The Venus Flytrap: Dancing With Eyes Closed

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Every day I read my cards. Every day, I draw them, decipher them, and am drawn back to them. And every day, I look up my horoscopes. For my sun sign, my rising sign, and the signs of those I care for. I read a whole bouquet – and I’m not the sort to pick the most optimistic one and go by it.

Scoff if you want, but I know I’m not the only one. The fear of the future and the desire to be reassured about it, or at least prepare for it, are intrinsic to human nature. Some people take out insurance, consult business projections, or discuss sports strategies ahead of the match. Others meditate for answers, speak to soothsayers, or watch for omens. There is no real difference in what motivates the desire to know, and to work ahead of foreseen outcomes. Is meteorology really more accurate than augury, just because it is a science? I can’t remember it ever raining when a weather forecaster declared that it would, against season. But I do remember watching a therukoothu dancer sing to the goddess for rain one afternoon, and have it come down – torrentially, unseasonally – that same deeply heartening evening.

But that doesn’t mean one is truer than the other, or that either one is true at all. I’m not here to argue about the soundness of the mystical arts, or to prove what I know empirically to be true in everyone else’s lives too. All I’m saying is that the need for reassurance is universal. Everybody looks for a guarantee, or at least a cushioning against disappointment. To expect something is to rob it of its power to surprise, and conversely, to deepen its delight with sweet anticipation. And most of all, I think we look for comfort, for evidence of the possibility of all things, however inconsistent with the cold realities we experience.

But the truth is, there is no map. There is no alignment so perfect that its choreography lets you dance with your eyes closed.

Of course, you may ask, is it really, freely, dancing at all if you believe in a design? How dare I believe myself truly engaged with the world, truly open to experience, if I want to know what lies two paces ahead, instead of just walking – or waltzing – into it?

The thing is, I have found that belief enriches my life far more than cynicism ever could. I am able to live more mindfully because I can trust there is a bigger picture. I’ve never believed in coincidences, only synchronicity. Sometimes I look at someone and see their whole lives in a moment. Sometimes I know I have travelled through time. Sometimes the universe opens up and the dots I connected reveal themselves to be constellations. And sometimes it doesn’t, oh but when it does…

And if there is no bigger picture? If I die and cease to exist, if I follow and cease to find? Who cares. Life is short either way, and I’d rather be delusional than deprive myself of enchantment at all.

I would rather see miracles everywhere, because I believe in them, than be unable to recognise all the ones before and within me, because I refuse to acknowledge their very existence.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.

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5 responses »

  1. Oh, I love your take on this! It’s true, we are always looking at guarantees for our future. If we have to place a bet, we’d like it to be a safe one, right?

    And it would be a very dull world indeed if we ceased to look for enchantments. The piper, the dancer and the one who enthusiastically yells “Bravo!” from the sidelines, they truly know the beauty of life.

  2. The only question is – how moronic ( and poetic, if you please ) are you willing to permit yourself to be

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