So, in the beginning there was void. We hadn’t met. We didn’t know each other. Until the magnificent event took place, and god said “let there be encounter”.
I was sitting on the side walk in front of the student’s dormitories in Piacenza waiting for my friends to pick up their stuff so we can go. We were always on the sidewalk back then. They were the times we chose to be homeless, in order to give the homeless company. And then here you were passing by casually in the street before you noticed my chess board and stopped to talk.
- “Is this a chess board?”, you moved your first pawn.
- “Yes”, i moved mine instantly.
- “Hi, my name is Italo”.
- “i am Morteza”, i replied as my mind was suddenly perplexed and triggered to think.
- "Can i be your antagonist".
This move seems like that of a bishop bursting suddenly in a line of attack that, as confident as it seems, often turns out to be empty. The bishop doesn’t dare because it is a conformist. The thought of having an antagonist, though, seemed appealing for a fleeting moment. For the only meaning i can derive from having one, is that i would at last get to be a protagonist.
- “Sure, be my guest”.
You sat down on the sidewalk beside me and started thinking about your next move.
Before that encounter, there was none. I cannot recall a memory of any incident preceding that encounter. I cannot determine whether it was a coincidence or if it was an appointment. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the movement of the dialogue. You make a move, and then it’s my turn. Move after move, we became friends. We didn’t exchange numbers or anything. We barely remembered each other’s names. There was a light air of indifference that seemed to envelop each of our utterances. By time, this monotony of dialogue was captured by each of us. His turn, my turn, his turn. No surprises or overreactions. It was not the exchange of sentences or moves that made us friends though. It was the mutual sense of silence that we had established through the monotony. I cannot recall what was being said in those lines, but i recall that they had set a base for meaningful discussions that would later take place.
- “Why are you sitting on the sidewalk with a chess board?”, you asked without lifting your eyes away from your pieces.
- “I am homeless. Or at least i pretend to be one. If i don’t have the need anymore for a home, than all homes will be mine.”, i surprised myself with how frank i can be in letting someone in on how i really think inside my head. But you seemed unmoved. Or no, you actually smirked and closed your eyes a bit as if you knew what i was speaking about, or that it reminded you of something from the past. I just wished you moved your pawn towards my knight, because then i would know that after 3 moves, your pawn will be dead.
The strange thing about that game is that every move seemed to fit right in place. It’s not as if there was a right move or a wrong move. If you play chess, you know that it all depends on the capacity to process possibility. As far as you can go, as much as you can be in control of the fate of the game. If, as it has happened now with your pawn, a move is made in such a way that it triggers the possibility for a piece to be threatened, it will be threatened. If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong, unless your opponent shares a similar capacity of processing, and leaves space for your mistakes to go unnoticed. This is the reason why every move felt as if they fit right in place. Because they didn’t go too far as to value future possibilities as much as they were focused on the present moment. For what is the future but a flowing accumulation of present moments?
- “Fuck, i liked that pawn”, you said. “It was loyal and brave.”
I didn’t enjoy killing your pawn. As a matter of fact, i thought about letting it live, as if i hadn’t seen it. But then, the last thing i would like to do was to compromise the spontaneity of the game. What then would happen to our coordinated silence? Transformation lies at the heart of any dramatic unfolding.
Let us begin by distinguishing between space and place. According to renowned geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, space is conceptual and denotes position; coordinates that are 3-dimensional. Space is the ideal form of a place and it does not exist in reality. It is only an abstract understanding of a geographical location.
Place, on the other hand, is real. It is a space with which a (human) relation has been made, thus withstanding memories, emotions and familiarity. Therefore, in the beginning there was space. Once encountered (by man), this space has become place. The only difference, addition, annexation that it underwent was that of establishing ties, relations (memory, emotions, familiarity).
Much like the Little Prince’s plant, in the beginning it was empty. It was just another flower among a hundred thousand other plants. Until it tamed him. Basically, they spent time together. What happened during that time was not important (watering the plant, listening to it, talking to it). What is important is that time has established a relation between the little prince and his plant. Because as such, it became his plant. When the little prince had to leave the fox, it told him that it would now cry for his departure, having been tamed by him. Crying for someone, is an emotional expression due to a relation/tie.
The blank page effect: when you hold down your pen and start gazing at the blank page in front of you, and get suddenly lost in its emptiness. Although it is empty, it feels complete. How can one break the completeness of this page? What words can stand up for this task? Those, they can hear the blank page asking to be carved, sculpted, begging for mistakes, for humanly flawed expressions.
