Purpose and Time

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver “The Summer Day
*****
I want to be intentional. I want…
I want to be held on my fragile days
To be enveloped and smothered with love
Love like the morning dew, evanescent
Yet, with a permanence just like the dawn.
I want to hold my lover’s body and
I want to know whether I am alone.
I want to be held on my dying days.
I want to hear the voice of others
Swallowed by the black maw of the abyss
To let go of the cold hands of darkness.
As the light calls to me, divinity.
I want to be told the purpose of life.
*****
What is your purpose in life? …
Fire.
It’s a reflection of our own mortality
We’re born, we breathe, and then we die.
Even the sun will die someday
But we are divine
We are the gods trapped in cocoons
—Dean Armitage “Get Out
*****
What is time? Is it the Ticking Clock or
The Flowing Stream or the Sun, Rising, Setting?
Blinded as we are by living our lives
Time, manifesting in the shadows cast
As the stalking silent footfalls of death
It is the only promise of rebirth.
Death surrounds me, it greets my waking thoughts
And tells me of a sleep everlasting.
Time is the slow decay of everything,
Of voices lapsing into silence
Of people becoming Memories
Of memory, the pain of forgetting.

Writing and Failing

Language is primarily an excellent means of experiencing and communicating nomothetic information, i.e., rubricizing. Of course, it attempts also to define and communicate the idiosyncratic or idiographic, but for ultimate theoretical purposes, it often fails.

For instance, see the writing of James Joyce or various contemporary discussions of the theory of poetry. Poetry is an attempt to communicate, or at least express. An idiosyncratic experience that most people “have no art to say.” It is a putting into words of emotional experiences that are in essence wordless. It is an attempt to describe a fresh and unique experience with schematizing labels that are themselves neither fresh nor unique. About all the poet can do in such a hopeless situation is to use these words to make parallels, figures of speech, new word patterns, etc. with which, though he cannot describe the experience itself, he hopes to touch off a similar experience in the reader. That he sometimes succeeds is simply a miracle. If he attempts to make the words themselves unique, then communication is impaired as in James Joyce and as in modern nonrepresentational art. An effective expression of these points is found in the following introduction to an unusual story by V. Lincoln in The New Yorker, Sept. 28, 1946.

“Why are we never prepared, why do all the books and all the wisdom of our friends avail us nothing in the final event? How many deathbed scenes we have read, how many stories of young love, of marital infidelity, of cherished ambition, fulfilled or defeated. There is nothing that can happen to us that has not happened again and again, that we have not read over a thousand times, closely, carefully, accurately recorded; before we are fully launched on life, the story of the human heart has been opened for us again and again with all the patience and skill of the human mind. But the event, when it comes, is never anything like the description; it is strange. Infinitely strange and new, and we stand helpless before it and realize that the words of another convey nothing, nothing.

“And still we cannot believe that personal life is, in its essence, incommunicable. We, too, having lived the moment, are impelled to convey it, to speak the words so honest in intent, so false in the final effect.”

Abraham Maslow in Motivation and Personality

No matter how well I write to vivify personal experiences and emotions, I often fail. Well, here’s to failing spectacularly and to writing more.

Welcome to 2020.

Lethargy

“What we now feel for their world is that emotion which they preach as an ideal: indifference-the blank-the zero-the mark of death. . . .”
– John Galt in “Atlas Shrugged”

* * * *

There is nothing in me
Eyes only reflect yours
Head as empty as heart
Lift me, take me away
Tell me, fly! Spread your wings!
But this breeze refuses
To carry me as the
Soil buries me to my
Ankles, do not tell me
To find my feet! Do not!
I try to run, I tried
Go, leave me where I am
Alone, frozen in place.

