Mechanics of denial: Happiness in London

Once more once again. I was in London, and from where I stand, that is, that place that I call my place, not much has changed in the city in the last eight years. Harrods is still horrid, and I wonder what got me that I had to make a last minute stop there only to leave within minutes horrified. New however is the invasion of Starbucks and Caffé Nero which literally litters the city at every step. British plumbing remains what is has always been, dysfunctional; I am however told that I am spoiled by living in Switzerland, the country of impeccable plumbing.

I was in London for two reasons and two reasons alone. Then I got there and I realized that I am totally unfair and I had forgotten what is really important in my life. Important are the people. The reasons were Aikido and Literature, and then on Wednesday before getting to Gatwick I whisked myself off to Burlington House and went to see the Rodin exposition. Finally, and one week of London came together for me. It is the people in London that make the difference, the place is flat, pretentious and overdone; the people are the whole universe, in all colours, shapes, and bendings. But I am being unfair again, I love the grey light that bathes the city on those days that only London knows. It is a flat lighting that highlights the architecture and makes me forget a few things.

Rodin’s thinker, like Rembrandt’s philosopher have always had a special place in my visual memory. They both represent an ideal, mine. My own idea of myself lost within thought that I do not comprehend, and not willing to be found. Impenetrable and untouchable, like a museum’s art piece, is how I remain, or so it seems. How can this be happiness? Seeing Rodin’s thinker was like finding a lost lover and the solitude of feeling detached from it all.

But, what was it like?

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Although I had other possibilities I chose to stay with my cousin in a somewhat crowded flat near Baker Street. Although the location is excellent, it was the prospect of spending some time with my cousin that led me to that choice. I slept on the floor on a thin futon, and every morning I woke up delighted by the fact that my feet were warm and that I felt at home. It surprised me that I missed neither the corporate expense account nor the comforts of the Le Meridien, two amenities that had marked my past London journeys when I had had an office on Swallow Street.

Perhaps it was the experience of helping Davinder Sensei and his team on Friday evening with the unloading and setup of the mats at the Swiss Cottage Leisure facility, or the truly exceptional teaching from Chiba Sensei on Thursday evening and during the weekend, or perhaps it was all of it. Certainly I had a most amusing time after the celebration dinner on Saturday with George who was gracious enough to take me “home” and then proceeded to drive around in circles in London because neither of us knew the place too well.

Then it could be that is was Wednesday: Rodin, Gatwick, Geneva, Berne, Basel and dealing with a super automatic transmission on a new Citroen that I had never driven before, then getting lost driving through Basel on the way to the EuroAirport to pick up my cousin. But what is this all about really?

There is one sentence that keeps on popping up in my mind for the past few weeks. It pops up and then, I wonder how to really balance the paradox that it incapsulates. In Lisbon, a few weeks ago, I found myself telling a young interaction designer pondering his career choices that at the end of the day nobody really cares about you. The words surprised me, but they were out before I could censor them. There are a few grains of truth, like there is truth in experience, in those words that imply that you, the other, is not important. This is the sentence that keeps on popping up, nobody cares about you. You being the other one on the other side. This sounds horribly cold and arrogant, if not contradictory. Especially on coming out of the experience that the Aikido family is, one wonders how that can be. Do these people not care about you, that is, me? No.

Sincerity and transparency were prime themes this past week. I found myself at one point having a most intimate conversation in a pub with a good friend of mine, and I was overwhelmed in the face so much sincerity. The conversation theme hit an issue that went right straight into my own psychology, and made me rather glad at that point that I have washed through a lot of the traumas in my life. Do I care? No. caring is not what binds us, love is. Love is a rather gloriously selfish exercise. We love people, we love ourselves, and that is if we are healthy. Caring disjoins our cohesiveness. Caring is a very controlling exercise. While my friend’s confidence met me unprepared, it made me think. It prompted an email exchange between us, and had me discussing the incident with my cousin, the Sorbonne educated art historian, a far wiser woman than I.

While I am fond of saying that I am a bum, being in London makes that a confusing statement. In London, bum is not the term of choice to designate a lazy and dissolute person or someone in a state of disorder, rather it usually refers to the buttocks in a not so polite way, otherwise it is considered to be slang. But I do like slang! For all the british prudery, could they at least get their toilets to flush properly?

Besides people, I love language. Do I love the people because language does not exist without them? Or is it because it is an ill defined communication tool that keeps humans struggling for the eternal chimera that meaning is? While I keep on stumbling over most languages that I speak, I find myself rather comfortable with English. It is a language that I find is mine, a language that I often stretch and explore with a certain degree of perversion and satisfaction.

Sincerity is one great goal, it is more like a philosophy of life. It is a simple way of living, yet, it is not one that is easy to master. I returned from London relieved and with clear ideas as to my own way forward. As usual, there is too much clutter in my life, not just in the busy streets of London.

I shall return to London soon. That much is clear.

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