Feeling vulnerable is breaking barriers
Two nights ago I found myself in a hotel with a terrible headache and a rising fever. I haven’t felt as vulnerable in a long while. Thankfully, I had E. with me, who was kind enough to run to the pharmacy and get some painkillers, which made things better. Two days later I’m still on painkillers. My nose is running, my chest is full of disgusting stuff and the constant headache is not going away.
Feeling weak is not necessarily a bad thing. It brings down frontiers that have been erected to protect us from reality. Too much reality causes pain. The walls are instinctively built; they are natural. We remove our hand from the fire, we shrink our bodies when we feel vulnerable and we spread our limbs when we feel successful. Walls are part of our evolutionary struggle for survival: they are there to protect us. But walls isolate us. And then other instincts kick in; those that want to force us back into society. A constant balance between the walls of protection and the perils of isolation. I try to escape the isolation through the words of men and women wiser than me. Imaginary tales of lives that somehow penetrate the relationship of the reader and his book, transcending it into a personal affair where the lives of the fictional characters become ours. The story line doubles and runs in parallel; on the one hand the tale, on the other ourselves, overcoming fears, falling in love and feeling hurt and vulnerable, like the heroes and heroines of the great authors.
Much of my work has to do with ideal and non-ideal theory. I question and challenge the transition from perfect societies to our own. I try to make sense of how to embed the knowledge of our thought experiments into everyday experiences. I love what I’m doing and I realise that it is an absolute privilege to feel this way. That being said, I am not and have never been comfortable with grand theories. Teleology scares me. The world I experience is messy, hiding its joys under mountains of sorrow, full of people that do not share my worldview. A balance in nature between walls for protection for one’s own and the loneliness of the isolated existence. I don’t want perfectly just or perfectly equal worlds. Finite and holistic perceptions of perfect societies are as oppressive as they are unnatural. This is the reason I was never persuaded by religious dogmas: I evolve through my experiences and contradictions, and what I was five years ago, I am not anymore; I can’t see how I can maintain the same worldview throughout my life. And that’s fine. Life goes on, values and people compete with each other, resulting in either compromise or further conflict. Conflict is part of the game. Irreconcilable differences exist. They are part of the human condition.
Change is what happens when you become both better and worse than you were a year ago. Change is fuelled by the conflict of competing values and experiences that inform our decisions. Contradiction, re-evaluation, compromise, peace. To pretend that the life I pursue comes at no costs is naive. It’s exactly this naiveté that I want to avoid; I am trying to embrace the exploding process of contradictions in search of the final prize: peace.
But isolation is scary. We are social animals that need peace and tranquility. Walls are never the answer. Compromise should be the desirable result. Bridges are needed to mend the differences, where those can be mended. Walls are not even the last refuge. They are temporary. The fear of isolation is a hammer that breaks these walls. Feeling vulnerable, like I feel now, is a ladder against the wall, that enables me to see the other side. For this, I embrace it, until I am strong enough to start the demolition.
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