Authors: Murray Hunter, Azly Rahman
In concluding our essay on Tawhidic-Singularity as a new philosophy of Islam, we proposed that Muslims need to interpret the core teaching of One-ness from a kaleidoscopic perspective.
We asked readers to reflect upon the applicability of Chaos or Complexity Theory to view Islam as an organic and living religion inviting its believers to look at the concept of One-ness as the manifesting of Many-ness. In this essay, we go deeper into the discussion of the soul of the Quran itself and how Muslims could perceive and read it as a postmodern text with multiple-level meanings based on his/her unique life experiences. We wish to propose the worldview of “Quantum Islam,” as a new way looking at this cultural belief system. We invite readers to think of Islam as more than just unquestioning faith and rites and rituals but as an evolving text to be made alive. The idea of a “living Quran” is a means of perceiving and feeling one’s existence as a world of interconnectedness. This world of deep personal connectivity is a world of the physical, emotional and spiritual self as it exists in the realm of the Universal self as a world designed as a Quantum being in itself.
Multiple Universes and the Quran
Islam is about what cannot at present be explained intrinsically through the science we know today.
The Qu’ran is a deeply layered book of meaning. However, the majority of Muslims have tended to take literal views. The Qu’ran has also foreseen many scientific discoveries and defined the nature of our realities. Such a view of the cognitive and metaphysical nature of the text has been dominant at a time when Islamic philosophy was being conceived, especially in the debates between scholars trained in Greek philosophy with those trying to rid the influence of rationalism in epistemologizing the meaning of existence.
The Qu’ran and Hadiths have shaped the worldview of 20% of the world’s population. But Islam today is viewed as a singular reality, embedded in ‘Arabism’ and ‘hellfire’ paradigms, coercing Muslims to follow literal views, within a ‘carrot and stick’ enlightenment and fear syndrome.
As a consequence Islam has not been the means to a higher level universal wisdom that the Qu’ran can facilitate, if read with this understanding.
Allah rabb al-àlamin, the Lord of the Worlds indicates a multiverse with parallel realities. There are parallel universes mentioned within the Qu’ran that we don’t have access to. These worlds are widely talked about within the Qu’ran, the world of the jinns, as in the verse ”And the jinn race, we had created before, from the fire of a scorching wind” Qur’an (15:27)
The 99 names of Allah also suggest multi-existential paradigms.
Challenges of constructing this multi-universal view
The first challenge is to escape the unipolar world and live in, and transcend to the multipolar world the Qu’ran describes. i.e., atoms can be both a particle and wave and thus be in multiple places at the same time. True realities are multipolar dynamics, rather than unipolar statics. Thus, to understand the complexity of the environment, we must develop both our personal self-awareness and social awareness. So where reality is multi-layered and kaleidoscopic, layered and deeper meanings can be derived from the chaotic environment we exist within through contemplating the layered intricacies and meanings within the Quran.
Muslims viewing the text of the Qu’ran as a living and evolving one, can find a meaningful guide to life and the universe, which we propose is what Quantum Islam means. What one sees with the naked eye, a phenomenon to be studied is just a level of Reality that we construct cognitively. However as one reads deeper into the meaning of the Quran, one may find the signs and symbols manifesting themselves in newer ways, which we digest and make meaning of through our self-awareness or spirituality.
The second challenge is that we must understand that we are not at the centre of the world. We must override the assumption that modern humankind has adopted in that humans can control nature and nature is here to serve us. What we think and the assumptions behind our very thoughts may not actually resemble reality, and may not be the truth. Once we shed this egocentric view of the world, we come to realize that we cannot control nature and we must nurture nature. In the Quran it is said: ”Say: He is Allah, He is One, He is Eternal He Begets not nor is He begotten and there is none equal unto Him” Surah Ikhlas 112.
Muslims engaged in a cognitive and metaphysical reading of the Quran may propose that human existence is both physical and conceptual, and that as a Platonic view would content, we are both Forms and Appearance, and that if the self is an invention/creation to manifest the “truth”. There is a larger truth of “being and nothingness,” in another world of the “unseen,”. This is the idea of corresponding reality of existence. Islam proposes that this view of Quantum state of beingness can only be understood if one understands the meaning of “selflessness” or the “destruction of the Ego,” and to allow the self to be liberated from the confines of a physical and mechanistic world.
