Remembering & Being Remembered

What I wrote previously about my relationship with Toronto during 2010-2015, and the subsequent deepening of that relationship during the following six years while away from the city, and my eventual return last year, places the burden of agency exclusively on me. After I finished writing, a different way of looking at those years and the relationship occurred to me. A way of looking that recognizes an agency that is external to me.

What if, instead of you remembering a city, it is the city that is remembering you? What I regard to be “my decision” could be an answer to a call, an affirmation of something–a narrative, a fate, a relationship–that had already existed. A reason that had already been present. If you don’t like the word “fate”, can replace it with something akin to a “gambler’s urge.” Responding, surrendering, to a gambler’s urge is still responding to some-thing that is there, something from which you can dissociate yourself.

The switch in perspective–the relocation of agency–should be considered with reference to the activity of writing. When I sat down to write about returning to a city, my explicit intention was to write about a decision, my decision. What interests me the most, now, is how the opposite sentiment emerged as I wrote about my decision. Through writing about my decision, I realized how it was not completely and purely mine. The initial image was centered around my choice, whereas the image that emerged was centered around a place, like the transitions we experience with bistable images. In the new image, I became a participant, a part, no longer shouldering the entire burden of the decision. I found and began settling on the position of having been remembered, even though I started with writing about remembering and returning.

Could we general this observation and turn it into a principle? Could we say, “You write to unburden yourself, to relocate yourself from the center of the narrative to a place with a better view, a place that recognizes others …”? This process, however, depends on the intention to start at the center and speak from the center. Enantiodromia. The complementary perspective emerges with the continuity of thought.

Remembering & Returning to a City

Living in Toronto during the five years of my graduate studies felt incomplete. I am not referring to the incompleteness of an unfinished story or an interrupted episode, but an incompleteness that would persist with any length of time. Because of that incompleteness, which is not in length, but in width or depth, leaving Toronto did not feel like losing something that belonged to me. It did not feel like a sudden distancing of something that was nearby.

I have many memories of those five years, but most of them seem like memories from the periphery of a life, not from its center, not connected to its foundation. I had short-lived friendships and fleeting romances, absent-minded adventures, as if I was protecting my status as a stranger in the city. A stranger with a light and minimalist existence, ready to move on at a moment’s notice. My friends who visited my apartment—and not many did—expressed surprise at how little I had there. Some books, a bed, kitchen stuff, a couch, a coffee table, my desk in the living room. I knew I had to leave if I wanted to stay in academia, and maybe that is why I did almost nothing wholeheartedly during the five years. Five years is a long time to live half-heartedly.

When I left Toronto, something strange started to happen. I started learning new things about the city. One day in a small library at Leiden University, I found the book, Methods of Theoretical Psychology, by Andre Kukla. I learned that Kukla was a Professor Emeritus at University of Toronto. I wondered how Kukla got along with the rest of the Psychology department. I couldn’t imagine him there, which meant I didn’t know enough even about the department where I had completed my graduate studies. I had other, similar discoveries. I met John M. Kennedy for the first time when I came for a job interview at UofT Mississauga, and we met once again a few years later when I was visiting from Macao. Outside of the world of academia, I would also hear mentions of Toronto. I’d hear about a movie being made in the city, or a concert, or an artist who lived there. I would occasionally communicate with friends and family members living in Toronto. I remember one day standing on the balcony of my apartment in Leiden, exchanging text messages with my brother, watching the birds, the cloudy sky, and the setting sun. All of a sudden I was completely overwhelmed by loneliness.

Photo Source

As time passed by, my heart slowly opened up to the city from the distance, the distance that kept growing after my move to Macao. I started discovering more–feeling more–about Toronto, though this time not as a stranger. I started thinking about what it would be like to live wholeheartedly in that city. As you could guess, this ran in parallel with my growing detachment and disenchantment from academia, or at least my place in academia. Even if your fate is to be out-of-place, there are better and worse places to fulfill that fate, better and worse places to feel placeless.

Commentary on Jordan B. Peterson’s “12 More Rules” (Table of Content)

I wrote the following six short essays a while ago, and in somewhat of a haste. The haste came from knowing if I were to slow down, I’d not get to the end. There are some things you can do only in a rush, and those things tend not to be very pleasant. In any case, I’d like to return to them soon and see if I can reconsider some of my previous thoughts and responses. I should most likely also proofread them. If you haven’t read them yet, and if you’re interested in giving me some feedback, on an individual essay or on the whole series, here are the links.

  1. Reading Jordan Peterson’s “Beyond Order: 12 More Rules” Part 1/Rule 1
  2. Reading “Beyond Order” Part 2/Rule 2
  3. Reading “Beyond Order” Part 3/Rule3
  4. Reading “Beyond Order” Part 4/Rules 4-6
  5. Reading “Beyond Order” Part 5/Rules 7-9
  6. Reading “Beyond Order” Part 6/Rules 10-12