The Personal and the Political
by Prakash Kona
Table of Contents|
Part 1 appeared
in issue 158.
I, too, am a land of boundless possibilities. — Rosa Luxemburg
In spite of pointlessness the dance moves. In spite of silence the music is made. In spite of death life reflects its sweetness in compassion. When things happen in spite of themselves we attribute naturalness to them. The same naturalness I attribute to compassion. That I am bound to the world of others outside the categories of class, race, religion, caste and gender is what makes me protest against suffering inflicted in the name of those very categories. They are unnatural and go against the timeless spirit of equality.
part 2 of 3
* * *
My life is the story of a failed metaphor. The point was never made. Either I overstretched the point or the understatement was so sharply done that it missed the point. The metaphor was a room that had to accommodate too many things at the same time. The space of the room diminished with each new thing. I had to empty the room in order to discover who I am. But I needed a thing to convey my point. Without a thing I would be acting pointlessly in space. The room could be anything anytime anywhere. It could be yellow light on dilapidated walls of a crumbling fort. I was desperate to make a point. The metaphor was destined to fail because it spoke of a thing.
I wish to convey a greeting without a gift in hand. I want to spread sweetness without a word on lips. I want to give without a thought in head. I want to write without a page in view. The failed metaphor is a tale of unfulfilled longings.
My spiritual life is at root an attempt to understand my isolation. In isolation I grew fond of strange things. I learnt not to fear that which my language was incapable of knowing. In isolation I learnt to be grateful for the company of a bird or beast. Sometimes the presence of a tree in the vicinity was enough to make me feel part of the cosmic plan that brought the tree and me together in the same space. A painting was enough to enter my isolation the way a stream enters the pond. A word was enough or a thought. The thought that in a thought somewhere I was present made my child-like heart beam despite the isolation or rather because of it.
In isolation I connected. The connections were long present before I made them. I connected my life to the nothingness that made me one with every body I met on streets. The bodies of friends were as much in need of pity as bodies of enemies. The bodies of oppressors were also bodies of oppressed. I chose bodies of the oppressed as a moral gesture. It did not imply that I could not see beyond my political stance. I chose bodies of those left out of the order that I could love them infinitely. I did not want them to lose their sense of marginality. At the same time the deprivation had to go. Every person was entitled to experience life’s joys in the fullness of her labors. In creation each one had the right to feel the core of the world’s mystery. Women did not have to fear being different on a street of men. Men did not have to bear the guilt of violence in their souls.
* * *
To live up to one’s sense of individual worth is the hardest thing on earth. The pity that body feels for body even in the unhappiest circumstances I feel for outcasts of the world. It is a pity that comes from consciousness of inhabiting a body that could be anyone. I suffer the dilemmas of an ecstatic god. I love everyone as if it were no one. Yet I must fight the evil of torture and the evil of torturers as if they were one and the same. I choose the body of the tortured over that of the torturer. The tortured body is the body of the dreamer. Torture drives the body into the dark energy of dreams. The blind forces within those energies push us to make moral choices in the relative world touched by a dream.
I’m driven to consider options. Either I must work as if I was no one or assert my emotional self in order to experience the forgetting of time. Perhaps average human beings are self-centered and self-denying at one and the same time. In moments that one realizes that the center one has been looking for is untraceable, the same moment I am at a point of denial irrespective of how I perceive it or how long I stay without a feeling of center. This sense of living without a center is a source of profound creativity as seen from diverse extremes ranging from hardened criminals, drug addicts and terrorists to artists, saints and mystics.
The center has to be recreated through imagined versions of reality. The passage from untruth to untruth is a black hole of fantasies. I am stuck in one. The quilt of my interior monologues is never ending. They climax at interesting points in the white snow. I live extremes of imagination in extremes of loneliness that I taste with my tongue in the cold air of late nights when my body asserts its independence as lovers sleep with no intent of waking up.
