the end of the world.

I’d forgotten about the smells. Every inhalation is an intoxicant. Returning to Mysore is a trip.

I arrived on the tail end of weeks of sleeplessness and living in freezing temperatures without heat and water. Disregarding rest I walked across the town back and forth high as a kite. I kept seeing faces distort. I swear I was hallucinating.

Being here is like a dream. I feel as though I’ve gone back in time. Or that I’ve always been here wandering these dust roads and the past three years never happened.

On the last leg from the dark grotty streets of downtown Bangalore to the contrastingly quaint morning glow of Mysore, we made a quick chai stop. That first cup of chai, injected into my sleepy stupor, was blissful beyond words. A kid nearby kept staring at the odd lonely pasty woman and I stared back at him, stoned on just everything.

Entering the bubble, I have already made contact with the politics and the scene. It amuses me to think how much this turned me off, how much it disappointed me, all those three years ago. I have been to register two times now only to be told “You come tomorrow”, “You come tomorrow”. People wait from 1pm for 3pm registration now. Things have sped up in my absence. Okay tomorrow, tomorrow. I turn away with a smile.

Mysore is evolving. It’s bigger, better and shinier. This is how it should be. Mysore is evolving the way its people are evolving. Where it’s headed, no-one can tell. Time collapses in on itself here.

I ponder sometimes whether Mysore is only a world created inside my head, complete and perfect in its myriad imperfections. Bodies travel space and time to this place where everything moves in circles. Time and space and bodies folding endlessly. Daily existence is first and foremost sensory. That’s why the memories last longer, and the love happens easier.

 

losing you.

When we talk about an object of desire we are really talking about a cluster of promises we want someone or something to make to us and make possible for us. To love something/someone is a wearing labour-intensive process of investment that can devour you and yet also enlivens and expands your understanding of what is possible. (In other words, it’s a yoga practice).

I still remember a time when I lived a life where my unhappiness or happiness was reliant only on how I angled myself to a situation; a result of the choices I alone made. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could empty out all this sensory debris embedded in my flesh and start over. I’ll be sensible this time.

But moments hit you before you have chance to dodge. When I was younger, but old enough, I gave something of mine away. I gave it to a person who I thought would never hurt me. That was my first mistake. Because we are all capable of hurting each other, even if we don’t love them. More so when we do. Before we have time to catch up its somehow already happening. And there’s no chance to pause now. No matter how you wait, what time you take, the everyday affects persist in their surging impulses. Encounters affect, bruise, or heal, on a level that is always somewhat imperceptible.

We stay stubbornly fixed to situations of bruising attachments because to lose you, is to lose the future self and possibilities that you represent. I tell myself again and again: “It’s who you love that makes you who you are, not who loves you.” This helps to remind me to lose my attachment to the need to be loved. And yet if who/what I love makes me who I am, not only is my happiness and my future resting in the continuing presence of my object of desire, but to lose them means to also lose part of my self; and the promise of what I imagined I could be.

Speaking of love gets tired unless you can rescue it from the sentimental banality to which it has sunk in a consumer culture. But ‘I love…’ fixes its gaze in the wrong direction. Isn’t love rather something that passes through us, residing, if anywhere, only in the spaces in-between. This is why it can never quite be possessed, or given. And we frame love with time markers, it has to be said at the right moment – not too soon or too late – it is a benchmark in a relationship (after an appropriate number of months of dating/having sex). To say ‘I love you’ is then quite detached from love as a feeling: an affective atmosphere or attraction between two. Instead it becomes a way of claiming, a stealing of another; this one is mine we say.

No wonder we can get claustrophobic, no wonder we get so insecure about losing the other. Because the insecurity of losing or the fear of an inevitable break-up emerges only because we presume a permanence to the people in our lives. We might shy away from investing until the ‘right moment’. We might take up strategies (consciously or otherwise) to protect ourselves. We might try to always act appropriately, nonchalant, unaffected; we might try to fantasize that we are autonomous and seek control, and feel despair when that control is forever out of reach. We want emotions to only happen on our own terms. But affect always gives you away. We give ourselves away in the saying too much, in the spontaneous actions that change everything, in the piercing sense of insecurity that won’t subside, in moods that fluctuate between wanting to run for cover and curl closer.

Establishing a sense of permanence is a necessary mode of living in a confusing, contingent world, anchoring ourselves to something/someone helps make sense of it all. Yet when love becomes one of those anchors, we neglect to recognize how love, like all feelings and human nature, is not something that remains static. It is tempting, almost irresistible, to not begin to invest in the daydream vision of life, in the promises a person can encapsulate. The changing form of things, beings, encounters, reminds us of the very contingent nature of all things, especially love – as an affective response that emerges in-between. To invest in something that is inherently transitory is unsustainable – it means living on the edge of permanent uncertainty.

That’s not to say all relationships are doomed, but rather to point to the fact that if love is a space in between two shifting points (people) then to seek reassurance from an evolving moment is directing our energies in the wrong way. The “I love you”‘s and the marriage proposals, are all attempts to acknowledge a feeling that persisted longer than expected. But it doesn’t make it indestructible, nor should we live in fear lamenting a loss of sovereign control that was never ours. We cannot lose love because it was never ours to have.

