Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Measure of Life

Preity Zinta has taken to twitter to "admit" that yes, she has gotten married to Gene Goodenough. And asked that the jokes begin. But this random bit of internet trivia, of a no doubt important event, brought me back to the experience of my not good enough week.

I was having a not good enough week. The days I have noticed seem divided, into much more than good enough, in fact, the soul and substance of life, and never will be good enough. Between these two extremes, I waft pendulum-like waiting for some balance. And why, pray, are things not enough or too much to feature in any category of measure? And why does my appetite, vacillate between the vamana's, unsated and unfulfilled, and obscure Roman emperors, vomiting it all out to make room for more? Part ennui, part the truth of meaninglessness, part the excess of hysteria, and part summer, it is a heady cocktail. But a large part of this, is life.

Kanhaiya Kumar is back in the world, and produced what in my mind is the Amitabh Bachchan of recent speeches. And yes, this is a compliment. That one can rouse sentiment in skeptics is no small achievement. But like all else, one sees the speech, and not the life. The surface mirrors nothing. It is, after all, the surface. And yet, it is not nothing. The everyday is made of surfaces, and the sooner we start looking at it, the sooner we abandon the pursuit of meaning and the future at the cost of the present moment. And yet, can we look at the present moment as situated in the past and future? What forms of vision do we need to cast our nets wider?

I finished reading Part I of Knausgaard's "My Struggle". It is everything people say it is. It is a life, and a set of unfinished moments. It is memory, and it is truth. It plods, and yet it moves. This is, also, a good time in life to read this book, for as James Wood says, in this interview, "It's a tragedy of getting older." 

One of the things that intrigues me about the book is its seeming masculinity. Or at least its desire for such. The more years of feminist theory I teach, the more I become interested in masculinity. This of course may be the poverty of my discursive inhabitation, that I still do think only in binaries. But to temporarily escape this charge, let me reiterate that I'm interested in the -ities and not in their pre-determined attachment to male and female bodies. In the same interview, Knausgaard says, "I'm very well aware of the fact that women are objects in this book, because that's how it is for me, and I wanted to show that. I'm aware of me doing it. Every time I see a woman, I think, How would it be to have sex with her?....These are things that you not supposed to say. We are told, This is wrong, that is wrong, we shouldn't think this way. But the difference interests me a lot- the difference between what you should do and what you really do."

The beauty of located thought, of course, is that the two can and do co-exist, and it is not a battle of wills, but a different set of locations. That I understand gender as fluid, but inhabit my body as woman, are not contrary sets of assertions in the world, one being normative (in feminist theory, at least), and the other phenomenological. These are different histories, and different compulsions. They come with costs, and rewards, and at all times, we inhabit them simultaneously. And I think Knausgaard does himself and gender an injustice by performing naivete. 

In other phenomenological worlds, I had myself a rather hedonistic dinner. Turmeric and lemon couscous with parsely and almonds(again), tomato and cucumber tzatziki/ raita, roasted bell peppers and zucchini, and pan-seared paneer, marinated in galangal and chilli paste. And wine. It was one of those more than good enough days. 


shrik said...

Isn't a mirror also a surface?

Mathangi said...

Excellent catch. I think I meant reveals. But who knows what I was thinking? :)