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.

On habits

I turn my mattress around every three months. Every week I change my sheets. I wash my towels every three days, my hair every two, my body each and every one. I have one lighter in my car, two in my bag, and one in my jacket. I carry a book and a notebook with me everywhere I go, even if I’m certain I’ll have no time to use either. 

I am a creature of habit. We all are.

What is a habit if not a pattern? What does it do except make us painfully predictable? Its virtues are order, discipline and responsibility; its vices are sloth, compromise and (sometimes) loss of self. I’m sick of them, for they relay monotony. 

I don’t believe in resolutions. They never work. They’re pretentious. They’re carelessly contrite. But if I made one this year it’d be to break my habits. All of them. Stop everything I’m doing and do it differently; again, but antithetically. Not for the sake of it, no, but to disengage from the mundane, the customary, the prosaic. 

What turns a single action into a habit? What locks us within it and forces us, with such ease, to rhythmically fade out as we blindly walk in and out of its vicious circle of haunting familiarity? It is the lack of thought, effort and ever decreasing level of difficulty. For as we grow older we do not only lose our patience and willingness to try something new, but, worst of all, expel our imagination and evict original thought as if it were a contagious disease that could kill us, or worse…awaken us. 

Habits encapsulate human existence as they trample on its essence. They amalgamate with our DNA to the point where breaking them almost seems inhuman. The choice of verb is not coincidental: to break a habit one must be willing to tear limbs, fracture bones, rupture thoughts, and sever movements that were once connected and weaved with reason. 

Our survival instincts are to blame. For they hibernate when we are not in danger. They become indifferent to the state of existence as long as they actually exist. Even if inside we’re rotting away, slithering in a pool of numbing acquiescence. 

Destroy them, why don’t you. Annihilate every crumb that falls from your swollen mouth of lies to the floor on which you crawl daily and call life. 

Break the habit.

Shatter bones.

Crack your skull.

Rebuild yourself anew. 

On muzzles

There is a hurricane swirling every thought and every emotion I’ve ever had. It has become defining. It has changed my atoms. It has warped me and made me more volatile and inflammable than I’ve ever been. I love and fear it, for it drives me towards a chaotic vacuum that includes everything I’ve ever wondered about. It is oblivious to pain, logic and regret. It breathes through me. It exhales existential fumes and encompasses concepts of ecstasy.

I have three books waiting for me. Three worlds I keep nibbling at occasionally. I open them and delve in, sometimes with an unparalleled immersion, and other times with an unfocused, almost childish, boredom and haste for what’s next. 

The thing I do best is think. It is said that by the time we die we’ve spent years of our life sleeping. By the time I die, I will have spent the rest thinking. I can’t stop. We sometimes use the word “overthinking” jokingly, to describe something in exaggeration so as to make a point. For me it is literal, and oftentimes disturbing. I stretch my mind like an elastic band, but every time it approaches its inevitable breaking point, I find a way to extend it. And so it goes.

It has, by now, encircled all aspects of my existence. It has led me to thoughts, desires, decisions and a relinquishment of dread as I’ve never before experienced, or believed I could. It has also accomplished something else. It has brought with it a companion; one that has taught me to exterminate fears and destroy doubts. He has allowed me to review and re-experience me/myself/I in the absence of all that was always expected of me.

To explore yourself you need to destroy yourself first. Annihilate original notions of all that you are and all that you think you believe. You need to undress slowly, shed layer upon layer of conviction that’s been imbedded in you over the course of your life. With every layer you burn you shed the tears that bore its significance. The lighter you become, the freer you feel, the more simply you breathe, the more frightened you grow. For you had been carrying all this burden for nothing. For all the wrong reasons, in your callow self-ignorance.

I thus began to walk differently; speak more eloquently; taste more bitterly; fuck more dactylically.

I became something else entirely. But I did not change. I evolved. I expanded. For every layer I shed, I added a piece of me I’d left behind in the belief that it was transgressive. It was not. 

I did not change. I emerged. I succumbed to myself. I unfolded what I had muzzled and I heard my voice for the very first time.