March 8, 2015

Beyond the City

If we think of academia as a big city, then for many years I lived near the center of the city. During that time I often loved the city. But at other times I also felt stifled in the city. I longed to break free. Then four years ago I decided to do it, and started my journey out of the city. At first I thought just because I was no longer an academic I was out of the city. But this wasn't the case. I was moving away from the center of the city, on my way out of it. But for the past couple of years I have still been within the broader realm of the city, just now on its outskirts, which is the philosophy blogosphere.

And for the past six months I have had this blog, which has been mainly addressed to the philosophy profession. Most of my traffic has probably been academic philosophers who got to my blog through other philosophy blogs. So in these past months I have been like a person who got on a soap-box at the edge of the city talking about some of the problems with the city. I have had some great conversations with some people who, for various reasons, are themselves on, or feel as if they are on, the outskirts of the city. A few times a lot of people came to listen to me, mainly because I was saying what seemed to be personal things about some people at the center of the city. But as I stopped saying such things, the crowd dwindled again as they went back to their busy lives within the city.

As I realize that while writing this blog I am on the outskirts of the city, and so within a space which is still oriented towards the city, I feel again the pull to explore new lands beyond the city. The pull which started my movement out of the city four years ago. Out there is where my future, and this has been a stop along the way.

Why has it been so hard for me to leave the city? Why have I not gotten beyond the outskirts even in these past few years? I realize now it is partly because of my anxiety as an immigrant. I took shelter in the city because I was afraid of the wars happening outside the city: the fighting, the distrust, the anger of race relations, religion and reason, the clash of cultures. The city seemed to be a safe haven from such fighting, and that was its initial and greatest appeal to me. But now the fighting has entered the city itself, and it is no longer a safe haven. The fighting outside the city is starting to happen inside the city, and it will happen until it will be the same fighting inside and outside the city. That was what I have been trying to say from my soap-box on the outskirts of the city: Behold, those within the city, you are no longer immune, the fighting has entered the city gates and no one will be spared; clinging to the illusion of peace will only make it more painful when the illusion breaks, as it will for certain at some point in the coming future. Of course, I don't have to say this, as it is already evident to many within the city. I said it nonetheless for myself, so that I could hear it.

We live at a time when our lands are ravaged by internal war. Even the city which seemed immune is getting more and more caught up in that fighting. Can peace be found in such a time? Where can it be found? Each person has to find the peace within themselves, which can contribute to the peace outside. I venture beyond the city and its outskirts as I follow the voice of peace as it speaks to me.