Once upon a time, blank pages were royalty. Stories of blank pages on paperback territories have passed down to us by ancestors. Times when the blankness of a page could not be contested in nobility. How for a page to remain empty and all the more expressive was the common debate among the Blankist population.
It was all until the Minor Revolts of colored and etched pages. In hiding places and beneath the surface of paperback, cults emerged calling for the abolishing of blankness. Their increasingly popular communion was established during their Color-and-Detail fests, in which the underground paper mobs would commit sacrilegious acts of introducing color and infinite detail to themselves. Each community would then show off how unique they were in their general assembly around a blazing fire.
Of all the trends of color and detail, none were more detested than those who divided themselves into uniform grids, manipulating the lines with varying degrees of detail and orientation, but almost always in symmetric structures. They were accused of compromising the magnitude of the Minor Paper Revolts in courtliness to the ruling Blankist monarchy.
The Patternists, as they called themselves, although upset by such claims, dismissed them modestly in their communes. They understood that they were mere violent reactions of an angrily-colored and excessively-detailed minority. Despite their sensitive participation in the Minor Paper Revolt, their role was subdued in consecutive attempts to establish a new paper hierarchy.
Literary edifices of magnanimous floral detail and mixed layers of color, reigned. Centuries passed with pure white surfaces or geometrical grids looked down upon as abhorrent sin. Meanwhile, descendants of the Patternists remained a Grid-based tradition that often hovered with prevailing winds. There were those who created floral patterns out of their grids to imply family ties with the organic mainstream. There were those who stood at the crossroads of the color spectrum between the floral Patternists and the Organicists, and claimed that whatever composition you are made of, you could always verify it with some sort of underlying and ever diminishing Grid, and that the Grid was not but an esoteric ethos that need not take actual form. The Patternists could never verily defy this claim, or offer sufficient discourse against it. For all they knew, all was valid as long as based on Grid: either prior to and underlying all paper marks, or justifying their existence in posterity.
Nevertheless, the Grid was the air that the Patternists breathed. Even during their nude blank pages, they could not but imagine the Grid underlying the emptiness. They were deemed as pages of humiliation in paper history. But the Patternists remained adherent to their Grid. They laid it in symmetry and asymmetry; within color hues and frequencies; beneath the topography that informs texture, in light and in shade. They made periodical pilgrimage to religiously Grid-laid territories. For all they were concerned, the Grid was the sublime, whose absence posits a tranquil terror induced by contemplation of great size, antiquity and a state of decay.
We dropped literature, and our discussions revolved around the city instead. How the city and the individual were shaped after the image of one another lingered in the back of my mind. It was as if my silence was shouting that a work of literature should not present itself as complete, but as one in a process of formation. It does not matter for the reader then if the text starts from the beginning or from the middle. What matters is for the reader not to find their-self being offered a sealed text organized so as to be received, but that the writer himself is in a process of inquiry, searching for oneself within the text. That despite his attempt to narrate the text to the reader in an understandable form, the writer does not claim to fully understand. In this reciprocal attempt lies writer and text, both actors and objects, each shaping to one another at the disposal of the reader.
The city, too, lies equated with its inhabitants.
This is the case in the writings of Calvino, as an example. In ‘If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler’, Calvino begins the story with thoughts on how to begin writing a story, only for the reader to realize with the end approaching that the story is nothing but the account of an attempt to write a story. The text, offering itself as a process through its momentary spontaneity, nevertheless succeeds in maintaining the reader spellbound within its dramatic unfolding. The idea behind this is that Calvino’s writing contains as much intentionally unconscious secretions as in the writing of diaries. The writer does not focus his attention on the literary form as he narrates, but lets the stream of his consciousness flow acknowledging the wealth within the fabric of the everyday, the moments before one sleeps, the thoughts one has while they read a text without reflection - or while they pray.
Such is what i see to be the legacy of slums and informally developed communities: being a process that achieves considerable coherence among its content and form; not as solutions, but as the most coherent attempts to finding a solution.
I just woke up. I’m on the airplane on my way to Cairo. I was asleep with headphones in my ears. Suddenly, i found myself waking up from a free flowing dream, as if someone had nudged me to listen to what was being played on the radio. Or maybe it wasn’t exactly like that. In all cases, i did wake up suddenly from a free flowing dream. The Quranic chapter of the Cave was being aired. I woke up listening to Al Khedr, the mystic who had accepted to teach Moses some of his knowledge, telling him that now he shall be informed with that which he had previously not known during their voyage: that what the mystic was doing, or what was being done, was all essentially endowed with fateful reasons in each event, and that a time-sewn knowledge of the greater good was driving what Moses saw, at the present time, to be unexpected and catastrophic. Past, present and future collide.
