Introspection

How is life? A work in progress. Just like me. I’m constantly growing and learning; acquiring knowledge of what fascinates me is one of my enduring obsessions. There is definitely more that’s unchanging and relentless about me (including, paradoxically, my regenerative strength), but it’s much easier and more palpable to articulate the ways in which I feel I have changed or the areas in which I invite change. In my life I have shifted from cynicism to idealism to optimistic nihilism to a sort of hedonism to aestheticism (I know I’m merging philosophical and artistic concepts here, but I think of them more widely, as approaches to life), and there have been times when I have ricocheted among them. I’ve spent some time in what may be considered an adrift state, but this has often led to acquiring better knowledge of what I see myself doing, what I enjoy and what I’m good at, a realignment with my deep wishes and interests, and attunement with myself, in all my glory and imperfection. On that note, add an increasing willpower to either embrace or change and improve imperfections, case by case, because that approach makes sense the most, a balance between personal development and contentment is key, and both complaining and self-pity are the most useless ways to spend your energy. Unless you write it down on a blog or capitalise on it or use it as fuel to express yourself through other creative outlets, in which case you can be relatable, earn something, or it can be cathartic. With that being said, perfectionism should be kept within limits, otherwise it becomes a sad quest.

After emerging with more self-knowledge regarding what fulfils me, plans have crystallised, but I need to maintain a healthy self-discipline in areas that are essential to my functioning and leading to a more substantial well-being rather than dopamine rewards. Building self-discipline is a challenge for most, and I’m the type of person who has always been most driven by spontaneous bursts of energy and motivation and outpourings of inspiration more than consistency and routine. I’m naturally inclined towards having a whimsical rather than methodical approach to life, with a lifestyle that may seem chaotic to some, though I can adapt and push myself to add order to chaos. I plan daily routines, but I sometimes end up doing what feels best ultimately, if I can afford to. This has worked for me creatively, in the past, but it’s not a viable or sustainable option as I age and have more responsibilities. I believe personality is a fluid thing, and thus I can adapt to something different and more efficient, but it takes a lot of deliberate effort to change something that has become ingrained in your being. I’m on the right track, though, because I’m getting into the habit of being more productive even when I’m not feeling at my 100 percent.

I want to put myself in the way of beauty and in the way of inspiration and of good things happening, even when my willpower is somewhat tentative- as opposed to resorting to taking the easy way out, or prioritising self-indulgence in the form of distractions, of whatever nature, and yielding to unproductive mental traps that get me stuck, creatively or otherwise. “Everything in moderation, including moderation” as Wilde said. Also, although focusing on materialising plans is necessary, it should be noted that this will definitely not be achieved by obsessing and thinking about the future, but by living in the now and taking steps towards tangible results- even small steps make a contribution. You’d think this should be obvious, but my brain often begs to differ for some reason. Obsessing over things and slipping into problems with self-discipline used to be my Achilles’ heel, but it’s something that I’ve focused on altering and dedication truly helps you forge new neural pathways. On another note, doing good deeds has a very uplifting power and effect for me. So does inspiring someone, either through my words or activity. I used to receive personal, touching messages online, in which people mentioned how I posted, wrote, or quoted the right things at the right times for them to see or read and how they’ve been inspired or helped by posts and that makes me smile. I like influencing and inspiring people, and this realisation has made me reconsider the appeal of certain paths to me.

