So reflective of me that I wonder if God just created two models of the same brain.
How does an artist create without emotion?
More importantly, why are the negative emotions the most fruitful?
I write often, not just because writing is nice. (It is, but that’s not the point.) On a boring, uneventful day, even if I felt like writing, what would I write about? There would be no subject matter. And, even if there was, where would the incendiary emotion come from?
I write because I am stimulated, often negatively, which is why the words I am most proud of are my world-mocking satires or simply my world-mockeries. I don’t know what would become of me if I was just ‘fine’. What is the meaning of this world anyway? It’s a state of okay-ness, representing no emotion in particular – an annoying declaration of stark neutrality. Look at all the great art that exists in the world and tell me that the artists could have produced what they did, if all they were feeling was ‘fine’.
Over the past few months, I seem to have established my own reputation as a writer/poet and occasional visual artist. The words that propelled me to this status were, not surprisingly, mostly sarcastic. See, I’m your classic example of the greatly-stereotyped high-school (afro-) gothic tortured-artist teenager: often very moody, talks about death a lot, emotionally explosive (a personality test the members of my TOK class were made to take confirmed that fall into the category of neuroticism), 90% of my wardrobe is black (the other 10% is white and grey), and I’m just constantly WRITING.
The irony: everyone knows I’m a writer, but only a small percentage actually knows what I write – because they are content enough to accept the reputation while lacking the interest to actually read the works that made me earn it.
There are a number of musicians – mostly rock musicians – who failed at music, got mad about the unfairness of life, made music out of their frustration, became famous because of it, lost their rage, and faded back out of fame (example: Alanis Morissette). See that? What is an artist without his emotion? Then there’s also how Vincent van Gogh, whose work was virtually worthless until it was discovered that he was the paragon of a tortured soul. Chale, this posthumous business…I’m unamused.
Anyway…take away my easy frustration, sadness, hysterics, excitableness, off-and-on fluctuations, and what will become of my writing? I will still be able to use the English language, but to what effect? To tell other people’s stories? If, now, I create fiction to escape reality, what will be the need to create fiction when I’m content with reality?
“Tortured Artists,” by Christopher Zara, has been a very interesting read. It chronicles the relevant parts of many famous tortured artists and their highlighted demons, and how they propelled their work. Also, Christopher Zara’s snark and wit is priceless.
I do believe in the “tortured artist” myth. But psychological torment isn’t the only stimulant of art. Psychological anything, really. I just believe that it can’t actually be great unless an artist puts a part of himself in it.
“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” –Oscar Wilde.
I told myself I’d have to save this post for a time when I feel the way I felt when I wrote it: very low. Otherwise, it wouldn’t feel authentic.
It is, after all, about depressive sleep.
That time is now.
On Some Days
Growing attached to the state of oblivion
Getting lost in the lack of thoughts
Maintaining the right to remain unresponsive
To all of life’s cunningness, twists and plots.
On some days, the world is unappealing,
And people appear aimless; senile.
Society’s demands that one must smile
Don’t affect those who’ve been non-existent for a while
Note that this work is fiction, and I am not the persona. Don’t attack me, please.
Conditioned Theoretic: A Matter of Aspirations
Picture your best cliché sitcom scene of aristocrats who happen to be related – yes, complete with even that one guy with the thinning hair and the monocle. Picture them in a grandiose living room, in their superfluously, inappropriately flashy attire, using unnecessarily emphasized and enunciated English. Now, picture them African; picture them Ghanaian. One significant thing changes, of course: now, they don’t just “happen” to be related; they have made themselves related – because in Ghana, everyone you grew up with, or have known for at least ten years becomes your brother, sister or cousin.
But back to the main picture. Now picture me: a disagreeable, strong-willed, iconoclastic fourteen-year-old girl, convinced that my view of life is the only one that truly matters. The only reason for my inclusion in this dreadful scene is that my mother, who was, at that moment, in the kitchen, was growing weary of my antisocial tendencies, which involved me staying in my room to read or write, despite the fact that there were visitors – relatives, no less – present. To be perfectly fair, the appeal of interesting people was a strong enough incentive for me to leave my room. But did they ever consider that maybe the problem was them and not me? Nope.
