On the Volubility of Incoherence


At last, a few moments to write. Moments, however, so far over the edge of the day, that the thoughts that arise in them (and from them) teeter on the brink of incoherence. Never mind. Let the incoherence speak. Let the more clear-headed among us assemble whatever meaning they can.

~~~~~

I’m beginning to resent this unrelenting exhaustion. I resent it because it makes me irritable and irascible—at least more than I already am. It takes so much energy to be patient and forbearing. I begin the day with these wonderful intentions, only to find them buried by an avalanche of fatigue. It comes in a steady flurry: like heavy gray snow, muting everything, dampening everything. Then night falls (the ultimate blankness) and I wake up with the optimism that is possible only through amnesia. The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur was right: happiness is a function of the skillful deployment of memory. Know what to remember. Know what to forget. I’m tired now, but I’ll sleep, and then tomorrow everything will be better.

~~~~~

I’ve finished my second Haruki Murakami novel in about a week. The first one I read was purportedly his worst (I formed my opinions first before checking the reviews, as every responsible reader should); the second is supposed to be one of his best and the one that launched him into literary stardom. Honestly, I don’t know what the fuss is about. The first novel was bad, an agonizingly verbose rendition of nothing-much-that-happened; the second was blessedly brief and straightforward enough—which is all the good that I can say about it. I will go on to read a third novel, however, simply because I have one. Where, oh where, has all the good fiction gone?

~~~~~

I’m going to bed shortly, because the incoherence has won, the exhaustion has won, and I left the third Murakami novel on my desk in the studio. I’ll sleep and tomorrow everything will be better. Perhaps even Murakami.

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On the Futility of Achievement


Every so often, but particularly when I’m feeling disoriented or overwhelmed, I’ll drop whatever it is I’m doing and try to remember: What is it that I want to achieve? What is it that I want to get?

Over the last year, however, that list has become perilously depopulated. Under the enforced simplicity brought about by running a tremendously demanding business, I’ve whittled down what’s important to me to just a handful of things: Yoga. Writing. Immediate family. A few select friends. There used to be so many other things, and I have a feeling that if room for them were to emerge yet again in my life, they would reassert their significance, but their ties to my sense of worth have been definitively severed.

The result of all this is that I sometimes wonder, with some disquiet, if I’ve…given up too early—if the utter absence of ambition in my life right now is evidence of some diminution of spirit. I try to think of what more I could possibly want, and the only answers I can come up with are: minor variations of what I already have at present.

Of course, none of this should be taken to mean that I’m content. Most of the time I’m not. This dissonance between the fact that I don’t want to obtain or achieve anything fundamentally new and the absence of tranquility in my experience of life is what has allowed me to truly grasp how I’m the exclusive source of my own happiness and unhappiness. And as I’ve told my friend J., the universe has granted me everything (really) I’ve ever truly wanted—for the sole purpose of instructing me that such constant attainment is not the path to joy.

Yet the only path there is is so very difficult. Which is perhaps why I’ve settled for the temporary gratifications provided by the dead-ends of goal pursuit and achievement. Unfortunately, the gratifications are becoming shorter and shorter-lived. I can no longer postpone the essential work that I have to do.

This is me, taking the long deep breath before the plunge.

Wish me luck.

On the Gift of Presence


Today, I want to celebrate the victory of presence. I can probably express myself much better than I just did in that last sentence, but my inner editor has stubbornly refused to alter any of the phrases. So I’ll leave the sentence as it is and trust that its essential meaning will unfold.

~~~~~

My dear friend T. visited the studio the other day with her baby P. It’s entirely possible to love a child on the basis of your love for its parents. My devotion to baby P. had been decided long before he had been born. But marvel of marvels, he’s made it so graciously easy to carry out the choice. We were cooing at each other when his mother T. looked at me worriedly and said: Are we keeping you from something important that you have to do?