I should probably nurture my dual & complicated relationship with vulnerability. I know better than to associate vulnerability with weakness, I know it can be empowering and unifying and brave, and yet, I find it so unnatural to open up entirely, I always have, partly because I don’t want to put myself in the position of allowing others to have full access to everything I am, partly because I don’t know how to convey things in an ideal way that makes me feel satisfied because I haven’t figured everything out but also partly because I’m at a point where I need to prioritise other things and don’t feel like I need to make many connections in order to be content. I’m also someone who doesn’t need constant contact to validate a friendship and actually in my book giving each other space and allowing yourselves to fall back into place and reach out to each other whenever you both need or feel propelled to is a love language. Also, it’s quite rare for me to fully resonate with another person so whenever it happens, when everything just flows and feels right I often feel this compulsion to protect it, and worry that there will come a moment when I might say or do something that alienates them, which triggers an uncharacteristic fear of abandonment. There are psychological shadows that I still need to integrate. I think it’s not uncommon, I think a lot of people curate their thoughts and feelings to express mostly positive or flattering ones, especially online. Within the context of a relationship, ironically, not wanting to give all of you can be considered a fear in itself, of sacrificing, of being tamed, subdued, sucked into, or simply, too dependent or entangled with someone else. Actually, I used to be quite the opposite in the sense that I felt like sharing many thoughts with others, I poured my mind and heart out. I still kind of do that, yet, on another level, perhaps emotionally, I’ve never fully given myself, in a way. At least I never feel like I do or that it’s beneficial. It’s also partly because we are all made of multitudes. Even though, in theory, I acknowledge that when you connect and give love (platonic, romantic, or of whatever nature), in a way, there is strength in putting yourself on that path, no matter what happens. But what happens if you become so enmeshed that you forget where you stop and the other begins? What happens when someone doesn’t act the way you expect him or her to? What happens when someone changes?

What else am I still in the process of learning? Learning to let go. Of detrimental or fruitless thought patterns, of the burden of roles other people may cast me in through assumptions or expectations because sometimes I’m not easy to read and other times I’m pretty straightforward and transparent, letting go of my own expectations from everyone in favour of focusing on whomever resonates with me and I resonate with, of unnecessary prohibitions and restraints uttered by a part of my psyche that I keep silencing, instead of reconciling with or making sense of in order to change it.

Slice-of-life nostalgia & oneiric landscapes

For me, episodes akin to the Proustian Madeleine cake epiphany are often closely interrelated with one category of the uncanny. There are certain sudden, surreal ‘triggers’ that evoke images from a distant past in a most bizarre manner – the thing is, it’s not always clear whether the memories are real, constructed from narratives, films, and other media, or dream fragments. But they feel real. And I feel like I catch a glimpse into a distant world – again, it’s just a feeling, but I would say this counts as a spiritual experience at times. I used to call this “the fairy tale sentiment”. I will now focus on the glimpses into my own memories rather than those into the more vague “memories” of other lives, which are likely to be fabricated. The aforementioned evocative elements are rarely direct links to that specific memory piece, but they project me in a trance for like 2 seconds whilst those nostalgic images flash in my head. Sometimes it’s not even a particularly visually striking experience, it’s more about the texture of the moment, about ethereal scents, or glitter, pearlescent lights, fashion fabrics; the best type of experience is when several such elements come together. Such moments have an intoxicating effect.

Here’s one instance in which the memory that is summoned up is quite intuitive: a certain piece of fabric, combined with glitter and with a particular perfume – Alien by Mugler let’s say – together recreate a very distant memory of my childhood self in a sparkly, silver sequin-adorned ballerina dress (I used to do ballet, dance, and rhythmic gymnastics so at least the core motifs do belong to a real memory), on a stage with dark curtains. The auditorium was also graced with some familiar visages and eyes that are no longer filled with light in our world. I never remember the actual dances or even the feeling of being on a stage dancing at that age. I just experience those seemingly insignificant, yet memory-preserving details enveloped in obscurity.

