Periods of shadowy subsistence

Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison_

I have times of great stagnation. It’s not, as happens to everyone, that I let days and days go by without sending a postcard in response to the urgent letter I received. It’s not, as happens to no one, that I indefinitely postpone what’s easy and would be useful, or what’s useful and would be pleasurable. There’s more subtlety in my self-contradiction. I stagnate in my very soul. My will, emotions and thought stop functioning, and this suspension lasts for days on end; only the vegetative life of my soul – words, gestures, habits – expresses me to others and, through them, to myself.

In these periods of shadowy subsistence, I’m unable to think, feel or want. I can’t write more than numbers and scribbles. I don’t feel, and the death of a loved one would strike me as having happened in a foreign language. I’m helpless. It’s as if I were sleeping and my gestures, words and deliberate acts were no more than a peripheral respiration, the rhythmic instinct of some organism.

Thus the days keep passing, and if I added them all up, who knows how much of my life they would amount to? It sometimes occurs to me, when I shake off this state of suspension, that perhaps I’m not as naked as I suppose, that perhaps there are still intangible clothes covering the eternal absence of my true soul. It occurs to me that thinking, feeling and wanting can also be stagnations, on the threshold of a more intimate thinking, a feeling that’s more mine, a will lost somewhere in the labyrinth of who I really am.

However it may be, I’ll let it be. And to whatever god or gods that be, I’ll let go of who I am, according as luck and chance determine, faithful to a forgotten pledge.

(The Book of Disquiet, 126)
Fernando Pessoa

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