My Mazamet

Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho

I don’t know how many souls I have


It’s profoundly problematic that every time I’m confronted with the notion that I’m not immortal, I desperately want to die. Who was that Victorian author who said Germans were incapable of happiness because their culture taught them to think too much? That must make me an honorary German.

Moving along… have you ever read Fernando Pessoa? Utterly magnificent. Here’s a good translation followed by the original in Portuguese.

I don’t know how many souls I have.
I’ve changed at every moment.
I always feel like a stranger.
I’ve never seen or found myself.
From so much being, I only have soul.
A man who has soul has no calm.
A man who sees is just what he sees.
A man who feels is not who he is.

Attentive to what I am and see,
I become them and stop being I.
Each of my dreams and each desire
Belongs to whoever had it, not me.
I am my own landscape,
I watch myself journey –
Various, mobile, and alone.
Here where I am I can’t feel myself.

That’s why I read, as a stranger,
My being as if it were pages.
Not knowing what will come
And forgetting what has passed,
I note in the margin of my reading
What I thought I felt.
Rereading, I wonder: “Was that me?”
(Only) The Creator knows, because he created it all.

Não sei quantas almas tenho.
Cada momento mudei.
Continuamente me estranho.
Nunca me vi nem achei.
De tanto ser, só tenho alma.
Quem tem alma não tem calma.
Quem vê é só o que vê.
Quem sente não é quem é.

Atento ao que sou e vejo,
Torno-me eles e não eu.
Cada meu sonho ou desejo,
É do que nasce, e não meu.
Sou minha própria paisagem,
Assisto à minha passagem,
Diverso, móbil e só.
Não sei sentir-me onde estou.

Por isso, alheio, vou lendo
Como páginas, meu ser.
O que segue não prevendo,
O que passou a esquecer.
Noto à margem do que li
O que julguei que senti.
Releio e digo, «Fui eu?»
Deus sabe, porque o escreveu.


22 comments on “I don’t know how many souls I have

  1. acflory
    February 17, 2017

    Mortality is the salt that gives flavour to life. At 64 I’d like to live forever, but only, I think, because I’m still young enough to be afraid of dying. Ultimately though, I think I’m more afraid of being bored, and life without end would become very boring indeed. -hugs-

    Liked by 3 people

  2. john zande
    February 17, 2017

    A fine lament, a durge in words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Steve Ruis
    February 18, 2017

    Wha? Dude we each have two … one on the bottom of each foot. All you had to do was ask.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. immortality is already ours but on the “other” side–these flesh bodies indeed are transitory

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Arkenaten
    February 18, 2017

    I agree wholeheartedly, Pink. Life is just too damn short and all those Live in the Moment platitudes, as fine as they might be, merely remind us that a Dirt Nap is looming on the horizon.
    I need at least three lives, dammit!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hariod Brawn
    February 18, 2017

    “I’ve never seen or found myself.”

    That is the fundamental and ubiquitous error: looking for ourselves in perception. What would we be if that were ever possible: a percept!

    Don’t look for yourself. Awareness is perfectly content without all the mind’s bullshit. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ho does one avoid it? And how does one also avoid the impulses to be and not to be- at the same time?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        February 18, 2017

        How does one avoid looking for something that cannot be found? I’m serious. Like Hume said, all you’ll ever find is a bundle of perceptions — logic tells you that, right? We’re looking for something that doesn’t exist, and which we can’t even name the attributes of. We just have a word with no referent: ‘soul’. Or, we might think of it as ‘the self of me’, but again, four words with no referent.

        Your other point: There’s no need for any ‘impulse’ to live, is there? No. Life will do fine without our impulses. We’ll die when the body’s done, or when we get unlucky. We can impulse all we like — it changes nothing, so why bother if it’s disturbing to us? The answer is that we believe we’re causal agents for those thoughts/impulses; we believe that this ‘something’ that we’ve been looking for and can’t ever find (e.g. the soul of Pink or Hariod), is bound up with and possessed by these impulses. That’s all incorrect. Because the ‘something’ (the soul) is not there, or anywhere. So there’s ‘just’ an impulse floating through the mind and triggering nervous responses of uncomfortable feelings. It doesn’t really matter — [Camus & Freddie Mercury]. Once the soul (or enduring self-entity) belief is abandoned, the impulse weakens and very soon dies out, because it’s got no false belief sustaining it; the mind is no longer creating a cranial phantom or homunculus of a soul that is presumed to be affected by, and causal of, the impulse. The impulse only obtains because the imagined soul is ‘inhabited’, in the sense that it’s believed to be an actuality.

