Saturday, June 09, 2007

Une Vie Inconnue

Que nous croyions qu´un être participe à une vie inconnue où son amour nous ferait pénétrer, c´est, de tout ce qu´exige l´amour pour naître, ce à quoi il tient le plus, et qui lui fait faire bon marché du reste.

If Proust is right, and we fall in love because we are seeking admission to an unknown world -- well, then it's hardly surprising I would fall in love so often, I who have been haunted all my life by unknown worlds, always looking for doors into places governed by an alien sky, where the rules would all be different. Maybe it is only that I am so clearly unfit for this one, that makes me dream of others.

When people denigrated his books as escape, Tolkien shrugged and asked, what class of persons would most disapprove of escape? And answered himself -- jailers, of course. He didn't much mind being disapproved of by jailers.

Freedom, oh freedom, that's just some people talkin'... I was passionate about freedom once. Political freedom. But I thought the question was simpler then. Now I hear people talk about freedom and most often I can't quite grasp what they're talking about. Free to do what? To forge our very own manacles, the ones that fit our minds most comfortably?

In all the science fiction and fantasy I read as a child, which rotted my brain to such an extent that I still, at this sober age, just a year younger than Bilbo when he went on his adventures, dream about the white spaces at the edges of maps -- in all those books, the moment that held me spellbound was that very first step through the wardrobe door. Everything new. Everything possible. I loved a story as much as anyone, but there was something I loved even more: the moment in which every story, any story, was possible, when maybe one image had appeared -- a snowy forest at evening, say -- but any person or creature might appear, bearing any history, which would sweep us away in an alien current. That wonder. Not precisely wonder at the story. Wonder at the possibility of a story. At the possibility of something new.

The irony is not lost on me that I have been, in this world, one of the most timid and hidebound stay-at-homes that ever lived. Mole, indeed. But maybe it's a tribute to the power of stories of another world, that I seem gradually to be changing places with all those people who would do and dare. The people who were bold seem less so, now, and I seem more so. Or maybe I was never as timid as I think myself. I was shocked, when I came in contact with people from my old highschool last year, by the impression they had of me, which seems to have been one of virility, bordering on machismo. One of them distinctly remembers that I used to wander about in the snow, shirtless, in my bare feet. I don't remember that at all. That's a life so long ago -- before I had closed up the world and decided who I was, I guess. I have a dim memory of being cocksure. But I know there was always a deep timidity in me. as well.

Idle thoughts. I don't believe in character, anyway. There's only one person, really; we're six billion refractions of one image, playing one part today, and another tomorrow. Nothing really holds me in place. There's nothing to prevent my taking the wheel as Mr Toad tomorrow. All that holds me is the story and the habit.

Une vie inconnue. It's foolish to go looking for admission to one. I already have one. I wake up every morning in the white spaces at the edge of the map. Any story can happen; I might be any character, with any history.

All it takes is to stop. Stop choking myself by spinning out threads of stale stories, fine sticky filaments that gather into a suffocating shroud, and shrink, and harden into a masklike carapace. I can only think I know this life by wrapping myself up tightly in my own narrative. I don't know it at all.

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