The little toe

Fancy designer clothes, sports cars, Swiss watches, sumptuous palaces, … all this never really interested me. In fact, until recently I was not at all attracted to luxury, in any form whatsoever. On the contrary, it tended to make me uncomfortable. A few events in Michelin-starred restaurants and magnificent reception rooms organized by my engineering school, or rare stays – if we can call one night a stay – in Parisian luxury hotels with girlfriends for our birthdays; these moments, even more precious in my eyes that they were only sporadic, were my first contacts with luxury.

Simple tastes, you can say that again, in fact in my case one could squarely speak of an appetite for simplicity. Though being more regularly in contact with it, I was amazed a few years ago to notice I still didn’t develop a taste for luxury: because it must be said, just as for many of my colleagues, the many business trips paid by my employer could have got me used to the five-star hotels, flights with prestigious companies, company SUV cars in countries where the petrodollar flows like water. And yet, all this was not enough to rid me of this preference for the simple, the discreet, the non-shining. Since then, it has changed a little: my last expatriation in Qatar certainly played a role, but as we will see later, it took much less than that to really make me abandon this deeply anchored state of mind in me.

I wonder today how came about such a strong trend in my behavior. In reality, more than a preference for the simple it was a strict rejection of luxury. Out of avarice, I don’t think so, out of disregard for the material, perhaps, but above all – and that’s what literally revealed itself to me in pain, out of guilt, certainly.
I don’t know what triggered what was originally just a sneaky feeling. I do not know what was the mechanism that animated and reinforced this state of mind in me. All I know is that when any idea was popping up in my mind, associating luxury with my person, a question inevitably arose: why me?

Truth be told, it goes much further than luxury. As for me, this reflex of thought occurs in many other cases, in such a way that I came to wonder if it was not the very notion of pleasure to which my mind had become allergic. It’s a bit extreme, but at the same time the clues are too numerous to deny it. On the outside, for a long time and on a recurring basis I have been hearing my family, my friends, my colleagues saying to me: « you are too kind, be careful! », « you should think of yourself before thinking about others otherwise you will get screwed », « why is your life so complicated while you facilitate those of others? ». Without paying more attention, and this was my case, one could simply deduce: usual pattern of the deep down altruist, misunderstood by his relatives and living in an increasingly selfish world. But what is wrong with this diagnosis – in addition to the fact that some of the relatives quoted are as much or even more generous than me, is what happens inside. A few examples. I used to feel guilty when passing near a homeless person sleeping on a metro platform. (Ok, fair enough) I used to feel guilty when seeing a person left standing during a meeting because of not enough chairs planned. (Well, a little weird, that said if you sat last…) I used to feel guilty when guessing that I was about to win card game and that the other would therefore necessarily lose. (Hum? Wait, what?)

I am convinced that I am a generous person and animated by good feelings towards others, even if it sometimes involves making certain sacrifices, and to me there is no problem with that. Actually, it is also one of the founding principles of the Christian faith, « love your neighbor as yourself », « there is more pleasure in giving than in receiving », « give to the one who asks you », … However, what was problematic for me was the fact that even when nothing was expected from me, that it was simply about me and my pleasure, my comfort, or just, my well-being, something in me was blocking, something considering that I did not deserve all this.

As a rule, the things that concern me are relatively complicated. It’s as if it comforts me that not everything is easy for me. The more complicated it is and the more I struggle, the more a strange feeling of satisfaction and comfort increases in me, until it confirms me « there, it’s good, everything is fine, you are in your place ». In fact, I have long lived with the omnipresent thought of not deserving. Not to deserve what? Many things, if not all. In a similar way to what I believe to be a sham of some ecologists, who are in fact stingrays of the first order, my altruism and my simplicity are only the mask and the costume carefully conceived by a deep unlove of myself.

