Musings

I used to walk up to the liquor store near my place, and buy myself, a bottle of rum. I wasn’t addicted to drinking, but I liked a couple of glasses of rum with coke. Maybe I was trying to emulate a low-life, but I’ve never worked odd jobs. Hell, I’ve never worked 9-5. Most of my work takes place after I read; after I clutch inspiration and gather my thoughts before letting them spill onto a page.

I live in an industrial area. I don’t wake up to the aubade of songbirds and the cool breeze. I wake up to the sound of the pneumatic drill, the sight of blue-collar workers wearing yellow helmets and barking instructions to their contemporaries, and the dust that stings the eyes.

I wake up to the roar of traffic. I wake up to people rushing off to work: Men and women skirting yesterday’s pools of rainwater and walking on barely cobbled sidewalks. I see a hollowness in their eyes and wonder how difficult their lives must be. I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but here nobody smiles and says, “Hello.”

In this country, it’s difficult to make acquaintances, let alone friends. It’s a hard place where the divide between the rich and the poor, and the educated and non-literate is enormous. It’s a place of political theater and lawlessness. It’s a land populated with people who only pretend to be liberal. It’s a land of staunch fundamentalists and zealots. It’s a brutal country.

But in spite of all that, there are a few who seek change. There are a few of us who use the little talents providence has gifted us to try to change lives. Most people ignore and often ridicule us, but we use our instruments to make music for the broken. We play our arpeggios with zeal hoping someone will listen, and yes, there’s always that one person who does. And that’s the beauty of human existence. There’s one person who loves you even if you don’t know much about them. It’s that thought that helps me keep dreaming; it’s that thought that makes me write again, and it’s that thought that tells me that all the pain and shame I’ve endured is worth it.

Society both attracts and frightens me. I’m comfortable when I’m in the company of a few friends, but once the conversation becomes tedious, I get visibly tired. I dislike long telephone conversations, and I don’t like anybody intruding on my personal space. I enjoy reading, coffee, and cigarettes. I like thinking, but I tend to overdo it. There are times when there are at least four streams of thought running through my head at the same time. And then, I try listening to music to make myself stop thinking, but my efforts are often futile.

I’m never comfortable around large groups of people. I end up sitting silently as a rock while all around me people drink, boisterously laugh and gossip. I try to force conversation out in such situations, but I only end up making a fool out of myself. I can enjoy society as long as there is a minimalist charm to it. But the moment things become raucous, I’m riddled with angst, and I need to run away.

When I started writing, I had dreams of becoming someone great, even though my work was full of mistakes. But time has taught me that though it’s nice to hold onto the inner child in you when it comes to being playful or charming, clinging onto idealism can destroy you. I now write solely for myself, and I feel a deep unease when someone projects themselves into my lines. Often, when I’m harsh, I’m harsh on myself, and I don’t have anybody in mind. I wish people would get this and leave me alone.

I disdain arguments and feuds. It troubles me when someone is especially belligerent or hostile. I used to react aggressively, but I’ve learned now that life only gives me a handful of moments, and wasting it by being bitter is the worst thing I can do. I mean, what’s the point? It isn’t mature, and I’m looking to add depth to my art, and not fight like a petulant child. There are places to go; things to see, and wonders to experience with and without the help of literature, and I want to grab life by his shoulders, shake him and say, “Look at me! Look at me! I’ll follow you and learn from you! Now show me everything!”

There is so much knowledge in this world. So many books that I’ll never finish reading. From the descriptive essays of Mary Oliver to the poignant portraits of a working-class America by Philip Levine to the harrowing, disturbing inner reality of Plath, there is just so much to know and such little time.

But then again, one cannot always read or write. Every life is a portrait that needs a few brushstrokes of experience. Experience can be both beautiful or terrifying, but it nonetheless teaches us. When I led a happy life reading Robert Jordan, I tried fashioning my identity by emulating traits of characters in his novels. It was only after a period of suffering and trial that I finally managed to see people for who they are and see myself for who I am.

In Fitzgerald’s novel, Gatsby organized some of the most elegant parties that all kinds of people attended. Attending his parties was like wearing a badge of esteem. Merriment, music, great food, and drinks made each party a hit. But none of those people attended his funeral. And that’s life. That’s the greatest lesson we can learn. Never let go of the people who stand by you when you’re down. They are ones who care. The rest will jump on the bandwagon as long as you’re in the limelight but will leave you trampled with a blood-soaked garment, the moment they can.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Writers

This is a picture of two funny faces. To me it depicts hypocrisy which is a central theme in my essay.

