Indifference or something like that

Solitude devastates me; company oppresses me. The presence of another person derails my thoughts; I dream of the other’s presence with a strange absent-mindedness that no amount of my analytical scrutiny can define.
– Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

DSCI0010

I have a very pretty copy of Marcus Aurelious’ Meditations. The stoic message has  provided some succor to my mind over the course of my adult life. Although, lately I found the philosophy wanting; the insupportable  prejudices and limitations that we are all suppose to approach with the long view of historical relativism makes me impatient, and the connotations of a philosophy that is rational to the point of emotionlessness leaves me cold as I labor to seek warmth in my life.  I think I prefer to feel this life, this body, this day.

This is of course a gross simplification of Aurelius’ philosophy, which still resonates with me on many levels, I only bring it up to explain why I am so intrigued with the Portuguese poet and writer, Fernando Pessoa. As I read his strange and fascinating musings The Book of Disquiet, I am constantly brought back to Aurelius. There seems to me a direct connection and conversation between the two thousand year span. Pessoa’s meditations are of the disquieting push-pull of disconnection. Yet, as much as it might annoy Aurelius, if he debased himself enough to feel annoyed- which he wouldn’t, they read similar to me:

The truly wise man is the one who can keep external events from changing him in any way. To do this, he covers himself with an armour of realities closer to him than the world’s facts and through which the facts, modified accordingly, reach him. – The Book of Disquiet (94)

Among the truths you will do well to contemplate most frequently are these two: first, that things can never touch the soul, but stand outside it, so that disquiet can arise only from fancies within; and secondly, that all visible objects change in a moment, and will be no more. – Meditations (Book IV, 3)

It’s like a street corner philosophy slam. Pessoa agrees with Aurelius that one shouldn’t confuse body with imagination, but Pessoa then says- to hell with body, your imagination is preferably sufficient. Live there. It seems to me a logical conclusion of Stoicism. Nothing can touch your soul. But wait -I forget, why don’t we want our souls to be touched? Aurelius might just ignore me and think I was a womanly pain in the ass for asking such a question. Maybe I am. But Pessoa is a pain in the ass too. He might look up from his inner reverie and see me for a moment.

Pessoa’s beautifully rendered “factless autobiography” in which he outlines his proud yet regretful removal of himself  from the physical world is similar to Meditations, but Pessoa’s meditations are of a modern profound disgust.

All this stupid insistence on being self-sufficient! All this cynical awareness of pretended sensations! All this imbroglio of my soul with these sensations, of my thoughts with the air and the river – all just to say that life smells bad and hurts me in my consciousness. All for not knowing how to say, as in that simple and all-embracing phrase from the Book of Job, “My soul is weary of my life!” – The Book of Disquiet (77)

Yet the capacity for sensation belongs also to the stalled ox…- Meditations (Book III, 16)

Where Aurelius is sublimating, Pessoa depresses the exaltation. But they end up near the same place. Somewhere on the arch they overlap. In a way, Pessoa is more honest in the inevitable difficulties and contradictions of any strict ideology.

There’s more subtlety in my self-contradiction (115)

Pessoa’s prose are so relentlessly sad and capitulating, I find them very uplifting and amusing. I accept that that just may be my macabre sense of humor- I can not compete with his haughty revolt against the physical world. Pessoa wins. But I do love him.

I’m one of those souls women say they love but never recognize when they meet us – one of those that they would never recognize, even if they recognize us. (101)

And he mocks me. That’s okay, maybe I’m one of those souls that men say they love but don’t, so we are equals, Señor Pessoa and I.

*Title from chapter 124 (Chapter on indifference or something like that)

Penguin Classics edited and translated by Richard Zenith

Advertisements

7 responses to “Indifference or something like that

  1. So many people seem to think if you like solitude there’s something wrong with you, but it’s the only way to think big thoughts. Another great post about authors I’ll never find time to read.

  2. Pingback: We Are Governed By Our Very Own Self-Fulfilling Prophecy; Good, Bad or Indifferent, You Have to Pay the Price. | 8760 THINGS TO DO

  3. Jess:

    I wish there was a “love” tick at the end of your posts!!!

    Outstanding parallel analysis!!!
    (I wonder why the book is not sold under the heteronym’s name / author Bernardo Soares… Wouldn’t it sell out?)

    Thank you for reading Pessoa… a genius…
    Reading him is somehow my soul’s portrait… too damn often.

    Pessoa (Bernardo Soares) nevertheless forgot about an important aspect: self-criticism missed him, sometimes.
    “I’m one of those souls women say they love but never recognize when they meet us – one of those that they would never recognize, even if they recognize us.” (101)
    He also forgot that he was too self-centred most of the time, even absent and probably near selfishness to allow others to come closer and do recognize him.
    That’s somehow the price he had / one has to pay for enjoying solitude, for both being attracted by and despising people’s company. He reached and developed great thoughts and a great work, though. He embodied almost every feeling / sensation a human creature can have. It couldn’t happen the other way round, had he lived / been different(ly).
    However he stood too stuck next to his imaginative world. This may be quite preferable, but dangerous somehow. What about life experience Pessoa kept away running from? What about it?
    Maybe he found out soon enough the world out there is a dangerous place and built a parallel one for his own self-protection. Maybe. Maybe he simply grew up deprotected, shy, timid and never overcame it. Maybe.
    Maybe he was (no maybes, here!!!) just over-sensitive. That for sure! Fortunately (yes) he didn’t live long enough to experience the real handicaps of “hiding” and preferring the imaginative dimension of life, of love, for instance and above all.

    Love,

    C.

    • It is fascinating. I’m not quite through talking about him and reading him. I feel almost hypnotized.

      • So it is, indeed! Hypnotising… Sometimes I feel so sorry for being so young and immature and (…) when I learnt him at school at the age of 17!
        But later on I went back to him “on my own”,,, well, in fact I keep on going back to him, meaning going back to myself…

  4. Reblogged this on nós and commented:
    Outstanding parallel analysis!
    Pessoa and I thank you!

  5. Pingback: Day 78: Indifference | Finding God in 365 Days

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s