Sometimes, in stream-of-consciousness style, this scene cuts to the next one – this time set outside, with me still in one of my dance costumes, only this time I’m holding my favourite doll; she is very special to me. I place the doll standing up in my mother’s open bag, so she can see the world like us. As we walk along a fountain, I hear loud noises and sense agitation behind us. Looking back, I see young adults or adolescents gathering together in a circle like animal predators looking down to check out something on the ground whilst constantly chattering about something I can’t hear from that distance, but presume it’s nonsense. They seem so intrigued. What could it be? What could this group of almost adults be so exuberant about? I look at my mother’s bag. I start panicking: she’s gone. Mom, they’re stealing my doll!! Let’s go back and take her please. I start crying. Or not. I don’t remember. But I was pretty sad. And even more importantly, I felt disappointed and betrayed by my mother in that moment and who knows for how long after that – who knows anything about the inner time of a child? Betrayed, bewildered, and bereft of my “Darling, dearest, dead” doll. For some reason, despite my plights, my mother refused to go back with me and retrieve it from them. I don’t remember what she said, but I think she maybe didn’t notice or want to notice that it was happening right in that moment. In retrospect, this memory doesn’t even make sense. Not in the sense that’s it’s not real, or at least partially real, but in the sense that it’s ridiculous. Why would an entire group of students or whatever be so excited about a doll? Was it a group of freaky doll fetishists? Why would they gather together jubilantly in a circle as if about to perform a satanic ritual or act like they’d never seen a doll in their life? And why would they want to steal it from a sweet (on the surface and in public at least) little girl like I was, leaving the scene super pleased with themselves? Even more importantly, how was this such a memorable event for me? I can’t remember my age at that time, but my pov was very close to the ground, so I can only imagine. If this is a screen memory, I wonder what it masks. I know that one’s mind also stores moments that have been particularly emotionally impactful in one way or another, but how come the very scarce memories I have dating back so far are mostly of negative incidents, mini-trauma, or my own mischief? What about the other extreme? I don’t actually remember a time when I felt particularly happy from back then – I’m glad I have pictures to document it though because there were a few.
Anyway, I wish I could turn back time just to bestow haunting powers upon my doll and warn them with a scary look on my face so they would gradually get so paranoid they’d convince themselves it was true. Happy Halloween Season!

Another memory, that most psychology discourses would deem unreal, constructed, and yet, living quite vividly in my mind is of me as an actual baby crawling onto this glistening white fabric that somehow covers both the floor and the table where my extended family was feasting. I was just minding my own business in my crystal globe, fascinated with the brightness of the room and of being. To be honest the aesthetic looked more like a detergent commercial. But it didn’t matter. I was all there for it: for being alive and exploring silky sheets.

Another type of uncanny experience is given by recurring dreams, particularly focusing on landscapes I’ve inhabited in my dreams rather than actions. Ever since I was little I revisited several unknown places in my dreaming life, some of them so pretty and full of good energy that it’s a sin they don’t exist. For instance: I often find myself in this space filled with abundant ever-expanding vegetation over an abandoned railway and dilapidated trains. Brutalist, sci-fi architectural structures bless the surroundings. Somewhere in the vicinity, there’s an agitated turquoise body of water. The slightly dystopian landscape is somewhat reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s Zone, which of course, I wasn’t aware of when I first had this dream. I try not to wander in plain sight, as if hiding from something or someone who is following me. Or perhaps I’m trying to find someone’s traces in order to save their life. Still, I don’t think this dream is about fear. I might just as well play hide-and-seek, except I keep moving because I can’t find the perfect spot.

This dream image morphs into a totally different location, buzzing with people and little shops, like a scintillating outdoors bazaar. More than that, it’s an entire imaginary city designed by this polarising Unconscious with layers upon layers of life and vivacity, scents lingering as I pass by the fragrance shops, hills to climb, and fountains to rest on to dread the time of waking up if you’re lucid dreaming. I know so many narrow alleys in the city and idyllic shortcuts to get to my favourite places in that sanctuary. Sometimes the city restructures itself in real time. The geography is resplendent, alive. But I know where to go for some peace and quiet- the immutable place where the noise of the crowd ends and the singing of the sirens begins.

Fast forward to another oneiric landscape, this time drenched in scarlet, desert-like, with ominous volcanos. I always ended up there, on top, by following a sinuous trail. There is a lot of tension in the air. Still, not as much as the one present within the ultimate nightmare, featuring…the lift. How can I forget the lift. Probably the most frequently reoccurring oneiric space I find myself in. And I’m usually terrified because, of course, it’s malfunctioning (I don’t have a problem with lifts in real life). Yet in this nightmare, it either races up or descends at an unreal, flesh-unfolding speed and clearly way beyond the 14 floors of the building. Sometimes it stops. And I can’t move. Because if I made the slightest movement my body would be torn apart by the metallic door.

