The Spanish have a beautiful word; Querencia, meaning a place that gives the feeling of complete comfort and safety. The scent, the feel, the atmosphere, the sense, everything about a certain place in your life, that offers complete inner Bhāvanā tranquillity. And whilst that certainly is fine by me, because there are only a couple of places I find myself ominously overcome by such feelings of utter tranquillity; Querencia can be quite the paradox, if one has a – what I like to call – Columbus complex
Not too much is known about the life of Christopher Columbus. Not too much is known about his infamous voyage across the Atlantic in Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción. We have few “Diario de a bordo” entries from 1492, but nothing much else. We do not even know for sure when or where Columbus was born. The general consensus is that he was born in Genoa. However, there are no documents that prove it, nor are any of his surviving letters to family members written in the language of the Genoese, or any form of Italian for that matter. We don’t even know why he sailed to the Canaries (although they were a possession of Castile, it still happened to be almost 800 miles off course) before his first Voyage to the Americas. And to end with, he died in relative obscurity. He was indeed, a man of complete mystery. He appears to have lived, for the ocean. He was almost addicted to chaos, and that conventionally “unnatural” order to Christopher Columbus life, that crazed nature, the unknown, the mystery, the chaos, appears to have been Columbus’ tranquil retreat; his Querencia.
Similarly, the King of Humanism during the Renaissance, a brilliant Philosopher and writer, Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola, seems to have lived a life that most (at that time) would have considered unnatural, different, and with a sort of love for thinking dangerously outside the box, which appears to have been his own inner Querencia. Giovanni, around 1486 wrote 900 Theses on Humanism, that quite simply sent shockwaves across Christendom. He wrote an educated text, named “Oration on the Dignity of Man” that, which accompanied the 900 theses. To summarise quite horrendously, the text suggested man was almost God-like, that destiny was controlled by man, and man had the right to whatever he so wished to be. It suggested that God created man, to be completely free from any restriction, to have no true nature within themselves, and that when man gives up learning, he becomes quite pointless (Mirandola would have despised Big Brother, and probably exploded with rage at the sight of our society failing miserably on Jeremy Kyle’s stage). They were Humanist texts in a largely violently religious, anti-humanist setting, but became the key documents of Renaissance humanism. His mission, was to get scholars from all over the known World, to come to Rome and debate the issues he raised. A man of great intellect, and a man on a different level to the rest of us. He was labelled as a heretic, by Pope Innocent VIII and arrested after fleeing to France. He was beaten, flogged and tortured, but refused to give up his theories and writings. Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola’s inquisitive mind, was his own Querencia.
Not too long ago, a friend of mine complained to me that I only seem to choose to be around people that I feel safe around, that only people I consider “intelligent” do I give any time to these days. And although I initially disagreed with that sentiment, thinking about it now, it would appear to be true. A night at a pub talking about football and fighting and how much one can drink without being sick, is not something I find interesting, nor is it something I’m going to waste my time on any time in future. I don’t care about sport, I don’t care about drugs, I don’t care about drinking all that much. I quite like peace. I’m also drawn to intelligent conversation (whether I’m involved in the conversation, or not), because it challenges me, and forces me to learn more. I echo the thoughts of Mirandola when I say that without learning, I’d feel like a pointless good little slave to society. A universe that has an apparent air of vanity and greed, is a universe that doesn’t actually exist. We created that mythical monster, it did not exist before. We seem to be the generation that does whatever we’re told, because men in suits tell us it’s what we “should” do, so we do, unquestioningly, like perfect little robots following a path that is set in stone, yet all the time, we’re told it’s “freedom“. The World isn’t based on freedom, it never has been, it’s a new form of oppression, and one which is unrivalled in history. If we’re lucky, the majority of us are “free” enough to become a supervisor for a chain of supermarkets. The 7am alarm, is our life. Millions of people who have somehow been brainwashed quite disturbingly into believing that sitting behind a desk in a crap office of the same faces as you see in the mirror every morning, speaking the same boring office lingo day after day, is their “calling in life“. A waste of an hour, is being told to spend an hour learning how to work a checkout counter. HOW EXCITING! The acquiescence to materialism, and the “discipline” apparently needed to provide a successful life for yourself, are little more than a bit of a con. Not least, the rejection of the spiritual being and who we truly are.
Who actually are we then, other than a bunch of non-individuals, who spend our lives working, enriching those at the top, just to get drunk on a Saturday night, only to look back in 50 years and ponder our regrets and our fleeting inadequacies? Surely there’s more! Perhaps there isn’t. Perhaps our eternal search for more will never end, because our innate desire for happiness is at total odds with the relentless chaotic and unordered universe that we inhabit. But perhaps, the only way to feel worthwhile in life, is to deviate from the river down a little side stream, that those still on the river, eventually look back at, and admire.
If we live in a truly “anything goes” universe, we can create our own “point“. But then, you must go against the grain, to truly be yourself, uninfluenced by consumerism, which is a struggle to say the very least, because when we try to search for more, grabbing on to our slowly dying sense of individuality, it is struck out of our hands by those very same men in suits saying “you don’t need a sense of individuality and worth, when you can have this lovely new car!!!! Come and work for me! Minimum wage is the way forward!!” – The complete opposite of my Querencia.
The most interesting and rebellious of minds, are those of artists. They are the embodiment of disenchantment. They scream displeasure and anguish. They are not content, nor will they ever be content with the clear pretentiousness of the way the materialist World works. The great modern Artist on the 20th Century, Amedeo Modigliani, whilst in Paris, had turned quite mad by his own inner demons, and taken to a life of a vagabond, from a life of great wealth and intellect. He destroyed all the pomposity of his workshop, and wore cheap battered clothes. He justifies his “madness” (or what society had termed as madness, whereas, I find him to be quite normal) and ripping apart any remnant of his former rich life as “Childish baubles, done when I was a dirty bourgeois“. He knew that having tuberculosis gave him a death sentence that the rest of us struggle to understand. This, along with his clear disharmony with the way the World worked, created one of the most tragic, yet rebellious and brilliant creative minds the World has ever known. Art, creativity, an outlet for the inability to accept the brutishness of what I’m told is the “real World“; Modigliani’s Querencia. His life, was his art.
The magnificent eloquence of philosopher Albert Camus, puts into words, my own personal perspective on life, which happens to be, my very own Querencia;
“A living man can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object. But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.”
Perhaps my own blissful Querencia, is a sort of “Columbus Complex“, it is an inner Querencia, not a Worldly place as such. It is that disorganised, ever questioning, deceitful, forceful, rejecting, dissatisfied and tired gap in my mind, that can apparently never be filled. Without it, I’d be a little minion to societies “absolutes“, and that thought actually frightens me.