I write this on an urgent impulse. It is a vague abstraction I feel only you will have the patience for—
All my life I have been reading books and watching things on a screen. All my life, it seems I have escaped into other worlds to derive pleasure. All my life I have needed good food, or a nice movie, or a nice party or even a nice book. And all my life, I have dreamt dreams, beautiful ones at that!
To dream was never deleterious to me. To dream was ambitious, to pick oneself out from the annals of dissatisfaction and ameliorate my living condition.
The condition I seem to be plagued with in this living day, as I sit at my desk in a sudden outpouring; the condition I am beset with is ennui. All my life, I have blamed the external, the outside, the environment. Today I cast that responsibility on myself. Yes, the summer heat is obnoxious. Yes, the air is unmoving. Yes, the suffocating odour of spices laps around my head in this small apartment at the close of March. And yes, people to entertain myself with are scarce.
Yet, as I understand, I am just as restless when it is cool, the air is moving, there is sweet odour in the air and people are in plenty. Then, just in different ways. Oh! They are far too loud. I have so much work to do. I wish I were free and these people weren’t closing in on me. Now, I am free, and it is so vexing to be left so.
All my life I have been reading and watching things on a screen. The image of what goes on in books and movies is just too enthralling to let go of. I watch them, guilt clutching at my heart, for when I shut off this ethereal world and alight on Earth momentarily, only to be lifted off again, I know the incongruity. The incongruity between my world and what I have just entered into, and that leads me to the feeling of frustration. Why can’t I remain in my reality and be happy? Why do I need to watch this non-real character to feel joy? The dependency kills me.
The avarice is channelised through food if not other sources. I need to chomp. To munch. To drown out the loud silence that would otherwise kill me in its nothingness.
All this while I have been searching for what it is that I am afraid of. Now I know. I know that whether I am in the mountains, or in the valleys, in a restaurant in New York or on the couch in my house, I have always carried this vacuum within myself. I am always searching. Seeking. There is no repose. There is no contentment. Only temporary amnesia, when one reads or watches or eats. These indulgences, this seeming decadence that I invest all my time cultivating, are just distractions.
Perhaps, there was a time I was once content. Maybe as a child. I don’t remember being unhappy growing up, although when I try and attempt to indulge in the restitution of that source of happiness, my intellect does not give me the allowance to do so. My heart seems confused.
Always shaking my leg, biting my lips, darting my eyes, looking, looking, looking. Isn’t it ironic that I study all about the fallacious American Dream, and I understand the precariousness of such an insatiable idea. I can’t say I harbour that exact dream,( though you may disagree with this fact) but to understand the nature of something is to be able to see its manifestations in every sphere of life. Why then is the appetite of my being insatiable? And what will it truly be appeased by?
Neither mountains nor valleys it seems. Neither rivers nor streams.
I can only say that I am most at peace that I have been all day, when I write. But to write is to be reminded of my reading of other books and how they bemuse me. I am sad with my hollowness. I have always loved to read, but now in order to preserve some ability to stay rooted in my present reality, reading must be stopped.
I want to write what I know, and what I see and what I observe. Not what I have read about, mingled with some genius of the intellect as to produce a work of seeming originality, but one that truly is nothing more than a facsimile of culminated books and shows. I want to write what I know. Perhaps, that will aid in my search for substance. Not writing about some Jessica, who lives in New Hampshire, that I have never even bloody been to.
Yours trapped in this epiphany,
Ruminating under the August umbrella
You must forgive my delayed response. I suppose such is the nature of letters in this modern age. They must truly be mulled over for whatever they’re worth.
I don’t know how it is that one can forever banish the restlessness that makes your heart flutter. I don’t know how it is that one can bury the ennui. Perhaps the only thing I do know is to elude it. Maybe it is much like the ‘amnesia’ you speak of. Except I don’t forget it, I just escape it. I squirrel it away. By dowsing myself in activity. By doing so much that I spend myself to exhaustion, the kind of tiredness that is faintly pleasurable in the aftermath of it all.
In many ways I find the ‘substance’ you speak of in such activity. It satiates me, Lakshman. Then when I think of the hopelessness I felt only a while ago, it is strange but, it does not agree with me anymore. So I suppose I’m baffled if I truly elude the ennui or it sets me free?
