Yet Untitled 082 - Collier, Ktulu, The Mother and my Heart
How 15 years of morning writing brought me full circle
Dearest Yet Untitler,
In the last instalment I mentioned the artist Jacob Collier and how some of the things he said at his Mumbai concert moved me deeply. He spoke about how he makes music to find out who he was at that given moment, as if the music was a big mirror to his own life. He spoke about this before saying all that he does in this very eloquent Instagram reel made from the same concert:
I was pretty blown away with all that he says above, but the idea of using art as a mirror to oneself stayed with me. I have written about Mirrors before. In case you missed that instalment, you can read it here.
Initially, it made me wonder - why do I need anything to show me who I am? Perhaps I was asking the wrong question. Perhaps the right question was - why do I need anything to show me WHERE I am? This line of thinking probed the disconnection between who we really are and where we wind up day after day. It suggested that our wanderings away from ourselves are frequent and our homecomings are seldom - like how I mostly wind up coming to the home where I grew up only about once a year on Diwali, like today.
I thought of this disconnection as a gap. I have written about gaps before in this newsletter. And when I think about gaps, I tend to think about Bridges.
I’ve been waking up on many recent mornings asking myself - who am I right now? It’s an urgent question because I’ve been feeling overly burdened with many things lately and life has been feeling like an unpleasant battle where I’m on the back foot.
I want to come back from this place, so like Collier, I ask - who and where am I right now? Where have I drifted to? Where must I find my way back from? And I ask this to myself via my art.
You know my art, dearest Yet Untitler. You’re reading it.
In short, this Collier question brought me back to my practice of Morning Pages, as prescribed by Julia Cameron. I had already been writing in the mornings with an intention to produce daily pages towards a novel. But the urgent need to locate myself while I’ve been feeling a bit lost has superceded that plan and replaced it with this one.
It’s a good plan and it’s been very helpful.
Cameron prescribes that our Morning Pages are for us alone, but I’d like to share an excerpt from mine in this instalment. By the end of it, I’m quite sure you’ll know why:
I pick up my tools.
My computer’s startup sounds are surprising percussions like ants, running a factory inside its shiny rectangular body. The sound readies me. I felt an impulse yesterday. I write it down. The description is simple. I write what I felt but there are feelings around what I felt and I pick up those threads slowly as the words fall onto the page like bricks in Tetris. The page starts to fill with sentences one after another. I pause because I am reminded of an image. I search my computer’s image app to find it. It’s there.
I connect my impulse to the image.
Walking the space between them on a bridge of words, dropping one word after another under my feet as I keep advancing. When I get to the image on my page, I look back across the bridge of words to the impulse.
Now, the impulse stands there like a house.
I didn’t know it was a house.
Another time, another impulse had been my childhood self.
Another time it had been my father.
My pen moves across the page. My brooding (? Could not make out my handwriting ?) is not distraction, it is something else. My heart starts to acknowledge that a need has been answered - it was asking for a visit.
“Do you know me still? It’s been a while since you came.”
“Why should I come?” I asked my heart.
“Because I am where your desire lives.”
“I know my desires.” I tell my heart.
“No, those are the interpretations of your desire made by and housed in your mind. Your desires, unadulterated and pure, live here.”
“Why are you so satisfied with just a visit?” I ask because I’m suddenly at ease. “What happened, heart? I want to know. What did I do to put you at ease? I want to know!”
Heart: “You saw me. It’s not that the burden is gone, but you saw me. You took some pain to decipher (me).”
(Me): “What’s going on? Is it that alone that eases you?”
(H): “Your questions are causing me stress. I am speeding up again.”
(Me): “Yes, I can feel that. Let’s go back to where we started.”
(Me): “I look back at you, Heart, from the page. I see you speaking to me from a distance. Am I to see something in this?”
(H): “Perhaps the fact that I am around even when you wander and that when you are lost in in your wander and you turn to find me, it leads to both of us becoming…easier (with things).”
(Me): “I worry about people and things that will undo this ease in the course of the day now.”
(H): “Find me again. You’re learning new ways to find me, learn those and let’s stay in touch.”
(Me): “Heart, who are you?! Tell me clearly!”
(Me): “I hear you speaking. Your lips are moving. But I can’t make out what you’re saying.”
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When I finished this writing, I realised that I’ve been here before. The entity that I call ‘heart’ here - I’ve called it other things in the past. There was a time when I was actively exploring my relationship with the feminine divine in Hindu cosmology - often symbolised by the entity of Shakti and various powerful goddesses in our pantheon. At that time I used to call this entity “The Mother” and often, during those days my morning pages used to be written under the header “Conversations with Mother”. I felt safe and secure making myself vulnerable before this entity, and the pages carrying these conversations were useful.
Another time, I have called this entity Ktulu, the tireless, African athlete who helped me surpass my own physical limits as runner. I have written about Ktulu before, and you can read about her here. I’ll suffice to tell you here that Ktulu did not have corporeal form, but I had conversations with her inside my head when I ran. And she helped me run faster and longer! I didn’t record many of these conversations, but believe me - I’d know it if Ktulu was around and I was talking to her.
My desire to speak to the feminine divine was likely inspired by time I spent in Kerala researching a martial arts film in which a particular deadly sword was likened to the awesome power of the Goddess in her angered state. Ktulu was likely inspired by my viewing of a small independent Canadian film called Saint Ralph in which a young boy - who has somehow come to the conclusion that winning the Boston Marathon will bring his very sick mother out of a coma - pictures God as Santa Claus.
Sometimes, I have regarded this entity I have conversations with as divine and sometimes as human. Sometimes these conversations happened on a page and sometimes they happened in my head. But both ‘Conversations with Mother’ and my conversations with Ktulu involve me talking to something bigger than myself. It’s an ongoing conversation that has become even more interesting ever since I started practicing Buddhism.
Buddhism redirected that search for ‘something larger than myself’ back to me - to look for it inside me and not elsewhere. That seems to be the reason why, lately, I did not go looking for Mother or Ktulu - I ended up speaking to my own heart; and my own heart, though burdened and downbeat when I started speaking to it, soon assumed the voice, wisdom and compassion befitting of Mother and Ktulu. It’s beating eased soon thereafter.
Suddenly, I understand who Ktulu and Mother are afresh. I recognized that they were my own heart all along. Strangely, I didn’t feel any loss or disappointment - as if I was losing two old friends. Rather - I am in awe that all this time, they were actually so much closer than I had ever imagined them to be!
Thank you for listening,
Lots of love and Happy Diwali!
I’ve been listening to this song - Little Blue - by Jacob Collier on repeat. I was wondering why it was speaking to me so much. Now I know.
In it, Collier also talks to something larger than himself. Who or what is ‘little blue’? Even though this poignant song is quite uncomplicated, the answer eludes me. Also,is Collier singing to himself, or to someone else? Us?
As we progress through the song, it’s clear tom me that the he’s having a profound conversation with his own Mother/Ktulu/Heart, all around the subject of someone finding their way home after being lost. The shape pf who he’s having the conversation with shifts in a way that’s familiar to me.
The song doesn’t make easy distinctions between binaries like light and dark, sadness and happiness. Its perspective comes from some higher place where Collier elevated himself to via his music. But despite being transported to that place, Collier doesn’t make it sound inaccessible. The song invites us to join him there. It reassures us that we can.
Perhaps that’s what locating myself via my art is about - it leaves behind a map for someone else to follow, just as the map someone - Cameron, Collier, Ktulu or Mother - left behind for me.
Have any of you ever had imaginary friends who were useful in some way? Please tell me. I want to know!
If you comment below, it’ll be a conversation others can join in on as well.
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