What if you could meet yourself from a far away land as if you were strangers? Would you recognize yourself then? Hardly do we see ourselves LEGO-like, constructed from different customs, languages, mentalities and geo-references that can be altered into a new combination. No difference is felt between a self of yesterday and that of today. What if your consciousness is not as indivisible as you think? What if you met yourself a decade younger, would you be friends?
A few days ago a ghost from the past sprang out from an email by someone once very dear, whose influence on me back in my Russian days was unprecedented. It felt as if I could hear myself of a decade younger talking to the present day me and the voice from the past did not sound any familiar. On the contrary, those few sentences made me realize how much these past few years have changed me, how far ‘my Russian past self’ and ‘the Maltese me’ have grown apart and how much this transformation is irreversible.
The message, the sound call for patriotic love for the motherland and the firm condemnation of immigration brushed upon my senses like sandpaper on bare skin. It was disturbing and alienating. It made me wonder what response the exact same words would have caused in me if I never left Russia – would it have been natural to side with that point of view? I would have been different then, no doubt. Existence determines consciousness. ‘The Russian me’ today would have regarded ‘my Maltese self’ as a traitor, a poor-spirited westerner who exchanged the excitement of belonging to one of the world’s greatest powers for the comforts of a European residency. ‘The Russian I’ would disdain, just as much as my former alter-ego did, the lightness of the Mediterranean lifestyle as unintelligent. The very thought of how different my consciousness could have been in different environment from what it is today scares me. And what scares even more is that I could have approved of something I so dislike now.
You know it precisely when you hit the point of no return and the idea of returning to a place once called home brings fits. When a message from a former soul mate, so admired back then, is ideologically offensive, you know there is no way back. It is not the fear of being again misunderstood and constantly unaccepted but the fear of subjecting myself to a risky mental experiment – existence determines consciousness – and feeling comfortable with the ideas cultivated on the other side of the fence. If, to a great extent, my consciousness is a function of the social reality around me, I would like to be able to choose what reality to be a function of.
Even after decades spent in immigration, many of us still care of that, often invisible and unsensed, umbilical cord connecting to the place of birth. There our eyes saw the world for the first time, there belong all our childhood memories. Cutting yourself off from the homeland is painful. Your senses were hurt beyond healing and you had to perform an emotional surgery. What once had been an indivisible part of self became external and disconnected. The remains from that umbilical cord are now in the fragmented memories of rather sentimental than ideological significance – the sunlit memories of bursting buds and of the air filled with the rustle of sticky newborn leaves, of the spicy smell of spring grass, of the smoky scent of autumn and the cards with greetings. The memories are the roots transplanted into new soil.
Admitting to yourself there is no return unavoidably separates you in two: the one back then and the one now. These two might be best friends or they might not be, but in either case no longer are they one.
6 thoughts on “Point of no return … to the homeland”
Some are prisoners of their past.
Home is where the heart is.
Some set their sails to the prevailing winds …
“The only reliable constant in a world of change,”the Sage says darkly, “is change itself.”
But yesterday is itself a foreign country, and you cannot step twice into the same river. Enough clichés for now: but all are true.
Okay then, just one more: If you love something, let it go. If it comes back, it’s yours—if it doesn’t, it never was.
The England I miss so much lives only in the past; the past is a foreign country and the borders are closed. Life moves on, adapt or die …
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?”
(Even we atheists see the beauty in language well used—and Tennyson used it very well indeed.)
One more? Okay—never criticise another until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes … by then he’s a mile away (and you’ve got his shoes).
Thank you for the comment but the article touches upon matters which are quite different from those you highlighted.
I know. It’s a very complex issue, I apologise if my response seems trite. It is actually a thought I’ve had myself in the past—a disturbing thought, brrrr!
You’re talking about a change in what I shall call ‘ideological personality’. Yes in a way it is quite disturbing that the things I would have agreed with a few years ago sound so antithetical to me now. But that means we’re people who are truly growing and at the same time it makes us wiser and hopefully better people. If I met my younger self, now knowing why he had views that I consider bigoted I would have hugged him, not scolded him.
Great to know you’d be understanding towards your younger self, David. Me of today would try to make sense of that girl that I was ten years ago. Not the other way around, though. It’s not only the matter of growing through individual experiences (which is common to everyone everywhere) but a matter of solidifying with time in your cultural mentality to the point of seeing any other cultural perspective wrong.
And if I would have approve of my country’s intentions for expansion then my present self felt sad. Very sad.
I so understand your feeling. I myself went through a very similar transformation… perhaps still in (a never-ending) process.
I think I like the Malta you better 🙂