ON SUFFERING

‘There is no real joy without suffering’, academician, writer and poet François Cheng proclaimed. ‘The writer has to bear all the world’s misery on his shoulders in order to transform it, transfigure it into light’, he continued. This is the greatest gift of the writer, as he emphasized in his discourse. Indeed, one has to be aware of the cruelty, the wrongdoings and the gloom surrounding him so as to overcome it.

Is pain our doom, at times more prominent in certain people’s lives than others? This inevitable emotion is one that every being undergoes at some point in their existence and to a certain extent. It is universal. It is human.

A few years, Andrew Solomon, during a conference, tackled the correlation between pain and identity. Is there an explanation that can make sense of pain? What is the meaning of the mass murders that have happened throughout history? The reason behind these actions seems meaningless? It is certainly difficult to find the meaning of senseless enterprises undertaken by an individual who comes across as mad as a hatter. In Solomon’s words, it is thus about ‘forging meaning rather than trying to find meaning’.

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

Haruki Murakami

Suffering is inescapable — this is the grand lesson that people who have experienced the most traumatic episodes that life can generate.

‘How did you make it through all these terrible events?’, one often asks in awe.
‘Well, there was no other choice for me than to endure and survive it’, the latter would reply.

Oftentimes, in a child’s mind, the idea of injustice lives on. ‘Why do these unfortunate occurrences keep happening to me and to my family?’, more than once I thought to myself. ‘Why is life so unfair?’ And yet, after a while, one learns the value of suffering, otherwise, it would be purposeless to carry on.

Suffering thus forges identity. It allows us to observe the full spectrum. For without the darkness, there would be no light. Without the cold, there would be no warmth. Without death, there would be no life. Without negativity, there would be no positivity. No experience would be unique. No happiness could be utterly felt without having ever encountered sadness.

It is the path that one walks on over the years that grants one with lessons of strength, humility, and humanity. Indeed, none of these words would have been put down a page if I had never gone through this personal journey of torment and discovery. In my early state of lostness, I looked up to one of the great Hemingway’s quotes: ‘In order to write about life, you must first live it’. Thus, today I write for I know of the world’s misery, I reminisce about the agreeable memories and fantasize about unpredictable future in writing and the passion reminds me that I am living, and for far too long in the past, I did not.

There are countless more lessons in a life lived through pain than in an uneventful and quiet life. There is gratitude brought out of the bleakest moments. There is the acceptance of life itself and all that it embodies — as we say, the good, the bad and the ugly. There is the acceptance of the impermanence of things. This is the acceptance of the human condition.

The only truths of hardships are awareness and gratitude.

which hardship has shaped you the most into the person you are now?

Indochine. La vie est belle.

ON GIVING

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

St. Francis of Assisi

Guidance and assistance are the most precious of human gifts. As one oftentimes finds him or herself entangled in a web of troubles, having known hardship and struggles, lived through untold obstacles, one learns the importance of giving. For without the caring help of a peer, one could have not made it through.

***

Three years ago, my family and I were evicted from our social housing. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, a mentally harsh day. Getting evicted, deprived of my “home”. Witnessing the multiplied struggles my parents had to endure without being able to do much. Seeing all of our belongings being packed as rubbish. Observing years of memories vanishing in the blink of an eye. Not having a house for months. And also living such a nightmare without people to confide in, people to help me escape from this emotional nightmare at times, not any close friend of mine. However, during that time, we were surrounded by some very inspiring people who showed me the beauty of art in the dark. We wrote quotes on our now former metal-covered door about ‘doors closing’ which was the beautifully therapeutic idea of one of our neighbors. She lent me “The Prophet” by Gibran which became a profound source of inspiration as well. She gave us her time to fill in all the paperwork. We had family friends who opened to us the door to their house. They give us their time, sometimes money, attention, and commitment to help us out. Without these people, I wonder where we’d be right now.

“We rise by lifting others.”

Robert Ingersoll
Barcelona, Nov. 2019, GC

Oftentimes, the concept of giving means much more than merely sharing material belongings. There are, indeed, many different ways of achieving that charitable act. For, giving one’s time, one’s love, one’s soul without limit is a deeply personal yet universal action. It is, in fact, during the darkest hours that one can observe the brightest stars.