It seems I carry in my heart a kind of answer to this quandary (that characterises the world) however rudimentary it may be in the journey of self-evolution. Like I said, it is rather like the fevikwik that does the fixing job well enough to proceed. But, unlike its makers’ claim, it is not a permanent solution.
I suppose it is this restlessness that haunts me on sleepless nights. Knowing that in some way I continue to deceive myself. Those nights are times when conflicting thoughts arise and amalgamate. They run me astray and fill me with the same emptiness you speak of. And yet I believe the nature of our respective precariousness varies.
You see Lakshman, unlike your eternal quest for substance, what I seek is permanence. Permanence of the peace I seem to find when I engage in things. When I push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of, and when I actually make a difference. So you see, the difference in our personal pools of agitation is that I have some semblance of hope to cling on to. That when I do make that difference ,and although its victory may be short lived, it is real. It is a living, breathing, tangible difference. It has exited the space it occupies in my mind and cultivated itself in the fecund soil of the larger world beyond the self. Beyond these roiling thoughts and its reckless master, the mind.
I suppose your intent may be far more noble, for you seek to find a deeper peace within yourself while I only attempt to tame the beast from where thoughts engender. I only strive to reign in what evokes fear in me. But then, what truly is fear if not the shadows cast by thought, eroded when the source of light is angled differently? So I attempt to dive into this fear by doing and not thinking.
I suppose this must be counterintuitive to an intellectual such as yourself. That the very instrument of your brilliance is the cilice and ‘discipline’ of your self-flagellation.
I cannot promise the end of turmoil. I cannot explain why it is that execution ushers in a certain calm that pondering cannot. The closest I’ve arrived at some semblance of an argument in favour of it, is that it heralds a certain hue of hope that rests on a bedrock of subtle certainty. As though one’s act has in some way started to pave a path, that is yet untraversed but has begun to exist more concretely in one’s own mind.
Of course, as with all things mortal and all finite endeavours, this image in your psyche might begin to fade as the hours wane. That is the impermanence I speak of. Then the very fears and despondency you reference engulf me again, until I find another thing to invest in.
It is this very addictive cycle that makes me uncertain. I worry if the ‘empty mind’ is truly a ‘devil’s workshop’ or if I am turning a blind eye to the restlessness that lies beneath this fragile mechanism I have found for myself. I worry that my mechanism is yet another alternate world I push myself into. A world that at some point will shatter because it is only an illusion and nothing more, and in that splintering it will crush me to pieces because it is more real than any of the escape worlds you describe. Therefore, I am uncertain if my deception is so deep that I am numb to it or if in some way is closer to the truth I seek.
I suppose this is the question that keeps me up at night sometimes. However unlike your periodic sleeplessness Lakshman, I seem to only be sporadically affected by this insomnia. I take comfort in this reality of my existence. I suppose most of us are flawed. I do not yet claim to be at peace. Yet, I can say that I am peaceful by nature. It gives me a certain, beautiful joy to say this. To be certain of my place in this world and wield my light with confidence. Well, mostly anyway. I am solaced by this adverb. Mostly.
I don’t know why we hanker for permanence anyway? Why is it that I worry about its lack? Maybe that is my folly? Our collective folly as humanity…
Despite our differences ,that I seem to so deeply engrave in this letter, I must confess that I have hitherto only dwelled upon the minor aspects of our makeup that differentiate us.
It is true that I would not write this letter to anyone but you, Lakshman. It is also true that like you, I find peace in writing and that in moments like these I suspend so much of the world around me while I am completely engrossed in this task.
Writing is substance too I suppose. Perhaps that is why we are both solaced by it.
Mostly though, I think we are seekers. The questions I pose in this letter are genuine queries. They are not rhetoric. So writing allows us to seek. To exchange– a letter for a letter, a thought for another. There are your fears in me and my certainty in you. Our letters seem to speak to each other in all honesty.
So I suggest, from one seeker to another, what I have found for myself in this short period that we have parted ways. This is my inexperienced, perhaps parochial offering to you. Take it and make of it what you will. At this present moment, this is my truth. Perhaps the coming days will bring something new and I might ask you to toss my words into the air. In that case I will be a complete, utter fool for such a letter. But, I feel safe with you, Lakshman as I know you feel with me.