And so until we conjure better words to express how we feel (“I enjoy occupying this space with you where love circulates around and over us” sounds pretty clumsy) the true essence of love is captured best in the subtle encounter and the unfinished moments; in the incomplete sentences and the ordinary silences.

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Solange, Lauren Berlant, Kathleen Stewart, AdaptationGilles DeleuzeBefore Sunset, Slavoj Zizek, Polica, Lia Ices, Yoga Sutras.

what I wish I could say.

If I can fit the pieces of this self together at all, I don’t want them to be the way they were. Not because I thought I could be better defended either: what I wanted was to be realer. – Eve Sedgwick, ‘A dialogue on love.’

I’ve found it hard to get outside the door recently.

So I’ve been spending days in bed, morning practice, then reading – intermittent – staring at the clouds, idea-having. My supervisor tells me: ‘Because what you are going to do is make a significant contribution to theory’. Curled in sheets scattered in croissant crumbs it feels unlikely. Is this how all masterpieces were born? In solitude – emotional insulation – slacking off the formal university occasions. Am I a philosopher now? Wow, thanks. Surely I wasn’t trying.

But I have been watching lots of programmes about hoarders. Now hoarders understand, that need to hide oneself away, literally with objects, a house so full there is no space to move, to breathe. Its almost a regression back to the womb, a safe place, a clear barrier between the self and the troubling world out there. What is interesting is how loss lies at the centre of many hoarding stories. ‘Well it started just after he died…’ When we lose space opens up. And what do we fill it with? The habit is chosen seemingly arbitrarily, by circumstance or chance. To hoard is perhaps the act of filling space at its most literal expression; and yet the aim is the same; to bury oneself alive, to no longer be. The over-eater, the bulimic, the addict, the alcoholic, often seen as the ailments of the greedy, but is it not rather a matter of feeling unbearably empty. It’s not greed when you never manage to fill that space.

“I was looking for something to fill that void inside”, sometimes this statement is said in regards to a yoga practice. Nothing else worked, so says Russell Brand. Oh and he tried. And don’t we all want to return to the womb, to reach that point of non-existence, to momentarily shed the tiring fact of being. This is not to ‘be in the moment’ as the adopted mantra goes. It is more an awareness without thought. After all it’s not a coincidence that it is only in the yoga practice room where I don’t feel the anxiety.

But it’s hard, hard to remember that some people don’t have death as the centre of the way they live – but nor do they have life – they just have fear of both. Fear is it own fortress. And yeah yoga helps. But you won’t find any anecdotes here. Though here’s a funny story. I represent a pretty successful recovery story. Parents dead by age 15 and an eating disorder for a good 7-8 years or so. Ask me how I recovered, and I have no idea.

Thinking in spaces makes more sense. Both in the way spaces close up and empty out depending on the people we have in our life and who we lose. When the space gets too large, feels irreplaceable, we might take up strategies to fill up that space, and those strategies might create their own problems, like burying ourselves alive, or destroying our insides. But sometimes that same space is comforting, its a cushioning, we can reclaim it as our own. And then there’s the people we allow into our spaces. I recall the comment of a customer I once served, “You become like the five people you spend the most time with”. I spent many years of my life closing off my spaces. And the people that occupied my space were critical and negative, “You need to open up more”, “Why are you wasting time going to India”. This helps no one. If I was to attempt any form of recovery story it is this; move out of the spaces that don’t serve you. This happens both through simply picking up and leaving, as well as opening up the spaces for newness to enter in. For me this resulted in meeting people who supported me for who I was. And yeah yoga, that stuff helps. Especially with opening the heart chakra.

I have a wise friend (he is younger than me but ah well) who used to tell me I hadn’t yet come to the realisation of being the odd one out. “Only then will you be free” he advised. But I have! I am free! I would cry. But I still spent so much time being disappointed, carrying expectations of the world, of people. I thought the only way out was to somehow transform, to let go of everything; and then there was the pressure to figure it out, and quick. But somewhere along the line, say a couple months into my stay in India, I started to lose my fear. It coincided no doubt with the time I fell ill. And no this sure as hell wasn’t any spiritual awakening. It was more a moment where I stared at the ceiling and the fan spinning above my head and thought “I feel like I’m going to die. No-one is coming to save me. And I don’t care”.

Sometimes the boundaries of the self, life and death blur so much you get a sense that living as the odd one out is really not a big deal because, and this is my deep realisation, we are all human and we all die, and who cares about the rest of the stuff, like the chase to ‘be’ someone, or going up the career ladder, or getting a mortgage. Running away is not running away, it’s the search for better ways to live. It’s creating a life for yourself where you can experience all you want to experience. It might mean being a little crazy. And as for the things that do matter, well they lie in the moments you encounter along the way, they are the people you love, and they are all the things I wish I could say.

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sort of inspired by Rashmi Munkempanna’s work: What I Wish I could Say. And she is based in Mysore.