Saturday, May 8

A Brief History of Boredom 

Two, maybe three, curves of crinkled skin around the eyes. Eyes like steel, eyes that stop you in your peering tracks, evincing little to no emotion. From where you sit, you can't tell whether there is anything hidden in those crow's feet to be deciphered. Do they make up for what the eyes don't reveal? You don't know. You look outside, for a change in scene. Color fills your eyes, and with color an array of sensations comes gliding through. There is more meaning in the concrete on the road, in the ripples on the lake than there is in the eyes of a human. You snicker momentarily, and allow these sensations to fill you, sweep you away like a cool breeze swishing past countryside fields. On the television, freckle-faced monks expound on Buddhist doctrines and the Dalai Lama speaks loftily of individualism and separate peace.

"Be your own land, seek no other refuge."

You hear the words, but your ears, like touch-me-nots against the brush of hasty fingers on an early summer day, close in on the words just before they can be processed. What good is such wisdom if there is nothing sensible left to be desired in your life? Relax, you tell yourself. You are possibly stretching it a bit too much. It's not that bad yet. You have more to be thankful for than most others. You ought to count your blessings. And the only way to make peace with things that you cannot change is to stop seeking fulfillment. To put a cap on the nearly beast-like hankering after satiation. To learn to feign contentment. To fill the bottom of the blimp with dust so the inflation becomes inescapably constricted. To rein in the urge to seek recourse.


You find your therapy in cooking. Stirring a ladle in a pot of coddling broth refreshes your mind. The satiation we talked about earlier -- for you, it comes from cooking. There is no need to adjust the levels of the dust. Like lungs that feel cleansed after taking fresh morning air in, your senses come awash when you cook. The aroma of spices, the color of rich-textured condiments, the feel of crushed mint, or curry leaves in your palm, the sight of ingredients leeching into one another, taking on amorphous forms and cleaving into the nuclei of each other to present perfectly well-balanced outcomes..excites you. You lose awareness of your surroundings. You are the pot, you are the fire. You burn, you sear, you hold it all together. You are salt, you are water, you are spice. You don't like to sample the food. That would make you weak. You are strong. You don't succumb to temptation. You do instead to perfection.


Silence can be tricky. Sometimes you pine for it and at other times it can get asphyxiating. Silence fills the room again. You skim the space for shapes that can talk. Objects that you see everyday appear different. There are finger prints on the glass there, dust sits placidly on a surface here. There are no scratches or clefts in these objects that would allow a peek into the past. Oddments stand still as reminders of the past, but those stories have been revisited so often that your mind is suitably numb to their significance. They are now a part of the past that adorn a present family room. You seek disarray in the orderliness, to see if something will give, but nothing does. Everything has been fitted into a stretch of space and set up to function like clockwork. Things come, things wither away, but there is no real manifestation of anything new.

It strikes you now that perhaps there is nothing in those crow's feet for you to read into. There is nothing left to discuss, nothing to say. Everything has been accounted for, really. Love struggles to find its interstice through the frayed texture of the marriage, and manages to get a peek here, a wink there. Even in the unraveled entirety of this unit called family, there is a symmetry that keeps you going, it was built in and it abides. If one slows down, the other paces up. There is the wife, there is the husband. There is the friend, there is the companion. There is a human, and there is a human. There are toothbrushes, and there are combs.


What do you do when a problem is its own solution? You seek parallelisms in movies like "The Burmese Harp" and in books like "Le dernier été de la raison." When you think you have your finger on something, things change momentarily in your life. A blink of time when those steel-like eyes deliquesce and reveal something - a grimace, perhaps, or an ephemeral sign of happiness? Maybe a new dimension would append itself to the allegedly unraveled entirety of the family unit, making words like 'caring' and 'feeling' sound less vain. You endure. You hold it out for just a bit longer. Until another movie or another book comes along.


Writing completes you. When you write, you forget about the ladle and the pot of coddling broth. You forget about space and time and blimps with dust at the bottom. You become one with the milieu. You glissade across the furniture in a room or the blades of grass in a garden, culling words that float freely, and plant them on paper. You can write about the plangent strains of select Raags and the dissonance of common arguments. About the complexities of relationships and the candor of "being your own land." About manuals for living and elegies for the dead soldiers that Mizushima honored by offering modest burials and prayers. About hope, as in Yekker's brief, eager moments when he saw eyes peering into his bookshop and about the despondence of the seemingly punitive world.

You choose instead to write insipid, claustrophobic accounts of slices from your life, and call them puissant names.


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