In the Woods

Son of an impractical philosopher type of guy with a taste for literature, I got inured to hard work, privation and stoic life, and all the more importantly, as it will have consequence to the rest of my life, to abstract things, quite very early in life. When I think of my father, now a diabetic invalid, and then of myself, I can’t but think life is too vast  a field for one person to live the entirety of it, but when you choose to live only certain parts of it, that may turn out too narrow to support its own weight that you sink. An economist of an artist–perhaps a flawed one–I don’t like many things about life to form part of the art called my life (for example, I hate earning for survival, detest eating, hate me being wished unmeant and meaningless good mornings and birthdays, the formalities of life such as schools, colleges, universities, jobs, making friends, chit-chats, workshops, conferences, etc.), and I don’t want to go through these processes, and without me undergoing them, I have to pay for it, by ruining my own life, and that is what I am doing, most of the time. That is why I am in a troubled relationship with life.

As a boy, I wanted to become a painter, philosopher, sculptor, dancer, filmmaker. Some sort of artist. But I always wanted to live in the woods without much contact with the world. Then at school, another ambition caught hold of my mind–a scientist. A physicist. Working in the field of energy. I read a lot. Actually a lot. Infatuated. I did not know what formalities it took for one to first go through before one reaches there. You need to pass through a lots of gates, and the gatekeepers don’t let you pass that easily. I took up science at secondary school, where my first ever ambition was shattered. A lot of things happened. I gave up that ambition. Streaks of that desire still swell weakly in me, once in a while. Quite a familiar stranger now. A sleeper in me. Deep sleeper. One thing that has made sleep beautiful for me is this sleeper inside me. In deep slumber, turning over once in a while.

What do you want to do in life? I ask myself. Nothing. Seriously, nothing. I can paint, think, dance, and believe I can still do sculpture. Clay. Wood. That’s just the force of life. Primitive. Like the wind blowing, dogs barking or wagging tails, stone just being hard on the cold ground. They serve no purpose. I have no purpose in life–not just mine, I see no purpose in life and this is making me feel empty. Just purposeless, I don’t want to enjoy life. Gay abandon. Eating around. Sleeping around. Fucking around. No carpe diem for me, please. No advice.

Why is it that humans, at least some of them, want to die when they have nothing to do in life? Do they want some job to do in life? Do they want to be busy? No. It’s not that simple. To exist, to undergo the process of existence in the stark meaninglessness, is a torture. Injustice. It is irritating. But why don’t I just commit suicide? Why not just blow my brains out? I wonder why I don’t do this–kill myself? Seriously. I don’t know. It seems like underneath I am a detective, justice of the law of the universe, that senses something is not quite right and wants to figure this out and fix it. Sort of some buried anger deep inside me. A quiet but burning desire to bring the culprit–if we can call it so–to justice. This is the violence in me. The cool violence. The icy cold stiff die-hard, stoic in me. Waiting patiently. But punching once in a while into the walls, on the floor, breaking my valuables all of a sudden. As if madness emerging out of nowhere. The violence in me.

Art gives me solace. I am an artist. I live as an art. My life is a work of art. There is pleasure in this art, this me. And I am not for show. How does art give me solace? Art distracts me from the meaningless elements of life. I remove parts of life I think do harm to life. Weeds. I live like an editor of life. Artists are editors of life. I edit my life. I live in my edited world. But it is also true that I want to die along with art–this art. This art is too delicate for the wake-up knock on the door. The membrane between the rumbling life and this dream called art is too thin and fragile. But I do not know how I come to the conclusion that death puts everything to rest. What is that logic? I am not sure. No, I am not sure.

I have no ambition in life. That’s true. No ambition. That did not result from any failure or fear of failure or any kind of fear. I just don’t like much about life. But that much of life I like, I want to live that much in the woods. Raising a small family. Raising birds and animals, too, as part of my family. Fish. Feeding them. Flowers. Trees. Farming. Producing my own food. Being part of nature. Dying of snakebite or being tiger-food. Or dying in the lap of my wife, surrounded by my children and grandchildren. Or dying alone in a cold bed. Unseen by any, except fruitflies. That would be a pleasing one. That is the life I am looking forward to now.