If you happen to stumble upon this blog entry and you have the tendency to interpret dreams and pschoanalyse people, don’t.

New Year, New Answers to The Proust Questionnaire

Here I go again, unfolding in Proustian style in my relentless pursuit of self-knowledge and exploration of psychic patterns and cognitive shifts. With an almost masochistic pleasure to dissect the mind, peel off layers that only I’m allowed to touch, and assimilate phantoms, the self gazes into self in a way that no one else can or even dares to do lest they be met with the manufacturing of all sorts of defences. Ok, there is always symbolism and mist (not to be confused with smoke and mirrors), as this is a public virtual space where I can design and master my surroundings for my comfort. I wonder whether there have been any significant changes since the last time I completed this. I will add a link to my answers from a few years ago at the end of this post.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I can think of endless scenarios, but regardless of the where, the what, and the when, two constant ingredients are inner peace and sanity. Beyond this, imagine shadow integration, ecstasy, bliss, aesthetic pleasures, decadent fancies and desserts, and multi-sensory stimulation. Full immersion in the moment. A less earthly and less hedonistic answer would be merging with my higher self, exploring this vast cosmos and other timelines, transcending space and time, and having an immortal nature- to annihilate my ruminations about ephemerality. Arcadian wilderness inhabited by nymphs, playful spirits, mythological figures, and other supernatural entities coexisting with sci-fi/ futuristic dreamscapes, all drowning in the smell of orange blossom trees, snowdrops, honeysuckle, and all the intoxicating fragrances one can think of. Having occult powers would be pretty entertaining. I could go on, but this answer is already too long!

What is your greatest fear?
Losing my mind and ending up in a private hell. Self-obliteration. Death.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Taking into account women who have had an impact in the history of literature and art, I have to say there are many women in me, even if some personalities exist as representations of thoughts that I’m unlikely to nurture and materialise. Anaïs Nin, Virginia Woolf, Dora Maar, Francesca Woodman. As for mythological characters, Persephone – I like her dual nature, because I, too, thrive in spring and rule over the underworld.

Which living person do you most admire?
Hélène Cixous, Irvin D. Yalom, Tilda Swinton, Chelsea Wolfe, David Lynch, Godard, Werner Herzog,…Oh, and Jung, he haunts our psyches, his presence is too relevant to not transcend death.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
None.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Malice, duplicity, gossip, hypocrisy, judging others based on a flawed system of reference, & lack of empathy. I also dislike dark triad traits, but I am somewhat fascinated by such pathologies in theory.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Niche and designer perfumes

What is your favourite journey?
Immersing myself in art is always a beautiful journey. And any other journey that involves a form of transcendence.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
For women, specifically: being nice and calm at all times, which would imply bypassing certain emotions that are deemed “unpleasant” and that have historically been attributed to “hysteria” in a disguised act of gaslighting, including emotions that are typically associated with masculinity, e.g. anger, aggressiveness. Anger emerges within you when you perceive an injustice, when some of your boundaries have been crossed. It is healthy and needs to be witnessed and integrated, rather than silenced.

Other overrated virtues are humility / humbleness, moderation, and submissiveness / obedience. Women are especially conditioned to adopt these traits in order to fit into society and not fall out of line. Be disruptive in this respect. You can draw your own lines, teeter on them in high heels, and erase and redraw them whenever you want. If you’re perceptive and self-aware, you’ll be able to tell the difference between self-love and arrogance.

On what occasion do you lie?
When I don’t want to risk hurting someone I care about, I might omit a part of the truth as long as I believe the omission wouldn’t ultimately create more distress.

Which living person do you most despise?
I don’t think I despise one person in particular. With the risk of stating the obvious and repeating what I’ve mentioned in the previous answer about what I deplore in others, I am repulsed by anyone who lacks empathy and commits acts of (emotional or physical) abuse against others.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
C’est la vie. That’s a lie, it’s probably something even more cliched than that.

