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In the Land of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King

It depends, you see, on the kingdom in which you wish to be king.

I have chosen this small room as my domain. The books around me constitute my wealth, the sofa my throne, the day my reign.

Where there is no division between being sane and mad, right or wrong, life and death. Where everything is permitted. Where my wishes are made and where I know of no excess. There are no paychecks here, no evaluations, no requirements, and nothing is expected from you. Hence, it all lies between you and yourself and the difference you make.

Though I know that if I go out of this kingdom I will most likely never be accepted. There, I will have to play again in the game they invented, whose rules they made in their favor, where their smiles welcome you as the sentry welcomes the convict to the death chamber. I lose my powers there, and no one will believe me. And so I play on and do my best to put up a front. The difference is knowing this--for most people get lost in the world and forget their true lives.

And so I retreat to this makeshift study every morning to work and play--which is which I do not know anymore. Then I go to the world by night, dressed to play my part, going on and on about my angst, appearing strong but in need of pity, of wanting to be taken care of, preaching about the absurdity of the world. So all is well.

A loser to the world, but a king in this small room.


***
Rilke, after having breakfast and sipping on good coffee, would come to his study dressed in a shirt, tie and suit. Before him and on his large desk in the middle of the room were two pens. And how he would spend the day would revolve around the choice of which pen to pick up.

One pen was for the everyday matters such as bills, requests, and also his expansive but little-known correspondences. He would spend the whole morning writing letters to friends and acquaintances, deliberately writing with such precision and passion much like as he would display in his poetry. By lunch, a stack of letters would have risen by his desk, ready to be delivered.

The other pen was reserved for "work." Through this pen flowed the volumes of his poetry and a novel which made him famous. But it was painstaking "work"; the ease by which he had written his letters would pale in comparison with the difficulty he endured in "working."

I imagine him bleeding as he wrote. But he kept on trying.

He had adapted a maxim by which he lived his life. "One must work, and do nothing but work, and one must have patience."

***

Painted on the wooden beams in the ceiling of Montaigne's third floor study were some fifty inscriptions from the Bible and the classics.

Some of them read:

The happiest life is to be without thought. --Sophocles
Have you seen a man who thinks he is wise? You have more to hope for from a madman than from him. --Proverbs
There is nothing certain but uncertainty, nothing more miserable and proud than man. --Pliny
Everything is too complicated for men to be able to understand. --Ecclesiastes
This was a man who devoted himself to the life of the mind. After reading from among the thousand books in his study, I imagine him tilting his chair back, putting his feet on his desk, and repeating those lines from his ceiling.

***

Rilke "worked" not knowing that his words would be read around the world.

Montaigne read even if he knew the vanity of the mind.

I stay here, wasting away the days.

We are kings.


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