It doesn’t happen often but a few days ago I felt self conscious. I got both comments and likes from bloggers that write some great stuff. Pf course this happened after I compared Lindsay Lohan’s vagina to the seeming cuddly innocuous cuddly pet called mogwai from the movie Gremlins because I asserted that when it (the gaping shotgun bullet hole between her legs) gets wet and fed like the Mogwai it transforms into a scaly evil looking reptile with sharp teeth that destroy the lives of men everywhere.
I realize that sometimes there is a huge disparity in content and I am surprised I have any followers at all. My writings recently have been filled with diarrhea references, dick jokes and semiotic post modern interpretations of the institutions of debt and credit, and excessive amounts of sarcasm. I like to fool myself into thinking that everyone is like this. So thanks to all of you who follow and don’t complain when I go places I should not and say things that if I could behave and fall in line I wouldn’t.
Restlessness. It has been the defining feature of my life thus far. I am restless and I don’t have any way to appease it. It is a different kind of restlessness, it’s other than the one we know so well as we are constantly being inundated by a streams of information, images, and sadly propaganda too.
This restlessness comes with this a sense of adventure and a need to frequently retire from my both my daily responsibilities and activities that supposedly according to the newspapers and teachers of the world give our life meaning. I was 15 when I found myself on a plane comes ever closer to tomorrow, to that place where whatever distinction between space and time is completely lost. I was traveling to India, a 22 hour flight ten and half hours away into the future. I had left NYC, my parents, my sister and the life I knew behind in the ever encroaching night fast at my heels as we inched closer and closer to the horizon. Normally ever second of our lives we are hurtling towards tomorrow at neck-breaking speeds completely unaware, but being in airplane cruising above the clouds at speeds upward of 500 mph made it all real, the past we leave behind, the present we hide from, and the future we welcome with caution.
Today, or should I say this day, though I was not on a plane. I was back in NYC. I don’t mean to imply that I stayed away for that long, but rather I had a moment where while rushing to my destination, dodging the tourist, bike messengers and clueless pedestrians there was a brief moment where I situated myself in the present. I realized I was in NYC, on my own with some grey hairs and the ever present restlessness, running towards something that I felt could give me a moment of peace.
It’s an arrogant assumption that there is peace worthy of being found in this life or any life really. But I am a Westerner at the end of the day over-indulgent meals and apparent social mobility aside, the defining feature of my thinking up to this time was this belief that there was something to be found, a kind of salve which could help me sleep at night again. Religion aside, there is a guilt that comes with being alive and aware of it. On the one hand, while that awareness is a spokesperson for our mortality it’s also an advocate for the possibility that there is some way that we can transcend all this, pain and suffering and loss and some how the conflict between mortality and transcendence expresses itself as guilt for me.
That’s how I saw it at least.
I’m a block away from my destination and not all the details have sunk in yet. I knock gently on a door and I am ushered into a room where there are many people sitting in deep thought or contemplation what ever those terms mean. There is a gentle rhythm playing in the air made from instruments that I have no names for. They (the instruments) are so foreign I could even imagine a name for them. I am ushered to a spot on a wondrously thick carpet and just left to myself next to this guy looking far out into what I cannot say which is unsettling not being able to say what a thing is that’s unsettling to me. I am offered tea with sugar cubes and something sweet to eat.
I drink my tea and for starters it is in a glass. I drink it in silence, no one makes any eye contact, no one says hello and probably because I had been so used to imagining a world from the promptings of the written word I recalled a scene from the Odyssey namely Odysseus ’s meeting with the Lotus eaters.
For nine days the winds had not been good to Odysseus. On the tenth day he landed on an island the land or should I say the domain of the Lotus-eaters, who got their daily sustenance from a good that came from a flower, supposedly the lotus flower if I remember correctly. Curiosity got the best of Odysseus crew and they wanted to see the manner and disposition of the people on who’s kingdom they had landed. The lotus eaters were a friendly bunch and in keeping with their apparent friendliness gave some members of the crew some of the lotus to eat which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home.
There is that air to the room here that I am in the presence of people who have completely left behind the memory of themselves and of the past of the future and who are free in a way that is unintelligible to the average person living a life of quiet despair, chained to hope of making and having more. They seemed free in a way that was unintelligible to me and maybe looking back on that visit in particular maybe that was what I came to confront – that every widening moment I knew nothing about that was creeping in on the horizon in many ways like my first flight to the subcontinent. I started to think, to imagine that from that fateful trip I could plot out all the moments where something significant happened to me to bring me to this moment. There was the endless train of failed relationships extremely intense but always short-lived,not to mention the listless houses who’s floors I slept on and the shitty train rides to and from a dozen places that employed me.
And while I could come up with more events now I would be doing the same thing now that I was then: trying to juxtapose onto the events of my life an order, a rhythm effectively a plot,… not that there is anything wrong with that just that I’m not sure if living works like that, if it is linear, if there is a message moment to moment that follows some nefarious (nefarious because it is unknowable) dictate. Meanwhile lost in the silence, and enjoying the lingering taste of rose flower water from the tea that I had drank before, it seemed like hours or maybe days had passed from when I first got the tea to now. I must have been so lost in thought I didn’t know when the tea glass and mini saucer were removed, and before I could inquire further the lights were dimmed and a from somewhere in the dark a poem was sung in a language I didn’t know – even if I could hear and recognize that same language it would never have the same sound, the same tonality or finally the quality of silence that permeated it that day.
An old man accompanied by various instruments sang a poem in a way that opened up for me what poetry is and if your curious to know poetry isn’t the words, seductive assonance or linguistic games, poetry is entering a moment, and perhaps the moment (capital ‘the’). The words are just there to obscure what’s happening or maybe what’s not happening.
I never asked what the song was or what the words were or for a translation. After I became aware that the lights were on, and it was ok for me to leave I left and haven’t been back since. But I was brought back to the whole experience when I read the following words from one of the books in the makeshift pile of books that litter the living room floor.For hundreds of thousands of years I have been dustgrainsfloating and flying in the will of the air,often forgetting ever beingin that state, but in sleepI migrate back. I spring loosefrom the four-branched, time-and-space cross,this waiting room.I walk out into a huge pasture.I nurse the milk of millenia.Everyone does this in different ways.Knowing that conscious decisionsand personal memoryare much too small a place to live,every human being streams at nightinto the loving nowhere, or during the day,in some absorbing work.____________________
The lifetime of restlessness, the flying into the horizon on Air India, the music, rose flower water, crazy girls, sad jobs, the hard floors slept on – all dust grains floating in the air above the fecund (for now at least) field that is living, no rhyme, no reason, no plot. nothing except maybe these words to cloth the mystery smiling at us in the silence.