by Kleitia Vaso

As soon as I begin to tentatively believe that I can enjoy silence once again and that the amateur builders of my neighborhood have finished building yet another floor, house or whatever else, they find something to destroy and re-build again. Observing them with a mixture of growing frustration and pity while they destroy yet another building, ugly from its first brick but to the appearance of which I had grown accustomed to, I wondered how they never seem to grow tired of the powerful yet monotonous noise of the drill. And then, later, during one of the conversations with J., which despite the long time of our mutual knowing of one another, are always informative, dramatic or comical according to the occasion, we reached the speculative conclusion that this noise serves to drown out any thoughts, from those barely emerging, to the halfway-shaped, and, ultimately, to a thought drawing its last breath. Building, destroying, doing, and undoing…they remind me of Penelope, faithfully weaving and unweaving her web, fighting off her many suitors while waiting for Odysseus –although, as the story of The Odyssey itself and the moral ambiguity of the main character, Penelope’s tale also leaves the right amount of freedom of interpretation. The continuous creating and destroying of a web leads the reader to suspect her constancy as the word web is usually followed by lies, deceit, which, after all, is the crux of great Odysseus’ story.

But, let us not neglect our busy workers; needless to say, the counter-intuitive link between a predominantly masculine job, hobby, and even passion, as in this case, and an extremely “feminine” character like the patiently waiting wife amused me to no end and yet, it contains some truth. But if Penelope is waiting for Odysseus, who are these men waiting for? Which process do they enjoy more, the doing or undoing, building or destroying? I do not know the answer to these questions, of course, but what I know that this process has become the ritual of every Saturday and Sunday morning in our beloved and ridiculous city.

J. offered a more exact comparison than mine, the purpose of which was less the passionate search for truth than my own amusement at turning upside down the world of these manly men, turning them from creatures, at times, similar to Circe’s pigs, into seemingly passive, beautiful waiting heroines. J. stated, and I clearly agree, that the impassioned builders remind her of poor Sisyphus, our just and apt representative, who continuously rolls the heavy boulder up the hill only to have it roll down, rolls it up again, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum. Interestingly, Sisyphus was punished with this joyless task for his chronic deception. The strangely optimistic  reworking of the myth by Camus, who lessens the futility of Sisyphus’ act by placing the emphasis on the pleasure derived from work, shows the tireless workers in a more positive light. Even Voltaire’s Candide, after experimenting with countless philosophies, finds that the only meaning in life can be found in work, specifically physical labor. Indeed, in a moment of difficulty which is best described as a moment of being stuck in my own mind, a gradually deeper and useless immersion into it, someone advised me: “When you are in this state another time, do something, act, break a plate, anything, just move.” This gem of advice echoes the quote often cited by Churchill, the wise man whose problems were undoubtedly greater than my own, who urges that “If you’re going through hell, keep going!” and I dare supplement the “keep going” with “go on, walk” thus emphasizing the underestimated but valuable distraction provided by physical labor.

by Kleitia Vaso