He who seeks finds and who knocks will be let in
I think, therefor I am
Today it is exactly two months ago that I started my 'twalk' from the Netherlands. On 11 September I started in Leiden, some twenty kilometers north of The Hague, or La Haye in French. This afternoon I arrive again in La Haye, or Descartes as the French call it today, a small town between Tours and Poitiers. It is in this town that Descartes concluded that he must be, because he can think he is. On the basis of this conclusion he tried to prove the existence of God logically. As with all arguments based on assumptions, they stand or fall as long as the assumptions hold. It is hard to say where Descartes is now, but most probably he thinks no more...
I have a lot of time to think. Sometimes too much. I just can't shut it off. In Saint-Arnault-en-Yvelines I met Iwan, one of the sons in the family where I was staying that night. Iwan discovered a means of meditation by which he concentrated exclusively on his brain activity. Iwan would correct me to say he did not discover it, but that it was given to him, in the way that Einstein said his formula E = MC2 came from outside him. I guess what Iwan does could be called meta-thinking. I try and I try, but the moment I get close I realise how close I am and I think about it.
When my body is tired or when the weather is working against me, all this thinking can become a real burden. I have found a way to stop it by repeating a marching rhythm in my head, corresponding to my footsteps: 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. The problem is that in times when I am perfectly enjoying myself with the surroundings, the fine weather and a balanced state of mind, this sequence comes back to haunt me. As if a metronome forces me into a rhythm while I am finally freestyling... Cut it out already! I think, therefor I suffer, seems to be more accurate at times.
You gotta have faith
Thinking can also give you the impression that certain things may be connected on a higher plane, that there is some intelligence behind everything or some predestined path to walk. I like to think of myself as a rational being who is not easily distracted by superstition. But with a lot of time to think and a lot of time to observe, you can't always escape the feeling that there is more to life than meets the eye. Which isn't bad if it were true, but I suspect a lot of wishful thinking is involved in believing. People tend to model their gods in whichever way suits them best.
Strangely enough, I find it easier to have faith than to believe. Maybe faith is more intuitive, while belief implies a more rational, a more explicit decision to accept certain explanations for why things happen the way they do. I just have faith in a positive outcome, but I have always avoided asking myself why I have that faith. I never considered it possible to answer that question definitively, but maybe it is not really a question but rather a choice. Can I bring myself to choose to either believe that my faith is rational, which implies the existence of a higher purpose, or to reject it as irrational and deny myself the comfort of having faith? There is of course the third option: forget I ever posed myself this question, deny the necessity of choice and continue as I have always done. Do I take the blue or the red pill? The jury ain't out yet.
A consistent soul believes in destiny, a capricious one in chance
One example of a coincidence that freaked me out somewhat happened in Tours. On Sunday I spent the afternoon taking pictures of the old town. I ended my walk in the cathedral of Tours where I got some great shots of an organ player with a head molded in the pride-and-prejudice fashion. I can't think of more appropriate features for someone performing any kind of duties in a church. Outside the sun was setting and with less light the picture quality quickly diminishes so I decided to return to my host Louise, a retired, but wonderfully lively school teacher. On my way back I passed the theatre, bathing in artificial light, but I continued without considering a photograph. It was getting colder.
Thirty meters further down the road I do take out my camera to shoot a shop window framed by black wood and the characteristic white chalk stones of this region. The house is not particularly prettier than some other houses I've passed, the light is not particularly more beautiful and it is impossible to get a good shot of the place because the street is too narrow. I try several times, but in the evening when I upload my pictures to the website I decide to leave it out. But instead of throwing them away as I normally do, I keep the pictures.
On Monday I walk to Sorigny. I don't have a place to spend the night there so I return by bus to Tours. This evening I am hosted by Pauline. She is a history major at the Tours university and is the mother of a three year old son. He is with his father this week so I can sleep in his room. I don't know al this while I get off the bus at the station, though. For no particular reason, walking from the station to the address she sent me by email, I get a feeling of premonition and in my head a Nick Cave song comes up:
There's a man who spoke wonders though I've never met him
He said, "He who seeks finds and who knocks will be let in"
I think of you in motion and just how close you are getting
And how every little thing anticipates you
All down my veins my heart-strings call
Are you the one that I've been waiting for?
Wishful thinking, no one is safe from it! But I can't shake the feeling that something's up. The little blue ball on the map on my phone tells me I am getting closer to my destination when it suddenly moves two streets further down the map, where I know I am not. On the walls of the houses I pass I search for the name of the street I am walking in, but I don't find it. I know I was walking in the right direction so I continue and read the numbers on the houses. I stop at the number where Pauline wrote me her house is at. It is the house I photographed the day before. I still can't believe it so I ask a lady what street we are in. It is her street. Tours has a little less than 140.000 inhabitants, living on a little less than 35 square kilometres, and I just started singing "How every little thing anticipates you" for no reason...
Now what is this suppose to mean, if anything? I decide not to tell Pauline. There is no way to prove that I did not know her address already. She sent it to me while I was out taking pictures, so technically, I could have read it. When I tell her she might think I am making it up to impress her with some querky fate lingo, or worse even, that I have been stalking her the day before. Besides, I don't know myself what to make of this. I don't even know who my host is at this point, not personally in any case. Maybe I'll die in this house, who knows what destiny has in store and what language it speaks?
So I didn't say a word and just sat and waited for whatever would happen. I can write this now, because I got along fine with Pauline - and made it out of the house alive :). What bothers me most is the feeling of premonition that I can't explain. If I had gotten it after I found her house and made a connection with the picture, ok, but a half an hour before without cause? I did get a lot of press coverage while I stayed at her place and with that a lot of new contacts. Maybe anticipation is not so direct in the destiny business...
As you've been moving, surely toward me
My soul has comforted and assured me
That in time my heart it will reward me
And that all will be revealed
So I've sat and I've watched an ice-age thaw
Are you the one I've been waiting for?