Postmodern

Writing will always feel like a strange paradoxical venture to me because you’re supposed to curate your thoughts and words to establish an image, a style, an angle, a niche, fit into a genre, or take into account an audience, but not so much that you compromise with yourself, just enough.
Doesn’t that make writing inherently inauthentic, deceitful?
Or at least, incomplete? Perhaps dual? Every word, sentence, stanza or paragraph tinged with both presence and absence, permanence and transience, openness and confinement, revealing and concealing?
Writing is about the world inside and the world outside, about an appreciation of them, about the connection between them, about reducing the space between self and other.
It carries a compromise between subjectivity and objectivity, between an understanding and a lack of understanding; because every mind functions somewhat differently, every consciousness having a different set-up due to nature and nurture.
And yet, with increasing (especially spiritual) awareness comes the realisation we are all both different and alike.
Perhaps writers are aware of the limitation and power of language the most, followed by psychologists.
I have an infinite fondness for the postmodernists and the beautifully unhinged nature of their work, their literary and psychological fragmentation
Sometimes I see or feel characters and I incorporate what they represent, I give them a voice, in doing that, I give myself a voice- and vice-versa- by integrating them within my self.
This is sometimes exhausting.
It’s also bewildering, cathartic, empowering, a blessing and a curse.

When I write, I know nothing and I know everything.
How avant-garde.

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?
introspective. conflicted.

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?
maladaptive daydreaming

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, 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, Artemis, 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!

Reflections on reading

Published in Education in the Digital Era, March 2019

Books are not only the arbitrary sum of our dreams, and our memory. They also give us the model of self-transcendence. […] They are a way of being fully human.”- Susan Sontag

The multifaceted nature of literature encompasses an abundance of purposes when it comes to the act of reading, such as functioning as a vehicle of escapism, working as a tool to enhance self-awareness, setting in motion cultural and social change starting from individual transformation, inspiring metaphorical deaths and resurrections of selves, summoning childhood magic and nostalgia associated with books we grew up with and memories entangled with their reading, perceiving the human spirit as shaped through time within specific historical and cultural frameworks, as well as strengthening our connection with others by making us recognise ‘the other’ within us, and providing a mirror that we can use to face the world with empathy and acceptance as we fully acknowledge its realness and complexity.

Reading can be seen as a spiritual journey, since it inspires a form of awakening. Stories we read during our formative years, during an early stage in our lives that is of utmost significance memory-wise, those stories will potentially remain the most enchanting reading experiences, because they enter our mind at a time when we tend to simply absorb every evocative image, every symbol, indiscriminately, unassumingly, with naivety and curiosity, and when simple yet vivid memories are formed. Later, as we mature and acquire more knowledge- not exclusively literary, whilst we learn to be more discerning, selective, as well as developing critical thinking, we are encouraged to deeply reflect on the strings of words in front of our eyes- sometimes, however, at the expense of the child-like wonder and the child’s way of seeing, of disappearing, and truly living within a story.

While expressing her views on reading, Virginia Woolf emphasises that, whereas we should follow our instincts in reading rather than having someone else dictate the way in which we experience a literary piece, we should also avoid falling into the trap of projecting our pre-conceived ideas and judgements onto a piece of writing immediately, and instead, at first, decrease the volume of our critical voice in order to embrace the author’s voice and the creative process, to open our minds and let the thoughts of another flow into them. Afterwards, as cultivated readers, we can ponder on underlying themes and psychoanalytical symbolism, stylistic categorisations, meta-references, the larger aesthetic value of the work, character development, feminist interpretations and critiques, and the historical, socio-cultural, political or conceptual frameworks. As a Literature and Film graduate, I have found that temporarily tuning out certain aspects of this critical side that became a natural inclination in my reading is ideal if I wish to retain the pleasure of the act and to prevent disillusionment. Otherwise- and I have known Literature and Film students at university who faced such concerns- the enjoyment of a piece of writing or art in general might be diminished. When we let ourselves be fully engrossed by the words, something pure and beautiful happens: we disappear and live within a story, we allow ourselves to be bewitched by lyricism, to recognise the emotions evoked in a poem, to let them inspire us; we perceive and visualise the world conceived by another mind, unfolding within our own mind. That is when we can identify with a character, as well as finding traces of this character within ourselves, savouring every mental image, finding something interesting and revealing in every echo while devouring a good book. This way, we shift from clichés to something more intimate, from patterns of thinking to a unique taste of and insight into individual consciousness.

During literary studies at university, our way of reading pieces of literature is, indeed, interestingly shaped, to a certain degree, by the modules we opt for and their structure, particularly the recommended critical interpretations and analysis of the works in question or, more broadly, of literary movements, periods, and other divisions. Once you place everything in a cultural, social, or historical context, or consider the psychoanalytical dimensions of a text, or interpret narratives from a feminist point of view, it can influence your process of experiencing other works and how you delve into them. This aspect is also facilitated by a tendency towards syntopical or comparative reading, which is recommended within an academic context- particularly in analysing critical theory books and essays- and rightfully so, since it is a useful tool for finding your own voice, forming your own opinions, gaining perspective, and developing critical thinking skills which are so essential in various areas of life. As a result, while reading prose fiction for instance, our minds may involuntarily jump to underlying commentaries and themes, paying more attention to connotations of nuances and how they fall into a wider sociocultural, ideological, or psychological framework. This may seem like a double-edged sword because it appears to be in contrast to the previous idea of experiencing a written story viscerally, intimately. However, as previously mentioned, the mind can be trained to read differently for pleasure, inspiration, or educational purposes and everyone can shift between different methods of reading.