Let’s flashback for a few seconds to put this event in its context.
This morning, i received an email that held urgent news. To fast forward through the unnecessary details, the morning news held that i had to immediately pack all my things from my 2 and a half-years’ residence in Italy in 2 bags and a half, in 2 hours and a half, and take the afternoon plane to Cairo. Indefinitely.
That’s me on the plane, now, waking up from a free flowing dream listening to Al Khedr passing to Moses his teachings on fate.
I believe in my free will. But i also believe in how dependent on fate this free will can be. I find difficulty in comprehending which shapes the other. All things considered, a determined soul will always manage.
In the beginning, there was a point, unconscious that it was. Disinterested in what it was. Until it was discontented with the void condensed within it, and bored with the emptiness outside. Thus, it reverberated with curiosity, got excited with possibilities, and sufficed with the potential to depart. It was only after a thousand million years that the point realized it was something else. Barren with memory, nostalgia and difference. But more significantly was the realization that it was trailed by a line that starts with what it was and ends with what it is. The point was pointless until the line had defined for it, first of all, movement and direction. In the beginning, there was nothing but the possibility of a point trailed by a line.
I held a pen and drew a line. And then beside it i drew a line. And then beside it i drew a line. And then beside it i drew a line. And then beside it i drew a line. And then beside it i drew a broken line as my hand twitched suddenly. And then beside it i drew a line. And then beside it i drew a line. And then beside it i drew a line. I rotated my hand 90 degrees and then drew a line. And then below it i drew a line. And then below it i drew a line. And then below it i drew a line. And then below it i drew a line. And then below it i drew a line. And then below it i drew a line. And then below it i drew a line. And then below it i drew a line. And then there i was with a grid. With each 2 vertical lines and 2 horizontal lines forming a square, there remained only 1 square visibly different. It was not that one formed by straight lines. It was not that one formed by straight lines. It was not that one formed by straight lines. It was that singular one that had broken the grid in the event that my hand twitched. And the rest of the lines, and though i can intuitively see that they form a grid, i vaguely recall to have drawn them.
يسترعي انتباهي في تلك الحقبة من الأيام أنني لا استمع كما يجب إلى الموسيقى. و كأني قد استمعت إلى كل ما يجدر بي الاستماع إليه. أو كأني لم أعد جادا في بحثي عن موسيقى جديدة تكون خلفية لحياتي.
يأتي ذلك الشعور في ذات الحين الذي الحظ فيه كم أن الحياة مثل النوتة الموسيقية، لا يهم بها أن كان الفعل خاطئ أم صحيح. ما يهم فقط هو أن يحل في تناغم مع نسقه. اتذكر كم كانت تهتم صديقاتي بشرح أهمية الرقص بالنسبة لهن، و كيف أننا جميعا نرقص بشكل أو اخر، و ان ما يهم في الرقص هو الشعور بالحركة، أين و متى و كيف تحل. نرقص حين يصرخ أحدنا في وجه الاخر، و تتصادم حركاتنا عندما لا نتفق حسيا كيف نرقص. نرقص عندما نتحدث فيتبادل كل منا الامكنة و الأدوار. نرقص رقصة في الصباح غير تلك التي نرقصها في المساء.
These letters are a sequel to the Letters to My Father. These letters, however, started much earlier.
I don’t remember exactly when it started. I remember, though, how. It started during the times when i was perplexed, confused, unable to find my place in the world. It was during what Louis Awadcalls the years of formation -سنوات التكوين- when i set up an engine within me, that analyzes everything i think and do and redirects my path at every given moment. During those years, i had not much friends. I had not much advisors. I had to depend on my hopes and pains to pass. I used to tell Emam that i was a derivative of frustration and hope -مشتق من الخيبة و الامل- and wonder if he understood what i’m speaking about.
It was during those days that i was disgruntled by my older brothers and sisters. As far as i could see back then, they were either the cause for my confusion or those who could (but didn’t) help me out in it. I don’t exactly know what made me start thinking of my son, he who didn’t exist (and still doesn’t) and didn’t seem to have any horizon. I don’t know why, especially at this young age (17-18). Now i can understand my new passion for writing messages for my son, and where it spurts from. But then… i don’t know. It must have been that i thought about he who would be the most dear to me, and who would pass through what i’m passing, lest i can lend them a hand. As age goes by, i thought to myself, i will forget what i’m passing through, and this valuable experience will fall with the autumn leaves of time. Yes. This i think is where it started.
Where it is, at the moment, is different though.
