A person of the anonymous persuasion challenged me a few weeks ago to go deeper into 2666, the recently published tome by Roberto Bolaño. I've given it a lot of thought, and what passes before my inner viewing screen is something having to do with congruence and continuity.
2666 abounds with coincidences: people meet by chance, the meetings recur. One person becomes another. One person meets another in an upbeat circumstance, then again in an abysmal situation, hence both persons mirror one another's states – up and down. I could go on and on, as vaguely as this, but what we see here – at least through my sensibilities – is a blurring of individuality. Bolaño’s passage through these lives, though, is more often than not, one of crisis, travail, death threatened or consummated. Thus Bolaño sees this violence and hardship as random as the killings he so ably portrays, but not without a saving grace. But to achieve this grace, one must find a way to live beyond the individual life.
We all live limited lives – limited by circumstance, by ignorance and violence, even our physicality itself. But as we pass through the lives of others we pass on a little something of life and receive a little something of it in return. Little things, but things we'd never have the opportunity to grasp through individual effort alone.
Looking at Bolaño’s life, we see a person who has lived life to the hilt – albeit in often foolish and destructive ways. But he's taken the time – as writers will do – to chronicle his life in his writing: the many people he's been, the causes he's championed, the many people he's aligned himself with, the many places he's been, the different cultures experienced, the languages spoken.
I suspect that from Bolaño’s perspective, this sort of life adds up – if one is sufficiently AWARE – to a matrix, a composite, grander life, lived through interactions with others. But Bolaño’s a writer, an observer of life. How would one less innately AWARE come to such congruence with this grander sense of life? His view seems to be that personal trials elevate one's AWARENESS, one's sense of (a grander) self, not happiness and joy. Happiness and joy are the eventual rewards of facing trauma from a point of view apart from cause and effect's swirl.
So I think Bolaño has given us a map to use in navigating life – regardless of circumstance. The map's road is, for most, a difficult one, a road that most wouldn't take if offered the carrot and stick of it. But a road to something expansive, less limited, something we might only call fulfillment – for lack of any other term. This is not grandiosity I'm speaking of – instead, it's pragmatism, sort of learning how to make the proverbial purse from that poor sow's ear – stitch by tedious stitch.