Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter half my day passes. One day it will be half a century. I live in strange cities and sometimes talk with strangers about matters strange to me. I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich. I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain. The fourth has no name. I read poets, living and dead, who teach me tenacity, faith, and pride. I try to understand the great philosophers—but usually catch just scraps of their precious thoughts. I like to take long walks on Paris streets and watch my fellow creatures, quickened by envy, anger, desire; to trace a silver coin passing from hand to hand as it slowly loses its round shape (the emperor’s profile is erased). Beside me trees expressing nothing but a green, indifferent perfection. Black birds pace the fields, waiting patiently like Spanish widows. I’m no longer young, but someone else is always older. I like deep sleep, when I cease to exist, and fast bike rides on country roads when poplars and houses dissolve like cumuli on sunny days. Sometimes in museums the paintings speak to me and irony suddenly vanishes. I love gazing at my wife’s face. Every Sunday I call my father. Every other week I meet with friends, thus proving my fidelity. My country freed itself from one evil. I wish another liberation would follow. Could I help in this? I don’t know. I’m truly not a child of the ocean, as Antonio Machado wrote about himself, but a child of air, mint and cello and not all the ways of the high world cross paths with the life that—so far— belongs to me.
From Mysticism for Beginners by Adam Zagajewski, translated by Claire Cavanaugh. Translation copyright © 1997 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.