Retreating into myself

This is an image of an introspective man. I've used it because my post talks about the Aurelian notion of retreating into oneself. I feel this image captures that.

I toy with the Aurelian notion of retreating into myself, and find it works. I’m by no means a master, and resolve is something that takes years to forge in the fires of an unbending aim with an unbreakable hammer, but I’ve found it changing the little things. And if I can bottle petty fireflies of distracting thought, until their false glow diminishes and then cleanse the jar, then who is to say that bigger emotion cannot be caught too? Anger throbs, irritability pulsates, guilt swirls, and sadness echoes, but it’s ephemeral, and impulse makes a man a beast, but transcending it by withdrawal into oneself despite the situation, scenario, place or time begets a joy or satisfaction which is more than mere catharsis or a transient solution. Going a bit off tangent here, I’ll say that existentialism stripped off its clothing regardless of the positive or negative spectrum that a person who believes in it adheres to, gives us two nude reflections: responsibility and meaning. And losing sight of the first is more catastrophic than the latter. I’m not responsible for the lives of others or the problems of this world, because I don’t adhere to a collective responsibility at an individual level like some nihilism suggests. But yes, I’m responsible for me, my faults, the hurt I’ve caused, the happiness I’ve given, the love I’ve shared, and the person I am: both good and bad. And for me the question of God is now irrelevant. But that’s not saying that my life has no purpose. My meaning changes each day or each hour, and I can either lose it or accomplish it. And when I’m losing it, because of emotion or resignation or circumstance, I retreat into myself, and acknowledge my responsibility, and will my drive. And yes, fate exists, because sometimes unwarranted and unnecessary circumstances place obstacles, but I’ve realized that the key is the present, and looking at those obstacles as challenges I must savor and not burdens I carry, and here again retreating, irrespective of if I’m in a bar, or in my bedroom, or smoking on the balcony, or in a park, or somewhere idyllic helps. And trust me, it isn’t easy, because I often fail. But if I just lay there and didn’t ultimately gain the mastery I need, then I’ve lost both responsibility and meaning.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Being and not-being

This is an image of a grey background. I've chosen it because it symbolizes apathy which is central theme around which my post revolves.

He wakes up at one in the afternoon these days, walks to the dinner table, pops his prescription, nonchalantly, not caring anymore about bubblegum skin, sawed off hair, or bloodshot eyes that itch. Having said that, he does look perfectly fine. His gait is a little knock-kneed, perhaps it’s another side effect or it’s just this self-imposed malnutrition. He picks up his iPod and plays an EP called Re-Traced by Cynic. They’re this progressive rock band with eclectic influences, a little jazzy, a little groovy, with passages that are a little metal sounding and others that are a little mellow. He prefers them to Dream Theater though most will win an argument about which band is better. He doesn’t care about petty squabbles or disputes anymore though. I’m not sure he cares about anything anymore. They say everyone worships something, and it’s often either something materialistic or another person, or themselves, but he begs to differ. Perhaps he worships solitude, or apathy, but then again he stopped giving that thought any room a long time ago. Thoughts often turn into equations that need balancing, or puzzles that need solving, and so he just lets a non-linear sequence of ideas or the lack of them place themselves in those alleys of his mind, now neglected. He walks to the kitchen and uses a sharp knife to cut open a packet of milk. He can’t be bothered about finding the scissors anymore. A bit spills on the floor, which he can’t be bothered cleaning up. He pours the milk into a large glass, pours some coffee into it, mixes it, and goes to his balcony and drinks it while he puffs on a cigarette. Once he’s done, he grabs whichever book he can find and reads at a stretch, losing his identity and sense of self, and then some inner clock makes him go to the shower, strip and let the lukewarm water wash away yesterday’s grime. He does this without concentrating, and then brushes his teeth, which are slightly ashen now. He wears a shirt and a jean and it’s already seven in the evening. He goes to a pub, and dances with a girl who’s very attractive and alluring: her slightly cascading hair, her somewhat lean frame and her top and jean entices him. She gives him his number after a few drinks and he tells her that he’ll call her tomorrow. He keeps his promise and she arrives at his apartment the next day and they make love. She’s great in bed and it’s a treat, and there is a part of her that is attracted to him. Perhaps she wants more than an evening spent together, but he’s too jaded for a relationship or even a fling. He politely shifts the conversation to something else until she leaves a little frustrated. A lot of women are attracted to him, and he doesn’t know why, and can’t really spend time reasoning and figuring out the solution. In this millennial age, they’d probably call it no game-game, but he doesn’t give dating that much thought. He moves from woman to woman, each possessing their unique charm, their unique vibe that he senses, though not thoroughly, and perhaps his disregard for existence makes him an enigma to them. But in the end, he prefers the wall of his bathroom, his cigarette, and his own space and time, which exists both within and outside the clock. Some might call this sort of thing nihilism with a slight bent to degeneracy, but labels don’t define him, and that’s the freedom that divides him from the romance that spills from a screen into life. Even the books he loses himself in don’t really shape him, and that’s the emancipation from syllables, vowels or nouns: the stream of thought that does not run parallel to lines of poetry with meter. He rests now at three in the night, and as he shuts his eye, a sense of closure unlike love, belief or the need to work envelops him. He does work and often changes jobs, but he distances himself from the grit and yet functions just fine. I guess this is a different transcendence without the need for self-actualization. And I don’t judge the man or his lifestyle.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Post Tenebras Lux

