In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions

Lego bricks, assorted, in an indigo blue container with a knob-like handle on the lid that makes it look like a teat. When you ask me about the house my father grew up in, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. It’s an image that doesn’t compete with any other: the winding roads that took us there, grandmother’s kaachimoru that I always wanted with my rice, the rubber sheets and hemispheres drying out in the sun, or the soft jasmine flowers that ended up in deathly garlands but grew back every morning like someone stuck in an abusive relationship. Among all the vibrant images of my dad’s place, the faded indigo container with yellowing lego bricks is what sticks out to me. So, I had to ask myself why.

I have a very peculiar relationship with my father’s ancestral home. To me, everything about it is fragile, like my dad’s lego bricks in the indigo container that are around 40 years old. The assorted collection was unfit for any ambitious project when I was a kid. The connectors had worn out and used to fall apart very easily. What I built with them was often of the most experimental nature. I should have known then that life was like that, that I’d always feel like I was dealt the wrong set of bricks. My imagination would be limited to, or rather free to be, a house without a roof or walls, with doors that broke easier than they opened.

My father and I are extremely different people. He’s always admired order and shunned chaos whereas I have always found beauty in the uncertain and unpredictable. It is, to me, the blessed curse of being an artist- a love for the unknown. The reward for my effortless recklessness has always been of a timeless quality, for no art has been washed in the blood that hasn’t come from the silence beyond. My father does not quite understand this, even though he wants to. This has made us unable to understand each other at a level that is required for his eventual death and my promised resurrection, the context for existence that every boy trying on his father’s shoes or shaving a beard that doesn’t exist believes he will one day receive. It is in the friction of this relationship between two unfortunate souls bound to each other that the ancestral home remains veiled. The fact that I was a kid who grew up extremely isolated from peers and popular culture in a milieu that made the language of innocence seem foreign and insipid on my tongue led to this inability to feel the earth of my ancestors even more painful.

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy spending two months in the summer every year with my grandparents. I feasted on Ammachi’s tasty food and played with my assorted collection of lego for hours. Time flew by in my bedroom on the second floor while I breathed life into all kinds of weird characters who lived in worlds that ended right outside the door, in houses that collapsed on top of them, and rooms that didn’t have walls. Downstairs, at the top of an old bookcase made from what looked like rosewood, my dad’s Lego projects were on display: vintage cars, airplanes, and helicopters, even an apollo 11 rocket model with a launchpad and all associated paraphernalia. It was so far from what I was capable of with my hand-me-down Lego bricks. My dad’s projects had an order and stability that was nothing like the chaos of the indigo container. They were a part of my dad I could not understand. I couldn’t even see them if I stood in front of the bookcase. I had to be a good distance away from them, at the top of a staircase on the opposite side of the room, at the very top where the first flight of stairs intersected the next. Only then could I peek over the handrails and observe that magnificent display of what “man” was capable of, a species that I would never feel like I was a part of. I was not allowed to take anything down because they were old and hard to put back together. Imagine what it would be like if archeologists were never allowed to get close to something they discovered, to use a delicate brush to remove the ossified remnants of time that eluded the mechanical arms of giant excavators and see the legacy of the species they belonged to; to caress the bronze and the iron and feel the warmth of warriors that had been trapped in pockets under their feet. If they are not denied the joy of feeling the liberated souls brush past them, the glory of the resurrection of the past, why was I? As far as I was concerned, I was stuck in a world with people I did not understand. My story lay buried in plain sight, waiting to be brought back to life. This was why I looked longingly at the bookcase, knowing even then that what has not been resurrected can never bring forth salvation.