What is your greatest regret?
Not exploring more and experimenting and actively pursuing my most ardent dreams earlier.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Film, most other forms of art, and fragrances.

When and where were you happiest?
Probably whenever I experienced “aesthetic chills”! Other than that, it’s been too long since I’ve felt any fluctuations or significant spikes in my emotional state, so – I don’t remember!

Which talent would you most like to have?
Excelling in any field I would like to delve into. Erasing certain thoughts before they reach neurotic levels. An impressive vocal range. And the knowledge needed to find a way to prevent senescence forever.

What is your current state of mind?
Reflective. Concerned with future endeavours. I feel like I’m in a liminal state, holding onto the hope that the world will shift and feel more real and less dystopian again. At the same time, certain events from 2020/1 that generated temporary glitches ultimately made me feel more appreciative of and grateful for moments of peace.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Mastering the art of selective caring. Raising my creative powers to unreal levels and expanding into other fields of creation.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I feel it hasn’t happened yet; I will achieve grandeur and fulfil my vision in the future.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A goddess.

What is your most treasured possession?
My perfume collection and technological devices, because I’m constantly fragrant and wired.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
A descent into sinister madness or suffering.

Where would you like to live?
In a place where pandemics don’t happen. Other applicable answers: in a cyberpunk world on a technologically ultra-advanced planet. The places that currently resonate with my personality type and interests, however, are London and probably NYC. (Tokyo and Venice as well, if there were no linguistic barriers or impediments of another nature)

What is your favourite occupation?
Immersing myself in art. Daydreaming and deriving vicarious pleasure from the adventures of fictional characters. Sublimating thoughts through poetry. Identifying behavioural and mental patterns. Spotting cognitive biases in others. Appreciating nature and cityscapes.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Perceptiveness. Creativity- especially when it comes to creating intricate stories about people I don’t know and being disappointed when their true self doesn’t align with my idealised projection of them. Self-awareness. Intuition. Constantly trying to reconcile the self that wants to connect with the self that wants to detach, conceal, wear disguises, and have privacy. A sense of elusiveness. Having regenerative powers. And an exquisite taste in film and music, if I say so myself.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Intellect, confidence, imagination, empathy, depth, openness, and a willingness to step into my inner world. Inner tranquility & stoicism that are disrupted by moments of fiery passion connected to subjects that genuinely matter to them. Having a superior olfactory sense, but not taking themselves too seriously all the time because of it!

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Same as above.

What do you most value in your friends?
A kind and understanding nature. Trust. Depth. Caring about me. Embodying safety.

Who are your favourite writers?
Angela Carter, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Anaïs Nin, Anne Sexton, Mary Oliver, Hélène Cixous, Oscar Wilde, Kafka, Nabokov, Mircea Eliade. Freud and Jung. Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman. Sylvia Plath. Virginia Woolf.

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Jean des Esseintes. Morgan Le Fay, Carmilla, Dorian Gray, The Countess from AHS

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Pass

Who are your heroes in real life?
Angels, poets, and people who have not only overcome mental illness, they’ve also channelled it into their creative work

What are your favourite names?
Morgana, Dionysus, Osiris, Narcissa, Mnemosyne

What is it that you most dislike?
Same answer I gave to the question “What do you deplore the most in others?”. I also dislike unpredictability, unless I’m responsible for it, and unwarranted advice.

How would you like to die?
Since I’ve never reconciled myself with our ephemeral nature (and will probably never do so), this question is oxymoronic and dreadful! I want to live forever – I would only ever “like” to die if I believed in the afterlife, and in that case I wouldn’t care how as long as it wasn’t painful.

What is your favourite motto?
Your interpretation of me isn’t who I am.
Underestimate me and perish.
Do just once what others say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations ever again.

