2003-06-02 - 10:39 a.m.
There is a paragraph in the book “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that has suddenly struck me as the greatest wisdom one can ever know. It has pulled itself from the pages of that book and shined within my eyes as a simple truth that answers and calms my angst, my wonderings. I realize now what it is that festers within people and produces our very human trait of searching uneventfully through our lives for “home”. I see how we live our lives always grasping for something that never comes. Because none of us ever lives reality. We suffer through our lives clinging to memory, always retreating to nostalgia, or worse, to the nostalgia of something we have yet to see. We live without recognizing the moment; we let perfection of the moment pass by without knowing it until years later when we look back with desire to be back on that page of our history and sigh with memory, “oh how I wish I could go back to that time.”
Anyway… the paragraph comes after the story of an old Catalonian bookseller with whom the last Aureliano becomes friends. The bookseller, in his old age, packed up his bookstore and took a ship back to his home in Catalonia because he missed the sea, missed his home. Had thought about that place with nostalgia and yearning the whole time he had been in Macondo. So then he gets to Catalonia and finds that he misses Macando. And then the paragraph comes. “….One winter night while the soup was boiling in the fireplace, he missed the heat of the back of his store, the buzzing of the sun on the dusty almond trees, the whistle of the train during the lethargy of siesta time, just as in Macondo he had missed the winter soup in the fireplace, the cries of the coffee vender, and the fleeting larks of springtime. Upset by two nostalgias facing each other like two mirrors, he lost his marvelous sense of unreality and he ended up recommending to all of them that they leave Macondo, that they forget everything he had taught them about the world and the human heart, that they all shit on Horace, and that whatever they might be they always remember that the past was a lie, that memory has no return, that every spring gone by could never be recovered, and the wildest and most tenacious love was an ephemeral truth in the end.”
I understand that paragraph like no other I have ever understood. I realized, after reading that paragraph the last time (I have read this book at least twenty times, always passing over that paragraph without a blink because at the times of those previous readings I had not yet identified that pit of sorrow that lived within my belly and so those words had meant nothing to me) that most of my woe in life could have been prevented had I read, and understood, that paragraph a long time ago.
Because I have always lived stuck between the mirrors of nostalgia. Never realizing that the key to my happiness is to walk away from those mirrors with the knowledge that they are just that, just reflections, not the real thing. There was a night this last time I was in France when I was laying in my bed crying, missing my cats, scared to death, wanting so desperately to be back home in my own bed surrounded by familiarity. But I was frustrated because I also didn’t want to leave Eric, I wanted to be two places at once and I had asked him, “Is there every going to be a time when I have everything in one place so I don’t have to live in this constant state of missing?” His answer had startled me, it was a plain and simple, “No,” that thundered through me, crashed into my conscience like no other statement has ever. I understood before he ever explained himself. Within that drawn out second between his powerful, “no,” and his explanation I understood that no, I would always be living with a haunted state of missing lingering in my eyes. If I wasn’t sitting in France missing my cats, or sitting with my cats missing Eric, I would be sitting with my cats AND Eric missing the times when I had to miss one or the other. And that is exactly how he explained it. As humans we always miss something, we never really live a contented life. Even if we are not missing something from the past, we are living in nostalgia of a future life that has not yet come to us. In high school I longed for these times, when I lived alone in my own house. Now that I live alone in my own house I long for those days of high school when I had friends circling around me, when I had my brothers, my mother, my father all within easy reach. I even miss the angst of adolescence. I fully understand now, when I take a walk here in my little village and miss with sheer desperation my walk in France, that if I were in France I would be missing, with sheer desperation, my walk in my little village. I understand now, finally, that the key to happiness is to live outside the reflections, to maybe glance in the mirror from time to time, not to remember with nostalgia, but with pride, the reflection. It is those reflections that have pushed me to achieve new reflections. Because in each reflection, whether we remember it or not as we gaze with remorse at times gone by, there is also a longing to be someplace else. When I look with nostalgia at the reflection of my twenty year old self I see only a girl who had everything going for her. But if I look closely, with more wisdom, I see deep in those eyes a girl who was longing for times past and even more, longing for times future. Just as I know that someday, in a moment of weakness I will look into those mirrors of nostalgia at the woman I am now and see only someone with a perfect life….which is quite the contrary of what I actually feel living the reality of that woman I will look back on someday with nostalgia.|
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