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)

What goes around comes around

This is a picture of lightning. I've used it because it complements the fiery style of writing I've used in this post.

Back then, I endured every insult you flung at me like poisonous darts and let myself be humiliated.

I spent years wallowing in self-pity because of your mockery and wanted your life to break into pieces like a flimsy porcelain plate hurled to the floor. I wanted revenge. I wanted you to feel pain – raw, real, debilitating, destructive pain.

But then I realized that revenge gets one nowhere and is not mine to take. I learned from my mistakes and triumphed over the bitterness that scalded my heart like hot water searing flesh. My rage became quiet sorrow. My self-pity became apathy, and my hate became love.

I realized that you would sooner or later fall into a pit and I didn’t need to wish for it. And I was right. You built those sand castles and dreamt that they’d last because you ‘believed’ that you’d used onyx and graphite when you’d constructed them. But look at them now – rubble and debris intermixed with the piss of the very people you thought admired you. They couldn’t withstand the first sweep of the waves.

You thought you were a Daenerys Targaryenesque ‘Mother of dragons,’ who’d crush her enemies in one swoop and rule on ‘The Iron Throne,’ but look at you now – the commoner’s laughing-stock, raging and ranting at the air.

You made a ‘list’ of the men you ‘believed’ you’d date – regardless of if they felt the same way about you or not – and said, “You were never on it,” when I politely asked you out, even though you were crazy about me in college. You said it out of pure maliciousness and a want to wound, but look at you now, unable to keep a marriage and trying to win everybody over with lies about your husband.

I guess you realize now that it’s painful to have a heap of garbage thrown at you. And I sincerely hope you’ve snapped out of a dream where nymphs, fairies, and elves adore and crown you. I sincerely hope that you’ve realized that we’re all placed here to suffer and to endure because enduring pain and torment produces the fruit of perseverance which is so missing in the millennial.

I wish you well and hope you transform into someone beautiful because I know that every person can be beautiful. They only need the courage to face their vices. Redemption lies waiting beyond sorrow’s turbulent sea, but you’ll need to row as hard as you can, enduring the harsh rain and the ugliness to find the promised land.

You’re now in a blurry place where naiveté meets realism. Cross over to the real side and realize that even though there’s nothing much to start with, there’s still something more than a cup full of maladaptive dreaming.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Kaleidoscope

This is a black and white image of a couple holding hands and walking on the beach. The lack of color represents a flawed togetherness with its ups and downs which is the essence of love.

I know looking into your heart is like looking into a kaleidoscope, or maybe that metaphor’s a little showy, but I’m running with it for now. So, I look and find all these abstract patterns – bright and colorful, each representing a lover or a fling, and at the periphery, I find those one-night stands or slipshod ten-day sex without mental stimulation romances, but then I progress and find these blue patterns of a year or two-year old romances with ideas of a person or who you wanted them to become, and I guess that’s why they’re dreamy and resemble a hazy sky with abstract clouds, but then I’d like to find myself at the red core, which isn’t as vague as everything else, but not absolutely clear either, because darling, you and I know, that no relationship’s perfect.

Sure, I could bring you flowers this morning, and make you bacon and black coffee in that big glass, without sugar, just the way you like it, and then press you against the wall, while the hair you just did, cascades, and I know you like that – a morning taste of what’s coming, and then in the evening we could do the clichéd walk in the park, or a movie together, or laser tag.

And then, once we’re home, I could slowly unhook your bra (you know I’m good at that!) and then you could pull my shirt off, look at my scar, which you love for some strange reason, even though it’s this nasty keloid that looks like they sawed my stomach into two, and stitched it together, which they did, when I think about it.

And then I could kiss you on the neck and slowly, steadily and stealthily climb down, inch by inch, while you arch your back, and sigh, and before we know it, we’d be reaching for something so very electrifying; galvanizing each other with stimulation that isn’t purely physical, but emotional, psychological and surreal, and then exhilarating and relaxing, teasing and tantalizing in a way that’s not overtly flirty, but ‘mystical,’ if you like the term, and then, we’d find the warmth of two hearts beating as one, and each kiss that embodies a crazy, deep, insane rich feeling: the same red at the core of the kaleidoscope.

