Words by Leonardo Caffo
Photographs by Bea De Giacomo
“We laymen have always been intensely curious to know”
Maybe everything, I mean absolutely everything if you know how to observe its sense, is truly beautiful. I’ve travelled far and wide over the years to seek the good in things, one might say: India, South America, South-East Asia, and yet I’d never have thought that, all of a sudden, a different journey would appear before me, which would force me to stay put and move, so to speak, on the inside. And to think that philosophy perhaps should have taught me something. And instead, as ever, it didn’t. While I write these lines, I’m thirty years and a few months old, and, no plans laid, I’ve found out that I’m going to be a dad. The journey I’m about to go on, an important journey, is about a change in status: from being a son to becoming a father; there are no guides or manuals, tourist trails or true-to-life itineraries for this journey. For this journey, the only thing that exists is the courage to step over the line. Unfortunately, the step from not wanting to grow up, to having to, is very short and even though we might feel ashamed, we’re not always equipped to go there. My travelling companion has been fighting a demon for years. It’s a demon I didn’t know, it affects her mental life, it forces me to move with the awareness of an explorer who decides to reach the summit of a mountain without knowing what the outcome of the journey will be: alone, close to the weighty intelligence that only those with more personality inside themselves can unleash upon you, I’m preparing to step over the blocked edges that our existence is divided into with just a knife between my teeth. It’s the knife that has accompanied all travellers, from Hemingway to Keyserling: the hope that the path we’ll follow can give us a new and fuller sense of the existence we were living. In my mind, we only really get moving for those with no hope.
Besides, to move is to displace ourselves from the position we were in: “get out of your body”, Artaud said, “you’ve held it for too long”. The idea that travelling is “pleasant” or “relaxing”, in effect, is something that belongs to the grimmest tourism; instead, every traveller knows that to move is above all to accept suffering, disorientation, chaos, to the benefit of the higher good that you’re gambling on and just because you’re chasing it doesn’t mean that you’ll get there. The physical journeys made over the years, the overnight trains in deepest Asia, the favelas in Colombia, the food shortages in Cuba, today seem to have got me ready for this moving on the spot. It projects the March light – when Morgana will be born – but it also projects the light of the present, the light when I’m accompanied on my travels by ever new, foreign personalities, the languages changing continuously without a hint of any familiar sounds, and customs I often don’t understand that hurt me. All the diversity seen around the world, all the pages of books read in the archives I’ve visited, today have the gaze of my daughter’s mother and I, one who knows that the psychiatrist is to human life as the tourist village is to travel, could not be caught out unprepared. This is my most important journey. This is my journey.
The rhetoric on diversity as a value, resolved in the morality of immediate and obvious cohabitation between cultures, is understandable so long as you don’t end up inside it – thrown into a world that isn’t yours. On how many travels, close to customs and smells we didn’t understand, unwanted foods and surreal sanitary conditions, have we wondered about the ethic of welcome that was silently watching over our living room furnished with adventure magazines? Of course, for too many of us it’s impossible to admit: “you’ve no idea how much I learnt”, “you’ve no idea what a strange country”, “you’ve no idea what I ate”, “you’ve no idea where I slept some nights”. The substance, which is then the moral of the story, is that every journey (that “you’ve no idea…”) implies coming back, a return that smells of safety. This new dis-placement of mine doesn’t though: not this time. To become a father, and do so with the itinerary I’ve found out I’ll have to follow, is to buy a one-way ticket: the summit, whose name is now Morgana, is worth risking the ways I’ll have to try to reach it.
To live with diversity, to feel you’re permanently on a journey, is not a matter of there and back: it’s a bit like moving to a foreign country but with the awareness that you’ll be a foreigner forever; being in other people’s homes, others who are also other than themselves, considering it temporarily your own. In the end, as I move with my mind while staying put with my body in this house, I realize that this story of mine, like all the other stories, is something that belongs to a universal language: in order to live together, first of all you mustn’t have any expectations. Expectations generate disappointment. Life, like a journey, is a thing that only acquires sense if we replace the category of expecting something with being amazed by something. I am amazed, therefore I am.
I travel, I move in continuation even when I’m standing still between these four walls: one day she’s Indian, another time she’s Pakistani, one morning she seems Swiss, the same evening she’s Congolese and she’ll wake up Aborigine. There’s no passport for this coming journey of mine into fatherhood because there are no visas or frontiers. Everything is already borderline, that is, really beyond every line. Borders help us to prepare for diversity. However, if there aren’t any, which is then an invasion, it instead gets us used to being permanently ready to abandon the place that made us stand still. A world of migrants, like the nomadic world theorized by the same philosophers of anti-psychiatry (Deleuze, Foucault, …) which I studied at school, is a world in which every possible binary dialectic disappears: friend or enemy, in company or solitary, normal or mad, weak or strong. But father and son? No, that remains, and it has to: there are things that even the most intimate journey might not transform and that it leaves there solid to wait for us – it’s for the life to come, the one which arrives suddenly, that we still try to recount that all geography, like all rulebooks, exists only to be broken.
I’m starting the journey.
And everything really is beautiful.
Line Alba is a project by photographer Bea De Giacomo. “Through my research, especially through the portrait, I restore new connections between me and my family. During this intimate and private moment, the nature of my relationship with them evolves and finds new meanings. In Linea Alba I focused on my sister’s pregnancy, especially on the belly, and I explored with her the relationship between her transformed body and the space, and at the same time I started to bond with her son.”