sylvia van den ouwelant

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this text on the wall:
 
 
 

Dear Rousseau,

 

When we met each other this summer during your walks at the Ile de Saint Pierre in Switzerland and my tours along the coast of Noord-Holland, you have inspired and maybe also influenced me with your funny grumblings about other people and how they double-crossed you. I also often have problems with other people, actually I am often afraid of them, but you don’t really see that because I fight back so quickly that people are also afraid of me.

I say ‘funny’, not because I do not take your problems seriously, but because you never say anything about your part in the situation. I think you are also not very easy.

 

You are writing: ‘the source of all happiness is situated in ourselves and it is not in the power of people to make someone really unhappy who has the determination to be happy’.

I think you are touching upon something important there. In a society like ours, where we don’t live in big, cozy families but where it is every man for himself, and not even a god for us all, it is so important to know what you want yourself.

You also write about a strong desire for loneliness you have, because you want to pull out all the stops to know how you can put your ‘heart’ in the state in which you want it to be at the moment of death. I also have felt this summer it is necessary to be alone to know anything at all about what moves me.

As you say: their philosophy is for others, I need one for myself. I do not think everyone wants to live on the razor’s edge nor do they have a longing for that, but we do. I am very happy I met you. You supported me in the idea that, to really give yourself the possibility to become free of yourself, you should not always bind yourself with others. I do not even know if you have studied Buddhism, I am really curious to know what you think about it, but for me, it was, in the end, not the right way. Because, although you get to know yourself while there are no people around, in contact with other people you always have to think about their wellbeing, because in Buddhism that is inherently the be all and end all. To keep together a group of people it can work but on an individual level it can turn out differently.

You also mention you are looking for a regular rule of conduct for the rest of your life.

I agree, conduct is something different than conviction.

Actually it is very easy to have a few rules and then follow them and eventually adjust them when they are not right at some point. Although untill now I have not had to change anything in the rules of conduct of my manifest that, at the beginning of my tour, strangely, came off the top of my head. On my bike, outdoors, fast enough, but not too fast to see a lot around, alone, I wrote you already about this above, as much as possible without a goal and to places I don’t know yet; to be able to make every tour as fresh as possible without already knowing what will come out and the last sentence is not really a rule but more a desired outcome:

To be as receptive as possible for reality.

And that is how it actually works.

What I did not know, when I wrote my manifest and before I had read the descriptions of your thoughts during your walks, was, that I also want to get rid of all the pressure of everything that is a must. That I do not have to think all the time, is it me when I do not like the things other people like, and the other way around, but that it is what it is and that I sometimes have to adapt, because there is no other possibility, but a lot less than I am used to.

But the most beautiful thing you have given me, was the part you wrote during your fifth walk and that I read when I, in my sixth garden, became totally strange

from all the choices I could make to amuse myself. You were writing about musing, dreaming, doing nothing, and that this was the best thing one could do in his life. Not ever before had someone said that to me, nor did I invent it myself. I still have a problem with it, but I practice in doing nothing from then on.

Before I end this letter, dear Rousseau, I want to let you read two little pieces, from Giorgio Agamben and from Henri Bergson.

I find the thoughts of Henri Bergson so moving and true and real, he has spent his whole life on ‘studying’ the time that has nothing to do with the clock. I have written down a few beautiful sentences, of which I think you will like them as well. *

Agamben is an Italian philosopher (in the bookshop they put his books on the shelf : political science) and pretty unruly just as we do, and he writes about the heart, the core, the essence , as you see, it takes an effort to find the right word for this. You call it ‘the inner’ the internal, which I like a lot because it directly addresses your own body. He calls it ‘your own genius’ and that you ‘have to come towards that genius in everything’ because ‘his happiness is our happiness’ and that ‘when you neglect him you are cheating on yourself. (The whole piece also below **)

Let us never stop doing this, it is the truth, alone but not lonely!

 

Love, sylvia

 

 

 

 

 

*Henri Bergson,

 

A few sentences I like a lot:

Our memory doesn’t know physical time or clock time. The time as duration (that is the term Bergson uses for the time that is not clock time) will be experienced when the human being indulges in his intuition.

 

Sympathy with which one moves in the heart of an object to coincide with makes it unique and therefore inexpressible.

 

 

** Giorgio Agamben , profanations page 8 and 9

 

A Latin phrase perfectly expresses the secret relationship each person must maintain with his own Genius: indulgere genio. One must consent to Genius and abandon oneself to him; one must grant him everything he asks for, for his exigencies are our exigencies, his happiness our happiness. Even if his - our! - requirements seem treasonable and capricious, it is best to accept them without argument. If in order to write you need - he needs! - a certain light yellow paper, a certain special pen, a certain light shining from the left, it is useless to tell yourself that just any pen will do, that any paper and any light will suffice. If life is not worth living without that light blue linen shirt (for goodness’ sake, not the white one with the collar of an office worker!), if without those long cigarettes with black paper you just don't see any reason to go on, then there’s no point in repeating to yourself that these are no more than little manias, that now is the time to be over and done with them. In Latin, Genium suum defraudare, to defraud one’s

own genius, means to make one’s life miserable, to cheat oneself, in Latin. But the life that turns away from death and responds without hesitation to the impetus of the genius that engendered it is called genialis, genial. But this most intimate and personal god is also that which is most impersonal in us; it is the personalization of what, in us, goes beyond and exceeds us. “Genius is our life not insofar as it was originated by us, but rather insofar as we originate from it'

 

 

 

 

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