This is an image of the aurora borealis. I've chosen this image because it's surreal and augments my post which is full of abstract symbolism.

They gather in a pristine room, spotless and immaculate, and unsullied places don’t haunt; it’s the clique that I can’t tolerate with teeth a little too transparent like glass, unwarranted piety which spells ‘duplicity’ in pitch-black on a serpentine tongue, rolled back, while gums either bold red or plain pink, flap or keep mute. They’re a book club that basks in self-proclaimed ‘esoteric’ gnosis with a pride that rages, howls, screams and shrieks. “The rest aren’t like us,” they scoff with a Pharisaic, “Our Father is Abraham,” philistinism, which only defeats them. “See man! For crying aloud! See!” I’d like to yell, and I recently somewhat did, and the leader and I had an anti-tête-à-tête, a war of the worlds and the words (or the Word) and I unmasked his contempt, disrespect and disregard, while he retreated like a turtle into a shell of armored self-righteousness. The thing about peering into people’s minds and intuiting, before using a justified sociopathy to manipulate the puppeteer that strings narrow or open-minded thoughts dangling and dancing to the tune of consciousness is simple: Know the hierarchy, know where you stand with respect to their mind’s eye, and upset it until their mind sees spots, because when you do that, they’ll regress immediately. “Him! I thought this scoundrel was beneath me! This bastard of all people!” They’ll exclaim with shrieks of a wounded ego, with cuts of that switch-blade still seething. And you can use a switch-blade of contempt, or sardonicism, or disregard, but cleverly use it. It doesn’t take physics for you to know that each action has a reciprocation. And here’s the question: Can you handle the heat with swashbuckling passive ardor? Ardor of a gym and protein shake variety breaks you in the long run: You become a one-dimensional pugilist, with a frigid, sore body, inflexible, and unable to stretch without breaking something. And I think we all know that tattoos and piercings are a statement or a proclamation; never the real deal.

So, I’m done with him, and then there’s the second point. Why do men lack love for absolute beauty? I lack it myself. I love finitude with its imperfection, but infinite absolute love, I can’t make myself love. I guess it’s reprobation. But if it’s that, then our notion of the absolute has flaws, because if the absolute hates, then beauty and wrath are connected. You delight in the wrath too if you truly love the absolute, but I can’t, and I can’t live one moment drinking the fiercest black coffee and looking up with an energy drink passion, and then be wishy-washy. So, it’s cold. But was it ever my choice? The butcher of Geneva will say never. But let this be. So, what now? I look to philosophy, literature, music and the higher pursuits given to finitude. I find in them a kind of cleansing. A baptism of sorts: Out with years of my own Janus-faced religiosity, and now I wear a multi-colored Joseph’s coat of ideas, theories, jazz, soft cadences, and abstractions. But must I trade this coat for one of a pure hue? That will be absolute foolishness. Please note the pun. When I’m not confronted with the absolute anymore, I embrace the abstract or the vague, and stay open to change, and the shift in balance of my inner dimension. And I call this a regeneration, or me wearing a new avatar.

Finally, ah! The question of all questions: The future? Right now, yes, it’s veiled by a curtain of doubt, and no, you don’t become what you think or feel. So will the journey end in an exclamation, a euphoric, “Post Tenebras Lux indeed!” Is it a part-time, “Well, it pays the bills?” Is it a book – the dream, finally a reality, and enough to live off the craft? Or is it a tougher, hard ground, “This is the last thing I wanted, but I don’t have a choice?” Or is it, “Take away the itch, until you lull me to sleep, while I spot trains until I die?” Or is it, “Fuck this! Come, get this emaciated self, but though my bones break, and my beard grows, though my head throbs, and I bleed, my fucking heart’s made of steel! So, come! Fucking come!” Whatever, the answer is, the key to life is the journey: each step, victories or defeats, “Yes, I did it!” Or, “I’m fucking comatose,” and looking at the long road behind, and not the short one, and with that I’ll end.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)