***

It was an odd Christmas day for me. The wind was softly blowing. The sun had already set in the very early evening. Sitting on a beach, a book in my hands, I was feeling a little worn out. I had pondered on the way I was adjusting to this new life when this old man came talking to me. I told him I couldn’t understand what he was saying and only caught a few words. He kept on talking to me in this language I could barely speak. It made me smile. I managed to say somehow that I was here on my own. What I got from his final words was that with such a smile I would undoubtedly make friends over here. This episode reminded me that connection can be one smile away, whatever the barriers. This man had given me some of his presence, his enlivening words of encouragement and precious time. Most-likely unknowingly, he generously taught me a lesson of wisdom that stuck with me to this day. This was his way of giving.


Giving a part of oneself is thus the reminder that we were all born equal, susceptible to endure the very same human experiences. As one writes to share his perception of the world he lives in, one is also willing to give a part of himself, selflessly disclosing his true self to the audience. We read books and watch movies because we relate to the emotions expressed and highlighted by the plot. We share the same stories, slightly differentiated by the varying personas and the interchangeable life phases.

One ought to never forget all of the helping hands he ever touched, show constant gratitude for the kindest souls he met and never cease to lend his own hand even to the oddest stranger encountered. For no one ever knows what the oh so uncertain future will bring.

what does giving bring you?

Song for someone. Vertical Horizon.

ON EXILE

“Is it possible that existence is our exile and nothingness our home?”

Emil Cioran

 

In a recent interview on French television, author Velibor Čolić offered the audience his entrancing interpretation of exile as follows: ‘I did not come, I stayed ; exile is more about staying than leaving’.

Indeed, we leave as emigrants but we stay as expatriates. Is the reason why we fled our home country ever more important than the reason why we choose to stay? Wouldn’t the positive aspects prevail over the negative ones?

***

I never planned to leave London. The city had for so long puzzlingly mesmerized me and deeply transformed me. I had learned life-changing lessons of wisdom and growth in a place I so fondly cherished. Its cosmopolitism also gave me sublime encounters with people coming from all corners of the globe. Whilst my time in the British capital endowed me with the most genuine of friendships, its openness enticed me to discover other cities and countries. I might have loved being all settled there, I had to embrace change and the possibility of falling in love with countless other places. 

Was this just another exile? I do not believe so, for every time I have the chance to come back, I still feel home, safe and sound on cloud nine.  

Perhaps, I had always planned to leave my home country. Although I never believed that I would be able to do it so young, I always knew. I had never felt truly at home in Paris, somewhere none of my family came from. I had come to dislike the metropolis profoundly. Moreover, I had always been torn by the fact that my father was from another country, which in the end I did not know well — something I regretted very much. I had kept a dream of London for a long time since childhood, for a reason I never grasped. And as I fell in love with the city, I later became bewitched by the concept of expatriation. 

This certainly was the only real exile of my life. Leaving, on grounds of exhaustion from not belonging. 

Verona, July 2019, GC

I never planned to live in Spain. In fact, when I was younger, I loathed the fact that people would make connections about me and the Iberian peninsula as if I had any lineage from that part of the world. This was due to the fact that half of my family was from the other part of the Mediterranean, Italy. For instance, in school, I had chosen to learn Italian as a second language as an act of rebellion against the majority of pupils who enrolled in the Spanish class. Yet, for some reason, I ended up here, along this charming and lively coast. 

***

Traveling is somehow a quick getaway, a break from your day-to-day life. One discovers a new town from a, usually, brief period of time and through the lens of the tourist, the foreigner, the stranger. Becoming an expatriate is very different. One has to make himself belong to the community, to learn the local rituals and lifestyle. It means to accept all the differences that exist with what one has been accustomed to. The longer one stays, the better one actually gets to know the culture.

Thus, traveling as much as possible is not a dream of mine, rather a past time. However, a dream of mine is to live in as many different places as possible. There’s one challenge to accept: the one of leaving everything behind, be it good or bad, and starting over, taking a leap into the unknown. I never thought I would end up living in sunny Barcelona, Spain. Perhaps I’ll stay here for a year, just the time for me to learn Castilian, or perhaps I’ll be bored soon enough. I am not setting any deadlines, for I let everything go with the flow. One year on? I have no clue where I will be. 

This is the magical part of life (and open borders as well). You meet people from all over the world and someday you suddenly realize you wish to move elsewhere. Perhaps, five years from now, you’ll be living on an island you never even knew existed or a continent on which the climate you never believed would fit your lifestyle. If you’re open-minded enough, you accept the core value of life: change and evolution; and thus you trust in letting go to embrace new ventures.

In the end, everywhere you go, you bring a part of the place where you used to live — and this place, you will forever be able to call it home.

 

Una casa al mare. Thegiornalisti.

what is your exile?