All I have sometimes are dog-eared accounts of life elsewhere and more often than not, I take these with me to bed. Last night, I took these thirteen as an omnibus and flipped through them in an attempt to pacify my demons. Restlessness gets the best of me when it’s late and I find myself thinking about a myriad of things. Also, spending too much time online has proved hazardous to my self-esteem because there are far too many pretty things out there to look at–things that, at 2am, have the power to convince you of your worth as a person. So, with that anxiety in place, I picked-up Alain de Botton, yet again. He is the guruji to life, sometimes. Or perhaps ony to mine but anyway, I’ve completed his books and decided that for issues regarding self-worth, the tome to flip through is Status Anxiety which deals precisely with these issues. Page 44 is a consolation: To prove we have paid for expecting to be so much more than our ancestors is a perpetual anxiety that we are far from being all we might be. At least I am not alone and far from it as this seems to be a recurring crisis in every generation’s history. To read de Botton is to be constantly enthralled and broken in a sense because he has this way of being frank in an intelligent way. But after fifty pages or so, I decide that there’s still a huge gaping hole to be dealt with. Anxiety ridden I then decides to flip through the International PEN‘s Burn This Book edited by Toni Morrison. It is banned books week after all (unless I’m mistaken because no one’s mentioned it on FB). I have notes and lines all over this one and I regret having read through this so quickly. Each essay deserves its own space and I notice that in the collection, the only one without marks is the one written by Pico Iyer. I saw his name on the list of contributors and so, he and Toni Morrison became the deciding factors on the day of purchase. But Pico was the one I read first and his was the same piece I slept with last night and consequently dreamt of.
To say that I am disturbed is an understatement. The entire book talks about censorship and the power of the word in light of the living, the bones and the flesh. But Pico writes about Burma and Maung Maung, the Burmese man. I’m always bewildered when I read this and as much as I try to function normally around people, I fail at suppressing the nightmares I have of the Burmese. To have Pico write about it in the context of PEN just makes it more chilling.
And in that moment, the anxiousness over status dissipates. It’s as if the crowd that has always laid their eyes upon me disappear and I’m left looking at the faces of the others like me. I’m left to see what’s truly worth seeing. Incidentally, Levinas is on the bed and while I’m too sleepy to read, I put his words under the pillow and recite the prayer of Tagore:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;Where knowledge is free;Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;Where words come out from the depth of truth;Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action—Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Tonight, owing to my need for the visual, I think about yesterday’s thoughts and tear up at the sight of this advertisement. It say’s it all, I think.