In the pursuit of wholeness
The focus is inward, in bettering self, empowering will and consciousness to potentially empower others
For Monsoon clouds lurk over Delhi like an omnipresent stalker, refusing to shed. We are being fed lies by every weather forecast that peddles predictions about the probability of precipitation. Some afternoons, when I stand in front of the kitchen counter, observing sweat emanating from my pores, I have to grapple with the consciousness of the humidity, how it transforms us into precipitating beings. I am simultaneously waiting for my womb to disseminate its own periodic fluids. All this potentiality just hanging in the air; all this urgency...
After a conversation at the New School, New York, some years ago, between Jill Soloway, the genius behind the series, Transparent, and the feminist activist, writer, and poet, Bell Hooks, a member of the audience asked how they wrestle with their eager anticipation for an imagined moment in the future when gender equality might finally become reality. "I live in a fantasy world where I believe patriarchy will be toppled any minute now," Soloway responds cheekily. "I don't live in that world," is Hooks' quick-witted comeback. Soon enough, though, they make a compelling point, about how hopelessness is the enemy of injustice. It's a quote attributed to Bryan Stevenson, a Black American lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Between these two moments, another insight resurfaced, about how part of the activist struggle also encompasses a desire for wholeness. I had to write these things down. Because it's too easy to forget. Eerily, when I returned to what I wrote in my column dated July 20, 2018, I retrieve this word. "Things really seem to be happening for me in a manner that feels effortless," I had written. "All my various identities as a writer, art critic, columnist, daughter, sister, friend, seem to be coalescing into a form of wholeness; revealing an unprecedented abundance."
When I recorded that thought last year, my imagination couldn't have foreseen all the many trials I would have to go through that would test the very contours of that wholeness. The second wave of the #metoo movement caught all of us off guard and threw many feminist lives into disarray. We would soon come to understand what it would mean to be triggered by others' accounts of first-hand sexism and misogyny, and how they manifested in workplace violence and domestic harassment. I was displaced from that precipice of wholeness I was sure I had arrived at this time last year and would come to find my selves fragmented once again, and once again I'd have to collect the shards and perform a kintsugi upon my soul until it was restored to some semblance of order. When I decided to consult a therapist in November, I had been reduced to a state of confusion and distress by the world. But gradually, all the invisible wounds I had been nursing began to heal. If there is one word I would resort to encapsulate my present state of being, it would be this: 'empowered'.
I learned something intriguing this week about the 'female gaze', that apart from it being markedly distinct from the oppressiveness of the male gaze, it is also not myopic but visionary, as it frequently originates from the realm of known affliction. How can we embrace its prophetic potential when we think about the trajectory we want our lives to assume? A question that hasn't lost an ounce of popularity amid the still prevailing capitalist/corporate work culture is this — where do you see yourself five years from now? It's a ridiculous question because it hopes to assess from the respondent's answer their ability to put themselves in a position of agency in relation to external forces. But how can you possibly 'see' yourself five years from now without also imagining the kind of world you hope to inhabit within that timespan? An alternative could be, what world would you like to live in five years from now, and what are you actively doing to arrive at that moment in time? But questions like these are discouraged, as they could potentially threaten the fabric of a society still inebriated by capitalism. The arrogant question still holds sway, despite its faulty, narrow-minded vision, because it is premised on our continuing subscription to the "rat race".
A few months ago, after finally comprehending part of the crux of my affliction, with Mona's counsel, of course, besides that of my therapist, I arrived at the decision to opt out of the collectively shared delusion of the rat race. I always hated competition, even as a young athlete, because I despised how my body felt when I had to occupy the lead in order to win. The stress never felt worth the victory or defeat. I have since turned my focus inward, so my energy is now spent in bettering myself, empowering my will and my consciousness so that I can potentially empower others. For, it is the psychological, not just the personal, that is truly political, I recently learnt. As I turn 34, I seem to want to dedicate myself more compellingly to the mission of seeking and maintaining a state of wholeness, or what Henry Le Roy Finch describes as "the intellect of grace".
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper
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