“Uno vuelve siempre a los viejos sitios donde amó la vida”

Me quedé con las ganas de visitar mi tierra durante estas fiestas. A ver si se nota.

Chavela Vargas cantando “Las Cosas Simples”

[or; conclusion to methods rant]

4. Sombras

Las almas no están en la imaginación por que la imaginación requiere consciencia—un deseo consciente de si mismo. Las almas de esta rola no son de personas—es decir—una persona, viva o muerta, no necesariamente tiene un alma que le pertenece solamente a ella. Las almas se crean con pasiones, deseos, sueños, odio y amor—estos sentimientos se quedan en las cosas simples del mundo—y las personas, al fin de todo, no son más que otro tipo de material activo del mundo. Lo que llamamos sombras, fantasmas, almas, es el intento de una fuerza inmaterial en materializarse—en añadirse a las cosas del mundo y ser vista, conocida, por otras personas. El alma está en los instantes—en los momentos pequeños de un universo que parece ser infinito. El alma no es algo grande y profundo, y a la vez, el alma siempre será algo desconocido. La única manera que podemos conocer esta nueva realidad es cometiendo el acto—cruzando la línea que divide la vida y la muerte—nacer a otra realidad—morir a otra realidad—perder la memoria—olvidar que fuimos “alguien”—vivir de nuevo en un universo de pistas absurdas e incompletas.

5. Tristeza

Sadness is a powerful emotion: a sentiment that can create a semblance of universalization—a sentiment that when seen this way, has the potential to momentarily equalize or level (an illusion, of course). The experience is powerful and it is, in that moment, understood as real community, real collective pain. In the powerful representations of sadness (from longing to nostalgia to eulogy) I notice the sameness—the humanity—the similarity in incidental material condition between one person and oneself. This has often led to considering death a most human trait. We have conceptualized the event, or post-event, of death as determined by an inevitable sadness. And while death is a sad event, I take issue with determining that death should only be conceived as a sad event. This partition does not call for attention to other forms of life, like plant life, animal life, or the life of a network that we might call (not an) but the environment; the universe. This type of call would only seek to make us feel sad about other forms of death—the feigning of sentiment for the purpose of being seen as a proper human with human sensibilities. Instead, this partition asks that we reconceptualize notions such as life, death, humanity, and soul.

Chavela Vargas singing moves us toward an understanding of these ideas by conceptualizing the soul. What begins as a Platonist comment suddenly turns into a posthumanist project because Vargas is not concerned with the souls of humans, but with the souls of things. Vargas states that the soul is found in instances—not in measurements of material space, but in experiences of time that warp our notion of space—allowing us to enter worlds of communication that simply cannot be verified or known through modernist logics. The soul, she argues, is found in instances. These instances grant us snapshots of the universe itself. In order to see the big picture, we have to understand the smallest and simplest of things.

Sadness, the feeling that makes us see the humanity of each other, is a simple feeling. It is simple because we do not have to go out of our way to find it. It is simple because even as we try to avoid experiencing it, that struggle is futile. Sadness will inevitably find us. Sadness then is defined, for the purposes of this blog post and this song, as the gradual death of simple objects as experienced by humans. It is true, sadness has been defined in dictionaries and in psychological and psychiatric studies in different ways (and it has been called a variety of different terms—depending on they type of sadness and its manifestation in relation to a socially constructed notion of normalcy). My definition is generative for myself—and it is through myself that I intend to both invoke the spirit of the sadness that has haunted me for decades and evoke a sadness within my readers in order to reshape their understanding of human and posthuman relations across the Mexico-US border. This reshaping of understanding is not an end in and of itself. The reshaping of understanding that I aim for will be a success only when borders, the material manifestations of nationalism and patriotism that seek to divide people in terms of territory, are no longer understood as a social, economic, and political necessity. Most importantly, when borders come to be understood as sites where moments of traumatic sadness are becoming imprinted upon the very material space of the territory—the earth itself becomes the site of memories and hauntings waiting be activated.

While I understand that this is an idealistic goal, I stand by it for several reasons. 1. Let’s say that I succeed. Success in this area is inevitably a short-lived success. Sadness is easy in the same way that nationalism, patriotism, and nativism is easy. The next step would be a reassessment of my actions in order to continue fighting for a just society. 2. Let’s say that I do not succeed—a very likely situation. The path to this success will yield other victories, will make others see the world differently; will be generative in and of itself. 3. There is nothing essential about the geopolitical structure of the continent. In other words, the border is a social construction—a manifestation of an ideology that somehow won (or at minimum happened). If an idea built this damn wall, why can’t an idea (or a series of ideas working together; most accurately) be the very thing that tears it down? 4. The fall of the US-Mexico border wall may have absolutely nothing to do with my efforts—it may be that other forces, directly or indirectly, lead to a continent without borders. If and when this becomes the situation, we must not assume that injustices are over. We need only look at the European Union. Member states of the EU have launched a series of operations that aim to move border enforcement to what they call the exterior borders through Frontex (Frontières extérieures, the equivalent to the US Border Patrol). Yes, mobility within the borders is easier than it was in the past (especially for citizens of the EU). Yes, some countries have allowed immigrants, recently from Syria, to remain in their country. But this does not mean that actions are not being taken to enforce the borders of the EU away from the territory of the EU itself and it certainly doesn’t mean that nationalist sentiments died within Western Europe. When we take this operation into the American continent, we might imagine a utopian, less-patrolled Mexico-US border. While this sounds great, it may also imply that the US has moved its border patrol operations elsewhere—Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia—but especially Mexico’s southern border.

