The Art of Nothingness

I´m coming towards the end of an entire week in Lima. Most people that travel around Peru do not spend more than two or three days in the country´s capital as there is so much else to see, do and explore, but somehow I´ve managed 7 days and I have no regrets. I´ve met some interesting charming people, haven´t laughed so much in a long time, and have had ample time for some navel gazing that has lead me to this moment in time, writing this post.

I´ve been watching people coming and going at the Flying Dog Hostel in Miraflores, from different corners of the world, listening to their life stories, the reason why they are here, why they are travelling and realise we are all part of a funny sort of club. Back in England my day to day life revolves around lists; getting things organised and crossed off for work and play. My roles as a worker, daughter, sister and friend keep me busy and fulfilled, but out here I am free of much of this responsibility and my time is defined in a very different way. This in not just one big holiday for me (I suppose it is in some ways!) but feels like another time zone and reality altogether. You pick up friends along the way, then go your separate ways to start all over again in another city. This week I have not had my Lonely Planet travel guide to South America tucked under my arm, I have not spent each day as I did last month as a tourist/traveller ticking off various places and museums of interest (I did actually attempt to visit the Museum of Art but it was closed for renovation) but I have more or less being doing nothing it seems and I´ve loved it.

I´m a big city girl, I can cope with the rat race, I love diversity, the richness of different cultures, I have a busy diary and want to pack in as much as I can in life, but this week I have felt myself doing something very different and rather wonderful. People that know me know I love holidays and taking time out, but how often do we really switch off and relax, and not feel guilty for it, and just be? I´m not arguing that one needs to pack their bags and be in a different space altogether and alone to feel the nothingness-of course not. But just being and being free is something that perhaps in life some of never really understand, realise or indeed do.

In his ontological study ´Being and Nothingness´ Jean Paul Sartre argues that we need to get out of bad faith or self-deception to truly be free. Living a life defined by one’s occupation, social, racial or economic class, is the very faith of “bad faith”, the condition in which people cannot transcend their situations in order to realize what they must be (human) and what they are not (a doctor lawyer, etc). To release ourselves from this we need to realise that our existence and our formal projection of the self are two distinctly separate things that are within the means of human control (hurrah). It is this separation that is a form of nothingness, although to be an authentic existent, one must uphold a balance of the two for a practical and moral existence (of course!). He then goes on to criticise conventional morality and how it is a tool used by the bourgeoisie to control the masses, I have other view on this so won´t go into that but am simply interested in the distinction he is making between being and nothingness, the latter giving us free consciousness and fulfillment…

So I guess I´ve been thinking about this quite a lot and many other things too, hmmm I hope I´m not boring you with this  entry, one that you may think is meaningless. So are we all trapped and suffering with the anguish from this dichotomy and does this even matter if it´s inevitable? Feel free to comment, I´m off to enjoy a nice cup of coffee before taking a stroll in Barranco on my last day in Lima. Oooh I have a plan!

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One thought on “The Art of Nothingness

  1. I love this part of travelling/being in another country……….doing (supposedly) nothing. It’s extraordinary what happens when you stop being busy and just sit and watch the world you’re in. It’s true you don’t need to spend money on airfares and accommodations to experience this but somehow all aspects of life and being are highlighted by being in an unusual location. I’m curious to know your ‘other’ views on the bourgeoisie and the control of the masses!

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