In my first months in Spain I was in therapy with a remote psychologist in Mexico, I expressed some uneasiness of not feeling this was the place I was supposed to be, regarding Spain. She recommended getting myself rooted through reading Spanish authors. I accepted the task enthusiastically, but wondered where to start. Spanish literature is something I hadn’t cracked open.
After some deliberation I decided I’d take a historical approach on the subject, choosing classics on a chronological sequence. My first reading was Cantos del Mío Cid, and it had a powerful effect on the soul. I kept on reading: the Quijote, then Lazarillo de Tormes. After this the spiritual air of this country stopped smelling strange, experience begun making sense again.
As of late I’ve begun feeling the same uneasiness. There is nothing that keeps me here in the mid-term, except for a desire to enjoy the Spanish summer and autumn, which never fails to yield a great harvest of what is planted in the winter. Having committed to stay here at least until November, but still feeling uneasy, I grabbed a novel by Pío Baroja: “The Road to Perfection”.
In it, the main character finds himself in Madrid with his creative projects stalled. He seeks distraction in pleasures, which works for some time, but in the end he packs minimally (which includes a gun, these were different times) and embarks on a long walk nowhere specific.
He walks Plaza de Castilla avenue on a northward direction, and ends up retracing the Camino de Madrid, through Colmenar, Manzanares del Real, Cercedilla, Segovia. It was immensely interesting to read, because it’s a way I’ve walked too, though in his somber mood he perceives everything as decrepit, lacking meaning, tiresome.
After Segovia he gets a ride to Toledo and finds stability for some months, but after a faux pas with a young woman he begins wandering again. At this point he begins noticing that his perception of places may have to do something with his mood, and while visiting Yecla, his home town, despite hating it, he makes an effort to come to peace with it, but no amount of effort brings the desired peace with his environment or with himself.
Again he begins wandering and comes to a small unremarkable town close to Alicante, he rents a small house and he unexplainably finds peace through nature. The peace is short-lived, as his attention naturally gravitates towards self-examination, but from there on Baroja masterfully paints the difference in cognition that a healing event such as this can cause upon the soul. It’s outwardly subtle, but inwardly it’s a reversal of darkness into lightness. Experience ceases to be random, disconnected events to become a process that naturally emerges from his circumstance. He escapes from his own mind to become involved in the world.
Spiritual people often espouse that you create your own reality. Without taking this literally, it still places a burden on the believer, because a perception of negativity in your environment is your fault. Yet, a simple experiment can discount this phenomena: remove yourself from the negative environment, and if the dark cloud follows you, the darkness is within and not without. Both are equally probable and perhaps undistinguishable. This phenomena lies at the root of all existential wanderings.