If you’re a miserable, depressed bastard who spends his time hating himself, the last thing you need is a blank page and a pen. Trust me, writing is the most exhausting and humiliating profession a person can take up. It drains you and drills in you an insatiable need for validation. You want people to hear you, to cry your name out in the streets, to sing praises, and if you get it, you’re only left wanting more.

Writing devours you, bit by bit. It eats you slowly like cancer. It robs you of your identity, your sense of self, and your fucking life. You wait for inspiration and then wring it dry when it comes; cutting yourself open in the process and pouring your entrails on a page. And then, you hastily stitch your wounds, before repeating the process. You become a serpent biting its tail. You go nowhere and only delude yourself into thinking that it’ll all come to a fruitful end one day.

Writers are liars. They contradict themselves all the time and then justify their viewpoints by saying things like: “My ideas were still evolving then.” Writers are thieves because they only redesign what their predecessors have said for centuries. Putting it figuratively, they capture a mansion that has stood for decades using a Polaroid and then paint all over the picture and say, “Here! Look at my surreal image! It’s unique, and I designed everything!” Writers are madmen who live out their twisted fetishes in their art. From incest to coulrophilia, you’ll find everything. You only need to look for it. Writers are moody fuckers who can get extremely jealous, bitter, proud, or angry. Writers are perverts. The blogosphere is full of hardcore sex poems that are deemed ‘sensual.’ Writers are paranoid. Somebody writes something on an obscure blog, and some other lunatic thinks it’s about him and starts a war. Writers are lazy. A lot of them don’t have jobs, and since it’s difficult to break into the publishing industry, they sit and write for morsels of gratitude in the form of likes or comments. Writers are narcissists. They’re either arrogant pricks or sorrowed narcissists who’re bitter, self-righteous preachers posing as mendicant monks of depression.

And when I say writers, don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as my peers. I’m guilty of creating a house of horrors, complete with stage, lighting, and actors with red and blue paint. Now, my father physically abused me when I was young, and today, I’m unemployed, bipolar, and on medication. That’s the hard truth the looks me in the eye and asks me to move on with my damn life. But that’s not how I portray it. If asked to write about it again, I’ll probably start by saying: “What do you know? Have you seen your mother almost dying at the hands of a feral man you still can’t call your father? You sit at home with your picture-perfect family, and you’re given everything on a platter. You don’t even have to dance for John’s head. Just ask, and it’ll be brought, neatly arranged with a cup of jus, and slices of the holy garlic bread, and old wine in a goblet from daddy’s cellar. And still, you whine and complain.” And I’ll then say: “I wept in classroom corners, and begged the bullies to leave me alone. I felt my spirit castrated each time I brought home my marks card because one rank short of Papa’s standard meant he’d beat me black and blue. I had my phone conversations monitored, and he’d feel free to abuse any friend with the filthiest words. I went to an all-boys school where each day was a palimpsest of the last – an unending, unyielding scrape of the mind, the grate leading to a now fattened, balding, medicated shell of a man who hopes that the voices in his head will stop echoing, and the episodes of grandeur, making him one of the two witnesses, turning water into blood, and standing transfigured like an archetypal Elijah will leave. I hope for hope because that’s the ashen ground with rasping withered grass I stand on. I numb the pain, stringing pills like the pentameter: the small blue sertraline, the white big Amisulpride, the small white valium, the big blue Valproate…and drink it down with hard Indian Rum, never caring about fame, fortune, prestige, or even life or death.”

