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Gayyash Al 'Aatifa

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Shot At My Foot

I'm sitting at a coffee shop in Berkeley, or Oakland, I'm not sure. It's a quiet, cool grey day, long weekend. The day/city seems sleepy and vulnerable, like this is the day it's caught unawares by some major event. Anyway. Beside me are two young guys who've been chatting for a few hours. One of them has a software text book open before him, but they look too old to be university students. They're talking about big things, about having given up trying to change the world and stuff. Their conversation is very meta. Also very synergistic, that is they agree on a deep level and they're just getting off on the verbal rally, confirming and building on one another's ideas. I'm getting a very Atlas Shrugged vibe, even though I haven't read the book, but I have an idea what it's about. They're talking about the interplay of capitalism and the spread of democracy, reminding me why I don't like clever business types. They seem to have snappy articulate definitions and positons for everything and their whole story seems to fit together so nicely. And it's making me sick, partly because I think they're wrong and missing the point. But also because I'm sick of having similar conversations myself, albeit at the fluffier, warmer end of things. I think things are coming to a head in my life, except I'm not quite sure which things. Either way, I want to shut up.

I was just in New York city and I filled my little note book with many cute observations, like I did in India. And now I don't think it matters at all. I want to stop worrying about writing. But not all writing, just whatever this flaneur attitude to which I seem inclined is seeming to inspire in me outside of Egypt. I feel like my meditations on the mundane are meaningful in Egypt and critically less so elsewhere, except for situations in which I was personally very involved, like the time I thought I was getting kidnapped in Udaipur, or the week I nearly lost my mind with frustration about getting ripped off.

But things still stimulated me in New York and I thought about them and chatted with friends and took notes. I'm increasingly coming to see a certain deep discomfort within me to be partly my longing for more direct engagement with the content of things I end up writing about. And the question remains/returns: writing/discourse as practice? I don't know, not for me at least. I have that drive, and I've learned to act on it, but then the feeling of accomplishment fizzles, and I'm left feeling empty and useless in a way I' m increasingly feeling the need to act on as well. And not by writing more to replenish that risky sort of contentment.

Groups of Hacidic Jewish men and boys patrolled the very late night streets in south Williamsburg in Brooklyn. They were everywhere, all dressed the same, walking in groups, walking alone. I was enchanted and I pulled out my notebook and scribbled, in the cab on our way to a club where we saw a group I loved, the Crystal Castles, who I also took notes on. I think I'm driven to write about the late night patrol and the group and so many others because I ultimately want to be them, or at least to partake of the beauty and import I see in them. Maybe I should focus on doing just that. Who knows. Gatni neela and/or Rabenna yesahhel.