On Forgetting

It has been 25 years since I was last at a life drawing session. Held in a cold basement studio in Cambridge then, and in a hip factory studio in Eunos now. After the first 10min of the session, It all started to make sense again. What the eye chooses to see, the weight and energy of a line, and of course, the purpose of making something take form. This is part of the intrinsic integrity of art. It is built into your body. Drawing, music, dance - you never forget, do you? The muscles do not let you forget.

Trooping off to a life drawing session. Making plans after work for a drink with friends. Buying flowers from the market stall on a Sunday morning. Reading in a chair I do not share with anyone else. I return to doing these things as if I did in my 20s. Without you. The muscles have not forgotten these.

Yet the last 8 months also feels “new”. There’s a strange awareness that every day is a brand new day. There is no routine. No repetition. Not yet. Live in the moment, someone had advised. Of course, I replied. But I really wanted to add, is there indeed any other way?

Of course you are not forgotten. Even though there are days I wonder where had those years gone. And that Chuang Tzu who waxed lyrical about the relativity, ephemerality, and hence the innate spirituality of life, was this what he was referring to when he woke up from his dream? These shifting sands - no, you are not forgotten but because you were everything in the last 18 years, I wonder now if that time had existed at all - maybe I never did know you. If I should see or post a photo of you, it is only to recreate a dream in this dream. 

This is the process of forgetting, friends. We forget, the very moment we remember. 

I share this fairly abstract, emo post because at some stage, some of us may experience this kind of loss that hollows out your world. And when that happens, I hope you will ask yourself: What is the way out of this misty, somewhat sickly, maudlin forest I am in? Because one cannot stay in this space. 

The best advice I have received is from a good friend: “whenever you find yourself in that space, pray.” If you don’t have a faith, think of it as advice to look or reach outside yourself - upwards or simply outwards.

I know this to be true. While we are alone in our bodies, maybe even alone in our consciousness, there is no cosmic loneliness! We are all created beings. And when we relate to a maker God, we connect to the created world around us and the lives of others. Then you will see we are standing instead in a dense, earthy forest with its beautifully varied flora and fauna. And even if at times you are surrounded by a cloud or mist, it is like that coolness of dawn that forms when the warm damp of decay rises to meet a new day.


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