Sucked into the narrow middle at the last hour, the horizon where we will meet, surrounded by death, with one foot in the door to infinity. The sand will fall through into dead space and if we join hands and hold them out into the void, the dirt of our grave will graze our pale skin. There, you will hand me the pen and I will write on the door, frantically scribble the only things that matter, poems for those who come after, who dare to see death within the face. Creak, creak goes the hinge, grace our shoes with crusted paint that falls but never fell. There is no time at the door to infinity, in the middle of the glass that contains the hour.
Cold morning showers after staying up all night depressed and anxious are quite an experience. I hop into the icy stream every morning. Shivering, my bloodshot eyes staring at the square patterns on the bathroom tiles, I go through a playlist of Argentine tango tunes. Everything is so angular; responsible and ready to take on life. I’m not. I’m a coward shivering in the darkness, showering with an open door because I like light without the source. My mind is racing at a speed I’ve probably tried to figure out five times just in the last ten seconds. I’m confused, divided, in a bathroom that’s got its shit together.
Every pain is a new day. It washes itself in Lethe and comes to me in twilight wearing the clothes of yesterday. Like a baby, it falls into my arms, wraps its hand around my finger and squeezes it until white starts to show. And I…ah…I squirm like a boy because I can’t father it. And yet, peace is with me; in the way it drools, twitches and turns, in how its eyes never look at the same things I do because it has no notion of betrayal or death. It will never question my arms. It looks at me and for a vicarious moment, the world becomes my oyster. I sigh, reassured.
This piece is about how pain feels new every time. It’s so easy for me to find security in this self-destructive low that I’m going through by devaluing life and finding peace in not caring about my existence here.
This is so because it brings me down to a place where all the lights go out and I’m allowed to be truly myself, or rather forced to be so. My pain gives me the luxury of not caring about anything else. I don’t have to worry about what people are going to think of me if I am who I really am because life’s not that great anyway. And in facilitating this perspective, the dark thoughts become my greatest ally as an artist.
This piece is basically about how I’m like the father before I allow myself to feel the pain and how I turn into the baby after I do. And I always choose to feel. Because just like a baby inspires a father through an effortless expression of near-perfect isolation from all that is so wrong about this world, my painful self like a babe in “yesterday’s clothes” reminds me that if I allow myself to feel pain, I can get to a place where I only need to be seen and not complimented, where I can be myself without worrying about what other people are going to think. It enhances the need to express and brings out the artist in me. It gives me purpose and peace. That’s why I never hold back. I feel it all.
Pain/ my painful self will torture me, make me create things that are honest to my experience, and then it bathes in Lethe and forgets all about what it did to me. The creation of art is where that baptism takes place. That’s what puts the face of a babe on pain. I’ve always said that the art I make does not necessarily heal me, that it solely arises out of a necessity to express. Maybe it does heal. Maybe it’s just that I go through the cycle way too fast. This could be because of many reasons. Like how little rational thought is involved in these escapades down rabbit holes that lead straight into hell or the abundance of new associations and pathways that I create every day, new ways to get to the same bottomless pit. Same liver, new eagles.
I live on the first floor of a giant apartment. But if I go stand outside the gate and look at it, I feel like I live at the very top. I like that. I like that my apartment does not end where I live. I like that the idea of where I live is full of rooms and spaces that I have never been in. I’ve never felt that way about the city I live in. I see it spread out like a soggy blanket from the terrace of my giant apartment and I know I hate it with a passion. Maybe it’s because I hate this city that I like my apartment so much. It looks like a hoe that a farmer stuck into a piece of stubborn land that he’s fucking done trying to till. It’s a giant block of concrete that’s trying to reach for the sky and get as far away as it can from this lukewarm city. Just like me. So, I sit in my room on the first floor of my giant apartment, press my face against the window grill, and look out. WE LOOK OUT, DAMMIT. We feel it, the fire burning our atriums to a crisp. We feel the wind swirling around in our basements, pushing against our doors and making our bodies shake. It’s like the lightning that hits before the thunder, the crack in our walls. We are together in this.
Today was yet another miserable day. However, there was a bit of comfort in the evening. I had run out of things to distract myself with so I picked up my guitar for the second time today and tried to come up with a few ideas. I did come up with a few but they were nothing special, nothing that could captivate me and keep me distracted long enough. So, they broke through, all those horrible thoughts. Then, out of nowhere, I found myself playing an old hymn that I’d listened to so many times at church. It’s a hymn written in my mother tongue so you probably wouldn’t know it. I was playing the tune on the D string of my guitar, just the D string. My fingers moved very slow, adding a delicate vibrato as if they lay heavy on the string. A peace washed over me, something I had not felt in such a long time. I kept going for another 30 minutes or so, playing this effortless tune again and again on my guitar. Somewhere along the way, my fingers had taken a life of their own. I was no longer thinking about what I was playing. There was no commanding. The rest of the world opened before me; time split and dispersed into a million moments of rain-like seeds that hung in the air and grazed against me. I could hear the low incessant hum of my amplifier, the gloss of my guitar straining against the cotton of my shorts. The cars on the street were parked on the windows of my room and all the light that was left in twilight sneaked in just for me. I felt it all.