Son. Good evening. I’ve written those messages for you. I’ve written them on scraps of paper, i’ve written them drunk at night in a bar, i’ve written them in a bus going somewhere, it didn’t matter or stop me where i wrote and with what. What only mattered was why i was writing them, and what i was passing through, where they came from. Sometimes they came from pain and sufferings. Those, consider them well, my son, because their price was damn well paid. Sometimes they were born in beautiful moments. Those, remember me with joy when you receive them. Many of them were lost with phones, papers of files that never made it, but their memory i managed to retain. Despite the place where they came from, they were all written at present moments. They were all an immediate offspring of life’s experience.
The experience, my son. It’s a composition. You can only know how to form it well by going through it. It’s a paradox, i know, how the word is conditioned by past events that can only be formed in present ones. What to do? In my own life’s experience, i found that whatever happened, the important thing is for the composition to be beautiful. On that note, i will tell you the story that resulted in the launch of this blog.
Like every child, any product/form has an origin and a conception. You were conceived (in the future of the present moment) in a moment of sheer love between me and your mother. The conception of this blog, too, was the offspring of the most beautiful kiss i experienced with a thief of a girl in a park under a tree. This kiss, her kiss, was my first. It had the same taste of a glass of cold water in the arid desert. After that kiss, incredible realms were opened to my sight. Inspiration overflew my being, and i decided that every present moment has to be documented for you to examine. But this was not the only outcome of the kiss. That kiss from that girl spurred my imagination of you. In a way that i had never experienced, that kiss from that girl made me imagine myself making love to her, only to bring you out of her womb, after her and my shape. After that kiss, i started feeling you more than ever. I started thinking about our times of playing together, our jokes, our tricks, and the discussions that we will have when you grow up. It’s strange. All my youth, seeing my friends getting engaged, married and prepared to have children, i thought about myself as a little kid. I thought that it was impossible for me to think of having a kid of my own. They always told me that this idea will change with time, and that it will come when it’s necessary, but i saw that they were making bad choices in their lives that made me doubt what they said. It all changed after that kiss, my son.
But then again, like every child, before the conception there is always the prologue that leads to it. The prologue of these messages, as i said before, were my own life experience and my own relation with my father; a story whose length would not permit me to describe it here, but i am sure you will know all about it on the kitchen table or in nights in the balcony.
One prologue that i can tell you about is a moment that i experienced with this song. In that moment, i was confused. I didn’t know exactly which i am, father or son, and which part i should be singing. Another prologue is my fascination with logs. You see, a log, my son, is like life. A long and detailed account of a process. You can think of a day as a log, or a feed, or history in its entirety. Logs usually contain too much detail, often excessive and unnecessary, making them unreadable (unfortunately). But if people would realize the significance of logs, they would read them and connect their dots, and understand that only through reading a full log that you can make everything out of a process, in this case, life. You can find this (b)log, too, boring, excessive, and populated with too much unnecessary detail. But i thought that making it personal to you, maybe, could make it more interesting for you to actually read it.
Enough with the details. I have guests waiting outside. We’ll be seeing each other, son.
ترتطم حافلتين بالطريق. صدمة مهولة. لا يعي البطل ما حدث بعد. بل إن السرد يتوقف طويلا لمشاهدة محيطه كما لو كان زمنا بطيئا، دون علامات تذكر. شيء بشيء تعود إليه الذاكرة لحظيا و يبدأ في التحرك بتوازن مسترد. يمر السردبين الأماكن المغلقة، و تلك التي مررنا عليها من قبل، و بين المصاعد، العبارات و الانفاق، حتى يجد نفسه في وقفة من الزمن. كوخ في ريف الأسرة الهادئ يمتلئ بالكتب و الصور العائلية و الألوان الدافئة. خارجه صمت و ظلام، دونا عن صرير متواصل لساكني الليل و حارسيه، و نغمات أمل و بريق على مسرح الصباح. يعي البطل أن تلك الوقفة قد تطاولت على ميعاد كان لديه. فيهم من أسفل الشجرة التي تظلل المدخل في العصاري و يستدير و يرحل دون رجعة ابدا.
