Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reflections: Only the Lonely Know

The edition of Miguel de Unamuno’s The Tragic Sense of Life that I borrowed from the library includes a rather long prefatory introduction entitled “Unamuno Re-Read” by Salvador de Madariaga. This piece is definitely not hagiographic. It seems to be quite objective in its assessment of Unamuno’s beliefs, works, character, and personality. Of the latter, Madariaga has this to say:

The chief paradox of Unamuno’s life…may well be that this apostle of life, this eloquent advocate of irrationality and experience versus reason and intellectualism, lived mostly in the mind, gathered but little outward experience, and often mistook his thoughts on life for life itself.

I photocopied two pages of this introduction and brought them home. I did this because, for good or ill, I was recognizing myself in what I was reading.

Madariaga goes on to say:

His life was all within. His experience was inner experience. Not for him those excursions to foreign lands, those adventures in the realms of danger, passion, the strange, the unfamiliar, the irregular, the shocking, the crags, peaks, and abysses which surround, fascinate, attract, and repel other men, and out of which they form their thoughts fed with the sap of reality. Unamuno spoke and wrote about life far more than most, but he lived far less than most.

*sigh* It gets worse:

Could it be that this formidable man, the uncompromising stand, the proud uplifted head, the glaring eye, and the stubborn mouth, could it be that this challenger was deep down a shy man? Yes. It could be. In fact he was. The forbidding mask hid untold shyness and even tenderness within. His search for retreat, solitude, the quiet of the countryside, the reflective and inward looking contemplation, possibly even that negation of outer life and that wish to unamunize it… He will roam in the vast spaces of his inner self, whose dangers he knows well and he can face, rather than risk adventures in that outer reality he does not actually know and he prefers to deny. …In Unamuno’s works, details of time and place are seldom given. Everything happens in people’s minds rather than in their fields, backyards, rooms, or kitchens.

What Madariaga has done here is take his critical scalpel to the psychic anatomy of an extreme introvert. In the process of chopping up Unamuno, he has cut me to the quick. If you’ve ever wondered why nobody seems to be able to get it on with me for long, now you know: people grow resistant to being dakinized.

Yes, now you know…