Even with harmless conversation flitting about from one end to another, conflict was brewing in the air like the formation of a master plot of anarchy by a genius mind.
These were the kind of pseudo-aristocratic relatives who all, secretly, believed one’s parents were not doing a good job of bringing them up, simply because they personally disapprove of the child’s notions. Frequently, this is not a result of the discovery of any immoral or unethical behaviour in the child, but is simply for the reason that the kid’s thought patterns are not in line with their own; and what’s more scandalous is that the children don’t even have the dignity to pretend this isn’t the case. Hence, they come to the conclusion that it is their rightful place to take up positions as mentors for the children.
In a way, it was as if they were the ones insecure of themselves, and so felt the need to constantly show their own level of education, by throwing facts and quotes about left right and centre, which were meant to impress themselves as much as each other.
“You know, my oldest daughter got married last week,” said Aunt Cecelia. “You know how that quote by Aristotle goes: “Friendship composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” She and her husband are like one person!” She gave a satisfied laugh, and regarded the others in the room with supercilious eyes.
“Well, when I attended Harvard,” contributed Uncle Agyapong, pausing for dramatic effect at this point before continuing, “My classmates and I always repeated the famous words of Oscar Wilde: “The world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life.” I do hope my son manages to complete his own time in Harvard –“ another dramatic pause “- before he starts thinking about marriage.”
Uncle Francis, noisily chewing plantain chips and managing to get some crumbs stuck in the ferret of a moustache upon his lips, added. “Marriage is difficult to pay attention to when you’re as busy as a doctor. But some may argue that it’s worth the prestige.”
His words elicited disguised looks of contempt from other family members, which was perfectly understandable. Uncle Francis’s attempt at an intelligent comment had, after all, fallen flat. For heaven’s sake, he hadn’t even included any quotes by a famous dead author! It was a crude, half-baked cross between opinion and statistical fact – entirely unacceptable.
Uncle Francis, aware that he had not been socially approved of, sought to redirect the attention to someone else. The only person more eligible to be a subject of criticism than himself was the only fourteen-year-old girl in the room.
“So, what do you want to be, Zane? What are your plans for the future?” he asked.
The future. Such an ambiguous, unpredictable concept. As if Providence, Fate, or whatever you believed was responsible for divination, would care a bit about one’s own “plans.”
“I want to be a writer,” I said.
There was a collective, offended gasp, inaudible except within the silence. You could only hear it by reading the atmosphere. I had upset the balance of the fragile snow-globe world in which they all pretended to live. I gave them a few seconds to recover. The shock was a good enough punishment for forcibly coaxing me from my assumed position of third-party observer.
Aunt Cecelia, probably aching to reassure herself that there was hope still with me, proceeded to babble on, “Stigmatisation of girls in the academic world is a bigger issue than we realise. People naturally expect girls not to be as good as boys in mathematics or physics. I mean, I, personally, am a banker, but in my day, my mathematics was even high above average. This view of girls as being less than boys is victimisation, to say the least. Maya Angelou is the one who said, “A wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.” But there’s a significant rise in the rate of females becoming engineers. I thought I recalled you mentioning that you were aspiring to be an engineer, once?”
We both knew I had never said anything of the sort.
“I want to be a writer,” I repeated, unperturbed.
Uncle Agyapong was worried. The furrowed brows on his face said as much. “Are you certain?” he asked. “There’s a lot more you can do with opportunities like yours than just being a…writer.” He said the last word almost with a shudder. “Have you never even considered law? Or medicine?”
“I have said twice now that I want to be a writer. Why is this a source of discomfort for you? All these quotes that you inject into your sentences – where do they come from? Engineers? Lawyers? I would have thought, instead, that the profession of a writer would be one reflective of perhaps more wisdom and prestige than the others.”
Aunt Cecelia rolled her eyes. “Well, yes, theoretically. But properly educated women in the twenty-first century can’t just aspire to be writers.”
