Thursday, July 02, 2009

Message in a bottle

It took me nearly a month to write this post. I started during the conference I was caught into at the beginning of the month, the last one I'll be going to in some time, as I promised during my talk. I also promised to myself no more suffering for some time and, possibly, moving slowly towards a more positive look on life. This requires leaving behind a lot of heavy stones I've been carrying with me around the world for the last year and a half, roughly. That's why I finally made up my mind to turn this post into an open letter to my former collaborators, as a last attempt at communicating the anguish that tormented me, and then I'll let it all go and move on with life wherever that happens to take me. I'll leave this behind as a message in a bottle, left for someone out there to see. I don't harbor any hope any more of it being understood, so just leaving it to float on the waves of information space may be its most appropriate destiny. I have completely given up by now on understanding anything at all about what happened, I simply accept that life can suddenly turn completely incomprehensible and that, once something like that happens, it likely means that, no matter how much efforts one puts into trying to undo the damage, there is generally no way to turn the flow around and save what one would have truly cared to preserve.

I have for many years been working on a series of long term projects. What made it something especially important to me, besides the intellectual interest I had in the work itself, was the fact of sharing a common dream with people I had long cared for. One should not underestimate the importance of this type of human relation in providing the strength, the motivation, and the capacity to keep moving forward when the climb is steepest, when the direction is uncertain, when the work ahead seems overwhelmingly difficult and the goal remote. What is, in those cases, real and comforting, is the act of sharing the path, of not being alone, of giving each other the much needed encouragement and support that makes it possible to stay the course. In the end what is most rewarding, rather than achieving some goal, is the act of sharing ideas, of exploring one another's minds, of thinking one's own thoughts and the thoughts of others as a texture of harmonious polyphony. This is what mattered most, at least to me. It worked beautifully for several years and I truly believed in the fact that we were building something together, that a shared dream could be made real by a joint effort, by a conjunction of hopes.

I had been completely mistaken in my assessment of the situation and now I wonder how I managed to fool myself for so many years into believing this idealistic view. In reality, it seems, I was nothing more than a disposable accessory in what I had believed was our joint dream, and in due time I was notified by my closest friend that I was being disposed of, per request of my other long term collaborator and friend. It's perhaps no surprise that this resulted in over a year of anguish and seriously destructive thoughts.

When a relation of trust breaks down, it is very difficult to maneuver around its carcass. One is caught in between the two conflicting drives: to keep going back to it and try to salvage something from the wreck, at the cost of inflicting more and more pain upon oneself, or just to walk away and never turn back, at the cost of facing the loss in its entirety and possibly developing a lasting incapacity to form new human relations based on trust. Neither provides an acceptable solution and so one gets trapped so easily into an endless repetition of thoughts and actions that perpetuate and propagate the pain.

This is not sustainable in the long run: it either degenerates into senseless acts of violence against oneself and others, or it eventually transforms itself into a reactive force that pushes one forward, one way or another towards a new phase of life, less idealistic perhaps, more cynical and disillusioned, but alive and kicking. Working is of course the best form of healing and even when one feels one has exhausted ones strength and energy almost completely, the only option available is to force oneself to go on and do the creative work, which is the only thing that ultimately proves, to oneself and to others, that one is not defeated.

Where were you when I was burned and broken
While the days slipped by from my window watching
Where were you when I was hurt and I was helpless
Because the things you say and the things you do surround me
While you were hanging yourself on someone else's words
Dying to believe in what you heard
I was staring straight into the shining sun

(Pink Floyd - "Coming back to life")

A year has passed since I wrote my note [...]
Walked out this morning, don't believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I'm not alone at being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home [...]
Sending out an s.o.s.

(Sting and Police - "Message in a bottle")