On confessions

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been a lifetime since my last confession. I have been callous with my thoughts, and even more so with my actions. But what I am most ashamed of are my inactions. My inaptitude: to understand in time, to acknowledge the significance of absence in everything.

I spent three seasons thinking myself to death. I died repeatedly. I was born every time simply because I never stopped breathing. My damn heart proved itself indestructible. My mind did not. I still find pieces of it under the couch, inside my pillow, deep within my pockets, in between pages of my everyday life. I put them in a white, glass bowl. Every few days I pick them up, spread them out and try to put them into place. They are all mine. They were all me at some point. Even if they only crossed my mind but never stayed, they still belong to me. I am forever liable. I have to face them.

It is strange, what we consider to be ‘sinful’. It is relative. It is highly subjective. If the divine or the religious is extracted, a sin is still “any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc; great fault or offense.” It’s a sin to waste time, Dictionary.com states as an example…and I have wasted so much of it.

I’ve had this conversation before, a million times. The range of excuses varies to an astounding degree. ‘People live as if they have a few more lives to waste,’ someone told me recently. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Don’t you get it? Even if they had a thousand more, they’d still live it the same way.’ It shocked him. It shocked me too.

What if we were given a time machine? We’d all act the same, fearful of changing too much. The butterfly effect would once again render us static. You needn’t fear, though. Scientists have claimed that even if we do acquire the ability to travel in time, we will only be able to do so into the future.

Would you take a look, Father, if you could? I would rather not.

We’d rather be inactive for we cannot be judged. We’d rather be absent for we leave no trace. But just like silence, inertia is a choice; and we, as Sartre proclaimed, are our choices, Father.

On lessons

Henry Miller once wrote “everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate, or despise, serves to defeat us in the end.”

I teach as a profession, and yet I never fail to learn. People will always teach you something. They show you who they are, every single moment; even in those moments when they’re trying to hide it. I’ve been watching closely lately. I’ve been speaking less. Even less than usual.

Most don’t notice. Most of those who notice don’t care enough to ask. Those who ask don’t always get an answer. Those who do, don’t follow up. So what’s the point?

What do we shut our eyes to? What do we denigrate, despise or deny? Everything that scares us, challenges us, takes us out of our comfort zones. Whatever bursts the bubble we are in. Our skins so fragile and yet we live to be a hundred. A piece of paper cuts through us as if we were butter, and yet we remain whole. Money is made out of paper, and yet we never lose it, misplace it, or act carelessly towards it. Necessities have become relative. We have all become expendable.

For the longest time I thought that people were mostly fake, pretending; now I realise the truth is uglier. The are all simply, deeply selfish. ‘Isn’t that more honest?’ you shall ask. ‘Yes, yes it is,’ I will reply. ‘Isn’t it also sad, though?’ My generation was taught to hope, and then it was rewired to believe that everything is futile, so you might as well be an asshole. Everyone else is, why not you? And so they shed every last bit of shame and blossomed into the assholes they always dreamed of being. What’s more liberating than ceasing to pretend that you care?

A weight was lifted. The jig was up. Finally, they were free. Or were they? Tell me…are you?

What does freedom mean to you? What does it entail? Does it tear down walls or put up fortresses? Does it liberate or create little boxes with captions that compartmentalise even the tiniest bit of meaning?

When has freedom ever given you escape?

Isn’t it freedom that you deny, denigrate and despise?

On masks

An array of masks is all I see. A circus with beasts, monsters, ventriloquists, tamers, dancers, and magicians. The point is to impress, divert attention from what is real, create and illusion; the point is to be anything but yourself.

The audience is wearing their ‘spectator’ masks. That too is a form of escape. I feel like one as well, watching a dystopian story unfold before my eyes. It’s one of those narratives where the protagonists are unaware of the impending doom. Their world is destroyed, their lives wasted. A time machine arrives. It takes them back. It doesn’t matter. They repeat the same mistakes, make the same choices, every single fucking time.

They’re stuck in an endless loop of misery and un-lived lives. Yet they wonder what went wrong (from time to time). Or do they? When are those moments most lucid? What causes the doubts to surface and what are the mechanisms that bury them again so deep inside a cavern of regrets, wishes, and unfulfilled images?

Our plight is now the temporary value we attribute to everything and everyone. Regardless of our expiry date, we have all become expendable. Replaceable. Reimagined. Recreated. For if we all wear masks, no one is actually real.

On emptiness

Why has it been impossible to breathe lately? Why do I stop just before I inhale? Why does oxygen feel so damn toxic? I don’t need my lungs anymore. Nor my heart. My mind has become the only source of my existence. It breathes, thinks, decides, destroys and builds empires, without my consent. I have become a slave, a mere subject in its kingdom. My body is simply its physical extension. It too has been transformed into a vessel of overthinking and under-doing.

