Size doesn´t matter: This maxim can well apply sometimes in the course of a person´s life; you might think sometimes that it could be deceitful, but I think that that only paragraph I wrote last night about the nauseating paralysis of illness is defining, the defining moment I had sought after for so long. The moment, on account of which I sank for years into the books, trying to find some words for myself, some way in which I could carry my own cross through the world; that paragraph might contain everything that I needed in order to start plundering the land on which my grave is slowly carving itself out. After my conversation with Florence I was changed from the beginning of my personhood on, the gift of conversion, to avoid the lifelessness of writing about things not your own – that I can´t do myself. I did everything I could in order to avoid the keyboard and the screen; I wished to have forgotten then what it was like to write but it can´t be done, I can´t look back. How to utter the expression “I gave up on philosophy” once you have chosen yourself as a philosopher already; why would you keep on writing if you have actually given up on the receptacle of truth; why not just keep going in firm steps toward the world, choosing yourself for something else, for something more real, more vivacious, something less taxing. What is sought after is not wisdom, that´s something that can´t be had. Wisdom comes only at the price of abandoning whatever there´s to rejoice in, it is adopting the vantage point of the infinite and thus excluding yourself from your own experiences. For years I sought the refugee of philosophy, in order to protect my sanity and as to shield myself from the facts of the world that haunted me from the opposite direction as I stepped over unyielding towers of knowledge. I sought after philosophy out of an apologetic act, it is not only that I wanted to be protected but also that I wanted to be exonerated from the facts themselves.
At first it would seem that writing about your life could be an easy task, something that any human being with an average linguistic capacity would be able to do; you write lists to do your shopping at the market, people you want to call in for your parties, books you wanted to read, places you want to visit before you die, people you loath, or that you want to see again. Anyone can do this by himself – you need no crutches from literature or philosophy, no crutches from scientific and cultural methodologies, no banisters from traditions and schools of thought. You only need to image how a teenager would keep a journal, jotting down everyday activities, conversations, dreams--- this kind of historiography doesn´t admit paradoxes, doesn´t admit of failing at writing, doesn´t accept failing at all. Yet one day you encounter the mysteries of human experience of which you are a part yourself, you are seduced and secluded by abstract thinking, by the sorceries and fantasies of philosophy, you fall under a spell and you begin to think that this is the kind of knowledge to which humanity must aspire – the knowledge of the whole, the objective human truths that legitimate the tense of our life on earth. This is a deceit from which you can´t be freed so easily. To find the way back into the concrete aspect of life is a very difficult task, much more difficult than the task of philosophy; concretion in thought becomes so difficult that a whole century-long spiritual movement has consecrated its deacons and priestesses to the task. That movement goes under the name of Existentialism and Modernity, and at no time else in human recorded history had we been so completely deceived of our own will. To become concrete means to betray what Aristotle and “true” philosophy stands for and in lieu of the vane falsehood and arrogance of Socratic ignorance. When the philosopher dies for the polis he is completely doomed both as a person and as a philosopher; there is no place in the world; no society deserves from philosophy that kind of sacrifice – to die unto the world? Becoming concrete is to decidedly astray from the task of philosophizing. Sarah Kofman comes to my mind over and over: Decades of writing books about Nietzsche and Freud with as much intellectual power as a singled-out generation would allow in one go; playing the archaeologist unearthing the vessels of writing about the self. What does it mean to write biography or autobiography, how do we write about ourselves? What does it mean life-writing? What does it mean writing? Decades of writing books and cutting open the Western man, looking for God, not avoiding the big questions of life, not avoiding the temptations of knowledge, not turning a blind eye to historical problems. But what does all this amount to? To write in one go a memory about your own life, with petty details about childhood and youth, with memories about mother and father, about dawn and dusk, about sun and dew, and then simple to die. Does it make it worthwhile? Could it mean anything?
These questions are not asked in a state of permanent intellectual sobriety and are not asked without a form of curiosity that shuffles between pleasure and misery, between pleasantness and mystery. They are only asked by those who have thought at some point that the human battles were lost and losing them didn´t as much represent a loss but a gain that couldn´t be quantified. They were gains for the world but never gains for the writer. He sits at home writhing from pain in order to gather the strength to write. We are no longer living in a cultured age where writing requires the knowledge of the classics, the philosophers and the vast array of literary traditions even though we want to delude ourselves into the lie that it does require it and thus spend long years in the Platonic academies learning from scholarship while at the same time trying to imitate the Socratic mood that never belonged in the academies and that if anything at all, it served to make learning distraught. We spend years hiding behind scholarship in nothing but complacency, running from ourselves and letting the citability of world history stand in lieu of our own thoughts that we keep private even to ourselves. We´re unable to face the challenge of life writing, the challenge of self-fiction; how do you write about yourself? How is life written at all if it not in the abstract? How do you experiment freedom if it is not intellectually only? Try to make sense of the world without the help of traditions and you will end just with childish fantasies, at best streams of consciousness. You want to be free in the concrete, so you think abstractly. The absolute redeems from the constraints of unmediated experience.
Being ill makes you too self-conscious and distraught at the same time. You sit everyday and write as if it were the last time you are going to write, as if there were no tomorrow, taking the helms of history on your own bare hands and propelling all the past and the future into an instant right after the present of the present in which you are going to die and surrender the whole world with it. If the world could die altogether then the fact of disappearing from this world could become the ultimately consolation but there´s no consolation here… You know that you are going to leave the world, that you are going to leave the world alone and that everything and everybody else will stay behind, but still you don´t want to let go. You´re lucid up to the last breathe, until choking; the symptoms of your lucidity are manifold: The long nights in the course of which you don’t sleep, but re-work all your thoughts for the previous and following day, wishing to be seated by your desktop the whole day and night writing them down; as if there could be a person that miserable to write down all his thoughts and transcribe all his conversations. Dying seems a very lucid and active movement. Once I said to Eveline something that comes by force into life now: If the whole enterprise of Western philosophy is about waiting for death, we might as well throw ourselves upon it. “Occupy your chair” would be the only commandment that Kafka would willingly obey; occupying the chair is like waiting but not waiting for death, waiting in general, without temporal index. Eternity is supposed to look alike from any vantage point you might have. From both heaven and hell, eternity is supposed to look alike – frozen. Eternity is not a law in physical nature, it used to stand for a hierarchy that glued all the principles together; harvesting doubts whichsoever over the rational proofs of any of the principles involved means to unglue everything at once and walk in the darkness. The desire for immortality, the desire that our deeds and works will stand in place of our personhoods once we vanish from earthly existence is very different from the infinite boredom of eternity – there the good god seems to be all alone, wandering in silence with a surplus of leisure time to spend and no companion whatsoever. Waiting, without concrete objects of hope, seems to be the way to receive everything that the world is willing to offer us.
Veronica: I´m not sure at all to have the words to write this without having to face things that both kill and give life. I told Florence in the afternoon that I didn´t trust the academies at all, and even when this is true about myself I have painstakingly made the efforts to make myself at home in the religion of knowledge and (dead) scholarship and I have also completely failed in achieving it. Soon I will be twenty-six years old and the truth of the matter is that I´ve learnt from too many people, read many books, written interesting pieces and written also a lot of filth, I´ve never been a student in a classroom. My classroom has been the world. I love this fact and I also abhor it because it makes me so different from most human beings that lay a claim on knowledge for themselves; it gives me a permanent pariah status which at the same time holds all the value in the world and yet holds in one hand all the disappointment too. I told Florence that in this inhuman age belonging to a university is no different from a business or a bank or a hospital. You follow policies and regulations, you spend all your time living up to petit politics and guidelines, principles - it is business management. The knowledge one needs for life is out there in the streets, even the prostitutes know more about the feelings of a human person than a professor of philosophy does. So little did I know about what I was just about to face.
