28 August 2018
Home is where it hurt. It was just a year ago, as I was about to experience yet another surgery. Since then, I was supposed to check in six months ago for a second kidney stone that was delightfully found on the morning of my surgery. I never went to the hospital. I didn't even make the appointment. I guess I'm stupid like that. I like to suffer. Some people know something about that trait of my personality – somewhere between a tendency to victimisation and a partial lack of self-esteem.
Actually it's not true. I don't think anyone enjoys suffering. It's rather that I knew what would happen next should the problem not disappear. In the meantime, I prefer to blame any sudden, acute lower-back pain on my recent undertaking of skateboarding:
Okay, fine, it's technically not skateboarding. I don't try to achieve any tricks. The only "trick" I attempted – sliding down a 1-metre ramp – ended with me falling and scratching my beloved $50-wooden board. Instead of skateboarding then, I'm merely "cruising". Perhaps with enough skating/shaking, the remaining kidney stone will disappear?
Home has been Switzerland for the past ten years. Home, that notion I had already reflected upon more than 3 years ago after I had visited Gaudi's Casa Casa Batlló in Barcelona. It's interesting – for me – to read my past writings. Often, and unsurprisingly, I still relate to my previous self. At other times, it allows me to measure the evolution of my thinking, my feelings – I wouldn't necessarily call that evolution "progress". I can also measure, alas, the inexorable passing of time and my inability to knowing how to enjoy life.
Ten years in Switzerland. Ten years in the same apartment. I still don't speak more than three words of Swiss German. My level in German has been gradually diminishing. I only use the language for administrative matters, although the taxation part is easy since I don't own anything complicated: no house, no car, no hidden mistresses, no children – as far as I know at least... and I think someone told me once you don't "own" children, nor women for that matter, but that's merely semantics. It's a shame that I haven't improved speaking and writing German.
Why? Because the irony is that although French is my mother tongue and one of Switzerland's official languages (together with German, Italian, and Romansh – Romansh, not to be confused with Romanian, is spoken by less than 1% of the Swiss population), French is not the official language in the Swiss province (called a "canton") I reside in. This means that I have to validate a certain level of German before I can apply for Swiss citizenship and its flashy-red passport.
Swiss citizenship, even for a Frenchman, certainly has its advantages, especially in those days of openly-expressed xenophobia and immigration fears. Swiss culture has its quirks for sure. One salient story was how the central (federal) government forced a Swiss canton to grant women the right to vote on local issues. The funny thing? That took place in 1991, that's right, 27 years ago, and only after two women from that province filed a lawsuit (and won).
The difference between my long-term residency status and formal citizenship is honestly tenuous. But here's the other thing: however much I travel, for work, for leisure, or to visit my family members, I always enjoy returning to my little village by the lake, cows and sheep grazing by the old castle, mountains in the backdrop completing the stereotypical – but true – picture. The summer's heatwave having warmed the emerald lake more so than ever before, I'm still enjoying sunset swims in 25°C water. Perhaps I didn't realise I had started planting some roots here in Switzerland. I like Alice Merton's song, No roots, but her lyrics – "I've got no roots, but my home was never on the ground" – seem to no longer apply to me…
Zürich itself is not a very big city. Half a day is enough to walk around the historical centre, although it always takes more time to discover the hidden gems of any place. And once you think you've seen everything, it's still possible to look for new perspectives, in the literal sense of the word. That's where the YouTube channel with my lovely project partner Carmen comes into play: the aim is to create well-crafted short videos of beautiful locations only using drone footage. Give a look and tell us what you think – we've published two dozen videos thus far.
Home was where it hurt. That's how I started this post. While it could remind me of some unpleasant past, I'm actually making a reference to Camille, a French singer whose song, Home is where it hurts, is on the opening soundtrack of Xavier Dolan's wonderful film It's only the end of the world which touched me at core.
It's the story of a thirty-something man who comes back, after many years, to see his mother and siblings... one last time. But resentment, grudges, ordinary miscommunication sabotage all small attempts to care, simply, about other human beings. If you enjoy that film, give a shot at Mommy by the same film director – you'll probably cry even more.
Life is ironic, even if life itself has no intrinsic meaning (Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow explains it better). I go out of my way to visit my 94-year-old grandfather – oh no special merit in doing this – and it makes me a little sad that my siblings, who live in France, don't bother as much. Well, they don't bother often in giving an occasional look at some of the stuff I create either – a debating podcast, a training program, the drone video channel mentioned above, or my writing here and my emails there. Everyone's busy, right? It makes me sad. I don't necessarily need validation, but I like to create and share, especially with those I love, especially if I manage to make others entertained, think or relate.
I keep digressing, as always. From surgeries, Switzerland, music, films, to family and projects. Ideas and projects are like roots extending in all directions, trying to grow and give life to something bigger or beautiful. I'm not sure it's always worth it, I'm not even sure it's not a vain way to be immortal but I'll conclude with this encouragement: never stop trying to have an impact on people's lives or to create something beautiful – call it "art" if you want, nobody owns the word after all.