SIMPLY BEING

Author: Lakshmi (page 2 of 265)

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I am not your …

Watched this film last year, and I am in total awe of James Baldwin’s clarity, insight, and articulateness.

“I have always been struck in America by an emotional poverty so bottomless and a terror of human life, of human touch, so deep that virtually no American appears able to achieve any viable organic connection between his public stance and his private life. The failure of the private life has always had the most devastating effect on American public conduct and on black-white relations. If Americans were not so terrified of their private self, it would never have become so dependent on what they call ‘the n**** problem’.”

“What white people have to do is try and find out in their own hearts why it is necessary to have a ‘n*****’ in the first place, because I’m not a n*****. I’m a man. If I’m not the n***** here, and if you invented him, you the white people invented him, then you have to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that. Whether or not it is able to ask that question.”

(To me, this speaks of a kind of “fractured self.” When you feel broken on the inside, or you have a deep sense of conflict between who you are (or perceive yourself to be) and how you present to the world, and/or you experience a kind of disgust/hate toward yourself that you are unable to accept or contain, and you have little understanding on how to digest or neutralize this experience… all of that is close to spilling on to the outside, and now you need to find an object/recipient for that emotion.)

(Each one of us needs to find objects for the negativity within. We have to offload it someplace else, or we’d suffocate and die.)

(I love this title because what it signifies to me is Baldwin’s refusal to be anyone’s N****. No, I refuse to be the recipient of your angst and self-hate and dread and demons. They are yours to deal with, not mine to carry.)

Chasing Experience

Rewinding back to Christmas Day…

It started on an inauspicious note. The morning chai was awfully unsatisfactory. Something wasn’t right with the coconut milk. Then, my beloved poha chivda recipe, the one I had perfected over many attempts, didn’t deliver. I had made a fresh batch that morning, and it just wasn’t good enough. Aargh! In a totally unplanned move, I made a second batch of chai mid-morning. I wanted to erase the memory of bad chai and bad poha chivda. But the 10:30am chai was equally dismal.

Lunch was a tad better. Husband had made a delicious biryani in honor of Jesus’s birthday. It was SPICY yet spectacular. I had a strong feeling that I would regret all those additional helpings but I badly wanted to overwrite the less-than-perfect food and drink experiences from earlier in the day. So much so that I cleaned up the biryani that evening, and well… it was a bit too spicy for me.

I recognized clearly that I was so eager to have a good experience because I wanted to erase the memory of the previous one. And I also knew that a new experience, no matter how phenomenal, couldn’t/wouldn’t deliver. It was too tall an order. And yet I kept chasing it all day, Christmas Day. Maybe lunch will be better than breakfast, the evening chai can make up for the miserable one from morning, and so on.

And when all attempts fail, there is sugar. I have seen time and again that I reach for sugar when I am dissatisfied. We don’t have candy around but there are figs! Dates! A dried fig with a couple of cashews works. Or perhaps a date laced with almond butter. All healthy and delicious but again, trying so hard to fill that gnawing feeling of dissatisfaction. The days when meals are great, and I am supremely sated, there is no need for additional sweetness. It’s all perfect. And of course, when there is a steady sense of happiness within, a feeling of joyful creativity, even a less-than stellar meal can’t make a dent.

What helps in these situations? A palate cleanser! Raw fennel seeds are perfect.

Better Half/Whole Pie

Sometimes you are the better half, and then you are the whole pie, and then you feel like you are missing THE better half, but the missing is all-sweet, nothing sad or bitter about any of it, and parting/meeting is a bit like waves rushing to the shore, then pulling away. We meet in silence and we meet in celebration, we inch ever so close, even closer… and yet we are universes apart. Love is never complete because there are two halves to the pie. And yet it feels that I am the dreamer who dreamed him up. And he is pure camphor, leaving no traces behind. And it is I who dreamed him up, swallowed him whole, and all his traces are in me alone.

blackAF

Watching this episode of #blackAF, I was floored by the hip coolness of this family. Everyone is witty and smart (except Dad), and they all look stylish and beautiful, including the three little boys. And I had that whisper of a thought… Ohh, I wish I was cool and hip and gorgeous like that.

I have heard Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s commentary on the Patanjali Yoga Sutras many times, and one of the terms he uses to explain Asteya (one of the Yamas) is “non-stealing.” Gurudev isn’t one for long, detailed explanations but you can chew on his words for a while… maybe even years. I wondered, what does “non-stealing” mean? Does it include non-covetousness?

I have a sweet friend who’s blessed with a lovely head of hair. Sometimes I would look at that crowning glory, sighing: I wish I had that hair. Then I started to think, am I “stealing?” A lot has been written about cultural appropriation, and the various ways in which the West has stolen from and profited off indigenous peoples and cultures. I understand the idea but I didn’t connect with the passion behind it. Today, as I watched #blackAF, I started to see things clearer.

As we admire something that belongs to another, it is imperative that we keep a watch within. Do we want that thing for ourselves? Are we happy admiring its beauty from a distance, or do we want to make it our own? When does that love turn into lust, and at what point do we seek to possess it? (And that’s how #blackAF made me better understand Asteya and cultural appropriation.)