Everyday People (VOL. 2): Life, Death, and Living

Estimates say modern humans have existed for 200,000 years – a relatively short time compared to other organisms. During this period, we have greatly evolved: birthing science, technology, civilization, and now completely dominate the planet. However, with all our accomplishments, we have failed to answer what at first glance seems like a very simple question – what is the meaning of life? This question, and its answer, remains quintessential to our purpose on earth, the very reason we’re alive. The problem is the foundation of all science and philosophy, and yet the best scientists and philosophers have come up with no satisfactory answer – even though it is frankly unrealistic to expect one. Humans, as history has shown, do not agree on anything – so why would one expect any answer on a subject as complex as this to be universal?

Nevertheless, attempts have been made and some answers find wider acceptance than others. For most, religion is the answer to life’s ultimate question – we were created to worship God and follow his commandments, thereby securing eternal bliss in the process. Of course, variations exist, but that is the general idea. We already know that there is no universal answer for all humans nor should one be expected, do we then conclude that the religion with the highest number of adherents is the correct one?

Well, of course not. Upon closer inspection, one realizes that widespread acceptance alone is not enough – especially when the babies born to adherents of each religion are, usually, automatically indoctrinated. A lot of people simply accept their religions as fate – many believing they were born into the right one with few ever considering a change of faith, and even more being thankful that providence has simply eliminated the bothersome issue of choosing for themselves. Even within a particular religion there are sects that vie for dominance: in doctrine and number of adherents, everyone believing their answer to be right, and unsurprisingly enough, wanting everyone else to think so as well.

With all discussed so far, it is clear that there are only personal answers to the meaning of life. Everyone will come to their own conclusion as regards the matter, or settle for someone else’s – even if that answer reeks of dubiousness – e.g. paper-thin counsel from “motivational” speakers, “inspirational” quotes from Facebook accounts, and “assistance” from long bearded guys with a very suspicious number of rings (but that’s another story). Questioning everything only leads to more questions, never answers. One could say that since all life is geared towards the pursuit of some goal or the other, the ideal goal would be happiness as long as that happiness wouldn’t hurt anyone, but that’s just infantile idealism. What happiness is not built off the pain of others? What guarantees happiness anyway? Wealth? Beauty? Fame? Power? How many examples abound of these things being the direct opposite? And even then, isn’t it a tad naïve to believe that a single achievement would truly and completely make one fulfilled, when human desire can never be satiated?

Let us now consider reality, the supposed basis of life itself. How do we even define it? Based on our perceptions of it? If our different perceptions are all that we have as reference points, can we really trust them? Life is defined by experiences, and these experiences are marked by our ability to perceive and interact with our environment – sentience. But can any human truly take credit for these abilities, this supposed “sentience”, when he had no choice but to interact and respond? If a scientist were to find a way to apply human feelings to AI, what would be the difference other than our structural make-up? Are we just glorified bio-chemical machines? Here, Einstein (paraphrasing Arthur Schopenhauer) comes to mind: “Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants.” Where is the proof for free will? How do we know that we are actually in control of our actions?

As regards control, sentience might seem a step too far. Countless human lives are decided by society – jobs, marriage, kids and a career-spanning mortgage being the ideal (even though this still fails to please them in the end). Our behavior being independent is a nice idea, but nothing more. Life, just like death, is not a matter of choice – no one actually chooses to live, the only choice is to continue living. All human and animal decisions are made after this fact, and that pretty much throws a wrench in any valiant quest for truth. There is absolutely no reason to believe this is not all a simulation – because even if theories about life being an alien’s high school science project don’t appeal to you, you still have to consider the fact that the deities of all major religions lay claim to omniscience and by extension, the control of all human destiny. Humans are still puppets in both cases – the only difference is appearance. Beliefs and notions, I have come to realize, are but matters of mere semantics.

In the midst of all this uncertainty, what then, you ask, would provide anything concrete? To me, the answer is as simple as it is blunt – death. If there are actually any truths to be discovered as regards life, they will only be revealed at its end. As already mentioned, a good number of humans believe there is some form of life after death, blissful at that – but still dread this inescapable end – and that only highlights the reality of the unknown, and how little we understand it. Why do we choose to focus on the possibility of eternal oblivion, when the possibility of eternal happiness also exists? Why do we ignore the fact that death could provide the answers we’ve spent all our lives searching for? Granted, it is only an assumption, but why do we revere fear so? We are beings defined by contradiction. What do we really want?