رفيق البطل او صاحب المركز الثاني دائماً ما تبدو اعمالهم و شخصياتهم اكثر اثارة، بالضبط لكونهم غير فائزين، و بالتالي غير حاملين عبئ الكمال الذي يضفيه الفوز او تتقمصه البطولة. تتسم اعمالهم بالحرية، و من ثم بالحيوية، عدم الاكتراث و عدم الاكتمال. ذلك الذي لم يكتمل بعد مازال يحمل في طياته امكانية الكمال، تخيله و السعي نحوه. ذلك، على سبيل المثال، هو يوحنا المعمدان الذي تم طرحه في عدة تصورات على انه كان مؤمنا بالمسيح و عانى من اجل الدعوة اليه و الى مجيئه بشكل يجعل من استشهاد المسيح رفاهية. الثاني يتفق في ذلك الموقف مع قبل الاخير، و الذي لم يصل به الحال الى امكانية تحديد النهاية/الاخر فيه. تصوير امل دنقل لابن نوح، الشخصية التي هي دائماً صامتة في الرواية الاسلامية، مروي عنها بدلاً من راوية، اصبح لها صوتاً تتحدث به. ذلك البطل تملأ فمه المرارة و يتأكد من تحطم المثال على صخرة الواقع.
في سرّ الحكايات التي لا نهاية لها أنّ الراوي لا يقول كلّ شيء. وفي إغفاله، وتركه بعض جوانب وتفاصيل حكايته في الظلام، يدفع الراوي السامع إلى خارج الحكاية. أي إلى البقاء مربوط اليدين، منقاداً إلى الصيغة الوحيدة الناقصة. وسامع الحكاية الناقصة سيعمد إلى تكملتها من عنده، حكماً، وبما أوتي من خيال أو من.. ضغينة. ذلك بسبب أن الحكاية الناقصة هي حكايته بالذات…
تتكرّر هذه الحكايات الناقصة كثيراً. منّا من يعتقد بقوّة أنّ رواتها هم المنتصرون. هم من يقطّع سردها بين ما يُقال وما لا يُقال، ما يجب إظهاره وما ينبغي إغفاله وصولاً إلى الفحوى، أي إلى “المعنى” المقصود، الذي يفتح نهاية الحكاية على نواقصها، مشكّكاً بكامل السرد. بعضنا الآخر يؤمن بأن لحكاية المنتصرين ترياق وحيد هو الحكاية المضادّة بالكامل، أي المنسوخة في الشكل وفي المضمون عن الحكاية التي تُسمّى بال”الرسميّة”. وهذه ستذهب بدورها بعيداً في المونتاج، في ما ينبغي تدوينه أو محوه، انتقاماً للمظلومين و”تصحيحاً” لمسار التاريخ، إلى أن تصبح بدورها “الحكاية الرسميّة”…
هكذا فعلت كافة أشكال الانقلابات والسلطات الثورية التي حكمت شعوبها، مستبدلة حكاية ناقصة بحكاية ناقصة نقيضة، وكلتاهما أبقتا النهاية مفتوحة على شقاء الأساطير…
There are 2 principles on works of art that i’ve been contemplating of late.
1. "Authentic works for Adorno are fragmentary works whose achievement must be located in their lack of completion." (1)
A work of art cannot be presented as whole or complete. A work of art, like a literary text, is an open work; one that is in a process of formation along with its author. As it happens, the reader does not sense that they are being presented a complete text, that they are receivers, but that the author themself is in a process of investigation, looking for oneself within the text. And that despite the author’s attempt to narrate the text in an understandable way to the reader, yet they do not claim that they understand it entirely. In this attempt to understand and make others understand, the author is leveled with the text, both subjects (actors) and objects, both forming to one another.
2. “It is not true that the work of a man is finished. […] There is a place for all at the Rendezvous of Victory.” (2)
There are great works of art. Subjective as it is, certain works stand at a crossroads and claim the praise of the majority without falling in mediocrity. While the author has this or that intention in creating the work, the meaning and value of such work remains a function of the viewer. The work itself has no intrinsic meaning. A great work, however, manages to get itself appropriated by a majority to find themselves within it. Each sees themselves within a facet of that work. Thus, a great work of art has that amassing effect on the multitudes. If it does not retain the promise of a place for everyone at its horizon, then it has stood short from being integral.
(2) Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, Aime Cesaire
لقد تباعد بنا الزمن و المساحات، و افترقت طرقنا طويلاً. لم يعد لدينا تلك الرابطة التي تجمعنا على اللطف، المودة و الحلم المشترك. تلك المنظومة التي اجد نفسي فيها غير مستريح، و غير واثق من ان من حولي ليسوا سعيدون بهذا الوضع، هي منظومة غير صحية لكل اعضائها.
و ليس مطلوب من احد ان يسعى كثيراً في ارغام نفسه على شيء. فكل حي ادرى بحال سبيله. و انا سبيلي ينهمر، و يدعوني للقاءه بشوق. و احتاج قلباً صافياً من اجل ان استعد للقائه. لانه في نهاية اليوم، ليس للانسان الا قلبه، يرشده الطريق في العواصف و يزن كما الريشة يوم يموت.