Rebecca Solnit

The desire to go home that is a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood.

  • Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics

The stars we are given. The constellations we make. That is to say, stars exist in the cosmos, but constellations are the imaginary lines we draw between them, the readings we give the sky, the stories we tell.”

  • Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics

Worry is a way to pretend that you have knowledge or control over what you don’t–and it surprises me, even in myself, how much we prefer ugly scenarios to the pure unknown.

  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost

A path is a prior interpretation of the best way to traverse a landscape.

  • Wanderlust: A History of Walking

 

Writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone.

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?(Plato)

The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration- how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?

  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost

 

Despair is a form of certainty, certainty that the future will be a lot like the present or decline from it. Optimism is similarly confident about what will happen. Both are grounds for not acting. Hope can be the knowledge that reality doesn’t necessarily match our plans.

  • Men Explain Things to Me

To write is to carve a new path through the terrain of the imagination, or to point out new features on a familiar route. To read is to travel through that terrain with the author as a guide– a guide one might not always agree with or trust, but who can at least be counted on to take one somewhere.

  • Wanderlust: A History of Walking

But hope is not about what we expect. It is an embrace of the essential unknowability of the world, of the breaks with the present, the surprises. Or perhaps studying the record more carefully leads us to expect miracles – not when and where we expect them, but to expect to be astonished, to expect that we don’t know. And this is grounds to act.

  • Hope in the Dark

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes–you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and knowable, a alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what is may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.

  • Hope in the Dark

If the boundaries of the self are defined by what we feel, then those who cannot feel even for themselves shrink within their own boundaries, while those who feel for others are enlarged, and those who feel compassion for all beings must be boundless. They are not separate, not alone, not lonely, not vulnerable in the same way as those of us stranded in the islands of ourselves, but they are vulnerable in other ways. Still, that sense of the dangers in feeling for others is so compelling that many withdraw, and develop elaborate stories to justify withdrawal, and then forget that they have shrunk. Most of us do, in one way or another.

 

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

The possibility of paradise hovers on the cusp of coming into being, so much so that it takes powerful forces to keep such a paradise at bay. If paradise now arises in hell, it’s because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.

  • A Paradise Built in Hell

 

Paradise is not the place in which you arrive but the journey toward it. Sometimes I think victories must be temporary or incomplete; what kind of humanity would survive paradise? The industrialized world has tried to approximate paradise in its suburbs, with luxe, calme, volupté, cul-de-sacs, cable television and two-car garages, and it has produced a soft ennui that shades over into despair and a decay of the soul suggesting that Paradise is already a gulag. Countless desperate teenagers will tell you so. For paradise does not require of us courage, selflessness, creativity, passion: paradise in all accounts is passive, is sedative, and if you read carefully, soulless.

  • Hope in the Dark

Creation is always in the dark because you can only do the work of making by not quite knowing what you’re doing, by walking into darkness, not staying in the light.

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

Resistance is first of all a matter of principle and a way to live, to make yourself one small republic of unconquered spirit. You hope for results, but you don’t depend on them.

  • Hope in the Dark

 

He ceased to be lost not by returning but by turning into something else.

  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost

 

To dig deeper into the self, to go underground, is sometimes necessary, but so is the other route of getting out of yourself, into the larger world, into the openness in which you need not clutch your story and your troubles so tightly to your chest.

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

A labyrinth is an ancient device that compresses a journey into a small space, winds up a path like thread on a spool. It contains beginning, confusion, perseverance, arrival, and return. There at last the metaphysical journey of your life and your actual movements are one and the same. You may wander, may learn that in order to get to your destination you must turn away from it, become lost, spin about, and then only after the way has become overwhelming and absorbing, arrive, having gone the great journey without having gone far on the ground.

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

I wish that I could put up yesterday’s evening sky for all posterity, could preserve a night of love, the sound of a mountain stream, a realization as it sets my mind afire, a dance, a day of harmony, ten thousand glorious days of clouds that will instead vanish and never be seen again, line them up in jars where they might be admired in the interim and tasted again as needed.

  • The Faraway Nearby

 

What we dream of is already present in the world.

  • Hope in the Dark

 

Some portion of Woolf’s genius, it seems to me, is that having no notion, that negative capability. I once heard about a botanist in Hawaii with a knack for finding new species by getting lost in the jungle, by going beyond what he knew and how he knew, by letting experience be larger than his knowledge, by choosing reality rather than the plan. Woolf not only utilized but celebrated the unpredictable meander, on mind and foot. Her great essay Street Haunting: A London Adventure, from 1930, has the light breezy tone of many of her early essays, and yet voyages deep into the dark.

  • Men Explain Things to Me

The Art of Life

People say: “Mulki, your writing is so deep and beautiful. You’re so talented.”

Nah b, I aint talented. I’m damaged, scarred, burnt. See how I can make these words grow fingers and caress your mind, how they can stir up emotions in you that you didn’t even know existed, how these words you’ve known for years take on a new form, seep through to forgotten memories you’d rather not revisit?

Tragedies carved out deep tracks in my soul, that’s how. A sculpture is marvelled at but you don’t notice the countless hours it took to break, disfigure, chip away at the original block of stone with a sharp chisel.