But that’s today, and tomorrow we might feel like doing nothing except slightly kissing, with the same emotion, but then the day after, something trivial might spoil things for a few hours, and hence, even at the core, what we have is never perfect.

We’ll always fall short of perfection, and then embrace the beauty of a perfect, almost-perfect togetherness, and I guess it’s just this thing we call love.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

The only way out

This is a picture of a path in the woods. It represents moving forward despite the tribulation fate bestows on us.

When I learned that she was going to breathe her last soon, that the disease was already in its fourth stage, I boxed the wall until my fingers bled, and then looked up. ‘Are you there? Do you even care?’ I asked the sovereign. Was this karma because I played God when I created characters and destroyed them using my artistry? Or was this judgement for each sin, consciously or subconsciously committed? I was left with these questions asphyxiating me, and the never knowing, making me smoke, giving me stained cotton lungs.

I smashed mirrors, the shards piercing through skin and bone while crimson soldiers of anarchy made their way to my wrist, staining the battlefield of my skin with their nefariousness. ‘Why are you silent?’ I asked him who predetermines. ‘Why do you turn your face away?’ I screamed with indignation.

I loved her. She was the only one who never judged me despite my idiosyncrasies and cantankerous temperament. She loved me selflessly and maybe the fact that I’d never reciprocated fully, birthed guilt, which birthed anger, and with a frustrated and devastated core, I took my rage out on him who’s supposedly omnipotent.

I spent days, negatively praying, and by that, I mean cursing him. So even though I believed, I succumbed to a spiritual nihilism and felt like I was carrying each cross of each broken person in this fractured world. Who are we, but dying candles braving the squalid winds of providence? And couldn’t all this be different? A world without the fall, without suffering, without Adam’s apple, and the serpent’s deception?

Watching her regress from a healthy, functional woman to a mass of tubes and bones impaled my faith with a spear of nihilism. ‘God is dead,’ I finally proclaimed, because I couldn’t handle watching the only person who meant something to me needing morphine to numb the pain, feeding off poisonous chemicals that kill more than save, smelling like a gangrenous mass of cells, and I drank, drank, and drank some more. I couldn’t visit her, because I didn’t want to see her intoxicated, but not being there made me drink more, and I wished for a way out.

And then something within, reminded me of my egocentricity, and rebuked me for playing the theatrical, ‘I, me and myself,’ card. She needed me, even if her essence was leaving her, and my pain was nothing compared to what she was going through. I learned at that moment what selflessness and humility meant. It meant giving and not self-indulgence, though the stones of tribulation strike you hard, and leave you bleeding.

But a part of me loved wallowing in my misery and did its best to enclose myself in a hazy room where my eyes burned, and the walls slowly closed on me. A part of me said, ‘You’ve got nothing left, so, why bother?’ And voices echoed, formed battle positions in my mind, and fought furiously while I looked at the liquor, and thought, ‘One more swig. That’s all, and I’ll be numb.’

But I lifted the bottle and smashed it against the wall. And threw on thrift shop clothes and ran to the hospital. I ran six miles. And sweating, I asked the nurse for an appointment, but was denied since visiting hours were over. ‘I need to see her. I’ve been here so many times before. Just for a few minutes. I love her,’ I said or partly screamed. But I was asked to come back the next day,

And so, I went home, and looked at the rum staining my floor, and a part of me said, ‘You fool! You wasted it,’ but another softly said, ‘Visit her tomorrow.’ And though I was an impulsive, reckless rebel, I listened to my inner voice this one time and spent the night fighting the urge to drink.

The next morning, feeling a conglomeration of love, withdrawal, hate and bitterness, I walked to the hospital again. And then I saw her, looking with tears in her years, wondering why I hadn’t visited. I fell to my knees and said, ‘I’m sorry. I love you,’ and she smiled through the pain. I visited her everyday though I knew she wouldn’t make it. I fought the withdrawal, though each iota of the flesh screamed. And finally, I stood in the back, when a family who’d abandoned her visited her, after she had deteriorated badly.

They transferred her to the ICU and one by one, people visited, perhaps trying to make closure, or to pretend that they cared. I was the second last. And there lay the woman who’d given me so much, and showed so much strength, now feeble and unconsciousness. ‘He gives and takes away,’ a part of me said, while another yelled, ‘Why?’

