Poem by Fernando Pessoa — Good Writer!

I don’t know how many souls I have.
I’ve changed at every moment.
I always feel like a stranger.
I’ve never seen or found myself.
From being so much, I have only soul.
A man who has soul has no calm.
A man who sees is just what he sees.
A man who feels is not who he is.

Attentive to what I am and see,
I become them and stop being I.
Each of my dreams and each desire
Belongs to whoever had it, not me.
I am my own landscape,
I watch myself journey –
Various, mobile, and alone.
Here where I am I can’t feel myself.

That’s why I read, as a stranger,
My being as if it were pages.
Not knowing what will come
And forgetting what has passed,
I note in the margin of my reading
What I thought I felt.
Rereading, I wonder: “Was that me?”
God knows, because he wrote it.


Memory and Ecstasy

“You have been searching for an ecstatic experience.  But you haven’t noticed how your concept of ecstasy is rooted in a contradictory desire to escape memory.”

“Because without memory how would you know the experience was ecstatic?  Without your memory of tasting human food how would you know that the fountain you drank from was divine?  Without the disappointing human lips on your mouth, how could you say “This.  Now.  I am feeling the Kiss of God?”

“And don’t you know, that your memory of the Kiss of God — that special kiss that dissolved your ego — that raptured your soul into the seven-storied heaven — that memory is no ecstasy at all?  It is a sad disappointing limiting thought, like all your sad disappointing limited thoughts!  It propels you into your shame cycle.  The addict acts out and is ashamed of acting out and that shame makes him act out.  So it’s a fair question — is he addicted to his substance or to the feeling of shame?  So your mystic he breaks his heart, and he misses the feeling of his heart being broken, and then cries the tears that cause God to comfort him with a kiss.”





The Double Reflection

Kierkegaard thought intellectual maturity started when you made “the double reflection”.  Here’s the idea.  We start unreflective.  For example “I have got to win the football game tomorrow!  If I don’t beat that jerks it’s all over!”    Then we reflect — i.e. we look at ourselves in a metaphorical mirror. We monitor ourselves.  We consider questions like “I love to win at football and I hate the other side.  But is that right?  Is the other side hateful?  Does it matter if I win or lose?”   But at some point we can double-reflect, meaning we can ask questions about what the pluses and minuses are of reflecting.  Metaphorically this is like looking at myself in a mirror as a I look at myself in another mirror.  Or to use a contemporary example it’s like using an app on my phone that tracks how much time I spend using apps on my phone.

This idea can seem pretty trippy.  How can I reflect on reflection?  Doesn’t that lead me into some kind of vertiginous regress?  And yet, we do it all the time.  We notice “Hey I’m reflective because it keeps me safe” or “I’m reflective because my mother liked me to study a lot” or “When I reflect it takes a lot of energy — it tires me out.” or “I reflect better when I’m a little angry but not too angry” or whatever.  Double reflection seems hard to think about but actually it isn’t. It’s pretty normal.

Double reflection leads us to reflect upon the best way to include thought in our lives.  And if we think that’s impossible we’re wrong, because we reflect upon it in precisely the same way as we reflect upon the best way to include love, or exercise, or watching t.v. in our lives.

If we think that that’s impossible, that it causes some sort of mind-dizzying regress, then we have to get better at double reflection!