February 8,9. Pombal built this city.

Marquise de Pombal is the Hausmann of Lisbon. The streets of Rossio are laid out like a chessboard, like Barcelona or Manhattan. That’s Pombal’s work. They have Pombal-style houses that are made of wood in order to make them earthquake-proof. In the 1755 earthquake the city was almost completely distroyed by the tsunami and the terrible fires. The story goes that in the neighbourhood that was spared from the fire, Alfama, was the place where the most sinful people lived (prostitutes). That made it very difficult to show that the catastrophe had happened with some hidden intention of the Almighty. The ingenious writers of a theodicea had a very hard time trying to do so. Everybody knows that. They did a good job rebuilding the city.

I spent those days writing. The memory of them was dissolved in the hot air where they were created. I didn’t care. Nothing happened. Probably I had breakfast, and dinner. Probably I had nice conversations, introducing myself as the traveling writer again. The skin of a day’s memory disappears at night; I am like a snake. But the written words remain. They become a thick winter coat I will need when I am old. That’s my personal way to protect against the risk of getting old and being eaten alive by the sensation of utter meaninglessness. I don’t save up money, I save up words. Reading them when I’m grey, reading them aloud for my old friends, will console like the looks of a beautiful woman could console us in our virile days. Ah, that souci, that unability to plunge into life without fathoming its depts, that vain wish to influence what will be left of us when we close our eyes for the last time. Does it matter if your dead head sinks into a pillow of down or on a dirty rag? I know it doesn’t. But I also believe that what Heidegger tells us about Sorge is true. In some way or another we are always taking care of who we become, no matter how laugable and utterly futile this care is. And so we live a life of sex, drugs, rock’n roll and aloe vera skin cream to keep our skin moisterized and young. There will be an end to all this, but at least we can smear aloe vera all over it.

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Kamiel Choi

Dutch philosopher and poet, sometimes sharing thoughts on the internet.

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