Wait, I do not hate myself though, far from it. Besides, another of my flaws is a well-hidden pride though rooted in my personality. This is quite paradoxical given the rest of this article, but we will come back to it later. Without hating myself, I’m in a system of thought where I can’t, or very hardly, appreciate myself, what I’m doing or saying. To be able to achieve this, I would need an approval: either an external one, by what others think of me, or an inner one, by my satisfaction in the complication. And this is the second case whose reality brutally imposed on me during an evening of a business trip in Italy. Everything was going very well since my arrival a few days earlier. Indeed, as I said above, my company knows how to put its employees in very good conditions for working abroad: rental of a high-end sedan, lunches in the local gastronomic restaurants, and mostly stay in a 4-star hotel on the shores of Lake Como. Everything is fine, but as usual I am embarrassed. I know how to pull the wool over my colleagues’ eyes, but deep down I do not feel in my place. It is in my room where, out of sight, I can give free rein to my « simplicity »: for example, use of as few wardrobes as possible even if it means keeping my suitcase half full, concealment of the remains of shower gels and shampoos so that they are not replaced by room service, and also prohibition to use heating given the little time spent in the room each day. With this, one could see a lazybones, a green, a practical guy, … But how to explain the fact of moving around your room without turning on the light on a dark night and with all the variety of furniture that such a high-standing hotel can contain? Even if I am thrifty, I will not be the one paying the bill of the room and even less the electricity bill. Even if I think about the environment, the red light of the TV’s standby mode consumes every day as much as the light bulb I would have needed for a few minutes. And even, yes, even if I am lazy and think to myself that it is not worth turning on just for the time I will do the few meters from the bed to the bathroom, the probability of bumping my little toe, at full speed against the foot of a solid oak chair, is simply much too high. And it didn’t miss.

You know this progressive pain that starts from a tiny place (bitten tongue, phalanx crushed by a hammer, or, more rarely, dislocated shoulder) and that radiates slowly in your body as if it were all your limbs that were hurting. In general, there automatically follows a flood of insults that your mouth will irrepressibly, shout, churn, or whisper depending on the time of day and the profiles of the people around you. In my case it was a slight whisper, imperceptible to the guests of the neighboring rooms, but heavily loaded with the coarsest words I know. The intense pain, which was that of a fracture according to the doctor I saw later, made me hate this chair, firstly, and especially hate myself, in a second phase.

I don’t know if because of the dazzling ache that crossed my foot we could speak of a flash of clarity, but one thing is certain, it is that an awareness began to operate in me from this moment. I saw myself, still in the dark, holding my foot, almost having tears in the eyes – from pain or anger or both, getting angry against a chair when the problem was myself: the chair was where it should be, me not. I was in the dark, I was advancing in the dark, that night especially but also every other day of my life. I did not allow myself the light. What for? I still cannot answer this question today, but it was an undeniable fact in any case and my toe was both the witness and the victim of that.

Jesus Christ said, « I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but he will have the light of life. » It took me quite some time to understand that in my case, the darkness is mainly those that I imposed on myself and for most of my existence. This incident of the broken little toe had allowed me to realize that « the light was off », it still had to be turned on. This is precisely what my faith in Jesus helped me to do. Today I gradually manage to get rid of my darkness thanks to him, as I let his saving light drive it away, as I learned to accept to be loved by a God who more than once proved to me and to so many others his infallible love. It has nothing to do with the approval that I was looking for in complications or with others appreciation, and the effect is oh so much more authentic. Knowing that I’m loved by God unconditionally and even despite all my actions, words or thoughts, which in theory should disqualify me from this love, transforms the previously inconceivable idea of loving myself into an obvious one: him loving me despite everything he sees in me through his perfect knowledge, shows me that I should not seek to deserve his love or that of anyone, but rather that I deserve to be loved by anyone, and it starts with myself. Here it is no longer about that muted pride that, like an ersatz of love, helped me to endure the lack of love by making me consider myself better than others through disguised means: to be the kindest in the eyes of all, to pass for the humblest, to appear the most generous. No, it’s called living through the eyes of others. It can help to endure, but not to fill the gap. The lack, I managed to fill it with Jesus Christ and his limitless love.

