the empire and the field

Life for us is whatever we imagine it to be.  To the peasant with his one field, that field is everything, it is an empire.  To Caesar with his vast empire which still feels cramped, that empire if a field.  The poor man has an empire; the great man only a field.  The truth is that we possess nothing but our own senses; it is on them, then, and not on what they perceive, that we must base the reality of life.

-Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

I have been obsessed with Fernando Pessoa for a long time, though I have yet to finish one of his books.  He writes beautifully, but often the work is tedious to read.  The real hook is in his obsession with pseudonyms.  I’m paraphrasing, but he invented thirty-some writers and then wrote extensively under many of their names, sometimes even having them arguing with each other.  They (“they”) started an entire literary movement doing it.  Brilliant.  But that is besides the point, my point, today.

This quote is one of many beautiful sentences in The Book of Disquiet, and I couldn’t help drawing parallels to my own life.  Technically I am poor and yet, living the way that we do, I feel rich.  Rich in time, rich in love, rich in sunshine and the afternoons to enjoy it.  My bank account may not contain millions, my house is miniscule, yet it is the empire that is mine.  So often, it is our perception of what we have that makes or breaks us.  So often(to paraphrase Jay Schafer), it is the mansions that are the debtors’ prisons.

0 Comments on “the empire and the field

  1. You have good taste then.
    In Portugal we must study Fernando Pessoa in school, and at the time I also found it extremely boring and didn’t give it the right credit. Today I really appreciate some of his works. You should also read “Mensagem” which I do not know how it is called in german…

  2. Rute: Well thanks. All that has been translated into English as far as I know are a bunch of his poems (and I don’t really like reading poetry), The Book of Disquiet, and Selected Writings. Is Mensagem poetry? Fiction?

    Paula: 🙂

  3. Mensagem is also mostly poetry, but then might be also a bit boring if its not your thing.

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