I stuttered when I gave my eulogy, but didn’t shed tears while people cried loudly; people who didn’t even bother to call her for years. Maybe they thought me cold, but I didn’t see a single one of them when I visited the cemetery the next day, and clutched the tombstone and engraved my own epitaph with my tears, literally screaming and howling, while the wind blew away withered leaves, and the sunset bathed me in the twilight.

Looking back, I found redemption from my demons because of her unconditional love, but I had to lose the most precious, beautiful person in my life to trudge forward. And that’s life: We live though we’re broken. We die though we’re happy, and through it all, despite the horrors and pain, some inner clock ticks, saying, ‘The only way out is through.’

Inspired by the quote, ‘The only way out is through’ by Robert Frost.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Youth

This is an image of a young man skateboarding. I've used it because my humorous science fiction post is about being forever young.

Yes, I found the small potent potion
of youth, hidden in a cave named,
‘Transcendence,’ and drank it in one
gulp, oh now, don’t complain, I hunted
for it, and did the hard labor, and so it was all
mine, all mine, I tell you! And it was just a
little green elixir, and so, why share?
Well, I thought that way, years ago,
and for a while it soothed, relieved,
took away stress and grief, and I grew a
beard for a year, and then a Mohawk
the next, and the women drifted in and
out like thoughts in the consciousness,
alluring, attractive, brilliant, bright,
exotic, winsome,
because I journeyed from land
to land, savoring the Boza of Turkey,
the Butter Chicken Masala of India,
and hell, even the Balut of Philippines
which only takes a little getting used
to just like Kopi Luwak,
I went skydiving, swam the
Pacific, attended fashionable parties
on Yachts, and slowly and delicately
feasted on molecular gastronomy
served in three Michelin Star restaurants,
I worked every job from sales clerk
to CEO for the hell of experience,
and boy, those were the days! But soon
television became virtual reality and then
holographic virtual reality and finally
modulated telepathy, signals given from
movie post-brains sitting in post-Hollywood,
and post-minds taking whatever they want to
with the option of cutting and editing
bits, and changing the soundtrack with a flick
of the post-consciousness,
using another signal from
the post-Music Industry, and all this
was too much for me, because the potion
only gave me youth and not evolution,
and so, they threatened me, labeling me
an oddity, and since they couldn’t kill me,
they exiled me to another cave called,
‘Depravity,’ the very word an anathema
to the post-human, and they gave me
my old gadgets which they’d reconstructed
using post-science, way too complicated and
intricate for me to comprehend, and they
called it ‘mercy’, even though they hate the
spoken word and language now rests in
a collective super-consciousness, and so I type,
hoping somebody will hear me, but
nobody does, and I guess I’ll just keep typing
and typing with existential questions
haunting me, and the angst of my mistakes
clawing at my heart, tearing it uncannily,
and  I know now that the word ‘youth’ doesn’t
just mean young, but also connotes
a forever quarter-life crisis,
a forever pain of existing, outside time,
figuratively and literally! And a forever
madness of the millennial even though
three thousand years have passed,
and the Gregorian calendar is now as
redundant as me!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A Rondeau for the ostracized

This is a black and white picture of a lonely man. I've used it because my poem talks about ostracism

Find me outside the temple gates on littered streets
Where beggars roam and hawkers sell their rancid meats
Where lepers and malingerers don’t have a chance
At ever swaying to the beat of triumph’s dance
Where you’ll find rickety old huts with threadbare sheets

Here succubi know men and the unclean beast eats
Here rustic thrones lie mangled with disfigured seats
Here beauty lies defeated by affliction’s lance
Outside the temple gates on littered streets

The vendor in his broken lodge sells hardened sweets
The dullard brags about unreasonable feats
The crone does everything expected to enhance
Distress and pain. Yes, you’ll find me in this expanse
Ensconced in halls of grief where the elite excrete
Outside the temple gates on littered streets

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Life as I know it

This is a black and white picture of a depressed man's face. I've chosen it because my prose piece is a personal confessional about my struggles with depression.