So, you get it. Every writer is guilty. And here are a few more hypocritical lines from me in case you didn’t get it: “In this postmodern digital, millennial age filled with 16-year-olds going through drastic, dramatic identity crises, and writhing in angst like a person who’s smoked too much bad weed that hits the lungs hard, you have these adolescents blogging about catastrophic relationship failures – the size of a 8.0 scale earthquake – and making the entire universe revolve around them. It’s such a despicable quest for identity and validation from strangers across the globe. The smiley (with its numerous devious forms) has replaced the hug, the like has replaced the warmth of a handshake, and browsing through blog after blog, hunting down followers is now a walk in Eden. Even the paperback or hardcover finds annihilation, because of the e-reader or iPad, which only makes you skip lines, and not even visualize properly. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not just the young; it’s also time-traveling oldies which this post-apocalyptic wasteland called the ‘internet for acceptance’ has ensnared. And I’ve been there myself, trapped, crying for solace, watching the like button on Facebook or WordPress light up with the attention of a guard at the gate on duty during war, and fuck, I wasted time – years honestly, because if you put the hours together, you’ll get a clusterfuck of ages, which will stab you right in the stomach because you’re fucking responsible. But suffering shapes you, and it made me stop caring about likes or followers. I think too much time on the internet leads to disassociation and a completely fragmented identity that can’t root itself on solid ground anymore. Soon, we’ll find ourselves talking using ‘lols’ in the real world. We’ll become bat shit crazy and not in a good way. These days writing is about marketing too. Your content doesn’t have to be great, or hell, even good, if you know how to promote yourself. I find blogs about how to blog better, and I wonder if these people are writers or marketing professionals – zero imagery, zero analogy usage, zero storytelling, and just points like moles on parched skin: Do this, do this and do this. And then there are posts on blogging etiquette. Oh, for fucks sake! We aren’t at dinner at a Three Michelin Star restaurant.” Now, that’s me ranting about blogging in general, and making myself a flawed hero. But hypocrisy taints every sentence because I still love attention and get envious of popular blogs, and also because I love my Kindle!

Finally, I’ll end this by saying that I need a break. I need to go to the mountains, and breathe in the petrichor and feel the chill in my bones. Yes, I know I’ve said this so many times, but I’m considering giving all this up. What’s the point of it anyway? We write for praise, but we disdain it when it’s offered. We love being flattered, even though we know how superficial it is. We scratch each other’s backs like monkeys. We writers are a lousy, miserable, twisted, fucked up bunch.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

On Meditations by Aurelius

This is a picture of a statue of Marcus Aurelius. I've used it because my essay critiques his philosophy.

I like Aurelius. I like his notion of withdrawing into yourself irrespective of the space and time you’re in, his idea of mortality and fatalism, and a few of his thoughts when it comes to controlling impulse with reason.

I love his philosophy of the present, and never adding more to an unfortunate circumstance. But I disagree with his concept of this being the best of all possible worlds, or the Whole, or the absolute Reason. This world we live in, is often more absurd than fiction, and it doesn’t take rocket science to figure that out. Things go unexplained and you’re never going to find answers or that quaint room with its beautiful symmetry and archaic charm.

No, you’ll often find yourself in a space that’s disjointed and fractured from your convictions: a room with yellow wallpaper, and yes, please catch the allusion, or a frightening, unnerving blurred mass enveloping you with zombies and tricksters breaking free, threatening to bite through flesh, and chew on your bones. And this isn’t paranoia. Just one panoramic glance with keen insight and you’ll see it: the horror, the miasma of living decay that’s abominable choking you, making you want to retch.

And I also dislike his insistence on man being social. Being social comes with both its flaws and its breakthroughs. Sure, it’s good to meet people, but finding yourself in a clique that stereotypes, or a group that hates with an unwarranted agenda makes void the entire notion of socializing being something always productive. He says it’s terrible to fracture yourself from society, but you find artists who’re are complete misfits or loners, giving you masterpieces. I think this is related to his notion of the divinity of man, or looking within to find the light. Now, I always interpret the latter in a very general way, and never make mystical or spiritual connections to it. You must look within to change, but that’s pretty much it.

I don’t believe in human divinity because when I see the world, I see a swirling mass of darkened grey. I use this color because humanity is prone to wickedness although it’s capable of good. The notion of humanity’s inherent nature is a subject that’s hotly debated ever since the first man and woman came into existence. Some say Adam’s fall led to a shift in balance and total depravity; others say we’ve not connected with our innate goodness, but I think both views fail.

We’re not totally depraved, and we have the freedom to choose, but we’re not innately good either. Just one glance at the holocaust tells you enough of the anti-divinity that’s present in man, unless you say that divinity itself is evil. I think man has no divinity, but I agree with Aurelius on the concept of a soul. But his overemphasis on morality puts me off. It’s preachy and becomes self-righteous. But then again he’s addressing himself. Also, is it humanly possible to exist with absolute mastery over impulse and emotion? Still, all said and done, concepts like embracing death without fear, knowing that you’ll be forgotten one day, and that it’s pointless weeping for the dead since they aren’t coming back makes sense.