Placing a literary piece into the complex puzzle of history, can be particularly revealing and useful, for instance, when we read literature associated with silenced voices and with otherness: such literary works give us the chance to get an insight into the psyche of figures whose lives seem so distinct from ours and explore uncharted mental territories, an inner journey which will also prove to be self-revealing, whilst at the same time requiring transcendence. Reading can, indeed, often initiate us into a ritual of self-transcending. Language mediates our connection with our own selves as much as it mediates our connection with the world around us. Reading can be viewed as a process of merging contrasts: between temporality and atemporality, the tangible and the incorporeal, presence and absence, closeness and remoteness, self and other, the intimate and the universal, the evanescent and the eternal, a grasped world and an elusive one.

A poem: Face to face

Face to face:
eyes locked,
staring into each other;
seeing your reflection
in the dark lake of her iris.
Hand on hand,
praying together-
not like those bible verses preach-
no, praying to the abyss,
hoping it won’t swallow you whole;
understanding at first the irony
and then the futility
of your act.
The abyss has black, wet lips,
kissing you to compensate
for chewing pieces of your soul
and spitting them out
because they were bittersweet.
Now they are soaked, slippery,
no longer sticking either in or to the puzzle,
which is why you don’t make sense
except in the silver,
face to face,
where your soul is pure, whole,
and wholly unleashed.

Music: Submerged

Their music submerged my body in cold waters- red, blue, and purple lights piercing into the depths. Their voice embraced me, the melody wrapped me up in a liquid swirl, whilst my mind was surrounded by the haze of the late 90’s when I was a child and the very early 90’s when I was not born yet, but it somehow made sense. The fabric of the universe, the condition of being human and of simply being, were reflected in the icy singing. It could be the soundtrack of a trip to the moon, or a trip into the underworld. Of running and never stopping, following an endless white line on the ground, or running and jumping off a cliff not knowing what is on the other side and whether you will survive the crash. Of brides saying ‘I do’ in glittery white dresses inside Christian churches; of a little girl’s tears on her grandfather’s coffin. That moment extended into infinity, the music encompassed everything, and that is how a thousand experiences enriched my mind in an instant.

The magic of Edinburgh : veils of serendipity

edinburgh-castle-landscape-photography

On the 13th of June 2015, I concluded, in a diary entry:

Edinburgh is so full of life…and death. I genuinely consider living there at some point, my experience of it was like a step back in time. Tours in the underground vaults, the Dungeons, and around the castle, eerie strolls in the cemetery where J.K. Rowling drew inspiration from for Harry Potter, and where John Gray, an obscure night watchman was buried, with a loyal dog sitting by his grave for many years inspiring George R. R. Martin in his depiction of Jon Snow with his more fierce Ghost, Jekyll and Hyde connections, ghost stories – all these seem to be the norm there. Every corner is imbued with (dark) history and I’d like to go back anyway because I feel I haven’t grasped all its magic yet.

Recently, Edinburgh has suddenly become relevant once again. Whilst I did develop my plans in this fresh year outside academia, there is still space for serendipity.

Let me retrace the path of last year’s explorations, purely from memory, since I cannot access the photographs anymore, at this time, due to my old laptop having deteriorated. Greyfriars Kirkyard: a girl dressed in black lace rests on a headstone. It is not your typical headstone: it is attached to the ground like a table, and it belongs to a famous doctor…or perhaps to a troubled mathematician. A man is giving a detailed tour of the cemetery to a group of fascinated people. Her tour had just finished at the gate of the cemetery, having encompassed secret corners of the magical old town. She gazes at the group, and from afar, she can hear a few fractured words which capture her attention. She sneaks across the surroundings of the guided group, eavesdropping, lying on the grass, taking photographs. The man points at a school building rising from behind the walls of the cemetery, and claims it might have been a source of inspiration for the mighty Hogwarts. A tomb relishes the attention of many pensive faces glancing at the carved name of Thomas Riddell, a 19th century man who wandered the Earth for 72 years. The guide then points at the café with a clear view of the cemetery, and here we are, a couple of decades back, visualising the blonde, wise, kind-looking woman writing page after page of magic.

This memory is not real, it is a photographic reconstruction. The photograph has disappeared, but I still see it in my mind.

On that note, Herman Hesse helps us combat existential crisis:

“In my brain were stored a thousand pictures:
Giotto’s flock of angels from the blue vaulting of a little church in Padua, and near them walked Hamlet and the garlanded Ophelia, fair similitudes of all sadness and misunderstanding in the world, and there stood Gianozzo, the aeronaut, in his burning balloon and blew a blast on his horn, Attila carrying his new headgear in his hand, and the Borobudur reared its soaring sculpture in the air. And though all these figures lived in a thousand other hearts as well, there were ten thousand more unknown pictures and tunes there which had no dwelling place but in me, no eyes to see, no ears to hear them but mine. The old hospital wall with its grey-green weathering, its cracks and stains in which a thousand frescoes could be fancied, who responded to it, who looked into its soul, who loved it, who found the charm of its colours ever delicately dying away? The old books of the monks, softly illumined with their miniatures, and the books of the German poets of two hundred and a hundred years ago whom their own folk have forgotten, all the thumbed and damp-stained volumes, and the prints and manuscripts of the old composers, the stout and yellowing music sheets with their arrested dreams of singing sound – who heard their spirited, their roguish and yearning voices, who carried through a world estranged from them a heart full of their spirit and spell? Who still remembered that slender cypress on a hill over Gubbio, that, though split and riven by a fall of stone, yet held fast to life and put forth with its last resources a new sparse tuft at top? Who read by night above the Rhine the cloud-script of the drifting mists? And who over the ruins of his life pursued its fleeting, fluttering significance, while he suffered its seeming meaninglessness and lived its seeming madness, and who hoped secretly at the last turn of the labyrinth of Chaos for revelation?” — Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf