November showers | NaNoWriMo Day 1

tamaki
Art by : Tamaki

Where I live, November marks the beginning of a long, humid summer. All day long, the atmosphere hangs on your back like the sky has fallen on its head and cracked open all its contents on you, fragile human that you are. November makes you feel like you’re always wearing too many clothes and that your face can only be seen through a layer of sweat and grime.

Things are no better at night until, that is, it begins to rain. It feels like a sea spray, all salty and fresh and shiver-inducingly cold on your face after a day spent in a boiler room. It’s also inevitable that it should rain. What with all the humidity the sky has been holding in the whole day, like a balloon gradually being filled with air until it is about to burst. It’s inevitable, truly. Rain is a result, a consequence, a logical follow-up. If it is humid, it will rain.

In that sense, I have been seeing the ends in all things lately.

This rain that I catch with my outstretched hand will evaporate or will be had by the Earth. Ultimately, it will go back up to the sky and fall again. It will rise and fall, rise and fall. Like the chest of someone who is sleeping, like a heartbeat. As people do : we live, we die. Then we are reborn in some way or other. Our bodies become food for the earth and the earth uses it to grow beautiful things. (I wish some part of me could help grow a forest one day). Our lives never end though, it is an infinite loop of life and death and life and death. Rise and falls, ups and downs, ebbs and flows, even the sea churns the same waters over and over again.

But somehow, this feels special.

This feels like I’ve stepped just the littlest bit off-course, outside the loop. As though I’ve just derailed infinitesimally from the endless circle. I fear I may have broken the cycle but I also think this is the culmination of all the lives that came before me, all the energy that was cultivated over light years so that I could be as I am now, on this earth. I could be a star in the sky right now, grazing one of Saturn’s rings. But here I am.

How wonderful that I can be. That now I can be aware of more than nameless survival. I can now point to what I am doing, to what I am—my hands, my face, my heart, my lungs— and breathe I live. I am.

When I was younger and had stumbled unprepared on this, the door that led to the end of all things, I had been horrified. Sick to my stomach. Utterly refusing to even consider, let alone believe. That things are so simple, that death comes as swiftly (no, much more swiftly, much easier) than life. Because death is bad. Death is wrong. How can it be so easy?  I’ve embraced it over the years, unconsciously. I have assimilated it deep inside of me, or rather I’ve finally let it expand from where it was all along. “Survival” is “not dying” after all, so we do have a notion of the concept—our fear of death just makes us ignore it altogether, hoping it is an illness that will pass.

I’ve been learning about it, because fear leads to ignorance. I’ve learned so far that all of me will turn into dirt one day : not just my body, but all my ideas and thoughts too, will be reduced to dirt.

But I’m telling you, this feels special.

We are all born and will all meet our ends, timely or untimely as they may be, but the difference now is we get to choose what happens in between. We get to write stories, and be more.


Note : This is Day 1 of my take on NaNoWriMo : one blog post a day every day of November ! There have been known to be cheerier themes to start such challenges with though lol.

Subterranean Lights

“You and all your subterranean lights — may they make the world shine, even as they dim and fade. May they light up the world from the inside, like the earth has swallowed a star that won’t burn out.”

hajinbae2
Art by : Hajin Bae

When people die, we light candles to remember them.

To bring a light to the darkness now that they are no longer able to. When someone dies, I wonder how many more lights go out, how many unknown worlds living under their skin are submerged in an eternal darkness, extinguished. Mourning, grief, they feel like a power cut all throughout the city. Like the spark of electricity has stopped flowing, no longer sizzling with life, leaving us individually in our own rooms, our own houses, stranded in the dark. Reaching out in the dark, hands closing around emptiness.

Because when even one light goes out, all of our collective lights shine the dimmer. It may not be apparent all across the complex networks, the bundles of lights that can be seen from space, but there is always a gap. Which is why night rides always make me so wistful, you know. Looking at the city lights, at what every single one of them represents. Life, rising above the night. Light, when even the sun does not shine.

In grief, what comes to my mind first is somehow, always, always, this : “Where is all that light that used to animate your body? Where are the stars in your eyes?” And the thoughts that were like pulsating lights under your skin? How many more worlds slumber now in the darkness, how many more worlds were there that I will never explore? You and all your subterranean lights — may they make the world shine, even as they dim and fade. May they light up the world from the inside, like the earth has swallowed a star that won’t burn out.

But good things can come from the darkness. Sometimes, when we reach out, we find another hand is reaching out, too. And we can hold on to each other until the light arrives, again. It makes us talk, pop our heads out of the window and ask the neighbours if the light has gone out at their place, too. 

“Do you have candles we can light ? I have matches.”  

We can light them together, and share stories until the light arrives, until the light arrives. We do not have to be alone, lonely in the dark.

And I wonder, when we kindle all these candles for the dead, to light up the darkness — do we, do we look like stars to the stars ?

From space, where we are only networks of light, constellations ( This one here is China, and this one is Australia, this is…) does it look, to the stars that came before us, that we did not change so much after all ? And, did you notice ? Much like stars, our individual lights blaze long after we’ve died, because others carry it with them, like a torch, a light of remembrance.

And when one light goes out, how beautiful it is that we pour in our own strength, like a red candle held in one hand lighting another, and say that no matter how overwhelming the darkness, no matter how deep the grief, this star won’t go out ?


Note : Life has its own ways. This was something I wrote on Thursday, a week back, as a general reflection on grief, death and mourning. On Friday, however, I received some news. Saturday, I went to a funeral. And this became too relevant. So now, here it is.

Interludes with Death

“It happens at twilight, always.
That moment when Death and Life finally crash into each other and Death, demanding as it is, states that it will take her soul.”

ottoschmidt
Art by: Otto Schmidt

It happens at twilight, always.

That moment when Death and Life finally crash into each other and Death, demanding as it is, states that it will take her soul.

“No!” protests Life sharply, “You have taken so many already, just today too, you have spread so much agony.”

“No, I will be the guardian of her soul.” Life says tenderly, “She is lost and tired and I shall make her whole.”

“And you?” seethes Death, “How many have you brought into this world today? How many souls have you sowed for me to reap?”

“No, she is tired and would rather not awake. I will take her soul and give her rest.” Death murmurs, and behind his hard gaze lies, for one moment, something soft.

“You cannot take her!” Life chirps furiously, “There is so much that she can do! So much she will be for others! You cannot remove her from—from fulfilling the truth of her own existence!” Life advances, comes in between her sleeping body and Death.

“What kind of truth is worth this much pain?! What kind of—of happiness is worth it?!” Death roars, and for one split second, something in Life’s brilliant gaze wavers.

Death approaches her but Life stands as a barricade between them. Yet, with a gentle shove, Life is quietly standing on the sides, watching as Death’s firm hands sift through her hair, her fitful dreams.

“Release her, give her back to me. She did not know pain when she was with me, before you took her away.” Death accuses.

“Nor did she know happiness at your side! She did not even know herself!” cries Life viciously, yet not making any move to push Death away from the innocence of her sleeping face.

Ignoring Life, Death recalls:

“She was weightless with me. She knew nothing: no darkness, no pain, no sadness, no anxiety, no hunger. She floated like mist, and went about existing in the purest form, in the most neutral way. She was a star, luminescent, such beautiful energy…

“And now!” Death sneers, spinning to face Life in a flash of fury, face now ugly and contorted in rage.

“Now look what you’ve made of her! You have marred her! Sullied her!” Death accuses.

“What should I have done then?!” Life cries “Leave her to you until the ends of Time, and never let her truth unravel? Never let her see the very light she is made out of?

“But you’ve never known that, have you?” Life silently accuses, something cold gleaming in usually warm eyes, “You’ve never seen her when she laughs or cries, when she sits there, grateful for another day. You’ve never seen her ties with Fate, never, never—”

Death is quiet, thinking of those things he cannot understand, and a certain frustration gains him then.

“But I know them and know she would rather be made to laugh in earnest again.” Life looks at Death, pleading.

“Let her, let her,” Life begs, chirpy voice now even more high-pitched as tears threaten to spill. “You will take her anyway, and I will never again look upon her.” says Life, although there is no bitterness in that voice;  Life has long since accepted that it will always hurt, that Life will always lose over those most cherished souls to Death.

It is all too quietly that Life speaks: “Let her, for her sake and mine, if you care for that life half as much as I do, let her live.”

Something flashes in Death’s light eyes at the sight of her, at Life’s words. There is inner turmoil boiling in Death’s eyes, and for a moment, Death is at war with his own self. His selfish desire to have her at his side again, but the need to protect that life that had existed so purely before… And her truth, her happiness, her ties with Destiny he knew nothing of, except that it made for more luminous souls, souls that lasted into the universe.

Finally, Death huffs in resignation, clicking his tongue at Life in annoyance.

“Fool. I care for that life more than you do; I was there when it formed.” Death sends a final, longing glance at her, not trusting himself to touch her, lest he glanced again through those nightmares, and decided to take her away.