The third challenge is to read the question from a “culturally-neutral” perspective. This means stripping the notion that all that is Islam is Arabic and with fallacy, to believe that religious belief is not cultural. This is to begin to believe that to be a Muslim, one need not aspire to be or to become an Arab. If Islam is a universal truth, it is not ‘Arab-centric’, and many of the rites and rituals cannot be universal, if for example, Islam was to the truth on another planet like Mars. What would Islam be like without the cultural anchors that have grown around it and almost strangled the truth? If, as the last message of Prophet Muhammad would content — that Islam promotes a universal message of peace – and be viewed as the “final revelation,” and that only 20% of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims are speakers of the Arabic language, what has been the consequence of Islam as religion that has been too much caught in the semiotics of Arabism? Simply put, why is being Muslim today synonymous of being or looking Arabic?
The three challenges above, namely that we are living in a multipolar world, that our existence is not central to the Universe, and that religion is a cultural construct to present ways for Muslims to view Islam differently. The Quran, in its very first few words of revelation, “Read … in the name of thy Lord who created Thee …” is a clear enough proposition for believers in this religion to “read oneself and to read the world on is living in.” It is an invitation for readers to not only “read the world” but also to “write” a story of one’s life, based on one’s own worldview and to unshackle oneself from being defined by others.
The challenges above are existential in nature, given by the Quran to the readers.
“Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding; Men who remember Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the creation of the heavens and the earth (with the thought) Our Lord! Not for nothing have you created (all) this. Glory to you! Give us salvation from the suffering of the fire” Qur’an (3: 190-191)
The Ummah as Singularity in Multiplicity
The Ummah is an interconnection of oneness, not segregated tribes who are at war with each other.
We are left to reflect upon the multiplicity of worlds that were created and understand that we are only a tiny part of it.
This opens up wisdom, develops humbleness, and increases empathy towards there being something greater than ourselves. The quintessential and foundational chapter of the Quran, Al Fatihah, or The Opening offer this idea of mercy, peace, gratitude, and wisdom in choosing between Good and Evil. It introduces the reader to the idea that the path of righteousness or the “Siratul Mustaqim” is the path of peace that will guide human beings in this journey through the bountiful and merciful world created by The Lord of the Universe. This path is a challenging one, as we can see that even the world “Islam” can be used to strike terror in others as well as create untold magnitude of destruction. The emergence of the ISIS “Islamic State of Syria and Iraq” or ISISL, The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant” or the Daesh (Darul Islamiyah) and the globalization of terror has is an example of how the word of Islam and the tawhidic message of peace can be misrepresented and be a guide to the path of “those cursed” as the last verse of the Al Fatihah reads.
This takes us into the “tawhidic-singularity” realm of Islam with the idea of Gnosticism factored into the belief system – of the ‘alam al-ghaib’, the concealed dimension of reality
We are told within the Tawhid to submit to Allah and be part of the greater universe. Yet the behaviour espoused by Islam scholars today tends to deem that OUR humanity is at the centre of the universe. It puts humankind above the natural laws of the universe, in a state of arrogance, detested in the Qu’ran itself.
Today we see many political Islamic ideologies that seek to dominate all.
This is contrary to Allah’s scheme of things within the Qu’ran.
The continual return to referencing Allah as the Merciful and the Compassionate reminds us of the need for humility, not hostility and cruelty to humankind.
Choice is open to humankind within the teachings of the Qu’ran. This implies man can choose the realities he wants to exist within:
I control what I perceive
I control what I think
I control how I act
I am responsible for the consequences.
This must occur beyond the bounds of ego-centric consciousness and the assumption that there is only one possible reality.
