“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
In the midst of all that is happening, I am looking for answers (for help) and I again find solace in existential philosophy.
In the face of questions of whether to leave or to stay, whether to stick with it and plough through or to give up, I hear Jean-Paul Sartre in my head. I hear him reminding me that we should all aim to lead meaningful lives and to be authentic beings, and that I am no exception. To be authentic is to make conscious and intentional decisions to do things that you want to do, not to do things for others or to do things based on a previous decision. A gambler who wants to give up his addiction of gambling is only authentic when he stops gambling because he wants to stop, not because someone else wants him to stop, not because he decided a year ago that he should stop. An authentic person renews his choices frequently and acts based on these always renewed choices.
I hear Martin Heidegger reminding me that a Being is a “being-towards-death”. I hear him advising me that when I can carve it in my mind and remember that life should be seen as flight towards death, I will be pulled out of inauthentic living, out of making decisions that I don’t want to make but think that I have to, out of living life for others and for the future.
In my quest for authentic living then, I think I have very consciously and intentionally, with full knowledge that my life is a flight towards death, decided that I will leave. No matter if it seems unwise to others, no matter if it pushes back my plans for next year.
‘You are your life—and nothing else,’ Sartre proclaims; if my life is not a culmination, or at least a string of attempts, of what I want it to be, then I am not sure what I want it to be.
I think my favourite part of the day is in the evening when the bright orange rays of the sun fade into the darkening blue sky, causing streaks of purple-blue to be painted across the sky. I like to feel the almost audible sighing of the world as people start winding down from the day’s activities, ready to slow the night down or whatever remains of the Feierabend. It is as if a huge flurry of activities happens in the day and there is never time to catch even a breather but now that the day’s ending, the world can finally breathe.
Perhaps out of all the sunsets that I’ve seen in the different places, my favourite is one in Munich. I remember cooking dinner one night in my kitchen then incidentally looking out of the window. Over the buildings in front of mine (thank God for my 12th floor room) was a beautiful gradient of colours- a slow disappearing of the orange streaks and an approaching blanket of darkness. Also, the setting of the sun that evening reminded me of Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle into the Good Night, to “rage, rage against the dying of the light”.
That evening and sunset were my favourite not because of any stunning, breathtaking view of the sun setting nor the poetic inclinations it elicited from me, but because of the lightness and serenity of the entire evening. I remember the simplicity of the evening with plans to merely read a book with dinner, do some work and then go to bed. I remember how at home and immensly contented I felt that evening, how I knew I could get used to that life.
Damals dachte ich, vielleicht ich war zu Haus.
Studentenstadt, München (June, 2016)
It is a time for weaning away from old/ all dependencies and learning to stand and stay upright independently.
This is a reminder of the brevity and fragility of things and it is best to hold things as you would hold water- to try to keep nothing and to let them stay then flow when they inevitably will.
1. Facing the sink, looking straight into the holes of the drain and feeling vomit swishing in my stomach, I think I understood Nietzsche. Through the holes of the drain, I felt like I was staring straight into the abyss and the abyss was staring straight back at me.
2. Psychologically convincing yourself that you are not ill helps only temporarily. I tried telling myself that I would feel better soon, that as long as I live my life normally, I will recover in no time. Just let the immune system do its magic, right? It worked for about a week. The virus bug was psychoed out of my head but evidently, it wasn’t out of my body. It is now more than a week later and the monster is back and double in size, threatening to make me vomit everything I eat, establishing its presence still.
3. Despite the increase in need for alone time, there is an ironic inversely proportional increase in desire for the company of specific people- people whom I think provide me a sanctuary from all kinds of discomfort. But in the throes of the illness, there is no space for rational thinking (nor rational desires). It matters not that the person I seek is thousands of miles away; it matters not that the sanctuary in that person might be imagined and idealised; it certainly matters not that is almost nearly impossible to have that person physically near now. All rational thought gets thrown out the window along with physical health.
This will hurt as well but in time you will form your calluses. And it will get easier.
There was a pressing need to have my life figured out- to know what I want to do after I graduate, to find a job, to have a house and to start a family. This pressing need to know and to settle all these things have acted as a catalyst to deciding on a life plan for myself: I would finish my bachelor’s degree, work to save enough money for a masters then find a job and then settle down.
What I’ve realised recently- with innumerable reminders from different people nonetheless- is that there is no hurry to have everything figured and planned out now. That try as we might, we can plan all that we want but things may not go as planned and this will render all previous efforts null.
I am now starting to actually see that we have the years stretched out in front of us, that there is not yet an urgent rush to settle everything nor to settle down. And after all the fretting and planning, I am learning to live and to live now.
Amidst those whose heads are bobbing in the water, I see this one person standing straight and tall out from the water, rising above the rest and facing me. In an ideal case scenario, he would be holding my gaze and it will be strong and steady. But in this vision, his gaze strays and it is somewhat distracted, somewhat uncommitted.
I can already see my brainlings- my brain cells personified- forming two camps, taking sides. One side points out that he is standing above the rest and replays the first “2.5 hour of wonderful conversation and romantic date” and the subsequent precious time spent together. The other side reminds me to not throw caution to the wind as I have been known to do. To be prudent and careful and very discerning.
The distraction and lack of commitment are very understandable and relatable because I share those feelings also. Because when we think clearly about feasibility, circumstances and location, none are in our favour. If one only takes calculated risks- and ones does-, one would not take this risk.