terça-feira, outubro 31, 2017

I'm bovvered that I'm not bovvered: “Letter from Casablanca” by Antonio Tabucchi



‘“Saudade,” said Maria do Carmo, “yearning. It isn’t a word, it’s a category of the spirit. Only the Portuguese are able to feel it, because they have this word in order to say they have it. A great poet said this.” And then she began to talk about Fernando Pessoa.’

In the short-story “The Backwards Game” taken from “Letter from Casablanca” by Antonio Tabucchi

The idea that some people aren't bothered about finding meaning reminds me of a saying in the book of Ecclesiastes 1 v 18: 'For in the abundance of wisdom there is an abundance of vexation, so that he that increases knowledge increases pain.' I love this book in the bible as it really does emphasize the 'what is the point?' question. Tabucchi’s fiction does not belong to the self-help book category, but it’s one hell of a help. Ultimately, what I’m getting from Tabucchi’s fiction is the fact that it gives me something I enjoy doing every day; for a moment I stop being a problem solver, and someone who’s overwhelmed by problems all day long in his day job. I have found that it is the only way to bring about an appreciation and a focus on what you have and what you do in life, rather than what you lack. That said, it's not always that easy; as a person who thinks about life and the world a lot, I will always have to work hard on the things above to avoid falling into despair. As Tabucchi suggests between the lines, we probably wouldn't be reading his book in the first place if we were existentially indifferent; no, we're still trying to find the answer to 'what is the point?' To me it’s about meaning versus purpose. People talk about having one or both in their lives, and the words tend to get used interchangeably. However to me there appears to be a distinction. Looking for a meaning implies that you are seeking to find a source of responsibility - an excuse for that which you can't understand or control, an explanation of that which you think unfair. Looking for purpose means looking to something to inspire you - a goal to aspire to, a pride in your family, work or pastime. My belief is (and feel free to shoot me down, because as I say, I struggle to understand the motivations!) that a yearning for meaning is an expression of dissatisfaction with your lot in life. That dissatisfaction may be caused by the "horror" stories that the TV talks off, but in many, many more cases, I'm sure that searching for a 'purpose' instead of 'meaning' - i.e. something that you personally have control over - would be far more beneficial in removing the dissatisfaction. I guess what I'm saying is - accept that nature is indifferent to your existence, don't sweat about what you can't change, find something to inspire you in your everyday life, and you won't care about trying to answer existential riddles.
If only it were that easy huh! That’s why we need Tabucchi’s fiction, even in short form.


NB: Perhaps some people who claim to be existentially indifferent have never been in the situation of being forced to find meaning in their lives. From my experiences (and slurred conversations with like-minded people), there's always a lot of talk about the "lack" of something. But none of us can ever describe it tangibly. And if we ever do, I'm sure we'll all describe it completely differently. Maybe because we'll always have different ideas of what life should be, and different ideas on how to get there - if there's anywhere to get to! Back to the book.

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