Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it.
Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

-Dorianne Laux, Book of Men:Poems

I woke up as the sun was reddening, and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was—I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and the footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds.
KerouacKerouac. From On The Road, though nothing beats Dharma Bums

July 21: Where there is the possibility of pain there is no love

You know, to love is to be free—both parties are free. Where there is the possibility of pain, where there is the possibility of suffering in love, it is not love, it is merely a subtle form of possession, of acquisitiveness. If you love, really love someone, there is no possibility of giving him pain when you do something that you think is right. It is only when you want that person to do what you desire or he wants you to do what he desires, that there is pain. That is, you like to be possessed; you feel safe, secure, comfortable; though you know that comfort is but transient, you take shelter in that comfort, in that transience. So each struggle for comfort, for encouragement, really but betrays the lack of inward richness; and therefore an action separate, apart from the other individual naturally creates disturbance, pain and suffering; and one individual has to suppress what he really feels in order to adjust himself to the other. In other words, this constant repression, brought about by so-called love, destroys the two individuals. In that love there is no freedom; it is merely a subtle bondage.

Krishnamurti, The Book of Life. Damn.

in New Delhi one night
as Begum Akhtar sang, the lights went out.

It was perhaps during the Bangladesh War,
perhaps there were sirens,

air-raid warnings.
But the audience, hushed, did not stir.

The microphone was dead, but she went on
singing, and her voice

was coming from far
away, as if she had already died.

And just before the lights did flood her
again, melting the frost

of her diamond
into rays, it was, like this turning dark

of fog, a moment when only a lost sea
can be heard, a time

to recollect
every shadow, everything the earth was losing,

a time to think of everything the earth
and I had lost, of all

that I would lose,
of all that I was losing.

Agha Shahid Ali
Let us go on to consider desire. We know, do we not, the desire which contradicts itself, which is tortured, pulling in different directions; the pain, the turmoil, the anxiety of desire, and the disciplining, the controlling. And in the everlasting battle with it we twist it out of all shape and recognition; but it is there, constantly watching, waiting, pushing. Do what you will, sublimate it, escape from it, deny it or accept it, give it full rein: it is always there. And we know how the religious teachers and others have said that we should be desireless, cultivate detachment, be free from desire, which is really absurd, because desire has to be understood, not destroyed. If you destroy desire, you may destroy life itself. If you pervert desire, shape it, control it, dominate it, suppress it, you may be destroying something extraordinarily beautiful.
J. Krishnamurti, The Book of Life
Laugh at the world’s foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it, you will regret that too; laugh at the world’s foolishness or weep over it, you will regret it either way; laugh at the world’s foolishness or weep over it, you will regret both… Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will regret that too; hang yourself or don’t hang yourself, you’ll regret it either way; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy.
Soren Kierkegaard, the philosopher who will teach you life (true story)


In the midst of all this, in the long, cold, and illuminated Dubai night, I hear the azan streaming out over the city. It might only be the drawl found in the Arabian peninsula, its music drained of its color, a victim of Salafi asceticism, but there remains enough beauty to reverberate against my memory, and its timing is perfect, Allah-hu-AkbarAllah-hu-Akbar, a long pause, and then piercing through the silence of expectation, a second couplet, the same words but this time drawn out forever. Allaaaah. And in the voice I hear sorrow and understand how close humility and sorrow are, and if my heart spoke then, it said: Lord, here I am.

-In The Light of What We Know, Zia Haider Rahman

A note on (not) travelling

Living alone is probably one of the fastest ways to enlightenment. When you’re left with your own thoughts for hours on end and have to learn to deal with them. Epiphany upon epiphany— it should be taken for granted that 1) many of these epiphanies yield new ones or challenge older ones so you are often going in circles, and 2) I wish I had a less pretentious/cliched word than epiphany.

and by living alone I really mean it. even though I have travelled/lived alone before, it really wasn’t the same thing— there were always people to meet, other travelers, housemates, someone or the other. Here I have no company for days on end. The only time I spent with someone else all month was when a friend drove down with her husband to come see me for a couple of hours. Even when I go work (in the library) the librarians and I exchange a few words at most about how things are going, what I might need next. I don’t know any of my neighbours. The apartment I live in is three empty rooms, the only sounds are my music and the fucking insects… getting used to em, getting even better at killing em (sparingly). But this was supposed to be post about discovering some kind of peace (though the way there is a fair hell). I think back to Thoreau sahab, who said traveling isn’t just about covering physical distance. He understood it also as being able to explore the four feet of land you stand on everyday. Can you stay where you are, really stay there, and learn something new of the place, and of yourself? I forget the exact quote, but this might just be something of that sort of traveling.

n. the frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist—the same sunset, the same waterfall, the same curve of a hip, the same closeup of an eye—which can turn a unique subject into something hollow and pulpy and cheap, like a mass-produced piece of furniture you happen to have assembled yourself.
via the dictionary of obscure sorrows