Saturday, August 10, 2013

Shifting Sands

"You want to give him the book of his own life, the book that will locate him, parent him, arm him for the changes." -Michael Cunningham

It was the most painful moment of his life. The legs felt trembling from cold sweat as he attempted to continue the conversation and not pass out from the intoxication of the pain. It lasted for a lifetime, and he wouldn't remember anything else but that buzzing in his ear. The words resonated many times in his head, like a deadly pulsation without direction. There are certain kinds of pain, pain that attacks you painlessly, and the scalpel reaches the womb of the living power, dissecting it surgically, disarming it, withdrawing from the body the capability to know itself; to recognize its own skin, to adapt itself to change. The language with which to scream, to scream your lungs out, to twitch, has disappeared as well. The night was so warm, so inviting, but there were no longer mysteries; sleep became dreamless and disjointed. Every hour yet more impossibly full with this newfound solidness that strangled the air and made everything come to halt. 

He learnt a measure of resignation. There were toxins as well, entering his body as he bled out. And the blood was invisible; a pond of light that surrounded him and engulfed him completely wherever he went, and yet no longer in his possession. Entire miles of words and more words thawed into a formless viscous substance, an elixir without memories, without images, without the reality of a hand that encloses yours; merely fleeting objects, suspended, paralyzed. A stack of handwritten letters, Kafka's diaries, two difficult poems scrabbled on napkins, and the sudden but ever so permanent sense of living in an acute impossibility. The urge, the need to be far away, to be endangered, to be brave. Things that burn, only things that burn. Everything else seemed inessential, unnecesarily sacred and too comfortable and conformable. It was the book of his life, the book of their lives what he torn to shreds with his own hands. 

But it was necessary to jump in order to know. It was necessary to jump to not die. In order to know life better, one must stand on the fringes, at the edge of something both marvelous and heart-breaking. That ocean, you thought. How dangerous it seemed when at rest. You have to know the qualities of water: It's the most absolute solid. You must have had lost everything at least once. Come to this foreign city to be lost, and estranged from your own loss. Without bearing a name, without bearing a face. To be the most absolutely unfamiliar you've been. There's also a deathless death, of emotive loquacity, without alibis. The victim and the perpetrator are one and the same person. The coldest truth: Raw unmediated facts, the objective void, the closure of all interpretations. This uncanny sense of becoming incommunicable, of never knowing the present, of sinking into an image, freeze-frame, with the subject hidden in a corner. Instantless fracturing.

The syntax of an image: The knowledge that the moment can be repeated, altered, remembered; the illusion that it can change life, effect a transformation. But on the other hand, an image is the absoluteness of the instant, and the body of proof of the opposite of this syntax. There are no units inside the image, it captures you absolutely; perhaps only images are in the present tense. It is an unreliable memory device, and the changing circumstances of delays and detours. Images are unresponsive to stimuli. Perhaps sounds record history a lot better, compositional units of music and motions, broken parables, the unparalleled. There's no world and idea for a composer, there're no ideal forms, there're no essential questions. The physics acquires volumes and depths, circulating imperceptibly by occupying the entire space. What he wish he had seen, so that he could have written it down. 

Only in writing he was completely free and completely true; perhaps because there one is entirely alone with his ghosts, feeding them, giving them another lease term on life, and another opportunity to perform in daylight. It was there only that he could reclaim his place in reality in order to contest it. The words were marked on his body, by the thousands. Words that percolated the limbs and punctured them, leaving seeds inside the pores that one day would grow into developed photographs, all of which were veiled, overexposed and sometimes simply absent. One could make out some human faces, the corners of the mouth, a journey elsewhere, but nothing was certain in them. It was his personal crusade against seeing, against the fact that seeing is already absconding, stealing out, marking a boundary for what it is permitted to be. 

The ways to escape are many. The ways to become abroad, to be an elsewhere for something. The results are not important. We draft lists of objects lost in journeys: Black shoes from father, a notebook signed by Amal, pens from other countries. The most important thing is the decision. Once you have made the decision you are as far away as you will ever be. And that is the end of all distances, of all traveling, of all movement. You never think of death in those circumstances, distinctions have come to a halt and merged into a composite whole; death as a part of living, living throughout your death, the thresholds, the steps. The thoughts of certainty, always fallacious and misleading. If it was imaginable, then it presented itself as a living possibility rather than a paradox. The relationship between imagination and belief. If the person was imaginable, there was this likeliness that he might, somewhere, exist. The controlled accident.

But controlled is not always controllable. How many more times will you burn? He asked himself, as he boarded on that plane, this beautiful morning of December. They were in peace with not having an answer. They were in peace with never having stared into each other, as they sought the materialization of the absent other in the bodies of strangers. Sometimes one found a hand, an eyelid, a hair in the arm, but never the whole thing. And they couldn't. Becoming requires having had. There was an element of melancholy since the very first word and the acceptance of being somewhat stranded between infinite parallel lines that will never meet, even at the risk of intersection. One day at the ocean, he felt incredibly grateful, and stopped naming the body of words and images and sounds with a proper name. It could have been anybody. The moment was so clear that it was very promising because it contained everything already. Everything already had been.

And all the images were to become new, as if nothing in the world had to happen then. The lines continued their path in parallel, aggregating newer stations along the way, clouded by the possibility of existing in something so singular. The event horizon. But certain sounds never succeeded in changing, they hyphenated into multitudes and magnitudes of things suspended in the air, permanently blocking the view, with the threatening assurance that some things might never change. In a way, they will always be that age, that time, that moment, that day. An afternoon in the fall, driving in circles through an island, finding a space for a slight variation of a destiny, as if it were the libretto of an operetta. The letters that were never really sent, the silence between certain words. Just staring, waiting for something intelligent to say, as if by gift of grace. Living through the most ordinary things: a bench, a park, the bar. The most ordinary mornings.

Finding yourself one day, surprisingly, at home, for the first time in your life, for only three long days, before losing absolutely everything. What would you have given? What would you have been? To offer yourself as a present for somebody else, to save him, to save him from saving you. Haunted, haunted by the many possibilities, by the weight of a promise, by the protracted language of having conquered the unknown, mastered it, tamed it. The ultimate achievement: Never arriving. The geographical textures of lucidity, combined with the strength of a miracle. That essay you never finished, and you never will. The story of his life, the navigation map. Why would you want to write a grand finale? Let us begin with something like this: "And the conversations were always sad. 'Do you like walking in New York City?' And he did like it. 'I love walking in London,' said Mrs. Dalloway. 'Really it's better than walking in the country."

"What I wanted to do seemed simple. I wanted something alive and shocking enough that it could be a morning in somebody's life. The most ordinary morning. Imagine, trying to do that." -Michael Cunningham

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