09 December 2014

And there’s always some more left in the story

Some people ask me if I ever run out of things to write about.  I give two answers.  To some I say something along the following lines:

‘If a universe is contained in a grain of sand, then everything is contained in everything else; the world is bursting with metaphor and there are innumerable things to write about.’

Most times I don’t know what I’d end up writing.  There is always, however, a nimittha, a point of focus if you will; something that calls out for the play of fingertips on keyboard. Invariably that thing resident within that wants comment and elaboration gets drawn out. It trips along from line to line down the page and ends up somewhere, hopefully as something coherent and readable or at least something that is not so vague and indeterminate that a few readers or even one will pick it up and take a look. 

Others are offered the following explanation: ‘There are surgeons who perform 6-10 operations every day.  That’s delicate work.  I make mistakes. There are typos. The subeditors can correct these and even if they won’t the readers will mind-adjust to render things coherent. One wrong move by a surgeon and death can result. Irrecoverable. What I do is nothing.’ 

This is easy, trust me.  Let me walk you through a typical day. Today.  I get an email which refers to something that appeared in the previous day’s column (‘My twin is 70 years old, how old is yours?’).  My argument was that we have twin-moments with various individuals but don’t really have lifetime twins, although this is something many long for as permanent cure for the inescapable human condition of solitude, i.e. someone who understands, now and always.  Minoli Wijetunga, a friend, had a comment: ‘I think I understand the reason you say “twinning” cannot endure the hurdles of time.  Your twin for years can become a complete stranger within a very short time.’ 

She liked the article but had an objection: ‘[But] you didn’t have to put it there. I know we don’t live in fairytales but sometimes pretending that we do gives hope.’  I replied, ‘Pretending gives hope…that’s a nice title for an article’.  She responded: ‘Personally, when things go really bad, I say to myself, “This is the sad part, where so many bad things happen. In a little while it will be over. There’s much time left in the story. In the end it will be a happily-ever-after.” That gives hope and strength to cope.’ 

That’s a lovely thought.  And it is true.  We do indulge.  We hope. We dream. Someone said ‘We were given an imagination to compensate for what we are not, a sense of humour to console us for what we are.’  We move from twin to twin, moment-twin to day-twin to sansara-twin or illusions thereof, forgetting that compatibilities are deceiving and that there’s much wisdom in Vijaya Kumaratunga’s song about solitude: ‘eka lesa bandunath nethu yuga se, desithak sama noma we mai; handunaa gatha heki wanne, mage sithata maa pamanai’ (Two minds can be together like two eyes, but they are never one; it is only my mind that can know me). 

It takes a glance at the wrong time, wrong place and in the wrong direction, it takes just a word that is carelessly uttered in the wrong volume and with wrong nuance, or a preference for silence when word meant everything, to scatter togetherness and un-twin hearts bound in what was thought to be eternal embrace.  So fragile.  So made for breaking, these heart-things of longing and bliss.  So made for poetry and song, for eyes-closed, heartbeat-racing excitement and for conviction that the world was un-peopled save for self and beloved. 

Reading what Minoli had to say I wanted to forget my twin-theory.  I mean, it is good to be real, to get real, to come to terms with ourselves, our solitary realities and to get some perspective on dream and extrapolation.  Then again, dream is also target and to look to destination does help us get from here to there.  We set out to change the world and end up building a village library or just helping an old man cross the road.  That’s not a bad thing.  We don’t get a world made of our clones, but we do discover part-twins and companions who make the walk from birth to death pleasant. 

I once wondered if the belief that stories end when chapters are closed was the greatest illusion or the most innocent claim.  I was never sure. Reading what Minoli had to say, I think I would err towards the latter.  There is innocence is dream, arrogance in thinking that we can obtain an accurate sense of the real.  The hard conviction that we are alone can break community into individuals; the soft hope that there’s a twin waiting for us makes us tender enough to pick up the ‘enemy’ who tripped and bruised a knee. 

Minoli invited me to walk a path. I did.  And in doing so I realized that if I did not believe in twins, I would never write for I would be silenced by the conviction that no one would understand.  I write because I do believe that ‘there’s much time left in the story’.  And it is for this reason too that I can say ‘I will never run out of things to write’.  

*This was first published in the 'Daily News' on December 3, 2010 (at the time I wrote a daily column for this newspaper titled 'Morning Inspection').  

Malinda Seneviratne is the Editor-in-Chief of 'The Nation' and can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com


Danushka Samarasinghe said...

Philosophical and nice. Makes you sit and think. Thinking is what most of society lacks these days

Anonymous said...

It doesn't surprise me at all that angels choose Harley-Davidsons to fly, while your words are forced to swim in sad fish tanks. But I am thankful for it. For, if your words were flying how will I ever seek refuge in them when I wish to? How can the fish seek entry to a wonderful world of sensuality if your words were not beside them?

Where do words fit better than where dwells sorrow?

Besides. Angels need not have the best of everything :)