When Freedom Is A Place In Time

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As published in the Japanese magazine BEEAST

“I am now convinced that Tangier is a place where the past and the present exist simultaneously in proportionate degree, where a very much alive today is given an added depth of reality by the presence of an equally alive yesterday. In Tangier the past is a physical reality as perceptible as the sunlight.” – Paul Bowles – 1958 – The Worlds Of Tangier

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There are moments in life that are so incredibly significant, so deeply impacting, so purely real and genuine, that we can barely grasp their true nature, that we can’t truly capture their essence, as they seem to be so completely remote from the tangible laws of what we call “reality”, of all the elements we need to define into words not only to make sense out of them, but in order to believe in their authenticity so as to reassure our logical perspective from the emotional realm of our complete affective uncertainty, so as to build a new layer of life upon such significant moments, as if defining the wonders we can’t truly understand had the ability to make them true, tangible enough to acknowledge their existence and therefore their transforming effect on us. Well, that’s how I can describe what I have experienced during my passage in Tangier; a dazzling reverberation of self.

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That being said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise for you to know that when a friend asked me why I wanted to go to Tangier – alone, for what seemed to be a long period, in a place I didn’t have any sorts of roots, any kind of reference, nor any attachement – the answer was unsurprisingly laying somewhere, if not everywhere, within the question itself, within the dichotomy of what held every sign of a very bad idea, a disaster of sorts. Was it my forever lasting pursuit of a new inspirational muse who, just like the one who inspired the beat generation poets, the painters, the writers, the philosophers and so many people who once stayed in Tangier? Was it the desire to, as William Burroughs describes it, “go so far out one day that you won’t come back at all” that pushed me beyond the limits of my own horizon in order to lose it all once again? Was it my passion for the Romantic arts that led me to go against reason and order? Or was it the purest form of instinct that came calling for me like it has done so many times before? Was that strong feeling, stranger to logic, a call for emancipation? Could I feel so fiercely attracted to go? Could I feel so violently compelled to lay myself down that everything else suddenly became pale and worn out compared to such a strong sensation of let go? It was different from the selfish, childish desires we call “instinct“ or “God’s voice” to legitimize what we don’t have the courage to assume craving for; a profound sense of purpose – which in a way is crazy to believe in. But it is for me even more dramatic to deny it, even in its nonsensical possibility. 

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So there I was, once again, following my instinct, leaving for 2 months, taking a leap of faith while trying to find a way to manage some tangible anchors to lean on, would I find myself lost in the middle of a nightmare called “the total absence of control”… so much for the notion of blind faith. The mind has its own way of maneuvering in the darkness of the unknown, whether we admit it or not, so my fail-safes were numerous and pretty easy. A creator going to a mythical creative place… and I guess I secretly thought that, if I was unable to address the intimacy of very personal topics or if I willingly desired to avoid any matter that could potentially trouble my fragile emotional state of heart and soul, the writing alternatives would be endless; I would only have to focus on the spontaneous excitement arising through the inspiring spirit of Tanger. The prevarications, if needed, would be everywhere I looked, from a seat at the Gran Café de Paris, to a book at the Librairie des Colonnes, a drink at the Tangerine club, or simply a walk in the kasbah or along the fabulous beaches… simply being.       

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I initially thought that my trip would be some kind of an artistic exploration, a perfect opportunity for some well-needed cleansing refreshment for my heart and spirit, that I would allow myself to breathe without the worrying contraints of the life I’m living, that after the emotionally challenging voyage that has been the creation of “Between Illness and Migration” for me, along with its utterly honest and poignantly real conclusive incarnation we gave life to through “Tokyo Sessions”, I was ready to determine which direction I was to take for what would be my next creative chapter. I thought I would write, which I did, a lot. I thought it might give life to a personal album before re-immersing myself into the overly frantic reality of a new Your Favorite Enemies record creation. I thought I would read, but didn’t do as much as I would have loved to, although I had a suitcase filled with books I promised myself to read. I thought I would grieve. I thought it would be peaceful, if not being at peace myself. Many fail-safes and wishful thinking for someone who left Montreal in the total confusion of a decision he suddenly didn’t quite understand, if at all. “I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion” as Kerouac wrote.

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In fact, it took me some time to let go. I firmly fought to get my grip on tangible elements until a series of different factors would stun me in a way that I would let go. I cannot perfectly explain nor describe, and even if I tried, I don’t think it would make much sense, which I guess is why I now understand a little bit more, almost 2 months after coming back to Montreal, how intense my journey in Tangier has really been, how totally unprepared I was to live such a pure form of emotions, to explore such a vivid type of thoughts and reflections, to experience such a profound degree of introspection, to see what used to be perceived, to know what used to be felt, to receive when invited, to welcome when given, to commune when offered… And as simple and strange as it may sound, as weird and bizarre as it might be, I accepted to be, I didn’t try to fit in. As much as I always thought it would be impossible to live a fulfilling life without experiencing any form of  emotional emancipation, I think forgiveness has a lot more to do with accepting to be loved rather than awaiting to be redeemed. Grace and mercy… Many people dedicated their lives to comprehend these matters of heart and soul while others lost theirs explaining why so many have regrets, remorses and excuses or are struggling with desperation and despair. When we all tend to be so distant with what truly lives or slowly dies inside of us, it’s hard to be honest with others when it’s so difficult to look at our true selves, to accept being seen as we are, not for what you want or need to project in order to fill the inhibitive illusions of our self-preservation.

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I realized that freedom sometimes lies within the pure fondness of a taxi ride leading friends to a restaurant in the middle of Tangier, as ridiculously simple as it may sound… And trust me, I know how to complicate the simplest things with ease. That’s how I can describe my recent journey in Morocco… As if waiting for the greater consolation, I forgot about the intimate kindness of compassion. As if trying to comprehend the higher nature of salvation and renewal of the soul, I dismissed the sanctified grace that lies within the generosity of other people’s hearts. And to my absolute astonishment, it’s the beauty of such hearts that made my trip in Tangier such a precious and determining one. I’ve met fantastic people, from different spheres of life, from all over the world. It was rich for me to appreciate the wonders life holds through their eyes and perspectives. I laughed like I rarely do, allowed myself to cry as well. I discovered new facets to a diamond I usually keep a tight secret from everyone else. I found a home in a place named “Dar Nour”, the house of lights, but I found freedom in its people. Awaiting consolation, I received large bouquets of joy. Awaiting salvation, I welcomed forgiveness. Hoping to grieve, I allowed myself to be. Trying to comprehend the sorrows of the past, I liberated the exultation of the present moment. And every piece of that bright luminosity has a name to call, a face to caress, hands to hold, a heart to embrace and a soul to commune with…

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I realized how blessed I’ve been throughout my time in Tangier, as if I was able to taste freedom after years of total spiritual bleakness… Free, in a state of graceful consciousness, where time doesn’t have any allies but the fear we may all have to vanish before witnessing the living colors of our dreams. Free, in a weightless epiphanic surrender, where sorrows don’t have any accomplice but the anxiety we may all have to face the agony of staying after everybody’s gone. Free from myself and my incapacity to be touched, from my persistant struggle to let go, from my everlasting desire to disappear, from my inner paradoxes, from my troubled faith and hopelessness, from the shadow I became, from the world I hide in, as if I was able, even if very briefly, to distinguish the invisible dimension of life, love, hope and faith to such an extent that I felt almost able to touch them… Suspended in time, in the always faster pace of my personal perception of reality. Two months with Walt Whitman’s beautiful image on my heart: “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you” 

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I honestly don’t know how much of those everlasting shadows will stay behind me or how long they will, if they ever do. I came back home to face the usual turmoil of my life, with its challenges, its victories, its defeats, its struggles, its accomplishments, running after time while hoping to slow it down, envisioning the future while celebrating the past, looking for some rhythm but resolute to break the routine. I went to my sinus specialist to more bad news than I actually had faith in any amelioration. Unable to fully breathe, I closed my eyes, breathed from my heart, breathed from my spirit and soul. It felt good nonetheless… While fall has started showing its amazing colors, I am totally ignorant of what the future may hold for me, but I am somehow serene and reconciled with my life that seems to get shorter and shorter, but radiating like never before.    

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It took me some time to decide if I really wanted to write about my trip in Tangier. I started over several times, erased, rewound, undecided about keeping such a personal journey for myself or sharing its marvels with you all. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been uncommonly discrete since I came back home… I didn’t publish many news, nor did I comment on much of the fabulous Your Favorite Enemies projects I gave life to in the recent weeks. You’ve known me for a long time; we have learned and experienced a lot all together, we shared from the utterly jubilant celebration of a new birth to the unbearable pain of loss… We are close, we are family and friends, we are one, all different but all the same towards life, love, hope, faith. And there’s no need for remission in love; we simply have to dream it all over again.

“All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together.” – Jack Kerouac

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Comments (1)

  • Pascale


    Bonsoir Alex, mon ami, mon frère,

    je relis ce blog qui me remet en mémoire ce qui te mine, physiquement, comme mentalement, (je ne sais si tu as lu mon msg sur FB ) tellement tes mots sont d’une richesse, empreint de fatalité, de sérénité, de lucidité….Je n’ai pas assez de mots. Je suis profondément touchée. Tu sais combien tu as redonné le sourire à ma petite Claude chérie, lors de cet incroyable concert à Bxl. J’ai eu l’honneur de lui présenter cette famille extraordinaire, elle a compris pourquoi je parlais autant du band, de vous tous, séparément, avec éloge et Amour. L’année 2016 fut atroce pour elle (perte de sa cadette et un de ses petits-fils dans un tragique accident de voiture..Un jeune sans permis :(….Sa fille aînée, son b-fils et le cadet de ses petits-fils, essaient de se reconstruire….Ils étaient tous les 5 dans la voiture. Claude a perdu une fille, un petit-fils et sa fille aînée, une soeur qu’elle adorait et un fils) mais quand je parle de toi, le sourire revient sur ses lèvres et ses yeux reprennent de l’éclat. Tu vois Alex, prends bien soin de toi, et surtout, sache que je suis et resterai for ever and never your sister. Take care my dear friend. Pascale.


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