Nah darling, I’m not talented. I mean, I’m talented, just not in that way. I’m talented in messing up. In keeping people out. In seeming ice cold and indifferent. In figuring people out way before they even notice me, to gain leverage. I don’t watch movies. Because I can guess the ending by the title. It’s like I have an x-ray vision, and I’m dying from the radiation.

The ink with which I write is drawn from a well that runs way deep within me. It’s my soul’s blood.

Be careful with what you wish for.

I asked Allaah for patience. He gave me hardships.
I asked Him for love. I got people who hurt and betrayed me.
I asked Him for wisdom. I got pain on my platter.
I asked Him to make me a writer. I went through hell, and at the end of it I was told
” Now that you’ve stood for something, now that you’ve stood up to live, you may sit down to write.”

And you see, when I write, I don’t think first and write second. I don’t write at will. I’m merely a medium through which my emotions manifest themselves when they wish to do so. So I sit at my laptop, close my eyes to see, to hear the words in my mind that want out. Then I leak ,I bleed, I emit the words onto the keyboard. It’s like I’m playing a melody on a piano, one I learnt by heart in my childhood and now play without paying mind to the sheet. My fingers know what I don’t ; as they dance and pause and waltz across the keyboard, I don’t have a direct connection to what’s being communicated until the buzzing in my chest ,the knocking,the trouncing ceases.

It’s no child’s play.

But oddly, now that the scars have faded, the wound healed, I would not want to live in any other way. I’d rather live on the precipice of life, my life being one long cliffhanger that leaves deep gashes to the palms of my hands in my frantic efforts to hang on to life. I’d rather live in pain to court passion, as opposed to having a convenient, linear life.

You can’t leave a mark on this world without incurring scars of your own.

Mourning in the morning

For 3 weeks, I’ve been in the grips of unimaginable pain. The kind that tears a hole in my soul and sends its tentacles of terror into every iota of my being. It feels like climbing a mountain made of quicksand with concrete blocks for shoes and a heavy backpack. It feels like having a tornado set loose in my mind but my feet are too hesitant, my eyes too tired, my heart too heavy to run away, and so I have to keep very still whilst the tornado passes through me, because I don’t want people to see me in pain.
It’s ironic that the more pain I am in, the harder I try to appear painless.

Anxiety alternates between moments of ebb and tides; it subsides when I come upon a new chapter in discovering life, and once I’ve amassed enough experiences and life lessons, the old and the new in me battle it out until I shed my old soul. It’s a period of letting go of old mindsets, attachments, false beliefs, and it’s the most difficult and painful process of enlightenment. And worst thing is it happens a few times every year.
The process of letting seems to be outside the realm of space-time continuum; it’s almost like being in a grave, in the Barzakh, where it’s dark and you can’t do anything but wait, but for how long? It’s very dark, and all the positivity and inspiration that you thought you knew before then, is no longer. You feel stuck and that this dark patch is going to stretch over a lifetime. You don’t know what to do, and you want to reach out to people but what do you say? How do you explain it to them? And what can they do? And so you keep mum about it because it’s less painful if you don’t try.

This phase included me writing a lot. Like a couple of thousand words a day. I needed to drop the heavy weight of words in my mind. I’m an intensely reticent person, and that means that I carry around stories. Stories that have wings and need to be let out. Untold stories can be the heaviest coffin to bear.

I’m ready to bury my pain.

a short late night story

SHARDS OF  IMAGINATIONS

〈FICTIONAL TRUTH〉

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 She couldn’t sleep. It started out as a warm,dark cloud hovering over her nether regions, thundering and sending waves of gentle quivers through her that were neither intruding nor forceful but enough to soothe her. As sleep weighed heavy on her eyes, this cloud moved up into her chest and became a solid mass of sentiments. At first it gave away a faint buzz which she ignored as she prepared for bed. It became obstinate and grew louder, like a murmur. It garnered strength,words,reasons. It knocked there beneath her breasts that had recently been freed from restrains to freely roam at night, eagerly signalling for her to hear it out. When the knocking turned to trouncing, that’s when she forced herself up, half asleep and knackered.
You see, when she writes, she doesn’t think first and write second. She doesn’t write at will. She’s merely a medium through which her emotions manifest themselves when they wish to do so. So she sits at her laptop, closes her eyes to see, to hear the words in her mind that want out. Then she leaks, she bleeds, she emits the words onto the keyboard. It’s like she’s playing a melody on a piano, one she learnt by heart in her childhood and now plays without paying mind to the sheet. Her fingers know what she doesn’t ; as they dance and pause and waltz across they keyboard, she doesn’t have a direct connection to what’s being communicated until the buzzing,the knocking,the trouncing ceases.
So, what was it she wanted to say?Ah yeah. That.
What the moon, the stars have witnessed for eons
that’s what she wanted to let you witness in her
The murmurs contained in the bark of ancient trees and the dirt of the earth
that’s what she wanted to whisper into your ears
the warmth of the sun that’s been unwavering in its presence
that’s what her chest contains for you
this spring of emotions are stirred by tornadoes,typhoons,monsoon rain
hardened by snow blitz,softened by heat waves
matured by…her love for thee
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