The bridge

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By JOSÉ FABIO RODRIGUES MACIEL*

The first time that disillusionment was intensely present during class was when a girl disrespectfully disagreed with one of her statements about religiosity

“Living under this suffocating sky forces us to leave or stay. The question is to know how you leave, in the first case, and why you stay, in the second” (Albert Camus, The myth of Sisyphus).

It was a rainy and dark day. It was cold beyond normal for that time of year. He left the house in formal clothes and shoes, armed with a large black umbrella, which did not prevent his socks from getting wet. Apparently the shoes he was wearing weren't waterproof.

Antonio had a certain destination in his clouded mind: the Remédios bridge. He was looking for the ultimate cure for his life.

Until that moment, he earned his daily bread as a professor of philosophy at a third-tier college. It was close to the city center and received students mainly from the peripheral neighborhoods. His feeling was that he deceived, most of the time, these hopeful boys and girls, many of whom spent almost their entire salary to pay the course fee.

His perception grew more and more that he was unable to transmit, with adequate didactics, the knowledge accumulated during more than two decades of study on the subject. The impression was that some students pretended to like him, while the majority did not show the slightest interest in the studies that had been his life's goal until then, studies he was passionate about.

Disappointment with the teaching career increased every day, and there were several reasons: reduced salary, increased administrative workload, ideological patrols, lack of interest that is no longer even concealed by students…. Antonio somehow wanted to prove the value of what he had studied diligently and non-stop since his late teens. He took it for granted that a philosopher like him, to be esteemed, had to preach with his own example. He had it in his head when he left the house that rainy morning.

In the classroom, even when he approached the works of philosophers like Nietzsche, he always found a way to proclaim his enormous attachment to life. He had the perception that the role to be played by the human being, born in an absurd world, was to be aware of his life, his revolt and his freedom. Besides, life being absurd, it doesn't even need to have a meaning to be lived.

At the beginning of her career, it is almost certain that she influenced, with her teachings, some boys and more girls, who advanced with feminism in revolt against the system, seeking to defend a life that was increasingly free from the male yoke. He must have produced some good revolutionaries and some great revolutionaries during his early years as a teacher.

That brief success blurred his eyes and he failed to notice the transformation taking place right under his nose. He had the audacity to predict that girls would be primarily responsible for transforming an unequal society into an egalitarian one in all respects. He even put that responsibility on their shoulders in his excited end-of-semester speeches, whose predictions never came to fruition. When he realized the new reality of the male and female students he received every semester, it was already too late.

The first time that disillusionment was intensely present during the class was when a girl disrespectfully disagreed with one of her statements about religiosity. She took Marx's position personally, as if the professor himself had formulated those phrases that appeared in the text indicated for reading. At another time, the questioned was Weber. The last straw that made him realize the radical change in his students was when they began to quote a charlatan astrologer in class as if he were the epitome of philosophy. Such a shock made him open his eyes to the sad reality that was presented in the classroom. At that moment he felt he was preaching to the deaf!

Sad reality, but part of his students, at some point, became disciples of the pentateuch. By joining those who were supporters of exclusionary neoliberalism, together, they thought more about attacking the sciences than learning from the classics. And philosophy was elevated to the condition of great enemy of these new quasi-students. Being in the classroom and facing the daily ignominy of a large part of the students, clearly influenced by unscrupulous politicians, began to seriously undermine Antonio's sanity.

When I got home, after a demotivating day of classes, it took me a while to sleep and often only alcohol allowed me some rest, interrupted by nightmares that always had similar scripts: I was in class and had a strong headache. Then she realized that her brain started to be devoured by zombies dressed in yellow, while all her books were thrown by the students into a big fire in the center of the room.

His days were getting more and more unbearable. He would drag himself to college and come back exhausted, as if his soul had been sucked out while he was there. Not even with his co-workers he could relate anymore. Rather than questioning whether continuing in the teaching profession was worthwhile, he began to doubt his ability as a teacher and scholar.

After questioning himself so much, one summer afternoon he became curious about people who cause death because they consider that life is not worth living. Initially despised these people. For him, glorious are those who die for the ideas (or illusions) that give them a reason to live and, at the same time, the same reason to die.

Since he was no longer able to talk, even with fellow teachers, he started smoking again. The walk she took to the street, the cars passing by, the young people talking and the paused puffs she was willing to give worked as an anesthesia for her dark feelings now.

Philosophy had taught that living is not and will never be easy, but wouldn't going to the extreme of suppressing one's own life in the name of a cause be the same as succumbing to the struggle? With these thoughts in mind, he approached the Ponte dos Remédios. It seems absurd to want to continue a quiet, peaceful life, pretending that what you see in the classroom is not important. The surreality to which he was elevated gave him the certainty of the proximity of a dystopian, meaningless existence. Everything seemed absurd, incongruous, incoherent, illogical, strange, bizarre, weird, Kafkaesque.

What is death? Fearing it is nothing more than appearing to have wisdom when you don't. Who knows if she is not the greatest of all goods for the one who gives her up? It is impossible to know without having the experience of death. And only by dying does one acquire this experience.

Once again, he thought that life is absurd and that's exactly why it doesn't need to have a meaning to be lived. It is enough that it be used to contemplate the very absurdity of our existence. And when remembering his trajectory, he only saw a certain future: rebelling against the absurd.

Antonio was revolted, incongruously thinking about the anticipation of death, which would be a renunciation in opposition to conscience and revolt. He was sure that the acceptance of absurdity at its utmost limit is everything, but he was in doubt whether it was in fact revolt.

Opposing rationality and irrationality, he began to climb those side steps of the bridge, which creaked very softly with each step he took. The more he advanced, something inside him receded.

He could have chosen a technical profession; he opted for the maximum rationalization of philosophy. There were so many daydreams messing with his senses at that moment that the emptiness of the knowledge to be acquired made it difficult for his neurons to synapse. He was cold. The hot blood must have grown cold following his pretensions to transform the world that dwindled day by day.

The more steps he climbed, the more noticeable the gray and smelly water of the Tietê river appeared. The wind was cold and sharp, slowing her steps as she gripped her umbrella tightly so it wouldn't fly away. He reached the bottom of the stairs and walked slowly along the side of the bridge sill. He closed what protected him from the drops that continued to fall and did not notice when the water began to run through his hair towards his neck, which was so cold that it no longer showed a pulse.

An enormous calm took over him when he reached the center of the river, which was below half that bridge. He closed the umbrella tightly, pointed it at the river and let it fall... It took a few seconds of falling before it was swallowed by the perceptible current, which brought several objects discarded in many parts of the city. Not even the noise of the cars that kept passing by was enough for him to stop hearing the contact of the thrown object with the water. The sound made him shiver and he felt a twinge of envy for the all-absorbing water.

He opened his arms and leaned his head back, feeling that the rain washed his soul and freed him from all afflictions. He couldn't help but cry. That's when he felt his feet were wet and cold. Something was foreshadowed at that moment. And the absurd happened!

*José Fabio Rodrigues Maciel holds a master's degree in law from PUC-SP. Author, among other books, of Handbook of the History of Law (Saraiva Jur).


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