        On the other half of your point, then that nihilistic impulse is purely a thought with a feeling arising with it — in other words, an emotion — so it’s the same problem. And the cure is the same: disabuse oneself of the false belief in a soul (a.k.a. an enduring self-entity). Obvious question is how is this done? The only answer I know of that works in Phenomenological Reduction, be it Buddhistic, Husserlian, or whatever. We have to use the mind to overcome the mind. It takes work, and lots of it. Some people get it by just reflecting and pondering, but I think they’re quite rare. You might be able to do it that way, because of your acuity.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Wow- that was seriously good 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barry
        January 3, 2018

        I’d like to agree with with you but I feel considerable discomfort at doing so. Perhaps your viewpoint suits some personality types but not me.

        The thought of living without responding to impulses is rather frightening. They are what makes life so exciting. Sure, sometimes it’ll end in an “Oh oh!” moment, but the “Oh wow!” Moments more than make up for it.

        And while I don’t belive there’s a soul, except in a figurative sense, I had an adventure discovering that. Isn’t that what life’s about?

        Using the mind to overcome the mind won’t work for me. The mind is the one thing over which physical limitations and society has no control. Like an ever bubbling spring it never rests. That’s the way I like it. A still pond would not suit me.

        Kids often ask how long do I want to live for, and my honest answer is forever. When the inevitable “why”is asked, I respond because I am on an adventure and there’s a very long way to go before I reach the end. And when they ask what will happen when the adventure ends, I respond that I’ll start a new one. Personally I don’t think the current adventure will end. The destination seems just as far away as ever, but the discoveries I have made on the way make the journey worth while.

        Of course, what is best for me may not be best for anyone else.

        Liked by 2 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        January 4, 2018

        Hariod answered you but clicked reply to me instead, you’ll have to look for his answer in the comments 🙂


      • Hariod Brawn
        January 4, 2018

        Hi there Barry, and thanks for reading my rambling response to Pink. The only impulse I referred to was the supposed ‘impulse to live’. Naturally, we respond to myriad impulses otherwise: food, sex, comfort, etc. So I don’t feel we have any disagreement on that. That said, I suppose you could argue that any impulsion towards food and sex are in themselves, ‘impulses to live’, though they seem to be driven by bodily feelings moreso than some meta-level ambition to survive. I’m not sure if I agree with you on your point that life is about having adventures; it may be at certain junctures, for some, but I can’t accept that anyone goes through life perpetually seeking fulfilment through adventure (whatever that term may mean to the individual). As to the point I made about mind overcoming mind, then it wasn’t meant in the sense of rendering it ‘a still pond’ (your phrase), as that is quite impossible in everyday life, and damned hard to actualise (even in glimpses) by meditative adepts. What I mean is that one uses the mind to recondition itself, to get out of old habits, which themselves may be neurotic worry, or cravings, or pernicious habits. If we don’t do that, then the mind trundles along the same old ruts, right? It’s a conditioned phenomenon; it adapts through reconditioning, which only itself through perceiving experience and its own volition (and also perhaps drugs) can do. I sort of half agree with your final point, purely because I’m not a nihilist. Non-existence isn’t terribly appealing, after all — what’s to like about it? But then neither is existence appealing when subjected to various neuroses. All best wishes, and thanks once again, Hariod.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        January 4, 2018

        You replied to me instead of to him…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        January 4, 2018

        There isn’t a reply button for Barry’s comment. N’er mind. Happy New Year Mr Merv!


      • The Pink Agendist
        January 4, 2018

        There was from my admin page, I’ve warned him 😉 And thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

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