For the past few years, a significant portion of my depression and anxiety can be attributed to my crisis of faith. I’d grown up loving all that was spiritual. I did more than the average kid to find God. Having all of that taken right from under me left me falling into a bright abyss. I don’t know if what I felt today was God in my room or the glimpse of a simpler time. Whatever it was, I’m grateful.
I know this is a very depressing blog. Very few people even read it these days. But right now, in this moment, I am able to comfort you too, even though I know that this moment will not last long.
About the artwork:
I drew this listening to the hymn and thinking about what that moment was like. By the time I was drawing it, the feeling had sort of watered down to a memory of perspective. So the colours ended up being the usual ones which I use. Something cool about it is how if you look just the lines, you can make out an eye, a nose, and ear of a face. But if you look at the colours also, you start to see how they divide the lines into two faces.
I’m sure most people like to read poetry and derive their own meaning from it. However, since this blog is a way for me to record my journey, I will add the inspiration behind these lines.
Today was extremely hard. I felt such hate for myself that I hit myself pretty hard quite a few times. Somewhere in the middle of it all, there was a pause when my eyes and mouth were open in a similar fashion. I was crying and tears were welling up and making their way down. My mouth was also filled with saliva because when you’re crying with your mouth as well, you don’t really get time to swallow. The sudden realization that my eyes and mouth were associated in the way they were open and filled with bodily fluid amused me. I paused and for a moment it felt like my entire body and the world itself was open and filled with bodily fluid. In feeling this overwhelming sense of oneness, the pause became a photograph of sorts. Anyway, in that pause, I felt a beautiful calm. For a moment, I was not myself but some other person who was able to see all 21 years of my life on this planet. It was okay. Everything was going to be alright. I went back to beating myself up after the pause but it was powerful enough for me to sit down and draw what I felt out on paper between sobs.
I’ve noticed that for a few months now, the future doesn’t exist and the past keeps blurring into the background. They are unable to provide me with a reason to hope or to try. The present is all there is and it is filled with self-hate and gloom. These moments where the artist in me breaks out and draws over my body and soul are the only moments where this anomaly in the perception of the temporal isn’t pronounced.
In the poem, I’m asking myself if my work as an artist and a student of life (sweat) will ever flow along with the pain I’m going through. I’m asking this because I’m afraid that if I don’t learn to do that well enough, it will destroy me (wrinkles) physically and mentally.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house
The void is comforting; it takes away all points of reference. Imperfections are powerless in the edgeless, cornerless space that I call loneliness. Here, in the darkest period of my life, I remain a candle that rejects the gravitas of the candlestick for the blissful ignorance in the dusty nothingness under the bed where monsters sleep.
I burn here
I burn in red and yellow, like a fire.
Yellow is the tears; yellow is the sunrise; yellow is the reach and the contrast; yellow is the depression.
Red, my love, is Raskolnikov; Red is blood rushing into the brain with a vengeance; Red is the confidence that shrouds confusion; Red is the panic and the pain, the push that never pulls back.
I…I burn in these.
I try because I know this. I try because I seek the corners; reproach without the embrace. I have crushed the mustard seed and I have seen the faith. I try because in the void nothing can protect me from myself. By skinning myself and showing you that I bleed, I find a branch to hold on to as the storm tries to suck me back into that narrow middle of the hourglass where everything stops but hate prevails. I know I can stop them, I can stop the sand. But I don’t want to.
Your art makes the clock run faster and longer. Time goes faster in the museum; time goes faster on Instagram. It goes too fast for me. Yes, your art makes me feel happy, excited even. But it never grounds me. Your art has never worn my colours and I doubt it ever will. I am alone in this.
The only way to ground myself is to dig in, into myself.
My entire life has been an exercise in running towards the tunnel at the end of the light, an obsession with running away from anything that has the potential to create true human connection. Darkness embodies an emptiness for me that does not need to be filled. The void doesn’t threaten or judge; it allows me to be myself. In the acceptance of loneliness, I have the opportunity to be a part of this world at the low price of being an actor. It is in service of this necessary role that I have perfected the art of walking into a room and becoming whoever I need to be to protect myself. I have concluded that at the heart of this horrid practice is the belief that no one can ever truly understand me.
– from an entry in March 2021
I wrote this a few months ago when I was in a very dark place. Although the epiphanies that I had during this time were capable of leaving a mark on my mind, I recall them as having risen out of a mental state that was prone to self-hate. I look back on this period in my life as one of transformation. This is very odd as it happened only a few months ago. Usually, it takes a person years to look back on a period in his/her life and say that it had a transformative effect on them. Maybe, the pandemic and the small room I spent the last 12 months in probably has something to do with this unusual maturation of thought.
Before we start, I must say that I was hesitant to share the above passage, which has been taken from a longer piece I wrote; not because it is a personal piece but because I cringe at how my mind was reduced to a sponge that absorbed everything and anything to the point where I was falling down a bottomless pit of hopelessness and anxiety. I cringe not because I am ashamed but because I had no understanding of how fragile my mind really was.
When Keats said, “the only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing, to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts”, I should have given him a piece of my mind. LOL. Just kidding. Of course, we are not talking about Negative Capability here although I do believe that I have developed a similar capacity over the past year and it possibly had something to do with what I will be talking about in this post.
The past twelve months of lockdown has been like pushing a giant rock up a mountain, as in the Sisyphus myth. A few months ago, I finally reached the top. When the blissful distraction of hard work and focus had left me and the pain of self-hate threatened to consume me, my eyes searched for a glimpse of the promised land but I was disappointed. What I saw instead was the infinite regress of my own insecurity. I feared death, loneliness, the loss of potential and the uncertain future. The rock had by then rolled down leaving me with the crippling knowledge that pushing it up again was probably not going to change what I had just seen. In a moment like no other in my blip of a past, I felt panic. In that moment, I wondered what Moses felt atop Pisgah as his eyes saw the Promised land and he heard the certainty of death in the valley.
The challenges of being a college student in the middle of a pandemic, my isolation from the religious community, and my frequent and reckless introspection had all led me to a place where I found myself drifting away from God, my family, and the rest of the world. I didn’t know what to believe. The pain of having everything you believed in shaken and taken out from under you is extremely confusing and painful. I felt more vulnerable than I ever did in my entire life.
But with time, music, the love of my family and a few friends (I’ve learnt I don’t have many), and the indescribable power of the God I truly want to believe in, I found myself slowly making it out of the darkness. I had finally realized that while darkness covers my imperfections, it cannot protect me from myself. I need people, I need God. I don’t know what that means yet but I have the courage to search. This, I know.
I thought twice about posting this because I did not want to add to the darkness in the world. The passage and the artwork are both very disturbing. However, I am sharing it because I have resurfaced, found land, and started on a journey that I believe will be a fruitful and adventurous one. If you’re still reading this, I thank you for caring. I would really appreciate your company in the comments section. Be well.
Drew this today. There’s a lot of stuff going on here but I’ll try my best to explain everything.
On the left side of this art piece(not sure what this is but let’s say this is a painting) are references to one of my favourite short stories- The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway. Before he goes into the story, Hemingway tells the reader about a leopard found frozen at the top of Kilimanjaro:
Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai “Ngaje Ngai,” the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
As we read the story, we come across a writer who goes through his life waiting for the right moment to write about the things he cares about. He goes on a trip, wounds his leg and gangrene sets in. As he finds himself closer to death than he ever was, he looks back at the many times when he chose not to write because the time wasn’t right. He was obsessed with death and the loss of his potential as a writer, a loss that would result from anything short of perfect creation.
At first, I thought I was reading about a failed writer. I thought Hemingway was telling a precautionary tale about what happens to artists when they choose to find satisfaction in a fantastical image of themselves they create in their heads based on how much unrealized potential they think they have. It felt like a warning to those who reject the responsibility of adulthood for the childish pleasure of being satisfied with believing you ‘can’ and ‘will’ as opposed to realising potential by ‘doing’.
However, when I came to the end of the short story, I was surprised. Naturally, an artist who wasted his talent and fell prey to such a criminal fear should be made to stare death in the face and breathe his last in regret. To face the reality of who one is and not hide behind the possibility of what one can be is a crucial step in artistic expression. Without the courage to do this, our world will never be able to elevate the experience of life to art. But Hemingway does not allow the artist to die like this. In fact, it is unsure whether the writer even feels regret. He seems relieved that he will never know if he had it in him. He realizes that he never failed because he never tried. In the story, the artist dies in his sleep, dreaming of being rescued by a plane and setting off in the direction of Kilimanjaro.
It seems to me that the leopard frozen atop Kilimanjaro stands for all those who struggle with the fear of losing potential or creating something that does not do justice to the unique view of life they have. As artists, we feel responsible for our perspective on life. We often believe that without us the world will not come to know of the miscellaneous ways in which life can become sublime. We are important and that is why we create with the intend to share. We matter. It is our struggle to make our perspective perfectly tangible for others that leads us to the top of Kilimanjaro, to the House of God where perfection can be realised. But we get there as mortals and we often end up taking our best ideas to the grave because of our dedication to perfection. However, I believe that Hemingway found peace in that our potential is frozen in time like the leopard. It is tragic that the world will never know the best of what we see but there is some consolation in that our quest to find perfection ends in the eternal preservation of something that is not tainted by failures in an imperfect world. Potential is not utilized but nevertheless preserved as far as the artist is considered. The pain of an artist who is forced to question his ability can be brutal. In the tragic story of unrealized potential, there is some beauty in the ignoble escape of reality. Sad? Yes. But I can’t help but find peace in it.
I’ve always believed that I see life in a way no one else can. At the heart of this belief is probably a pernicious self-obsession and mild case of narcissism. That said, this belief makes me feel responsible for doing my best to create art that perfectly encapsulates my perspective on life. Every time I feel like I’ve failed to meet the impossible standards I’ve set for myself, I find myself breaking down, my image of myself as an artist with valuable perspective shatters into a million pieces when the thought that I might not have any potential after all hits me like a ton of bricks. The pain is often unbearable. It has led me to have diaries full of ideas that I have done nothing about because I’m waiting for the right moment. I am responsible for my art and I am ready to give it my all. But if I give it my all and that which I can’t control makes all my efforts futile, then I will die. The portrait of the artist in my head will die. I won’t blame the world. I’ll blame myself. I will blame myself because it is easier to do than to believe the world is messed up. Because then there is no way for me to redeem myself.
To embrace life is to recognize pain. And to recognize is to feel as one has to feel first to recognize. I might be afraid to feel
So yes, the leopard, the ice cubes at the bottom, the dialogue bubble with “if only” in it are all references to The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Notice how the leopard’s face kinda looks like that of a human, especially the nose.
The main focus in the painting is a big grey object with a hand sticking out of it. I value my hands very much. I’m a musician and my hands are something I use to enter a world where I understand things better. When I was in high school and even while I was in college, I had this haunting fear that something would happen to my hands and I won’t be able to realise my dream of being a first-class musician. When I got strain injuries in my fingers a few years ago and when I recently developed a ganglion cyst in the middle finger of my left hand, it scared me to bits. A hand sticking out of a huge metallic brace of sorts reminds me of this fear. Plus, it also hints at how our limbs, while still containing some divine magic instilled in them by our creator are now being replaced by larger-than-life robotic and technological developments. Today, someone can create a guitar solo, albeit tasteless(in my opinion), on a computer. That freaks me out. So yeah, that’s why there’s a huge grey arm in the painting.
At the bottom, somewhere in the middle, are two people with arrows pointing in opposite directions. On one end of the painting is a brick red spade and on the other is the leopard from Hemingway’s short story. The two people are two versions of me. On some days, I find the leopard attractive. I just want to not try and feel worth it. The fact that the arrow pointing to the leopard is held by a guy who’s lying down and in a posture that is reminiscent of a baby drives the point home. As mentioned before, it’s easy to be a child and paint yourself as somebody who ‘can’ and not as somebody who ‘does’. But on other days, I want to be brick-red; efficient and productive. Brick-red encapsulates such ideas for me. But getting there is harder because there’s a wall in the way, a brick-red wall. Being aware of what productivity is is in itself a hinderance to productivity. That’s because I’m so insecure. Haha, yes. I know I am. It is very easy for my pursuit to become all about productivity and not about the thing I should be productive in. Funny.
Then there’s the word ‘crash’ in big font on the upper right corner of the painting. This is because I often feel like I’m crashing into myself when I start to panic about these things. The yellow in the background and the yellow of the sad leopard also stands for depression. I find dim or dark yellows with a bit of red in them accurately represents what depression feels like to me.
Alright then, I think I’ve explained everything. If you’re still reading, I appreciate you very much. Please do say hi in the comments. Having random conversations on my blog is always a highlight for me. I love you all very much.
The nib’s broken on paper It’s on record There’s no taper Printers cried and bookmarks fell off the shelf Libraries shut down.
And I Never let me speak to the crowds x 2
I drew on my face But they just couldn’t understand These things are too deep. So next time when I write Wake me up inside I’d love to listen.
And I ….. Will let you speak to my crowds x2
This is a song I wrote about creative blocks and how hard it is sometimes to feel responsible for your art. I’ll be writing a post soon about creative blocks and the depression that artists often go through. I’ve been depressed for more than a year now and I’m struggling very much with it. A few months ago, I read Hemingway’s Snows of Kilimanjaro and found myself exploring the mind of the artist. I’m planning on writing about my epiphanies on how the artist’s mind works in an effort to work through my own depression and find others who are also going through something similar. I thought posting this song I wrote about a year ago would be a great way to start things off. I have more songs that I’ve written on the topic and will be sharing them here soon. Looking forward to great discussions. As always, (try to) have a great blast existing.