The question gave me pause. Yes, there were many, many things that I needed to do. But a tiny little boy was gripping my pinky finger, and though I was sure that my finger was dispensable, the compulsion to stay in the present was not. There are people for whom the things that truly matter are patently obvious—the people who have not only smelt the roses, but planted, watered, weeded and bred them—but I am not one of those people. It’s taken me the better part of two decades to learn how to pause and not regret taking the time to have my finger held by a baby.

Which is why today, just like I did yesterday, I celebrate the victory of presence.

~~~~~

In a few days, my other dear friend J. will leave the Philippines (again) to conduct doctorate-related research abroad. J., along with T., is part of a very small and very cherished circle of friends who’ve supported me and Abbey through the long, hard months of being novice business owners. She is one of those people I constantly miss. Even when I’m with her, my forward-thinking brain will start anticipating her absence and commence the absorbing business of nostalgia. Her visits probably provide some of my best practice sessions in staying present. Not surprisingly, she and T. are very close, and she is one P.’s many godparents. It’s no accident that we’re all bound together: there is something we each have to learn from each other. For myself, the lesson is clear:

Be present. Be here. Look. Listen. Remember. Celebrate.

On the Opacity of Compulsions


(HARUKI Murakami) 1Q84. (Image sourced from Google.)

(HARUKI Murakami) 1Q84. (Image sourced from Google.)

I woke up this morning from the tenuous grip of a mild nightmare.

In the dream, I was teaching a yoga class in a brightly-lit conference room. The chairs had all been shunted off to the edges of the room and the students were seated on their mats, staring at me with the bright, expectant looks of the uninitiated. The class started off well enough: I was sure of myself, sure of my cues, confident of my music. After a few minutes though, I found that I had to stop every so often, the train of instructions issuing from my mouth halting at unintended stations, because new students kept entering the room and I had to find space for them, rearrange existing mats, repeat my cues, and apologize to the students who had arrived on time. After a while, I stopped the class entirely and told the students (who by now had filled the entire room): We’ll have to start again from the very beginning.

It was at that point that I woke up. What had constituted the nightmarish quality of the dream? The simple fact that throughout the episode I felt as if, somehow, everything was my fault.

I wonder how much of our lives pass under this vague sense of inexplicable guilt.

