I’ve heard it said that you can’t ever step in the same river twice, but I never really understood that saying until Brasilia. A city that was tailor made for the future, that would never need to grow or change, and yet somehow defied everything around it. It changed without changing, a constantly different constant, just as you are always you, but you are never the same you that you were 10 minutes ago. I lived in many different countries throughout my life, but somehow I am always drawn back to one city in particular. My river.
Some 50-odd years ago Brazilian president Jucelino Kubitschek decided it would be a good idea to move the country’s capital from Rio, in the South-east, to a more centralized position. After mapping out a spot as close to the centre of the nation as possible, which also happened to be the middle of nowhere, he set about building. Thus, the city was born; thoroughly planned out with sterile, post-modern architecture and constructed in the shape of an aeroplane. To soften the regions harsh dry weather a reservoir was built right at the plane’s nose, as if to prevent it from ever taking off. A still, silent lake, surrounding what was meant to be a still, silent town.
But the city didn’t care for man-made barriers, sooner or later it learned to swim across the lake and stretch out under the sun. New structures sprouted up through the dirt, filling wide open spaces with noise. Bridges tip-toed their way across the water and reached out their stiff concrete fingers towards the eager houses that had been consorting on the other side. Even the landscape of its peoples changed. It had been built to house mostly government officials but now it made room for bakers, engineers, graphic designers, salesmen, fast food chains and even beggars.
Yet there is something stagnant about it all. Something that always resists the change around it. The very lake bed harbours remnants of a past long before the city. Of a forest and farmlands swallowed whole by the river as the dam blocked its passage. Reminding sailors, windsurfers and paddle-boarders, of the hazards from the past, hidden in its depths. A past mummified by still water.
It reminds me that there is always a way to triumph in face of the odds. That change is inevitable. That weeds can grow even in the best kept gardens. Even the water in a reservoir is refreshed every so often.
This is where I feel motivated to push forward regardless of what barriers stand in my way. Where the sterile white buildings are my canvases to paint on. Where normal and constant are consistently redefined. Where the strict organization of each districts seems chaotic in its own way.
Brasilia paved the streets of my mind. Constantly trying to plan, to make sense of life, to add order and logic to the chaos that inevitably dominates. To define the undefinable. In it I can drive around my thoughts and understand the movement of still water and the deception of stagnation. When I’m there I understand that I never land in the same city twice. And that even in the most rigid place on Earth, the water is never quite the same, and neither are the two feet that step in it.