The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land. The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his.

– Hugo of St. Victor

This aphorism has both sustained and haunted me since I first came across it several years ago in Edward Said’s essay “Reflections on Exile.” It invokes a promise of forgetting in a dire, beautiful way, and will forever remain a complicated statement on an ethics of forgetting in relation to aging and movement (i.e., migration, exile). Begging an ambitious attempt at resolution in the most personal, potentially fortuitous, potentially devastating ways, it serves as a kind of incantation for me while contemplating my many years of living abroad.

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