Tabula rasa

- in In English, Krönikor, Kulturkrönika

Whilst enjoying his morning cup of tea Lundagård’s culture columnist Ondrej Gomola starts to think about the students who have done the same thing at the same place before him, and the ones who will start their day in that spot in the future. 

It’s often that I sit here, eating breakfast, talking, or playing board games, with these unknown faces looking down upon me. Where’s this? I’m in my corridor kitchen, and somebody before my time had the idea of visually cataloguing all the previous inhabitants. Everybody’s picture has the same Clas Ohlson frame, with the paper inside now faded, wrinkled, and bleached by the sun. The earliest ones have been here since the wild days of 2009.

I could claim that we had five prime ministers and three members of the Swedish royal family live here—but that would be, well, a lie. There is probably something in the water, though: at least three Lundagård writers have lived here, including the previous Editor-in-Chief.

But looking at them now, with the party lights throwing shadows across their chiselled complexions, they seem familiar. Foreign, unknown, but familiar—literally part of the furniture. Their smiling, sun-bleached faces looking down from above. It makes me wonder: what were they like? Did they also leave the Manhattan Project behind in the kitchen sink? Or were they those students who really liked to see what acrobatics can be done on AF-issue beds? I will probably never know, and for the better.

What is their legacy? What is our legacy once we move out of student accommodation? Apart from broken plates, left-behind cutlery, and Blu-tack stains on the walls? Are we all waiting for Godot?

Somebody left a particularly ugly painting behind from a long-forgotten TDC. At some point, though, this person was compelled to pick up a brush and make a statement—like the greatest of artists. The purpose behind their brushstrokes is akin to those exposed at the Guggenheim. And the result—well, that’s not even going to be a Francis Bacon on a good day.

I arrived in Lund last year and moved into my new corridor room. “New” is probably a strong word—there were some clothes hangers in the wardrobe, a notch in the floorboards from perhaps one too many parties and nail holes in the walls.

Ondrej’s dorm.
Photo: Ondrej Gomola

A person lived here before me—and here I am, making these blank walls my own. Just like somebody before them and before them, until the first lessors moved in. Then, the room was a tabula rasa, a clean canvas. Now, however, I’m just adding to the blotches on the canvas, wearing out the floorboards until somebody else moves in. Until, eventually, the room is renovated, demolished, or otherwise unrecognisably altered—the tabula is erased to start anew.

I suppose this is an unavoidable fact of life. Tabula rasa. It feels somehow relieving but unnerving, too, for everything to be so impermanent.

Others will have been before us and others will come after us, and that’s it. But we leave behind the people we met, most will forget us (who was that guy living down the hall anyway?) but we like to think—we hope—some will put us on picture walls or into picture books of their own.