Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Journeys

By Mirjam Tuominen

I


I came to a land where freedom had been realized or was at least believed to be very close to its full realization. For the people here the word freedom could consequently not be applicable to themselves but only to other peoples who had not yet discovered the happiness-making formula that means the realization of freedom. In this land, therefore, the people talked much and with a strong sympathy for all the people beyond the frontiers of their own land who were not free. It was said that one ought to exert oneself to the uttermost in order to liberate all the lands and peoples of the earth. On the other hand, it would hardly have been the right thing if it had occurred to some compatriot to longingly invoke, for example, the concept of freedom in an internal context, to himself or any of his fellow-countrymen. To be sure, it was not forbidden by law to use the word freedom in that last-mentioned way, but a universally sanctioned convention in reality liquidated the word freedom for any contexts other external ones.

Since everything in this land was so new, so thrillingly and inspiringly new, I became like a child, reborn, receptive and avid for knowledge, and also became involved in teaching in a school. By day and by hour I received proof which confirmed that freedom really was being realized in this land as in no other. On the way to work, in buses, trams and underground trains the workers sat studying books which promised them the chance of experiencing freedom completely realized even in their own lifetimes; a mother married to a simple sailor told me with eyes moist from emotion that there was every reason to expect that her son would attain the rank of admiral one day, and everywhere there was testimony to the fact that here women were acknowledged as beings equal to men with all their human rights acknowledged: among other things the fact that within the military profession they possessed the rank of captain, major and even colonel.

In the light of such experiences, the old world I had left behind receded ever further into my consciousness like some primeval night, half-real. Here I had been born anew, here everyone was happy - there was no talk of anything else - and everyone was firmly resolved to save the whole world, against the whole world's will, if necessary. Everyone lived for the mutual welfare of everyone else.

But of course, I could not forget the old world completely, and as is often the case when one tries to repress painful memories, the past returned in my dreams at night.

And I dreamed that I was trying to invoke the word freedom. That merely to suceed in uttering and adducing freedom on my own inner - melancholy, for example - personal behalf would offer me the most nameless solace and happiness. But I could not utter the word, so strong on the other hand, also in the dream, was my conventional awareness: countless inhibitions made the syllables stick in my throat, until, sobbing with anguish, I reached the point where the four letters: f, r, e, e -- crossed the threshold of my consciousness. I knew they were there, but I did not utter them, I did not even think them.

When I woke up I was soaked through as after the most terrible nightmare.

And I said to myself that this was not suffering but imagined or pretended suffering. But in this dark night my repressed primeval consciousness refuted this assertion and said that it is precisely when we tell ourselves that we are only pretending to suffer that we really do suffer, for why should we acknowledge a suffering about which we can do nothing? The soul is mortally sick - but the soul's suffering is always imagination.

translated from Finland-Swedish by David McDuff

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