Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ledger Book Lives

I've been wanting to write about the Israeli attacks on Gaza for weeks now, but each time I attempt it, I find myself at a loss for words. Partially, because so many (perhaps too many) people have said so much about it, some in incredibly smart and insightful ways, that I feel like I have nothing to add, nothing more to contribute. But also because, whenever I think about it I feel a little knot in my stomach - I feel it grow as it drags all my words into itself.

I generally have two reactions to violence, both somewhat mutually constituted. Either I have a very visceral reaction - my breaths I think get somewhat shorter and faster, more palpable, I feel my body tingle and tighten (and not in a good way). I know this sounds like an articulation of a personal poetics of violence; but I do feel violence in very real ways. Or, I just switch off, move on.

The irony of the this is that in my academic work this is what I study - violence. I love violence. It's what I look for, what I try to understand, what I try to speak and write about. I used to think that was weird until one of my professors suggested that my relation to violence, as 'witness' and as 'intellectual' actually made perfect sense - that since I actually respected violence, in that I understood it as a deeply and inescapably productive force, it made sense that I couldn't actually be witness to it. Perhaps she is right. Perhaps that is the key... loving and respecting violence.

The horror of violence lies, I think, not only in its materiality but more so in its banality. It is so widespread, and we are so implicated in it, that violence is in fact no longer (if it ever was) horrific. We find our sympathies being torn between places, and peoples, and times, and we have only so much to give. And how the hell do you give a shit about a person, a life, in a place that you can barely locate on a map, let alone imagine? And besides, what choice does one have but to switch off when you can probably trace a connection between the dead bodies that lies on your T.V. screen for you to consume, and the living-dead bodies that produced the very T.V. that you are right now consuming? How many degrees of separation would you say?

We have only so much to give... why? Because, I think, we are subjects of production - even more so than that of consumption. We produce, we have no choice but to produce - that is the only way we know how be. Produce goods, produce services, produce knowledge - we "produce" life. Life, it seems, can never just be, it is always becoming, being produced. Consumed by this violence of production, we are immune to its horrors.

I am not a hopeless cynic. I have hope, and faith, and all of those other wonderful things that you are told you must have, you must produce, without which all existence is impossible. And I have the luxury to think and talk about violence, because I do not have to overcome it in its most death-dealing manifestations. But there is just so much in this world that I do not understand. And ever so often, no matter how much I scream, and cry, and smash, and curse, and rip, I feel beat.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Adam's Eve

Because today we celebrate the life, the being and the myth of MLK...
Because tomorrow we inaugurate a new hope, a new inspiration, a new myth - Barack Hussein Obama...

Because I want to be swept up, with my feet firmly planted...
Because my flesh is alive with joy mingled with fear...

Because even though hope rings eternal, it must be laced with a healthy dose of cynicism ...
Because love and violence, violence and love, will always be with us...
Because we must learn to love and respect violence... our survival depends on it...
But also because, sometimes, it's nice to feel just a little inspired...

MySpace Celebrity and Katalyst present The Presidential Pledge

a little moved...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ruminations I

French Press
Today is Day 3. Three days in a row that I've used my french press. For years, it has stood in a corner on the kitchen counter, holding within it memories long (or is it recently?) forgotten. The few times I used it before Day 1, it held its words (or is it silence?) until it could finally exhale, releasing its bittersweet memories. Today, on Day 3 - as on Day 2 and Day 1 - I am hit by a cascade of forgotten memories. The kitchen is different, so is my past and perhaps my future. But as old unleashed memories mingle with ones being now made, they find their perfect match. New fears reach out to new ones; old hopes comfort new ones; the contours of new pain follow precisely those of old. Each finds solace in its reflection (although each is real). Do they recoil too at the presence of the other, when old sees no change in new, and new recognizes itself just as old?

I never wanted to be saved then (a good feminist never does). But as I stare at the ground coffee lying at the bottom of the french press, as I will myself to refuse its tempting coarseness, I remember, gratefully, that I was once healed. I thought, then, that I could heal myself (perhaps a good feminist always does), but I was wrong. As all the years of lonely strength finally flowed out of me - allowing me to be weak so that I could finally be strong again - my weakness grew into its own searing pain. And so I stand again with the french press. As the coarse grains of coffee beckon me, I wait again to be healed. This time though, perhaps, I am not the only one waiting.

It's been a year today - depending on how one counts a year, by days or dates. I know enough of that day to imagine it and you... in it. Sometimes it brings me uncanny comfort, sometimes saddened rage. But whatever guilt I felt a year ago is gone. For the anger that made me walk out on you a few days before you gone is still there, and would still be, if you were still here. But that, I realize now, is precisely why you were so special - one of the few who knew me at my weakest, and happiest; who I could be real with. I sometimes hated you, but I ever could stop loving you. You were so special, but the pit in your stomach refused to be filled. And so, I don't grudge what you did, I still just don't understand it.

Here's my dedication to you. To E, for making the weirdest dance moves look cool. :) Love.

Friday, January 2, 2009

To New Beginnings...

It's been forever... but for so many reasons I haven't had the energy or will to write. Though, lord knows, there's been enough going on in the world and in my life to have plenty to write about. Perhaps 2009 will be different... maybe I'll take blogging more seriously, become a more "serious blogger" ...but who knows, I'm really not into making plans, promises or resolutions right now. This year is going to be about going with the flow.

I wanted to start off this year with a little about my parents. For some reason, over the past few months, I haven't found the words to tell them how much they are in my thoughts and how much they mean to me, how much I truly love them. Over the past couple of days, though, I was reminded, once again, that they are, and have always been, my best friends. I am not sure why I forget that so often - maybe it is to protect them, or maybe to protect myself - either way, the past couple of days have served as a good reminder of how their presence in my life is the one thing I can always count on to sustain me. That even from thousands of miles away, they can comfort me through words and attentive silence in ways that I only hope I can someday reciprocate.

I recall once as a child mentioning to my aunt that I wished I would die before everyone else I loved, because I didn't want to bear the pain of losing them. In fact, if I recall correctly, for a long time that used to be a fixture in my nightly prayer. My aunt, herself very young, barely in her twenties, responded that she couldn't bear the thought of her death causing pain to those that loved her - that she could bear the pain of their loss but could not bear causing them pain. I am not sure what I thought of this then, but over the past few years, in my darkest, saddest moments - when I have been able to cast myself as the authentic victim, uncared for, unloved - I think of my parents, and am reminded of aunt's words. For even when things are emotionally rough, when I can question the love of everyone else in my life, I have never once been able to question the love of my parents. Sometimes, it feels like a burden - to be loved so much and so unconditionally, that you aren't master of your own life, or death. But for that burden, I know, I am truly blessed.

In the seven and a half years that I have been away, we've kept in touch by phone and e-mail - the frequency of which is often the butt of jokes in my family (because they think it is too much), and thus, often, a source of irritation and frustration for me, in my desire to be strong and independent, and an adult. Perhaps that is why I have such a hard time telling my parents how much I love and miss them. How much just the knowledge of their presence sustains me. I am not sure whether this year will be any different in terms of the nature of our conversations, whether I will learn be more patient with them, more honest about my feelings, my willing to simply talk. But in case it isn't, I hope that this post will remind them, that even when I'm abrupt, irritated, angry, in a hurry, impatient, dismissive - that even when I don't say it, or it doesn't show in my voice or demeanor - that, quite simply, I love them, always.