Ramadan Notes, Late Evening, Day 23

Kazim Ali
September 13, 2009
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A moth is flying around the lamp. I don’t know how it got into the room since the windows are closed. Earlier in the summer we had fireflies in the room.

I’m irrationally afraid of bugs and insects, even (especially–) butterflies, so I couldn’t enjoy their weirdly green incandescence.

I remember reading Satyajit Ray talk about the end of the second film in the Apu Trilogy. Apu’s mother comes to the door of her hut, looking out, presumably hoping to see Apu coming to see her in her illness.

She watches fireflies blinking in the forest. By this you are supposed to understand that she has died.

Of course Ray couldn’t control the fireflies so he had actual crew members dressed in black with incandescant paper taped to their shirts running off into the woods.

I like a constructed art; art as artifice. Though I also love art completely unthought and spontaneous.

“Unthought” of course untrue, because the very act of the artmaking is the product of countless deeds, actions, and thoughts that leads to that place.

In the second Matrix film the Oracle offers Neo a candy. He asks her if she already knows whether he will take it or not. She says does. The argument here is that though she is a machine she can anticipate his choice based on all his other past choices. You want to say that the human spirit is a built-in anamoly. You want to hope that’s true.

Of course that very conundrum is the plot of the third film. There’s a symbolic spoiler midway through the second film when Neo and Trinity make love in Zion, the last human city. You can see the plugs that run the length of Neo’s spine. You realize then that he, that all humans, are part machine whether they choose to be or not.

It’s more or less the plot of a lot of late twentieth century and early twenty-first century science fiction: the relationship between the individual human body and the machines that are coming to govern and direct our lives in ways benevolent and not quite: The Matrix, Terminator, Battlestar Galactica, Bladerunner, Freejack, the list likely goes on.

The regular body is itself fed by machines. Farm machines, refrigerator trucks that drive vegetables thousands of miles, machines to build supermarkets, machine to package, process, and market foods, machines to engineer foods, machines to gass underripe foods to give them more color.

Unless you know the farmer who grew your food (or grew it yourself), unless you bought the food, the dairy, and the meat from her or him, you too are fed by machines.

A firefly makes its own light. A human is part of vast network–a matrix if you like–of capitalist forces which provide him (in my case) with energy, food, water, waste disposal, sustinence, information, and medical care.

We’ve moved so very far away from a local experience of our own bodies. When I practice yoga in the mornings at the very least what I have is there and present, nothing is coming from far away, nothing (much) is outside myself.

When I see a firefly I do not think of death but I do think of a body that can make for itself what it needs, the way that we are now growing food in our backyard, the way we buy all our vegetables from the farm that is down the road.

I want to come back to myself and know what I am made of.

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