Notes from the No-Man’s Land: End of the Exile

It’s time to end the exile.

I’ve been here in no-man’s land for quite some time. The arrival was very unexpected. I had always counted upon my ability to find my way back home no matter how badly lost I was. But somehow, it was not to happen this time. I was irrevocably lost this time. Not just in any unfamiliar place, but a place without any characteristics. Basically I had no option but to bide my time in the open cell.

There were a lot of questions to ask, even more kept emerging, but the answers remained vague and not exactly traceable. During the endless days, I lost my secretkeeper, a sparrow who used to perch on my shoulder daily and talk to me. I didn’t stop her, it was better for her to leave a dead place and the other inhabitant which can at best be described as a half-zombie.

But the answers did start to show themselves. Not completely, but in short glimpses of clarity. The vagueness and the mist was still there, but the form could be deciphered. With that the horizons began to appear in this boundlessly finite continuum.

I too have to go from here now. To where I don’t know. For all the heavy rains in August outside, it was dead and dry for me in this no-man’s land. The eerie wall of silence, which reflected back my own thoughts seem to be gradually disappearing and I can sense things around.

But there is no direction home now. No destination to go anymore. Just the pathways. Will have to walk along with the journey, wherever it takes me. As of now, the No-Man’s Land is slowly fading away.

I hope no sleep for me this September.
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P.S.- This is the last post of the series. I hope I won’t bother you with my baffling mindless abstract twaddle anymore. Can’t be really sure though.

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The mad, mad world

It was a sunny Sunday, as they sat outside a cafe. Everything was too bright. He squinted at her, as she merrily sipped her coffee. The sun and the smoke had alerted him into a wide-awake, consciously tensed state of mind. ‘Am I looking at my antithesis?‘, he thought to himself. He wanted to chuckle with amusement, but the excitement of the talk they were having had made him like a taut string, drawn arrow.
She was a new friend he had made in this town, where he had come only a month before. She was talking about the nature of the relationship between a man and a woman. He had long stopped provoking such conversations as it was a drug to him which was both useless and fatal, if taken in large quantity. But somehow it had popped up today.
They had been discussing cursorily each other’s experiences regarding the matter, and she was talking about what she thought was the unpredictability, and ephemeral nature of everything, and the oh-so-shaky foundations of the relationships in the society, and the ironic inevitability of such a set up. “It’s a mad mad world, you know,” she said, giving a serious look momentarily, before beaming her sunshine smile, beating back the sun itself. One should keep on the lookout for one’s own happiness. Apparently experimentation seems to be the only recourse possible, in absence of any other sensible alternative.
Amusing. Very amusing.
He chuckled at his cigarette, lowering his gaze on it. “You know what? With modernization, we’ve expanded our concept of going out so much, we make relationships on the slightest pretext. But the irony is that almost nobody actually knows what he/she is really looking for in the other person. Nobody wants to burden oneself with giving it a thought. They just go with the flow, without actually thinking about why they are doing what they are doing.”
He paused, took a puff and sip, and continued. “This results in the ‘mad world’ you’re talking about. I have quite a liberal mindset, but my surroundings have always been traditional ones. I used to think, long back, why one bothers oneself so much with this love thing. Morality means nothing to me, so why not just go out with anyone you like to, any time you like to. You are completely free to do anything you want to. and so are others. But now when I see what you told me, I realize, once again, why it’s worthless. Yes we have the freedom, but that freedom means nothing if we ourselves don’t know what we are looking for in the relationship/casual-relationship/marriage/whatever-the-hell-it-is we are in or seeking.”
He abruptly stopped, as though the current of thought was suddenly stopped midway in his mind. He didn’t know what else to say. He looked at her, she was staring intently at him, not looking completely satisfied with what she heard. “For all the things that I’ve seen, I still have no idea what is the right thing to do. But I do know about some things which are certainly the wrong ones,” he thought to himself.
“I think we should go,” he said, closing off the rogue topic, sealing it with an amiable smile. “I’ve got to head back to my place for some work.”

Happiness is an elusive bird

It is said that happiness is a bird, which eludes you when you try to catch it, but will come and perch on your shoulder silently if you just ignore it and go on with your work and life. 

I’ve been hollering for quite a while, stupidly believing the bird will hear and perch on my shoulder. It was obviously a bad idea. But now the idea seems to have stuck to me like a pink, chewed and dirty bubblegum. 

It needs to be taken care of. 

Loneliness

Companionship in life can stop some of your dreams in your tracks, some, not all. Who knows, but life has a way of dealing with things, you can have some, but you can’t have it all to yourself. Greed leads to misery, in all aspects of life. 

One who embraces loneliness, is a greedy person, in a way. But he chooses greed at a cost. One who embraces loneliness, seeking completeness in himself, an inner perfection of all the faculties of life, is bereft of one vital thing-companionship. I sometimes think, loneliness slowly consumes a person, surrounds all around him, from inside and outside. It becomes his shroud, the all-consuming, all pervading characteristic, shadowing the faculties towards whose perfection he once chose the loneliness for. This is quite ironic. 

We are not talking about Buddha, obviously. Loneliness comes at a great risk, and often a great price, for those who dare, arrogantly one may almost say, to choose it. 

Notes from the No-Man’s Land – Deconstruction of a belief

(Disclaimer: I just want to say, that everything, which I write in this series, may be taken to be, if looked from a completely different point of view(that is, not of the writer’s own, which he is adamant on not making clear anyways), considered complete crap.It’s your call to make. I write, because besides being read, I need to write them(anyway), it’s a need.)

Deconstruction of a belief

We believe in things, facts and people. We believe in their state of mind and thoughts. We often come to have an almost religious belief in them, owing to various reasons. The most usual one being an implicit, blind trust in the system, to remain stable, for things to advance where there are supposed to, where we naturally hope them to be. We go to college, we expect to complete our degree. No, we don’t expect, we don’t hope to complete our degree, we take it as a given that we’d complete our degree. An almost religious belief in things, in the system, in the order of nature. Maybe it is necessary. Necessary for humans to be sane in a chaotic society.

But things go bad, thing go wrong. Sometimes they go horribly wrong. We have many reactions to such kind of situations. We cry, mope and beat our chests, and (since that’s not going to solve things or run the world) finally accept the fate. God came and fucked up our belief system, what can a mortal do. Or, we do the first set of the above things(which is a very flexible set of operations, you can do that or you can just skip) and not contented at heart(the belief still intact, at odds with the system now), we blame the causes of the disaster, and find peace in the blame game. Or, if it strikes our mind at all(which is a rare thing to happen), we go back into ourselves and take a look at the belief. This happens when, try as hard as we might, we can’t explain to ourselves why it happened. Now that’s almost equivalent to not being able to accept the thing, but actually it comes initially after the acceptance part. First you accept it(any which way, because it has happened and you can’t change it), then you can try to accept it with an explanation.

It leads you inside yourself. Diving deeper and deeper into the underground lake of your mind. More pressure, more darkness, but somewhere here, lies your belief. Untouched, unused, untested. Simply assumed. Believed.

What is an idea? What is a belief?

That’s a belief on the outside of it. But it was an idea. An idea the seeds of which germinated long back in your mind without your knowledge, and you didn’t know about it until it had already taken the shape of a belief. But now you critically examine it. You deconstruct it. From belief back to the idea. From idea back to its roots. Back to the reasons. Back to the forces. You deconstruct the belief and you now know it was you who planted in your mind without your own knowledge. But, does it make you NOT believe in it anymore? Does the deconstruction leads to the destruction of the belief? Does it still not call you, from somewhere unknown, even though it lies in pieces, dismantled, in front of you?

How to destroy the belief? How to NOT believe in something when you’ve believed in it all the time up to now? Is knowledge enough?

Linkin Park – Living Things

I heard Linkin Park for the first time four years ago, a fresh chicken just a few days into college. Linkin Park was the ABC of rock for my generation(which doesn’t mean people of my age all over the world, rather people of my age, of Indian subcontinent, and of similar socio-economic strata) and Metallica that of metal. Four years, and I’ve come a long way in my wanderings through musical universe. Still, there’s a nostalgic soft feeling for these staples of rocks which keeps surfacing time and again.

The band which exploded on the scene with Hybrid Theory and established its position with Meteora,, went the right way, ie. the experimental way with Minutes to Midnight. A Thousand Suns, the most debated record of the band, dividing the band’s fans in two distinct groups, one condemning the new direction and the other hailing the band, comparing ATS to Kid A, was a pleasant change for me. Although I didn’t become so presumptuous as to compare it to the hallowed Kid A (about which I know next to nothing, I admit), I liked the synth-heavy, apocalyptic feel. The band seemed not to lose its way among all the electronica.

It was difficult to form any definite idea of the direction LP would be taking after the experimentation of the last two albums, but I expected to see the electronic effects which were the mainstay of ATS.

I was right, but what came out was a horror though.

What LP has produced as ‘Living Things’ should rather have been packaged as ‘Dead  and Stale Things’. Rather than getting in a  new album, what you get is a zombie version of ATS, a version vacant of any new or substantial ideas or music that it looks hauntingly dead.

The albums starts with “Lost in the Echo”, which, for all the catchiness of its main hook sung by Bennington, loses its sheen as soon as Shinoda starts rapping. The rap is monotonous, and the lyrics are bland in contrast to the razor-sharp rap attacks of Hybrid Theory. In My Remains is a continuation of the blandness, which passes quite unnoticed.

