In the weekend I read a candid book on ethics and research. No, not that kind of book. A candid book. One that demands you to untie your bundled self. I knew what the book was about, I have been tentatively trying to walk between the legs of similar texts, uncertain whether or not I should be un-peeling some of my thick skin, that sheds itself anyway twice a year.
The problem of course is my self, my personal self, the “I” that I cannot seem to get rid of any more, and also seem to demand. My big fat self that knew all along that all of this was about it. My self demands more tugging and pulling away dead skin, thinking that it will become more honest, more aware, as it becomes undone.
It is the season of futility, of giving up, of fixing ruined pictures, of filing away an academic year, of the resurfacing of what’s the point question that buried itself snuggly under the everyday stupidities. It is the season of becoming aware of a year of everyday stupidities. And the futility of that very self-conscious self that poured itself away where it shouldn’t have. Did I really need to work those weekends? Did it help fend off my sense of inadequacy that is sitting right now next to me, unflinching? I still feel as not good enough as I have always felt. I know it because I am also smart, and I know that this will never ever go away. I know it because I know I am also stupid. I will never ever know the difference between my actual inadequacy and my insolent sense of it. Do you know Yann Tiersen’s song on the eating sandwiches and failure? They want to take their failure in a crowd may be they get lost.
It is futile, of course. You know it from the e-mails that never come, or that “unfortunately” come, from the left-over incomplete projects that lie in the denial box waiting for you to stop being busy. Telling you that your busy-nesses will end up in the same futile incomplete box with drafts you can’t now find, because you promised to finalise them four years ago.
It is futile but it is not melancholic. Whenever I say futility, I remember a presentation in an event entitled on futility: beyond architecture. He stood shifting his weight between his legs talking about our ethical relationship to the world. How you get a chair, and with time, probably because you sit on it with a specific pressure on your body, that is unique because it is yours…with time, the parts that carried you start to falter, a leg becomes slightly loose, and you accommodate that, as you sit, as the chair starts to weigh on you, as you start carrying it as you sit on it to carry you. You carry the world and the world carries you, you carry the world as it carries you, while it carries you, you carry it carrying you. You care.
I remember this presentation. Though I am not a friend of the presenter’s. Two years ago though, he predicted-I think-that eventually I will run into my self as I pretend to “study the city”. Out of the blue I received a message one day saying “this city is a harsh mirror..I guess the complications one would face while speaking about Cairo is himself/herself” he spoke cryptically on the city as an ‘unfair term’ to what we live, he spoke of the mirror that will show one’s self as one tries to wipe it, and he spoke about the importance not doing it wrong.
-You mean I need to do it justice?
-That is too much to ask of any one..Let’s talk about at least not to wrong. Al-Ẓulm (english is a self denying language) is to place a being (or yourself) where it doesn’t belong. To write about a city, to think about and through a city is to think you are there…you might find yourself, you might wrong the city, or what you claim it is, you might wrong yourself.
I misrepresent this conversation, as I misrepresent the presentation, and that does not matter. I don’t think I do it wrong if I re-remember it anew when I need to. I look it up every now and then, as I sway on an old chair, and learn to settle my body on it. I wonder about this futility in a world that still carries me as I pretend to carry through it.