There were many books in the bookcase. Glass panels separated the books, their true colour and smell, from the rest of the house. In a way, the transparent glass made the bookcase invisible. I’d never seen anyone open it or read any of the books inside. What I saw through the yellowing glass was nothing that could be part of the life of my father or my grandparents. It was nothing worth excavating. The entire house was filled with things that seemed invisible to my family and thus were enveloped in a sort of darkness. It was like the house was made up of the loose lego bricks in the indigo container. It remained so until I entered such fragile spaces by force, in febrile fashion without cicerone or candle, and threw myself into the abyss of my senses. Around the age of 12, I broke into the wooden bookcase. The glass panes were designed to move within grooves made by strips of iron that had been rusting away for years. I pushed, hesitated, then pushed again. There was a scream of glass on metal, a hollow scream that sounded like a drowning man gasping for air. And then it hit me, rushing into my nose and seeping into my skin. The smell was divine; aged papyrus mixed with the warmth of souls and rust. I felt it against my skin and in my nose and knew then, with great conviction, that what lay before me had always been a part of me and my family.

It is perhaps because the house was the site of such endless excavation, the resurrection of a past unlived, that the journey there was always synonymous with death. We lived in the city, in the heart of Kottayam. My father’s childhood home is a two-hour journey on winding roads, through forests and heavy rain, over hills and powerful rivers. Every time I step into the car to go there, I see my death on the road, ripped to shreds far away from the indigo container of assorted lego bricks. I’m guilty of having excused myself from visiting my grandparents a couple of times because the fear was too real for me to ignore. But as time passes by, like the edges of outer space recedes away from us every second and takes our past with it, the fire of the city will take the trees, the small shops and bumpy roads, the forest air and the winding roads, and leave nothing but barren land between me and my father’s house. It is for this reason that I decided to challenge death and visit my grandparents a few days ago. On the way there, I realised that so much had changed; tar and white paint had replaced the muddy roads, the forest was less dense, the river’s song had been drowned out by a dissonant chord of torpid trucks chugging to life, the houses had grown in size and show, and I had hair on my chin. The journey to my depths, the chaos in the indigo container and the unattainable order atop the bookcase, had always been one of mythical dimensions. Without the primordial cathedral of the forests with frescos of the naked sky on its canopy, and the raging waters of baptism that flow from the mountains of God, the overt prescience of nature that always preceded my rebirth was no longer on display. To uncover the part of me that remains hidden, the father who speaks in riddles, is no longer a response to nature. The geography has prepared itself for someone else; my son, perhaps. The thought released me from the ropes that tied me to my father and exposed the deep grooves on my bruised skin. It is finished. “I am a man now”, I said to myself on the way back home with the indigo container on my lap.

Wear The Future

Wear The Future (original artwork)

When I was a child, I always wanted clothes twice my size. I wanted clothes that were big enough for my parents, my heroes, for that person I was going to become in ten years. I never felt at home with peers. Me tugging on the shoulder of my XL shirt trying to pull the sleeve back up my arm was an expression of how hard it was to fit in with people my size. It wasn’t about wearing a blanket but about wearing the future, being part of a group that I understood. Now that I’ve grown into those shirts and grown taller and stronger than my parents, I stop and ask myself if I still want clothes twice my size. Yes, I do. Time has taught me that parents are much bigger than their clothes make them out to be, that heroes live in the smallest spaces, and that the future is more accessible today than it ever will be.

Meaningful Art

Original artwork

Hi again. I drew something today and I thought it’d be interesting to spend some time and gather my thoughts on a couple of things.

I won’t waste your time or mine by telling you how shitty my perspective on life is right now. There’s not much you can say that is going to help me or anything I can say that will do this post any good. Let’s just say it’s pretty bad at the moment.

If you’re one of the few people who read my posts, you’ve probably come across me using words like “the void” or phrases like “lonely barren land” in a lot of posts to talk about the space in which I create or think about creation. These spaces radiate an uncertainty of sorts. Words like uncharted, preserved, dangerous, etc. come to mind. But the artwork above is an abstract representation of the contrary. It is a representation of the known, which is made so through the consumption and creation of art.

I’ve often talked about how art, for me, is a way to dig deep into myself and find parts that would not surface on their own. While I don’t quite like phrases like “you are the universe”, especially since they’re used by people for the most ridiculous of reasons, I do believe that it is possible through deep reflection to use all sensation as a way to develop a powerful sense of self and to address that which often eludes basic observation.

I started creating artwork like the one above because their creation was driven by impulse more than anything else. I’d go in with the least amount of preparation possible. Sometimes I don’t even know what I want to say. I give in to every impulse. Contrary to what should result from something like that, which is something that would make absolutely no sense, I found that I was able to find the reason why I chose a certain colour or made a brushstroke after the fact. It was a very exciting discovery. Not only was I able to do this for individual pieces of artwork but I also found that there were consistencies across different pieces. I felt like I was very much in tune with myself to have tapped into something like this. I thought I was the first person in the world to have done it but then I found out about Abstract Expressionism and lots of other cool traditions that have theorized artistic creation as a similar exercise.

After creating every piece, I find more and more about this other person inside me, one who will only reveal himself to me in these brief moments of creation. Bit by bit, I am piecing together a reflection of myself in the quiet hours of the night when I’m alone and there is no need for conversation. I cast my net into the void and retrieve pieces of the broken mirror. It is quite a stimulating experience.

While creation of art is fulfilling in a way, it has not had any particular effect on how happy I am. As the days go by, I find myself stitching together a beautiful blanket from all that I consider human, things that I have found within myself, perspectives on the human condition that I have used to create a map of meaning and life. All I want to do is wrap it around me when the storms pass me by. But I can’t.

Why?

Why isn’t this beautiful journey enough for me? Can only people comfort me, keep me warm, and lend an ear?

I have come to hate people. They are cruel and I have found none who truly understand me. I am utterly alone here. Why isn’t art enough for me? It’s all I have. Maybe I still have God. But I don’t have the words to make that bring forth any sense. Maybe I will one day but right now I don’t.

Meaningful art has made my life beautiful. It has been the strongest force in the dark, in the bitter moments of loneliness when people have failed me without fail. It has given me context when people confused me. You see, art can take two things that are virtually unrelated, put them together in a certain way, and help you find safe haven in what might otherwise seem like a corrupt blend. This is why art can uncover the most elusive parts of human nature. That’s what makes it meaningful. It turns artists into cartographers of the human soul. And for this very reason, it hurts that I am not comfortable in my isolation. I need people who understand me and this need, I think, is not fitting for what I want to do in life. My struggle to get to a place where I don’t need people anymore, where I can be at peace in isolation, is slowly killing me. It has become so to the extent where I quite dislike waking up.

I will stop now. Abruptly. But I think this is enough for now.

Fish At The Park

Fish 1: Yo, why you looking at me?? You’re staring. It’s not polite

Fish 2: Yo, you’re looking at me. Plus, you know I can’t blink. Staring is all I do

Fish 1: It’s not like I choose to look at you, dude. My eyes are on the right when I’m sitting down on my comfortable side.

Fish 2: I have very similar reasons

Fish 1: I see. Fair enough.

Things are Falling Apart

Original artwork superimposed over a random hourglass image from Google.

I was born in 2000, the year that marked a new beginning.

2000 was also the year at the wide end of the gyre; when things were supposed to fall apart.

Maybe they did.

I don’t particularly like my life. I have a roof over my head, good food, and people who (I think) care about me. But I hate my life. It’s going nowhere. I’m paralysed. This place is to me what Dublin was to Joyce. The difference is that I can’t leave. The fact that I’m the person standing in the way of me leaving doesn’t make it any better.

A few posts ago, I wrote about how it feels like there’s a storm trying to suck me into the narrow middle of an hourglass and how in that horrible place I can choose whether or not to stop the sand from falling(https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/08/04/why-i-even-try/ ). I was talking about not wanting to live. I don’t think anybody got that. Well, nobody really understands anything I say most of the time. To stop the sand is to stop time. At a deeper level, it is to destroy unity.