But the idea of us being recycled by the universe, and just being reduced to mere atoms is only partially true, in my opinion. Sure we’ll all die and go back to dust or ashes, but that’s only the body. I believe that the soul lives on, not one with the Whole, but in another dimension. You can call it heaven, hell or purgatory, but the soul is immortal, but definitely not divine. But I’ll contradict myself here and say that it’s possible that complete soul-annihilation takes place. Hell, I’m open to change.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

On chimeras and a constant need for validation in our postmodern age

This is a picture of a man silhouetted against a matrix. It represents our digital, postmodern age which revolves around technology.

You sometimes encounter people in life who want you to love them intimately. They’re literally obsessed with you and try forcing their perceptions of intimacy on you. They’re not exactly stalkers but aren’t a far cry from that breed. Now, I understand unrequited love and the need for someone to reciprocate your feelings, but if you truly love someone, you’ll let them go. You’ll never force your delusions on them because no two people think alike.

Yes, there may be a collective consciousness, but I don’t believe in the concept of soul mates or two people sharing one soul. A collective consciousness is something more genetic and has to do with traits acquired and personality, but ultimately you are your being.

People fail to recognize this aspect of liberating individuality and seem to constantly seek the approval of the ‘other’. They have ideas of the other which are often so different from who the other really is. They have dreams and misconceptions that often lead to such acts of foolishness. We live in a cyber, postmodern reality where a few messages sent, or a few Tinder dates make ‘together forever.’

Love requires commitment. Love isn’t judgment. Love isn’t falling for fancies. Love has a deep emotional aspect to it but that’s something that one acquires after years of actual togetherness and it’s not the puppy emotional, fake, cyber simulacrum.

I have found strange people entering and exiting my life. They come in like hurricanes of trust and promises and exit like whirlwinds of bitterness all because they expected something that I didn’t want to give them. I can offer friendship, loyalty, and trust if people give me the same, but I cannot offer love that satiates your chimeras. People don’t understand that I’m not hardwired to love them like their mind tells them. Your mind tells you many things and you feel myriad things but most of what you’re going through is self-indulgence. Pure selfish, hedonistic anti-altruism and when I don’t give you what you seek, your bitterness erupts like a pustule and those warm eyes turn into icy glares meant to pierce or wound.

People go to insane heights when their delusion meets the hard ground. You’ll find them unfriending people on Social Media, engaging in gossip and projecting their anger and insecurities onto the person they perceive insulted them. They dig into their pasts and scrape old wounds until they’re bleeding again and play the blame game. The person of adoration becomes an object that needs destruction.

Sometimes the madness descends to utter incoherence. ‘How could you have done that?’ You’ll find them screaming when you did nothing wrong. I don’t love you and neither did you love me. You worshiped me, and I’m not flattered. I need you to move on. So, please get over it. That’s the only response you can give people like that and if you don’t want a direct confrontation, just cut ties. Trust me, any vicious cycle, even if a person has faced similar circumstances in their life but deludes themselves into thinking that creates a special unity, needs a severing.

What is with this age and the need for constant reinforcement? I guess social media has played a destructive role in fueling our narcissistic egos. It’s all about the likes, comments, and shares and it doesn’t matter if you’re happy or depressed. If you’re happy, you’ll resort to posting picture perfect selfies and gloat as the likes and comments flow. And then there’s the sorrowed narcissist. The person who uses depression, prior abuse, and the ostracism or bullying they’ve faced to get the same likes. This person doesn’t usually use Facebook but uses blogging platforms to achieve the same goal – an ephemeral reinforcement.

I think we’ve forgotten how to have a good time. We don’t even read paperbacks anymore. We prefer shortening our attention spans by spending time reading blog after blog, hoping someone will find our blogs and like or comment. And a comment; something said by a stranger we know nothing about makes our day. And if it isn’t repeated the next day, we feel insecure and lost.

My friends, this is shallow living. But getting out of this needs suffering. You need to suffer pangs of loneliness to know solitude. You need to suffer failure to know that victory isn’t everything and this is a gradual change or an unraveling of sorts.

