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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Real Choice Is To Be Yourself

Photo: Vicenzo Cottinelli. Florence, May 24th, 2004.
"The real choice is to be yourself. When you get used to that thought, or when you make certain moves in that direction, when you think about it - really think deeply about it - then you will come to the realization and understand that every desire is a form of slavery. The more you desire, the more you limit yourself." Tiziano Terzani
I've been reading a great book recently by Italian travel journalist and writer Tiziano Terzani (his website in Italian), here is information about him and his books by Wikipedia in English ... and here is a Youtube video of him - also in Italian). Martin Woollacott penned a superb obituary in The Guardian (English).

The book - not yet available in English (I'm reading it in German) is Das Ende ist mein Anfang (The End is My Beginning: A Father, a Son, and the Great Journey of a Lifetime, or in the original version: La fine è il mio inizio).

Terzani (1938-2004) wrote the book together with his son Folco at the end of his life - he was only 66 - and it was published posthumously. He was dying of cancer, had come to terms with it, and decided he wanted to have a last say, especially about letting go, hence the book. It is well worth a read if you are fluent in one of the languages mentioned, because of the story Terzani tells us about his journey through cancer and towards death. It is not the typical story of denial, anger, and acceptance of a terminal diagnosis, but rather, a fascinating journey through the soul of a man who decides to regard this - his diagnosis - as another journalistic experience to be recorded for posterity, because it is, indeed a journey. He calls his cancer a "great gift".
This I understand only too well, as I have also been there, facing a diagnosis of cancer, although my story ended differently, because I am still here. That journey, my own journey through cancer however, I will relate in another post.
The thought, however, in the book, that grabbed my attention, was that the real choice is to be yourself. To be yourself rather than anything anyone may think you should or could be, to be you in the most free and unencumbered sense of the word, to not be fettered by desires, and to realize that the relinquishing of desires is, in actual fact, simply a choice. Tarzani's ideas are not new, but one pays that extra bit of attention because they come from a dying man who has made friends with his own death. He also says that the only journey worth undertaking is the journey into one's own self.
I talk a lot about making choices on this blog because in our choices we find our greatest possible inner freedom and happiness, or our greatest suffering and pain.
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