As Blaise Pascal said: « There was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself.” In the end, I who was apparently lacking in love for myself, I am now overflowing. And unlike narcissists or simple egocentrics, this surplus of love did not lead me to focus on myself, it rather turns my gaze towards others, towards my neighbor. It is true that it first contributed to me, finally allowing myself complete well-being, comfort, pleasure and even luxury, which I once excluded from my life. But this powerful remedy has had even more beneficial side effects than simply healing my love of myself. Indeed, above I quoted one of the founding principles of the Christian faith: « love your neighbor as yourself ». This biblical principle, like most others, is based on Love. And it is even doubly relying on it because it is divided into two parts: a first turn towards others, « love your neighbor », and a second centered on oneself, « like yourself ». This is the power of the love of Jesus Christ, the one who cannot leave indifferent, which itself does not change but that changes everything it touches. It does not only come to touch us, splash us, it floods us, to the extent that we have only one option left to us: first to let us fill, that is to say to love ourselves because he loves us, then to overflow all around us like a river in flood, that is to say to love others and even the world around us – the living or not living beings of the nature created by the hand of God as well as the many and varied creations of man. Much more precious than luxury, I have gained something of inestimable value, the Love that changes us and with which we can change the world.

The Right to the Light

Pendant une trop longue période de ma jeune vie, j’ai vécu dans le noir. Non pas que ma vie elle-même ait été sombre, obscure, pleine de mauvaises choses… Non, ce n’est pas moi et j’espère que ça ne le sera jamais.

J’ai été dans le noir comme quelqu’un qui essaie simplement de sortir de sa maison soignée et bien organisée par la porte d’entrée mais lorsque celle-ci est en flamme et remplie de fumée. Comme quelqu’un qui essaie de reconnaître la beauté apparente de son propre visage, toujours souriant et élégant, mais dans un miroir fissuré prêt à tomber en morceaux. Comme quelqu’un qui essaie désespérément de se trouver en cherchant partout, sauf dans la bonne direction.

Aujourd’hui, même si je tâtonne encore à travers une vie floue et informe, dans un monde que je comprends de moins en moins, je suis heureux d’affirmer que j’ai beaucoup appris sur qui je suis vraiment. Bien entendu j’apprends encore, mais ça fait teeeellement du bien.

La raison de ce blog est résumée dans cette devise: The Right to the Light (le Droit à la Lumière). Le droit à la lumière parce que c’est quand j’ai compris que j’avais le droit de savoir qui je suis, le droit de comprendre ma vie, ou tout simplement le droit d’être heureux, que j’ai finalement commencé à enlever la fumée de ma maison, à remettre en place les morceaux du miroir, à regarder dans la bonne direction pour me trouver. Le droit à la lumière parce que tout en découvrant que, pour moi, Dieu est la plus grande source de lumière qui existera jamais, j’ai aussi découvert, premièrement, qu’Il veut que j’utilise et jouisse de cette lumière gratuitement, et ensuite, que c’est seulement en elle que je peux trouver qui je suis vraiment. Enfin, le droit à la lumière parce que sans la prétention de penser « OK ! Maintenant je connais LA voie et je dois la partager avec le monde entier ! », je me suis plutôt dit « si j’ai vécu dans une telle obscurité, il y a sûrement quelqu’un d’autre qui vit la même chose ou, du moins, qui passe par le même processus en ce moment, et dans ce cas il ou elle a le droit de profiter de cette lumière autant que moi ». Alors, je suppose que de partager ce qui m’aide par chance à sortir de mon obscurité, avec le temps, pourra éventuellement aider quelqu’un d’autre à sortir de la sienne.

