Torrente Rassina (a torrent in Tuscany). I’m 19, I’ve finished my first two semesters and I’m in this place for the second time: a break in the series of events that formed my life so far between unloved school, cramped rented accommodation and worried parents.
Below me, a large, round licked rock, around it flowing, jumping water, then trees with shimmering leaves, then rock and maquis with fragrant broom and above it a sky as bright as an interrogation lamp and as wide and blue and clear as the love of the universe.
The boulder has been absorbing solar heat for some time, precious down here in the narrow valley, and it is warm enough for hands, feet and buttocks. I lounge on it, gazing at the water dancing away between stones, not thinking about who I am, where I am, what I am. The sphere around me is filled with smells. And is filled with sounds: Cicadas screeching, the river raging in its bed, white roaring, bass pulses on the border between solid, liquid and gas, a clacking as of pebbles, bright hissing. It is the colourful, powerful, comforting, never-ending song of the river.
That’s when I start to sing too. Melodies flow uncommitted, unconnected, as if drawn out by the pull of the steady downward flow of the water. When one idea is exhausted, I start a new one. What is familiar, what I have heard, blends in and fades away again. Gradually words form, meaningless words in a language no one knows. It sounds a bit like Irish folk tunes, like children’s songs, and more and more, of course in this place, like Italian Renaissance madrigals. At least that’s what it feels like, and it’s beautiful. I play with the sounds of the language of this country, which is unknown to me, and form my own idiom out of it. I try out styles and moods simply on the basis of what I have already heard and absorbed. I sing without restraint. Nobody hears me. No one judges me. No one misses me.
In these hours I am completely oblivious, deeply happy.
Something inside me is looking over my shoulder and it knows that this experience is important, that it changes me, that I will never forget it. And at the same time, this instance is wise enough not to let it become too conscious, it is allowed to continue flowing until its power is used up, or better: transformed into substance that fits into my being.
Never before and hardly ever after have I felt so free.
The feeling of freedom thrives when the purpose disappears. What does this mean for real, not just felt, freedom? Does it manifest itself when purpose and meaning recede? Does it come to the one who forgets himself and yet is fully in his presence? Can we perceive how freedom-in-us connects with the freedom of the universal?
Freedom is a gift. The way is to learn to accept it again.