~~~~~

I very rarely remember my dreams. The curtains separating my conscious and subconscious worlds have been thick and opaque for as long as I can remember. I have friends though for whom the barriers between the conscious and subconscious are semi-permeable membranes: reality bleeds from one dimension to another through sheer osmosis. I can only live in one reality at a time, however, a victim of some kind of cognitive myopia. This, perhaps, is another reason I write: to gain the perspective necessary to behold that I do, in fact, live in several dimensions all at the same time.

~~~~~

I’m nearly done with a Haruki Murakami book that a client from the studio had inadvertently lent me. The book is, in all likelihood, responsible for my present state of mind. (Of all the dimensions I live in, the fictive is where I feel most at home. I carry the atmosphere of the books I read like the air stored in the tanks of deep sea divers. I may be in the “real” world, but its oxygen is not what sustains my lungs.) This is my first Haruki Murakami (an earlier brush with an anthology of short stories that I merely skimmed through doesn’t count) and my first experience of being kidnapped by a book: of being held against my will. I don’t exactly like this book; I don’t particularly enjoy reading it; I doubt I would recommend it to others. But I’m gripped by it (as if by a mild nightmare) and whether I like it or not, it’s the air I breathe these days.

I wonder how much of our lives are spent under the gravitational pull of these inexplicable compulsions.

On the Imperative to Write


Tonight, I’m present to my longing to write—my longing for the self I uncover, the self that I give birth to, whenever I take the time to actually follow one coherent line of thought (or, rather, when I take the time to shoo various lines of thought into some semblance of order) rather than be borne along the endless stream of inchoate chatter.

This month has been so ridiculously busy. I’ve never taught so many yoga classes in so short a span of time. I feel I’ve grown tremendously as a result—as a teacher and as a practitioner—but I can’t be sure. I can’t be sure until I’ve written about the experience, digested it and regurgitated it in a form that bears and embodies crystalline conviction.

Writing is how I manufacture my truths, how I appropriate my life, how I sediment my history. There were years when I didn’t write, and as a result, I barely recall my life during those years. On the contrary, the two years that I made it a painstaking habit to write everyday were the two most vivid years of my life, because I lived that life at least twice over: first in reality and second in recollection. These last three weeks, I’ve written perhaps just three or four times, and while there’s liberation on the one hand, there’s also sadness on the other: sadness because these three busy weeks feel like phantom weeks.

Writing is how I hold on to my life, how I keep it from slipping entirely from my grasp. It’s not entirely accurate to say I write for myself. It’s more precise to say that I write so that I can have a self.

This, of course, is not how it is for others. But I feel that I cannot be any other way (a feeling that has surety because it has been reflected upon and put in writing).

All of which means, I must go back to writing. Few realized obligations have borne so much solace.

On the Allure of Distance


After saying I was going to write more often, I went right ahead and did the opposite.

Right now, it feels foreign to me to put thoughts down “on paper.” I had to trawl through my favorite blogs (a species with only four members) to remember what it is to actually write. As expected, most of the recent posts were about fresh starts and new beginnings. Not as expected was the commonality of the theme of movement—of returns and sojourns and travels and visits.

I miss movement—the far-ranging kind. I dream of the day when I can travel freely again, though I doubt if I’ll ever travel the way that I used to, where the movement was the distasteful by-product of getting to see the exotic. Then, it was the destination that counted, with the transitions between cities and countries the unwanted but necessary expenditure of time.

Now, it’s the transitions that I long for: the long, dreamy intervals, the state of in-between-ness, the suspension from life afforded by transit. Few things are as reassuring as knowing that you’re getting somewhere and not having to do anything about it. My life now is dominated by initiative—by the generation of outcomes through action and will. I would like nothing more than a few blessed days marked by the utter absence of initiative, of giving in to inertia, of not having to maintain the constant vigilance that comes with running a business.

Anyway, it wasn’t my intention for this post to be an exercise in wistfulness. But there it is. And once again, I’m clearer to myself than I was before.

On the Other as Audience


Hello everyone!

It’s only been a few days since I last posted, but it feels like a strangely long time. I gave myself permission to stay silent for long stretches this year, only to find out that I’ve misunderstood a large part of why it is that I actually write.

The thing is, I always believed I wrote on Peripateia largely for self-aggrandizement. After all, a blog is a public thing, and as my friend J. once pointed out to me using very different words, there’s writing for public consumption (presumably with intentions of being widely noticed, read and understood) and there’s writing for private consumption (presumably with intentions of chronicling one’s inner life or history). While blogs have massively blurred—if not effaced—the lines between both classes of writing, I’ve always thought that it requires a certain…narcissism to choose to air one’s private concerns in the public sphere.

The last few days of creative abstinence have made me realize, however, that there are advantages in blog writing besides those favored by the narcissistic. The notion of the other as audience, and the implicit understanding that one can be misunderstood, is what helps to a large degree in turning writing into a craft. There must be discipline—observance of the conventions of form and genre and adherence to chosen formats and techniques—if one’s intention is communication to and comprehension by the other. Of course, one can write for the self as other, in which case either of two things can happen: (1) the quality of writing wanes (e.g., the bullet-pointed entries so common in personal diaries and journals: “lunch with J.,” “grocery shopping at S.,” “baby shower at L.’s”…), or (2) the supposed self assumes all the qualities of the truly alien other.

In hindsight, much of Peripateia has been about writing to myself as mediated through others. Yes, the desire for self-aggrandizement is there, but it’s not as important as I thought it was. A lot of the writing has been about using the subconscious recognition that the work can be received by others (majority of whom remain unknown) to carefully articulate thoughts that would have remained inchoate in the complacency of self-understanding. Thanks to that recognition, there is far greater awareness—and just as importantly, an awareness embedded in writing and collective memory.

In short, I’m probably not going to stay as silent this year as I thought I would. And because I really do have a narcissistic side to this reflective personality, I hope you’ll stick around as I make my noise.