What, I wonder to myself in a manner that brings to mind Morrissey, complete with a hint of a self-pitying whine, as I sit by another lake, this time the almost too picturesque, too pristine waterside of Windermere: if life suddenly became real? Would I recognise most of it, still?
I had not intended to involve Sedartis in this query, but since joining me on a train from a small town outside Zürich towards Chur, he has never entirely left my side, and he has honed to an art the disconcerting skill of hearing my thoughts before I’ve had a chance to formulate them, and responding in kind: he never says a word, yet his pronouncements are crystal clear.
I’m not sure I like this about Sedartis. His clarity. His straightforwardness. His uncreconstructed linearity. Aren’t we supposed to have moved into the Age of Diffusion. Of vulnerabilities and fluidity, of connectedness, in all directions; of openness and of infinite potentialities? I probably don’t understand him, yet.
If I had a life, I would be that much happier sharing it, I surmise, almost as an afterthought, and Sedartis now latches onto me:
‘Liberate yourself,’ he urges, ‘from the Tyranny of Opinion. Yours and other people’s.’
The expression on my face betrays doubt continued.
‘Don’t banish doubt, of course,’ says Sedartis, as if doing so were a preposterous idea, though he himself comes over so doubt free: ‘and make allowance for their doubting too; but banish weariness and eagerness to please. You had it once, don’t you recall: the Freshness of Thought, the Arrogance of Youth, the Wonder of the New.’
There are a lot of capitals, all of a sudden. But I do remember, I remember it fondly and well; but was I not, I also wonder, also just blind to my own …Inadequacies?
(And now italics, as well…)
‘Of course you were! Therein lay your Power. Remember Goethe, remember Boldness, remember Genius.’
I do. I remember Goethe; he is, unsurprisingly, indelibly ingrained in me.
Sedartis, I realise, is nowhere near as mild-mannered as I believed I had reason to expect him to be. He reminds me of someone I know—not just a literary figure I have a sense I’m confusing him with, but someone I have actually met—but he’s too fast for me, I get no respite from him; not at this moment, yet he counsels patience:
‘Learn to distinguish between those who know what they’re talking about and those who just talk. Listen out for the quiet voices, the tender, the considered, thought-through ones. Those with nothing to say tend to shout loudest. You live in a terrible, terrible din. Find the dial and tune out the noise. Listen for the Gentle Song of Truth, it always, always plays on, it never dies; not completely.’
I want to, I do.
‘Opinion is cheap. And instant opinion may well be worthless. If you, or the person you’re listening to, hasn’t had time to reflect, has not expended thought, has not at least slept on their ukase then you are ill advised: heed it not. Demand earnest discourse. Reject quick fixes as you scorn fast food. You would not stuff your face with salt-fat-sugar bombs from a garish-liveried American chain. Why do you allow your brain to be poisoned by rash judgments, soundbites and rushed ratings? Insight and wisdom are dear, they are earnt. They weigh substance with value. Everything else is just froth.’
I get the feeling I’m being lectured to by Sedartis, and having never suffered being told what to do, my porcupine prickle stirs under my skin. His unvoiced tone changes. He is with me, he tells me, not against:
‘Experience everything new. You once knew how to, you still know now. Free yourself from the familiar and delve into the exhilarating fear of the unknown.’
‘It’s hard, that,’ I offer, all too feebly, ‘pulling yourself up, again and again, summoning the strength, expending the effort, over and over, from scratch…’
‘Of course it is,’ says Sedartis, laconic and suddenly severe: ‘if it were easy it too would be froth, but:…’
I don’t want to hear any more, I feel a little sad now and somewhat dejected. Sedartis pays no attention to my discomfort:
‘…the universe gives us each the challenges we need to grow.’