Global Nomads and TCKS- 26: Reconciliation

Edward Said’s reconciliation with being “out of place:”

I occasionally experience myself as a cluster of flowing currents. I prefer this to the idea of a solid self, the identity to which so many attach so much significance. These currents, like the themes of one’s life, flow along during the waking hours, and at their best, they require no reconciling, no harmonizing. They are “off” and may be out of place, but at least they are always in motion, in time, in place, in the form of all kinds of strange combinations mov­ing about, not necessarily forward, sometimes against each other, contrapuntally yet without one central theme. A form of freedom, I’d like to think, even if I am far from being totally convinced that it is. That skepticism too is one of the themes I particularly want to hold on to. With so many dissonances in my life I have learned actually to prefer being not quite right and out of place.

Out of Place: A Memoir

Originally posted Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Global Nomads and TCKS- 25: Everywhere is a reminder of somewhere else

For the global nomad, every place brings to mind somewhere else, as Andre Aciman so deftly conveys:

 I could never understand or appreciate New York unless I could make it the mirror—call it the mnemonic correlative—of other cities I’ve known or imagined. No Mediterranean can look at a sun­set in Manhattan and not think of another sunset thousands of miles away. No Mediterranean can stand looking at the tiny lights speck­ling the New Jersey cliffs at night and not remember a galaxy of lit­tle fishing boats that go out to sea at night, dotting the water with their tiny lights till dawn, when they come back to shore. But it is not New Jersey I see when I watch the sunset from Riverside Drive.

The real New York I never see either. I see only the New York that either sits in for other places or helps me summon them up. New York is the stand-in, the ersatz of all the things I can remem­ber and cannot have, and may not even want, much less love, but continue to look for, because finding parallels can be more com­pelling than finding a home, because without parallels, there can’t be a home, even if in the end it is the comparing that we like, not the objects we compare. Outside of comparing, we cannot feel…

 False Papers: Essays on Exile and Memory

Originally posted Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Global Nomads and TCKS- 24: Finding home

After a sojourn in America, Milosz finally gains a sense of home, back in old Europe:

But it was not the same as it had been in America; it was not only nature that cured me. Europe herself gathered me in her warm embrace, and her stones, chiseled by the hands of past generations, the swarm of her faces emerging from carved wood, from paintings, from the gilt of embroidered fabrics, soothed me, and my voice was added to her old challenges and oaths in spite of my refusal to accept her split and her sickliness.  Europe, after all, was home to me.   And in her I happened to find help; the country of the Dordogne is like a Platonic recollection, a prenatal landscape so hospitable that prehistoric man, twenty or thirty thousand years ago, selected the valley of the Vezere for his abode (was he, too, moved by a Platonic recol­lection of Paradise?). And while I climbed the hills of Saint-Emilion near a place where only yesterday the villas of Roman officials had stood, I tried to imagine, gazing out over the brown furrows of earth in the vineyards, all the hands that had once toiled here. Something went on inside me then. Such transformations are, of course, slow, and at first they are hidden even, from ourselves. Gradually, though, I stopped worrying about the whole mythology of exile, this side of the wall or that side of the wall. Poland and the Dordogne, Lithuania and Savoy, the narrow little streets in Wilno and the Quartier Latin, all fused together. I was like an ancient Greek. I had simply moved from one city to another. My native Europe, all of it, dwelled inside me, with its mountains, forests, and capitals; and that map of the heart left no room for my troubles. After a few years of groping in the dark, my foot once again touched solid ground and I regained the ability to live in the present, in a “now” within which past and future, both stronger than all possible apocalypses, mingle and mutually enrich each other.

Native Realm

Originally posted Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Global Nomads and TCKS- 23: Looking for lost pasts, lost selves…

Here is global nomad Andre Aciman on his habit of summoning his lost past, and consequently, his lost self at the seaside:

Drop me in Nice or in Anzio or in East Hampton as someone’s guest and early on Sunday morning I will look for any excuse to go out to buy the paper and take the long way, not because I need to read the paper or because I need to be alone, but because I want to take time out and think that I am going on a very familiar errand, that I know exactly what I’m doing, and that any moment now I’ll end up pushing open a very old gate whose squeak I can’t forget. As long as I keep expecting to arrive there and never really hurry back, I will, if I try hard enough, make out the voices of people who have long since died but have suddenly come back and are beginning to complain that I’ve been gone too long and have almost missed breakfast.

If I long for the sea or for Alexandria, it is because, with the sea around me, I can begin to rebuild my life, put things back together again, pick up where I believe I left off. I collate little snippets of the past, the way those who’ve been deported map out every corner of their city, their street, their temple.

I look for the sea everywhere, because the sea was the back­drop for almost all the scenes of my childhood. I look for my childhood, for my own gaze looking out at the sea. What I want is not to swim but to have the pleasure of “finding the sea,” of guess­ing and spying the sea, of suggesting the sea, the way children today play at “finding Waldo”—because in finding the sea I find myself.

 False Papers: Essays on Exile and Memory

Originally posted Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Global Nomads and TCKS- 22: What we are left with

Here I describe the legacy of the global nomad childhood for me:

What I have taken away from this itinerant childhood: a learning stance; the confusing but deep conviction that there are multiple truths and that mine is not the only one; a wish to honor others and not impose on them. Most of all, a NEED for other cultures: for the smell of fish markets, for the sound of Japanese, for the smell of batik, for the bong of a temple bell, for the suck on my boot of a wet Dutch field, for the smell of airplanes, for the sprawl of a transit lounge, for the taste of sticky Japanese rice, for the texture of a reed mat, for the sight of thatched rooftops against clean blue sky, for the ocean that sails me to a new place.

What have you taken away from your nomadic childhood? What do you want to keep? What do you want to discard? Where do you want to go, to be, from here?  Bring some of it back here.

 Of Many Lands: Journal of a Traveling Childhood 

Originally posted Wednesday, June 26th, 2013