Florence told me that in the middle of her illness when Vicky and Adriano stopped sending her money she had to be a prostitute herself and if anything, I think that was the ultimate trigger – how could she go on living with that? She just couldn´t. Going out into the streets as a prostitute in order to earn money, not having any other choice, not having anyone else. How could a person experience love ever again after prostitution? It had to be a type of love that faltered between the Messianic impulse and the love of the pariah and the mentally ill – the purest and most compromising kind of love that could never be fulfilled without the most abject disappointment about itself; this disappointment would be the only fuel. When she told me that, I pretended that I knew it already whereas I really didn´t, but I wasn´t surprised at all; it appeared to me as something entirely obvious, no reason for outrage or for surprise. How could I react to this? Exactly the same way I did because I was there myself: Living at a friend´s apartment in Givatayim without work or any ability to support myself, thus I took the ultimate option, to turn your body over to a stranger in order to get money which never served any purpose; it was tainted by disgust and by sin. I wanted to get rid of it as soon as I could, most likely alone at the bars sipping alcohol and deluding myself into believing that those were the nectars of love and life, of accomplishment. I was only able to do it a few times but I definitely believed that hadn´t I been lucid enough to realize the misery of my situation I would have continued doing that indefinitely until there would be nothing left of my body or my life. But I fled from that misery in order to go to Jerusalem with all my bearings and search for God – Mary Magdalene did likewise. I stopped enjoying my body and some thick fog seems to have hovered on me for a long time. I certainly craved for love, every moment of the day – love of God seemed purposeless to me, the absolute was not gratifying for me as a man or as a person or as a thinker; I always felt the same wantonness when faced with the miser gifts of the absolute. If anything, I wanted my love to be so very concrete, to be able to touch every fiber in my body; not to be a consolation but a nourishment; in all these years I am absolutely convinced that the only person who loved me in such an uncompromising way was Vitaly; in every other occasion I stayed in the revel of consolation, of loving without premises and not being loved back perhaps not because of showing too much weakness, but of being too overbearing in both good and evil to the person across me. Veronica was desperate, she was unable to dance because of her deteriorating illness and was unable to make a living… I can imagine her apartment in Paris in the exact same way that I lived myself in Bogotá: I couldn´t bother to clean my own filth for weeks with no end and ate from rotten leftovers in the fridge, papers and books and notebooks and notes spread all over, piles of clothes unwashed for months and months, utilities cut off time after time, rejoice in old times through fragments of letters and pictures in which I could see myself as someone having lived in a different sphere of existence than what was my current situation. Alcohol and promiscuity was the only way to reach out for human touch at all and then the sudden escape: I lost so many of my shoes, my books, especially my books, letters from Guilel, a book of Hannah Arendt printed in 1948, all the Jewish books, everything that I had that could remind me of having ever lived the life I wanted. Everything lost. Everything lost. Everything lost. Yes, I understood Veronica; from before I met her, from before she died, from after she died. I used to poke into the neighbors´ garbage searching for leftovers of food. Sometimes I was very lucky and found whole fruits, old bread, snacks and little stuffs to cook simple foods out of them. Other times I wasn´t. But it was always the same exercise: Filtering their filth, in order to find anything that could satisfy my hunger even if only for a few hours more. The disgust of poking through people´s garbage, it is unimaginable. Yet sometimes I was very satisfied; one night I even managed to make a weak chicken soup: I was like the Jewish Shabbat – carrots and onions, chicken and potatoes boiling for hours and then turned into the heartiest soup you could think of. Yet my soup wasn´t hearty at all, it wasn´t tasty and it didn´t fill, but it was a soup and it was hot and with a lot of imagination it could have been like the Jewish Shabbat. It was a Shabbat.
That was the kind of life I had the night I met Santiago, and that´s why my love was so frightening fragile, but it was nevertheless love – unhappy love; I felt at the time pangs of desire as much as I felt pain from my own condition. I spent so much time by myself that I couldn´t but be elated every time that a human person came through the door. There was no joy higher than that. When he stopped seeing me, I knew that he was in trouble, that he was not OK, that something had gone definitely awry and I was so unsure what it was and I think I will go happily to occupy my grave without knowing it, it is a deep frustration. He said to call me, so accordingly I didn´t leave the house for weeks just expecting his phone call and when I had to rush out to buy cigarettes or alcohol, I unhooked the phone as to make sure that should he happen to call, he might then think that I was busy and merry talking to someone. I sank into deep misery and the only one time when he did call me my fear was overwhelming and I told him to call later because I had just awoken, and he never did. I never heard from him ever again. Not one word spoken or written. It might stand out as a simple casualty, but to me it meant the whole world. I don´t think I´ve overcome it yet. It wasn´t even a matter of how much I loved him, but of how much I wanted to love him; it was certainly tortured but only to me, because I had allowed myself to burst out and deservingly I paid the price: Gillian Rose speaks about the dialectics of love – they can be merciless and they can also be merciful. I still insist that one day when I am released from this imprisonment inside this family and I will go to see Florence to do the tour of Veronica´s Paris I will go to Poitiers and track him down. Not in order to ask for an explanation but only to pick up the thread where I left it, as if I could! But I can´t be persuaded into dropping the idea, prostitution notwithstanding. I was left without any memoirs of him, there´s nothing material right now that can remind me of him. The day we met he wrote me a little note on a napkin which I lost, and then Maria Clara bequeathed me this hideous green scarf knitted by his mother, which I lost as well. Then there was my notepad with the blueprints of his photograph wearing the timeless red hood inscribed by my own notes and symbolic representation of the whole situation. That I lost as well. How can you retrieve something of which there´s no material evidence whatsoever? How to reenact it or to reconstruct it? It´s just not possible, present memory doesn´t allow it, evidence is always demanded for the sake of a verdict. So it seems there shall be no verdict hereby.