Saturday, February 21, 2009

I'm indebted to Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Lecture.


Over the past week, I got so confused, and I didn't know why, my brain felt like a knot, made with several innumerable thick ropes. Sometimes I came up with an idea, like a string in one of the ropes, which felt like if I pulled it, the whole thing would untie and leave me at peace. But I didn't have time to put it down on paper (or here), and none of those small strings were strong enough to untie my knot, they turned out to be false promises. In the meantime, I kept adding new things, food, exhibitions, concerts, work, and felt literally poisoned by too much taking, too much consumption, indigestion. I was taking in things but they didn't settle. I wished I was smooth and at ease with myself, with my job, with people. I wasn't. I knew I had gotten emotional because my parents were around, so I thought it was normal and I even wrote about it and figured it out before, so writing the same thing wouldn't solve it. Something else was wrong.

Then my parents and I were sitting at the court of the British Museum, and whatever we were talking about (that there's a leak in my downstairs neighbor's flat and my bathroom will suffer some meddling on Monday and the safety of all this) prompted me to say, "this is not important. What's important is, I can't see what's ahead of me." Now, my mom and dad, I discount them for looking over important things (intentionally?) and obsess about small problems (they claim they'll make big problems if left undealt - maybe they are unimportant for me because my parents have already taken care of them) took on my problem with ease, like the answer was obvious, and my mom said, "You can't be certain of anything. The only thing you can be certain of is yourself. The only thing you can be certain of is how you will react to the things that come up." A large thick rope was pulled off, untangling part of the knot. I couldn't believe how it calmed me down.

We walked around the Shah 'Abbas exhibition, so beautiful, familiar, sometimes unnerving with the weight of history and imperfection. Later that evening, as we were having dinner, my dad said: "You know those mystical stories... How the dervish travels through so many places to find the happiness in himself..." I was going to be the same. I remembered my friend's words from a year and a half ago. I wasn't there yet. But I realized that the reason my parents didn't talk about important things wasn't because they didn't think about them. Some of them, they had already solved in themselves. Others, now I'm sure, were on their mind. They didn't face up to them constantly, sometimes they attempted to forget about them, like we all do. They tried to keep themselves occupied with other things, like we all do. But they were aware of the important things.

The biggest sin one can commit is to act against one's nature. And I stand by my previous proposition that life's goal is happiness. And, I must say, there is nothing wrong with that. A truly happy person should be respected and admired, because they must have been through so much, worked so hard. The only nuance is about looking for, finding out and pursuing those things that make one happy. Orhan Pamuk's books are full of characters who thrive in being "(allegedly) intelligent and unhappy." They tangle things, make knots and don't attempt to untangle them. This is laziness, cynicism. Just like it is lazy to settle with a lesser happiness because one lacks the courage to strive for the real things that make one happy. It is unwise to judge from outside, without knowing the person.

No comments: