Black hole matters.

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Art by : Dion Mbd

I have been so busy questioning Life that I can’t seem to live it.

My tenderest years I spent feeding my doubts, utterly taken by greater-than-life hypotheses about Meaning and Existence. The questions grew large and looming, dwarfing me in the process, until one day I fell into one of them, into the black hole of one “Why” too many. Further down the rabbit hole I fell, to the point where it became all I knew; I could only vaguely recall there ever being some other life before it.

And so I spent many years surrounded by a kind of darkness, in the search for “Truth” (although, in reality, it was more complicated than that). I was looking for the Truth, the kind humans have been searching for since the dawn of Time, but also for my own personal truth, my own story. I was looking for myself, trying to see, through the very limited lens of my consciousness, the whole truth of the human condition, the efforts of mankind sketched against the then-vague concept of the Universe.

It was a lot.

And it didn’t help that I was so young and weirdly empathetic.

Ironically, by trying to widen my worldview and deepen my consciousness, I became monomaniacal, so astoundingly focused on the task I couldn’t see what I’d become.

Life graces us all with at least one piece of irony.

Then, I spiralled.

Days blurred into nights and Time melted under the sun until Life became Existence, and I did not know myself anymore.

I’d love to say I woke up one day to the sunlight caressing my cheek. I’d love to say its warmth shook something in me and jolted me awake.

But I stayed locked in the dark. I let my teenage years just go by. I never truly celebrated the year when I was 18. This feeling was all I was; it erased everything else, every other kind of identity. And it was so hard to explain — how could I when I didn’t even understand it myself?

But slowly, unwillingly, I crept out into the sun. I opened my eyes to it, its brightness burning my retinas. Then I crawled back inside for months in a protective darkness, in a safe stillness. Then I came out again. I would spend a day in, a day out. Now the days have turned into months, the months into half-years. And slowly, I am converting Existence to Life again.

This time around, I believe I am going about existentialism the right way: I ask questions and in so doing, uncover dark rooms, encounter still, darkened worlds within my consciousness. And in the midst of all this darkness, I try to find the light that shows me around it.

It is this simple: do not get eaten by the dark. Always carry some light with you, within you.

We all have that spark, no matter how dire the circumstances, how extreme our suffering. As long as there is life, there can be light.

Do not let the darkness overwhelm your light. Even if it is flickering, light always overpowers darkness.


Note : I remember when I started this blog, I was still in the throes of all this dark existentialism, of these huge concepts I could not fully comprehend, did not know how to handle. And now I am all “A kaleidoscope of butterflies” and “Warm, honeyed sunlight”. Whodathunk.

Listening to:

Time, spare change and pocket lint.

You won’t be hearing from me for a little while, and I hope that’s okay— is something I should have written 3 weeks ago, before my sister’s wedding completely engulfed my timetable, when I knew already that I would be too keen on 2 a.m. conversations and too tired from them to write anything, to want to write anything.

But in my defence, I didn’t worry about it much, entirely too concerned with living the present moment for everything it was. Man, I’ve lived these past 3 weeks. So much so that for a long minute, it seemed impossible that it had been 3 weeks and not 2. It’s like reading a novel and getting really into it, so that when you reach the end, you think : “Is it over already?”. In a way, it makes me think—why aren’t my weeks usually packed with as much meaning? Why is life wishy-washy, the waters so low and still that any movement, however small, becomes a major event? I should always be living. Be it in the great or small ways. This is the kind of battle I am leading these days : pushing meaninglessness out of my life. Making every second worth it.

This is something I’ve realised ever since traveling abroad for the first time, I’ve understood just how much a day can hold. I’ve re-evaluated my perception of Time, and —most amazingly, most importantly— of the realm of possibility. I’m not careless about my minutes now, I don’t leave them behind in my pockets with the lint and stray change, don’t forget them in the slack of the workload. Instead, I string them together like a beaded necklace, giving all moments this continuous flow, where they succeed one another in a stream of events that is memorable, that does not make me feel as though I’ve woken up from a 2 or 3 hour spell, not remembering where the time has gone and who has robbed me of it…

I am the worst planner I know, in my defence. All that daydreaming and world-building has to come at a cost, you know.

But I’m learning. I’m trying. It’ll work out, somehow.

Some advice to myself

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Gif by : Unknown

Reflecting on my failures in writing, there is one thing that I understand I have been doing wrong. And that is to cry out for ideas, attempting to pull complex stories out of thin air. That’s the whole problem : stories like these are not rooted in anything. They are just streams of words preceding each other, rushing to make a point, to pool into the ocean. They have little authentic meaning and instead look like a patchwork of ideas, not all yours.

Instead, what I should have been doing is to be quiet, and let the ideas rouse from where they are buried. There is plenty to go around on the inside : 20 or so odd years of submerged reflections, of things learned consciously and unconsciously, of lessons tangible or not, of people met and loved and left.

That is how you call upon your inner self, you stay silent and instead of planting other seeds—let the ones that are already buried deep in your ribs sprout up. In so doing, you let yourself speak and understand why you are the way you are. And when these stories emerge, you need to prune them, water them, de-weed, make sure they don’t grow sideways. You need to take care of the stories that spring from such depths; you never know how great they will grow. As unruly as they are though, as much as they leave you exposed, these stories have roots, so they have meaning.

They are irrigated by the blood flowing in your veins—these stories are yours. Not a tale could be told that resembles it, even if they both speak of the same themes, because what is yours is yours. They are your stories, straight from your gut.


Note : This is Day 3 of my NaNoWriMo writing challenge. Here are the entries for Day 1 and Day 2.

Threads of Fate

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Art by 93.minho

Something you hold onto impulsively when Life suddenly yells: “Catch!” at you. Something you chase after for a lifetime. You can either be pulled by it or led by it. Either way, so long as we are alive, we are attached to one. A thread of Fate, with filaments made of meaning. Each thread adding to the Tapestry of Time.

You see, I firmly believe that Meaning, cumulating in a certain kind of Destiny, is out there for us all. I believe that we’re all standing on this good Earth with both arms raised, fingers twitching, trying to catch onto one thread as life goes by like a bullet train. And then holding onto a thread as though it were a hanging strap. Something steadying. Meaning is out there, for every single one of us. We need only raise ourselves to meet it.

But we can ignore them too, you know. Refuse to hold onto them because they lead not to comfort but instead down rocky roads, uncharted lands. Because they pull too strong and go too fast. But if it so happens that you meet a thread of Fate and refuse it, another will still weave itself around your finger. The antithesis of a decision is not a not-decision. All there is is a decision you make versus a decision that is made for you.

Deciding to not follow the thread that lies before you is a choice. It is a decision. If out of fear you renounce it, if you refrain from following it because you do not want change—you merely give up your part in the play. But the play goes on without you. If you do not respond to Fate’s call, you will still be wrapped up in it. You cannot live outside of Life. You cannot live thinking you will forever be safe from hurt or risks or difficult decisions. There is no life that exists without such change. In refusing to take risks, you relinquish all power. This kind of neutrality you aspire to can never exist outside of books. You cannot be Switzerland. Even Switzerland is not Switzerland. There are always consequences. And you cannot rid yourself of the consequences of living.

 

 


Note: A reminder to myself, first and foremost, to not let fear dictate the choices we make. (Unless that fear is the fear of being eaten by a pouncing lioness, in which case, please let fear dictate your life choices).

The Wanderer’s New Year (Short Story)

“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

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Art by: Marc Simonetti (Cover for the french version of ‘The Name of the Wind’)

“Hush,” he whispered to his mare, the gentle and now weary Céleste. “Easy now, Céleste.”

He brushed through her mane soothingly and in an easy movement slipped off her.

Night surrounded them on top of the hill they had climbed, millions of small stars blinking down at them. Céleste gave a proud grunt. She liked the night, it looked just like her coat of black speckled with white all over.

The sound of something being fired pierced through the silence and soon, bright sparks of red and gold formed patterns in the sky.

The small town below them was illuminated far more than normal towns usually were and in the distance, it seemed to him like an ant colony: busy, bustling, full of energy. Another few rockets exploded in the night, showering the town in streaks of pink and green lights.

“So it is already that time,” he murmured to himself “Already a year…searching, seeking out the road that promises no destination.”

“A year spent wandering,” he mused, “and what for?…Purpose? Meaning?” He sighed and looked back down the way from which he had emerged.

His eyes and voice were wistful as he spoke to no one in particular.

“But there is no place for me there. Not anymore; perhaps there never was. And so now to the road do I belong, and Time,” he looked at the bursting fireworks more intently now “does not matter here. Only the road matters. I will either reach the stars above or die on the road. I am on a journey that has perhaps no end, and yet I cannot stop. I cannot stop because it is better to wander unknowingly than to stay somewhere you do not belong.”

He stood still, watching the displays of lights and sounds with a profound sadness that only grew deeper at the sounds of loud cheers and lively music.

He remained like this a long while.

And then, as though he’d had enough, he pulled the ample hood of his long cloak back on, and Céleste’s reins in hand, marched forth into the darkness.

December Freedom

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Art by: 양태종

I forget how beautiful language can be.

How one word can express the maze of thoughts and emotions that inhabit us. How extraordinary that language can represent feelings—these deep, emotional complexities that have no physical form. Language creates. In a breath, it gives a body where emotions make up the soul.

Earlier, I came across the japanese word “Yūgen”, which means: “An awareness of the universe that triggers an emotional response too deep and mysterious for words.”. We have words to describe what we cannot describe. How wonderful, how ethereal.

Today again, I was writing (in my head, because that’s where the writing is most beautiful) about how people let go of themselves come December. How their shoulders relax, their expressions slacken, how their voices soften and their eyes gain a mellow warmth. But only the word “Délier” came to mind. It is a french word, meaning to untie. The one word describes the phenomenon better than any one-paragraph description ever could.

“Délier” is to release, to let go of and untwist, to give freedom, to become unstuck, to let tongues wag. “Délier”, to me, is the feeling when you take off heels that have been burning the soles of your feet all day long. “Délier” is to break the mould, “Délier” is not having to sit ram-rod straight and instead being able to sink back in the comforts of home. “Délier” is a thousand birds launching themselves into the skies. It is nothing the Larousse will tell you, but words have the meaning we give them. Language doesn’t live in books. It is a rebellious teenager that will always find a window to climb out of.

“People let go of themselves…” I write. No that’s not it. Strike-through. “Les gens se délient lorsqu’arrive Décembre…”

A Silence of Intense Thoughts

“It was always a pause, and then the silence of intense thoughts that crossed the room, the sounds of minds opening, being filled not with words, but with the emotion in between them, brimming not with verse and lyricism, but with memories of their beauty, their rhythm that sounded like music”

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Art by: Pascal Campion

When I first studied literature and poetry, I was struck by the intentional silence left in between sentences and stanzas that were read out loud. The teacher was giving us a moment to contemplate, to wonder, to pin down a feeling, or capture a thought process, to appreciate it within a larger context, making us question whether any one thing was truly random or whether it all connected into another sub-layer of meaning.

It was always a pause, and then the silence of intense thoughts that crossed the room, the sounds of minds opening, being filled not with words, but with the emotion in between them, brimming not with verse and lyricism, but with memories of their beauty, their rhythm that sounded like music. And I like to think, even with the indescribable essence of a novel or poem that is not the same for any one person.

We broke down stories into parts, then parts into chapters, chapters into passages. Passages into paragraphs, paragraphs into lines, lines into a sentence. And further even, sentences into words and silences. Quietly, we filled the blanks in between the words with deeper meaning wrought from our own experiences. We wrote our lives in all the stories we read, in all the verse we learnt. To read is not passive; we use our own lives to  understand that of others’. We create silences to fill with the unknown.

And that silence, that is when I would stop being in a classroom, wearing an ill-fitting uniform, just a name among so many others. On the outskirts of fiction and reality, there would exist, for a few stretches of silence, a complex world that would perish at the first word spoken.


