In a week when I injured my leg jumping from a wall and went on to get my car clamped I have to celebrate my own humanity, the flaws in myself, my own stupidity. I present a portrait of both myself and my car sporting immobility boots.
So I can have not better companion than Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish Nobel Laureate who was born on this day in 1911. Born in what is today Lithuania in what was then the Russian Empire, but speaking Polish, Milosz has that quality common amongst writers who struggle between their national and linguistic identities. You will see it in Irish, Indian and African writers who write in English. The disassociation between language and race promotes a focus on the weight of words, how words can shape meaning and identity.
Milosz was happy to resolve his identity by a refusal to identify. To the ire of various activists he refused to be either Polish or Lithuanian.
Milosz went on to become a citizen of Nazi Poland. He refused to become a supporter of the short lived Warsaw uprising, holding to his determination of what he was not.
Then he was a comrade of Stalinist Russian Poland and eventually became the polar opposite; a citizen of the United States of America.
As to my own stupidity….volumes could not cover it. I could fill a library.
The history of my stupidity; by Czeslaw Milosz
The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.
Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
would have tended nevertheless toward the candle’s flame.
Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
the little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.
I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
the time when I was among their adherents
who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.
But all of them would have one subject, desire,
if only my own — but no, not at all; alas,
I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild and indecent in me.
The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it’s late. And the truth is laborious.