Individually I’m worth nothing. I cling to that premise with my body floating in pools where it is impossible to detect a center. My body makes ripples that come and go with light. I strive for peace of a conscience that silently performed with the thorough consciousness of being in a dream. I dream of loving as if the dream would come to an end with love transcending dreaminess the way the sun climbs hills leaving the memory of day behind before it goes into valleys.
* * *
Such a love I speak of can happen where it is not me that I write about. If I wrote a treatise about dust with no mention of myself it is worthy of consideration more than anything I say about who I am. Such a love I write as if love were not a word. It is a word. Language is condemned to be language no matter what. My body is a body no matter how hard I try to forget that my desires are vain attempts to eliminate the space of time. The death of my desires is timed, as is the pain I experience in the loss that brings forth new desires.
The recreative function of pain comes uncannily close to fiction. One’s death is a subtle piece of fiction. To choose pain as a source of living is to open the secret door that leads one to those rooms of imagination where you experience death in life. This is just one style of writing or living. You can’t take it seriously. You also can’t expect the rest of the world to turn into muted admirers of a spectacle of pain. Such a pain needs to be humored and treated with a dose of irony to keep the nerves quiet.
My body is not real apart from the voice that keeps echoing feelings that run to and fro in a shell of flesh and bones. I contrive ways of dissociating myself from a feeling. It requires a philosopher to take a feeling seriously and I am not one. That makes me doubt if my feeling for the poor is merely myself escaping from my self. I might be enjoying the sensation of wearing a slightly strange mask in a crowd of uniquely similar faces.
Morality cannot not be a word. I want to believe that my choices are moral without bodily attributes. They must have the purity of ideas in order for them to be true. If truth is not the criterion then morality is a creative term implying the way I respond to a bodily sense of being within phenomena. That which is not language can have the purity of an idea. I am torn between a powerful need to deny language and the self and a need to be rooted in earthy spaces where people struggle and reflect the character of their lives in processes of the struggle rather than in the outcome.
No one commits suicide simply because life will come to an end one day. People make sacrifices though, however illusory they may seem, whether it is for a friend, family, nation or a child. The sacrifice points to a morality that comes from outside language. The justice that begs for equality and the individuality that insists on one’s uniqueness pull the inner self in directions that crisscross at odd points.
* * *
The impoverished child I saw on my way back home is a sight I won’t forget in haste. He had an equally impoverished mother and a brother. He probably hadn’t eaten for some time. He was in a faint state. Even as I write this piece I must come to terms with my hypocrisy in witnessing a scene and rewriting it as if it mattered to the child himself.
I am sure the child and his mother and brother did not have a decent meal for days or months. I don’t think this child is representative of third world life in general because there is a significant middle class that is capable of feeding itself. I also do not think that sentimentalism of the kind we are used to seeing from aid clubs in the first world is an adequate response to third world poverty, or any poverty for that matter.
I suffered a feeling of guilt and loss for a time being. I knew that I would forget the whole episode by the next day. It is winter and probably the child is dying from the cold coupled with undernourishment. If the child lives, who knows what his future would be like if at all there is a future waiting for him?
His mother was probably brought into this world by someone as poor and as abandoned as her. This earth could perish and die with guilt because it saw the unbearable sufferings of a child. May it never be day again and may the heavens stop shining! May we never know the movement of seasons! May the universe be doomed in the boundlessness of space! No child must experience hunger and cruelty.
Countries and their contours are defined. A hungry child knows no country. It is an indefinable state and unpardonable by any standard. Everyone who eats more than twice a day is morally responsible for not sharing his meal with another person. This may not be a solution to the world’s poverty. But at an individual level it works to make one more conscious of the presence of others who are denied basic human rights because they don’t matter in a system.
* * *
A system is the most laughable of phrases. Something like a system doesn’t exist anywhere in the universe and the universe is not a system. The universe is a dark space within a darker space. Dark spaces do not constitute systems.