Someone’s happiness is another person’s sadness—another person’s woe and misery. Let us remember, fellow privileged thinkers, that we occupy a particular space—a vantage point from which we can devote time and energy to matters of thought and soul, often forgetting why we do what we do. I write about sadness today because for a long time I did not let myself acknowledge the sadness I felt when leaving my home in Mexico, my friends, and my family in order to enter a country that I did not know very well and did not understand as well as I would have liked to. I denied myself the privilege of sadness because I knew my parents denied it to themselves. I remember the summer of 1996. I was about to turn ten. I came into my parents’ house. I ran in. I had been playing outside. It was a hot summer day. As I walked through a hallway I heard my mother crying and my father consoling her. I turned around before they could hear my presence. I never spoke of this. For years after, I denied myself sadness and encouraged happiness for the sake of my younger brother. This might explain something about my absurd personality even as an adult. It seems that I can be engaged only in two modes: extremely serious or extremely absurd. Rarely in between. Often simultaneously.

The in-between was the quotidian denial of who I was and the quotidian fiction of who I wanted people to think I was. I put on a performance that lasted sixteen years. There were few accomplices, characters, who are but a part of the show. Everyone else appears to be audience members who are unaware that they are part of a joke. I return to these places of sadness because I think that I will find something there to give me back a piece of my humanity. I look on every newspaper. I taste every edible thing. I shuffle my feet to move the rubble, hoping that something will rise from the dust. The day ends and the realizations return: You want what you can’t have. You want to save people who are beyond saving. You want to control a world defined by chaos. The universe owes you nothing. Rationality is a tool for sanity—and scientists agree you’re far from sane. We will all die and even the world will not remain.

8. Amor

Usualmente pensamos que el amor es una cosa entre dos. En otras ocasiones el amor es algo que el individuo siente hacia su familia, su comunidad, su nación, su país, su bandera, su tierra, su mascota, su automóvil, su casa, su oficio, su equipo de futbol. Cuando decimos que el amor es algo simple, algo que el tiempo puede devorar, el ejemplo más claro es el ejemplo romántico. Y la razón es simple: nos enamoramos de personas y las personas cambian; nos enamoramos de personas que dejan de existir aun mientras su cuerpo sigue existiendo. Y para empeorar la situación, este cuerpo, que fue el hogar de algún amado conocido, insiste en ser la persona que ya no es. Por eso valoramos tanto al amor infinito—o por lo menos la idea de un amor que no termina, que nunca muere, que lo perdona todo, que lo entiende todo, que aguanta todo, que sobrevive las circunstancias más crueles. Pero el amor de corta vida también es amor—y el desamor que sentimos cuando sufrimos la rotura de corazón—cuando nuestro amor es ingrato o no correspondido—ese desamor no existe sin una entrega a la idea, la fantasía de un amor eterno. La desilusión existe precisamente por la facultad de imaginar una situación ideal—una ilusión—una fantasía. El desamor ocurre al darnos cuenta que el amor no es un sentimiento, sino la materialización de un sentimiento—y cuando este material—el amor—deja de ser una presencia en nuestras vidas, su ausencia se siente y nos volvemos conscientes de nuestra vulnerabilidad.

El amor real no puede ser devorado por el tiempo (sorry Chavela, bonita canción). El tiempo simplemente devora la experiencia que individualmente llamamos “amor.” El amor real sobrevive al tiempo. El amor real no pertenece al tiempo—no comprende al tiempo. Dos personas pueden dejar de sentir amor entre los dos, pero el amor no deja de existir. El amor no es humano. Tampoco es humanista. El amor no es algo creado por el lenguaje o por las relaciones comunicativas entre personas. Cualquier persona que no se ha suicidado cree en el amor—en el amor a otra persona, en el amor a una comunidad, hasta en el amor hacia uno mismo—y más que creer en el amor, esta creencia, esta idea nos ha convencido que podemos cambiar el mundo—moldearlo a nuestro gusto—es cuestión de echarle ganas a la vida.

Odio ser cursi, pero sigo vivo y hay veces que no se por qué. Hay veces que pienso que soy cobarde. Hay veces que pienso que una vida sin sentido puede ser divertida—que no tengo que tener todas las respuestas para poder participar. Pero la pregunta nace y renace, ¿por qué querer ayudar al prójimo desconocido? ¿Por qué este deseo de un mundo mejor? ¿Y qué garantiza que mi visión será mejor? ¿Lo qué siento es amor a los que han pasado / están pasando por circunstancias difíciles o es una cobardía existencial? En realidad que prefiero, ¿convencerme de que lucho por los derechos de otros, sabiendo que es una lucha sin triunfo, o terminar esta pesadilla absurda—esta vida cruel?

El amor no es romantico. El amor no es dulce. El amor no es feliz, pero nos promete la felicidad. El amor nos falla en sus promesas. El amor se mide en nuestras relaciones con extraños (y específicamente con extraños que no son de nuestro encanto). Algo así. Si les digo que los quiero mucho ¿me creen?