Ruffling Life’s light-coloured hair, Death turns his back with whispered words.

“I will be back for her.”

And in a fog of grey, he disappears.

29.09.15

 

End of the Road

“But dying’s not so bad, you know? It means you got to live in the first place.”

anwitacitriya
Art by: Anwita Citriya

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately.

It happens whenever it’s time for new beginnings. On the upside, it means that I think about beginnings every time a journey comes to an end, every time a relationship fades. It mustn’t have helped that I watched a movie about a sick boy with a heart condition . And I saw some news online about a man from the other side of the world who died alone and had no funeral.

It occurred to me that one day, that would be me.

That my time of dying would come.

As a twentysomething, I’m not sure that is something I’m meant to consider so gravely. But I did it back when I was 16, thought about what dying felt like at 12 and even younger. I think it’s natural. It’s natural to want to know what happens to you throughout life, although maybe I was a bit precocious.

People make death out to be this frightening, foreign thing, but I’m not afraid to say I’m dying. We all are. Saying it, acknowledging it will not speed up the process.

But dying’s not so bad, you know? It means you got to live in the first place.

I’d be more ashamed to admit that I wasn’t living. That my heart beat fine, and my lungs breathed just right, but I never truly felt alive. Which is what prompted me to watch the movie with the dying boy, actually. I tend to save up moments sometimes— books, art, movies, experiences— to enjoy in tough times, because those always do come around.

This time though, I didn’t want to have regrets. At least not the kind of regrets I could have done something about. I didn’t want to wait until I was ready because I would never really be. I didn’t want to live in fear of time running out, or of things turning sour again.

Still, I’m a little sad thinking I will die one day, no matter how much I’ve accepted it. All beliefs aside, I am sad that I’ll never see the sky again. That ever-changing sky that has become home. I’ll probably miss the time of day when the sun slowly rises, when you witness the birth of a whole new day and it gives you a feeling that makes you think anything is possible, that yesterday can’t hold you back.

But I don’t want to spend time missing something I haven’t lost yet. So after writing this, I’ll be going outside and looking at the sky for a long while. Hopefully, I’ll wake up early tomorrow and watch the sun rise, too.

 

Starry Complexities

“We could whisper to the stars and tell them what happened to other stars, billions of years ago, tell them how they shattered and turned into people. Do you wonder if stars tell their children that when you die, you become a human? A faraway life, on a small blue planet. “

luviiilove
Art by: LuviiiLove

I can already imagine it, with starry complexity. We will linger at the space station, floating around to haunting piano music softly diffusing across the universe, echoing down lonely black holes and asteroid fields. We’ll hang the clothes to dry on one of Saturn’s rings. On Saturdays (Or however we decide to name it) we’ll have barbecues on the sun and plant artificial roses on dwarf planets and dying stars for a pilot whose plane has crashed to find someday. We’ll pluck stars from space and rearrange the cosmos, play tennis with asteroids and write messages with our fingers across nebulae for Earth to see.

We can hide on the moon, sometime. Lie down in the sea of tranquility and tell corny jokes about how we aimed for the moon. We can close our eyes and move to the dark side, and pretend Earth doesn’t exist. We’ll live out our days in an alcove on a planet no one will ever discover.

We’ll make paperboats, watch them sail and burn in a constellation of stars. We could even reach inside one of them, our hands travelling all the way to the molten core, and touch someone’s consciousness. We could whisper to the stars and tell them what happened to other stars, billions of years ago, tell them how they shattered and turned into people. Do you wonder if stars tell their children that when you die, you become a human? A faraway life, on a small blue planet. So, children if you want to say hi, all you have to do is shine bright and they will know who you are? I wonder if humans are star-ghosts?

We could also hollow out one of the planets, and make home inside.

Trust me, we will never get lost. I have the universe inside of me. Did you know that there are more synapses in the human brain than there are stars in our Milky Way? And there are more possible brain connectivity patterns than there are atoms in the Universe? Our minds are larger and more infinite than the Universe. We are multitudes, eternal matter in perishable bodies.

“When we die,” you ask “do you think we go back to being stars? Do you think that some part of us goes into space? Like, the parts that used to be our eyes, when they rot and become dirt and minerals in the Earth, then feed a tree that later gets turned into wood brought on a spaceship—do you think I could see the universe then? Do you think I could get to be a part of it then? That I will be welcomed, like a missing limb, and I will finally remember? And slowly, like that, the Universe will start being whole again.”

“But you’ll forget me then, you’ll forget Earth.” I say.

