Perpetual Motion

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dear Maud,

Restless, that’s us. Look outside: have you ever seen such movement? (Indeed, man embodies that which he has sought to create – the perpetual motion machine.)

It came to me the other day, when I myself was moving – if not to work, then back again. Here I am, I thought, a city-dweller of fixed address, yet one who gallops to and fro like – well, like a nomad.

Ironically, this observation sent me galloping to my encyclopaedia, wherein I read the following:

‘Nomadism declined in the 20th century for economic and political reasons, including… the policies of governments that view it as incompatible with modern life.’

Just as I suspected, Maud! Wanderers we are not meant to be. And yet…

Nomads, I am told, are of three types, one of tinkers and traders. These quaint folk are ‘associated with a larger society but maintain their mobile way of life’ and, what is more, ‘may hire [themselves] out as labourers’.

That’s us, Maud – we’re gypsies, no less! And why not. As Pascal observed, ‘Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.’

Now, a clarification: migration nomadism is not, for the second is cyclic, but the first is not. Which brings me to ducks. (Having found his feet, mine is finding his wings.) Alarmingly, some fledglings may, it seems, possess a fixed sense of direction that has no obvious function; that’s right, Maud, these poor feathered fools are afflicted with ‘nonsense orientation’.

Which brings me to – well, me. In the span of a day, I am a nomad; however, in the life of a lifetime, a migrant am I. (For what is death if not a ‘permanent change of residence’?) A migrant whose orientation is, alas, nonsense through and through.

Which means, I suppose, I am through.

Yours etc.