Note: This is Day 29 (Already!) of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. Tomorrow’s the last day, so I hope you’ve been enjoying it. Meanwhile, you can check out the entry for Day 27 here 🙂

The grief in her eyes

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Art by: Maria Ngyuen

If Grief is a look, then I saw it in the eyes of someone not much older than I today. And it was only a flashing moment, only in the slight squinting of eyes against the harsh sunlight did I see the mark of Grief painted there. She sat, leaning into the hard seats of the moving train, her eyes closed, as if nursing the pain that had been gathering for 3 years now.

3 years. That’s what her arm tells me. 1967-2014 and a few birds flying away into freedom. I could not catch the name written across her skin, but I have a feeling it is something in between “Mon Coeur” and “Mon Amour“. My heart, or My love.

The dulled tingle of Grief awakes again now. I imagine how it must have been, 3 years ago. I imagine the shock, the disbelief.

Then plummeting into reality, crashing into the overwhelming truth and thinking that you did not sign up for this. This wasn’t meant to happen. It is a breach of all human laws and of all fairness, all decency — and the person you have known and loved all your life, the person you have not had time to cherish yet, is “no more”.

But what does “no more” mean when they have never existed more wholeheartedly for you than in that moment?

But I, 3 years ago, I was probably stressing out about an assignment. 3 years ago while she cried, I was probably binge-watching some show. The day she went to get her skin inked, I was probably lying in bed, quietly contemplating the meaning of my existence at unruly hours, my gaze shifting to the stars for guidance. It always baffles me how your world can change and turn on all its axes three times over in a day without it ever meaning anything to anyone else. To others, it’s just a regular Tuesday that will soon be lost in a sea of everydays, gasping for breath in the foam of memories and ultimately sinking into nothingness.

How strange a thing it is, to exist.

How much stranger it is to be when Grief claims you. When all of the sudden, there is all this love that has nowhere to go. All those ‘Be careful’s, ‘Have a good day’s and ‘See you tomorrow’s that have no place to be. So you keep them in, you close the lid. You close your eyes one day in the stuffed train and let the world be.

3 years is a lot of time for anything. But not for Grief.

 

 

Fear The Shallow Waters

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Art by: Ana Santos

You know, one of the greatest fears people have is that of depths. The depths of the sea, the depths of a deadly fall, the depths of despair.

But I, I am afraid of shallowness.

I drown in shallow waters, in the recesses of my own mind. Like a fish in a tank, I long for the ocean. I long for depth and breadth and dimensions that are limitless. I do not want to be self-contained, I want to bleed colours into the ocean and scatter golden scales wherever I go. I want to turn myself inside out and wear my darknesses and lights like a shirt I’d been wearing wrong my whole life.

I want to dive and jump and sink and get lost. I don’t mind dying if it means I get to live before I do.

But shallow living?

It is only one kind of death followed by another. First, the soul. Then, the body.

But when the soul is dead, what is there left but an empty box? A meat-coated skeleton, a hollow vessel that only echoes back what you throw at it?

Yes. I, I am afraid of shallowness. I fear blandness. I fear not darkness nor light, but this dull grey in-between, this murky puddle that is everyday life.

No such thing as “Bad Art”

“You cannot lie to Art. It demands every last piece of you, every bit of feeling, every last web of thoughts.”

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Art by KwangHo Shin

Have you ever had days when you feel like you regret everything? The past, the present. And if you try harder you might just regret the future too. Because everything you do is just wrong. At work, in relationships, in decision-making and—even in art. And that last one hurts. Because Art gives meaning to life. It makes life better, it kisses your wounds, comforts you when you feel nobody can see you, it speaks to your soul, it makes you feel when the world makes you numb. Art is the one friend who never lets you down. So it hurts to know that you can’t even do that right.

But that’s where I draw the line. There are no mistakes in Art, because our art is the reflection of our innermost selves, our art is our feelings. And how can a feeling be a mistake, how can a feeling be wrong, when it just is? The only way you can mess it up is when you hide. When you are scared of what you feel—when you try to repress it, it shows. You cannot lie to Art. It demands every last piece of you, every bit of feeling, every last web of thoughts.

And no, your art isn’t bad because you can’t draw the other eye. Your art isn’t bad because you can’t get the shading just right, or because the words on paper don’t flow like they do in your head. You’ll get better at that, don’t you worry your heart.

We need to be real, and true.
Then maybe the art will follow.