I stood up, prepared to give my final remarks and leave. “Writers are only respectable theoretically? Then, perhaps, quoting them only makes you theoretically knowledgeable. Three generations from now, a descendant of mine will not be saying, “A non-famous local banker, Cecelia Boahen, once said that “Properly educated women in the twenty-first century can’t just aspire to be writers,”” not just because he or she won’t know you, or even because bankers are rarely ever quoted, but because you never bothered to write it down. Only theoretically, of course.”
I departed from the room.
To this day, there were relatives present in that room whom I have never seen since.
For all the negative people who are going to shoot this down: go and create your own blog and don’t pollute someone’s comment section.
By Imani Brammer
Dear Bobby Shmurda,
I have danced to your song “Hot Nigga.” It’s on my iPod and I love when it plays. What does this mean? It means that I enjoy a catchy beat, a nice flow and even better, a fun dance to complement it. However, for a while, I didn’t know that you were rapping about murdering people. I was simply lured in by your beat, flow and dance alone. The lyrics were dissonance: mere noise that did not register in my mind. Though mainstream rap is often frowned upon, not all the time am I compelled to listen to politically conscious music like Common and Mos Def (though I adore them both, and also have them on my iPod). Sometimes I want to simply hear a beat, hear some words that flow and dance without digesting or internalizing the lyrics. However one day…
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The day was extra-ordinary. What I mean to say is that it was so ordinary that it was excessively so. The atmosphere was hot and sweaty, and the people were too populous and too loud. Nevertheless, we acted like we were alone; there was no other way to do it. There was nowhere else to go. We were enclosed by the confines of our school, which was the only world that we knew, when we were in it.
Ignoring the meaningless chatter, she leaned her head into my shoulder, while I executed the tricky action of putting my arm around her while trying to prevent it from appearing as an amorous gesture, a skill that needed to be perfected by every boy in an environment such as ours.
She asked me, for the dozenth time, if I loved her, her voice full of ego, but brimming with the foam of insecurity. For the dozenth time, I responded in the affirmative. I said I loved her, and it was true then. It is also true now, and this happened only about a week ago. But for how much longer will it be true?
My mind appears to have expanded since then, with absurdly vast speculations about the future, and how my present fits into it, and all I have managed to conclude so far is that the universe is too big to be contained in my comparatively insignificant head, so, despite it being two am, I am now standing near the edge of a steep incline, listening to rustling leaves and feeling the wind blow.
I consider the idea of jumping off the edge – not suicidal, just curious – and I am almost overwhelmed by the lack of consequence of this action to the progression of the world. Whoever grieved would, soon enough, get over it. The world wouldn’t stop rotating on its axis. My friends would find other friends; my girlfriend would find another boyfriend.
I was, by no accounts, exercising self-indulgence. I thought about the reciprocals as well. I didn’t think of my friends as insignificant, but until now, I had never actually considered the relational changes that would take effect. In about 30 years, would I even remember their names?
Suddenly mentally weary, I sit down and absent-mindedly pick up a rock. It is small and rough, and I toss it from palm to palm, familiarizing myself with its contours and edges. I had never realised how much I actually needed this rest – this mid-term break. I had been so caught up in the tasks, activities and routines of life, too much to evaluate even my own idea of reality.
I said I loved her and I swear I meant it. But it made me uncomfortable to think about what would happen to us after graduation, only a year way. We’d spend the whole summer constantly calling and meeting up, I suppose. Then, when we went to college, we’d update each other almost too frequently about our lives online. An email a day would eventually turn into one every two days, then one a week…and as we slowly but surely got caught up in our new lives, once every three months, and eventually, hardly ever.
My friends and I always talked like we always knew what to expect. There’s something about the invincibility of youth and shelter that made one feel so all-knowing. As if our futures were set in stone.
The stone is in my left hand. I pick up another stone in my right hand. With the second stone, I chip away at the first until I can chip no more.
It makes me feel better, in a small way, to know that stone can be broken.