The hourglass has a form that has great significance in history. Two triangles meeting at their vertices. It is a symbol that appears in so many cultures. Here’s a link to a page that lists a few: https://hillerdrygoods.com/blogs/news/the-leone-blanket-story

Wherever it appears and in whatever form, this symbol always has something to do with unity, balance, and the like. Being stuck in the middle of an hourglass is about the disruption of balance and unity for me; when things get so dark that you are able to see how time could potentially stop. It was about things falling apart.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

-The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats

If you go through Yeats’s notes, you’ll find all kinds of diagrams with gyres intersecting at all kinds of angles. One such illustration that is often referenced in the analysis of ‘The Second Coming’ is an illustration of two intersecting gyres. Read more about it here: https://yeatsvision.com/geometry.html

In the context of the poem, the gyre could be seen as representing a period of 2000 years. Yeats believed that at the end of every 2000 years, at the wide end of a gyre, there would be a drastic change. One system would fall and another would rise (the origin of the new being the narrow end of the gyre). In the poem mentioned above, Yeats anticipates things falling apart. Right after the First World War, with the end of the millennium fast approaching, Yeats asks the question of what lays ahead for man. He is not naively optimistic about the future. He asks the question and he does not expect the answer to be pleasant.

When I look at the hourglass, I’m reminded of the intersecting gyres. I was born in 2000. Whether or not what Yeats says/believes in/concocted has any validity, I don’t particularly like the new beast. Confusion and panic reign and I’m a part of it. In a way, it is through me that it has become part of reality. I hate that.

I feel grounded in time only when I’m the author; when I create. That’s the other thing about the hourglass symbol. Two triangles meeting at their vertices looks like two mountains meeting at their tips.

My last post was about how mountains signify clarity and authorship for me.

The mountaintop is where you experience the satisfaction of feeling like the author- the person who knows what’s on the next page. The author is the one who knows what the book is really about. In the experience of that entity is where God meets man. The Sermon on the Mount, The Fire Sermon, Mount Sinai, Mount Carmel, Pisgah, Mount Moria, Mount of Olives, Mount of Transfiguration, Golgotha…the list of mountains that have great religious and mystical significance is endless. Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, is where the 12 gods live according to myth. In fact, in The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway, which I talked about in one of my earlier posts ( https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/07/10/obsessed-with-loss-of-potential-jpg/ ), the Kilimanjaro , which like the Olympus is the highest mountain in Africa has a western summit which in Masai is called “the House of God”. In the post I explain how the mountaintop has a lot to do with perspective, potential, and perfection of the artist. The Snows of Kilimanjaro is about a writer. That really makes it worth mentioning in this post. To look at the hourglass symbol and see two mountains joined at their tips is not that crazy. It makes sense to me.

What is interesting is that I am not denied authorship in the narrow middle of the hourglass. In fact, I think this is where it is the most potent. However, this is also where I can truly hurt myself. End things. As I mentioned in many previous posts, it is the void in which I burn. ‘Void’ because that is what experiencing uncharted territory feels like most of the time- reduction. Searching for meaning in the void is scary. Once in a while, you find/experience something that makes sense but the joy is fleeting. It changes you, moulds you, and motivates you but the journey breaks you. You’re flailing around in something incredibly vast and tangibly transparent. Yes, darkness is transparent. I say that because most people would associate darkness with opacity, not being able to move etc. The void is different. That’s what makes it scary.

And I am afraid; terribly so.

On Sublimity

For our soul is raised out of nature through the truly sublime, sways with high spirits, and is filled with proud joy, as if itself had created what it hears.

Longinus

Feel/processing the idea of who I am and what the ‘other’ is is something I try to do with a great deal of honesty. It makes for sublime moments of satisfaction and shameful moments of self-hate.

I don’t think I’m guilty of locking away parts of myself because I am too afraid see myself for who I am. I might not let everyone else see all parts of me but I see them all. I see myself and allow myself to hate who I am. It is painful but the alternative is not an option. The only solution is to learn to love myself. And I am learning…

In allowing myself to be vulnerable in the way I see myself and perceive art, I have had what I will claim to be sublime moments. What are sublime moments? Let’s just say it’s like glimpsing infinity for a moment and being utterly in awe by how much of it your mind was able to handle.