The action upon literal translation of the Qu’ran is a denial of the true realities that the Qu’ran lays out in front of us. Literal scholarly understanding of the Quran has shackled our understanding to the cultural metaphors that have bounded Islam to its Arabness that we see today. This has blinded us to seeing the deeper dimensions of Islam and the messages of transformation towards Tawhidness. The Quran is a dynamic book, talking about change. It’s been interpreted as static dogma and doctrines, losing the central message about our journal of transcendence to the state of Tawhidness.
The paradoxes of metaphoric and material universes
The paradoxes of the Qu’ran advise humanity not to be too self-excessive and egocentric. Our greed, and other negative emotions, narcissism and other neurosis, addictions, pleasures, accumulation of wealth, and how we treat others is a quantum introspection that we are taught within the Qu’ran, in order to assist us seeing other realities (universes), that we have choice to enter and exist within.
Only through this open awareness can we experience the realities of the world around us, learn to submit to the greater universe around us, which is called Allah. Our essence of purity through the state of spirituality is the only paradigm we can use to understand the deep meaning of the Tawhid and its greatness, far beyond any person, society, or time.
Thus the Tawhid provides humanity with a meaning of life; that of being part of a greater existence; a worldview that accommodates not only the multiple worldviews of existing belief system but also respects the process of constructing emergent new ones.
The introspection of a literal Allah is a neurosis that blinds us to Allah’s true greatness and our true appreciation of this. This is the true reality.
In Islam, worldviews such as that proposed through Sufism takes Muslims away from the ordered mechanistic world view. The world can be seen for what it is, complex in almost mystical ways, as even the laws of nature itself can be seen beyond cause and effect, beyond karma which is too simplistic to explain reality. This is the Quantum view of Islam, which can also be found in the way Buddhism views the self, Reality, and existence. Buddhist ideas such as the self as non-existence and constantly evolving as the “being and becoming bodhisattva” journeys towards “nibbbana or Nirvana,” and constantly being aware of the impermanence of the self and the ephemerality of physical beings, and to live a principle of “non-attachment to this mechanistic and material world,”, and finally to view that life is a process of samsara or the evolution towards liberation, perpetual happiness, and next to enter the realm of “being and nothingness” – this view is where the similarity of Quantum Islam and core metaphysical teachings of existing cultural philosophies lie.
Perception and feeling become more important than any form of quantitative measurement in understanding reality. The Qu’ran itself is not a quantitative work. It is a compendium of propositions inviting readers to think of multiple interpretations of the meaning of texts, subtexts, and cultural contexts. It is a postmodern text that has not proper arrangement or a sense of story of creationism. In other words, it is not a structured story about the metaphysics and physics of creation and Man’s place in the universe. The Quran, in short is merely a set of annotated readings inviting the reads to deconstruct meanings. It is a book about representations of alternate realities in which even the “speaker” or “narrator” of this grand text utilizes shifting pronouns in telling stories and passing down decrees.
Reality and Quantum Islam
The perception of reality is about awareness as the Qu’ran teaches. It is about how individuals transcend the universe through a journey towards a destination and seek the final reality.
Mathematics breaks down in any view of reality, i.e., mathematics cannot explain 10% of infinity. Science cannot explain reality; as if we look at an atom we are not sure whether it’s a particle or a wave. There is a duality to everything, i.e., atoms can be in more than one place at the same time. Half of what we look at is in decay, so the “Schrodinger’s cat “is both alive and dead at the same time. There is a duality of consciousness that we must understand. It is both psychic and physical, full of emotion and emotionless, black and white, good and evil, hot and cold, attracting and repelling. Reality is thus an inter-connectiveness of nature and a web of relationships between humanity and spirituality, that makes up a unified whole within us.
The form of our realities is the product of our observation of this. A tawhidic consciousness is therefore so important in our interpretation of reality.
Seeing this is the order within the chaos that shrouds our minds by focusing too much on the poles of the existential paradoxes. Paradoxes can only be understood through balance. Then one can see the truths within people, relationships, and events.
Prof. Anis Bajrektarevic indicates that it: “corresponds with the Buddhist Yogacara assumption that all perceptions do leave traces which make future similar perceptions more probable/plausible – origins of the potentialities within the quantum realm.” Finally, professor concludes: “This is why mankind kept practicing a prayer.”
