I need a reconstruction of a tooth deep behind. I was planning to remove it, but my French dentist advised me against it. It will cost me 675 euro, if I want the work well done. Might be cheaper, eventually, in Poland. But I prepare myself to spend this money. I have another half a century in front of me. A tooth deep behind will serve me.
In 50 years from now, I will be 98. Still feasible to stay alive that long. Working little, taking good rest, and lately, consulting my Guinean medicine man, I can easily reach this age. With a good planning.
I wonder what I will do all this time. Leaving Poland, I felt that my academic career came to a rather inglorious end. The thought that the money on my account, spent more or less carefully, might last for 10 and even 20 years is vaguely tempting. There are still two ways in front of me: the one leading up and the one leading down. These 20 years, I could spend them in Kraków (or somewhere in Romania or Bulgaria) on the margin of everything. On the other hand, in those 20 years, I could also make a good European career, somewhere in Germany or Netherlands. I could truly live, rather than remain undead.
To be or not to be, an everyday choice, a question that I see in front of myself every morning, when I slowly open my eyes, feeling a tremendous void inside my skull. Give up, or stand up and fight. I was educated to give up. But Poland is no more, and with it, the culture of giving up. At least as I see it, as I anticipate it, it has been sucked by a great vortex, the widening gyre of that new revelation to come. Of that new Russia to come, that eternal Russia the parasite inside our skulls. Oh, that eternal idea that, if we could talk the things through (dogadać się) with Russia, civilise it, together we would rule the world. It returns right on the front page of today's Gazeta Wyborcza, on the occasion of Andrzej Chwalba's new book, Polska-Rosja, Historia obsesji, obsesja historii. We might have civilised Ivan the Terrible. We ought to have done it.
Russia, the eternal temptation of the Poles. Certainly, it is not better than Europe. Yet just like the Dark Side in Star Wars, it is easier, quicker, offering endless opportunities of rogue advancement; more terrible Ivan, roguer the advancement. I wonder whether I wouldn't chose it myself, if I had no talent, no love of hard work. I would certainly do.
It is just a chance that I am one of the tiny percentage of those who had not been infected, or managed to overcome the infection. I am just lucky to have this strong constitution, this blood redder than most. This is why I am here, on this side of the Oder, in Europe, in a place that Russia would never conquer, even if she managed to talk the things through with Poland. Making a list of items to acquire for another half a century.
The elegant red notebook in which I try to collect any happy thoughts that remain is with me for some 20 years now. I still have some clothes I bought in Portugal as a student. When I settle down after Heidelberg, the things I buy with my German salary will überleben me (I could say they will outlive me, yet certain things are beyond English). How long does a handmade Afghani carpet live? I have been told it lives shorter than a silk Tabriz. Yet probably more than those 50 years, I wouldn't walk on it that much. Or should I opt for a densely woven Bijar? A silk Kashmiri that -quite incredibly- represents less than a half of my French salary? A Meissen porcelain set, paintings, polyglot book collection will live those 50 years with me and then face an uncertain destiny. Or I will live those 50 years for them, to accompany them, to dust them. To put hot tea in the porcelain cups, to read the books. Undead, I want to burry myself in a living museum, among fragile things that nonetheless überleben empires.