Shortly after my arrival on this lovely island in November, 1999, I visited Pompeii and among the many photos I took is this portion of a fresco in the House of Vettii. The soulful figure speaks to me.
About this time I read Paul Bowles’ obituary in the International Herald Tribune. It included this excerpt from the autobiography of the famous writer and composer:
“Like any Romantic,” he said, “I had always been vaguely certain that sometime during my life I should come into a magic place which, in disclosing its secrets, would give me wisdom and ecstasy—perhaps even death.”
Well, I interpreted that last phrase of his as typical artistic hyperbole, which I most earnestly brushed aside. I came to this paradise not to die, but to begin a new life, to write, and to dig deep into secrets both sacred and profane.
Bowles said that a typical fictional character of his “slips through life, if possible without touching anything, without touching other people.” Maybe he was influenced by the ancient concept of Akasa. Which is that we are held accountable for every single action we take, good or ill, and that the pain we inflict on others will inevitably come back to us threefold. When I was young I laughed at the idea. To my mind it was simply ignorant superstition, that’s all. But now that I’m getting on I have come to understand it’s the most profound of all truths.
I left America seven years ago to enter into a permanent, solitary exile. And here I am: determined to stop hurting others—“touching” them, in Bowles’ euphemism.
No, I haven’t suddenly aspired to sainthood. I’ve just had enough of that awful three-fold payback, all that “Agenbite of Inwit.”