WHAT IS LEFT BEHIND (by Babatunde Fagbayibo)

Posted: August 4, 2016 in Uncategorized


It was Pascal Mercier (Night Train to Lisbon) who said that “we leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place. We stay there, even though we go away”. What then do we leave behind? This is not an easy answer.

My guess is that we consciously and subconsciously find that which connects us to the soul of a city (or place) we visit or dwell in. From the romantic to the hard-core realities, from the sounds to the monuments (historic and modern), from the warmness (or nastiness) of its dwellers to the (un)seen energy that drives the city, from the efficiency of its infrastructures to the pressure and weight that makes things lethargic and/or brutish in the city…we all choose to either stay close to or run as fast as possible from the area. It is also very possible for one to be entirely indifferent about the effect or affect of the city.

The question then is should that which we have left of ourselves in that place be concrete or simply sentimental? Should one be able to come to a point where if faced with the choice, between living in or merely visiting the city, the decision will be firmly placed on the former? Again this will depend on multiple variables, but one is of the view that such choice should not even matter. It is very possible that the decision to make the “magical city” a permanent abode may end up opening up faults and imperfections, quickly turning love into rabid hate, the treasured into the forbidden. It is also possible that the opposite becomes the case.

In the final analysis, one should neither be apologetic or unnecessarily defensive about the choice of “leav(ing) something of ourselves behind”. The city will speak to or affect people differently. How it affects you may not be easily explainable or even rational. You may even struggle to articulate (in thoughts, written or spoken words) the effect of such city on your soul. It is also possible that the same city never presents you the much needed cathartic moment. It is not impossible that there will be moments when the city will not always accord with your real and imagined wishes.

Irrespective of these, the heart and larger self will also be (sub) conscious of that “which was left behind”, as even the intangible sights and sounds trigger the affection for the city. Even when one is oblivious of the working language of such city, there is always that reassurance that what is left behind is always present to guide and refresh the imagination, bring forth warmness and strengthen the resolve to further explore.

Mercier’s point that “we stay there, even when we go away” appears to be the easy answer to the question of what is actually left behind. So when you are away from the city, you also carry with you its many strands. The inspirational effect of the seen and felt on your works, the option to always bring the sentiments of the city into your reflective engagements, the comparative (or even the yardstick measure) advantage of the city in your ongoing subjective assessments…all point to you still staying there.

So where is the place or city where you have left something of yourself behind? Remember that it is very possible that no such place exists but again, nothing forecloses the ability to imagine.


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