Thursday, May 06, 2010

I Read and am Liberated

Given how Ben has shifted my letter below towards the realm of writing more generally I thought I would share a short response I had written to my first encounter with Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet. I was quite literally startled by it. Needless to say I was not concerned with his motivation. Well actually that is not quite true I was quite interested in the story behind this work. After Pessoa's death these writings were found scattered in trunk destined for oblivion until they retrieved and edited. Perhaps this is as close to Ben's pure motivation as you are going to get.

I have begun read­ing Fer­nando Pessoa’s The Book of Dis­quiet. From the first pages of this journal-like ‘fact­less auto­bi­og­ra­phy’ some­thing was stirred in me. Sud­denly the sim­ple and hereti­cal phrase emerged from within claim­ing, “This book will be my sal­va­tion.” I have never had that sen­sa­tion before in read­ing. I began to feel like the text itself, with or with­out my per­mis­sion, was begin­ning to search me. It was begin­ning to read me aloud back to me. The text was keep­ing in step with me. As I thought it too was think­ing. As I thought it was already think­ing ahead of me. At every pos­si­ble turn it opened paths that I did not know existed. And then it became clearer. I can­not antic­i­pate its goal, its des­ti­na­tion, and so I must humbly fol­low it. So I must decide if it is a sav­iour or a false mes­siah. I can­not know this ahead of time because I can­not assume to know where I will end up if I con­tinue to fol­low. As of now I am read­ing in faith. But then I ask myself what this means for the church, for my faith in God. Have I not already deter­mined the end of my faith, its goal and des­ti­na­tion? Is not the church just a well-rehearsed con­struct that offers no real sur­prise or alter­na­tive? Could this text actu­ally demand more faith than my church? For­give my heresy for the moment. And as though my tex­tual com­pan­ion was already antic­i­pat­ing all this I read the sim­ple and rev­e­la­tory phrase, “I read and am lib­er­ated.” I have already found myself in the text. The text can allow me to be more of myself than I am. I read on … for who I can still become? The author makes no claims as a mes­siah in fact I found out that this man­u­script was found in a trunk after his death. The text is mak­ing no claims to power or con­trol. And still I read on and so I read the cry, “Do my words ring in any­one else’s soul? Does any­one hear them besides me?” For­give my heresy but tonight … I will read on.

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