I do realize that it is not easy to leave all you know for nothing at all. I know the pain that this separation will inevitably bring. I know there is no sense to be made of it. But the human experience itself is not easy. To live is to feel, and these feelings spark desires that only die out when that life ends. Whether it is for revenge or justice, understanding or bliss, the chase goes on. To live is to pursue. To live is to fight for something. To live is to struggle, and the only thing that could end the struggle is death, which in any case is not a choice, so why rebel? Death may very well be the ultimate peace – as Socrates remarked, “the greatest of all human blessings.” So, whatever your answer may be, live! Live with empathy and dignity; live with an open mind, and when the end comes, face it! Face it, not with fear or regret or fear, but with courage and gratitude for each and every lesson learned. May we all find our strength.

***

Written by @datopdlink
Budding writer and artist. Put Quite Simply, he’s a Legend.
His twitter handle is @datopdlink and his blog is a collection of Random Thoughts.

Everyday People (VOL. 1): Call Me By My Name

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold – Proverbs 22:1

The memory of the just is blessed but the name of the wicked shall rot – Proverbs 10:7

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. – Ecclesiastes 7:1

**********************

I apologise. There is no shape to this, yet. No outline, no direction. I am the rudderless ship tossed about in the churning waters of a vivid imagination. Knowing there is no destination in mind, all winds become favourable. The crew mad with panic but the captain is calm, self-assured. He knows it is the journey that matters. When you are at the very end, you look back at the journey.

My name is not exactly a mouthful, I feel it is of an appropriate length. Not too short that it can be moaned in bed during those brief moments of ecstasy but not too long that it sounds like a sentence or an epithet. Not common enough to sound everyday but not unique enough to pique curiosity. A perfect blend, what I call a good name. I guess this is like a journal entry, not exactly nonfiction but for my sake we shall blur the lines.

My name is my name and sometimes it is more, but never less. I would like to think that some people hear my name (or see it) and they feel something. Envy? Hate? Awe? Love? Disgust? Something, anything but apathy (even if some people might feel this way, not everybody will). It marks the passage of your life (or the impact of living) on the lives around you. It shows you are living. It shows you have lived. Even the names of dead people still get venerated till this day. Apotheosized, mythicized, immortalised, and sanctified. In death becoming more than they once were in life. My dad used to tell me (back when I was more impressionable) to always leave a footprint wherever I went. To mark the sands of time, indelibly. To be like these men. To have names that are more.

But my brother, he said why walk on the ground when you can run in the sky? Although these two are very different contextually (his nickname was Skyrunna…) we shall draw parallels nonetheless. Allow me extend the metaphor further. I am not running and I am not walking. I am standing still or have the appearance to be statuesque while life happens around me and to me. I am crawling like the continents, floating on tectonic plates, an imperceptible motion only perceived after an aggregation over an extended time period. Flora and fauna changes, evolves, around me. The skies get darker, and lighter, and ice melts. Ice melts. With all this, still call me by my name.

Everyday People (VOL. 1): 5. Warrior

“Life is a journey, to live is to suffer
And I have been suffering through mine
But living’s a blessing, so I ain’t no stressing
‘Cause some of my niggas ain’t ’round”
– Killer Mike in Thursday In The Danger Room
* * *
Every breath is a battle. I breathe in
Suffering because my life is war.
Every step is a journey. Each footfall
Has a thousand echoes whispered to me
As aches and fatigue that my joints chorus!
This fell marching song. This army of one.

Push me through, when my feet fails me, these
Narrow corridors. Lead me to the
Theatre of life. Leave me with naught
But the sickle, the weapon in my blood.
Let me fight like a gladiator
Listen to the little crowd, silent
With consternation. To lose is to
Find release. The burden of life is
For the living. So, too, the burden
Of death. Lessen your load, yield the weight,
Then lay me under A cold blanket,
Shrouded by death’s appalling shadow.

