The eternal childhood

or the unbearable lightness of un-being


"yesterday…all my troubles seemed so far away" (Beatles)

I am a yesterday’s child. I am neither a girl nor a boy. I am a
Romanian and with time, I’ve become a concept. You ask me why?
Well…like every post-communist nation, I suffer from a strange
Oedipus-Electra complex.
I remained an orphan and I am waiting in an unbearable "dolce far
niente" for a powerful father, for a magister ludi, for a great saviour
who will tell me what to do next. After decades of communist regime, I
am no longer aware of how I should react. My childhood … a fantastic,
now rather grotesque memory, an absurdity somewhere between Kafka and
Ionesco. I do not have precise memories, everything is mixed up,
confusing … everything is almost forgotten, only now and then does
something happen which brings long-forgotten, insignificant
details back to life like flashbacks, like pictures from one of
Kusturica’s films … an unwanted search for the lost time.

I bought
myself some oranges a few days ago. They gave me a brown paper bag just
like when I was just a child, when we were supplied with these
"miraculous" things 2 or 3 times a year, and we were allowed to buy
only 2 kilograms per person. The whole family queued there in the
grocery store. I remember that one of our neighbours once borrowed me
to be a temporary member of her family. She was allowed to buy more
oranges and I got five Lei – the price of a candy. In primary school, I
went on my first and last communist camp: sleeping in small wooden
cottages, speeches before breakfast, boards where our behaviour was
evaluated through red, blue and black dots. Yes, well … as usual,
small wonders happened ‘behind the curtains’: American video cassettes
and music, sometimes even short disco-parties (I was just 7 but I
clearly remember one particular refrain: "Ole, ole, ole, ole! We are
the champions! We are the champions!". In a funny, but also strange and
grotesque, way this refrain became a sort of soundtrack to our
revolutionary tragi-comedy
"Ole, ole, ole, ole! Ceauschescu nu mai e! Ceauschescu is no more!").

Yes… things like these… like Afrikana-chocolate hidden under a
bunch of vegetables on the market, or the famous Maczi-cartoons on
Budapest 1… they were like joints for me, like small pieces of what
we thought of as the Wild Wild West. I was 7 in 1989, too young to
understand what revolution really meant and still means. I remember
that I was very upset because Santa Claus did not bring me enough
gifts, because no cartoons were broadcast on TV, instead there were
strange images of furious, disoriented, unknown men saying the same
unknown words: "terrorist", "securist", "jos Ceauschescu!!" and, of
course, the unforgettable pair of nicknames that were given (among
others) to the Ceauschescu couple: Mr. & Mrs. Awful. Why is this
event like a tragic comedy for me, especially now, when – now I am old
enough – I recall the few memories that I collected during my
childhood?

Well… maybe because after all those tragic things that
happened in December 1989 all over Romania, after all the deeds and
deaths, we put the same script back on stage, somewhat re-styled, of
course, but all in all, the actors remained the same. They are simply
wearing different masks. I am a sickly creature that suffers from
donquijotism, a Don Quijote who rides a confused, decerebrated
Rosinanta. I fight against windmills, against imaginary enemies, I
never win, but I ignore the real problems for a change. You know …
sometimes I even enjoy repeatedly playing the role of the helpless
victim (a victim of its own ignorance indeed). Suddenly, in all this
meaningless rigmarole, in this mental disorder, the so-called saviour
appears, in fact a very sly Cippola, a wizard playing the role of a
talented orator, manipulating, bluffing … being a real virtuoso of
bombastic speeches … so talented that he hypnotises, cheats a large
part of a nation. So, we lose the essence again and our life becomes a
mixture of hardly intelligible neologisms: "transition", "European
integration", "N.A.T.O." and so on – a dream of political and economic
wonders, everything put off till the tomorrow that never comes. But as
they say … "tomorrow never dies".

I am a yesterday’s child and I like playing. No, I do not play soccer,
football or Mario Brothers 1, 2 or 3: I play theatre. This was always
my favourite. I do absolutely nothing. I just need to let myself
manipulated, to learn my role by heart.