Imagine being locked inside a car whose control you lost when you made it independent; when you dared to share too much. Imagine it hasn’t stopped driving for years. Imagine that every turn it takes is new on a road it has built itself. Imagine you are unaware of the destination but recognise the way. Imagine you know everything except where you are going. The windows are open despite the cold. The music is either too loud or too absent. The silence is deafening…as are the clichés I keep using.

The colour keeps changing so I cannot be found. Then again, no one’s looking for me. I have said goodbyes in silence and I’ve heard replies coming back to me in the absence of action or words.

It is strange to stand alone by choice. It’s confinement in freedom. It’s a savage hold on emptiness.

On letters.

How many more letters will I have to write before my insides stop having the desire to express themselves in writing? I am tired. I am tired of using my words to rationalise and argue for what should be a given. I am exhausted. I need my words to cease working and start weaving. I don’t mind writing letters. I am tired of their purpose: ending things. I am tired of them assassinating the hopes and expectations that their predecessors brought to life. I am tired of killing what I gave birth to.

On truth(s)

A pattern keeps emerging these past few weeks, one that’s reached its peak in the past few days. Little white lies. It dawned on me last night while I was doing a Speaking test with one of my students. The question was “some people distinguish between white lies (small lies) and serious lies. Do you think they are justified in thinking this way?” My student hurried to boldly claim that no type of lie is acceptable. “We must always tell the truth,” she said as she looked at me awaiting my approval. I smiled. “Are you certain?” I asked. “Isn’t that what I should say?” she answered. I laughed.

The truth is we cannot function, neither as individuals nor as a society, without our little white lies. The truth is we need them to go on, to feel good, to avoid unnecessary conflict, to let someone down easy, to avoid being cruel and mean, when you can simply exhale what the other has been dying to inhale: his white lie quota of the day.

Try going a single day without them. It will prove to be a much more daunting task than you had originally thought. Lies of survival, as a beautiful man I know called them last night; and they are indeed.

If Darwin were still alive he’d be including them in the instincts that have helped us evolve, but mostly stay alive. Survival of the wicked. That is what it has come down to. But is it, wicked? Or is it common sense, decency, kindness? We claim it’s selfless, but to a great extent it’s also selfish. If we hurt someone’s feelings we also have to deal with them after, especially if we have to see that person again soon. So aren’t we really protecting ourselves? Saving ourselves from drama, emotional outbursts and possible long-lasting consequences?

What is the No1 question we keep asking at times like these? “Is it (really) worth it?” But my question is, “well, when is it?” And how will you know when it is? What does a truth worth uttering look like? Does it wink? Do you have a code word by which to identify it?

I’ve spoken far too many truths in my life; some have cost me greatly. And yet at times I feel as though I haven’t spoken nearly enough.

“Do we really need those kinds of truths?” someone told me recently. Those very words, his own truth, was a knife in my heart. A fucking machete. One that tore through everything I had been laboriously mending.

That’s what we don’t realise, even we truth-lovers. Yours is not everyone else’s. Only you care for yours. For the universal truth about truths is that we all crave to speak them, but no one cares to listen.

On neutrality

It was a good day today. Nothing happened. It was neutral, but in a good way. It was uneventful but not stagnant. I don’t want this year to be neutral, though. Neutrality is a state that unsettles me. I find it fake. Things are never really that abstract. It is either our blindness or our ignorance that makes them appear as such.

It’s funny how we attribute so much importance to the moment midnight signals a leap into a new year; as if something changes, as if we’ve entered a new dimension. We love to compartmentalise things. We thrive on separating and fragmenting time in periods, and labelling events as if time is not linear but stops and then begins again on human demand. We like to control everything and neatly place unfathomable concepts in tiny little boxes of convenience that somehow make them approachable.

I don’t particularly like the number ‘8’; that, too, is kinda neutral. Vanilla is my favourite smell, but in my mouth and in my nostrils is where the love ends. Why have we attached such negative connotations to something so beautiful and delectable? We’ve even gone as far as classifying the most boring sex as vanilla. Breaks my heart.

But where was I? Oh, yes, the fact that achromatic things make me cringe and put me on edge.

We live on contradictions and oxymorons we have created ourselves. ‘Seize the day,’ we boldly exclaim, and then glorify our routine. How are you different from last night? Have you made any changes in the way you live, function and make decisions? Oh no, I’m sorry, I forgot. It’s not you that will change. It’s the year itself that is responsible for bringing on the new shit. Right. That, or others. Never you. God forbid.

We blame time for everything and yet celebrate its passing in birthdays, anniversaries and new years. Yay, you’re still alive! Eat some cake, blow some candles, buy a memory-related gift and drink yourself into forgetting the last 365 you drank to 365 days ago.

How do you feel? Neutral? Good. At least it’s not bad, right? Numb has turned into a luxury sensation. It has replaced happiness, because it’s better than many other things but not bad enough to alarm or upset you. We need you numb.

As you were.