This distance manifested itself in still other ways in the day which followed. In the youth hostel, I fell back onto old, irresponsible habits. Namely, it would seem that, while on holiday, I become another. This was not in the sense that I acted differently than I might at home or at work, but, rather, in that I sometimes became younger or more complex or took on new character traits. At times, I hailed from a different country than my own. At still others, I spoke more distant languages and performed societal functions quite unlike those I exercise. As best I could tell, all this amounted to an effort to make my identity somewhat vaguer than usual.
Yet this followed not from any desire to deceive. Instead, it allowed me to vary my individual components and to watch how my projected self-image wavered at the edges, its shape losing a little of the determination or fixity which I habitually viewed it with. In so doing, I was able to take note of others’ reactions to the different combinations that I tried on, as it were. With new combinations and further observation, I felt that I could come to provisional conclusions as to how the whole held together. Yet there may still have been deception in my efforts to make of the self something like a funhouse mirror or a window fogging over.
On the heels of my experiments came certain realizations or a manner of working out the framework of these writings. After some thought, I could conclude with a reasonable level of certainty that my methodology for writing travelogues consisted in the establishing or letting be established early a conceit or concept of one sort or another, then in walking and watching a great deal, and, lastly, in reading something a little out of the ordinary off which I might then bounce ideas. Perhaps this amounted not so much to a method as “paideia”, in the sense given by Deleuze’s Nietzsche et la philosophie and, later, by Barthes through Deleuze, and this in the hopes of running things through my subjective filter and then guessing at (my) self through the form given the object and the work done thereon. Perhaps this constituted a second, though indirect, approach to self.
The reading to which I reacted in this case, was Barthes’ Comment vivre ensemble and the question which it had set itself of idiorhythm or one’s own self rhythm. More specifically, Barthes seeks to answer whether it is possible to live in community, small in scale and still maintain one’s own self-rhythm. Barthes’ own response proves somewhat pessimistic in tone: communities limited in size to no more than a dozen and flat in hierarchy.
My own observations led me to similar conclusions. As I had seen with my companion of a week or perhaps a lifetime, most conflict stemmed from a difference in rhythm: meals, sleep, travel, but also in pace of walking, climbing, chewing, and yet still further, age, perception, as though we were neither aging nor perceiving at the same rate. I spoke to him and, on occasion, it was some time before he seemed to hear or, at the least, answer.
How much societal and interpersonal conflict follows from nought else but differences in rhythm (as opposed to identity)? Naturally, having spent considerably time on the notions of self and identity, the question was worth asking whether, instead, identity be assimilated to rhythm (or vice versa). Regardless, such was the way in which my reading impinged on my travels, or perhaps it was the reverse.
So it was that I came back to my starting point for the above reflections: the hostel. Was the hostel itself an idiorhythmic place? Back to the wall, I pondered whether travelling alone, meeting with others in common room or kitchens or rooms, and leaving to pursue one’s own plans met the requisite threshold for community.