My Trysts with the
by Paribrita Sanyal
February 5th, 2022
Illustration by Juhi
The idea of riding over ordinariness or mediocrity has, for a long time, made me giddy with delight. For years I have sauntered along a path laden with the most irresistible flowers and jewels. I was hypnotized by the unique aroma that rose from every bud, and the exhilarating kaleidoscope of colours that swirled inside every precious stone. This was the way of the Anti-Ordinary.
I had little understanding of the agony that inevitably takes hold when one strives to resist. I knew nothing of the disenchantment that ensues from envisioning a different world– a violent battle between the realms of imagination and material reality. To me it was largely a tendency born of the need for amusement, of making sure that a toe was perpetually out of line, and that the mind grasped at anything that did not belong to the onerous present. Everything was mediocre – the people I saw every day, the words I heard them say and the things I saw them do, the intentions they pursued, the squabbles they found it necessary to take part in, and the daily stream of ridiculous indecisiveness that gnawed at their skulls. What frivolity!
Mediocrity would take its leave when the face flushed, the heart began to palpitate and a fire bolt like energy darted from the feet to the head, nullifying all insipidity. A book that threatened to overturn my carefully curated values, an unanticipated note in a musical composition, a raised brow and a skepticism laced voice aimed at a figure of authority, an unrestrained laugh, or an angry tear that scorched the very surface it fell upon –the means of the Anti-Ordinary evolved and manifested in and around me.
‘Inhale my scent!’ every flower said. ‘Feel my venation!’ every leaf said. Let your brain awash in my hues!’ every jewel said. ‘May you never emerge from this experience desiring accolades printed on paper or factory manufactured solutions to life’s troubles!’
But I do. The Anti-Ordinary watched from a dust filled alleyway of my brain in quiet exasperation as I made my way back into the crowd, unobtrusive as a chameleon. It was now a sullen outcast, grumbling away at the state
The path turned into a horrendous maze. I had craved difference for difference’s sake, and that liberates oneself to the point of breaking down. New intoxications began to arise. I could drop out of college if I wanted to – say a premature farewell to formal education. I could even shun society – pack a few belongings and head into the void where no one could find me. It would relieve me to not be told anymore, ‘Everything is, because it is.’ Sadly, ‘What everything could be’ turned into a nauseating drive – an endless search with no map.
When in the city, I was ticklish. I giggled my way through parties and promotions, strategies and schemes.
I drifted aimlessly from philosophy to philosophy, from ideology to ideology, from one theory and technique to another. My mind was a flea market on a hot, Sunday afternoon; a volley of colours, shapes and sounds dancing wildly around me as I repeatedly wiped my brow, overwhelmed and perilously close to fainting. Each stall in the market selling another idea, another ideology, another promise..
Then began a quest for transparency, accountability, the search for a truth. I began to see not people, but representatives of various schools of thought. I heard not words, but instruments of propaganda. I saw not occurrences, but brilliantly designed conspiracies to gain chosen ends. I thought I had turned highly perceptive. Maybe I had superpowers, like a psychic. Was this what it meant to rise above the mundane? But the world seemed immune to my abilities and went on its own, relentless way. I realised, then, that we cannot truly chase away ordinariness if we are solely motivated by what we receive in return.
I hail from a small town, and I find that there is something oddly titillating about life in the city. No matter how stolid you think you are, it slyly feels its way around your body and tickles you in the most unexpected manner, forcing a giggle out of you. When in the city, I was ticklish. I giggled my way through parties and promotions, strategies and schemes. I bought and sold houses and cars, climbed nimbly up the corporate ladder, and rummaged my way among the mystifying workings of the stock market. I decorated my social media profiles as daintily as I do the plants that now stand in my balcony. I was, and still am, greedy for more.
However, I do allow myself the occasional daydream. I imagine how life used to be in the past, reeking of reptilian instincts. The echoes of battle, and blood-curdling screams swivel in my head, as do horrifying acts in the name of honour and sacrifice, and visceral struggles for survival and procreation.
The air outside my window is balmy. It hovers easily among individuals that walk this way and that in search of their unique brand of contentment, linking past to future in a manner only they know how. A world that is beginning to honour contrasting experiences as much as it abhorred them in the past. Surely it was the hand of the Anti-Ordinary that guided some away to forge different tomorrows.
Extraordinariness is a force that travels in waves. It dwells in obscurity to allow us all to make a little merry, and to reap the comforts of structure and order. When our ways begin to enslave us as individuals and as a society, it rises gradually towards its intended crest, and in turn, hoists our own consciousness in order for us to evolve from our baser selves.
Apart from the above, what objective reality does extraordinariness or mediocrity possess? We are mortal creatures, our brains and sense organs soon to dissolve into their atomic constituents and change form. What means could we possibly have to evaluate such dualities in a way that transcends our own selves?
Ebert, Teresa L., Manifesto as Theory and Theory as Material Force: Toward a Red Polemic, JAC Vol 23 2003
With the idea of writing, a manifesto becomes a creation of the hand and it is interesting to keep its Latin root manus at the back of the mind.