Pain is the penumbra of a life eclipsed
By death; Pain is the gilded halo of
Any further living; Pain, death, taxes.
Every breath was a battle but now the
War is over, and my suffering ends.
* * *
“One cannot, in any real measure, remember pain.”
– Heboric Ghost Hands in The Bonehunters

(For Fatima de la Familia. Live.)

Everyday People (VOL. I): 4. Rainfall

Heaven heaves! Sunshine leaves to hide behind
Brooding clouds. Children run around, naked,
Beneath a Darkening firmament like
Babalawos beseeching Ṣàngó To
Hold his wrath. Hear their laments but do not heed.
Come forth and manifest! Let heaven heave!
It reminds me of unrequited love.
Fat drops fall, heavy like my he
art: Pregnant,
Poignant, with sadness. The children find warmth
Under mothers’ bosoms. I want to be
A child again; When I held lightning in awe
And thought thunder split the skies asunder!
A child again when the touch of your skin
Did not inflame mine and I did not think
Your thighs paved the highway to paradise.
Petrichor comes as denouement, Sunshine
Comes to burn through my reminiscence just
As it was that fateful day, I was left
With only the lingering scent of you!

Everyday People (VOL. I): 3. Sunshine

You’re my sunshine
You’re my moonlight
You’re the starry skies above me
Won’t you please come down and hug me
Lupe Fiasco “Sunshine”
* * *
I have loved my mother. But God loved her,
More. This is what they said to my father
As I watched him weep, inconsolable,
Then I knew he loved her too, he still does.
I have loved my father and I still do.
I have loved my brothers even with the
Knowledge that soon they will find women
To love and I have made my peace with it.
I have loved my darkness. It dissolved me
Until I lost the substance of self
I loved how it smothered and soothed
How it Buried me under the weight of
Apathy and resuscitated me
With the promise of death and oblivion.
I loved my darkness, my melancholy,
Until she came along, as Sunshine.
* * *
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
She’s always gone too long
Anytime she goes away
Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine”
* * *
Dawn, Noon, Dusk, Night:
The natural progression of you,
Sophie, my light.

Everyday People (VOL. I): 2. Mother Dark

Darkness is so great it gives horns to a dog.
– Igbo proverb
* * *
Mama! The sun sets on your forehead
And the moon rises from your eyes.
There are stars stuck between your teeth
And galaxies embedded in your dermis.
Your flesh is the substance of night:
Naked, you ascend, you become.
Mama! No candles burn in your shrine
As shadows swallow the light.
No effigy can capture your essence.
You are the hood of the lantern,
You are the veil that conceals,
The sea that quenches the sun.
Naked, darkness flows like the river, the fish.
Mama! Eddies of black pool atop you.
Nipples, navel, neck, knees…
And my lips find these pools
And the skin beneath.
I become congregation marvelling at god
Whilst begging for gratification.
The divine perfection in every arch,
The swell of your nubile breasts,
Embrace me with your wrapping arms of legs
And thighs that bridge the way to heaven
Naked, we become silhouettes.
Then the sun rises on our bodies
and you’re human again, Mama!

Everyday People (VOL. I): 1. Buffer

My heart in turmoil, a beating mass of scars.
Each beat, I feel the loss of you anew.
My eyes are full. This painful sight of you,
Smothered by love and another’s embrace,
Burns through my tears to set my brain on fire.
The things I have left unsaid are bitter
On my tongue but your name remains as love
Crystals melting in the warmth of my soul.
Akóredé, yours is the oases
Whose water is unobtainable still
I linger in your shade dying of thirst.
You are the mirage that hides the whole world.
You are a world hidden in a mirage.
Akóredé, do you love me still?
Have we become purely ornamental
On our separate routes to true love?
You have let me go, why do I hold on?
What am I holding on to? Memory?
Idealised you have become perfection
And nobody can win against ideals.
This is my final goodbye, dear lover.