He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good And Evil, trans. Helen Zimmern.
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. Carl Sagan, Cosmos, Random House, 1980, p. 218.
Sagan highlighted our connection to the cosmos, but so what? All of us must make that apple pie for ourselves, or it is merely words to say that we are star-stuff. The name of our construction is like the name of God, beyond words, but I create mine myself as a panorama of language and emotion and finitude on the three-dimensional backdrop my senses give me, begging for more at the depth of a finger, and I call it Country. I create mine with every effort to resist the centrifugal force of forgetting and boredom, but it is not that resistance I will mourn as I die—how undignified a deathbed recantation of nihilism!—but the mountains, deserts and streams of my youth, the ache of love, the subject and source of beauty and humour and honour, the music of Dostoyevsky, Hardy and Faulkner, of Beethoven, Schubert and Mahler which my youthful heart immortalised as Humanity, and my own most familiar beauty which immortalized them. No, if there is nobody to hear it, there is no sound. And so, children of your own time, place your hands under my thigh when your time comes, and swear to leave your country, not somebody else’s, not your teacher’s say, or your doctor’s; and by that effort you will perpetuate mine.
What is your country, Migrant? Are you bringing it with you, or leaving it behind? Your resilience is not in question, but your instinct is. North and South are not hard to find, if you don’t confuse East and West with left and right. Just ignore your shadow if East must be where it was, left or right. It may be in front of you, screaming noon, but nobody need know you’re lost in their instinct. We all know the resentment of being peripheral, and relevant only to alien perspective, and that is not cause for anger. It remains that who you are is up to you to desire. Go ahead, create a new centre at the periphery. Whose? Those whose self-centredness stayed behind, or those whose reflections of you are your haunting, your country. The task is in front of you. Without stealing my country, without appropriating any earthly culture, with no reference to climate change or corona viruses or global panic and economic recession, I challenge you to reject me from your instinct: no seasons; no hours; no houses.
Farewell, old companion. So long, old country.