Being has a memory

‘Toward the end of To the Castle and Back, [Václav Havel’s] unconventional presidential memoir, in a section datelined “Hrádeček, December 5, 2005,” Havel confronts the question of his own death. “I’m running away,” he writes.

What I’m running away from is writing. But it’s more than that. I’m running away from the public, from politics, from people. Perhaps I’m even running away from the woman who saved my life. Above all, I’m probably running away from myself.

He finds himself constantly fretting about the tidiness of the house, as though he were expecting a visit from someone “who will really appreciate that everything is in its proper place and properly aligned.” Why this obsession with order?

“I have only one explanation,” he says.

I am constantly preparing for the last judgment, for the highest court from which nothing can be hidden, which will appreciate everything that should be appreciated, and which will, of course, notice anything that is not in its place. I’m obviously assuming that the supreme judge is a stickler like me. But why does this final evaluation matter so much to me? After all, at that point, I shouldn’t care. But I do care, because I’m convinced that my existence—like everything that has ever happened—has ruffled the surface of Being, and that after my little ripple, however marginal, insignificant and ephemeral it may have been, Being is and always will be different from what it was before.

“All my life,” he went on,

I have simply believed that what is once done can never be undone and that, in fact, everything remains forever. In short, Being has a memory. And thus, even my insignificance—as a bourgeois child, a laboratory assistant, a soldier, a stagehand, a playwright, a dissident, a prisoner, a president, a pensioner, a public phenomenon, and a hermit, an alleged hero but secretly a bundle of nerves—will remain here forever, or rather not here, but somewhere. But not, however, elsewhere. Somewhere here’.

[Source: The New York Review of Books]


  1. “I’m obviously assuming that the supreme judge is a stickler like me”.

    One thing that seems certain to me, from my reading of the Bible anyway, is the paradoxical nature of God. Bit like us really.
    Anyway, I notice you are reading Kevin Hart’s “Morning Knowledge” which I’ve also been reading for a few weeks. His poems about grief are the work of a master. Also, his poem “Brisbane” is the very best I’ve ever read about my home town. This one’s good too.


    There is a horror growing deep inside
    I feel its teeth but cannot see its face
    And I must cover it with sorrow’s lace,
    So it can linger there till I have died

    And I must sit for years in simple black
    And let it always think that I am kind
    And let it slowly feed upon my mind
    And feel it waiting there not looking back


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