To be fundamentally more invested in finding nourishment

Carolyn Lazard, CRIP TIME, 2018

Artist-provided visual description: A one-take video shot from an overhead view over the surface of a table. On an embroidered tablecloth is a 7-day weekly pill organizer separated into daily compartments. The labels on the organizer have been partially worn off through repeated use. A set of brown hands with gold nail polish emerge from the top of the frame and begin to separate and open the compartments. The hands proceed to open various pill and supplement bottles and fill the different compartments with pills and supplements. As hands open the bottles, the interiors of the bottles are made visible to the camera. The containers are also labeled “morning,” “noon,” “evening,” and “bedtime.” The hands move both methodically and spontaneously. The action of filling the containers suggests muscle memory like shuffling cards or sorting objects on a conveyor belt. Over the course of the action, a patch of sun on the table moves across the frame. Bottles accumulate around the edges of the frame. At the end of the video, the daily compartments are closed up and stacked on their side, Sunday through Monday.

I’ve been trying to digest how I feel about the social distancing Eid this year, even though given the fact that my usual Eid after my father’s and grandparents’ passing had been relatively quiet. The only event taken out of the equation was the ritual of driving over to other relatives’ houses, feeding ourselves with Eid food, chatting over nothing (my mother would beg to differ since she and her sisters would often gossip have a lot to catch up), and sometimes enduring casual racist and xenophobic remarks. This year, I dressed up in my comfiest baju kurung Kedah, took pictures with the cats, ate food delivered by my uncle, and changed in pyjamas before noon. The very same night, I hopped on to a Google Meet call with my friends in Beirut and Istanbul, as we reminisced over our days in London, exchanged friendly results and specificities of how each of our countries responded to Covid-19, and laughed way too much. My heart is full.

I came across Austin Kleon’s blog post in which he shared some passages from Olivia Laing’s collection of essays, Funny Weather, particularly about Eve Sedgwick’s idea of ‘paranoid’ reading vs. ‘reparative’ reading. The initial idea of ‘paranoid’ reading was something a lot of us had been unintentionally indulging in — every click and every scroll leads to a situation akin of grazing our cheek against the scorching tar (e.g. Twitter timeline), but it was something we were almost willing to return to every single minute. Enter ‘reparative’ reading, the kind of reading that “isn’t so much concerned with avoiding danger as with creativity and survival.”

A useful analogy for what [Sedgwick] calls ‘reparative reading’ is to be fundamentally more invested in finding nourishment than identifying poison. This doesn’t mean being naive or undeceived, unaware of crisis or undamaged by oppression. What it does mean is being driven to find or invent something new and sustaining out of inimical environments.

I have to agree with Kleon that we all should have “to be fundamentally more invested in finding nourishment than identifying poison” as our mission statement. Although, given my area of research, identifying poison is important for me to discover what had been wrong all this while in our current system, and what can we do about it.

Reading in my tabs:

STATUS BOARD

  • Reading: Finished Natalie Haynes’ A Thousand Ships, which was a 4-star read, and I wanted to write something about it one of these days. Still finishing up Angela Davis’ Freedom is a Constant Struggle, and I have Catherine Chung’s The Tenth Muse next in my queue.
  • Listening: What to say when a friend is struggling.
  • Viewing: I attended this online conference on memes (yes!) organised by KCL’s Centre for Digital Culture the other day, and the recording is now up! Also, more slow TV for me.
  • Food & Drink: We just celebrated Eid yesterday, and while it was less physically communal as before, it was just as socially communal as before, as my mother jumped into one videocall after another to talk to her grandnieces and grandnephews. Our families also exchanged food a lot, contactless style, as we dropped our tupperwares on the front gates, waved from afar, and drove home.

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