Knowledge is freedom from getting mad at facts

Found this on twitter and spent half a day reading and rereading it. For as long as I’ve known myself, I have been attracted to freedom, and freer people – even more. It’s why I enjoy teaching. It’s a way of meeting some of the freest people on earth.

When I say freedom, I don’t mean the kind of freedom that results in having your own home. I mean the kind that comes from cultivating a certain life of the mind which results in an unchangingly tough attitude in the face of charming situations and charminger people. A kind of self-assuredness that isn’t scared away by anything. A bigness of the mind, an unreachable, unavailable space for manipulations – other people’s and your own.

This blog was interesting to read because it breaks down large ideas like freedom, and self-hood into small, hold-able sizes.

Through that, I found Allie Brosh’s comic essay on depression which is as decent a read as possible, considering it’s about a subject whose discourse is becoming exhaustingly savarna by the minute. Allie’s approach is funny, gutting, and very much in touch with the fraudulent side there is to depression, its claimants, as also the rest of us who believe we are not depressed but sad.

I’ve been curious about how people remain unsentimental and also experience love and desire by holding on to every inch of their self-respect. This was a good read and I’m now curiouser.

The writer is a dude named Venkatesh Rao. Whoever you are, thanks boss. Yesterday, his work gave me a different set of eyes to see the world with. And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see a parrot without thinking of this anymore.

It’s a Saturday today and tomorrow is Sunday. That’s all I know for now. An Instantgram reel I saw this morning broke it down quite simply. Are you more afraid of what’s coming next or that you can’t see what’s coming next? Here’s a thought – can you see your next step? If you can, then just take that. Don’t worry about anything else.

Too much funda on rumlolarum is not allowed. I will now go watch a cat video and feel better.

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I wish there were two mornings in a day. In one, I would wake up early to read, in the other I’d wake up early to talk to trees.

In one, I would do yoga, in the other I’d watch a film.

In one, I would write, in the other I’d go for a walk.

I wish there were two mornings in a day. In one I would go back to sleep, in the other, I’d keep sleeping.

On good hair days, there are springs in bum also

I want to remember today because I am grateful for it and want to be just as grateful when it ends at 11:59 PM. I woke up at 5:45 in the morning and knew I had slept well because I hadn’t heard the cats crying at 3 am, like I had heard them the night before. I snuggled back into my bed after giving a good shite. I dreamt restlessly and woke up an hour later, having missed the first show of sunlight in my room.

At 7, I went down to clean the kitchen. An hour later, father was getting ready to leave for the railway station. I was afraid. I am afraid when they leave home. They are now in the age where I must feel afraid. But then it’s also that I am in the age where I must feel afraid.

Mother wants sachets of Equal sugar free which are on the top shelf. I haul the green stool and stand on top of it. My father is in the kitchen, telling us that years ago, before leaving for a Delhi trip every other month, he’d give 2000 Rs to the office staff and now, post retirement, he barely has any for himself. He is laughing but his eyes are singing the song of how times have changed. I feel a parental urge to hug him and tell him that whatever he wants in the world is his.

We have never hugged.

I go back to my room carrying a wound which I am worried will become smaller through the day, In fact by 1 pm, it’d have become so small that I might not have any recollection of the morning, and the railway station and the 2000 Rs, and all that would remain is only the faint memory of thinking it would be nice to message father and ask if he’s reached.

I come to my table at work and feel arrested by the sudden sunlight the day has found at 9:30. I attended a zoom meeting calmly while putting on pinkish purple nail polish. I have an hour to prep for my horror fiction class. Read Cortazar and want to keep reading him. I think of my long ago love for Keret and feel renewed.

Read another story by Cortazar where a girl vomits rabbits. Felt surprised and then happy that I still have it in me to feel surprised.

Then I see my hair on top in the dept bathroom mirror and love how it is standing? sitting? being? — am taken over by the sense and the truth and the fact that I will never be as young or old as I am today. Feel a great urge to appreciate today.

My only black pair of jeans goes well with the olive green canvas shoes which goes well with my loose white shirt. Feel richly alive and there is spring in my bum when I totter off to class.

In class, I don’t have a sense of how time runs. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the rules of time don’t matter when a good class happens. I leave class feeling new and more alive than I was when I’d entered.

I want to spend all day reading Cortazar.

At 1:30, I messaged father to ask him if he’d reached. He said he will reach in 20 mins.

New Yorker Mornings

Today, this moving essay by Peter Schjeldahl. It is attentive and demands that you read it with the same, if not similar attention it was written with. Here are some bits that made me giggle.

