Existential Hygge

When I was small, I obsessed over my being inside myself (dreams in which I was pushing levers, pumping oxygen, looking out of eye-shaped portholes), a thought process which led inevitably to the realisation that I was – or could also be – outside myself. As soon as I saw myself inside myself I’d be on the outside looking in – or down – at this mysteriously animated, differently-textured thing.

Of course, an inside presupposes an outside; that’s how language/most things work. But the existential corollary was shocking: if I could be inside of myself I could also be outside. And then an insuperable problem arose: inside negates outside, drives it out as day does night. I thus lived under the sign of a confusing semi-eclipse, total dark and shadowless light observable at the same time.

Inside, outside, neither inside nor outside, I contorted myself into strange fits of inside-outside-ness – an endlessly rotating, self-consuming helix.

Nobody took me aside to suggest a better distinction – less abstract – between, say, inhabiting and not-inhabiting. An elegant Dane never explained how existential hygge might work. In lulling tones, s/he might have shown me how to lie happily half-asleep, comfortable, gracious, knowing rain without actively feeling it, protected by a vast and invisible yurt, saying: I am neither inside or outside. Simply inhabiting.

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