I’m a broken man who leads a very lonely life. I don’t have any friends or ‘treasured acquaintances’ as Sheldon Cooper puts it. I’m highly introverted and gravely misunderstood. I have made my share of mistakes, and they haunt me like the spirits that made Legion break his chains and torture himself.

I’ve lost my sense of duty, and I’m as irresponsible as they come. Hours pass with me smoking cigarette after cigarette and listening to the same song on repeat. And when I’m feeling a little determined, I try losing myself to a book. But there are days when I can’t read, let alone write. I feel numb then and try to stimulate my mind with a lot of caffeine; hoping some feral burst of inspiration will strike me, but it rarely works. And I’m left like a defeated prisoner, bound up and tossed in a cage; looking down at the grime and piss.

Once, I was idealistic and believed that I’d hold the stars in my hand like the Son of man. But fate dealt with me harshly and made me realize that I’m dust and ashes, and nothing more. He cruelly stomped on my feet as I chased the will-o’-the-wisp, taking from me the people and dreams I held close to my heart. He made me live out a reality that I once mocked – nurses in pristine white gowns injecting me with tranquilizers, doctors plotting to throw me in a halfway home and over-medicating me like I was a lab rat, and even my parents looking away with contempt.

Then, I looked for solace in religion. I went through mad spiritual phases in my life where I thought serving God is the only purpose in life. But religion only accentuated my grief. I found more terror in faith than love. I had horrific visions which led to more white-gowned nurses and doctors.

Finally, I accepted my circumstances and walked away from wanting validation from people, and no wrath from God. I can’t say that I’ve gained closure, and I doubt I ever will, but for whatever it’s worth I’ve decided to exist as long as there is breath in me; not caring if I’ll fade like discarded Polaroid over time or if I’ll find myself framed on someone’s mantelshelf.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

We

This is a surreal image of a couple looking at each other. I've used it because to me it represents not being in love but still being together which is the theme of my prose poem.

I don’t know when we fell out of love. Did it happen gradually like a candle melting or did it occur abruptly like a glass plate slipping from a waiter’s fingers and shattering into pieces on the floor?

I remember when we were swashbuckling romantics who walked under the distress of noon, and the august, solemn canopy of Autumn, hand in hand, driven by quixotic passion and a raw lust for life.

Maybe it’s that very idealism that killed us. Maybe we woke up one night and realized that though we shared the same bed and lived under the same roof, we were just two extremely different people who could only find themselves if they went their separate ways.

Or maybe there was an incandescent spark once but like a firecracker that becomes ash and debris after an exuberant display; we became redundant – just immature children make-believing that we were swimming in a sea of turquoise when all there was, was an unfruitful land with skulls and bones.

But what bothers me is that we’re still together, not out of necessity or the need for solace, but out of subconscious choice. We suppress the truth that insists that we let go and bind each other with toxic threads of unity for the sake of it.

We’ve known charm and Chernobyl. We’ve seen thriving forests with wood nymphs and the seventh stage of the abyss. We’ve felt dashes of joy and ebullitions of sorrow. We’ve held love and hate.

But what saddens me is that all we’ve known, seen, felt and held hasn’t given us the will to walk away and plunge ourselves in the unknown where we’ll find insight and freedom.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A villanelle for the broken

This is a picture of a sorrowed man praying. I've chosen this image because it augments my villanelle which is about grief

If life has meaning, then do tell me what it is
Do whispers of distress become a din of ache
Or do we wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

I’ve walked beside these rusty tracks, I’ve heard the hiss
Of broken trains. I’ve frequented regret’s long wake
If life has meaning, then do tell me what it is

Is it a puzzle that needs solving? A grim quiz?
Or do we conjure up lies for intention’s sake?
Or do we wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

I’ve heard the wails of pain from the perturbed abyss
I’ve seen the donjon crumble and I’ve felt the quake
If life has meaning, then do tell me what it is

Is it wild joy that’s toasted with champagne and fizz?
A guileless thrill for skewers, well-done steak, and cake?
Or do we wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

I’ve held her, and I’ve lost her like a bygone kiss
I’ve felt my torment echo and my stronghold shake
If life has meaning, then my grief is all there is
Or do I wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

© 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)