Crash

I am not afraid of death. I have never been afraid of death. Death is a theme in my life, and rebirth is right next to it. For those of you who know me, and if you read my blog at all, you might be aware that I have done the whole “died and came back to life” in the past. *See post on “25 Going on 15” which relates the story of my experiment with Stem cells.* But for the sake of this post, let me just say that I am overwhelmed this time. A month ago, I bought a new car, and I was ecstatic about it. I had worked so hard to purchase and be able to drive this car. And yet a week ago, I crashed into a bus, and my car spun around and hit three different times before finally deciding to stop. I was left with bruises and a bad burn, but I came out of it alive. While the crash was taking place, I was thinking “I’m going to die. Yup, I’m going to die in a car crash. Damn.”

I won’t dwell on the gruesome details, because we all know what accidents are like. What happened after the accident is extraordinary. I had been feeling very down and helpless before the car crash. I was struggling with chronic pain (as usual) and I was starting to feel hopeless. After my crash, everything around me also crashed. People. Relationships. Everything either solidified or disappeared. I was amazed by people’s reactions. There were those that let go and those that stayed. There were many surprises. It was a near-death experience, and it crashed into my face, how much I had misinterpreted and assumed I understood it all. I didn’t. I still don’t.

I am overwhelmed with the way my sisters stood by me, with the way my baby sisters (not so-baby anymore) took care of me. I was touched by my best friend’s presence, leaving her baby to come rushing to the hospital, fearing for my life. I was shocked that my students, who I assumed only considered me their teacher, called me, sent me emails, told me how much they appreciated my existence. I cried when I realized that I had touched my students’ lives, that I had made a difference somehow. I kept repeating to my sister, Abrar, that this was all “too much.” It felt like it was too much. I hadn’t just crashed my car, I had crashed into reality. Love was all around, and not in the way I had expected it, from one person, but rather, it was dispersed and distributed. The intimacy and vulnerability of the accident made those around me more open, more verbal, and it shook my soul. Everyone had something to say. Each person had their own take on it. People either stayed or ran away.

So I guess I’m alive, and it looks like there must be a reason. Only the Universe knows how and why. Meanwhile, I know I have to return all this love and appreciation. So thank you, to everyone who cared. And thank you, to those who put up with my blog ramblings.

    

Thoughts on Salome

“The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.” Oscar Wilde, Salome. (1831).

I recently watched Salome. It was recommended by someone who knows the intricacies of my mind, my passion for words, and my love for theater. This film is an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play. Of course, I read the actual script after watching the film. It had me hooked, and definitely in love. Salome is a fiery woman, a woman who is a legend, and there are numerous adaptations, Biblical allusions, and sexual imagery. The storyline is fascinating, the dialogue is gripping, and the performance is wonderful. I only wish I could attend this play live. I believe the film doesn’t do it justice.

Filled with sexual connotations, passion, desire and death, there is a blurring of the line between love/obsession, passion and lack, madness and sanity, purity/virginity and sexual desire. There is also the idea of the body as spectacle. The play, critically speaking, is infested with the idea of the “male gaze” and surprisingly, this femme-fatale image. Salome’s double, I think, is the moon. The moon in all its seductiveness, glamor, beauty, is also dangerous. The moon mirrors Salome’s psyche and character. There is simply too much to write about and think about when analyzing Salome. I have always been fascinated with “madwomen” and women who are considered “troubled.” The Young Syrian, a character who is obsessed with Salome states: “She is like a dove that has strayed..She is like a narcissus trembling in the wind. She is like a silver flower.”  The moon here is a metaphor. The idea of “looking” and being “looked at” is also part of this story’s complexity. To be looked at is to be seen. However, it depends on who is looking. You can have the wrong person “looking” at you, and all you want is for the right person, that “right love” to look at you. You want to be seen by him/her. Salome’s passion, her tragic ending, her desire to be seen, to kiss the man she has chosen is so intense. I was left gazing at the screen, shocked, uncomfortable with the bloodiness of it all. All she wanted was his “lips” and yet it is far greater than sexual. There is a union. There is a desire to merge with the lover, with the object of affection.

I won’t ruin the entire plot, but it is highly recommended. I will be looking into Salome’s legend and hopefully dissect it even more.

Side note: it is so refreshing when someone can access your brain and soul almost as much as you can.

Here are some beautiful excerpts:

“Ah, Iokanaan, Iokanaan, thou wert the man that I loved alone among men! All other men were hateful to me. But thou wert beautiful! Thy body was a column of ivory set upon feet of silver. It was a garden full of doves and lilies of silver. It was a tower of silver decked with shields of ivory. There was nothing in the world so white as thy body. There was nothing in the world so black as thy hair. In the whole world there was nothing so red as thy mouth. Thy voice was a censer that scattered strange perfumes, and when I looked on thee I heard a strange music. Ah! wherefore didst thou not look at me, Iokanaan?”
Oscar Wilde, Salome
“I am athirst for thy beauty; I am hungry for thy body; and neither wine nor apples can appease my desire. What shall I do now, Iokanaan? Neither the floods nor the great waters can quench my passion. I was a princess, and thou didst scorn me. I was a virgin, and thou didst take my virginity from me. I was chaste, and thou didst fill my veins with fire . . .”

And the link:

Scab

We were friends. Every night, I went to sleep, not thinking of consequences. But one fine morning (nah, I’m kidding, it wasn’t fine), I found that the cat’s scratch was right underneath my eyelid. I ignored it. The following morning, the scratch had made itself at home. I stared at its presence. Words on flesh. The cat’s constant purring was too close for comfort, and just when I thought I could hold her close, it pawed at my face, clumsily perhaps, but nevertheless, there it was, a scar had formed. On my face. Just in case I tried to forget. I am still me, except for the scar she carved. But the cat is still a fine creature, demanding of attention, willing to reciprocate every once in awhile, moody, loving, and unpredictable. Would she have scratched if she cared “enough”? Can you measure a concept as vague and as fleeting as affection/love?

After a long day, when all I want to do is drop my guard, she climbs onto my lap and stares at me. Anticipating. Waiting. Inquiring. Greeted by silence, she meows and purrs as though we have no history. I don’t recall the words, it’s hard enough when we speak different languages. I can only touch the now scabrous skin. Each night it digs itself further into me.

  

Thoughts on Character and Damage

This is yet another one of my favorite novels. Here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10746542-the-sense-of-an-ending.

The Sense of an Ending. Even the title captivates. As usual, this is not a book review, but a brief commentary on how the book affects me. Yes, it’s always about the reader. Reader-response theory all the way, baby.

The writer ponders life – a major theme, but he also considers the similarities between life and literature. Of course, literature mimics life, and also distorts it. But I am concerned with our lives. Are they actually better than/worse than fiction? Here’s the quote:

“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature. Look at our parents–were they the stuff of Literature? At best, they might aspire to the condition of onlookers and bystanders, part of a social backdrop against which real, true, important things could happen. Like what? The things Literature was about: Love, sex, morality, friendship, happiness, suffering, betrayal, adultery, good and evil, heroes and villains, guilt and innocence, ambition, power, justice, revolution, war, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, the individual against society, success and failure, murder, suicide, death, God.”

When I talk to people (and I love talking to people, about the deep, real, raw instances of life), their stories usually share a similar theme: a lack of contentedness. A struggle for happiness. A desire to be happy, fulfilled, but just not being able to reach that state. I have spoken to people my age, people younger, and those who are older. People who are healthy, people who are single, married, divorced, widowed – all sorts of people. And yet when I ask “are you happy?” I am usually met with silence, tears, or shock. The shock comes from my question, I think. We hardly ask. Are you happy? Are you okay? And when people do ask if you’re “okay”, they rarely ever wait for a response. As characters, as people, they have grown accustomed to a life filled with conflict and damage.

Which brings me to the second quotation, also one that has affected me greatly:

“I certainly believe we all suffer damage, one way or another. How could we not,except in a world of perfect parents, siblings, neighbours, companions? And then there is the question on which so much depends, of how we react to the damage: whether we admit it or repress it,and how this affects our dealings with others.Some admit the damage, and try to mitigate it;some spend their lives trying to help others who are damaged; and there are those whose main concern is to avoid further damage to themselves, at whatever cost. And those are the ones who are ruthless, and the ones to be careful of.”

We are all damaged. Some of us beyond repair. Some of us still try to find a sense of lightness. Some try to heal. Others take up therapy, others become healers, while others just disconnect entirely from the world of emotions, to “avoid further damage.” Does it mean they are ruthless, like Barnes states? I disagree. But I do wonder whether damage really lasts a lifetime. Do damaged people bring on further damage to those around them? A friend says we always need to be in a “healthy” environment, away from anyone that is emotionally damaging to our well-being. I haven’t made up my mind. As always, I am listening, observing, and analyzing. My one conclusion so far is that we are all one Psycho Nation. 

The Sun and the Moon

This band is all about raw emotion. The music is painful. The lyrics are heartbreaking. Cathartic. Listen to it before reading the rest of this short, almost meaningless post.

So he says “I’m sorry baby, you were the Sun and the Moon to me. I’ll never get over you, you’ll never get over me.”

There is a heaven right here. Why do we always want to leave heaven, always desiring death, always wanting to be exiled, kicked out into the world?

Sometimes I think that the world is in a constant state of a staged drama – everyone fulfilling their role, momentarily, and they ‘Exit Stage’ when it’s time. But who gets to decide? Sometimes we just have to improvise. I’m tired of following scripts. And I wish people would accept raw emotion. It doesn’t all have to be so staged.

So yes,  “I’m sorry baby, you were the Sun and Moon to me” but what is a life without the Sun and the Moon? A failed script. A drama that is too dramatic for a genuine life.

Give me drama, yes, but give me Genuine feelings. Give me actors and actresses who fall in love and forget the script. Give me Rebels. Give me people who will resurrect the Sun and the Moon.

Persevere 

Key word. Persevere. Fight. Keep going. Go against all odds. You get the picture. 

But when I am left alone with my thoughts, I question it all. What was the point of difference between you and I? Which part of all this perseverance is mine, and which was yours? To fight means there’s a battle to endure. I had my battles. You fought my demons, but never could fight your own. And as much as I like to believe I was a warrior, I could never fight against you or your chosen allies. 

We choose our allies. And now I am left with the ghost of an ally.  

Below: the theme of it all. 

 

Distance and Voices

I walked through the aisle at the Sultan Center today, trying to find the usual groceries we used to buy. My purchases have changed. My needs have altered. My hand reached for the canned mushrooms, and I heard your voice complaining about freshness.

“Don’t forget your vegetables. Get them fresh. No, no, that one – this one looks a bit discolored.” There. That was definitely your voice speaking to me. Clearly, that was your agitated tone, and the apologetic smile.

Hands fumbled as I examined the greens.

Then someone smiled at me. I wondered what you’d say.

The stranger smiled, and walked away. I thought about your smile. You had smiled endlessly, countless days, and you had still walked away, left me barely standing on my own. I know that life is all about moments. I know that we are doomed, and I know that we make our own realities, and we make choices. Choices are all about constraints and chains. But then again, there are choices that liberate. There are choices that help us rise from the ashes.

Would you do it all over again?

I can’t answer that question, but I’ll ask you. And I know you can read between the lines – so are you still you?


The photo is from I Wrote This For You by Iain Thomas.