Other mottos via quotes:

“Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones.” — Henry & June (1990)
“I am rooted, but I flow.” — Virginia Woolf
“Find out what makes you kinder, what opens you up and brings out the most loving, generous, and unafraid version of you—and go after those things as if nothing else matters. Because, actually, nothing else does.” ― George Saunders
“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)” — Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
“We will become our opposite if we do not learn to accommodate the opposition within us.” — C. G. Jung
“I believe in deeply ordered chaos.” — Francis Bacon
“Listen: I always return to myself.” — Vesna Parun, tr. by Vasa D. Mihailovich
“Nostalgia is a seductive liar.”
“A Woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretence and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” — Maya Angelou
“I refuse to live in the ordinary world, to enter ordinary relationships. I am a neurotic—in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.” — Anaïs Nin


Here is the link to my answers from the past.

Immersion. Expansion. Reverie.

Having decided to embrace the unknown, we take confident steps forward, aware of our part in the greater design. Scent of ritual, sight of stars, and a refreshing breeze that revives us. The atmosphere takes us out of our formerly stagnant, limiting state. Everything is aligned perfectly. We are here for a purpose. We are here to forget some things and remember others. We are here to let go. To accept. To integrate. To be. Piercing eyes are not invasive here. Each soulful gaze feels like home. I can see myself in them. I am a vital part of something special and I can feel its grandeur, yet my core is still untouched, consistent. My focus is selective, the concept of pain is utterly nonsensical here- a faraway notion, neurosis removed, as each step gets me closer to a perception that I would have previously described as godlike. Pieces of narratives overlap, discourse becomes unnecessary. The power I could only vaguely fantasise about and partially conceive of before, becomes reality. In a total paradigm shift, the peaceful, blissful nature of an uncorrupted, spiritual power supersedes previous understandings of power, as it’s no longer conceived by a self that’s trapped in the temptation of existential nihilism or materialism or restricted by the limitations of an ego held captive by negative attachments.

There is a sense of complete, beautiful harmony between body and spirit, as well as a liberating, soothing awareness that we are more than embodied selves. Yet we choose to experience our surroundings by inhabiting a body, even in this realm. Still, we have the power to make that choice, so we are now no longer confined to experiencing reality in merely one plane of existence, as consciousness merges with wholeness, with our eternal higher selves. We no longer process the world merely through our brains, on a physical level. I had a glimpse of this state before on a conceptual level, but back then I wasn’t fully in control, or at least the part I identified with and had access to wasn’t, and I felt pulled towards that state, perceived in a fragmented way.

Back then, I recall it also felt like there was another presence inside me, a godlike presence I was having an inner dialogue with. I remember wondering– Is this God? The Devil? Someone from another world? Or am I a Goddess temporarily stuck in a human body with only a piece of my divine consciousness? (I used to identify as an agnostic with atheist tendencies) I couldn’t really tell if that presence was me, or something separate. It felt like something external, an ‘Other’, but at the same time like there was something of my self within this uncanny Other. We were communicating in a weird “language”. Through vibrations within. The presence was asking me or telling me something telepathically and if I resonated with what was said I would feel ecstasy. Was that an unconscious mind process echoing religious beliefs I had drifted away from? The episode happened during an otherwise dark chapter of my life; For a long time, I have repressed it and avoided revisiting it because of the darkness associated with that time and because I needed to move on as I just wanted peace of mind. In an instance of curious chronological symmetry, towards the end of the same challenging life chapter, I had another episode involving an agonising amount of inexplicable physical pain. Ecstasy and agony. Like something entered me and a few months later it was purged.