Many Islamic writers resorted to using poetry to enhance the understanding of non-linear world.
The Qu’ran talks of a transition to a level where the duality of mind and body cannot be distinguished. We shift into a singularity where there is no time, no space, just a transcendence or universal oneness. We transcend the four dimensions that we understand into further dimensions which the Qu’ran speaks of but we have no direct prior experience. This is the state called Syurga.
The direct experience of reality is a psychic and emotional breakthrough to what Islam calls Al-falah.
The only tool needed to see reality is a tawhidic transcending awareness, which is the key to openness and seeing something greater than our selves.
This is why we rely on rituals such as Zikir (where prayer is incorporated) which builds up higher levels of consciousness. Zikir should help us create an empty mind so all thoughts are cleared to enable us to see the greater universe free of our own egocentrism.
This is where insight come from as we experience ‘eureka manifestations’ of both personal and universal nature. Einstein wrote of this epiphanic moment in his journey to construct the “theory of relativity,”
Our intellect is developed through our experience, which gathers knowledge and interprets meaning for us. The heart of all knowledge for a human is experience. For example, we cannot know what it is like to scuba dive, without actually scuba diving. 100 hours in a classroom cannot give you the same knowledge as a few minutes under the water.
Without experiencing the universe we are blind. This blindness can only be overcome through being open and empathetic to the world around us. Blindness to the universe is a human neurosis.
Science, sense, and soul
A quantum view of reality puts an end to materialism. It is within this paradigm Quantum Islam that one need to look at reality in a different light, taking into consideration that life is not entirely founded upon Materialism.
The Tawhid espouses us to transcend materialism. The non-physical element of our life is our existence, not material things, only their images and symbolic meanings within our minds. This triggers our emotions which create Al-fasad realities for humankind, bringing humans to a level of personal destruction through greed, etc.
This also has repercussions in thought and future actions, and can be considered ill-intentions, contrary to what the Qu’ran espouses. This is our mystical jihad of finding our true uncorrupted existence.
The worldly realities mediate and shrivel over our Tawhidic consciousness, which tells us what is right. Going against what is right is sin and our physic destruction.
Tawhidic consciousness is the true universal wisdom, just as quarks within atoms possess energy which has its own consciousness described for example, by physicist such as Freeman Dyson. Like quarks, we have the capacity to make free decisions.
The non-physical, all embracing empathetic and compassionate mind is what we can develop through Tawhidic guidance. This takes us into the realm of Allah and Syurga.
Allah exists within our higher levels of consciousness, as we are told many times within the Qu’ran.
The narratives of the Qu’ran are concerned with both individual and social (universal) consciousness, the yin and yang of our existence.
This has great implications which haven’t been discussed within the Islamic world. Most are restricted to reading from the literal universe of the Qu’ran, and clinging to this unipolar universe.
To see reality, we must discard the concepts of language and images. Structure gives bias and shackles our ‘knowing’.
Higher intellect cannot be obtained through the processes thinking within mechanistic realities. This blinds us to the understanding of the essential nature of the universe. With a literal understanding of the Qu’ran we are in a paradigm lock within a singular universe of nature. Without paradox, we cannot see meaning, as paradox is the only way we can interpret. Paradox is the language above all other languages, the only way we can create benchmarks within our mind, in order to interpret the universe around us.
However, these paradoxes are ruled by personal emotions, of which we both project and introspect with the dualities that define our world. It is within these dualities that we define ‘good’ and ‘evil’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘virtuous’ or ‘sinful’.
Islam and particularly the Tawhid is a field of potential. It is a reality beyond our materialistic reality, and our consciousness which is intertwined with our ego-self. The Tawhid can only be entered into, discovered, or become an awareness through humility on the inside and compassion filtering to the outside, without the ego-self bounding us back to our materialistic existence. This dimension is a field of human and universal purity, full of wisdom; al-Falah. Islam is really about how we transcend the lower earthly dimensions of ourselves into the higher dimension of Tawhid-purity.
This is Quantum-Islam; the potential to be, the choice that has been given to all humanity within the Quran.