To feel the intensity of an epiphany or any form of sublimity is to be stretched and bent to the point where the irregularities which lay hidden in the shrunken folds of your everyday life become visible and obvious. In your attempt to behold everything in all its detail, you experience sublimity. When I’m listening/watching/or reading something that facilitates a sublime experience, I am made aware of an ability to feel/ attempt to feel that seems incongruous with how small and fragile my physical body is. If you take a rubber band and make a dot on it with a marker and then stretch it, the dot becomes an irregular line. That’s what is required of you to experience sublimity. As you stretch, test the limits of your ability to behold, you experience a vastness that surprises you and a resolution that matures you. You don’t need to understand what you see. The joy is in how much you stretch, how much you strain to enter uncharted territory

“Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless, so that the mind in the presence of the sublime, attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the failure but pleasure in contemplating the immensity of the attempt”

Immanuel Kant

Last year, I spent quite a lot of time watching Grey’s Anatomy. I was fascinated by all the medical terms and techniques. Around that time, and even now, whenever I’m listening to a song that moves me or a particularly powerful scene in a movie, for an instant I see a vision of my chest being ripped open and a hand reaching in and pumping my heart. When it happened for the first time, I was confused. It’s such a bizarre image. But I knew it meant something and in contemplation I found the reason to be obvious. In GA, there were many times when a patient’s heart would stop mid-surgery (or something else happens. I’m not sure because I’m not a doctor) and the surgeon would manually massage/pump the heart. It’s a very powerful image. The hand reaches into the chest and cradles the heart. It’s scary. Maybe that’s why I found it be akin to the experience of intensity that comes from being able surrender to the moment, a freedom to enjoy the epiphany brought about only by the exercise of vulnerability in thought. By some cosmic grace, I was able to behold with a brutal honesty the stretching of a self shrunken by the vanity of life. It is grace because it is given to me. Many things, be it the surroundings, the music I’m listening to or a work of art by somebody, they all come together to demand an attempt to try and touch what is beyond, an attempt that would test my limits and thus provide me with a sublime experience. The patient lies on the table, powerless. The hand has to reach into the chest and make life possible.

But like I mentioned before, a hand pumping a heart is a scary image. There’s blood everywhere and you are constantly reminded that anything could go wrong. Sometimes when I let myself go and feel/think, it ends up with me in a very dark place, a place where I hate myself and fear the future. It feels like imploding. Not too long ago, I had what I think was a panic attack. It felt like I was falling into myself forever and there was no way to escape, to make it all stop. Sometimes that’s where I end up when I allow my mind to be vulnerable

But even in all the darkness, there is an awe of newfound depth of experience. Monsters may not be beautiful but they can be sublime. To feel myself being stretched to the limit, bent to the point of breaking as I try to understand what the darkness is excites me even when it brings me pain. As the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.

I do not quite understand what it all means yet. But I feel like I’m onto something big.

If you look at the painting I made for this post (at the beginning of the post), you’ll see how the person is on his knees with his back bent backwards. That’s a posture I identify with the experience of epiphany. It’s a picture of surrender that is not inspired by fear or reverence but by a lack of it. To bend down with your face to the ground can also lead to an intense experience. There is definitely an experience of freedom and sublimity in reverence and submission. But that’s a topic for another day.

If you’ve read my post ‘Obsessed with loss of potential.jpg’ (https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/07/10/obsessed-with-loss-of-potential-jpg/), you’ve prolly seen this painting.

In the above slideshow, you can see the entire painting and also the part of it I want to mention here. In the 1st slide, you’ll see how the character has the same posture as the person in the painting at the top of this post. Back bent backwards. This painting however, is less dark/depressing than the one at the top. The latter is what the imploding I mentioned earlier feels like. It’s painful, dark, and scary. But the fact that this dark tornado of depressing thoughts came from me is something that intrigues me. In this, such experiences are sometimes sublime. On a completely different note, how funny is it that I find yellow be a very depressing colour??

I don’t know if you’re still reading. To be honest, this is more for me than it is for you. I write because I need to make sense of all the thoughts that plague me. I’m sorry if I haven’t made things simpler. These posts are written in one sitting and usually when I’m sleep-deprived and tired. I rarely edit. I just want to get my thoughts out there. To do anything more is something I don’t have strength for at the moment.

I care about all of you as a blogger, in a way that is made possible by the sheer humanity that is on display on this platform.

Cheers!