The doom and the gloom were perhaps aspects of a fragmented psyche, the experience itself couldn’t be separated from these haunting states of mind, since I experienced all of that through the filter of my consciousness. I attributed the experience to a fleeting disturbance in my brain, a glitch in the matrix of my otherwise sane mind, rather than one in the fabric of the universe as I knew it, because of my agnostic beliefs and because I couldn’t pinpoint the nature of it; yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it, hoping (and partly fearing) it had a greater connotation. Once the darkness no longer had power over me and I could remove it from my psyche, I redefined the experience, attributing a different meaning to it. I removed the absurd beliefs that were just echoes of trauma and I kept the mystical side in the hope that it was a first step towards experiencing spiritual awakening, an insight not solely generated by a deluded mind, rather a deeper truth about what it means to be human and about my journey. Because let me tell you, an agnostic leaning towards atheism does not feel at peace, especially when they are ego-led. In integrating the experience, I became more open to the mystery of existence, and implicitly to the possibility that consciousness can persist independently of the brain- a view that was a cure to my ontological obsession and to the despair brought by thoughts about death. Of course, I still had doubts eating away at my newly found existential relief: Was my experience a sign of shifting towards a higher level of awareness or did it not carry any more truth than some pathological psychotic state? And, more importantly, was I simply replacing one religious framework supporting the idea of a make-believe world beyond our brief life on Earth (that I was skeptical about) with a different belief supporting the same idea, but a refined, more acceptable version, anchored in eastern spirituality? Was I still ego-led, refuting at all costs the idea that there is no grand scheme of things or that humans are insignificant in the grand scheme if there is one (for me, existential transience implied insignificance no matter how accomplished or meaningful one felt their existence on Earth was; in fact, the more relevant and interesting someone was in life, the stronger I felt the tragedy of the fleeting nature of human life) leading a transient life on a floating planet- a wonderful planet that is, however, just a small piece among myriads of pieces making up the cosmos? The cosmos and the exact nature of our consciousness may indeed have been a mystery, but potentially nothing more than a result of a series of lucky accidents of physics? After all, to take a moral stance, there was so much suffering in our world, in this small piece of the puzzling cosmos. Could all that suffering ever really be part of a bigger plan? Could those horrifying people who moved away from kindness, towards sinister acts of inflicting pain on others ever be an extension of something as beautiful and awe-inspiring as the Source or oneness?

Still, I had a sense of self-importance, which had always been unshakeable, even in my most nihilistic state. This had to transition into the realm of spirituality. Yet even when I became interested in spirituality, most of my beliefs were still anchored in science. I was still inclined to believe I was in control of most of the things happening in my life and the rest of the events were random rather than predestined or under divine control. Considering my glimpse into a higher self, I had to wonder: did that self have any power to influence what was happening in my current life, at any time? Could she act as a guardian angel? Or was it just that one ambiguous, interpretable intervention? I was on a quest, seeking a system of mystical esoteric beliefs that could meaningfully co-exist with science and make sense to me. At the same time, seeking to experience something extraordinary, “otherworldly” that didn’t “make sense” or only made sense from a spiritual perspective.

[…] To be continued

An allegory

Let your mind paint a rainy cityscape. A girl dressed in black, with a mask and noisy heels steps on the sidewalk. Her tears merge with the raindrops. Each tear encapsulates an entire mini-universe, lingering on her cheeks, like undetectable tokens of fluid vulnerability. A stranger passes her by, closely. His slightly curious, slightly worried gaze briefly meets hers. That’s when she remembers she’s in a public space: Maybe the distress in her eyes was visible, after all. His face doesn’t show pity, which is fortunate, for she hates pity – she’s always been too proud for it. But maybe she misinterpreted his facial expression and it wasn’t really concern. Maybe he misinterpreted her expression as something else too. He reminds her of someone – someone kind, sweet, wise, and very dear to her. Someone who knew how to unleash her vulnerable and dreamy side simply by being himself. The rare realness of this person was always rewarded with the privilege of meeting all the facets of her personality.

What her expression conveyed was grief. All-consuming grief, manifested as an affliction of the mind and the body. The inner chaos-intense, the body-tense, during the painful procession. Towards the funeral of the distilled dreams of being. Still alive are the hopes to resurrect the dreams the next day. Another dream, of inner peace, is born. She is wondering when it will materialise. Meanwhile, sweet echoes fill the mind as background music, sung by the Light Beings, ‘Talent. Creativity. Intelligence. Beauty. Resilience. Strength. Kindness’ This is not your typical funeral song. This is one of those days when the melodic discourse is played like a mantra to assuage the mind, to overpower the inner wailing from the funeral rite, to self-induce good vibes, in order to help her keep putting one foot in front of the other foot instead of collapsing. Like an incantation, to banish other toxic thoughts. It’s one of those days when other aspects resonate too strongly, sucking the power out of the good ones, and releasing dark energy. These other forces are not as clear. The noise they express themselves in is a sort of gibberish, a chaotic, harmful nonsense, inducing a heaviness of the heart.

