6:38 AM : As I begin to write, the train stops at Berlin Ostbahnhof. I feel quite unsentimental about Berlin but this station is a special place. Something happened here years ago which I will never forget but cannot write. I wonder what is written in the journal? No time to go and look. The present is demanding my attention, as it should.
I also made an artwork there. It was never shown or seen. I’d like to commission a thinker/writer to think/write about it.
During the six hours of nothingness between Berlin and whatever it was, Duisburg? (did the train really go BACK to Dusseldorf? I went THROUGH there on my way to Koln to get on the Warsaw train.) I experienced all the different modes of consciousness and unconsciousness that it is possible to experience. Somehow the moving train, being completely subject to, and inside, a machine, a machine with purpose and presence which runs along a track, enabled it. Inside the machine a discrete space where the me-that-doesn’t-exist is able to be thought and felt and known. And a window on the world shaped like a screen which shows colour and movement and darkness and light but which is exactly the opposite of a screen, because it is not a recording, because what is seen is not arranged in front of a camera and filmed, or and in any case has not been framed by a camera.
The point is that you must know this intellectually, you must be able to think through it, but you also have to experience it, you have to feel it. and in this it is no different from anything else which is meaningful, if you think one thing but feel another, you are out of sync right? A wedge has been driven between thinking and feeling, the word, the idea of ‘knowing’ has been hijacked by positivists, who demand that the word should only be used in relation to demonstrable facts.
If you say ‘I feel that i don’t exist’ often enough and loudly enough they will cart you off to the lunatic asylum, like they did K., although I don’t think that happens much anymore. They just give you anti-psychotic drugs and/or diagnose you with a personality disorder. Because they say you are 'disassociating'.
And thanks to Descartes, no one says ‘I know I don’t exist’ except the Dutch writer Maarten Biesheuvel, now 78, who spent a lot of time in said lunatic asylums but he is fine now - except he is still saying he doesn’t exist. Or rather what he says is: I am not here. In what must be one of the most supreme ironies of all time, one of the lunatic asylums where he spent a lot of time, Eindegeest, is in a castle near Leiden where Descartes had his ‘dubito’ and then his famous thought. But Biesheuvel says Descartes was wrong and his conclusion should have been ‘non sum’. I doubt therefore I am not, perhaps.
But this is the thing, we run for the hills in the face of doubt, we flee from the unknown to the known, to what we think we know. And the idea that you don’t exist is supremely uncomfortable, right? Where does that leave you? It is the one comfort that you have in the face of the fear of death, I am not dead yet and it will be a long time before I die. My mother is 81 and what ‘a long time’ is for her is different than it is for me. I hope to get as old as Maarten Biesheuvel, or as old as my uncle who is 87.
Before dawn, in what was East Germany and is now just east Germany, on a train between Berlin and Warsaw, I am more conscious than on any of the other journeys of the fact that I live in Europe now. I can *feel* it, and moving through it in this way - being *in* it, moving, on the ground, being moved by this giant machine, (not just *through* the landscape but also *with* it, bodily, as it pulls and sways and vibrates, it is like being massaged inside and out.
What happens when you say ‘I don’t exist’ or ‘I am nothing’ — or rather when you begin to understand it, think it, feel it — is that it acts as a counterbalance to the other assertion. It begins to open up a space for that ambivalence, for ambiguity - for a movement between the state of existing and not existing, like a quantum state or superposition, a space for that ambivalence to be, not something to be overcome, like doubt, but to be *in*.
De Beauvoir’s existentialism speaks of ‘ambivalence’ rather than ‘absurdity’ like Camus (and Sartre?). This is a perfect example of why women should be in charge of the world. One is dismissive of the contradiction, the other accepts it and tries to work with it.
The in-between state is a psychological state, a mental state, but it is also a physical space in which your body is moving even as you remain perfectly still. You are in a state of movement between places. A train is better than a plane because on a train I can always see where I am not. I am literally not here when I am on a train.
This has puzzled me since I was seven years old.
As I was watching the landscape change (not much but still) I was thinking, this is the journey I will remember as I lay dying, if I am lucky enough to have a working brain/memory when I am dying.
They should work out a way of enabling someone to die really, really slowly but painlessly and consciously, perhaps with the option of a gradual diminishing of consciousness.
8:45 AM ZBASZYNEK (SP?)
I may be in Europe and not in New South Wales but but some of these places are essentially Henty or Culcairn. They are nowhere, they are not nothing but they are very slight in their presence. OK maybe that's unfair on Zbaszynek.
And now I am (not) in Poland. It is grey, like the last time except then it was covered in snow. You wouldn’t say it was a ‘nice’ landscape. It’s raining. It’s not raining. They should have already harvested this wheat.
Twelve hours ago I got on this train, went into this little room, locked the door behind me and I haven’t gone out. I’ve urinated in the little sink. Thanks to the man in seat 61 I knew that there is no restaurant car on Sundays. On every other day you can get a nice omelette. I was prepared. I had rolls with cheese and gevulde koeken from AH. And coffee of course.
How do you know you're in a country where there are a lot of people who don't have much money? When the ATM offers 'quick withdrawal 20 PLN'. I was just about to press OK then realised it's €4. Still the kiosk at Warszawa Centralna sells little cabbage rolls for 2 zlotys (13 eurocents). It’s a little strange but perfectly edible and it’s a vegetable, of sorts. I eat it on a bench below two huge backlit billboards advertising missile defence systems.