on love and beauty- breaking the blog silence with an extract (the last pages) from the Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

15 Jun

We can’t choose what we want and don’t want and that’s the hard lonely truth. Sometimes we want what we want even if we know it’s going to kill us. We can’t escape who we are.

And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where art exists, and all magic.

And – I would argue as well- all love. Or perhaps more accurately, this middle zone illustrates the fundamental discrepancy of love. Viewed close: a freckled hand against a black coat, an origami frog tipped over on its side. Step away, and the illusion snaps in again: life-more-than-life, never dying. Pippa herself is the play between those things, both love and not-love, there and not-there. Photographs on the wall, a balled-up sock under the sofa. The moment where I reached to brush a piece of fluff from her hair and she laughed and ducked at my touch. And just as much is the space between notes, just as the stars are beautiful because of the space between them, just as the sun strikes raindrops at a certain angle and throws a prism of colour across the sky- so the space where I exist, and want to keep existing, and to be quite frank I hope I die in, is exactly this middle distance: where despair struck pure otherness and created something sublime.

And that’s why I’ve chosen to write these pages as I’ve written them. For only by stepping into the middle zone, the polychrome edge between truth and untruth, is it tolerable to be here and writing this at all.

Whatever teaches us to to talk to ourselves is important: whatever teaches us to sing ourselves out of despair. But the painting has also taught me that we can speak to each other across time. And I feel I have something very serious and urgent to say to you, my non-existent reader, and I feel I should say it urgently as if I were standing in the room with you.

That life – whatever it is – is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random. That Nature (meaning Death) always wins but that doesn’t mean we have to bow and grovel to it. That maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it, right through the cesspool, while keeping eyes and hearts open. And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn’t touch. For if disaster and oblivion have followed this painting down through time – so too has love. Insofar as it is immortal (and it is) I have a small, bright, immutable part in that immortality. It exists; and it keeps on existing. And I add my own love to history of people who pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.

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searching for lightness

3 Oct

It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig. Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me. When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic. No rhetoric, no tremolos, no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell. And of course, no theology, no metaphysics. Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling, on tiptoes and no luggage, not even a sponge bag, completely unencumbered.

– Aldous Huxley, Island

Blessed be, Wangari Mathai

27 Sep

What a progressive spirit!

May she rest in peace.

time and timing

22 Sep

These thoughts and these words have been floating around in my head for a few months now, but I have been waiting to write them. I am not sure why exactly, perhaps to soak up exactly what it is that I have been feeling so strongly. This is what it boils down to: time and timing, both, and how lucky I have been this year for these two things to collide for me.

I have had months and months of time with my family and friends, the opportunity to re-connect in old ways and connect over new ones. And I have had the right timing to do so, but also the right circumstances, for which I only have the universe to thank for. One tiny example is that of my best friend from high school moving back to the Emirates over the same time period as me, to a neighbourhood new to us both but to a city that we left in 2003. There have been many more serendipitous ‘collisions’ such as this one and I have brought many of my ‘pieces‘ together (the Middle-East during an Arab Spring no less, Mauritania and my father, French and my childhood friends, my mother and her gentleness). Full and complete.

Now, it is time to leave. I am getting on a plane tonight and moving to a country in Central-West Africa that I have never been to before but that holds some of the ‘pieces’ I mention above (Fulani language/culture, the opportunity to speak French daily) and I am hopeful it will bring me new growth and challenges. I am moving in with a man, which is a big step for me romantically, and something that I have not yet attempted at the age of 26. Along with the hopes, I have my fair share of doubts and questions, but I would rather have those than regrets.

Here comes change!

make it meaningful

6 Sep

Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful…and decide what you want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out.

– Zadie Smith, On Beauty.

Also Libya, Suheir Hammad

28 Aug

no one tells you
if anyone does you do not listen anyway
if you do still you do not understand
no one tells you how to be free

there is fire in your neck
ocean in your ear
there is always your fear
the words you cannot even

no one is here
when the world opens upside
down you reach toward dawn
your weight on the earth changes

some of us plant deeper
others ache to fly

Oh, an incurable humanist you are.

23 Aug

 

Porcupine-ology, antler-ology, car-ology, bus-ology, train-ology, plane-ology, mama-ology, papa-ology,you-ology, me-ology, love-ology, kiss-ology, stay-ology, please-ology.

Let’s study class, let’s study class. Sit down.

Love-ology, love-ology, I’m sorry-ology, forgive me-ology, love-ology, love-ology. I’m sorry-ology, forgive me-ology, love-ology, Love-ology.