There are rooms she doesn’t unlock in her mind, because she doesn’t want to let the poison out. She wants to stay pure. Untainted. One room contains dusty effigies of blacklisted figures. They’re not distinctive or intelligible, they’re merged into each other, shape-shifting embodiments of damaging thoughts. They are all locked away together in a claustrophobic space, drenched in darkness. Poison drips from their mouth as they breathe in the poisonous atmosphere like zombies. Meanwhile, The Light Beings roam in their perfumed, elegantly decorated chambers inside the mind, as companions and guardians. The Light Beings are personified thoughts, but also real-life people including her parents, close friends, and her therapist. When she dissociates, it’s probably so as to stay away from the poisonous atmosphere when the forbidden door malfunctions. That poison rarely affects anyone else, besides her self, it is confined within her being.

Inner discourse

I have always wondered what other people’s inner lives are like. Some of my greatest strengths are my perceptiveness and empathy, so I can quite easily figure out what someone is feeling, how they are likely to react, or what I should say in order to make them respond a certain way. Then again, maybe that is delusional, or surface-level stuff. Ultimately, you don’t really get to know what other people’s inner voices and discourses sound like and how they piece together their narrative. (Don’t even get me started about the unfathomable unconscious)
My external life isn’t something I tend to write about, in any direct way, as it seems quite uneventful. My inner life has always been complex. One thing I used to dream about was eternal life, as a sci-fi narrative (i.e. uploading our consciousness into an eternal body or merging with AI), rather than in a religious sense. This is a polarising subject: some are horrified by this, others see the positive side of living forever, in whatever way. Since I always felt that those unafraid of – even at peace with – death were made of a different substance from myself, I used to be part of the latter category, thinking it would be amazing to find a way to preserve my consciousness, what makes me who I am, somehow. Yet I had never viscerally contemplated how the elusiveness of this ontological concept can work against such futuristic dreams, turning them into frightening dystopias.
There have been a few shifts in my inner world. One was spiritual, taking me on a path of Enlightenment. It gave me a distinctive sense of control and harmony. Unfortunately, it was a transient feeling, experienced whilst reading a book on a relevant subject; yet it offered me a glimpse of another perspective, another lens to see and feel the world through – one that was free of worries and other negative attachments. As opposed to the mental state of an emotionally detached person to whom you could also attribute the previous description, what I am referring to is on a different wave length; it’s not emotional distancing or numbness. It’s acceptance, surrender, experiencing the lightness of being, and the sense of inner peace and control arising from that state. It must be amazing to live your whole life that way, as people who fully dedicate their life to esoteric knowledge, practices, and meditation do. Although in my case it was ephemeral, recalling the experience, knowing that it is possible to view life through that filter still marked a long-term shift in my world view, albeit less impressive than the actual experience. Similar life-changing shifts have been experienced by people on prescribed pills such as anti-depressants. A second, poetic shift happened after watching a film that constituted an uncanny experience which temporarily projected me into a derealised world. The same type of experience was repeated at a later point, in other, rather peculiar circumstances, which I will not elaborate on in this.
I look at neighbouring houses and sometimes see unknown, pensive faces behind windows. Thoughts and narratives about their inner lives form and dissolve. Enlightened masters say We are One, but our egos (in Eckhart Tolle’s use of the word, his view of ego as the self that’s stuck with negative attachments and patterns rather than the psychoanalytic use of the word) separate us. E. Tolle says true compassion for and deep understanding of other human beings are based on the acknowledgement of the duality of our ephemeral-eternal nature. I don’t know if I believe in eternity in a spiritual sense. It seems likely, though, that if we manage to transcend life and our egos, we will supposedly be at peace with everything.

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, 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!

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.