Reading: Writing a résumé by Wisława Szymborska

Fellow Dutch poet Martijn Benders mentioned a poem by the famous Wisława Szymborska that I didn’t know yet. I like it so here it is.

Writing a résumé
What needs to be done?
Fill out the application
and enclose a résumé.

Regardless of the length of life
a résumé is best kept short.

Concise, well-chosen facts are de rigueur.
Landscapes are replaced by addresses,
shaky memories give way to unshakable dates.

Of all your loves mention only the marriage,
of all your children only those who were born.

Who knows you counts more than who you know.
Trips only if taken abroad.

Memberships in what but without why.
Honors, but not how they were earned.
Write as if you’d never talked to yourself
and always kept yourself at arm’s length.

Pass over in silence your dogs, cats, birds,
dusty keepsakes, friends, and dreams.

Price, not worth,
and title, not what’s inside.
His shoe size, not where he’s off to,
that one you pass yourself off as.

In addition, a photograph with one ear showing.
What matters is its shape, not what it hears.

What is there to hear, anyway?
The clatter of paper shredders.

The dread of having to reduce yourself to a résumé. Especially the replacement of landscapes by addresses, of lived experience by dead facts, is a perfect poetic capture of the culture of bureaucracy. Intuitively, I would like to say that this is caused by a lack of meaningful community.

We can read this poem as a definition of such a meaningful community: It is where your pets and dusty keepsakes, your dreams and friends count rather than your de rigueur facts, diplomas and certificates.

What are the paper shredders shredding? Résumés. Modernity is a factory for everybody’s fifteen minutes of fame. When your résumé has been processed it says with a sterile and monotonous voice: “Next”.

I am so familiar with the sentiment herein described that I may not be the ideal person to interpret this poem. As a person who has freed himself from the need of writing and sending in résumés (although I have one for fun) this reminds me of how I can still meet very new people from the start and we get to know each other without reference to certificates and accomplishments.

Reading: Writing a résumé by Wisława Szymborska was originally published on Meandering home

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November 5. Bus to Beirut.

The other charities I was to support in Aleppo need bureaucracy, and that makes me sad. A friendly couchsurfer knew a couple of them but this is what they needed. They need some official writing of my government telling them that is has an agreement with Syria. My government! The government of the country that issued my passport? What does that help them? Does it make my dollars any cleaner? I do not want to help them. I curse bureaucracy once more, knowing that I will live only in this world, that is so absolutely drenched in it, knowing that it will kill me in the end. That could be a nice t-shirt slogan by the way, “bureaucracy will kill me in the end”. But until that day, I will stand up against it, and I hope you stand up with me. And so I take the bus to Beirut, where I hope to find a more accessible ways of donating some money to the needy. A Dutch couchsurfer suggested I could work together with Hezbollah. Would create a nice shocker, and perhaps even an argument why you should after all be interested in my amazing adventure.
On a dusty afternoon, I leave from Aleppo and the bus radio is playing compelling Arab rhythms. As the bus zips along the outskirts of Aleppo, I try to imagine what life is like for the people living here. I see endless rows of beige concrete buildings, and they are expanding the city, which has already far over one million people into the dessert.  Houses that are inhabited are recognizabel by the rusty satellite dishes on top of them. If there is any universal thing about our species, we find it in the ingeniuous ways we have invented to fight boredom. All over the world, where boredom can no longer be avoided by strict religious ruling there is an inevitable need for something we know as entertainment, and that stretches from all varieties of story-telling to more direct ways of getting the right hormone cocktail auto-injected in our veins. Name one institution that doesn’t exist essentially to conquer boredom. When I have time again, and access to a library, I promise to write more on the anthropology of boredom, perhaps as an hommage to Levi-Strauss who died a few years ago, age 100. I assume he has lived a very exciting life.

We cross the border, I only need a twelve dollar exit card. On the tv screen I see beautiful Arab women swining their heads in a way that is best described as headbanging, showing as much as possible of their shiny black hair. It was the absolute opposite of their completely veiled counterparts I had seen in some conservative areas of Aleppo.

In the darkness we drive along the main road, and I feel happy as we pass “Alu Saab pret a porter”, “shoe avenue”, “white city boutique”, and “wooden bakery”. Those smooth American slogans…

I go to a café in downtown Beirut and work a little bit. I contact my host and get lucky: she can pick me up on the way since she is taking a taxi home. So I wait in front of the blue dome mosque until a woman’s hand waves at me from a taxi. A very pretty woman welcomes me to Beirut and we introduce ourselves as the taxi takes us home. Mona is working for a UN project working on rural development project throughout the Arab world. We have a short conversation introducing ourselves, switching to French at a certain point. I have a good night on the couch.

November 5. Bus to Beirut.

The other charities I was to support in Aleppo need bureaucracy, and that makes me sad. A friendly couchsurfer knew a couple of them but this is what they needed. They need some official writing of my government telling them that is has an agreement with Syria. My government! The government of the country that issued my passport? What does that help them? Does it make my dollars any cleaner? I do not want to help them. I curse bureaucracy once more, knowing that I will live only in this world, that is so absolutely drenched in it, knowing that it will kill me in the end. That could be a nice t-shirt slogan by the way, “bureaucracy will kill me in the end”. But until that day, I will stand up against it, and I hope you stand up with me. And so I take the bus to Beirut, where I hope to find a more accessible ways of donating some money to the needy. A Dutch couchsurfer suggested I could work together with Hezbollah. Would create a nice shocker, and perhaps even an argument why you should after all be interested in my amazing adventure.
On a dusty afternoon, I leave from Aleppo and the bus radio is playing compelling Arab rhythms. As the bus zips along the outskirts of Aleppo, I try to imagine what life is like for the people living here. I see endless rows of beige concrete buildings, and they are expanding the city, which has already far over one million people into the dessert.  Houses that are inhabited are recognizabel by the rusty satellite dishes on top of them. If there is any universal thing about our species, we find it in the ingeniuous ways we have invented to fight boredom. All over the world, where boredom can no longer be avoided by strict religious ruling there is an inevitable need for something we know as entertainment, and that stretches from all varieties of story-telling to more direct ways of getting the right hormone cocktail auto-injected in our veins. Name one institution that doesn’t exist essentially to conquer boredom. When I have time again, and access to a library, I promise to write more on the anthropology of boredom, perhaps as an hommage to Levi-Strauss who died a few years ago, age 100. I assume he has lived a very exciting life.

We cross the border, I only need a twelve dollar exit card. On the tv screen I see beautiful Arab women swining their heads in a way that is best described as headbanging, showing as much as possible of their shiny black hair. It was the absolute opposite of their completely veiled counterparts I had seen in some conservative areas of Aleppo.

In the darkness we drive along the main road, and I feel happy as we pass “Alu Saab pret a porter”, “shoe avenue”, “white city boutique”, and “wooden bakery”. Those smooth American slogans…

I go to a café in downtown Beirut and work a little bit. I contact my host and get lucky: she can pick me up on the way since she is taking a taxi home. So I wait in front of the blue dome mosque until a woman’s hand waves at me from a taxi. A very pretty woman welcomes me to Beirut and we introduce ourselves as the taxi takes us home. Mona is working for a UN project working on rural development project throughout the Arab world. We have a short conversation introducing ourselves, switching to French at a certain point. I have a good night on the couch.

November 5. Bus to Beirut.

The other charities I was to support in Aleppo need bureaucracy, and that makes me sad. A friendly couchsurfer knew a couple of them but this is what they needed. They need some official writing of my government telling them that is has an agreement with Syria. My government! The government of the country that issued my passport? What does that help them? Does it make my dollars any cleaner? I do not want to help them. I curse bureaucracy once more, knowing that I will live only in this world, that is so absolutely drenched in it, knowing that it will kill me in the end. That could be a nice t-shirt slogan by the way, “bureaucracy will kill me in the end”. But until that day, I will stand up against it, and I hope you stand up with me. And so I take the bus to Beirut, where I hope to find a more accessible ways of donating some money to the needy. A Dutch couchsurfer suggested I could work together with Hezbollah. Would create a nice shocker, and perhaps even an argument why you should after all be interested in my amazing adventure.
On a dusty afternoon, I leave from Aleppo and the bus radio is playing compelling Arab rhythms. As the bus zips along the outskirts of Aleppo, I try to imagine what life is like for the people living here. I see endless rows of beige concrete buildings, and they are expanding the city, which has already far over one million people into the dessert.  Houses that are inhabited are recognizabel by the rusty satellite dishes on top of them. If there is any universal thing about our species, we find it in the ingeniuous ways we have invented to fight boredom. All over the world, where boredom can no longer be avoided by strict religious ruling there is an inevitable need for something we know as entertainment, and that stretches from all varieties of story-telling to more direct ways of getting the right hormone cocktail auto-injected in our veins. Name one institution that doesn’t exist essentially to conquer boredom. When I have time again, and access to a library, I promise to write more on the anthropology of boredom, perhaps as an hommage to Levi-Strauss who died a few years ago, age 100. I assume he has lived a very exciting life.

We cross the border, I only need a twelve dollar exit card. On the tv screen I see beautiful Arab women swining their heads in a way that is best described as headbanging, showing as much as possible of their shiny black hair. It was the absolute opposite of their completely veiled counterparts I had seen in some conservative areas of Aleppo.

