the narrow path


Philippe Jaccottet
Plus je vieillis et plus je croîs en ignorance,
plus j’ai vécu, moins je possède et moins je règne.
Tout ce que j’ai, c’est un espace tour à tour
enneigé ou brillant, mais jamais habité.
Où est le donateur, le guide, le gardien ?
Je me tiens dans ma chambre et d’abord je me tais
(le silence entre en serviteur mettre un peu d’ordre),
et j’attends qu’un à un les mensonges s’écartent :
que reste-t-il ? que reste-t-il à ce mourant
qui l’empêche si bien de mourir ?
Quelle force
le fait encor parler entre ses quatre murs ?
Pourrais-je le savoir, moi l’ignare et l’inquiet ?
Mais je l’entends vraiment qui parle, et sa parole
pénètre avec le jour, encore que bien vague :
«Comme le feu, l’amour n’établit sa clarté
que sur la faute et la beauté des bois en cendres… »

Oh, I love this reading…

The more I read, the more ignorant I am. That is, the more aware of my ignorance I become. This awareness, which I have always had but gave little thought to, becomes daunting but challenging as I learn more each and every day. But it also makes me angrier about uninformed, willfully/proudly ignorant people who have strong opinions that they insist are valid or equal to facts, even though their opinions have no basis in fact at all. Like a merit badge, they loudly state these “alternative facts”.

I can only keep gorging my mind from the broadest of intellectual and multidisciplinary buffets, but what good will that do if so much of the rest of the world rests comfortably in, at best, mediocrity, blindness and anti-intellectualism? Probably none – not if, for example, climate deniers rule the day. But hell, maybe we won’t reach that point of destruction if the world continues on its current destructive trajectory (politically). Maybe we can all be wiped out much sooner. Or just be subjected to dubious leadership from people who are, as Mr Firewall put it, “a roll of tinfoil away from making a helmet”.

I am desperately and actively trying to seek new learning, new paths, new sources, new fields, new conversations, new debates, new perspectives, new disciplines, new ways to develop the mind and expand my thinking. I don’t mind being contradicted – or presented with other ideas – if they can be backed up with something.

I know and see how creativity dies, and in my case, how everything I do and write comes out completely flat when life’s path and focus narrows too much. I would like to believe, and have managed to bamboozle myself for some time, that I haven’t fallen into this trap. But I have. I might do spontaneous, random stuff with a fair amount of frequency, and stuff my brain with information and stimuli, but am I ever really stepping out of my comfort zone?

I was recently confronted by this reality – more than usual – not because anyone accused me of anything to the contrary, but because someone, in casually telling me bits about himself, unveiled glimpses of a selfless and grueling – but rewarding – set of quests and travails that make up the topography of his life. And as I marveled, unresponsive and awed, I eventually thought, ‘Wow. I’m a complete fucking wuss and only become more of one every day.’

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