I have been in this city for a little over a year now and have never experienced the sense of a city having a personality as strongly as I have here.. or perhaps it is more that other cities have personalities too but they have more boring ones. I think that the people living in the city not only create part of the city's personality (any city), but also take on a part of it, mutual creation.
It's kind of terrifying to think that your location can have such great power over your life, and over who you are as a person. I think we like to think of ourselves as being highly independent of our locations, this idea of I am myself because I am myself and if I move I am still myself. However, when you consider how influenced our lives are by our culture, not only in terms of how we act but also in terms of the way in which we think - i.e. language, and the limitations attached to that - culture being more of a means of thinking which simultaneously enables us to view the world around us and disables us from ever being able to see it objectively, it becomes apparent that our location, regardless of how connected or disconnected we feel in relation to it, has more influence on our personhood and self creation than we like to give it credit for. I think we like to think of our consciousness as a representation of our immunity to involuntary change but it just isn't the case.
In a way I feel very disconnected from part of the culture in this city. I feel like there is a beat that I've missed that I'll never be able to find, like I'll always be clapping out of time, or even if I could find the right time I'd be clapping at 2 beats per minute while everyone else was clapping at 4. The parts of the city that I do feel connected to, or that I do feel like I properly understand are the parts of myself, I'm not sure whether they were already there and I just realised them or if they have developed through my being here, but these parts of me that do fit in here don't fit into my old culture. I kind of feel like maybe they never did and that is somehow how or why I ended up here but now I feel torn between two equally unsolvable problems.
I have realised that the people I love and my love for this city are identical in their characteristics. I love them because of their impossibility. I have committed my life to pursuing the impossible, with limited success. I got here, I learnt the language, I have a house. I will never really be here, or belong here. I can't quite understand why. Maybe when I figure it out I will be able to change it, or be able to leave. If I ever really did figure it out I probably wouldn't be interested in it any more. It wouldn't seem as beautiful or mysterious or intelligent. The city and the men in the city and the men in my life will never really make sense to me, or me to them. I love the mystery but it is destroying me. They are both are cold and hard and bitter and loveless and I have made it my mission to somehow infiltrate that and become a part of that and force it to accept me, but in doing this, if i ever achieve my mission goal I will immediately loose what it was that defined the original appeal.
Berlin is a special city. I've always unconsciously looked at it in purely a positive light, as a city of youth and creativity, as an art city where people go to develop things. To be honest, until very recently I'd never looked or questioned any further than a superficial observation of 'there's something about berlin that I really love' - I've said that sentence to so many people at so many times and always clarified the sentence with it being something in the air and in the minds of the people that I loved or understood in some way that I couldn't put my finger on. I was satisfied with the vagueness of this until last weekend I was speaking with a girl about Berlin who made the observation that Berlin was a city for 'lost souls'. this statement both somehow conflicted with and fitted perfectly to my previous explanation of what it was I loved about it here. It had been staring me in the face so blankly and boldly for so long, my own face in the mirror and the faces of all the people who have been drawn here like moths to flames, and I couldn't see it because I only recognised myself. What makes sense about this city is that everyone here is lost and is searching, in some sort of semi-hopeless way. I think the people here have come to terms with the flaws and the hopelessness of humanity more than a lot of other countries and other cities and through this there is something simple and human and desperate and honest about this city. I had previously misinterpreted this as mystery and strength but actually what I think it really is is honesty and saddness. But these are perhaps the two most beautiful things that exist in the world.
The city and the people who have come here are hard and cold and loveless. Everyone here is isolated and wants to be that way. Everybody thinks that they are connected because they interact but they all remain so incredibly separate from one another despite all their interactions. They want to love themselves but they hate themselves and they want to hurt themselves through experiencing every experience available to them and this is the city of possibilities. No one here can love themselves and no one here can love anyone else either. They don't want to because they're all to terrified because no one is staying in this place anyway. This is a city of temporality. If you stay here too long you won't die old. Everyone here has lost, or left the ideal, the childhood fantasy of home. Home doesn't exist in berlin. Home here is at best a place where you keep your things. It doesn't have a soul here. No one was born here and no one wants to stay here because you can never really have a home here and if you can't have a proper home you can never really relax or settle down or feel calm or safe or be in love. It's probably good for productivity but it's draining. People seem to care about other people in a way here more than they do in more advanced-western-focused cultures, but at the same time they go to such great lengths to isolate themselves from things.
The result is a bunch of people who don't act like what they want because they want a million different things at once. the result is a bunch of people who spend time together for the sake of it and who make plans so that they feel like they have a future even though they hate the idea of committing to anything or obligating themselves to do anything in the next five minutes. Berlin is the city where everybody is free but bound. We have all the time in the world and no money to do anything with. It's the city where people complain about having no money instead of complaining about work. It's the city where kindness is empty. It's the city where lost souls find each other and are never really sure whether they'd prefer just to be alone.