Having said this, I’m guilty of so many things I’ve pointed out and criticized, but I’m slowly realizing that this cyber existence isn’t worth it. Now I’m not advocating a Luddite puritanism but a balance or a middle road like the Buddha put it – neither giving in to too much or too little.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

On the WWE

This is a cartoon image of a wrestler. I've chosen it because my post is about wrestling.

If there’s one family that gives Vince McMahon sadistic pleasure, it’s the Rhodes family. Dusty Rhodes was the ‘American Dream’ in Mid-Atlantic wrestling in 1985. He delivered the famous ‘Hard Times’ promo and was probably one of the greatest promo-workers of all time. He then moved to the WWE in 1989 and Vince made him wear a yellow polka-dotted dress and dance by waving his hands around like a shmuck.

Then came Dustin, Dusty’s son. Vince made him a bizarre freak called Goldust with a ridiculous signature move called ‘shattered dreams’ which involved tying a wrestler to the corner post, making an obscene gesture, complete with sighs and weird noises and kicking him in the nuts. Goldust is still the same. It doesn’t matter if he’s a good or a bad guy, Vince makes sure the freak lives on.

And finally, we have Cody Rhodes. Vince made him ‘the Dashing Cody Rhodes,’ who was a looking-in-the-mirror, vain, metrosexual weirdo. His gimmick was comparatively better than his brother’s or his father’s, but it all changed when he became a red Goldust called Stardust. Vince teamed them up together and gave us not one, but two absolutely ridiculous, clownish freaks.

So, here’s my solution. I think the WWE should go out of business. All they do is repackage the same crap and we, being the sheeple we are, watch. In the eighties, we had a muscular freak, who went, ‘Brother! Brother!’ And in the nineties, we had a skinny ‘showstopper’ who almost put the company out of business, and then a ‘badass’ who went around chugging beers and hitting his finisher on everyone possible, and then another modernized better looking, Samoan version of Dusty Rhodes who replaced the hard times promo with something about smelling cooking and then ‘monsters’ and ‘beasts’ and ‘animals.’ And lest I forget, a modernized version of the muscular freak – until a few years ago – who wore similar clothing and kept beating everyone in his path, even though the audience booed him. Why didn’t they boo the Hulk in the eighties? Don’t ask me. Maybe people then thought wrestling was real, or maybe his patriotism towards the end of the Cold War and on the brink of the Gulf War made them go gaga. I don’t know.

But it’s the same thing in the end. Now, people even know it’s the same thing and keep watching it. Of course, the woman’s division with ‘The Man’ is a breath of fresh air, but how long before that runs out of steam and we’re left with repackaged garbage again. The Man herself is a repackaged version of the beer guzzler, but she possesses a strange charm and allure today.

Moving on, let’s talk about backstage politics. In the nineties, there was the clique who got their way doing whatever they pleased, including screwing a wrestler by using the dirtiest act ever seen on national television. Google Montreal Screwjob. Today, backstage politics are in the limelight. The wrestlers and even the owner is open about it, and we still watch the WWE! Some people think that just because Shawn Michaels mentions God, he’s a Christian. The truth is the guy was a junkie who gave up drugs, but never changed his ways. He’s still a master manipulator. Ask the Hurricane.

Finally, I present to you the ultimate solution that will end our addiction to the WWE. It’s really like heroin. A person keeps using even though it’s making him dumber and he wants out. So, here’s the deal. Now Seth Rollins is up for a match against Brock Lesnar at this year’s Wrestlemania. Now, the very thought of Brock Lesnar irritates me because all he does is come, beat people up and have a manager say the same things over and again eloquently for him because he can’t cut a promo. Anyhow, I digress. So, let’s have Goldust injure Seth Rollins on the road to Wrestlemania. Let him drive a fancy pink tow truck over him for all I care. Then let Goldust challenge Lesnar, and when Lesnar smirks, beat the living hell out of him, leaving the ‘Beast’ shocked. And let this trend continue with Goldust beating Lesnar week after week and let him cut a ‘weird times’ promo, complete with theatrics and sighs. And finally, at Wrestlemania, let Goldust beat Lesnar in under a minute, beat up Heyman, arrive the next day on Raw with the WWE Championship and say, ‘Shattered Dreams!’ before the screen becomes black like the ending of The Sopranos. And then no more WWE, no more merchandise, no more video games and not a word from the executives and producers and the chairman, leaving the fans shocked, until they’re relieved and move on with their lives!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)