I picked Haruki Murakami’s completely average book, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, as a beach read because personal essays are my favorite genre and I also wanted to know more about a writer who has only recently become popular in Tirana. I vaguely remember Read more
“I shall look away, that will henceforth be my sole negation.”
As I immediately liked the way this phrase looked and all that it promised, I quickly assigned it the meaning I wanted it to have.
I don’t know why I liked this quote immediately but I would guess that, at that specific moment, it probably provided me with a piece of advice I didn’t know I was looking but fortuitously found, an elegant solution vaguely thought by me but much better written by someone else. Now, I keep thinking of this expression, extracted out of Roland Barthes’ The Pleasure of the Text, whenever I want to deal with difficulties in what I consider the ideal way; not stupidly confronting them head-on but ignoring the ugly parts of a situation; looking away rather than looking at. Obviously, this is the wished-for reaction in lieu of the usual one: stupidly arguing and getting irritated by things without being able to, in fact, look away.
The phrase might imply my ideal solution; what it is exactly about, I don’t know. I haven’t read the full text and know only that it is preceded by the even more striking: “never apologize, never explain.” Thus, the phrase might most probably refer to the refusal to directly answer when one does not want to, but, subjectively, my brain translates the phrase looking away to erasing by avoiding, looking somewhere else, purposefully un-focusing so as not to directly reject; a seemingly absentminded refusal.
My newly favorite phrase returned to me again today as I kept looking at a man seated in a coffee shop, explaining with half-feigned anger something which did not deserve so much feeling; some kind of, perceived or real, unfair treatment by someone else – a cold reception, maybe. All that feeling would have been put to better use elsewhere. At one moment, the person walking with me noticed the same distorted face and said something to the effect that instead of protesting about unclean neighborhoods and countless other problems, people sit in coffee places and pubs all day and complain, uselessly. And yet, I did not even care about the wrong choice of a place for the long and drawn-out frustration-venting process; I simply did not want to see that face full of simulated feeling talking loudly about some petty concrete problem to which his conversation partner could relate; petty people with small lives. I know it sounds callous but the body/mind instinctively selects fight or flight (in situations perceived as dangerous but this one could be classified as internally risky) and mine, in most cases and certainly when faced with these unpleasant details, chooses flight.