Something’s amiss. And I’m not entirely sure what it is. Things seem to be moving forward bit by bit, and that’s not altogether a bad thing. There’s a whole world out there and it is a grievous sin not to see it. But I can’t seem to get the gnawing feeling that something is still amiss, and it kills me that I’m not entirely sure what it is. I’ve racked my head inside out in attempt to make sense of the situation. Perhaps it’s the overwhelming fear of the possibility of permanently losing something to hold on to. Maybe it’s the fear of allowing the opportunity of change to happen. But despite my futile efforts to assess the problem, reality is, I seem to be in a loop. Somehow it no longer feels right to move in the same direction. And time, time is not on my side.
I came across Belgian surrealist, René Magritte’s painting, Le Fils de l’homme (1964), one night while I was flipping through my copy of A Brief History of Art. Though a tad less abstract compared to Dali’s work, Magritte however, without fail, leaves no mind unturned in awe with his work. And I was no exception. It reminded me of one of our lectures in Art Appreciation where we had come across an earlier painting of Magritte, Golconda (1953). Louis Scutenaire, who resembles the man by the chimney in the painting, named the painting after a ruined city, Golkonda in Andhra Pradesh, India. Golkonda was reputed being the centre of the region’s diamond industry as its name suggests, ‘mine of wealth’. From all the gloriously curious works of Magritte, Golconda is that which holds my interest most. Starting from the red roof as its focal point to the many directions of the gazes of the men acting as implied lines, our eyes continuously move about the painting as though it purposefully tries to trap us in it. There are simply not enough words that can be put together to describe how the painting openly defies reality, but manages to portray how it frighteningly yet clearly depicts society. And I wonder, in a world that is so easily dictated by the simple, by the majority and by convention for its lack of courage, there truly is little hope to break the loop we allow ourselves to dwell in.
David Sylvester states that the ‘…separateness, in isolating them (the men) and denying their solidarity, seems to make each one vulnerable, for, whereas the familiar prospect of a body of impassive men uniformly dressed side by side in a solid phalanx is a paradigm of human solidarity, the unfamiliar prospect of a similar body of men widely distanced from one another becomes a paradigm of human isolation.’
Regardless how alike the men are in the painting, they are disunited as though their separateness was not voluntary but ‘seem to have been moved, like chessmen’. And though Sylvester may have a subtle interpretation how humans are only a means to a greater end, and even if I do agree that fate can most often cruelly toy with our positions in life, I refuse to believe that we are nothing but pawns in a game. But fate plays on fear. And with fear, it is so much easier to allow to be dictated. We seem to be on a constant battle between forfeiting and holding on, between listening to logic and continuing against reason.
All we know about the future is it is different. Perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same. Perhaps we fear that wherever we go, we will never be genuinely happy because the picture we had drawn in our heads is impossible. The picture that we had convinced ourselves that would make us happy has inevitably become the source of our weakness. I’m afraid I have reached a fork and I am lost which step to take next. It is a struggle between listening to convention and doing the right thing, and forgetting all logic and taking a chance on faith.
‘It is the possibility of a dream coming true that makes life interesting..’ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist