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The Meta-Language of Error

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Friday, 27 May 2016


I haphazardly chose my fortune recently, from a transparent plastic bowl filled with little slips of paper wrapped and held with cut straw pieces. My ‘dharma’ was probably the best poem I’ve ever read, and it came right on time too:

            Spring flowers and autumn moon,

            Summer breeze and winter snow,

            O mind, be free from worries,

            This is paradise on earth.

It had only been a little while since I had realized how sick I had become, when the eagerness to get a bicycle had been surpassed by the anxiety for vague looming hazards. Where had my childlike joy for the most symbolic of pleasures gone? Why was I processing scenarios of doom without end? Were any accumulated past experiences truly to blame? The fake substantiality of worries certainly made it seem so.

This state of mind would – one way or another, sooner or later – get me sick. I had to shake it off, somehow. A superficial understanding of psychology and religious practices, along with intuition, wouldn’t be enough to exorcise the cold truth of facts and the concreteness of memories that project fear into the possible future. Luckily, I’d been there before and I knew it was time to take a deep breath and convince myself once more that it is OK not to know and control everything.

The obsessive need and the doomed desire to be in charge of my environment keeps me in an infantile state, detached from the actual world and trapped in sweet virtuality. I am unable to grant future mishaps and mistakes their individuality and let them guide me in a random path. I have been conditioned to believe that random is bad by definition and I’m terrified at the thought that someone might judge and find me inadequate or that my actions could lead to injury. We try to avoid pain at all costs, forgetting that not everything has to end in pain. I take myself too seriously and I choke self-expression to minimize the chance of being ridiculed – as all we ever really want is to belong – and thus I am left miserable and mentally crippled, baptizing in haste 'immature' everything unplanned. I’m sentenced to inaction by the likelihood of making a mistake.

But there’s something ultimately romantic in mistakes. The mistake can tell you more about the man than the man himself can or is willing to, as it comes from outside of the narrative – it’s not part of the cocoon that connects and protects, but also obstructs the view to what’s inside. The mistake is the rebel, the fault in an otherwise perfect, at least when it comes to appearances, system. Freud knew that, and that’s why he paid careful attention to slips of the tongue. Shakespeare also knew that and he placed errors in the mouths of his characters to provide subtext. Indeed, solecism has been a well-known and beloved poetic device. The mistake becomes the speaker’s background, it becomes her voice. And there are so many parallels that can be drawn: Suddenly, whole pieces revolve around a mistake, as people’s lives sometimes do. Errors wander in the lines of poems like outcasts in the streets of cities that never wanted them but were always theirs, exposing ugly truths, producing rare and sometimes beautiful monstrosities. And to think that it often all starts with an honest, mediocre and irrelevant grammar mistake, which eventually becomes deliberate – although, unlike the greenhouse tomato, the ‘cultured’ mistake doesn’t lack in taste.

Acting or reacting in a non-designated way doesn’t necessarily bring disaster. I have to self-soothe. I have to trust. I have to remind myself from time to time, when plagued by expectations that are not mine, that I am one who revels in imperfection. I should just let life flow. As part-writer and part-persona in my own story, I rejoice in my faulty human nature and therein I find beauty: After having read my ‘dharma,’ it’s time to memorize and repeat this ‘mantra’ as needed.

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Saturday, 28 May 2016 13:08
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