Exploring idea of Quantum Islam, as the name suggests, requires the mind of the Muslim to engage in the phenomenological and metaphysical experience of conceiving worldviews beyond the mechanistic view of the personal and physical self and move toward a higher plane of quantum physics and metaphysics. In other words, Muslims should raise the level of understanding Islam from mere doctrinal and cultural to philosophical and muti-universal and multi-dimensional. This requires a new understanding of what god is, beyond how this concept of a creator is understood. A Kuhnian shift in Islamic metaphysics and ontological evolution is needed, as how the idea of a Heisenberg Principle of observing Objectivity was conceived. Muslims need to explore the semiotics of believing itself and venture deeper into the meaning constructing the meaning of reading their “book of readings”: The Quran.
Alone in the dark: The Sylvia Plath Effect and the South poet
I was 16 when I first attempted to take my own life. I was seeing a psychiatrist (he of the Einsteinian-hair, he had studied at a university in Vienna, his son went to the same high school my brother went to, the highly-prestigious Grey High School for Boys) at the time who was convinced that Risperdal could help me, elevate my mood. I was depressed, very, very depressed. I drank some red wine, and took some pills, and slept it off. There have been other attempts.
Anti-depressants, counselling, psychiatrists, a coma, psychosis, hallucinations (some auditory), but there also have been periods of intense creativity. The psychotropic medication seems to have not impacted my imagination, only my dopamine and serotonin levels. I felt down a lot in high school. I had no one to eat lunch with. One friend.
Every year I had one friend. One black friend. I got tired of being tired (they call it chronic fatigue syndrome). Sometimes I thought I was just pretending. That was why I was attracted to acting in the first place.
I didn’t have to be me anymore. I still think at 40 what people think of me, I’m still dying for my mother’s approval. There were crushing-and-numbing lows that felt like a succession of deaths, clinical depression, insomnia (I found it very difficult to fall asleep, would toss and turn the entire night listening to my parents fight behind their closed bedroom door, I read into the early hours of the morning with a torch under the covers). I’m fragile. I was abused mentally, verbally, physically by my mother for most of my childhood.
Later she isolated me from my so-called friends, from so-called family, and then rejected me because of the texture of my kinky-peppercorn hair. In her words I was an “wretchedly-ugly mistake”, who was “nothing special to look at”, “an intellectual like your father”, “take your smarties yet”. According to my mother, for years, I did not have a mental illness (see bipolar mood disorder), I was demon-possessed and needed prayer.
High school was difficult for me. I was bullied, and I was a bully. I was an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist, a high achiever academically but after the first two years of high school my grades started to slip). You would think that this would have been a warning sign for either my mother, or my manic-depressive father, who was also an over-achiever as I was. So, I felt pain every day, no one was pulling me through this pain, I hardly could get out of bed in the morning, there were no romantic entanglements with boys my own age (which meant no heavy petting, French-kissing, making out, distracted by sex, boyfriends, or popularity), no girlfriends who came to the house, no experimenting with the smoking of cigarettes. I decided I as an atheist, although I still went to church with my parents, and my siblings, my younger brother, and sister. I can’t put all my happy memories, and my childhood, and my elegant and narcissistic mother in a time capsule. I have the same nose like my mother.
My mother thought the obvious, it was drugs. I was smoking marijuana.
It was my peer-group. I was hanging out with the wrong friends. She blamed anything, everything, everyone, family, estranged family, cousins, except herself. I take tranquilisers at night to sleep, fall asleep watching television. Then there are my sleeping pills, my father’s sleeping pills, my aunt’s sleeping pills. Then there’s Pax, Lithium, Zolnox, Arizofy, Puricos for the gout, Puresis, the water tablet, for my chronic kidney disease. It seems that all I’ve seem to do for most of my life is take pills to make me happy, scale the seawalls of the depression, but it is seeming, writing keeps finding me, and I keep finding writing. Books, plays, novellas, poetry, essays, and blog posts. I was a teenage runaway. Sometimes I’m stressed out. I know how to deal with that kind of currency now. I’m still insecure. I’m like the most vulnerable person I know. I can’t turn back time.
