digging a gap, and ufff, after these breaking months of travel and recollection, my gap is hopefully quite advanced.
I talked to a guy from a relocation enterprise, they say they can take my stuff to Amsterdam for 1000 euro or a bit more, depending on quantity. And the quantity tends to be less and less. I get rid of things. Perhaps in a year, having finished my French research, I might land on Schiphol with a mere hand-luggage.
I've been so much preoccupied with all sorts of material possessions; books are the last section perhaps. Certainly the most difficult. I see my library more clearly now, the ideal library, made of travels and many languages, and perennial things. The vision has little to do with the reality of my dusty shelves. Well, the perennial things are there, but they need to be isolated, put in relief, enlivened with many more illustrious acquisitions.
There are moments, at the end of the day, that I feel like an Oxbridge scholar, with all my erudite readings. A respite after so much digging, in the evening. From dawn to dusk, I'm reading (and getting rid of) so many not-so-erudite things, conference proceedings, journals, articles, interviews with Agata Bielik-Robson. That's the small world. Over hundreds and hundreds of pages of the Polish academic publications, one can find many things, but not going further outside than Gayatri Spivak, and (rarely) a lonely mention of Edouard Glissant. There is no more horizon than this, and also no more history than this. The great bulk of humanity lays beyond. I myself lay beyond, and I look upon myself and across those twenty years of my own career as if I were looking into a doll house, from without and from a different scale.
But also digging gaps is childish; I wish I could get through quicker, and see myself free of all these things.