It’s my first time. Half of my motionless body rests inside the white, clinical, cylindrical machine, in my head resembling an intergalactic coffin. I feel an itch, but I have to resist moving. I want to cough, to sneeze, to yawn, ugh, of course, at the most inopportune moments, and I have to keep it under control and be still. My legs are too tense, my lower body feels heavy. I am mentally calm. But my body wants permission to move. Since this is just a brain scan, I try to make a slight leg movement, but it feels like trying to lift an anchor. My mind keeps freezing. There is the buzz. It’s getting louder. And stranger. Then the clanking. The whirring. Suddenly thoughts of the few MRI safety incidents and fatalities I’ve read about vaguely infiltrate my mind in a weirdly serene way. I should have double-checked there is definitely no metal anywhere in or around this room. Oh come on, when something like this enters my mind, I think – what are the odds? and what is the point of obsessing over the odds?- and the thought melts away. I can remember basic aspects about my life, but there is something peculiar about this eerily cold, sterile room, this atmosphere; it’s holding back any specific memories, any feelings, any complex thoughts- I can’t really visualise anything about my past or about life outside this tube. I mean, the noise is quite obstructive, so whenever a thought or a mental image starts materialising, it quickly dissolves. I have a rare, evanescent, uncanny feeling that there is a higher presence or force watching over me. This reminds me of my pre-atheistic, childhood days when I had an agnostic belief in animism and in magical thinking- the belief that one’s thoughts could influence reality, which was problematic whenever I had dark, “forbidden”, ungodly thoughts resulting in fear of divine punishment and futile attempts at suppression. There is a surreal atemporality about this space, it’s like reality is suspended. If my whole body slid into this alienating horizontal cylinder, it would really feel like I’m inside an eccentric, futuristic coffin. That’s spine-chilling. And yet, despite my claustrophobic tendencies, I wish I had a full body scan so I could be encapsulated and see what it would be like if my consciousness or my spirit found a way to return to my corpse a hundred years from now. I don’t believe in it, but I like fantasising. My ego is temporarily numb and any vivid memories are gone, replaced by brief, fleeting perceptions, and it’s one of the few moments in which I’m not living in the past or in the future. I’m living in the now. I feel alive and calm, oddly calm. An oddly calm combination of cells, lying down in a tube, with an ego on snooze mode. Oh, it’s time to get back out there…
The adapted version of The Proust Questionnaire
As a fan of Marcel Proust who loves the way he perceives the world as depicted in À la recherche du temps perdu, I thought I should write down my answers to the most popular version of his iconic questionnaire in my first unequivocally personal blog post, even though my answers may very well change tomorrow:
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Time travel. Interplanetary travel. As for a slightly more down-to-earth answer, visiting the most beautiful, inspiring- ethereal or eerie- places, absorbing every moment spent there and feeling connected to the place, living in the present, and having a cultivated soul.
What is your greatest fear?
Death. Non-existence. Annihilation. Oblivion. Aging. Bugs.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Literary figures: Virginia Woolf & Sylvia Plath.
Which living person do you most admire?
Tilda Swinton. Richard Dawkins. David Lynch. Plus anyone who positively influences the world, who is aware of the whole picture and manages to focus on the good rather than the bad in the world, overall.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I will mention a few, although I have conflicting feelings about these traits as I don’t always deplore them: cynicism, the low-key need to be in control, fickleness in some respects, ricocheting between emotional frostiness and impulsiveness, scepticism to the point where I start being sceptical of my own scepticism, and taking myself too seriously (but otherwise I probably wouldn’t be able or feel propelled to write!).
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Duplicity, hypocrisy. Prejudice. Lack of empathy and inability to listen. Arrogance. Wrong life values. Underestimating me.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My luxury perfume collection. Not sleeping at night.
What is your favourite journey?
towards self-awareness and self-development, through self-indulgence and creative fulfilment.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience. Sympathy (not empathy). Contentment. Humility and prudence in women’s case.
On what occasion do you lie?
When the conversation doesn’t matter, or when I’m convinced that telling the truth wouldn’t be beneficial to anyone involved.
