The Venus Flytrap: Unsentimental Fool

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Sometime last year, after a lifetime of oversensitivity and a positively medieval sense of the tragic, I thought I had finally become unsentimental. Which meant, in optimistic terms, that my days of weeping in restaurants might finally have been put behind me. I was quite relieved about this. I had spoiled a lot of mascara crying over spilt milk.

I thought I had become unsentimental about, for instance, Leonard Cohen, the artist formerly known as my downfall. So what was I doing at four in the morning, at the end of December, riffling through page after page of Agha Shahid Ali’s collected works to correctly source the poem from which the line that had haunted me all that day had come from – just so I could put it in a letter? And not even a real letter, the kind that sensible people write in order to communicate, but one of those hopelessly twee things I’ve called a postcard: a poem not even sent to its intended, but left in the open (because actual communication would be, you know, too much for the nervous system).

I thought I was over Cohen, but he was in my subliminal impulses, as every thing that ever crosses one’s way becomes. And there I was, having perfectly internalized his mythology, playing it out without a thought.

In any case, I could not find the line anywhere in the book. “I’ve seen how things/ that seek their way find their void instead”. I fell asleep to the realization it wasn’t at all from Ali, but from Federico Garcia Lorca, a hero both of mine and – incidentally – Cohen’s. Fitting, considering that my new year’s resolution is to fully inculcate my complete demonic self, demonic the way Lorca meant it, which is to say – not so much to consume with a mad passion, but to once again also let myself be consumed, be possessed, to stop standing in the way of life, and love, and ferocious intensity.

Which, as you might correctly surmise, might just be a noble way of saying “start crying again in restaurants, if you like”. But it goes a little further than that. What I’ve learnt from my period of emotional austerity is that yes, unsentimentality is a survival mechanism and its opposite (intensity) is a choice – but to choose to live deeply doesn’t mean to choose to live without discretion. Too much contrived emotion only results in not knowing the difference between god and chemical – every sensation inducible, and hence inauthentic.

Maybe you’ll find what I say next more diffident than demonic, but I’ll say it anyway. Today I bought a gramophone, an impulse acquisition, right off the side of a street. An unthinkably romantic purchase if there ever was one, and one I would never have made ever before. I have neither vinyl nor space for décor – and for the longest time, too much drama about anything resembling a symbolic commitment. I have, however, finally found the space in my life again for a little tenderness, a little twinkling; and enough lines in my head, and enough groove in my body, to provide the music and lyrics – but only the kind that comes of its own volition, not the kind that’s just blank noise interfering in a dense, deliciously loaded silence.

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. Carmen – Welcome to my blog! And yes, Take This Waltz is a wonder.

    Barath – I’d bought it for decorative purposes, actually. But friends are insisting that I use it to play music, and donating their records too – so it’s all good.

  2. The gramaphone is for the incurably romantic and yes, live deeply, breathe in the scent of a heart breaking again for there is no time you feel so alive as when you feel your core breaking and melting; the heat of passion will burn you sometimes in a not so nice way, yet, fire is life and so get burnt again and again. The flames are addicting and call out to us and so we surrender to them and as they consume us, we laugh aloud, for the pain tells us we are alive and the numbness we have forced on ourselves finally recedes.

  3. I can completely relate to tying yourself up in knots over misremembering a Lorca line as Cohen’s… I do it all the time, especially wrt favorite movie moments. That stuff can drive you nutsos if you don’t get it figured out (I too need all but an excuse to get my Sherlock Holmes hat on and go “The game is afoot”, in my dreams, LOL. Problem solved!).

    Congratulations on your “unthinkably romantic” impulse buy, btw! What a way to kick-start the new year… with da Gra(n’)maphone… (yes we know how much you love yours, trrrring trrrring)! :)

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