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.
Treat it for what it is. A minute real estate on your face with very little resale value for the next few weeks.
Why do we wear clothes?
Go ahead and google it. It’s amusing to see how the web manages to give relevant answers to questions like these.
We wear clothes for protection, for decoration and mostly to keep what’s private, private.
When Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit. they lost the glory of God that clothed them and they clothed themselves with leaves.
I sometimes wish I had clothes for other stuff. Like pimples and scars.
My skin has a thing for pimples. Despite my mother’s incessant instructions not to pop them, I still do it. And because of this habit I had trouble walking with my head held up high when I was in school. People sometimes don’t see how much pimples can affect someone. It was torture for me. My face used to shrink to the size of a small spot. Metaphorically, of course.
Here I was, a teenage kid with a lot of potential. I had everything going for me. I mean, I did struggle a bit during high school with academics (regardless of which I ended up at my dream university) but other than that, I was doing great. I loved meeting people and having a good conversation. The only thing that kept me from enjoying every single minute of my day most days was the number of pimples on my face. That’s sad.
You do get better at living with your pimples. It gets easier. But I didn’t want to live with them. If I was not responsible for them and they were going to be a part of my life regardless, I could not afford to let them be even the slightest of my worries.
I learnt, though at a very slow pace, that nobody actually cared about my pimples. At least not as much as I thought they did. I also learnt that sometimes not every part of who you are will serve your confidence and that you have to choose what to focus on.
Me being a born-again Christian, realised that it is in God that my value is found. It is his glory that now clothed me and made me who I was. That realisation helped me a lot.
You, dear reader, have to realise that I am talking about a problem that is nothing compared to the millions of problems that are out there. But it definitely is one. Which is why I thought I should talk about how hurtful it could be when you stare at somebody’s pimple or even point it out in public. Even when it seems like it’s no big deal.
Before I go, to all my friends with pimples: Really, it’s not a big deal. Don’t worry too much. Treat it for what it is. A minute real estate on your face with very little resale value for the next few weeks. If you really want to make a mountain out of it, call them volcanoes of purity or call yourself pompously pimplified. I hope that was not gross.
Anyway, if you’ve actually read till here, you deserve an award. Please claim my respect by saying a hi in the comments. Joking. You don’t have to do that. I love you all nevertheless.