Tag Archives: idenity

That’s Not My Name

The fictions of my imagination (as it later developed) may weary me, but they don’t hurt or humiliate. Impossible lovers can’t possible cheat on us, or smile at us falsely, or be calculating in their caresses. They never forsake us, and they don’t die or disappear. – Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (142)

nhIt’s such a nice day that I don’t even feel like dreaming. I enjoy it with all the sincerity of my senses, to which my intelligence bows. (128)

The pressure of always having to explain ourselves is immense. This is a constant struggle in my life. Fernando Pessoa is a man that rejected the premise and yet embraced the challenge. The Book of Disquiet, which has quite captured me,  is a book of internal concerns, but whose? The more I read the more I am curious to know the man- Pessoa. Not the projected heteronyms that he is famous for, but the man. I have the feeling he would be impossible to know, and would start to make one doubt knowing anything at all.

And yet, I know that feeling. There is the me here, and the me there. The me that my friends see, and the me that wants to be. Late at night, as I struggle with my covers and contemplate whether or not I am cold or have to pee, there is sometimes-  just me. The ridiculousness of this situation, which is essentially life,  is what Pessoa perfectly captures.

My God, My God, who am I watching? How many am I? Who is I? What is this gap between me and myself? (187)

Perhaps because I am a woman who has had more than one name, I am more keenly sensitive to the point. There are four that accompany me. But if I only take the first, Jessica- there are many variations. I am Jessica, and yet that is the name that I associate with being in trouble. Jess is short and somewhat dismissive. Only one person ever called me Jessie, I could have loved him just for that, but he did not press the point. I think if Fernando Pessoa had been named Frank he would not have been capable of the identity shifts that he excelled in.

And since I now know beforehand that every vague hope will end in disillusion, I have special delight of already enjoying the disillusion with the hope, like the bitter with the sweet that makes the sweet sweeter by way of contrast. (169)

I’m not at all sure who wrote this book. It’s that voice inside you that is a water tap left on- the one that wants to retreat so far from it all that it is not even a matter of wanting or not wanting to have hope. It is the space above where there is no wanting or not wanting: that is the feeling that is fully articulated in this mesmerizing compilation of  musings.

Inside, things are different than they appear outside. Pessoa uses a single stream of focus to drive this point home. If I take a little bit of me and run, run, run away with it- but would I have the nerve?  I could not be so selfish to devote myself to the absolute fleshing out of all my facets. I am sure they are not that interesting, not even to me. But Pessoa insists they are. His, mine and yours. It is our parts that join us. I am all these things and none of them too.

Today I was struck by an absurd but valid sensation. I realized, in an inner flash, that I’m no one. (227)

Time for a Dolorous Interlude:

Reductio ad absurdum is one of my favorite drinks. (252)

Oh, I’ll drink to that.

* Penguin Classic edited and translated by Richard Zenith