Which living person do you most despise?
anyone who uses their power to negatively influence, harm, ruin, or eradicate the lives of innocent people, either on an individual level, or on an organised level.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
aesthetic. surreal. oh my god. yeah. no.
What is your greatest regret?
caring when I shouldn’t have. not caring when I should have.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
perfume, cinema, music, labyrinthine architecture
When and where were you happiest?
I don’t remember exactly but I’m gonna say it was probably a case of frisson- “aesthetic chills”- that I experienced whilst watching a hypnotic, revealing, or epiphany-inducing film or piece of art.
Which talent would you most like to have?
a mesmerising, emotion-inducing, magical singing voice.
What is your current state of mind?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d give myself an infinite dose of productivity and the capacity to love the world freely and unconditionally. Getting rid of grudges. Being less fickle/wishy-washy in some respects.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
rising from the flames like a Phoenix.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
a fairy or a nymph.
What is your most treasured possession?
my perfume collection, my films collection, my velvet dresses collection,
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
not living the life you want, letting obsessions or demons consume you, feeling trapped.
Where would you like to live?
in a beautiful place adorned with paintings and different styles of decorations on each floor or in each room (Gothic, minimalist, dreamy, airy fantasy style etc). Also, in the distant future, maybe on a different, ultra-advanced planet. Either that or in one of the many film fantasy worlds I love.
What is your favourite occupation?
What is your most marked characteristic?
being artistically-inclined. being headstrong, perceptive/astute, experiencing derealisation and zoning out (this sounds contradictory to the astuteness, but it’s actually not!); inquisitive, independent-minded, and a freethinker. looking sad or annoyed when I’m actually in a neutral or thoughtful mood.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Intelligence (including emotional intelligence), genuineness, confidence -not cockiness, self-awareness
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
strength, genuineness, intelligence, confidence, self-awareness
What do you most value in your friends?
kindness, authenticity, having my best interests at heart, trustworthiness, & respecting confidentiality
Who are your favourite writers?
Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Vladimir Nabokov, Hermann Hesse
Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Jessica Jones, Vanessa Ives, Jean des Esseintes, Violet Baudelaire, Rogue
What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I like my appearance overall, but there are two or three things I would/will probably change if I can.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Inspiring women who are unapologetically fierce and do whatever they feel like (unless they are psychopaths or something equally worrying).
What are your favourite names?
Morgana, Diana, Ariadna, Mordred, Crystal.
What is it that you most dislike?
pity, prejudice, labels.
How would you like to die?
Knowing that I will be revived as an immortal goddess, mostly because I want to live forever, but all the other perks would be fun too!
What is your favourite motto?
Do no harm, but take no shit. // C’est la vie. //
Incantation-“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”
Quotes-“I stopped explaining myself when I realised other people only understand from their level of perception.”
“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance”
Write your own answers to all or some of these below, I’m interested to see!
A poem: Unfiltered
Smell of new and
Life as art for art’s sake.
Neon light flickers as you blink
infected by dizziness.
No longer tone-deaf to the harmonies
of your own soul,
you don’t shrink for someone else to grow.
An invisible corpse in the plastic bag
winks at you from the corner-
madness, it grows
Lifeless but intense:
you don’t pray for another,
you prey for yourself.
Train of thought
You said to yourself that it was too cold and that was why you could barely function. It was either that, or the weeks-long stagnation of the spirit.
One day you will no longer think of your own passing, or that of those closest to you, no longer delving in scenarios of unhappiness out of masochistic urges, or in abyssal streams of consciousness.
The city, oh, the city. Sometimes you are the city, sometimes the city is in you, sometimes the city does not exist, or is something so detached from who you are, even as you pass right through its heart. The city in daylight and the city at night – such peculiar dualism to which your mindset adjusts, and which appeals to different beings within you, with different dreams and different nightmares.
You need success and fulfilment in order to open up. Is it right? It might be ingrained – inherited or caused by nurture. Unfolding at your most vulnerable seems impractical anyway, what a silly thing to do. Put up walls and let flowers climb them.
I ate everything I had in the house -red and purple fruits and chocolate, then I took the first train and stopped at the station where my train of thought decided to let me go. The station was all empty, I smiled to myself, and nature witnessed. There is a journey ahead.