In the absence of a system I feel nothing. Systems were designed to serve class interests. Systems are exclusive in that sense. If systems are supposedly comprehensive to include one and all they cannot be called systems any more, because instability is the nature of nature. Anti-system is not a system. It is an argument. Anti-system is disobedience to order that brings suffering to children. Anti-system is pro-child in every sense of the term. Anti-system is dark, spacey and infinite. A system is enclosed and stable. An anti-system is dynamic and open.
The universe is an anti-system. Anti-system does not respect systems built upon falsehoods and protected through brute force of armies and police. Ideological monsters such as the media, family and religious teachers wet their hands in the blood of the poor and need to be challenged and embarrassed. A system expects obedience but produces defiance among sensitive bodies.
An anti-system is bodily in form and content. It produces love where there is hate. It produces anger and revolution where there is hunger. It produces madness where there is the pretence of an ordered language in which we all can communicate and understand one another.
The soul is a system. The body is anti-system. The soul in body is a breathing fragment of glass, an anti-system as well. The room is a system, but two mirrors facing one another in the same room are an anti-system. Two mirrors disrupt with one looking into the empty space of the other as if it were real. Mirrors mock rooms as anti-systems mock systems.
Systems constantly suffer the need to be proved. Anti-systems play on this fundamental weakness of the system. Systems dream of existing. Anti-systems are born to die. They have no pretence of living forever. They are not looking for the meaning of creation. They do not think that there is a reality called time apart from the concept. They do not look for beginnings and endings.
Anti-systems function within the modest scope of liberating people from basic needs and creating possibilities of a creative life. Reality and truth are useful words in a system. In an anti-system death and struggle replace the real and the true. Death is real and struggles are truly the body’s way of going into that state of mind where language is pointless and I am the universe that I speak of.
* * *
In fantastic battles, armies of shadows vanquish me. In reality I must choose the battles I fight. I will to change but in what direction I cannot foresee. I am an artist without a worldview. I allow myself to be vanquished by every floating feeling coming out of a bottomless sea. My poetry is contained in flotation. The seas have taken me as a miraculous drop in their being.
The world I view changes in the space of the dance within my soul. I feel radical pity for all that my body goes through. The word becomes sweeter as my body comes closer to resembling a shrunken shirt close to being discarded.
I need a world where I could recline waiting for a special event to take place. I fantasize outside reality’s domains. Reality just means others. If reality is a hospital for mad people, then the others are no more to be trusted than myself. Or each one’s madness is real to the extent that it is perceived so. I went through each impression that crawled across the mind. In silence the truth was obvious. I spoke to reveal the obvious. That was the beginning of madness.
The special event is the will to transform the soul of imagination. At war with fantasy I came to see madness as a state before the dawning of other realities. Of these realities I visualized the compassionate worlds of children as the future of things to come. Bodily unselfconscious and free of ideologies the naturalness of the animal world coexists with conscience that moderates the passion to preserve oneself.
Childhood occupied a place outside the sensuality of metaphors that memory imposes in semisolid parts of the brain. Like the revolution that defies the stasis of order, childhood mysteriously maintained a distance from the moment I was living. The child I was and the children I imagine alternately enter my thoughts. Childhood is not a passive state in which things are happening. My being a child is the effort I place in retaining sensitivity to life along with an uncanny playfulness. I combine these elements in thoughts of a revolution that revitalizes the forces of life originating in death and nothingness.
The negative is the basis of the positive. Evil must be loved because the good cannot be good without evil. This does not justify the unjustifiable evils of an oppressive system. It merely questions the basis of the distinction that the system makes between good and evil as two opposing forces. The relativity of definitions is ignored to select certain presumed characteristics to define evil in a way that suits vested interests.
I lose where I build fortresses of ice that the fires of the world’s desires do not come close to my skin. The fire is within me. The powers of flesh manifest their colors in various states of my body. Against the body I choose to love the dispossessed of the world as if love was a constant ready to confront all variables.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2005 by Prakash Kona