Encore une fois, sans aucune prétention, dans ce blog, j’essaie de partager ce que je reçois, et pas ce que je possède — soit dit en passant, j’adhère à une vérité essentielle : je ne possède rien, si ce n’est mes choix, mais ça, ça ce sera pour un autre article. A travers mes pensées, mes expériences, mes émotions, exprimées en mots et images, je m’efforce de seulement décrire, refléter, diriger vers une lumière qui est bien plus que ce que je ne serai jamais capable de communiquer. Paradoxalement, ce que je communique parfois peut paraître assez noir, mais c’est pour deux bonnes raison : parce que comme n’importe qui d’autre j’ai ma part d’ombre et ma part de lumière, et surtout parce que le meilleur moyen de remarquer la beauté d’une lumière c’est de l’observer dans le noir.

Full moon over the sea

OK, juste pour donner des indices sur ce que vous pouvez et ne pouvez pas trouver dans ce blog, voici quelques infos sur moi ! Le Metanoid…

Je suis un trentenaire français, d’origine d’Afrique de l’ouest et centrale. Je travaille actuellement comme ingénieur dans l’industrie ferroviaire, ce qui me donne l’occasion de voyager de plus en plus à travers le monde. J’ai des milliers d’intérêts divers pour les arts, les cultures, les gens, les sciences, les sports, et pourtant, je n’ai aucune passion. Enfin, et surtout, je suis chrétien. Je pourrais essayer de décrire, justifier ou clarifier comment, quand et pourquoi, avec de nombreux faits et versets bibliques, mais, je crois que ça n’est pas nécessaire si au moins nous sommes d’accord sur le lourd sens de ce mot, et sur le fait qu’un arbre est reconnu à son fruit.

The Right to the Light

For a too a long period of my young life I’ve been living in the dark. Not that my life itself has ever been dark, obscure, full of bad things… No, that’s not me and hopefully it will never be.

I have been in the dark as someone simply trying to exit his pretty and neat house through the front door, but when it is burning down and filled up with smoke. As someone trying to recognize the seeming beauty of his own always smiley and handsome face, but in a cracked mirror ready to fall into pieces. As someone desperately trying to find himself by looking anywhere but in the right direction.

Today although I’m still feeling my way through a fuzzy and shapeless life, in a world that I understand less and less, I’m glad to say I discovered a lot more about who I am. Of course, I’m still learning, but it feels soooo good.

The reason for this blog is summarized in this slogan: the Right to the Light. The right to the light because it is when I understood I had the right to know who I am, the right to understand my life, or simply the right to be happy, that I finally started to remove the smoke out of my house, to put back together the mirror pieces, to look for myself in the right direction. The right to the light because while discovering that, to me, God is the greatest source of light that will ever exist, I also discovered, firstly, that He wants me to use and enjoy this light freely, and then, that only in it can I find who I really am. Finally, the right to the light because without the pretention of thinking « well, now I know THE way and I must share it with the whole world! », I rather said to myself « if I have been living in such darkness, maybe somebody else is experiencing the same thing or, at least, is going through the same process now, and in that case, he or she has the right to enjoy this light as much as I do ». Then, I guess sharing what is luckily helping me out of my darkness, with time, could eventually help somebody else out of his.

Once again, without any pretention, in this blog I’m trying to share what I receive, not what I own – by the way, I embrace as an essential truth: I own nothing, except my choices, but this, we’ll get there in another article. Through my thoughts, experiences, emotions, put into words and images, I strive to merely outline, reflect, steer towards a light that is so much more than what I’ll ever be able to communicate. Paradoxically, what I communicate sometime might look a bit dark, but it’s for two good reasons: because like anybody else I have my dark and my bright side, and mostly because the best way to notice the beauty of a light is to observe it in the dark.

Full moon over the sea

Just to give some hints about what you can and can’t find in this blog, here are a few things about me! The Metanoid…

I am a thirty-something French man, of West and Central African origins. I am currently working as an engineer in the railway industry, which for different reasons gives me the occasion to travel more and more across the world. I have thousands various interests for arts, cultures, peoples, sciences, sports; yet, I don’t have any passion in life. And last, but surely not least, I am a Christian. I could try to describe, justify or clarify how, when and why with many facts and biblical verses, but I believe it is not necessary if we agree at least on the heavy meaning of that word, and on the fact that a tree is recognized by its own fruit.