When I tell people I study in the States, the most common reactions are, “That’s amazing! You have so much freedom!” “OMG! You went to Colorado for a summer writing program? Did you smoke weed yet?” or “What’s the party scene like in New York?”
And to all these questions, I raise a skeptical eyebrow because as much as I want to avoid condescension I can’t help but scoff at the ridiculous assumptions my friends often make about my life in America. Life is America for me has been hard, harder than I thought and if there is anything America has taught me, it is the wisdom of no escape. I have learnt that I can’t escape from:
- Class participation and attendance
- Annoying south Asians pretending to have an interest in everything I decide to study, even if it’s as obscure as contemplative studies
- Childhood conditioning
- White hipsters
- Black hipsters
- Hipsters. Period.
- Lonely Saturday nights
- Lonely Monday mornings
- Boring Wednesday afternoons
- Dry spring breaks
- The minutiae of everyday life, no matter how boring or mundane it may seem
Apologies seem necessary when you begin writing.
When you expect pure gold but all that comes out is bullshit.
Perhaps this is what the Buddha called the first noble truth.
There is suffering.
There is an end to this suffering.
I look into your eyes, they hold a truth I cant behold.
They speak to me and my heart responds.
I like you, I love you?
I know not.
I try to imagine my hand in yours but it all slips away.
We take nothing with us at death, not even ourselves.
Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.
This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose…
…Describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty – describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world’s sounds – wouldn’t you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attentions to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. – And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it.
― Rainer Maria Rilke
I stand at the window of the flat number 13 and smell the burnt scent of waste. I hear sounds, of steel pots and pans, the second floor aunty wiping them dry and readying them for tomorrow below in my friend’s house. My friend’s uncle died in his sleep a week ago. On the same floor, a baby turned a year old.
I smell the scent of incense, of smog, of the wet monsoon earth, of the night, of Mumbai, of home and look up at the sky. The moon remains hidden by the clouds. I shut the window and return to The Making of Buddhist Modernism. Much has changed. I can communicate with my family now.
Meditation says step out
None of the stories you tell yourself are real
I walked into the woods
Where I could be with the silence, the birds and my stories
It’s funny how much we love heartbreak as much as we avoid it
If you love everything.
If you hate everything.
If you do not know where to turn.
And you will turn,
Imagine there were no cracks in the universe.
Imagine that fit snugly together and had a that it was meant to be.
Imagine now that the opposite of that in actuality the opposite of that is happening.
A swirling mass of messy particles bumping into each other existing in all the places at once and simultaneously nowhere. Imagine.
By the End
By the end of this poem I will know what I am doing.
By the end of this poem you will know what I am doing.