1) When I started writing criticism, in 1965, in almost pristine ignorance, I discovered that I was the world’s leading expert in one thing: my experience. Most of what I know in a scholarly way about art I learned on deadlines, to sound as if I knew what I was talking about—as, little by little, I did. Educating yourself in public is painful, but the lessons stick.

2) One drunken night, a superb painter let me take a brush to a canvas that she said she was abandoning. I tried to continue a simple black stroke that she had started. The contrast between the controlled pressure of her touch and my flaccid smear shocked me, physically. It was like shaking hands with a small person who flips you across a room.

3) My problem was not a lack of connection with the collective unconscious. I was a fucking poet. My problem was getting out of bed in the morning.

4) Writing consumes writers. No end of ones better than I am have said as much. The passion hurts relationships. I think off and on about people I love, but I think about writing all the time.

5) Writing is hard, or everyone would do it.

6) I met Susan Sontag once, at a party. She came up and praised something that I had written. Thrilled, I began chattering about I don’t remember what. Sontag froze. She retreated, taking backward steps before turning away. It dawned on me that receiving her blessing was supposed to have been enough: a solemn initiation. I had presumed on it.

7) I had a rage of ambition and an acrid dissatisfaction that, along with a love of the world, were bound to come out somehow. The self-centered motives have waned. It’s harder to pitch into writing with less to prove or avenge. To start a critical essay, I must prod myself until the old mesmerized flow resumes.

8) When I finish something and it seems good, I’m dazed. It must have been fun to write. I wish I’d been there. If you can’t put a mental frame around, and relish, the accidental aspect of a street or a person, or really of anything, you will respond to art only sluggishly.

9) Family and friends are being wonderful to me in my sickness. I’ve toiled all my life, in vain, to like myself. Now the task has been outsourced. I can’t go around telling everybody they’re idiots.

10) “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully,” per Samuel Johnson.

11) Life doesn’t go on. It goes nowhere except away. Death goes on. Going on is what death does for a living. The secret to surviving in the universe is to be dead.

12) One night in the early seventies, I perched on a tenement-roof edge despite my fear of heights, legs dangling, and ordered myself to let go. It was amid a love disaster. I truly thought I’d jump. But something inside me laughed derisively. Who was I kidding? Humiliated, I went downstairs. Some, in a crisis, must lack the laugh or muffle it for long enough.

13) Memory is a liar. It’s a heap of dog-eared, smudged, incessantly revised fictions. The stories make cumulative lies—or, give us a break, conjectures—of our lives. This is O.K. because it had darn well better be.

14) Reality was droning on as usual, with impartial sunlight streaming through a nearby window and picking out swirls of dust motes. A thing about dying is that you can’t consult anyone who has done it. No rehearsals. No mulligans.

15) Brooke has Texas grit: respecting everyone and taking no shit from anybody, least of all her spouse. When she’s mad, it’s scary, tapping a rage that once fuelled her escape from an awful family. There’s no recourse but to duck and wait for it to pass, which it does. The sun began to shine on my life when I gave up arguing with Brooke. She is also very funny and brings out the fun in others, her spouse not excluded.

It’s raining

Next to my table at work, there is a window which opens to a wall. On that wall there are two windows to classrooms on two different floors. In one of the classrooms, students are practicing dance to rangilo maaro dholna, a song I believe I only know as a song that girl groups in college and school continue to dance to. (Why do only songs and ads and chocolates take us back to the 90s?)

I have just finished a two-hour class on Ambedkar’s Castes in India. It is rewarding to teach this every year because every year, I discover one more thing about him, and the paper. This time around, it was unsettling to discover that he isn’t lazy in the paper. He is working hard at not taking the easy, most visible route to arrive at a conclusion. Even if I knew this last year, it is still nice to reknow it again this year.

I walked back to the department, spent 8 minutes trying to open the steel dabba of sambar. After lunch, I put my head down for a minute and an applause surrounded my window. I thought it’s from the dance group practising in the classroom only to properly wake up and see that it’s the rain.

Today, rains fell like applause. Today, it applauded rain. Today, it rained like applause.

On a Saturday Morning,

I come to work and find all 7 fans on full speed, the floor swept, and everything looking brighter and cleaner. Even the windows that are never able to grow look bigger.

At home, I wake up early and find it almost too painful to bear the joy of looking at the sun that never seems to withhold. Even on days when there are clouds.

Four days of yoga and my body wakes up with the sun and goes to bed long before I sleep.

One rainy night this week, I took a cab home and the boy who drove had the same earnest face of someone I used to know and no longer speak to. It killed me – this boy’s face; and I felt forced towards a kind of compassion that made me feel at once, lighter and freer.

What happens to anger that is so casually cast aside when the memory of who someone used to be and who we were with them comes knocking?