And now I am eking out my days in my corner, taunting myself with the bitter and entirely useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot seriously become anything, that only a fool can become something.
― Fyodor Dostoevsky
A long hiatus.
It’s been over 2 years since my last post.
This was a blog that started with my first journey to and through Asia. The initial impression was, as was to be expected, one drunk on the total novelty of everything and the resulting excitement of the binge. In that haze, I impulsively decided that I needed to find a format where I could let all what happened to me enter into something more tangible, instead of leaving it in its nebulousness.
But as I was high on the moments and even after sobering up, I didn’t suffer from some sort of “Marco Polo syndrome“, where I imagined myself to be a pioneer. I was not going to unearth something that wasn’t already uncovered before. And I hated to sound as if I was doing that. I don’t think I showed anything of the sort in my posts, but as the blog continued, I was hesitant to go further using my ‘dowsing of the East and West’ as a leitmotif, because I felt might have ended up there.
I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. There was already way too much written on Asia, the parts I’ve seen and been to. The impressions I had and the thoughts that had crossed my mind weren’t so different from the millions of other tourists who had already mapped every detail of life here. There are hours upon hours of videos to be seen with people showing you what I saw too. There are full-time travelers, students and expats who have devoted lenghts of text explaining to you the details of the life in each Asian country and city.
This isn’t an unexplored land. It hasn’t been for a long time. It’s a well-established and intrinsic part of this globalized Earth. The culture here and the people cannot be strange or a stranger anymore. If it is still somewhat to you, it’s really only a few clicks away and a flight ticket ( that’s affordable for an increasingly bigger pie of the world population ) if you want to get a better grip of what Asia is all about.
And sure, we might never be able to truly understand “the Other”, so there’s always enough space for intrigue or annoyance, or worse, but we don’t even understand ourselves to begin with. So that should be a default state we have to accept about anything and everything.
We’ll never understand Asia, because Asia probably doesn’t even understand itself.
With all of that said, 2 years have passed by.
And let the actual move I made to Asia, almost 2 years ago, be the very moment when I stopped writing on here. It wasn’t for a lack of time or even interest. I quickly realized, upon moving here, I wasn’t such a stranger, or it wasn’t really that strange a place as I imagined initially when I was but a backpacker roaming about.
It might sound like a cliché, but the only strange thing I found was myself, constantly. I wasn’t using Asia as a background for a personal inner journey. But I went there nonetheless. And I can blame it on nothing else but the way things are set up.
I’m reminded by Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulation“, in which the French philosopher argues that modern media has effectively cut us off from an actual experience of reality. Each individual has a huge knowledge of things in the world out there, but only as simulacra. A simulacrum is a copy without an original. Now take for example an attack helicopter shooting rockets at an enemy target. It is an image familiar to everyone. Nonetheless, it has no root in one’s own reality. Our knowledge of this image is not based on experience.
And as such experience is a different type of knowledge.
What I have had these past 2 years was an experience. It wasn’t me encountering the already mediated reality I now could see in front of me, or seeking the simulacra. I had been there. I didn’t just consume the place I was at. The visual difference wore off very quickly. From image to reality is only a short shock. The habits of the people were not mine and curious to say the least, but not totally alien, and so they became increasingly normal.
Although I did feel something else was going on. An immediate contact with something, that rendered all I had gathered before, in both books and travels, as props to something far more profound.
For that reason, I was too immersed to even pick up the proverbial pen and start making sense of the things. I have to admit, I was too intellectually involved in it as well, while I was actually having the most anti-intellectual moments of my life.
Travel cannot be confined to the permissable (and deadening) gaze of the tourist, for whom the whole world is inert, a lump of picturesqueness, waiting to be consumed—because the whole question of permission is an illusion. We can issue our own travel permits. We can allow ourselves to participate, to experience the world as a living relation not as a theme-park. We carry within ourselves the hearts of travelers, and we don’t need any experts to define and limit our more-than-fractal complexities, to «interpret» for us, to «guide» us, to mediate our experience for us, to sell us back the images of our desires.
-Hakim Bey, “Overcoming Tourism”
I’m not here to give some more simulacra, although being present on a medium as this I seem doomed to do so, or mediate your (possible) experience. Nor am I here to initiate you into anything clickbait-y about what Asia has to offer that you haven’t heard or seen before. I won’t recommend you anything.
I’ll tell you about some things that happened. But not events, but phenomena of a different kind.
And, ironically, to write this, I have to become an idiot.