“Not if you come with me.” you smile “Then we’ll forget about the lives we had here. But it’s okay, because you and I, we go way back, we were stars together. Then, we can remember who we were meant to be all along.”


Listening to:

Note: This is Day 25 of my NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. I’m afraid with this one, I totally pretended like Science wasn’t a real thing. Don’t shove your hands down molten cores of stars, kids. You’ll be dead before you even get to try. You can read my previous entry for the challenge here. Also, ‘more infinite’ isn’t…really a thing. But eh, dramatics amirite.

 

Hello Darkness, Don’t Call Again

‘ “I understand that you want your time here to matter in a hundred years …but it is only enough to have existed at all, kid. To have stood face-to-face with Time, and looked that bastard Oblivion in the eye.
Your mark, is that you will have walked this Earth, will have sought its mysteries and found yourself along the way. Your mark is that you will have had time.  It is enough, to truly have lived and that—” he smiled wryly, eyes twinkling ever so bright, “is the real challenge.”‘

albumcover
Art from the album cover of All Our Favourite Stories by Dog Is Dead

“I am afraid of a great many things,” he began “but not of Death. Not of Oblivion. See, I think…that this is the cycle of life: we are all born, we live, we die, then we are forgotten, eventually.

“Of these 4 stages, we only exercise control on one. So shouldn’t it be the only one to matter? Truly, who’s to say that even if you changed the world, you would not be forgotten? I imagine there are many kings —and queens—” he added with a nod and smile to her, “that we do not know the names and lives of today. And yet conversely, look at Kafka. Look at Van Gogh. Dude lived his whole life underappreciated and miserable. He died and he didn’t know the world would love him. He died, probably, thinking very little of himself. See, thing about Oblivion is, you wanna know people will remember you after you die. That’s how you win, right? So, if you don’t know, then it doesn’t matter. You don’t win at all. What’s the point of people loving you or remembering you when you’re dead? What’s that to you? You’re dead.

“I understand that you want your time here to matter in a hundred years—people might remember, they might not,” he shrugged “but it is only enough to have existed at all, kid. To have stood face-to-face with Time, and looked that bastard Oblivion in the eye.
Your mark, is that you will have walked this Earth, will have sought its mysteries and found yourself along the way. Your mark is that you will have had time.  It is enough, to truly have lived and that—” he smiled wryly, eyes twinkling ever so bright, “is the real challenge.”

“To worry about people remembering who you were is all good and well, but how about living so fully that you can’t think of anything else? The distant future, the looming end… How about living so hard you could burst? I’m not afraid of being forgotten. I’m a simple man, I only fear not seizing the moment. Not taking a stroll because I’m worrying. Not going for a drive at 2 a.m. because I’m worrying and that’s not what I should be doing at 2 a.m.. I deal in hypotheticals, but not when they stop me from leaving the house.” he laughed.


Note: Day 2 of the (sortof) NaNoWriMo writing challenge

This Gentle Sadness: Mono No Aware

” It is not a sadness you manufacture, not something you own or create. It is something you find one day when you listen. And after that, it is always there. It does not mean I am unhappy, no. Just that the world I see goes far beyond the world I live in now. The world I know is a hundred thousand layers deep and counting—always.”

mononoaware

There is a gentle sadness about Life. Something about growing and getting old. Because when you grow, you also outgrow and when you live, you also outlive. This gentle sadness courses through all that we touch and are, through all the known and unknown universe. It is a truth we cannot fight. Just like we cannot deny that the sun will rise and set or that the rain will fall. We are witnesses, actors in a play that we ultimately do not decide the end of.

And yet, this affliction, this soft greyness is not too common, I find. Even so, it is a way of viewing the world. A way to find beauty in the dusty city. It settles like a blanket over me, this feeling. During sunsets and in nature, as the midnight fireworks go off, as I stare away into the sky, as the end of our adventures draws near and the quiet reigns.

Often, I am quiet because I think that all this beauty dies one day. I am quiet because I am sad for the world. The one I live in, the one in 10 minutes from now, even the one from eight hundred or eight thousand years ago. It is not a sadness you manufacture, not something you own or create. It is something you find one day when you listen to the world’s stories. And after that, it is always there. It does not mean I am unhappy, no. Just that the world I see goes far beyond the world I live in now. The world I know is a hundred thousand layers deep and counting—always.

Sadness is the state of life and the world. It is a reality you learn to accept as you accept that the planets rotate around the sun and that gravity exists. There is sadness that lasts, and there is nothing to do with it, save for acknowledging it.


Listening to: