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A fragment from José Saramago reminds us that the journey of life never ends


Overcoming the beginning/ending duality is necessary to really begin living life.

Among all of the things that the dualist system of thought we live in requires of us, the binomial of “beginning and ending” could be one of the most difficult to overcome. It might seem simple enough to witness within the thread of time when everything which begins also ends: days, the projects we undertake, the very bodies we inhabit. Everything, in a certain way, may seem so inscribed into this cycle that, with the inevitability of an end, we’re also continually presented with our own rather harsh destiny.

What would happen, though, if, for a moment, we could think beyond this duality? What if we could experience life outside of these dual concepts? In life, it’s true, nearly everything has a beginning and an end. But if we reflect on it, we realize that neither is definitive and that everything always begins again. What ends doesn’t necessarily end, but it may resume, be reborn, or take on a new life and new forms.

Toward this possibility, we share a paragraph by José Saramago which eloquently refutes this alleged opposition, between beginning and ending, and with special reference to our own existence.

The Traveller Sets Out Again

But that is not true. The journey is never over. Only travellers come to an end. But even then they can prolong their voyage in their memories, in recollections, in stories. When the traveller sat in the sand and declared: “There’s nothing more to see,” he knew it wasn’t true. The end of one journey is simply the start of another. You have to see what you missed the first time, see again what you already saw, see in springtime what you saw in summer, in daylight what you saw at night, see the sun shining where you saw the rain falling, see the crops growing, the fruit ripen, the stone which has moved, the shadow that was not there before. You have to go back to the footsteps already taken, to go over them again or add fresh ones alongside them. You have to start the journey anew. Always. The traveller sets out once more.

The fragment can be found in Journey to Portugal, a book Saramago wrote after touring his own country, as if he’d never known it (an endeavor that, like this paragraph, bears a valuable lesson).

After all, it’s also possible to live life like this, as though we didn’t know life, as though it never ended, and as though it were beginning at this very moment.

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