In the darkness we drive along the main road, and I feel happy as we pass “Alu Saab pret a porter”, “shoe avenue”, “white city boutique”, and “wooden bakery”. Those smooth American slogans…

I go to a café in downtown Beirut and work a little bit. I contact my host and get lucky: she can pick me up on the way since she is taking a taxi home. So I wait in front of the blue dome mosque until a woman’s hand waves at me from a taxi. A very pretty woman welcomes me to Beirut and we introduce ourselves as the taxi takes us home. Mona is working for a UN project working on rural development project throughout the Arab world. We have a short conversation introducing ourselves, switching to French at a certain point. I have a good night on the couch.

November 5. Bus to Beirut. was originally published on Meandering home

October 10. At the Nigerian embassy.

At the Nigerian Embassy I wait to apply for a visa. Theire is no “blond” on the form for hair color. Applicants are instructed to fill in “black” for the hair and “brown” for the skin. People smile. Their smiles all resemble each other from my perspective. I will make my payment online and talk to the  consul. He tells me he needs more than a week since he is on a trip. They don’t even have a person to handle issuing of visas. So I sit there on that leather couch in the highly secured Nigerian embassy and decide to speak my mind. My dear consul, I say, in that case I think my money is better spent in Kenya. They sell visas at the border. You should consider that. As you wish, sir, as you wish. There are more reasons why I say no to Nigeria. I think two months in the Kenya region are definitely not too much. And I need this blow from bureaucracy. It is a well-known fact that bureaucracy will kill me in the end, but until then, I want to stick as many voodoo needles through her skin as I can, to make the imaginary evil body causing all the coldness suffer. And I train to stay very calm, like that too. So as I ask my appliances back and stride out of the consulate, I start to sing

sickening system has done it again
bureaucracy strikes me a blow today
she knows how to hurt in a terrible way
but it will make me stronger
stronger in the end, yes i know i know
it will make me stronger, then
it will make me a better man
to feel how much i hate inhuman bureaucrats
to despise them like contagious sewer rats
to feel it, feel it, and then to conquer it
to be larger than it 
and to smile…

October 10. At the Nigerian embassy.

At the Nigerian Embassy I wait to apply for a visa. Theire is no “blond” on the form for hair color. Applicants are instructed to fill in “black” for the hair and “brown” for the skin. People smile. Their smiles all resemble each other from my perspective. I will make my payment online and talk to the  consul. He tells me he needs more than a week since he is on a trip. They don’t even have a person to handle issuing of visas. So I sit there on that leather couch in the highly secured Nigerian embassy and decide to speak my mind. My dear consul, I say, in that case I think my money is better spent in Kenya. They sell visas at the border. You should consider that. As you wish, sir, as you wish. There are more reasons why I say no to Nigeria. I think two months in the Kenya region are definitely not too much. And I need this blow from bureaucracy. It is a well-known fact that bureaucracy will kill me in the end, but until then, I want to stick as many voodoo needles through her skin as I can, to make the imaginary evil body causing all the coldness suffer. And I train to stay very calm, like that too. So as I ask my appliances back and stride out of the consulate, I start to sing

sickening system has done it again
bureaucracy strikes me a blow today
she knows how to hurt in a terrible way
but it will make me stronger
stronger in the end, yes i know i know
it will make me stronger, then
it will make me a better man
to feel how much i hate inhuman bureaucrats
to despise them like contagious sewer rats
to feel it, feel it, and then to conquer it
to be larger than it 
and to smile…

October 10. At the Nigerian embassy.

At the Nigerian Embassy I wait to apply for a visa. Theire is no “blond” on the form for hair color. Applicants are instructed to fill in “black” for the hair and “brown” for the skin. People smile. Their smiles all resemble each other from my perspective. I will make my payment online and talk to the  consul. He tells me he needs more than a week since he is on a trip. They don’t even have a person to handle issuing of visas. So I sit there on that leather couch in the highly secured Nigerian embassy and decide to speak my mind. My dear consul, I say, in that case I think my money is better spent in Kenya. They sell visas at the border. You should consider that. As you wish, sir, as you wish. There are more reasons why I say no to Nigeria. I think two months in the Kenya region are definitely not too much. And I need this blow from bureaucracy. It is a well-known fact that bureaucracy will kill me in the end, but until then, I want to stick as many voodoo needles through her skin as I can, to make the imaginary evil body causing all the coldness suffer. And I train to stay very calm, like that too. So as I ask my appliances back and stride out of the consulate, I start to sing

sickening system has done it again
bureaucracy strikes me a blow today
she knows how to hurt in a terrible way
but it will make me stronger
stronger in the end, yes i know i know
it will make me stronger, then
it will make me a better man
to feel how much i hate inhuman bureaucrats
to despise them like contagious sewer rats
to feel it, feel it, and then to conquer it
to be larger than it 
and to smile…

October 10. At the Nigerian embassy. was originally published on Meandering home