Oct 24, 2020
The breakout from this time and place: towards myself



Stroll past the glass fronts of the bright café. Am pleased with my progress, which makes me, who still used to sit there last autumn, now avoid the space painfully typical for these times. I'll be better off with the espresso at Café Anzengruber, at Eiles, at Weidinger of course, which I would always have had there, in any decade.
    Wear certain clothes, am beside myself: the only vision I see is myself in the eyes of the passersby, who, I'm certain, judge me. Discomfort of this sort always roots in my worry to appear too soft, too close to my nature and a comfortable childhood; in short, to the given that testifies to the weakness of just living the way one's circles live. Am furthermore too young for this certain kind of extravagance, so that any subtle ingenuity presents itself as a financial or cultural merit of the parents, not of myself. My clothes signify entirely falsely: I have to get out of here, must return home, demand something better from the wardrobe ... to clarify that I am close to myself and not to my nature or my environment ...
    Nothing more calming than a café visit in a drizzle. I enter the Kafka: mild disappointment, for the only free seat opens up view onto a couple working on screens. Is the atmosphere unenjoyable? I take a seat anyway, pull out the notepad. Look around. There the real shock: the whole café is writing. Like me ...
    Am in the city. Enjoy a free afternoon in bookstores and charity stores, treat myself to a beer. On the way home a sudden shudder: under the impression of freedom have I done precisely what's expected of me: to enjoy spending money under the impression of freedom. This cannot possibly be coincidence: are my joys constructed by those they serve?
    The elegant notebooks into which I've been writing neatly for years are suddenly inadequate. Not the idea that would most willingly make use of any paper, any napkin comes first; I suspect it is the medium that wants to invoke a suitable lifestyle. Not idea that wants paper, but lifestyle product that wants to be realised. Do my passions serve things as much as things serve my passions?

Me under the firm thumb of the conventions of this time and place. (Screenshot: Lilya 4-ever, 2002)

In short: it hurts to understand myself as the logical consequence of the circumstances slipped into my cradle, and of the world in which I circulate. My innermost passions and deepest loves, are they no less constructed than hypes around white sneakers, no less dependent on space, time, chance and necessity than liking Khruangbin, Zizek or hummus? It seems I simply have adopted what I have been gifted with or banished to. To be the product of this time and place, a Central Europe in the 21st century, to realise what I was born as and to dutifully go ahead with what I grew up with: it seems so weak.
    Of course, that's ridiculous. Any so-called talent, which really is never more than self-image, and any preference or passion necessarily stems if not from nature, then from the innumerable influences to which I have been and continue to be exposed. There's no alternative – nothing comes from nothing.
    But still, there exists this desire in me to view my passions as something freely chosen by my current self and as a product of nothing. Self-determined and disconnected from what has happened to me by chance and from what is en vogue. My passions as timeless and placeless, as independent. (If they would at least feel like it! For I don't care so much about freedom itself as I care about the feeling of freedom. But how could writing even feel free in a café surrounded by people of my kind, all doing the same thing?)
    This is not a question of individuality. Sure I want to share passions. Not, however, the way there. So that the destination contradicts the origin. And then to shoot beyond the edge of the world that is the born self, out into the infinite multiverse of possibilities. This time I'll give birth to myself!
    That also ruptures are nothing more than logical results of experience? I must dismiss this truth, as long as the breakout feels free. And as long as it is a symbol. Which it is!
    


Notes

The answer to the riddle »How to be individual if everyone is?« must be sought in the timeless anonymity of suit, leather jacket, and co., rather than in funky uniforms of individuality best exemplified inside art schools.
    Obviously, dress alone doesn’t make a personal revolution. As catalyser of self-image, it can provide its spark though.