Thursday, February 10, 2011

Travels. Books. Life.


I love to read. And when I travel I love to read even more. Before a trip I get excited about the books I will take with me. But sometimes a book winks at me from a hostel shelf, or in a used bookstore. While traveling in the Patagonia in 2006 I stumbled upon a book titled “The Book of Disquiet” by a Portuguese author named Fernando Pessoa. These are some of his thoughts:

Literature -which is art married to thought, and realization untainted by reality- seems to me the end towards which all human effort would have to strive, if it were truly human and not just a welling up of our animal self. To express something is to conserve its virtue and take away its terror. Fields are greener in their description than in their actual greenness. Flowers, if described with phrases that define them in the air of the imagination, will have colors with a durability not found in cellular life.

What moves life. What is said endures. There´s nothing in life that´s less real for having been well described. Small-minded critics point out that sush-and-such poem, with its protracted cadences, in the end says merely that it´s a nice day. But to say it`s a nice day is difficult, and the nice day itself passes on. It`s up to us to conserve a nice day in a wordy, florid memory, sprinkling new flowers and new stars over the fields and skies of the empty, fleeting outer world.

Everything is what we are, and everything will be, for those who come after us in the diversity of time, what we will have intensely imagined - what we, that is, by embodying our imagination, will have actually been. The grand, tarnished panorama of History amounts, as I see it, to a flow of interpretations, a confused consensus or unreliable eyewitness accounts. The novelist is all of us, and we narrate whenever we see, because seeing is complex like everything.

Right now I have so many fundamental thoughts, so many truly methaphysical things to say that I suddenly feel tired, and I´ve decided to write no more, think no more. I´ll let the fever of saying put me to sleep instead, and with closed eyes I´ll stroke, as if petting a cat, all that I might have said.

The Book of Disquiet is described by Pessoa as his “factless biography.”  Here is another phrase that impacted me:

We never know self-realization. We are two abysses -a well staring at the sky.

I don’t subscribe to the pessimistic view of life that Pessoa portrays in his writings. But I admire how passionately he expresses his views. I have not read any more of his books but I’d like to. He also wrote poetry.  Here is one of his poems.
To be great, be whole; exclude
Nothing, exaggerate nothing that is you.
Be whole in everything. Put all you are
Into the smallest thing you do.
The whole moon gleams in every pool,
It rides so high.

Reading and traveling have become inseparable in my life. I cherish those long flights and bus/boat rides just to immerse myself in a book. When I arrive to my destination I go back to the real world, where ideas become moments, moments become memories, and memories become life. Because I love to read but I love to live even more.
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