He hears many interesting things, but, fleeting, they go almost as fast as they come; only death remains. Not even the reasons for all those deaths, or the names of the wars, or the approximate dates stay. Nothing but the pure and grotesque fact of so many deaths. Now as he looks into the past from the comfort of the future, time compresses, reality loses importance, and absurdity seems little more than mere words, words that not even use ink and paper anymore.
(Read The Combatant – #4)
Sound. Bytes. The world today tries to perpetuate itself in ephemeral means. And he feels like an idiot for trying to get into that fashion. He listens to a “spoken book”, an audiobook, as he drives through the pitch of dawn. He pretends that he learns something, that he is able to retain anything that matters, that he becomes a more learned man after every such effort. All he wants, in fact, is some company in the solitude of the night, someone telling stories in his ear like he would like to do with his daughter but has no time. He wants to be taken to another world, another era — another reality. But he discovers what he already knew. There are certain universal concepts that permeate everything concrete in life, fragments of a single existence here and there, making the different similar, uniting that which is separate. Throughout history, one of these universals is Death. And he knows that this will never change, because there is no other reality.
Deep down, he is not a combatant. He is more like an intellectual forced to fight, a quiet soul trapped in a ferocious body, a moving conflict that seeks an impossible peace. He uses every second he got in his car to listen to his book, to evade the reality of the city around him. It is not fear that he feels, nor anxiety. Maybe it is a little anxiety. But it is more of a sort of constant dissatisfaction, as if he were always on the wrong track, looking over his shoulder at the other alternative, judging whether it would be better to change course.
“Caesar and Christ” is the name of the book. The third of eleven volumes of a collection recounting the story of civilization. He read that the author had gotten rich with a book of philosophy that he had been almost forced to write, and that he had used his financial freedom to devote himself to those volumes. Fifty years, it took him to write them. Fifty years! And he died before writing the last two volumes. He had searched for images of this man on the Internet, fascinated by that intellectual madness, by that impassive determination. He admired with irrational envy the pictures of that white-headed man sitting next to his wife in his home office, both reading a stack of books, making notes. He fantasized about what kind of talk they would have while working. Surely they would have created a communication protocol, otherwise they would interrupt each other so often that they would not be able to work. How not to want to comment without stopping the history of the world? He imagined them sighing slightly as they settled into the chair, stretching theirs spines a bit, a subtle sign that their souls had been moved by the words, and that, if the world were perfect and time eternal, they would love to share the experience with one another. He imagined this pattern repeating itself year after year, studded only by the pauses dictated by human rhythms — lunch, afternoon tea, dinner — all excellent moments for discussions on the recent themes. He visualized with reverence that couple living together for thousands of years as they watched the past, until the present resolved to take them. When that finally happened, they departed at almost the same time, leaving their legacy to an ungrateful posterity.
He wanted to be a part of that, he wanted to read those books, he wanted to live like that man — he wanted to have the ability to understand life and write about it to the death. But it is only the latter that he understands.
When his car reaches almost by itself the foot of the mountains, and the breath of that stagnant and polluted air of Rio invades his car, he feels ashamed of how much he devotes to that reading: a miserable hour of a work day, only part of his brain, and a soul incapable to understand the philosophy contained in those words. His destiny is combat. Why fool himself?