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Throes of (Child)birth, Smart of Taking Life

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Photographer unknown

A young, recently married woman committed suicide, the News Nation reported last evening.

It was the final rites of a neighbor yesterday–he took his own life successfully in the second attempt after the first about five years ago. His body was found hard and stiff in the rain hours after his last breath, in the dark narrow space between a barber’s shop and a big abandoned car at a small junk yard.

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Photograph by Sally Mann

His brother had tooken his own life, too. I can still hear the sounds of women crying in his family sneaking weakly and quietly into my room one quiet evening in the early 2000s–I was reading (or writing something?) in my always-quiet room which I had turned into an indoor garden with plants collected from deep forests all over Manipur besides the ones I got from professional gardeners and plant lovers including my brother’s father-in-law. His body was found hard and still in his farmhouse (bolted from inside) days after his disappearance. Before he finally could take his life, he had been often seen walking drunk with a poison bottle in his hand. One foggy late-winter morning, he was found asleep on a cremation furnace platform on the cremation ground in my neighborhood. He had a poison bottle in his hand.

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Photograph by Sally Mann

One son of the eldest brother of these suicide brothers had also put an end to his own life a few years before that. He had hanged himself by the neck from the ceiling of his bedroom, survived by his wife and two very small kids–one was just a newborn.

These three later cases are just what comes to mind when I think of suicides I know personally, actually close ones. Just convenient examples. I can make a long list of names.

About the same time, a friend of mine from my neighborhood–a good humorous person–took poison and it was too late when his family returned home that evening.

Suicide is a very regular phenomenon, and the rate is reportedly highest in Guyana (where people reportedly “die like flies” followed by Japan (Brandon Bridglal). In my state (Manipur, India), statistics says, suicide rate is highest in Kakching. I alone have many friends in my town who committed suicide. A couple of childhood friends from Wangoo, too. That village on one lake farm in which I lived my childhood.

Conversely, when I look at nature closely, I see every speck of life–even the tiniest ones–struggling to live against all sorts of odds. Under the microscope, I see microorganisms struggling to live. On the wooden wall panels of abandoned houses in the woods or on the red-brick walls at the base of the foundation of every building where the minimal conditions of life are present, there are always life forms–at least in the forms of moss and organisms so small visible only to the eyes looking for tiny lives–struggling to maintain life.

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Lichens struggling to live on a dead sliver. Photograph by Thoithoi O’Cottage

I see both life and death around me. Struggles to live and to die. The throes of childbirth, and the first cry of the child. The act of taking life, one’s own or another person’s, negating its birth by another person, a life-giver, a mother (with a father).

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A wild creeper struggling to cling to and draw life from dry mountain-flank rocks. Photograph by Thoithoi O’Cottage

To be continued…

A Hole in the Walls of Life

A loan shark (God’s mercy be with him because he needs salvation more than any good person–what would mercy do if it does not go where it is due or wanted?) forced open the legs of a woman claiming after thirty years to be his mother and I heard him say to her:

I came out of that, huh? Now let me get back in there. I hate this world.

That was unbearable.

Life proves shatteringly tough to some. They sometimes imagine the reality of some deus ex machina, some hole or crack in the walls of life through which to escape out into somewhere. Into some cave, be it the same as the one the unconceived are in or something different. Some hole out of life.

Suicide is an attempt to make a hole in the walls of life, leading to someplace nobody knows nothing about. The motive is just to escape the pain felt at the present moment, without knowing what the supposed or imagined refuge (if it really exists, but nobody can testify to its reality) have in store for the deserter. The motive is more of disappearance from the current pains than of landing somewhere. I believe, in most cases sucides do not have time to imagine an alternative world with a different order of things, which is the profession of philosophers and philosophers very rarely commit suicide not because (it seems to me) they look at suicide from certain established religious perspectives and consider it a sin or because they after careful examination and comparison prefer this life to the probable one into which suicides escape, but because they have problems of thought regarding this commitment and what (if any) may follow it.

Damn. Stop it.