I ran away to Johannesburg, and then to Swaziland, and wanted to go to the London Film School when I was 16. I’m designer playwright, keen diarist, hooked on becoming a memoirist, and inspiring ideas when I’m found hibernating in my room, lying in the foetal position on my bed listening to music blaring from my radio, and yes, I’m still running, carrying the cross. I’m only happy though when I’m a failure. I’m only unhappy when I’m adding another accomplishment, onto an already full list of accomplishments. Acting my heart out on the stage, drama rehearsals at the Opera House, lead role in the house play, Quiz, editor of the school newspaper, swimming laps in the local Gelvandale Olympic-sized swimming pool etcetera, etcetera. The everlasting list goes on, and never-ending on. I make money out of writing now.
I’ve lived with the naming, the shame-and-blame for all of my life.
Whose fault was it that I was abused, or that I was molested as an adolescent, or that I was too trustworthy of men in positions of power, and thought that every female that I met was my friend. Last year, I baked a cake for my birthday. It was the most beautiful cake in the world. I decorated it with mini-meringues and African violets, but nobody touched it, put it past their lips. And so, my 39th birthday collapsed, fell to pieces around me. I cut out recipes from magazines, and in the kitchen, I have this burning desire, this burning search to be chef, and baker. I sleep with cookbooks next to me on my bed. And like the high priestess of soul, Nina Simone, or the actress-celebrity Dorothy Dandridge, Oprah Winfrey, Misty Upham, you can only bury your thoughts, your shame, the people that you hold responsible for not loving you unconditionally, or protecting you.
Or nurturing you, or saying that they were proud of you, you can only bury your feelings for so long. So, now I write about the stigma, the bipolar struggle, the anxiety and fear that depression brings up inside of me like a storm, and you will usually find me crying in the dark, stifling my sobs into my pillow at night, dark is the night, winter has moved on, and I shy away from autumn, I’m battling survival, my survival, and I’m so well aware of the women who have not lived to fight another day (Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Assia Wevill, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Donkin, Iris Chang, Petya Dubarova). I’m battling daily. There are days that I feel deceived with burning desire by every single man, woman, and child that I encounter. I think of my happy childhood memories. I think of my sadness, my introspection, my reflections that mirror my soul. Sometimes a certain smell will take me back to childhood. Usually my mother’s perfume.
YSL’s Opium. To this day, that perfume gives me flashbacks.
Sometimes, just sometimes I think of the love of my life touching my face, and then I see him walking away from me in a parking lot, and I smile at this memory. I smile at the injustice of it all, that a man had loved me after all, and I ask myself, do you want even more heartache, more pain, more despair, then tell him that you love him back, that you only live for him. I smile at the memory of Ted Hughes, and Sylvia Plath, because after all he chose her to be his wife, and the mother of his children. Weddings are happy occasions marked by pomp and ceremony, and the happiness, and difficulties of both bride, and groom. It hurts too much on the inhale of the howl, and inside I’m a philosopher in the tradition of Nietzsche, and inside I’m a preacher. And sometimes, just sometimes the history of the bipolar, the madness life, the life that I live on my terms hurts too much on the exhale. In the bathroom mirror I write the narrative of love to myself.
There is a link between creativity, and mental illness, genius, and madness, and then I think of my extraordinary achievements, of my father’s giftedness, my mother’s own capacity for spells of melancholy, and giddy happiness, her talent for flowers. I see things that other people can’t. I hear things that other people can’t. I can’t turn back time to the good old days. I have moths, and butterflies, and swallows, and birds in my stomach, a reputation, an angel-tongue in my mouth. Love has passed me by. I made a conscious decision not to marry, not to have children, but it didn’t make me less unafraid of the world around me. I made a conscious choice not to experiment with illicit drugs. I don’t drink. And, yes, I thought the love of my life, and I would live the years together, from the infatuation-phase to the honeymoon-phase. It is better to have loved, and lost, than never to have loved at all.
I have tried to take my own life four times now. I have relapsed more times than I can care to remember, but I still believe in the inter-communicative, inter-related, grassroots-secret of longevity. I love life.