Sometimes I get tired of being a Romanian. Then I become American,
German, French… I like baseball, bier, café au lait. I am not a
clown, no pagliaccio, have no exotic appearance, no peculiar humour.
Well… you see… actually I am all these at the same time. But
then… we could all be a little Romanian, couldn’t we? I am a
Romanian. Should this become a burden? Yes, it is sometimes, and even a
pain in the ass. So what? Should I take my runaway train and leave for
good? Some people do that. I live in no-man’s-land, because almost no
one would admit that he/she comes from Romania. On the other hand, some
people stay and experience that what Havel calls "life in truth".

These
are the real people, potential winners in this almost collapsing
society, a society of great titles based on… nothing. "It’s only
words, and words are all I have to take your mind away." – this seems
to be the magic solution of our politicians. "The power of those who
are powerless", Havel’s article, is the power of those who choose a
lucid life, who see culture as a means of fighting theignorance,
getting out of mediocrity. Of course, the ideal would be "the more, the
merrier" (of those people) but a nation consists of masses and these
masses (more or less manipulated) decide the nation’s fate. I am a
child. I got out of my cocoon 12 years ago and despite all this time, I
can barely put one foot in front of the other. I wanna run but I creep
instead, I wanna talk and the only thing I do is mumble. I need help, I
know it very well. But how long should the others have to teach me this
bloody walking?

I am a child and no extremist. My playground is a
puzzle of extremes based on a permanent hesitation between patriotic
fanaticism and disgusting obedience toward the great adults of this
world, between impertinence and flattering habit, an obsessive wish to
progress and strange familiar forgotten feelings of an even stranger
past, between altruism and understatement. I am the luckiest child in
this world. I am the saddest child in this world… a sweet child in
time. If I would ask for my fortune to be told: "Hey, green girl, why
are all these things happening to me?", she would probably answer
"D-aia" (because). I suffer from an identity crisis. "I can’t get no
satisfaction". This particular aspect torments my nation continuously.
I lived a nice, comfortable life amongst all the lies that I had been
told, lies that I could not recognize, lies that I would not recognize.

And… suddenly… this "life in truth". By the way, I forgot to
introduce myself. My name (or better my nickname) is Mio. It comes from
"Mioritza". This is, so to speak, our national ballad and of course the
chosen one for the Romanian teachers. This folk ballad narrates the
story of two shepherds who kill a third one because he has more sheep.
The future victim waits patiently for his death in an unbelievable
communion with nature (among other things he talks to his favourite
sheep Mioritza – this word means actually sheep in a provincial
Romanian language – and being very passive, he sees his death as a
wedding with the spirit of nature, and does not react against his
destiny). Indeed, passiveness and a great imagination – these
characterize me best. It isn’t without reason that our national hymn
begins with the words "Desteapta-te romane!" ("Wake up Romanian!").

I am a child. I live among fantasies. I do not want to become an adult.
Why should this happen? Being an adult means taking over
responsibilities, assuming a certain capacity of decision-making… all
in all it’s just a big headache, isn’t it? I cannot do it. I do not
want to do it. That’s why my favourite fantasy is living in Peter Pan’s
Neverland and not in Utopia. But you see… I live eventually somewhere
between Scilla and Caribda and this mostly in recent years. Why? As
Havel once said "As long as illusion is not confronted with reality,
illusion does not appear as illusion. As long as ‘life among lies’ is
not confronted with the ‘life in truth’, there is no perspective to
discover the phoniness of its character." Truth and being-an-adult
scare and overwhelm me. But now… at last (until it is maybe not too
late) I know that I cannot be and I am not allowed to be a sweet child
in time anymore.

Being a child is a necessary stage but also a
dangerous one if it becomes permanent. Being a child means passivity
(towards the real problems of life), dreaming, playing, innocence but
also obedience, lack of credibility and credulity. I cannot afford such
a life any longer. Being a child means (under the current
circumstances) not-being. I must get rid of this habit. Un-being is un-
bearable.

"Christ, you know it ain’t easy/You know how hard it can
be/The way things are going/they’re gonna crucify me". (Beatles, Ballad
of John and Yoko)


 

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