Love as admiration and desire: Villers-la-Ville and Belgian trains

The white clouds that dog Wallonia for a few days leave some space for letting some sunbeams pass: opportunity makes the thief, therefore for once books can be put aside and life can be. The journey from Louvain-la-Neuve and my destination is arduous than I thought. The city is just few kilometres far, but the change of trains makes you use more than half an hour. The regional train moves slowly, passing through small villages of Wallonia, seeming tired for repeating the same never-ending route for all its existence.

Whenever you think your life is boring, please, think of those of regional trains of the Kingdom of Belgium.

Villers-la-Ville dazzles you for it is astounding. As you pass beside it with the train, its abbey flushes before your eyes. Astonished, you try to concrete it in your mind, to conceive it, to desire it, to love it.  Still, the fate is sloth, and the moment in which you see it ends in the blink of an eye. The train makes you this gift just for an instant and barrels away, impassive, leaving you at the station a little further.

Machines follow the rules of mechanics, not the heart ones.

The road from the railway station to the abbey lasts about half an hour. Impatience grows, the will of seeing again the beloved face, the elusive desire of the chance of living the same emotions at least for a second time in your life. Usually, ambitions of this kind get relegated to the dimension of the impossible, the one of the dreams left aside by a world asking to consume and things to be consumed. It hardly-ever happens, but when your sight discovers Villers-la-Ville, your inner rules revolutionise.

The sound of the mill, the freshness of the air, the stone. I have already been in Villers-la-Ville in three different seasons, every time with different people, every time having different emotions.  Colourful autumn leaves give way to the typical withdrawal of winter, whereas in spring jocund groups of birds draw magical paths between windows and walls of this abbey unconcerned of humankind problems. Here, diversity is never dull, but a regular motion that let you intend something new each time.

Silence, spirit, mould.

Silently, I walk through the ruins in the hope of reminiscing what was in that temple. I do not make noise but I just make love with those stones so impossible to hold in an only sight and, for this, so attractive. I walk, and walking I summon in me multiple worlds, the lives I haven’t lived and those I will, the kisses I have given and the hopes I preview there, in an undefined point of my future. The silence of this day is opposite to the fuss of the city, the contemplative being that sees the truth e becomes its owner or the businessman stifled by his agenda. Sometimes, you need to get lost to find yourself again.

As I get under the dome I look behind me; the enormous ruin breaks the sky, half painted of light blue, half covered by threating clouds. Born to stay on the ground, the stone feels the absolutism of the stars and prick up to them: maybe there is an imprisoned romantic spirit in it, maybe it is still drunk by the beer that once was produced here, the aroma of which still exhales in the air. As if silence fed the fire of hope, as if the contemplative being enabled a trigger to reveal his earthly side, burning for passion.

Centuries ago, Narcissus and Goldmund used to live in a similar monastery, the ascetic and the tramp who taught us how few worth to reduce life in the two opposite poles of ascesis and carnality. It makes no sense to put our lives in an aut aut, life is not a yes or a no, it is not that easy to love and not to suffer. The synthesis of the two perspectives makes human spirit wise but still elated of passion: look carefully at sunsets above the abbey of Villers-la-Ville, you will see the Apollonian embracing the Dionysian, in a succession of opposite emotions.  You cannot sleep on a mother’s chest if you haven’t learnt to stay awake in the desert.

I, as a stone, I am both romantic and drunk of such beauty. I have just confessed my love to these stones and the poor train comes back, even more tired, to cover its daily path that will guide me home. The train cradles me with its movement; tired for the day I spent, I am proud to share my thoughts with the surrounding country.

If you are travelling for fun, if you are travelling for business in Brussels, if you live in Belgium or you are spending your Erasmus in the nearby, go to the Villers-la-Ville abbey.

Go there and don’t forget it anymore, etch it in the eternity. Dream.

For those who look for infinity, it is enough to close the eyes.

 

Alessio Vagaggini

 

References:

Herman Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund, Oscar Mondadori, 1978

Abbey of Villers-la-Ville, Rue de l’Abbaye 55, 1495 Villers-la-Ville, Belgium

 

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