Burning It Down starts off on promising note, though. Though made of the same stuff as other songs, they’ve got the recipe somehow just right enough to be pleasant and engaging to hear. The lyrics don’t really shine, but Shinoda’s verses remind one of good ol’ days of first record, definitely better than those of Lost In The Echo.

Before you start feeling any better, comes probably the worst song of the album. Lies, Greed and Misery is 2:26 minutes of pure agony. I can’t understand what did LP hope to achieve by recording this song. Nominal lyrics, horribly mixed (which does sounds intentional, trying to do some prog thing or what? no fucking idea) chorus. This is so NOT the kind of songs LP should be recording. This is the kind of song, some two-penny pop-rock band looking to sell out in the era of Skrillex and Pitbull should be recording.

I’ll Be Gone is another third one of the similar sounding songs after Lost In The Echo and Burning It Down. While not very good, lyrics make sense and music is clean enough to be averagely likeable. Castle of Glass is an anomaly in being devoid of any electronic torture present throughout the album otherwise. You can breath a sigh of relief for some minutes.

Apparently, LP sadism no bounds in this album. Just as Lies, Greed and Misery tortures you right after Burning It Down, Victimized comes for your throat even before your sigh was complete. While Lies, Greed and Misery was the most pathetic song of the album, this one is literally the worst, pure molten lead for your ears. I don’t know what illusions they had when recording the song, or they were just in bad musical company during the whole thing, this song SUCKS. The quality is so bad, a band like LP couldn’t keep it that low for more than 2 minutes. 😀

After you’ve gone through the two towers of hell, the journey to Mordor is pretty much complete. The rest of the songs don’t take much to go by, and you are barely left in a mood to enjoy them. Roads Untraveled has some good, emotional lyrics, which, staying true to the form, is alternated by the complete lyrical vacuity of Skin To Bone. Until It Breaks is a rap song, sung over the electronic cacophony, and it went completely above my head. There were hints of braggadocio in the lyrics, which isn’t typical of Shinoda usually. Tinfoil is a cute little one-minute instrumental. Powerless, the last song, is surprisingly a good one again, simple and personal lyrics.

Songs like Burn It Down, I’ll Be Gone, Roads Untraveled and Powerless, try to give the album a coherent vision, which the band has talked about in pre-release interviews, although unsuccessfully, as the rest of the songs are too efficient in ripping the album apart.

Overall, the album is unsatisfactory. And jarring. They did all the right experimentation in ATS with electronic beats and synthesizer sound. But they had a vision back then. During the production, LP said they’re going the get all the best stuff from their previous albums and smash them together. Well, the smashing looks more destructive than constructive. You just can’t cut and paste nu-metal and hardcore rap ethics onto electronic sound (unless you’re very very sure of what you’re doing). It’s either Hybrid Theory or A Thousand Suns. But not Living Things.

Notes from the No-Man’s Land – I

I don’t exactly remember the particulars of that journey. It started way back in time. Before that unknown, unnoticeable point, past, present and future used to connect quite distinctly with each other, and travelling from one to the other on the imaginary plane was not accompanied by the loss of clarity of vision(or, put in a different manner, was accompanied by an illusion of clarity of vision). But soon after starting, the train started to run very fast, and I had not even found my seat in the compartment. The clutter all came down with great bustle and clamor. Disoriented and confused in the darkness, there was no hope of clearing up the rubble, and I was too tired from trying to catch the train. So I just slept in the rubble, hoping to clear it up after the daybreak. The sleep was very disturbed, full of strange dreams and half-awake sensations of sounds coming from around me, and dreams and dark, damp & congested reality melting within each other.

Waking up wasn’t no fun either. By that time, the clamor inside the dreams had reached such a fever pitch, it had taken the form of a headless monster, rumbling and tumbling forward, awkwardly but inexorably, leaving a wake of ruin and chaos behind him. And I was bound in chains to the monster, rolling and tumbling behind him, bumping into everything that came my way, trying unsuccessfully to land on my feet. Then the scene started to clear up. There was nothing but the beast and me. The absence of things to be destroyed seemed to slow the clueless dumb beast down. And then I remembered that I have to wake up, and get my things arranged. It must have been dawn already.

As I woke up confusedly, there was no train, and I was sitting on the ground, in quite a messed up state. Ironically, my stuff was beside me, in fairly good order and unscathed. Someone must have taken great pains to unload my luggage properly after simply tossing me outside, I wryly thought.

But this wasn’t the place I was supposed to reach, my destination (now that I think of it, I can’t even remember where exactly I was supposed to go, that memory been washed out clean from my memory). It was not a place at all, going by the distinct attributes and characteristics we assign to a place. It was colorless, all dull white. And what seemed like a dull prairie, with a hovel at some distance, and nothing conspicuous by its presence, had a strange recurring quality to it, emanating from every side, a world into itself, without boundaries.

That is how I arrived in the no-man’s land.

My luggage was still there, waiting to be unpacked, mocking at me.