Finally diagnosed with Bipolar and understanding God’s purpose for my life
I’ve outlasted a lot of things. I’m over 35. I am nearing 40 years of age. I’ve made mistakes and lived with regret but I don’t anymore. And I’m finally able to make peace with the mistakes I’ve made in my past.
I can forgive someone who brought me pain. The suicidal thoughts that I’ve manages to overcome. I think of our happy my parents were in my childhood. I think of every childhood experience as happy except the memories brought back to me of apartheid. I don’t have to tell myself anymore, you can make it. By the grace and mercy of God, I’ve survived. And it is God that has outlasted my storms.
So for the millions of people out there who have been diagnosed with a mental illness or have a loved one living with a mental illness, be brave. You are going to get through this storm. You’re a fighter.
You’re going to make it and when you come out on the other side, talk about it, or write about your survival, tell someone about it, become a storyteller, or give your testimony. You might save a life in the same way yours was saved.
As I write this I think of Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and being fake-happy. Pretending to love being alone and not being the proper example of a good daughter. You want someone to love you until the end of time. I want someone to love until the end of time. I want people to love me. To remember me. In some way I want to belong to the world. I grew up with a narcissistic mother who passed this trait to her only son and middle daughter. That and beauty. That and arrogance.
But beauty fades like fast cars. It’s just tears I tell myself.
Tomorrow I’d have forgotten about them. Anticipating waves or the vibrations of depression does nothing for the way you look on the outside. It is all for you. I do it, I write it for you. I don’t know who you are. I just know that you accept me for who I am. I’m growing older and in the blue-dark I can’t see that I am growing older. All I do, the poetry, the writing is for you. I’m selfish that way, I guess.
I don’t want happiness. I just want a brave personality. That and the writing is what gets me through the hours, the day, the night. And sometimes I try very hard through the tears not to even think of going there. Of letting go. Sometimes I think I love this world too much. I love you, the Reader. I do love you. Perhaps in the end you’re the only thing that’s keeping the chemicals from balancing me the right way up. It’s all for you the Reader. Everything that I’ve ever written. You’re the assignment. Perhaps you’re the mission.
I was finally diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder after Tara. I spent
6 months in a mental institution in Johannesburg. Mental illness stamped on my forehead for all to see, alongside a stigma, a family (and paternal and maternal family) that saw to it that I quickly became an outcast, felt like an interloper when spoken to. I was ignored, and sat quietly by myself at family functions. It was as if I was in high school again. I never cried about it, but I don’t think that made me brave.
I was half-mute like Princess Diana, and Maya Angelou as a child.
Something had happened to me. Somehow I had been transformed intrinsically in childhood (it was because of my mother’s mental, verbal, and emotional abuse), but was it the environment that changed, no, no. It was human nature. All the humans around me. Bright children, no matter how bright they might seem even if adult words come out of their mouths, all children are still innocent. And all children want is the mother-love, and I felt the lack of mother-love acutely with an acumen and focus beyond my years.
I was called insubordinate by a male teacher once. Years later when we met at a prayer meeting, he spontaneously embraced me. In that moment, I forgave him. For the corporal punishment he had meted out to me for letting someone else, a popular girl, copy out my answers in a test. I thought I would be liked. But I wasn’t. I was still a goody two shoes.
I still sometimes would spend break in a bathroom stall.
As a moony-moody teenager I would read. I was mostly withdrawn, serious, never smiling (I never smiled once at Collegiate, it hurt too much to smile, my mother would go on rampages then, hurling mental abuse at me in the morning for breakfast, afternoon tea, and supper which my sister made for us. My mother was depressed too in a sinister and deceptive way). Now let me get back to never smiling, and never playing team sports.
Let me talk about the (good) old days. Collegiate High School for Girls in Port Elizabeth (a Model C school). That year, 1995, I was of course a perfectionist. A bipolar perfectionist who only ever understood the world of achievement, achievement. It had nothing and everything to do with having a Khoi-ego, Khoi-identity, Khoi-personality. But I would only understand the knowledge of Khoi-anything later on.
In those days I relaxed my hair. My hair was so straight it made no curls or waves, and I wore it in a ballerina bun. I was skinny, not voluptuous or buxom like the other girls. Late to bloom, as the saying goes. At 17 years old, or 16, I forget, all I could think of was my shame. My shame that I was not White. The shame of not having straight hair. The mortifying shame of not being athletic, not being able to play sports, not being able to be singled out first for a game during P.E. period I did not play hockey, or tennis (my mother got her Transvaal colours for tennis in high school).
I did not have blonde hair, and freckles on my face, forehead, knees, and the rest of my body. I did not have freckles in secret places.
But I learned quick, and I also learned very slowly that people don’t easily forgive, and forget if you live with a mental illness. This made me withdraw even more into my mute-self. For most of my life I lived like this with a mute voice inside of me until one day I began to write. I was 8 years old.
In later years cousins on both sides of the family despised me (because I was mentally ill). I could see it there in there eyes, as they did not meet my gaze whenever I spoke. Family despised me (because I was mentally ill). I was not invited to weddings, or kitchen teas. Women-fold women-folk kind of things. They despise you (this I told myself) because society despises lunatics, and for a long time I was happy encompassing whatever this word meant. Lunatic. It was me who was more in touch with reality than the ones who thought I was mad, I have come to accept this now. I have other much more important, and significant things on my mind, and I am about to begin to write my first novel. This is what moves me to write this for other people suffering in silence, people who are being told to pull their socks up (or that they ‘re beginning to be too big for their britches). Don’t live a half-life. Don’t live a half-lie.
Thoughts after reading Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss”
You will experience happiness, I was the one who told myself this. No one else. The museum has invited me again to one of their lectures, but I never go. They will stop inviting, like they my father, one of these fine days, and then where will that leave me, and the fine museum built with my father’s hands. The South End Museum in Port Elizabeth, at the cusp of the Eastern Cape where in 1820 the English arrived. Sir Rufane Donkin who was to be the governor of the Cape (did he plunder, steal, rape, colonialise I thought to myself or was it kismet, fate, destiny written in the stars. Sir Donkin came with a mad wife in tow. Was she a Mrs Rochester, like me, like me, like me.
Bipolar, mosaic, atlas that it is, well for me it did the impossible with its overpowering (aplomb), uplifting gift that it gave me.
Sometimes the day itself is perfumed with good thoughts of T.S. Eliot, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, Nabokov, the Russian writers, the Russian poets, the Russian masters, Isobel Dixon, Ingrid Jonker, Plath and Sexton. To me the women had superpowers, and the men, intelligence seeping through their every pore, I wanted them to talk to me, pull me into their arms and hug all my sadness, grief, loss, loneliness, frustration away from the secret chasms of my heart. I wanted them to lull and pull the self-pity that looped itself like cobwebs about my self-worth. Beautiful people, the beautiful women, that beautiful lady that was my mother that smelled just like Yves Saint Laurent’s Algeria, the beautiful men, seemed on the surface tension of things to get everything. They were rewarded. I was not.
I have this imperfect list of thoughts when I was reading Kiran Desai.
Oh, how I hope to be a respected and wonderful writer as she and Anuradha Roy is. Arundhati Roy, the writer of “The God of Small Things”. Sometimes I feel like a guardian, or rather a guardian angel when I write. I am hidden subtly, but also at the same time beyond opinion, and I also find that I am beyond caring for the approval of others. And by that of course I mean my sly and beautiful mother. Hair attractive as it falls about her face, hairpins/hair scarf/hair band loosened by her movements during the day and I try not to think of her telling me to make up my bed, or how they laugh at me, and look at me with this infuriating smile on their faces as if they know better.
Sometimes I think to myself who is the enemy now. Is it me, is it me who has to every year be put away for a week for my own good, to recover from ill health
I was sixteen years old when my mother dragged me to the Indian-looking psychiatrist who had studied in Vienna. And as I think back to that year I think of my identity coined now. That “term” on the inhale, and exhale of every breath that I take. That of a Khoi-female identity. Khoi-writer of prose, and poetry.
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