The Wisdom of the Exile

Opinionator“There are many types of uprooting. The brutal expulsions like those now devastating hundreds of thousands in countries like Iraq and Syria are common in the cycles of politics and war. But it can be more subtly political, too, as was Dante’s banishment from Florence at the hands of the Black Guelphs, or economic, as it was for the immigrants dancing in the Argentine brothels.

“Each person who survives this uprooting and finds himself in exile experiences an existential earthquake of sorts: Everything turns upside down, all certitudes are shattered. The world around you ceases to be that solid, reliable presence in which you used to feel comfortable, and turns into a ruin — cold and foreign. ‘You shall leave everything you love most: this is the arrow that the bow of exile shoots first,’ wrote Dante in Paradiso. [. . .]

“An Argentine poet called the tango ‘un pensamiento triste que se baila’: a sad thought that is danced. I am not sure. The tango is not just something sad — it is sadness itself that is danced. The ultimate sadness that comes from the earthquake of uprooting. If philosophers don’t manage to get them themselves exiled, at least they should take up tango for a while.”    —The New York Times

To read the full article on The New York Times‘ “Opinionator,” click here.